I Now Need Formal Theological Education

Many by now have heard of Joshua Harris’s Sunday Remarks at Covenant Life Church yesterday,

“My big news is that later this spring I’m going to step down from my role as lead pastor so that I can go to seminary.”

Three thoughts come to my mind, that I wish others, not only Joshua Harris, would begin to consider when pursuing full time ministry, the pastorate, and or theological education;

1. If such formal theological education is needed for the pastorate, and it is I strongly believe, why was it not prior to your pastoral calling? Not only for Joshua, but pastor’s in general, stop taking the easy route into a so called calling, and properly prepare yourselves for what you believe to be called to. I certainly would not seek a triple bypass surgery on my heart from a called doctor who has practically practiced such operation under his own care. No, I would rather seek medical attention from a doctor who has been formally trained, certified, with such knowledge that I can entrust my physical life to. How much more should we as laity consider our spiritual life, to consider who we entrust our own soul’s well being.

2. If such formal theological education is desired, why would you (let alone many) choose Regent College? I have learned these lessons, attending a college that you later regret in life can always create problems, especially on the resume. Why not Kings College, maybe Wheaton, or Boyce, Grove City, Hillsdale, or even Liberty online? Or better yet, any bachelor degree program within America. Perhaps when The Curious Case of Benjamin Button plays a role in how you came to such decision, then yes, by all means who cares where you study, when it is only “a year with a good possibility that I [he] will stay a second year to pursue a masters degree.” How much formal theological education can one possibly fix and finish in a year, maybe two? Seems a slap in the face to those who have went and studied seven plus years formal theological education before they would even consider applying for the pastorate.

3. If such formal theological education is planned, why can it not be planned to be completed while one continues to work? If already in the pastorate, and given the numerous opportunities in todays educational programs that one could obtain formal education while still in full time or part time employment, why step down, and why leave? I deal with similar situations on a semester basis at seminary. Pastor walks in, asks to speak with me, and realizes he should have completed his M.Div. before preaching through his tenth book with his congregation, and has what he believes made a number of errors will in the pastorate. My advice to them is this: one, I am glad you have noticed this, two, repent of any sin you have caused in this failure, and three, do not quit on them as you make this transition. Just because a pastor may have mistaken here does not mean that they can go fix themselves, without walking through such fixes with his congregation.

These concerns brought about by Joshua Harris’s recent decision, go to show us the state of apperception for formal theological education in the evangelical church today. I cannot count the Facebook friends that have recently made the switch after eight to ten years in an occupation, having come to Jesus Christ, that feel compelled to start a church, pastor a church, and or start a para-church ministry. Two, I cannot count the continual conversations with Baltimore pastors over the past four-years on how they wish they had went to seminary before taken up the call of a pastor. Three, I cannot count the number of pastors who have quiet their formal education, or put it on hold because they found (or was handed) a job in minstry that they were not formally prepared to obtain. I understand there are CH Spurgeon’s in this world, but I have yet to meet 20 year-olds like him, having already mastered the biblical languages, and as well read within Puritan thought and theology as he.


Stop Asking Theological Questions

Yesterday I was able to give introductions to two courses I am instructing this 2105 spring semester; Theology Proper and Anthropology and Historical Books for the B.Th. students at Faith Theological Seminary. After giving two hours plus of introductory material to these courses, and hearing a number of moans and groans on why such material needed addressed I was reminded of one of FTS’s own M.Div. graduates, Francis A. Schaeffer’s who wrote on theological study,

It is naive to discuss the theological questions as theological questions until one has considered what truth means to the one who is making the theological statements.

 After spending time explaining how God is describe within theology three ways; The via negationis: A via is a “road” or “way.” The word negationis simply means “negation,” which is a primary way we speak about God. In other words, we describe God by saying what He is not. The via eminentiae, “the way of eminence,” in which we take known human concepts or references to the ultimate degree, such as the terms omnipotence and omniscience. The via affirmationis, or “way of affirmation,” whereby we make specific statements about the character of God, such as “God is one,” “God is holy,” and “God is sovereign.” (HT: Summary Taken from Everyone’s a Theologian). I find it common within Baltimore that most of my students rather discuss what they think about theology then actually taking the time to learn what the Scriptures declare for them to know about theology. Maybe, if they, like most evangelical churches today took the time to study what they claim to believe than discussing unnecessary questions, they would have actually come to asking the right questions that they need to be addressing? Then again, why not waste your time and thoughts, for there is far worse things that you could be doing, or not. Maybe, just maybe presuppositionalism does has a place in theology.

Authority and Importance in the Church

The proper order of teaching authority and importance in the church.

  1. The infallible canon of Scripture, qualitatively distinct from all other sources and authorities.
  2. The ministerial service of creeds and confessions under Scripture’s magisterial norm.
  3. The contemporary proclamation of God’s sacramental Word.
  4. Long-standing interpretations in the Christian tradition.
  5. The particular nuances of individual theologians.

Sola Scriptura: The Reformation Debate

r8313popeRoman Catholicism has traditionally affirmed Scripture’s inspiration and inerrancy; arguments with Protestants during the Reformation developed around the relationship between Scripture and tradition. Roman Catholic teaching considers Sacred Scripture (the Bible, with the apocryphal books) and Sacred Tradition (originally unwritten traditions passed down by the apostles and their successors) to be two integral aspects of the one Word of God. While Roman Catholicism treats tradition as magisterial (tradition possesses normative authority together with Scripture), classical Protestantism treats tradition as ministerial (tradition, reason, experience, and culture are all under the authority of Scripture). Historically, Protestants have admitted that written Scripture and oral tradition were two aspects of God’s special revelation, but that time came to an end with the close of the apostolic era. While Roman Catholics believe the apostolic office still continues today in the church’s hierarchy, Protestants argue that the church’s preaching and teaching ministry no longer lays the foundation built once and for all by the prophets and apostles (Eph. 2:20). There is a qualitative difference between binding apostolic tradition (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15) and the fallible traditions of the covenant community—even its leadership (Mark 7:1–13).

Faithful tradition belongs to the Spirit’s illumination, not to inspiration. Thus, creeds and confessions carry a subordinate authority to Scripture, as faithful summaries of Scripture’s overarching scope (its testimony to the triune God and his ways, centering in the gospel of Christ). The witness of the church serves Scripture’s authority rather than establishes it. This includes the nature of the canon’s formation. The church did not create the canon through ecclesiastical power; it recognized these particular writings as the authoritative Word of God.

The sufficiency of Scripture is inseparable from its clarity. This does not mean that all parts of Scripture are equally plain or lack depth of meaning, nor does it deny past and present controversy over biblical interpretation within the church. Scripture is clear on its most important matters, when interpreted according to its own witness, within the broader community of faith, and in light of its scope. If such weighty matters of Scripture are not clear in their purity and simplicity, the teacher rather than the text is at fault. Sola Scriptura is not simply an affirmation of the unique authority of the Bible but a confession of the sovereignty of God’s grace—because God alone saves, God alone teaches and rules our faith and practice.

