31 March 2013

Thinking Like God (2 of 2)

At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn't find the body of the Master Jesus.

They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said,

"Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."

Then they remembered Jesus' words. "The nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make the Son of Man suffer terribly. He will be rejected and killed, but three days later he will rise to life."  Jesus had explained clearly what he meant.

They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn't believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.

But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that's all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.

That same day two of the discples were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"

He said, "What has happened?"

They said, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn't find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."

Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: "Stay and have supper with us. It's nearly evening; the day is done." So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"

So they didn't waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: "It's really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!"

Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

29 March 2013

He Was a Dangerous Man

The people and their leaders all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him. They said, "We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King."

Pilate asked him, "Is this true that you're 'King of the Jews'?"

"Those are your words, not mine," Jesus replied.

Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, "I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me."

But they were vehement. "He's stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea. He's a dangerous man, endangering the peace."

When Pilate heard that, he asked, "So, he's a Galilean?" Realizing that he properly came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.

Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he'd heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions. Jesus didn't answer--not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.

Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.

Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, "You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It's clear that he's done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

At that, the crowd went wild: "Kill him! Give us Barabbas!" (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.

But they kept shouting back, "Crucify! Crucify him!"

He tried a third time. "But for what crime? I've found nothing in him deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.

As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they'll say, "Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, "Fall down on us!' calling to the hills, "Cover us up!' If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they'll do with deadwood?"

Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.

When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus prayed,

"Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."

Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, "He saved others. Let's see him save himself! The Messiah of God--ha! The Chosen--ha!"

The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: "So you're King of the Jews! Save yourself!"

Printed over him was a sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: "Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!"

But the other one made him shut up: "Have you no fear of God? You're getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him--he did nothing to deserve this."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom."

He said, "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise."

By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours-- a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly,

"Father, I place my life in your hands!"

Then he breathed his last. When the centurion there saw what happened, he honored God: "This man was innocent! A good man, and innocent!"

All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking him down, he wrapped him in a linen shroud and placed him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used. It was the day before Sabbath, the Sabbath just about to begin.

The women who had been companions of Jesus from Galilee followed along. They saw the tomb where Jesus' body was placed. Then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes.

They rested quietly on the Sabbath, as commanded.

28 March 2013

Extreme measures, dire situation

by Dan Phillips

(Excerpted from The World-Tilting Gospel, 77-79)

Our eyes open on an operating room.

We've never seen such a scene. Impossibly complicated machines are busily engaged. We see blinking, flashing, pulsing; we hear beeping, buzzing, throbbing. A dozen measurements display on a dozen monitors. Tubes, wires, even arcing electricity fill the room.

One full complement of antiseptically garbed professionals rushes about, working intently on a patient in the center of the surgical theater. Instruments flash, experts lean in, all attention is riveted on this figure and the controlling machinery surrounding him. Off to their right stands another complete team, uniformed and equipped, waiting for their cue to dive in and begin their specialized assignment. On the other side, to the left, another squad reclines on cots, resting.

A clock on the wall reads Time elapsed, and gives a figure of eighteen hours, forty-seven minutes, nineteen seconds . . . twenty . . . twenty-one . . .

And we gasp, Good heavens, what a desperate ruin this poor soul must be, that such a massive-scale operation was necessary!

Blink. Our eyes open again on a garden.

It is nighttime. Before us, we immediately recognize the figure of Jesus Christ—but we are seeing Him as no one has ever seen Him. This man who has stared down thousands of hell’s foulest demons without blinking, who has shut up storms with a curt word of command, who has reduced the human powers to babbling, loose-bowelled nonsense—is falling down in horror, and He is pleading with His Father.

Listen. What does He ask?

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

The Father has never through all eternity denied a request of the Son. Surely He will grant this! Yet Christ pleads it once . . . twice . . . three times. There is no answer. The Father says nothing.

Another first—and an alarming one.

An angel appears. We hear no words. But the Son rises. He squares His shoulders. He goes forth, meets a jittery and heavily armed crowd. He allows Himself to be arrested.

Too horrified to look away, we watch from afar as He is led off, as He is subjected to atrocious and repellent mockeries of justice; as He is beaten, whipped to a ragged walking corpse; as He is mocked,
condemned, and sent off carrying a cross.

To that cross He is nailed. On that cross He bleeds. He groans under glowering, angry, darkened skies. Our gut clenches and we gasp to hear Him cry out in prayer once again, this time to the silent heavens, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He lets out a loud cry . . .

And He—the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth, the life; the bread of life—dies.

Nauseated with horror, through numb lips we murmur, “Dear God, why? What a desperate ruin must we be, that such a massive-scale operation was necessary!”

For, you see, the Bible is clear that the miserable, lonely death of the Son of God was absolutely necessary for the recovery and redemption of men and women. If such extreme measures were an absolute necessity—and they were—then the ruin from which we needed to be rescued must have been far worse, and far more comprehensive, than many imagine. As we are about to see, the cross of Christ underscores the truth of what we just learned about man, and our need for what we are about to learn...

Dan Phillips's signature

27 March 2013

Thinking like God (1 of 2)

Jesus and his disciples went to the villages near the town of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, "What do people say about me?"

The disciples answered, "Some say you are John the Baptist or maybe Elijah. Others say you are one of the prophets."

Then Jesus asked them, "But who do you say I am?"

"You are the Messiah!" Peter replied.

Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone about him, and began telling his disciples what would happen to him. He said, "The nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make the Son of Man suffer terribly. He will be rejected and killed, but three days later he will rise to life." Then Jesus explained clearly what he meant.

Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking like that. But when Jesus turned and saw the disciples, he corrected Peter. He said to him, "Satan, get away from me! You are thinking like everyone else and not like God."

So when the time came, the chief priests and leaders took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

26 March 2013

Oh dear: open letter edition

by Dan Phillips

Looks like someone monetized Frank's brainchild.
That's what you get for not copyrighting.

(Background headwaters)

At no extra charge, a later Tweet:

(Added background)

Dan Phillips's signature

24 March 2013

The Mediator

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Able to the Uttermost, Pilgrim Publications, pages 12-13.
"There are some in the world who try to come to God, but they do not come by Jesus Christ. Such persons are excluded from the benefit of the Saviour's intercession."

“He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” By Him. Some will come by an earthly priest. They believe that he has a power which they have not, which is a delusion and a lie—a very fit lie for men to teach who wish to gain power over their fellow-creatures, but of which an honest man would be utterly ashamed.

Every Christian is a priest unto God, but no man is more a priest than any other man. Each believer is one of the chosen priesthood, but none above the rest of Christians. Christ will have nothing to do with you if you come unto God by a human priest, for the human priesthood is ended. There is but one priest, even Jesus, who is “a priest for ever,” as we read just now, “after the order of Melchisedek.” All that intrude into that office now are simply thieves that come not in by the door, but climb up some other way.

There are some who try to come to God without any mediator at all. They speak of addressing the Deity themselves. This would have been proper enough before the fall, but now the great scriptural truth is given out: “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” You may think you are approaching God, but you certainly are not.

There is a presumptuous familiarity about such an approach which is rather a dishonour than an honour to God. “There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”; and to attempt to approach God without the Mediator is to insult His Son and so to provoke the Most High. Alas! there are some foolish enough to attempt to approach God on the footing of their own goodness. Let them beware lest the pure and holy God break forth against them, for this is a terrible provocation of His fiery holiness, for the uncleanness of man to talk of holy things—for sinful man to speak about worthiness—for guilty man to dream of merit.

Who art thou? Get thee back to thy place among the lepers. Cover thy forehead and cry, “Unclean, unclean!” What hast thou to do to come unto the temple of the Most High, for “all our righteous-nesses are as filthy rags.” Tis all God thinks of thee, and His thoughts are true.

But, beloved, there are men in the world, and they are not a few, who have been taught by divine grace to come unto God by Christ. They have sought pardon for the Mediator’s sake, and found it. They seek every blessing now in Jesus name, and they obtain it. They live now in dependence upon the Son of God, and their life cannot die. This is the way to come to God—trusting in Jesus, pleading His merits, acknowledging our own unworthiness; and Christ will stand by every man and save every man to the uttermost who comes unto God in that way by Him, for this is the appointed way.

22 March 2013

The Right Kind of Passion for the Right Thing

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in October 2009.  Phil reminds us that our greatest passion should be for God's glory.

As usual, the comments are closed.

There's no shortage of passion in the world today—but for the most part it is utterly misplaced passion. Passion for all the wrong things. The wrong kind of passion.

The one pervasive passion that most seems to dominate the world today (especially in the realm of politics and power) is anger. It's a destructive anger, too, usually driven by greed, a lust for power, or some other self-interest...That's a disturbing example of the wrong kind of passion.


It's one of the supreme ironies of our culture that we're expected to be deliriously excited about worldly trifles and passing fads, but we're generally discouraged from taking serious things seriously. Above all, serious devotion to God is generally seen as a sign of alarming imbalance. An earnest worshiper of God may even be regarded by society as a deranged person—especially if he declares his faith.

Yet you can be as fanatical as you like about your favorite sports team; you can be wholly obsessed with some celebrity or pop star you have never even met; or you can thoroughly immerse yourself in some mindless fantasy game—and no one bats an eye. Celebrity worship is the real religion of our culture. A handful of highly-revered dead celebrities have the very same status in our culture as the mythological Greek gods who filled the pantheon of Rome in the first century.

That's a sad example of passion for the wrong things.

If there's one thing we ought to be passionate about, it's the glory of God. There is no greater reality in all the universe. There is nothing more worthy of our deepest, most heartfelt emotion than God's glory. This is the very end for which we were created: to relish the glory of God, to reflect that glory, and to rejoice in the privilege of basking in and declaring that glory to the world.

God's glory is everything we ought to love. It summarizes and incorporates everything that really matters from eternity past to eternity future. It's the only thing that makes this world and all its evil worth enduring. It's the one thing that makes sense of everything else. It's what God created everything for in the first place, and its where all creatures find their true and ultimate purpose.

Why would we be more passionate about anything else?

20 March 2013

Business-School Language

by Frank Turk

Did you know? There is a problem with marriage in the West.  It seems to me that some people are surprised by this -- that somehow marriage is in its death-throws in the English-speaking world and in all nations which can look back to the Greco-Roman civilization for their roots.  I mean: they are surprised enough that they have finally started to write about it in any way resembling a defense of marriage.

Here's how we know they are serious: they have pulled out the common idiom they know how to speak in best to make their point(s).  That is: the language of Business Administration.  Maybe its because these fellows all spend a lot of time in airports, and those bookstores are littered with books for business travelers, and these fellows have read one too many of these books, but it seems to have damaged their vocabulary and their approach to solving problems.

