Category Archives: Theology

Are You Reformed?

“Are you reformed?”

I get that question quite a bit as a Baptist attending a Presbyterian seminary (Westminster). It’s a tough question to answer. My answer depends on the context: What does “reformed” mean to the person asking the question?

What “Reformed” Used to Mean

“Reformed” properly refers to:

  • The theological heritage of John Calvin, the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Confession
  • A commitment to covenant theology, including pedobaptism
  • Belief in predestination and reprobation (i.e. TULIP, commonly called Calvinism)
  • A preoccupation with the glory of God
  • A preoccupation with the sovereignty of God
  • A commitment to redemptive-historical hermeneutics (The whole focus of this website.)

As a credobaptist I can’t say that I’m in that heritage. However… that doesn’t mean I’m not reformed. It depends on the situation.

What “Reformed” Means Today

Like the term “evangelical” the meaning of “reformed” is changing. In the west today “reformed” theology has lost the implications of covenant theology, pedobaptism, and its credal heritage.

Today “reformed” has typically dropped the first two criteria and simply means: Continue reading

The Gospel In Real Life

I am enjoying the current issue of Themelios. The article Do The Work of an Evangelist by D.A. Carson is truly excellent. It ties closely to the main theme of Armchair Theology so here is an excerpt with my commentary.

For some Christians, “the gospel” (equivalently, “the evangel”) is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: “Biblical Leadership,” “Learning to Pray,” “What to Do with Your Money,” “Christian Marriage,” and so forth—none of which falls under “gospel,” but only under post-gospel discipleship.

One of my main goals is to see the gospel applied to all life – especially growth in holiness:

In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that “gospel”/“evangel” is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news about what God is doing in and through King Jesus, especially in and through his cross and resurrection. A careful reading of Scripture shows how often Christian conduct is grounded in the gospel itself.

This was a game-changer for me a few years ago. Every time we see a command in the Bible it is prefaced with the gospel message. This isn’t limited to just the New Testament. Read Ex 20:2 and see how the ten commandments are prefaced with a message of God’s saving work for his people.

For instance, the gospel is to be obeyed (e.g., 2 Thess 1:8); certain behavior conforms to the gospel, while other behavior does not (1 Tim 1:10–11). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)—transparently, this is a gospel appeal. In short, in the NT the gospel is preached both to unbelievers and to believers. It calls unbelievers to repentance and faith; it calls believers to ongoing faith and conformity to Jesus.

Gospel ministry is ministry that is faithful to the gospel, that announces the gospel and applies the gospel and encourages people to believe the gospel and thus live out the gospel.

Further Reading:

You’re Doing Holiness Wrong

“You’re doing holiness wrong.”

That’s the debate going on right now at The Gospel Coalition. In the center of the discussion is pastor Tullian Tchividjian, who has increasingly made comments that seem to border on antinomianism.

Antinomianism? That’s the idea that you the gospel frees us entirely (anti) from the law (nomos) and, once we are saved by Christ, we no longer have to obey it.

If that sounds familiar to you it’s probably because the apostle Paul had some strong words about it:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:1–4

So, what’s the debate? Continue reading

Why I Believe the Resurrection

A look back on the most important event in history:

Why are you a Christian? Why is the building you attend church standing there? Why do we have centuries’ worth of hymns and books? Why is the Bible the best-selling book of all time?

Because we believe that in Jerusalem in the first century a man walked out of his grave.

But how can we prove that the resurrection happened? There was no video surveillance. There were no autopsy reports. All of the involved witnesses were biased.

Why do we believe Jesus rose from the dead?

Continue Reading

The Impossibility of “Fire Insurance” Faith

You take out fire insurance so that if, in the unlikely event that your house burns down, you’ll get your house back. You don’t really believe your house will burn down but you admit the possibility and prepare for the worse.

Sometimes you’ll hear Christians argue for “fire insurance” faith. What does it look like? You might try persuading your neighbor to become a Christian just in case there is a God. “What harm could it do,” you ask, “just to be safe?”

This is the modern-day outworking of Pascal’s wager: Continue reading

We Desperately Need A Messiah: The Christo-Yearning Hermeneutic

The title of this article may have thrown you for a loop. That’s okay, I’ll explain as we go.

I think this is a necessary evolution of gospel-centered preaching:

Where we’ve seen symbols in the Bible pointing to Jesus, and themes which find their resolution in Jesus, we should also find a desperate yearning for a Redeemer.

The Primary Methods of Christ-Centered Interpretation

If you’re following the gospel-centered Bible study movement you’ve probably heard these two terms applied to interpreting a passage: Continue reading

Doctrine Is Not Enough

When we discuss theology, the study of the things of God, is it enough to know true things about God,  true things about humanity, true things about the Temple and true things about other Bible doctrines? Augustus Strong answers:

Science is not only the observing, recording, verifying, and formulating of objective facts; it is also the recognition and explication of the relations between these facts, and the synthesis of both the facts and the rational principles which unite them in a comprehensive, rightly proportioned, and organic system.
- Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology

What does that mean?

Theology isn’t just about the facts of biblical doctrine. Theology needs to be about the relationships between truths:

  • What do the doctrines mean together?
  • How do the doctrines interact with one another?
  • What do the doctrines build to?

He continues:

Scattered bricks and timbers are not a house; severed arms, legs, heads and trunks from a dissecting room are not living men; and facts alone do not constitute science. Science = facts + relations;

Have you built a library of disconnected facts about God, the Bible and salvation? Or have you built a house from the bricks and timbers of your theology? Have you seen the living, breathing truth from the arms, legs head and torso of the doctrines of Scripture?

The relationship – the house or living body in Strong’s analogy – is God’s grand design to redeem his enemies into his family so that they might glorify and enjoy him forever.

If you know a doctrine but can’t explain how it connects to the Bible’s chief message of redemption and reconciliation, you don’t know that doctrine.

Without that framework, theology is just a pile of bricks and timber.

Doctrine is not enough.