In modern and contemporary theology, Protestantism has had difficulty retaining its classical emphasis on the unique authority and sufficiency of Scripture, often folding God’s voice into that of the Christian community or the individual believer. Even those who hold a high view of biblical authority may inadvertently subordinate God’s Word by assimilating contemporary culture’s assumptions about reality, then attempting to address this reality with the Bible. We should rather interpret all of reality in light of God’s Word, allowing Scripture to address us as well as the world.

Definitions are particularly important here: The gospel is properly understood as the specific announcement of redemption from sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus in fulfillment of all God’s promises, while“culturemay be defined in this context as the common realm of social practices, vocations, beliefs, and assumptions shared by Christians and non-Christians in a given time and place. Like tradition, reason, and experience, culture is not inherently evil or opposed to faith, but none of these testify to God’s gracious and saving action in Christ. The church’s primary “cultural location” is in Christ, under the normative authority of Scripture. When culture is given an authoritative or normative role alongside Scripture in the church, the world cannot be judged or redeemed by the living voice of God from outside itself.

HT: Summary taken from chapter five of Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith.

The Princeton Formulation of Inerrancy

The formulation of B. B. Warfield and A. A. Hodge is perhaps the best articulation and development of the church’s historical doctrine and may be summarized as follows.

  1. A sound doctrine of inspiration requires a specifically Christian ontology; all misconceptions of or challenges to the historical view of inerrant inspiration ultimately rest on false suppositions regarding the relation between God and creatures.
  2. Scripture’s redemptive-historical progression and development must be highlighted; inspiration is organic rather than mechanical (as in the dictation theory).
  3. The question of apparent contradictions and errors must be squarely faced and addressed.
  4. It is the communication that is inspired, not the authors themselves; we should not imagine the prophets and apostles to be personally omniscient or infallible.
  5. The Bible is inspired and without error in all its “real affirmations”; the human authors’ recorded claims and affirmations, not their scientific or cultural assumptions and backgrounds, are the inspired and inerrant Word of God.
  6. Inerrancy is not the foundation of the doctrine of Scripture (much less of the Christian faith); Christianity is true not because it rests on an inspired and inerrant text, but vice versa.

The inerrancy debate in American evangelicalism is largely one between Old Princeton and Karl Barth. The former is often caricatured as fundamentalism, while the latter is equally caricatured as liberalism. Nonetheless, Barth’s view, like fundamentalism and liberalism, is quite different from that of Protestant orthodoxy here in America. Barth’s criticism of traditional inerrancy stems from his actualism—that is, his ontology of God as “being in act,” specifically applied to the free activity of revelation as identical with the very being of God. Revelation is always an event of God’s self-revelation in Christ, never an objective deposit. Scripture is the church’s normative witness to revelation, and as a creaturely witness it is not only fallible but (like Christ’s human nature) necessarily fallen. Barth also tends to collapse inspiration into illumination, since he seems to allow no qualitative distinction between revelation in and through the Bible and the church’s reception and interpretation of it. Some evangelicals have attempted to reconcile Barth’s views with the church’s traditional understanding, but these continue to employ the fundamentalist caricature rather than the truly classical view of inspiration and inerrancy.

HT: Summary taken from chapter four of Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith.

Summarizing Verbal-Plenary Inspiration

The classical (and ecumenical) Christian view of verbal-plenary inspiration means that Scripture is inspired in its form as well as its content—in its words as well as its meaning, Scripture is the Word of God written. There are several misconceptions of this account of inspiration that need to be corrected.

  1. Verbal-plenary inspiration does not mean that everything the prophets and apostles personally believed, said, or did is inspired, but only their canonical writings.
  2. The biblical authors were not merely passive in the process of inspiration but active in and with the Spirit according to his purposes.
  3. Inspiration does not pertain simply to the intentions of the authors, who prophesied more than they themselves knew.
  4. This view of inspiration does not attempt to collapse the character of all inspiration into the prophetic mold.

While the original words of Scripture were given by God’s direct or indirect action in inspiration, the compiling, editing, and preserving of the text was superintended by his providence as well.

HT: Summary taken from chapter four in Dr. Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith.

Trinitarian Cooperation in Redemption

Something to consider; Because of its authoritative source and saving content, Scripture is the very Word of the triune God.

  • Scripture is from the Father’s utterance as its source.
  • Scripture declares Christ’s person and work as its content and center.
  • The source and content of Scripture attain their ends in the perfecting agency of the Spirit.

The unified work of the persons of the Trinity in Scripture’s inspired content and form may not be divided; accounts of inspiration are skewed or insufficient whenever the manner of one person’s working is given precedence over that of the other two.

HT: Dr. Michael Horton, Chapter Four in the The Christian Faith. 

Human Enslavement, Oppression, and Liberation

Faith Theological Seminary Fall Christ and Culture Seminar
Saturday, November 22, 2014, 9:00am-4:45pm (free and open to all)
A serious consideration of ancient, modern, and contemporary slavery the trafficking, buying, and selling of humans as it exists pervasively in our world.

Some highlights:

  • Ancient slavery and the Bible
  • Stories from the Atlantic Slave trade and the Baltimore Harbor
  • Inspiring stories of Christian efforts to outlaw the Atlantic slave trade
  • Contemporary slavery today and the efforts to end human slavery
  • Personal accounts, solutions, successes, and roadblocks will be discussed

Some questions that will be asked:

  • What does the Bible have to say about human slavery? What have Christians done to contribute to, as well to abolish the slave trade?
  • What were the conditions for slaves in the past and today in the USA?
  • What are the means of obtaining and harboring slaves today?
  • What is the US policy on trafficking and enslaving humans?
  • What is now being done to prevent trafficking and enslavement?
  • What aspects of faith-convictions have a bearing on this issue?

Location: 7308 York Road, Baltimore, MD 21204 (Central Presbyterian Church)
Food: coffee and light refreshment available (and many restaurants nearby)
More information: 410-323-6211
Human Oppression, Enslavement, & Liberation Seminar Posters for printing

Save the Date, January 22, 2015, for

Susan Wise Bauer coming to the Baltimore area on January 22, 2015, 7:30 pm at Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, 710 Ridgley Road, Annapolis, MD 21401. She will be speaking on the “Joy of Classical Education” and you can find more information here.