The Band, sans Bandwagon

Here's what I mean:
Successful entrepreneurs are generally defined by three core qualities. The first is a powerful desire to improve the world in some way. The second is opportunity recognition—when faced with obstacles, entrepreneurs try to think of new and different ways of doing things that open up new opportunities for success. And the third is just plain, old-fashioned guts—but you can call it "risk tolerance" and "perseverance" if you prefer. When faced with both a threat and an opportunity, most people prioritize avoiding the threat; entrepreneurs prioritize the opportunity, even if that means risk and discomfort.
Now, this bit of advice comes from a fellow who wrote a book about the so-called "Joy of Calvinism." This makes it all the more bizarre that the article reads like an updated paraphrase of Finney more than the advice of a Spurgeon or a Machen or a Lloyd-Jones.  What that doesn't mean, by the way, is that everything he says is right out of bounds.  For example, when he says this:
[Our opponents'] power comes from the falsehood of their descriptions. They win people's loyalty and belief to their worldview by creating fantasy worlds that are more enjoyable (in the short term) than the real one. These include not only the overtly pornographic and selfish fantasies—although those have played a critical role, and not just with men—but the more mundane ones as well. Twisting our softer sentiments has been as important as exploiting raw lusts.
That's completely true enough.  But then he says stuff like this:
This will require constructive efforts that describe how sex transcendently, metaphysically bonds husbands and wives in beautiful ways. (Note: it's not marriage that supernaturally bonds a couple, it's sex; that will be a key distinction for the new language to bring out.) It will also involve describing the monstrosity of divorce and the tragic suffering of disordered desire. And it will involve satire that exposes the conventions that maintain the fantasy world.
Which is patently awful.  Even if it is passably true, it's so unbelievably adolescent that I wonder how someone who is grown up can write it and not be ashamed of himself for talking that way.  But in order to say that, I have to offer the alternative, so we'll start there today and work backwards into the larger picture of taking back the narrative and high-ground of the topic of marriage.

Look here: what this fellow has done is gotten it backwards.  He thinks that sex is the thing and marriage is incidental -- he says it flat out: "it's not marriage that supernaturally bonds a couple, it's sex."    Of course: the Scripture says, "the two shall become one flesh," right?  When Jesus describes marriage, he refuses to leave that part out -- because it is part of the oldest definition of marriage relevant to his point in saying so.  It's from the beginning of all things.  But let's think about this: Jesus puts the "leave" before the "cleave."  That is: something happens prior to the "cleaving" which is best described as the "leaving."  To say that the "leaving" isn't the transcendent part, the metaphysical part, is to overlook Jesus' point about divorce.

This poor fellow has missed this entirely.  See: in Genesis, Eve is taken from Adam as his own flesh, and she comes into this world as "bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh."  That is: they are One prior to being sexually united because of their origin, not because of their later connubial bliss.  Something about Woman is made for Man, and Man is exclusively for Woman -- prior to sex.

Trying to jump the gun here, like a fearless entrepreneur, only makes you a third-rate pornographer.  It misses the point that when Man and Woman become Man and Wife, it is not that they are recognizing what sex has done for them: it is that they are now prepared for something more than simple friendship, and can make sex what it ought to be -- a gift, and a grace, and a sign of obedience in mankind's dominion over all things.

So when this author, publishing at the Gospel Coalition web site, says this:
Does this mean leaving behind the Bible, philosophy, and law? God forbid! It only means we stop trying to make any of those the centerpiece and organizing theme of the movement. First, define the movement in terms of a new description of sexuality—one that does not require familiarity with the Bible, philosophy, and law to understand. Then rightly relate each of those things to the movement.
One wonders who checked his credentials.  One wonders how he is coalescing with the Gospel, or when.

Now, before I bring this post home, the nose-out-of-joint presupp in the back row, still sore from the lashing from a month ago, is posting to his facebook wall, "Turk just Presupp'd and he doesn't even know it -- and he contradicted everything he said about Abortion here when he talked about Marriage."

Well: no.  What Turk has just done is point out that abandoning the narrative which is the Gospel narrative is utterly self-defeating and shoddy.  I'm still the guy who wrote this as a plain secular case for why society needs marriage, and who points to this piece by Sam Schulman as the show-stopping non-religious argument for traditional marriage.  I still think that Romans 1 gives the unbeliever plenty of evidence in nature to know the difference between right and wrong.  But: Marriage isn't simply a contract, and it's not merely a matter of vocation and therefore civil justice.  When we allow it to be only that, we have given up the entire Gospel narrative in the one institution which all people find themselves called to in one way or another.  We give up the part built into us which knows we must leave and cleave, and to be fruitful -- the way the church is fruitful in Christ, and Christ loves the church.

And this, to be as specific as possible, is why business school language about entrepreneurs and strategy all fail, all further run us down the wrong road and teach the world the wrong thing about the complementarian vision of God in humankind, made male and female: it's not just a contract, or even a covenant to be arbitrated by the heirs of Moses.  It's a grace of God built into our kind, made in his image, and part of our charge to be in dominion over all the earth.  It is literally the means God set forth so that this world could be very good, and live happily every after.

There's no business plan that is adequate for promoting that vision.  But there is a Gospel, and a Savior, and a Church, and when God is gracious, there are families who are really living as if these things are true.

19 March 2013

Et tu, Chuck? (Swindoll hosts singing elephants? What?)

by Dan Phillips

Before James MacDonald's disastrous and still unaddressed decision to host T. D. Jakes as a "Christian leader," I didn't know MacD from Adam. So I wasn't as shocked as others who had known and previously thought well of him — simply because I had no baseline.

When I wrote on it, therefore, it was simply a concern over the issues. I think my first weighing-in was 9/2011. But my two most substantial contributions were this and this. The latter two were the more important, and the third was, in my judgment, the most important.

That third post was proactive and put up in plenty of time to do some good. Had (for instance) any TGC or otherwise high-profile bloggers — even one! — taken up my specific call centering around the Biblical concept of repentance, and made it an inescapable issue, MacDonald and Driscoll might have been unable to avoid it. It might have made a difference. The trainwreck that resulted might have been avoided.

But history's history; so we now know that TGC bloggers and other high-visibility bloggers did not echo that call, and many high-profile leaders remained silent until it was too late, and bad things happened. You know what they say— of all sad words on tongue or pen, the saddest these: "it might have been."

And now here we are yet again, with a different but similar situation.

It's different in that I do know Chuck Swindoll. Well, not personally, though I did sit next to him in Talbot Chapel once. But I've heard Swindoll, read him, enjoyed him a lot in years past. He's earned a good reputation in many ways, at least as being sound and stable on the fundamentals. He has been and remains associated with Dallas Theological Seminary, which itself at least soundly affirms basic theological doctrines.

So whyever would Swindoll's church host singers who are (to say it as charitably as possible) unclear on the core doctrine of the Trinity?

My attention was first drawn to this by Mark Lamprecht, whose Open Letter to Chuck Swindoll and Stonebriar Church on Phillips, Craig & Dean does a fantastic job documenting the concerns any Christian should instantly have on hearing this absolutely baffling news. At last notice, Mark has received no response.

Look: Neither of these matters is new.

I refer first to the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. This isn't a doctrine that's been recently detected in the text of Scripture. Christians have not only recently turned their attention to studying what Scripture says about the nature of God. The truth of the trinity of persons in the one God been seen and expounded with increasing clarity from the very earliest days of the church. To my mind, Scripture is absolutely crystal-clear and emphatic in its revelation of the Triune God — the God who, one as to essence, has eternally existed in three distinct Persons.

It isn't a newly-identified subject, nor a newly-expounded truth.

And it isn't that the heresy of modalism raised new and baffling questions last Tuesday, questions which haven't been answered finally, thunderously  and decisively since the first time they were posed many centuries ago.

And it isn't as if those answers are little-known or difficult to obtain; or as if the issue is not vital and foundational. And it isn't as if it's impossibly difficult (A) to express the basic truths of the doctrine, or (B) to sniff and (C) ferret out when false teachers are squidging or fudging or dodging those truths.

Second, I refer to serious and (as far as I know) utterly unanswered concerns expressed about Phillips, Craig and Dean's view of God. These are long-standing, easily-located, and all over the place. James White has spoken up, Eric Nielsen has a lengthy treatment at White's site. Neither of these is recent nor difficult to find.

The Wikipedia quotations are typical of PCD's "responses," and can serve as representatives of all the others I've seen. While they might work for the "top men" who gave T. D. Jakes a thumbs-up (and in Bryan Loritts' case as much as said that only racist "middle-aged white guys" weren't satisfied), these pathetic dodges wouldn't work for most Biblically and theologically prepared Christians.

So, all that said, here I am again.
  1. What possible excuse or explanation can there be for Chuck Swindoll to promote anyone who isn't crystal-clear on the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity?
  2. ...and if anyone wants to say "they've changed," then I refer you right back to this and this.

That is, I asked how a man can held up as a Christian leader in any sense when he is not crystal-clear on such fundamentals as the Gospel and the nature of God. And so I now am asking again: how can singers lead in worship if they are in any way unclear as to their understanding of the nature of God and the Gospel? Hello? what does "worship" mean? Does it matter what god we're worshiping, whether we are worshiping the same god as the worship-leaders? Does it matter what we are conceiving of as the basis of that relationship that underlies our worship?

Chuck Swindoll has always identified himself with the school of thought that affirms what should be obvious: these things matter. And now, this? What possible sense does this make?

In fact, may I be forgiven a "See, I Told You So" moment? I have tried again and again to raise the issue of what a shame it was that high-visibility leaders and bloggers feigned unawareness of Pyromaniacs, or inability to read what we right write right in writing. Every time I've tried, I have either been ignored (at best), or snarkily criticized for not letting that issue die (at worst).

Well, here's why I didn't. I was already thinking of the next time. Since the last time was mishandled so tragically, it was a "lock" that there'd be a next time. Would anything different be done, that time? Were any lessons learned?

And here we are. It's the next time. And I'm sounding the same issues, the same two issues, the same two questions that were ignored last time:
Wouldn't it be nice if, this time, high-profile leaders didn't ignore warnings such as mine this time, and idly watch a brother make a huge mistake?

I sure think so. We'll see.

Dan Phillips's signature

17 March 2013

"Sister, are you sinking?"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Words of Cheer for Daily Life, Pilgrim Publications, pages 18-19.

"Oh, how many men are slaves to the fear of death!"

What is death? It is a low porch through which you stoop to enter heaven. What is life? It is a narrow screen that separates us from glory and death kindly removes it!

 I recollect a saying of a good old woman, who said, “Afraid to die, sir? I have dipped my foot in Jordan every morning before breakfast for the last fifty years and do you think I am afraid to die now?” Die? why, we die hundreds of times; we “die daily;” we die every morning; we die each night when we sleep; by faith we die; and so dying will be old work when we come to it.

We shall say, “Ah, death! you and I have been old acquaintances; I have had thee in my bedroom every night; I have talked with thee each day; I have had the skull upon my dressing table; and I have ofttimes thought of thee. Death! thou art come at last, but thou art a welcome guest; thou art an angel of light and the best friend I have had.”