Student Recruiter at FTS

fb-share-iconThe purpose of Faith Theological Seminary is to train Christian leaders. This training is to be conducted on the highest possible academic level, including the mastery of the original languages of Scripture. This purpose (adapted from the Seminary Charter):

The said corporation is formed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a Theological Seminary of high educational efficiency and absolute loyalty to the Christian religion as taught in the Old and New Testaments, and for religious, educational, and charitable purposes, without profit to any of its members. Faith Theological Seminary is to train thoroughly furnished and consecrated leadership for the Church. In every phase of its work, the highest possible standards of scholarship are to be maintained. Its graduates are to be well-fitted to defend the full truthfulness of the Word of God against all modern unbelief, and to interpret it in the light of careful and accurate study of its words in the original languages.

FTS offers B.Th., M.Div., D.Min., and Th.D. programs accredited through Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), and is in need of a Student Recruiter to help work alongside me, their Director of Admissions.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  1. Assisting in the design and implementation of recruitment strategies.
  2. Promoting programs to prospective populations and communities via various methods including giving presentations, face-to-face promotion, phone calling, and other social networks.
  3. Maintaining effective communication with perspective students.
  4. Supporting the Director of Admissions in helping to maintain an applicant management system to track new information on prospective students.
  5. Qualifying prospective students through program enrollment requirements and admissions.
  6. Working with the Director of Admissions on campus to assist them in designing, implementing, and recruiting students to their program. This may include travel to department specific recruiting events.
  7. Assisting the Director of Admissions and Director of Development in designing marketing materials such as mailers, fliers, posters, view-book, videos, etc.

Qualified candidates should:

  1. Hold a Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in marketing, sales, psychology, counseling, social work, student affairs administration, or closely related field; although a Master’s is preferred.
  2. Have at least two years of college-level recruitment/marketing experience is the minimum requirement; experience in higher education and international education is highly desirable.
  3. Be possessive of excellent interpersonal communication skills.
  4. Have strong organizational and multitasking ability.
  5. Be experienced in designing fliers, posters, view-books, videos, or other such marketing materials.
  6. Have the ability to maintain a high degree of confidentiality and discretion.
  7. Be an American citizen.
  8. Be a fluent English speaker; and ability to speak additional languages is welcomed.


Special Instructions to Applicants:

Three (3) Part-time Recruiter positions available. You MUST include the following documents (doc or PDF format preferred) to be considered for this position; Cover Letter, and Resume to Director of Admissions Michael Dewalt at admissions@faiththeological.org. If any questions, please contact him at (410) 323-6211 ext. 114.

We Ought to Ask Ourselves Everyday

We ought to ask ourselves the questions suggested by Rev. G. Campbell Morgan, Pastor of New Court Congregational Church in Tollington Park, London. These questions should be asked regularly and always in the hour of loneliness with the Master.

  1. Am I in right relationship with the Teacher to-day? Do I still live at the Cross and know the power of its cleansing moment by moment, and so am I walking in the light, without which all the words of Jesus are dark sayings, and His testings crosses, burdens out of which I can only gather reasons for murmuring?
  2. If I am not in this place of maintained fellowship, where did I depart therefrom? What word of His have I disobeyed? To that point let me return, whether it be but an hour ago, or years, and there let me absolutely surrender, at whatever cost, and do what He requires, however small, or however irksome it appears to be.
  3. Am I content to wait when His voice does not speak—and I cannot find the reason in myself—until He has accomplished His present purpose in me, even though I understand it not just now? With matchless patience and pity, and tender love beyond all attempts at explanation, this Teacher waits, and stoops, and woos us, and ever for our highest good and deepest peace. Let us then, by consecrated watching, maintain the attitude of advancement, and so, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, as we are able to bear, He will lead us on, until we come to the perfect light and life and love of God.

*** Taken from Rev. G. Campbell Morgan, Discipleship. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1879, chapter three.

Correspondence & Coherence in Worldview

Every worldview must have correspondence and coherence. In questioning these we have the following tests:

First, there are three tests that a worldview must pass. It must be:

  •    Logically consistent – Its teachings cannot be self-contradictory.
  •    Empirically adequate – Its teachings must match what we see in reality.
  •    Existentially relevant – Its teachings must speak directly to how we actually live our lives.

Second, each worldview must address the following four ultimate questions:

  •    Origin – Where do the universe and human beings come from?
  •    Morality – How do we know what is right and what is wrong?
  •    Meaning – What is the meaning or purpose of life?
  •    Destiny – What happens to us after we die?

Third, there are five academic disciplines that must be employed to study a worldview:

  •    Theology – the study of God
  •    Metaphysics – the study of what is ultimately real
  •    Epistemology – the study of how we can know things
  •    Ethics – the study of moral right and wrong
  •    Anthropology – the study of what and who humans are

Is the worldview of biblical Christianity the best choice? Its teachings are logically consistent, they accurately describe reality as it is, and they speak directly to the human condition. In addition, Christianity provides compelling and powerful answers to the questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Finally, the theology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and anthropology of the Christian worldview are expansively rich and deeply profound – unsurpassed by any other worldview.

***Taken from Why Jesus? – Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality, by Ravi Zacharias, pp. 256, 257.


Steps to Homeschool Success

Parent Magazine recently posted an article with eight steps to a successful homeschool education. For those that may follow the blog, you may find this article helpful in preparation of educating your children at home. Working part time for a classical tutorial that aids families who choose to homeschool their children one of the common pitfalls I find is mentioned within the article. It reads,

Homeschoolers say there are three issues that often stymie beginners. First: feeling isolated. Make sure you’ve followed the advice in Step 3 and joined a support group. It’s not just for the kids, although socialization is critical for them. Homeschooling parents need to connect with likeminded adults too. Another potential problem is committing to a curriculum too early. Dobson notes that some new homeschoolers purchase an expensive packaged curriculum right away, only to find that it doesn’t suit their child’s learning style. Experiment for a while before you plunk down a lot of cash.

You can read the full eight steps to homeschool success here. 

Twisted Modalism

modalIf there is one great problem (heresy) I have encountered during my four years in Baltimore Maryland it is modalism, or sometimes called  sabellianism, modalistic monarchianism, modal monarchism, or as those who I have encountered claim to believe in the oneness of god. Another way of describing it (my way) is the non-trinitarian or better yet, anti-trinitarian belief that  leads one to the worship of a false god. What exactly is modalism?

In the early Church a form of unorthodox teaching on the Trinity which denied the permanence of the three Persons and maintained that the distinctions in the Godhead were only transitory. Among its leading exponents were Praxeas, Noetus, and Sabellius. It was a form of Monarchianism and also known as Patripassianism. There is only one person in God who represents himself in the roles of three persons. Michael Horton simply defines it, “they believe there is only one person in God who represents himself in the roles of three persons.”