Why, then, dread death; since there is no fear of God’s leaving you when you come to die? Here I must tell you that anecdote of the good Welsh lady, whom when she lay a-dying, was visited by her minister. He said to her, “Sister, are you sinking?” She answered him not a word, but looked at him with an incredulous eye. He repeated the question, “Sister, are you sinking?” She looked at him again, as if she could not believe that he would ask such a question.

At last, rising a little in the bed, she said, “Sinking! Sinking! Did you ever know a sinner sink through a rock? If I had been standing on the sand, I might sink; but, thank God, I am on the Rock of Ages, and there is no sinking there.”

How glorious to die! Oh, angels, come! Oh, cohorts of the Lord of host, stretch, stretch your broad wings and lift us up from earth; O, winged seraphs, bear us far above the reach of these inferior things; but, till ye come, I’ll sing,—

“Since Jesus is mine, I’ll not fear undressing—
But gladly put off these garments of clay,
To die in the Lord is a covenant blessing;
Since Jesus to glory, through death led the way.”

16 March 2013

Weekend Extra: Close your Barn Door

by Frank Turk

In the last two weeks, it seems, suddenly everyone has something to say about Gay Marriage.  "Suddenly," as if it just came up.  Maybe it's a sign that the bandwagon has pulled up and the organ-grinders are trying to compete so that their monkeys don't start following a different cart.

Well, now what?  What should we do about it since everyone is ready to concede that the happiness of everyone is what we're really trying to achieve, and we can practically see paradise by the Google Analytics dashboard light?

Here's a list:

A warning about making your church into a Political Action Committee. (from 2008)

What we ought to mean when we say "marriage," and why the other side learned it wrong. (from 2008)

The primary problem we face when we engage the culture about all things LGBT. (from 2008)

Phil quotes Spurgeon on Divorce to help explain the problem of Gay Marriage. (from 2011)

This one just because of the captions when you roll over the photos (although the post is actually quite a pointed take at the fluffiness of liberal christian approaches to this question). (from 2010)

You didn't know it then, but you should know it now: they just want to be happy. (from 2012)

How to understand Mat 19 in the context of this cultural issue. (from 2012)

Why secular society needs the traditional definition of marriage. (from 2012)

What the church has done to marriage, and why we must undo it. (from 2012)

Did you know that marriage has "special meaning"? The U.S. District Court in California does. (from 2010)

DJP crushes the ball on the key theological issue. (from two weeks ago)

To prove he's not a tone-deaf neophyte, DJP then crushes the ball on why nekked theology is not enough. (from last week)

Don't let anyone fool you about what it means when the other side is arguing for their own "happiness". (from 2012)

How the other side tips its hand about what's really at stake, in a specific example from New York. (from 2012)

A look at the case for Gay Marriage [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]. (from 2012)

The laughable self-ignorance of the Media in its role on the decline of marriage and families in our nation. (from this week)

You should never handle this with a letter, but if you must, here's a suggestion. (from 2012)

And just for the sake of clean up, Open Letters to Derek Webb, John Mecham, and Brian Mclaren.

And seriously: we've been trying to close the barn door here since 2008, but now that all the animals are in the highway getting hit by delivery trucks some corners have discovered the problem.  Go ahead and show them how to close the barn door, but we better also be ready to run the chickens and the horses back in before we make a bunker out of something intended to be a bountiful harbor.

15 March 2013

Sound Theology vs Feelings in Times of Suffering

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This excerpt is from the blog back in August 2011.  Phil uses the example of Job to show the vital importance of sound theology (as opposed to feelings and emotions) in times of suffering.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Job, by God's own testimony, was a righteous man, "blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil" (1:1)—"none like him on the earth" (v.8).

But even the most righteous people on earth sometimes feel God is obscured by the darkness of grief and suffering. Job in particular suffered the loss of all his children and all his earthly possessions in a single day, after which his entire body was reduced to a festering mass of sores, and he was left without any earthly comfort whatsoever—while being besieged with bad counsel.

In the wake of so many unimaginable, crushing, life-destroying tragedies and plagues, Job felt abandoned by God. He felt overwhelmed by grief and personal loss.

I imagine it would be pretty hard for any of us to understand how he felt, how much it hurt, and how bitter the whole experience tasted.

But I'll tell you this: What Job suffered was no easier for him emotionally than it would be for you and me, no matter how righteous he was. He still felt the same kind of pain, with the same intensity, that you and I would feel if we suffered this way.

Job 2:13 says his friends "sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great."

Human emotions don't help us make sense of these things. If you want to sort through the problem of evil, you have to think sensibly, and theologically, and biblically, and not let your emotions rule your mind.

Job was a wise enough man than to know better than to respond by reflex on the basis of his feelings. If he had responded according to what he felt like, he might have cursed God. If he had just given vent to his feelings, he could easily been consumed with bitterness, self-pity, anger, and frustration—and he might have been tempted to take his wife's advice: "Curse God and die!"

But Job's very first response was the response of someone who knows something about God: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

Job had filtered his feelings through his theology. It still did not make sense to him why he had to suffer like this (and that is why Job is 42 chapters long; because it records the dialogue Job had with his friends as he tried to sort this out). But even though it made no sense to him, even though he was overwhelmed with painful feelings, his immediate response made no mention of those feelings.

He doesn't focus on any doubt or confusion he might have been struggling with. Instead, his very first response was a bold affirmation of what he knew to be true about God.