Acts 2:38 reads, And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Believing that there is only one person of the Godhead who manifests Himself in three ways as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Oneness Pentecostals appeal to this verse along with Acts 8:16, 19:5, and Mt 28:19 as support. In doing so they embrace modalism, an anti-Trinitarian heresy that was condemned by the Synod of Smyrna in a.d. 200. The Nicene and Athanasian creeds also condemn modalism. The Scriptures are full of references to the triune nature of God (see Mt 3:16–17; Lk 1:35; Jn 14:26). More than 60 NT verses mention the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same verse. The members of the Godhead are co-existent and co-equal, one in essence and yet three in person.

R.C. Sproul has written on modalism the following,

One of the first of these heretical movements that emerged in the third and fourth centuries was monarchianism. Few people are acquainted with this theological term, but the root word is quite familiar: monarch. When we think about a monarch, we think of a ruler of a nation, a king or a queen. If we break down the word monarch, we find that it consists of a prefix, mono, which means “one,” coupled with the word arch, which comes from the Greek arche. This word could mean “beginning”; for instance, it appears in the prologue of John’s gospel, when the apostle writes, “In the beginning was the Word.” But it also could mean “chief or ruler.” So, a monarch was a single ruler, and a monarchy was a system of rule by one. Monarchianism, then, was the attempt to preserve the unity of God, or monotheism. The first great heresy that the church had to confront with respect to monarchianism was called “modalistic monarchianism” or simply “modalism.” The idea behind modalism was that all three persons of the Trinity are the same person, but that they behave in unique “modes” at different times. Modalists held that God was initially the Creator, then became the Redeemer, then became the Spirit at Pentecost. The divine person who came to earth as the incarnate Jesus was the same person who had created all things. When He returned to heaven, He took up His role as the Father again, but then returned to earth as the Holy Spirit. As you can see, the idea here was that there is only one God, but that He acts in different modes, or different expressions, from time to time. The chief proponent of modalism was a man named Sabellius. According to one ancient writer, Sabellius illustrated modalism by comparing God to the sun. He noted that the sun has three modes: its form in the sky, its light, and its warmth. By way of analogy, he said, God has various modes: the form corresponds to the Father, the light is the Son, and the warmth is the Spirit.

A second form of monarchianism that appeared was called “dynamic monarchianism” or “adoptionism.” This school of thought was also committed to preserving monotheism, but its adherents wanted to give honor and central importance to the person of Christ. Those who propagated this view held that at the time of creation, the first thing God made was the Logos, after which the Logos created everything else. So the Logos is higher than human beings and even angels. He is the Creator, and He predates all things except God. But He is not eternal, because He Himself was created by God, so He is not equal with God. In time, according to adoptionism, the Logos became incarnate in the person of Jesus. In His human nature, the Logos was one with the Father in terms of carrying out the same mission and working toward the same goals. He was obedient to the Father, and because of His obedience, the Father “adopted” Him. Thus, it is proper to call the Logos the Son of God. However, He became the Son of God dynamically. There was a change. He was not always the Son of God, but His Sonship was something He earned. Those who defended this view cited such biblical statements as “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15). They also argued that the New Testament’s descriptions of Christ as “begotten” carry the implication that He had a beginning in time, and anything that has a beginning in time is less than God, because God has no beginning. In short, they believed the Logos is like God, but He is not God. These views prompted the first of the ecumenical councils, the Council of Nicea, which met in AD 325. This council produced the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Christ is “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds,” and that He was “begotten, not made.” It further declares that He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God … being of one substance with the Father.” With these affirmations, the church said that scriptural terms such as firstborn and begotten have to do with Christ’s place of honor, not with His biological origin. The church declared that Christ is of the same substance, being, and essence as the Father. Thus, the idea was put forth that God, though three in person, is one in essence.

Maybe those that are so willing to allow such belief a part of their protestantism could address such understanding like that of the Athanasian Creed, Section 28—“He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity” (Qui vult ergo salvus esse, ita de Trinitate sentiat). The error of modalistic monarchianism is in their (blind) focusing on the oneness of God, holding to a strict undefendable definition of oneness to the exclusion of the mass of Biblical proof of the distinction of God. United Pentecostals and Apostolic’s (like Sabellius did) focus solely on the oneness passages (Deut 6:4 & Jn 10:38) to the exclusion of the wealth of scripture that shows the oneness of God is best understood in terms of unity rather than a specific number.

Francis Schaeffer on True Education

In the distant past, it took so long for cultural concepts to spread that by the time they had reached other areas they had sometimes already changed at their place of origin. But today the world is small, and it is very possible to have a monolithic culture spreading rapidly and influencing great sections of mankind. No artificial barriers, such as the Iron Curtain, can keep out the flow of these ideas. As the world has shrunk, and as it has largely become post-Christian, both sides of the Iron Curtain have followed the same methodology and the same basic monolithic thought form—namely, the lack of absolutes and antithesis, leading to pragmatic relativism. In our modern forms of specialized education there is a tendency to lose the whole in the parts, and in this sense we can say that our generation produces few truly educated people. True education means thinking by associating across the various disciplines, and not just being highly qualified in one field, as a technician might be. I suppose no discipline has tended to think more in fragmented fashion than the orthodox or evangelical theology of today. Those standing in the stream of historic Christianity have been especially slow to understand the relationships between various areas of thought. When the apostle warned us to “keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world,” he was not talking of some abstraction. If the Christian is to apply this injunction to himself, he must understand what confronts him antagonistically in his own moment of history. Otherwise he simply becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ. The orthodox Christian has paid a very heavy price, both in the defense and communication of the gospel, for his failure to think and act as an educated person understanding and at war with the uniformity of our modern culture.

Back to School, and Back to Letting Go

Four quick suggestions for parents with children in education, or parents in education. I presently teach at three different institutions: 7th, 8th, and 9th graders at a classical tutorial, 20-22 year old college students, and a wide range from 20-60 years of age at the seminary. That gives me enough interaction with parents during a week of work that one would need for a semester. It does not matter if I am dealing with the parent of a student, or a parent themselves in my class, the same issues occur. Maybe they will be of some help.

back_to_school_948975-resized-6001. Be Diligent, not Demanding – Work from the beginning to the end of the year with your child and the teacher, and not only show up when you have something to complain or worry about. A harping parent, leads to a harping student.

2. Be Responsible, not Lackadaisical – Accept your role as the parent and make education a priority in your home, and stop expecting the teacher, tutor, or professor to do everything for your child’s growth. You the parent have to work too.

3. Be Attentive, not Absent – Stop your child immediately when bad behavior appears. Show him or her what to do and provide an opportunity
to do it correctly. Discipline should be appropriate and consistent. If there comes a time you take the day off from working with your child, they will understand they as well can take days off from their education.

4. Be Precise, not Vague – Provide clear, detailed, and direct instructions. I find parents expecting much from their child, yet failing to convey to them exactly what they expect for them in education.

Children Learn Regardless: Instruct Them in Holiness

If you neglect to instruct [children] in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No; if you will not teach them to pray, he will to curse, swear, and lie. If ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring.