Faced with the darkness of pain and loss, he didn't go chasing his emotions or wallowing in his uncertainty; he stood firm and clung to what he knew for sure. He anchored his soul on theological truths he was certain of, rather than setting himself adrift on a sea of confusion and doubt.

This cannot be stressed too much: It was sound theology, not his feelings, that enabled Job to weather the immediate shock of the news that his children and everything he owned were gone forever. This is why sound theology is so important—and so intensely practical.

14 March 2013

Homosexual "marriage": Debating a plate of animated spaghetti

by Dan Phillips

If I wanted to attend a doctoral-level course in gracious patience, I would want it to be taught either by Doug Wilson, or Thabiti Anyabwile. (Happily for us, both are beginning a public dialogue on race and slavery; more on that another time, perhaps.)

As to Doug, whenever I've seen him in debate, he's the soul of unflappable patience. This quality is on display in his, er, "debate" with Andrew Sullivan. Now, you'll note I didn't hypertextualize that as is usual in blogs. That's because I do want to issue a warning: I don't particularly recommend that you listen to it. It is painful listening. Most times the case for homosexual "marriage" is given voice here, and every time the audience gives voice, you can feel IQ points gushing out your ears. In my case, I don't have them to spare, so it was less fun than a colonoscopy.

But if you insist, or if you may figure into the public debate on homosexual "marriage," you've been warned: here y'go. Don't blame me.

My purpose isn't to analyze the entire debate, though I'll throw out my impressions. Others have offered post mortems. I would say that Doug Wilson won the debate in terms of graciousness and providing anything resembling a rational case. But... and I can't tell you how reluctant I am to say this... I don't think he won the day. I found myself extremely reluctantly agreeing with Sullivan (ow, that hurt) that Wilson should not have kept  his positive case for his position for the end of the debate. I think he needed a stronger case.

I have to rush to clarify that I am not saying, implying nor thinking "I would have done a better job." I just found myself wishing that Wilson had. But in that Wilson eloquently posed and insisted on an unanswerable question that is rationally devastating for Sullivan's position ("Any argument for your demand that we call homosexual pairings 'marriage' equally validates polygamy"), he scored a body-blow. Also, he kept raising the central "By what standard?" question. And I love that Doug preached the Gospel.

But it's taken a half-dozen graphs to come to my point: I fear Wilson was in an unwinnable situation. He was debating almost sheer emotion, a flood of emotional purging and manipulation. Almost all Sullivan had was (literal) sob-stories, emotion, and untrammeled subjective self-reporting. Witness this fact: with great emphasis and gravity, Sullivan insisted, "Believe me, I have deeply searched my conscience and my heart" — adducing it as if it were the trump-card, the final winning argument. As if it were, in fact, an argument at all. And both he and the audience clearly felt that all this was more than sufficient, while Wilson's emotionally cool responses fell far short of resonating or convincing.

Bringing us to our question: How do you counter that? How do you respond to a mess, to a pile, to a plate of animated spaghetti?

To be clear: I refer to Sullivan's argument; not to Sullivan. Andrew Sullivan is a bright man, articulate and passionate and emotionally very evocative. I refer to his position, his case, his presentation. In terms of truth and content and logic, it's a disaster, an absolute trainwreck. Wouldn't matter if it were enunciated by Buckley or Plato or Shakespeare: it's a mess.

Sullivan insistently repeats a case that I'll paraphrase thus:
"I am a Christian, God made me this way, God loves me as I am. I am happy the way I am, this is my identity. I have hopes and dreams. I am a victim. When I told my father I was a homosexual, he wept and wept [voice breaking]... because of all the suffering he knew I'd been through without his help. So now why do you want to deny me of personhood, of my hopes, of my future, when my God accepts me and wants me to be happy? Why do you want to persecute me and rob me of fundamental rights that you enjoy, that everyone should have — just like people such as you did to blacks, to slaves? Shouldn't I be able to love and live and have hopes and dreams? Aren't I as worthy as anyone? Besides, look at divorced straights. Why do you want to condemn me to misery and hopeless despair and promiscuous irresponsibility and government assistance?"
I know exactly what most of you are thinking. You're thinking the same as I. You want to dive in on the first statement ("I am a Christian"), and dismantle it. Then proceed to the next ("God made me this way"), and then the next and the next and the next...

And in so doing, we come off as uncaring, loveless automatons, religious bigots, the whole nine.

Maybe that's just the way it has to be. Someone has to be the adult in the room. God's truth mustn't, shouldn't and can't be flushed just because it "won't work." But is it simply a doomed enterprise?

It may be. The wise man says, "When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest" (Prov. 29:9). One thinks of this often, listening to the Wilson/Sullivan debate. The wise man is "cool," while the fool is molten passion.

Is the key in the famous paradox of Proverbs 26?
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
How would that work, in this debate? The entire case for homosexual "marriage" rests on the narcissism that drives our culture: affectio ergo sum, "I feel, therefore I am." We see it in the constant cry, "You must follow your heart." Well, the homosexual's heart tells him all sorts of things. As did Ghandi's. As did Hitler's. As did David Livingstone's. As does the rapist's, the philanthropist's, the child molestor's, the neurosurgeon's. As does yours. As does mine. (This is why in our day any explanation of Christ's true saving Gospel has to involve exposing our culture's false gospel at some length.)

So again I ask: how do we respond to sheer verbalized emotion that fixes on facts and logical arguments like a caddisfly larva does with gravel and twigs? Do we construct a rational argument expressed in emotional terms? How would that go? Like this?
I care very much about the miseries felt by homosexuals. Nobody should live in despair and hopelessness, or be cruelly oppressed. But is giving someone what he asks for always the most loving thing? Here is an addict. All he wants is more meth, more heroin. Shall I give it to him? He will tell me that he needs it, that he is miserable without it. He will tell me that it makes life hurt less, makes him happy. If I withhold the drug, he will be angry with me, he will be in pain... but would I not be more loving? After all, I know that every use moves him closer to illness and death and ruin.
Or again, consider the young man who just doesn't want to get a job. He wants me to support him. He doesn't feel like working. I have enough; aren't I obliged? If he doesn't work, he'll be unclothed, unfed, and eventually homeless.
Or here's the fat person. He hates being fat, he hates being called "fat." He implores me to call him "thin, lean and buff." He would feel so much better if I would just call him "thin, lean and buff." Why won't I? Why won't I give him what he wants? Doesn't he have the right to be happy just like everyone else, just like all the actually thin, lean and buff people? Is it unloving of me to refuse his request? Does my refusal cause him pain?
But is pain always bad and unloving? Aren't those pains motivators? Aren't they built into the universe by God to say in effect, "This is no way to live. There is a better way"? And is it not possible that the pains and frustrations of the homosexual are of the same sort — and that if we remove each obstacle, we are only speeding him towards self-destruction?
I want an answer that is loving, compassionate, and true. The only way to answer those questions is if I have an authority that is itself the epitomy of love, compassion, and truth.
Which I do. So let me explain:... 
Would that move us forward?

One problem: it isn't a secular argument.

So should we simply abandon secular arguments? Is this the watershed issue that shows our culture how bankrupt the path of autonomous narcissistic secularism really is? When (Sullivan to the contrary notwithstanding) the pedophiles and incestuous and polygamous who now cheer the "gay" "marriage" crowd knock at the door for their entrance using the same emotionalism, and we find ourselves fresh out of responses?

As a card-carrying Pyromaniac, I don't much like ending with a question. But there it is.

Dan Phillips's signature

13 March 2013

In the Family Way

by Frank Turk

Yes, all right now:

Have you read the link?  Good heavens: don't read the criticism without reading the source.  What are you - Baptist?

OK, first of all: "so what?" if Newsweek somehow makes money publishing trash like that link when there is literally a gem every day (that DJP posts) here and we can't even maintain 2 Kindle subscribers who aren't members of the Johnson family.  It may be, to say the least, unjust in the "problem of evil" sense.  It is utterly evil that people will pay Newsweek money to publish paragraphs like this one:
Sitting around a table at a hookah bar in New York’s East Village with three women and a gay man, all of them in their 20s and 30s and all resolved to remain childless, a few things quickly became clear: First, for many younger Americans and especially those in cities, having children is no longer an obvious or inevitable choice. Second, many of those opting for childlessness have legitimate, if perhaps selfish, reasons for their decision.
In a feature piece which also says this (avert your eyes if you cannot abide the world being itself):

Crudely put, the lack of productive *****ing could further be *****ing the *****ed generation.
I mean: sure -- Crossway has paid Mark Driscoll to talk like that, but that was missional style back in the day.  That's what passed for cultural engagement.  You can't blame them for, well, whatever that was in the mid-aughts.

But then Newsweek has the real audacity to let this be said:
While postfamilialism isn’t nearly as far along in the U.S., American marriage is faltering—and the baby is being thrown out with the bath water. Forty-four percent of millennials agree that marriage is becoming “obsolete.” And even among those who support tying the knot (including many of those who say it’s obsolete), just 41 percent say children are important for a marriage—down from 65 percent in 1990. It was the only factor to show a significant decline. ... On the flip side of the coin, the percentage of adults who disagreed with the contention that people without children “lead empty lives” has shot up, to 59 percent in 2002 from 39 percent in 1988.
Now, look: some of you are just so-whatting already, because frankly this is post-christian America, this is in the post-Christian West, and how surprising is it that this is where we are in 2013.  In some sense, I agree with you: this is who we are in the West now, simply glad to be over the idea of families and children even if it means our death as a race or (in less hyperbolic terms) as a society.

But what is excruciatingly-galling about this piece in Newsweek is that one of the major contributors to this cultural achievement is ...  Newsweek!  Seriously: how on Earth did anyone in their offices have anything but a glowing face of red hot humiliation as they either read or composed this:
In his provocative 2012 book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, Eric Klinenberg writes that for the hip urban professionals who make up the so-called creative class, living alone represents a “more desirable state,” even “a sign of success and a mark of distinction, a way to gain freedom and experience the anonymity that can make city life so exhilarating.” Certainly, the number of singletons has skyrocketed: more than half of all adults today are single (a group that includes divorcĂ©es and widows and widowers), up from about one in five in 1950.
After they were so proud to offer this back in 2008:
More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.
As the counterpoint to this, which is their rendition of what the Bible "really" says about marriage:

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script? 
Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.
What a tawdry little lie. What an enormous act of self-deception.  Doesn't it turn out that what "of course" no one really wants is what, for millennia, kept the West in the people business at least -- and in the family business in spite of the project being full of (in Newsweek's view) the morally-callow and those looking for a last resort?

Maybe what bothers me most about this story is the actual humility of it -- the humble omission to represent Newsweek's own role in the situation.  Go ahead and search the Daily Beast (hey look: it's not my fault they asked Jerry Jenkins to name their endeavor) for "birth control" (1333 stories) or "gay marriage" (1607 stories), and you'll find that after molesting and man-handling the child-rearing social unit with both hands for years -- for decades, if you can find the old print Newsweek archives -- suddenly they have discovered that "in the coming decades, success will accrue to those cultures that preserve the family’s place, not as the exclusive social unit but as one that is truly indispensable."