John Flavel

How Can the Puritans Help Seminary Studies?

lead_largeThe Puritans were a fascinating group of Protestants during the 16th and 17th Century intensely concerned with pious living. The seminary student of today can learn much from the Puritans. In the Puritans we see a people opposed with growing in the knowledge of God and the deep things of Christ. In thought and outlook they were radically God-centered. Their appreciation of God’s sovereign majesty was profound, and their reverence in handling his written word was deep and constant. They were patient, thorough, and methodical in searching the Scriptures.[1] In them we see a great example for the modern seminary student to emulate. The Puritans were also immensely concerned with living out the truths of Scripture in their day to day lives. Puritan Richard Baxter wrote on this point

“Sound doctrine makes a sound judgment, a sound heart, a sound conversation [life] and a sound conscience.”[2]

This shows just how closely related doctrine and practice were for the Puritans. This can be directly correlated to the seminary student of today, namely to live, love and apply the doctrinal truths learned in their studies to their daily lives. It is pointless in my opinion to enter seminary studies if this is not the student’s ultimate goal. The Puritans are one of the best examples of just how this is to be accomplished.The Puritans can also help the seminary student to read the Scripture through an Christological lens. A major principal of interpretation used by the Puritans was the idea, firmly rooted in Scripture, that all of God’s Word points to Christ.[3] This can help the student immensely in their studies because once the student grasps this important hermeneutical principle they will see the bible in a deeper and fuller sense.  Any student studying the Scriptures should desire this, namely to see Jesus Christ in all aspects of their theological studies.

The Puritans can teach the seminary student a great deal in the area of prayer and communion with God. The Puritans had a resolute prayer life and communion with God was of chief importance in their lives. The Puritan Thomas Goodwin described prayer in this manner;

“prayer is the soul’s breathing itself into the bosom of its heavenly Father.”

We can see from this beautiful quote that the Puritans were zealous about prayer and took prayer seriously. They give a great example to follow and the seminary student can learn that even the most studious of students must obtain their education through thoughtful time spent in prayer. Lastly, the Puritans can teach the modern student a great deal in nearly every aspect of the Christian life and practice. I outlined in this paper a few examples of this, but the Puritans can teach us so much more.  Whether its zeal for God, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in all things, the atrocious nature of sin, or the proper understanding of doctrine. The Puritans were great teachers from the past and the modern student would be wise to learn from such men.


[1] The Puritan Study, “The Delights and Pains of Puritan Study”, https://spurgeon.wordpress.com/2006/09/06/the-puritan-study-part-1-the-delights-and-pains-of-a-puritan-study.html (accessed March 27,2014).

[2] Peter Lewis, The Genius of Puritanism, (Grand Rapids: Soli Deo GloriaPublications, 1977), 12.   

[3]  Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine For Life. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012) 31.

Why Historical Theology Matters in a Seminary Curriculum

History-repeatsJust why is theological history important, because the study of history provides a classic mode of learning. Examinations of primary and secondary sources help students to think about their subject rigorously. They must learn to organize and assess evidence, analyze problems, interpret complex events, and finally to write with clarity and precision. In short, studying Church History helps students learn how to learn.

History is popular. History’s special appeal comes from its distinctive subject matter, the human past. Church History is interesting because it deals with real people and events, not with abstractions.  The history of the Christian Church from the earliest times to the present offers a boundless variety for selecting favorite topics and pursuing personal interests.

Historical knowledge is important. Amnesia is devastating on the individual level. If I do not know who I am and where I have come from, then I cannot know where I am or should be headed.  Studying Historical theology links seminary students to the Church’s past. Examining the history of Church doctrine down through the ages gives students a better understanding of their own beliefs and their origins. It gives the student a solid foundation of doctrine firmly established throughout the ages and gives depth to their own faith.

Studying Historical Theology helps distinguish orthodoxy from heresy. Knowing the past is important because those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it. The heresies of today are nothing new, they are old heresies resurfaced. A good understanding of church history gives one the ability to recognize heresy. For example the modern day cult known as the Jehovah Witnesses is actually a form of the ancient heresy of Arianism, which was dealt with at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. This example shows just how essential it is to know the Church’s past. It gives the student another tool to defend the truths of Christian orthodoxy against all its opponents.

Studying Historical theology also helps with biblical interpretation. Looking at the development of Christian doctrine throughout the ages helps the student to contrast one’s own interpretation with that of the church’s past. Historical theology gives the student a proper lens through which to test their own orthodoxy. For example creeds from the early church such as the Apostles Creed and the Athanasius Creed are some of the earliest attestations of proper biblical interpretation. If a believers interpretation contradicts that of these ancient creeds it would be wise to reevaluate this interpretation. These are just a few reasons why studying Historical theology is important.  It shows us that we are not alone in our Christian faith but that we stand on the shoulders of those great men who have gone before us, history matters.



Reasons to Consider a Seminary Education

seminary-woes2When one considers seminary education there are several factors that should influence the perspective student’s decision making. First and foremost, any person considering seminary education should have a love for God’s Word, along with a great desire to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of Him (Eph. 3:17-19).  In my opinion this is essential, because any person desiring to study God’s Word cannot do so half heartily, he or she must do so with diligence and passion (2 Tim. 2:15).

A second reason one may consider seminary education is out of love for Christ and His Church. Even a casual on looker would be able to ascertain today that the Church is rampantly anti-intellectual and not doctrinally detailed. Seminary education is essential for anyone who desires to preach and teach the Word of God because they will be held accountable for the congregation’s edification and spiritual growth. The bible teaches that God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos.4:6). Seminary education helps a believer to grow in God’s Word, equipping them to defend sound doctrine, keeping Christ’s church doctrinally sound.

Thirdly, studying at a seminary helps equip a person’s spiritual walk because studying God’s Word inevitable leads to this end (2 Pet. 3:18). Biblical studies and spiritual growth are linked. Why one asked, because without proper study a believer will remain stagnate in their pursuit of holiness, being limited to milk rather than growing and feeding on the meat of the Word. Seminary education helps equip the believer in their walk, giving them the tools to walk wisely, and in an increasingly unbelieving and hostile world.

Fourth, seminary education can help with family worship – the study of Scripture leads to the worship of the triune God. Therefore when one begins to attend seminary and dedicate his or her time to the study of Scripture this leads to the worship of the God. Learning biblical truth at a seminary will help with family worship because when a person begins to learn biblical truth at seminary he or she will want to share the truths he or she learns with friends and family. They will want to honor God through what they have learned sharing God’s Word with the people that they love.

Lastly Seminary studies equip the believer with the tools to go out and do their part in the spreading of the gospel for Christ Kingdom. The Bible tells us to be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Seminary is a great place to study and grow in the knowledge of the truth so that we may become good soldiers of Jesus Christ and for His Kingdom.



Essential Tools Essential for Seminary Studies

theological-toolsBefore entering seminary there are several tools that a perspective student should become familiar with and learn how to use before ever taking a class. I dare say (to the traditionalist) that a lap top computer is essential. It would help the student immensely to become familiar with this technology and acquire basic computer skills. Proper note taking skills are important part of the reason why one must have a lap top prior to attending seminary. The better the student is at taking notes the more likely he or she is prepared for their quizzes, tests, and exams. Before the student begins taking notes there are several steps that can be taken to help in the note taking process. First before class begins the student would be wise to select a seat in the classroom where they can see and hear the speaker well. Second it is important when taking notes to focus on information that may be new and to consider key points and concepts. Lastly, it is helpful when taking notes to use abbreviations and short meaningful phrases when necessary. Thinking that one can keep up to speed typing every word the professor ever says is near impossible. Learning how to short hand notes will give the student the ability to keep up with the teachers lecture so that they do not fall behind.

Another area that is of importance for study is the ability to memorize and retain information. In seminary this is essential because students are often asked to read and memorize a lot of information they have never heard. Some strategies that may help the student in the memorization process are as follows, this can be done by two simple tasks. The first key is to focus on the task at hand, it is important to concentrate on the subject and not to multi task. Second, organization is helpful, organizing the subject matter into related categorize makes memorization easier. It is helpful to read the required material over and over again until you can recite it from memory. Proper Communication skills are also a skill that is used to refine for seminary students. Communication skills can help in many different areas in a person’s life and studying at seminary is no different. Communication skills are important and integral in many classroom assignments. Many seminary courses require students to give oral presentations, speeches, and sermons. Therefore students must become comfortable speaking in front of an audience and learn to articulate their ideas clearly and as intended. Learning such skills will not only help the student during their time at seminary but also in their future careers.

Lastly the ever dreaded reading assignments for seminarians can be a daunting task. It is helpful for any seminary student to begin their own disciplined plan in order to keep them accountable to the semester reading assignments. Seminary courses often require a lot of reading so it is important to set aside sometime each day to focus on reading.  Reading is important but retaining what is read is essential, taking notes as you read helps also the highlighting key passages makes retention easier. If necessary reread the text, especially parts of the text that are complicated and hard to understand. These are just a few simple tips to help any perspective seminary student in their future studies.

Before Entering Seminary Studies

tumblr_mic9jvHIo31qlu4bqo1_500There are several areas I wish I would have considered before entering seminary. I will focus on five things that are of chief importance for anyone considering seminary studies. One thing that I have discovered in my studies is the importance of proper research and writing skills. Why had I never heard of the Turabian style format before? It would help any perspective student to familiarize themselves with the Turabian style of writing. Along with proper writing skills a student must learn proper research skills, this goes hand and hand with paper writing, learning such skills before one enters seminary will help the student immensely, and save much time taken away from their primary studies in seminary.

Another area that is of great importance for seminary studies is a lab top. Most classes require a laptop because many Professors send the class notes and the course syllabus electronically, or expect you to type notes while they lecture. A laptop is also useful in assisting students in their studies, online libraries, and various websites that allow students to purchase class textbooks electronically if they so chose. Laptops also help to make any student self sufficient in their studies. Laptops also assist students in their research and writing, because a laptop gives the student access to websites that can give references to research paper examples and proper format. These are just a few of the many benefits of having a lab top for perspective seminary students.

Another factor I wish I would have considered before entering seminary is the cost of books for my personal library. Nearly every class at seminary requires a textbook sometimes two or three or the list goes on. This can add up after awhile, however there are several places online where you can go and search for the best deals to help you cut down of your textbook expenses. Speaking of books, I wish I would have considered how to effectively use a library for research, this is of utmost importance. Before staring at seminary it would be wise for any perspective student to familiarizing oneself with the ins and outs of a library. For example get to know the different cataloging systems different libraries use, such as Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal etc, or their own institutional cataloging systems they may have for study centers.  Visit your local library and talk with the librarian for help in these areas. This will put you one step ahead of the game and when the time comes when you need to use the library for research you will be more familiar with it. Nothing is worse than learning how to use a library for research when needing to cram a thirty page paper within a week.

The last area to consider before entering seminary is how time consuming theological studies can be. This is important because seminary studies cannot be just a hobby one pursues on the side, (unless you plan on being a part time student for the rest of your life). Full time study takes time and effort one must not only have time for class, but also set aside several hours each day for reading, homework, and studying for exams. Before I entered seminary I did not realize just how time consuming this could be. Seminary is a full time job one must be passionate for theology to invest such time and effort; any perspective student must consider this when having a full time job, family, especially children.


C. H. Spurgeon Books

2286_019a83e0661f4d9f93ff79fe904e77e8Logos Bible Software has proven to be a wonderful resource for prepping, researching, and studying for academic papers. More directly, the Spurgeon Collection in the software has been of great assistance in my personal studies. There are a significant amount of articles from a number of resources within Logos, making it convenient for research as everything is in the same program. One of the helpful features about the program is the fact that a search can be tailored to the desire of the searcher. For example, if I wanted to research the piety of Charles Spurgeon I would simply type “piety” in the search bar after having pulled up the Charles Haddon Spurgeon Collection. The search results display all of the articles, letters, sermons, etc., that include the desired word. It actually highlights the desired word within the article so that you can locate that particular area of the topic as well as read the rest of the article for the context of the content that you are seeking. Another good feature is that when you copy and paste a quote or an article it automatically puts in the footnote on the document which makes the process much quicker if you are writing a paper in which citing is required. Using Logos for reach, studies, and writing at an academic level saves time, and who does not want more of that?

If interested in Logos, and more-so the Charles Spurgeon Collection, you can purchase the 149 volumes from Logos.

Understanding How the Justice & Goodness of God go Hand & Hand

Righteousness or sometimes called the Justice of God
Many understand the justice of God like that of Johnny Cash, who writes, “Go tell that long tongue liar, Go and tell that midnight rider, Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter, Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down.” Yet Justice does carry two sides, but it shows forth his wrath and judgment, but does include his grace and mercy as we will see. Joel Beeke has stated that in the justice of God, “we see the moral purity in addition to God’s holiness.” As the righteous God he is, God has established a moral order for the universe.  His righteousness means that not only is he righteous and just in himself, but that he will also treat all his creatures fairly. Righteousness is associated with straightness or consistency, and integrity within relationships. In that sense, righteousness is an attribute to God and man. (Psalm 7 gives us this understanding). When it comes to God we may say that divine righteousness is the divine self-consistency within God’s own character and will.  Louis Berkhof describes this as a “strict adherence to law” but we need to understand that this is not to be conceived of in a neutral fashion. God is a law unto himself, not in a way that is given to sudden or unaccountable changes, but in a sense that is true to his own character that never changes. We cannot apply to God what was said of God’s people under the Old Testament, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes then.” God is never a law to himself in this way. God cannot deny himself, for he is faithful to himself and his holy character. The justice of God is the inherent and infinite righteousness of God. God is always straight unto himself. In the Old Testament, the basic words denoting righteousness and justice cluster around two word groups.