Listen Newsweek: we warned you.  You laughed at us and said Jesus was a pansy and Paul was a prude, and that Abraham and David were philanderers.  You made traditional marriage out to be the sexual sand trap for the great deviants of the ages -- and now you want to call it all a mulligan and hope we can muster up our putting game for the sake of the team so that there will be a team next season?

It's a good thing the rest of us who were already laughing at you behind your backs and praying for you through tears didn't listen to you in the first place.  It's a good thing we raised our kids to love families and love each other.  It's a good thing we didn't take your word for it about Abraham, David, Paul and Jesus -- because otherwise, in your own words, well, we also raised our kids not to speak like that because it demeans something which is utterly holy and utterly indispensable for society.  Let's just say that we forgive you for doing what seemed right in your own eyes -- but we has to remind you: admitting that your math was bad isn't enough.  That wasn't your worst fault by any means.

If you've discovered that what you have actually done is condemned a civilization to death by your cavalier and banal view of what makes people possible, and teaching others to do the same, you should repent.  That is: you should admit that people are made for something other than what you made up in your own minds, and then turn to the One who made them and repent.  Some actual Penance -- in spite of my staunch Protestant theology -- on your part might do you some good.

We'll be here if you have any questions.

12 March 2013

Is "grace" the loveliest word? Perhaps not

by Dan Phillips

I have long heard (and long said) that the dearest word in a sinner's vocabulary is grace. Of course, I still believe it is a dear and a powerful word — but another word is challenging its place in my heart.

It's struck home as I have been preaching a series on the much-neglected letter to Titus. Among the many delights in this letter is Paul's repeated use of a particular title for Father and Son. Here are my translations of the relevant verses:

1:3  but He made His word apparent in His own seasons, in the proclamation with which I myself was entrusted, by order of our Savior God;
1:4  to Titus, genuine child in accord with our shared faith: grace and[1] peace, from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Savior.
2:10  not embezzling, but instead exhibiting all good faith, in order that they might adorn the doctrine of our Savior God in all respects.
2:13  looking forward to[2] the blessed[3] hope and appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ;
3:4  But when the kindness and philanthropy of our Savior God appeared,
3:6  Whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

[1] Many Greek manuscripts have “mercy” instead of “and.”
[2] Or “eagerly awaiting.”
[3] Or “happy.”

There it is, the glorious, lovely word: Savior.

Note how Paul alternates: first, he calls the Father Savior, then the Son; then the Father again, then the Son; and yet again the Father, then the Son. One pair in each chapter.

It is a lone word, but so packed with meaning, with instruction, with assurance.

First, in that word Savior lies all my humiliation and self-denial. Savior tells me that I am lost, helpless, hopeless, and without resources within. Savior informs me that I do not merely need God's assistance or encouragement. I am not in need of a Partner, a Helper, an Enabler. I don't need a Co-Signer.

My case is far, far worse. My lot is not unfortunate or challenged; it is a disaster and a devastation. No part of this process can be left with me nor entrusted to me. God does not stand on the shore, calling to me "Swim harder! You can make it!"

No, Savior tells me that I am floating placidly on the ocean bottom, without the least ability to do for myself. A hand out or a hand up would be wasted on me. Nothing less than a Savior will do.

And, second, God is that Savior. This word tells me that Father and Son have undertaken — not merely to try to save me, not to offer salvation to me, not to call me to salvation, but — to save me. This puts the entire burden of the entire enterprise on their shoulders.

And such shoulders! This is the Father who authored the entire plan of salvation in the dim ages of eternity past! This is the Son who mediated creation and carries out the Father's plan, which involves the Father pouring out the Holy Spirit on me richly (richly!) through Jesus the Son. Other shoulders would buckle; other would-be saviors could fail, would fail.

But if Father and Son commit themselves to be my Savior, is there any chance of failure, any possibility of my ultimately being lost? Were that the case, given that God is "the unlying God" (Titus 1:2), He could not in all honesty have taken on Himself the grand and glorious title of Savior. He would have had to style Himself "Salvation-Attempter," or "Good-Hearted Would-Be Rescuer," or "Benevolent Halfway Helper."

But glory to His name, both Father and Son created, chose, and called themselves by a title that proclaims hope and assurance: Savior.

This is worth a moment's more reflection. Suppose you were languishing in despair, and one of  your fellow sufferers cried, "We're saved! Help is on the way!"

"Who?" you gasp.

"A bureaucrat!" came the reply.

Would you rejoice?

Then suppose instead that the answer was "It's... wait... yes, it's God! It's the God who called the universe into being with a word, who gives life to all, who holds all the stars in His hand, and carries everything by the word of His power! God is coming to save us!"

Would that be worth a cry of exultation?

That title Savior calls me to look away from myself, from my every effort and trait and attribute. It bids me leave off constant morbid introspections, incessant spiritual pulse-taking. It beckons me to look to Gethsemane, to see the Son committing Himself to drain every last drop from the cup. It points me to Calvary, where He hangs forsaken by the Father, not for His sins, nor to "try to" save me from my sins, but to be able to end it all with the glorious shout "It is finished!"

It directs me to look to Father and Son, and to call God not only Savior, which is marvelous enough; but, through the glorious Gospel, to call God my Savior.

Dan Phillips's signature