The Biblical Terminology of Justice
1. Misphat (mish–pawt): Comes from meaning to judge, it is the result or act of judging, giving a verdict, sentence, or decree.  It is translated often with justice, judgment, ordinances, and right. There are twenty -five passages in which this word is used in reference to God himself and his justice, ordinances and judgments. Examples; Gen. 18:25 reads “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Deut. 32:4, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” The other word used within the Jesus’ Testament is…

2. Tsadaq ([t]saw-dak): There are various nouns associated with this verb and all of which basically speak of conformity to an ethical or moral standard of righteousness. In the Old Testament that standard is the character and nature of God himself. God is called righteous and just in himself. The Bible repeatedly indicated that forensically, his judgments and dealings with all mankind are just. In the New Testament we find a rich set of words that connote the righteousness of God. Specifically…

3. Dikaios (dik-ah’-yoce): This is the New Testament term thatmeans just, agreeably to right, uprightly, righteousness. These terms are used in a variety of ways, but commonly refer to right conduct before God, or God’s right conduct to men.  The phrase “the righteousness of God” as used by Paul speaks of a forensic transaction whereby the sinner is pardoned and justified by God.  With such a comprehensive term there is a wealth of biblical material.

The Elements of Justice
1. God’s Moral Purity: Righteousness is very close to Holiness; God does what is right, and does so while always being holy. It is a summary term in Scripture for God’s moral correct behavior or thinking. Some examples; Isaiah writes about the Lord speaking in righteousness in chapter 45, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness.” In the New Testament there are similar references; Matt. 6:33 speaks to “seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness.” In Romans 5:18 “so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Sometimes Christ is referred to as the Righteous One, 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This whole concept of God’s righteousness and moral purity is spoken of in reference to covenant. This brings us to the second area of Justice, the…

2. The Covenantal Context of Justice: This is particular in reference to God’s living relationship with his people, set again and again in this covenantal context.  It means that God’s righteousness is his total consistency with his covenantal revelation of himself and his covenantal pledge to his people. God shows his righteous acts to all the villages of Israel.  In terms of manifesting righteousness, it is expressive of divine integrity bound up in it.  God’s divine-human relationship is forged in the context of covenant.  That is the reason why the supreme revelation of divine righteousness is found in Jesus Christ on the cross, there the heart of God was revealed in covenantal righteousness, and it is a critical aspect of his dynamic relationship to us. In this context we can speak of human righteousness in the covenant creature.  Precisely because we are created in the divine image of the God who is consistent with his covenant, righteousness is both possible and required in us. When Jesus’ Testament speaks about human righteousness, it speaks of possessing integrity in our covenantal relationship with God. That is why the believer in the Old Testament who is described as righteous, is the one who is radically faithful to his covenant obligations (Deut. 24:13).  God looks upon this action as righteous in his own sight. There are two aspects vivid in Jesus’ Testament. The principle that the righteousness of God is manifested in one, terrible condemnation, and two, merciful deliverance.  This is a result of a proceeding truth, which is, the absolute integrity of God to the revelation given of himself in his covenant. If we lack either perspective which lies at the root of his righteousness we lose the full biblical picture of God’s righteousness. There is a side that speaks of his love and grace and that which speaks of his re-trib-u-tive justice. Example:  Consider Martin Luther. Luther named the righteousness of God as retributive, viewing the idea as a thought of punishing.  He hated the word righteousness.  That righteousness is not to be equated only with punishing/retributive justice and began to understand God’s righteousness as manifested in the gospel as part of God’s mercy and covenant faithfulness.  Luther came to understand that as a righteous God he is a Savior. This moves him from seeing it in terms of justice as also manifested in grace and salvation within the context of covenant.

3. Justice &Righteousness (from the root ṣdq) in the Old Testament it is a simultaneously forensic and relational term. It is a “right relationship” that is legally verified by obedience to the covenantal stipulations. It is related closely to mišpaṭ (justice). God’s righteousness is also connected with his mercy, especially in the Psalms. “The maintenance of the fellowship now becomes the justification of the ungodly. No manner of human effort, but only that righteousness which is the gift of God, can lead to that conduct which is truly in keeping with the covenant.” God has a moral vision for his creation, which is revealed in the various covenants that he makes with human beings in history, and his righteousness involves his determination to see that vision through to the end for his glory and the good of creation. At the same time, God’s righteousness cannot simply be collapsed into his mercy (i.e., justification by grace through faith). As the revelation of God’s moral will (i.e., law), God’s righteousness condemns all people as transgressors; as the revelation of God’s saving will (i.e., the gospel), God’s righteousness saves all who believe (Ro 3:19–26). In both cases, God upholds his own righteousness. Against Albrecht Ritschl’s view, which collapses righteousness into mercy, Barth affirms that God’s righteousness includes the concept of distributive justice—“a righteousness which judges and therefore both exculpates and condemns, rewards and also punishes.” Yet for Barth, this condemnation turns out to be just another form of love and grace. According to Barth, God’s wrath is always a form of mercy. However, in Scripture, God’s wrath is his righteous response to sin and his mercy is a free decision to grant absolution to the guilty. As we have seen, God is free to show mercy on whomever he will and to leave the rest under his just condemnation. The righteousness that God discloses in the law brings condemnation, but the gift of righteousness that God gives brings justification and life (Ro 3:19–22). Once again, it is at the cross where we see the marvelous unity of divine attributes that might seem otherwise to clash. This paradox is lost if mercy, righteousness, and wrath are synonymous terms.

The Applications of Justice
To the saved: There are much more nuanced applications for the believer of Christ than the unbeliever.

1. We should reflect God’s justice/righteousness.

2. In financial dealings we should be equitable, reflecting the fairness of God.  This is something that is not thought of as often as it should be.

3. We should revere God’s justice. We read of that in 1 Peter 1, where Peter speaks in vv. 17-19.  We understand that God judges rightly and only by Christ’s righteousness that we have been saved.  The Lord loves judgment and forsakes not his saints.

4. We also hope in God and his justice for remuneration, Isa. 30:18.  God will make things right on the Day of Judgment. We know that he will be righteous and judge even though we don’t see it here.  2 Thess. 1:4-8. We should defer to God’s justice for retribution, Rom. 12:19.  God is in control and exercises just retribution.

5. We should appeal to God’s justice; we do so in our intercessions. Example; Gen. 18:23-25, Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?  He appeals to the righteousness of God.  We should model that for our people too.  We should rest in God’s promises that he will perform them since he is always righteous and true to his Word.  God is always true to his word of warning and salvation and grace. He is just in his dealings with his children. He protects us and guards us and works all things together for good.  God will not forsake us nor make any mistakes with us.  God is righteous. We should bless and praise God for his righteousness, Ps.  33:4-5 reads, “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.”

To the unsaved: They are called to repentance.  No one can escape God’s righteous judgment. Rom. 2:3 reads, Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” [6]  People need to be warned and we need to warn them in our ministry not to despise God’s goodness and forbearance.  Paul goes on to say in Romans 2:4, the unbeliever looks around and doesn’t see punishment for wrong done right now and presumes that God will not punish at all forgetting God’s timeless character. God’s righteousness stands over that and declares that God will judge without respect of person, by standards of law and gospel therefore you must repent and get right before God, you must immediately seek his face in repentance and faith.

The Goodness of God
Is one of the most familiar themes of the Scriptures when speaking about God.  He is good in an incredible diversity of ways to all his creatures. Most Reformed systematic theologians take up the attributes of mercy, grace, loving kindness, and longsuffering.  That does not mean that each of these terms are identical, but it does mean that a God who is fundamentally good expresses that goodness in many different ways like; mercy, grace, loving kindness, and longsuffering. Michael Horton wonderfully writes on this area, “God’s knowledge, wisdom, and power are inseparable from his goodness. In fact, in the strict sense, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mk 10:18). God’s infinite goodness is the source of all creaturely imitations. Precisely because God does not depend on the world, his goodness is never threatened. God is good toward all he has made, even his enemies (Ps 145:9, 15–16; Mt 5:45). He can afford to be, because he is God with or without them.

The Biblical Terminology of Goodness
1. Towb (tobe = tove): This is the most common word within the OT.  It is used as an adjective, sometimes as a verb, but mostly as a noun, translated good, goodness, kindness, prosperity, bountiful.  It’s specifically used of God’s goodness 84 times in the OT.  The LORD is good and does good.

2. tuwb (toob = toov): meaning; goodness, gladness, to go well with, and it is used of God at least 17 times with the OT.

3. yatab (yaw-tab): to do good and to do well; used of God 19 times in the OT; refers to God’s beneficent attitude particularly in his dealings towards his people. In the NT we read of 2 main family words…

4. agathos (ag-ath-os): the most general word for good, what is morally proper, beneficial.  Translated as good or well, used 10 times of God’s goodness in the NT.

5. chrestotes (khray-stot’-ace): refers to moral excellence; usually translated goodness, kindness, gentleness, used 6-7 times of God of its eight times used in the NT. All of these combined, the Scriptures speak 136 times that God is referred to as good.

The Displays of God’s Goodness
1. Creation: God is concerned about the well being of his own creation and does things to promote that well -being, but not outside of righteousness and holiness.  Rather because he does what is righteous and holy he promotes their well-being. One of the classic texts is James 1:17, “every good gift and perfect gift…no variableness or shadow of turning.” Another text is Matt. 7:11, where it refers to human beings knowing how to give good gifts to their children….It comes as no surprise to us given the inherent goodness of God that Scripture abounds with God’s goodness in a variety of ways. God declares his creative goodness when he declares his creation good.  In Ps. 136:5-9, his goodness endureth forever. Puritan Stephen Charnock, spends 11 pages on the display of God’s goodness in creation. There he expounds the idea that the world was made for man, to gratify man with all his goodness. Creation drips with God’s goodness.

2. Providence: Ps. 136:25 reads, “who gives food to all flesh, his goodness endures forever.”  God gives it to all flesh, all living creatures. He provides food for man and beast alike. His providence manifests itself in a variety of ways: in its covenantal foundation, Gen. 6:17-19 and 9:8-11.  The point is that God is good to Noah as a covenant keeping God in the realm of natural things.  God perpetuates life in our family and society. He tempers the curse that man deserves, Gen. 9:2.  He makes abundant provision to keep us alive, restrains sin in society, and calls men to repentance.  God is lavish; his providence is not only keeping people alive but he gives abundantly.  How good God is in so many ways in his providence that we often take for granted.  There is a special kind of goodness that he manifests in a special providence over those that fear him.  The Lord preserves all them that love him. It focuses particularly on his children. The Lord pities them that fear him.

3. Redemption: Preeminently God’s goodness in his redemption of us.  This is apparent in his dealings with the exodus and redemption from Egypt.  Manifested today as well in redeeming us from sin in Jesus Christ and in bringing the Holy Spirit to teach us the things of God.  Every individual believer in his path of salvation experiences the goodness of God.  We receive every spiritual blessing as believers in Christ Jesus.  That is God’s goodness. God applies his redemption to us initially (Eph. 2:1-10), but also by continuing to apply redemption to us over and over again.  Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  One day, God’s goodness will lead us into the new heavens and new earth, we will sin no more, Ps. 23:6.

One theologian wrote, “Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news, My head’s been wet with the midnight dew, I’ve been down on bended knee talkin’ to the man from Galilee, He spoke to me in the voice so sweet, I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet, He called my name and my heart stood still, When he said, “John go do My will!” Johnny Cash experience the goodness of God.

The Practical Applications of God’s Goodness
1. We should contemplate God’s goodness, Ps. 107:43 reads, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”

2. We should hunger and plead to grasp God’s goodness.

3. We should proclaim God’s goodness. Having been forgiven much they ought to forgive much.  Having tasted of the love of God we ought to love him.  Our lives ought to reflect that goodness in our lives, imitate it, and love our enemies, Matt. 5:45.

4. We should anticipate God’s goodness.  We should not wallow in unbelief and fear the worst and we forget that God is always good, Ps. 27.  One way to not become overwhelmed in trying circumstances is to consider, when has God not been good to me?  That will take care of your problems. We should appreciate his goodness; treasure it, love it, Ezra 3:11.

5. We should show deep respect for God for his goodness, Ex. 34:8.  The goodness of God ought never to produce shallowness in us, but sacred worship.  Irreverent familiarity is an abuse of God’s goodness and doesn’t come from him.  So many say that God is good and flippantly go on their way, but a real understanding of God’s goodness makes us make haste, bow our heads and worship.



The Spirit Stamps God’s Image on Believers

Jonathan Edwards writes,

When God sets his seal on a man’s heart by his Spirit, there is some holy stamp, some image impressed, and left upon the heart by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax. And this holy stamp, or impressed image, exhibiting clear evidence to the conscience that the subject of it is the child of God, is the very thing which in Scripture is called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness or evidence of the Spirit. And this mark stamped by the Spirit on God’s children is his own image. That is the evidence by which they are known to be God’s children; they have the image of their Father stamped upon their hearts by the Spirit of adoption.

***Taken from Elliot Ritzema and Elizabeth Vince, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).


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