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I’ve been working on a book for about a year and a half now.  It’s a biblical theology on the fall of Satan.  I reflect on his awful idea and its implications on the unfolding human drama.  Naturally, I’ve been scouring the internet for audio lectures covering the subject.  To my surprise, little attention has been given to the issue, so far as serious treatments are concerned.  Basically, if someone wants to dig deeper, they’re going to have to look to older, printed works.  And even these are sparse.

Having said that, I recently stumbled upon a lecture by Sinclair Ferguson entitled Christus Victor.  It is a gem of a lecture.  I know of no better treatment of the subject, so far as audio is concerned.  He jams an incredible amount of careful reflection into the space of one hour’s time.

The only place where I might disagree is his understanding of Matthew 16:23.  I am not convinced that Satan was trying to deter Jesus from the cross, knowing that it would crush him.  My reasons are various and nuanced, so this isn’t the place to engage the problem.  But never mind the quibbling.  This is a wonderful lecture, and I heartily recommend it to you.

Difficulty: Moderate to Advanced

Must Listen Factor: For students, pastors, and teachers, I would say that it has a high must listen factor.

Length: One hour and some change.

To Download: Click picture.  This takes you to Westminster Theological Seminary.  You will need to login.  Once logged in, simply search for the title and download accordingly.

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P.S. I’ve received news that the people over at Reformed Audio are looking to make Jonathan Edward’s work A History of the Work of Redemption available for free on audio.  They are currently looking to raise support for the project.  If you’re interested in helping them out, learn more here: Link

D.A. Carson has written a timely article entitled “Generational Conflict in Ministry.”  See if the first paragraph catches your attention:

“About five years after the Berlin wall came down and the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe had mostly fallen or been transmuted into something rather different, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference for pastors in one of those formerly eastern-bloc countries. The numbers were not large. Most interesting was the way this group of men reflected a natural breakdown. They were clearly divided into two groups. The older group—say, over forty or forty-five—had served their small congregations under the former communist government. Few of them had been allowed to pursue any tertiary education, let alone formal theological training. Most of them had served in considerable poverty, learning to trust God for the food they and their families needed to survive. Some had been incarcerated for the sake of the gospel; all had been harassed. The men in the younger group—say, under forty or so—without exception were university graduates. Several had pursued formal theological education; two or three were beginning their doctorates. They were interested in ideas and in the rapidly evolving cultural developments taking place in their country now that their media were a good deal freer. Quite a number were engaged in university evangelism and wanted to talk about postmodern epistemology.”

[For the rest click Here]

It is a raw, emotionally tearing book, and even though it has been years since I last read it, certain sections have stayed with me.  I am referring to Elie Wiesel’s book, Night.  As a survivor of the Holocaust (I am told that Wiesel is in the photo above), Mr. Wiesel speaks to the absolute evil that destroyed his faith in God.  In one of the more chilling moments, he said,

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

Never.”

Suffering is a profoundly challenging subject, and over the course of several years, I’ve shared with you many different lectures exploring the issue.  Many of these have fallen short, and I have griped plenty enough about them.  Today I want to offer what I think is the best explanation to the problem of evil; an answer, that when you get right down to it, explains why it is so.  It doesn’t grapple with the branches on the tree, but it goes right to the very root system itself, the ultimate bedrock, or the place where we can dig no further.

The answer is given in the space of about ten minutes in a message by John Piper.  It occurs at about the 30-35 minute mark.  The message is called “The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell.”  You can also find the entire theme unpacked, but without the crucial quote, in “The Suffering of Christ and the Sovereignty of God.”  Both are excellent.

The answer won’t answer all your questions, in fact, it will raise many more.  But I do believe that it is the answer.

For the first, go here: Link

For the second, go here: Link

For another excellent message I recently had the pleasure of hearing, check out Dr. Mark Garcia’s, “I Believe in Monsters: God, Horrendous Evils, and the Christian Faith.”  It is a carefully crafted gem.  http://reformedforum.org/rfs8/

In a recent debate over the five points of Calvinism, Dr. Fernandez said the following:

“Another problem for Calvinism: No one held the Calvinist view of predestination until Augustine.  If the apostles taught Calvinism, then they apparently didn’t consider it important enough to convey this doctrine to their successors.  Until Augustine embraced unconditional predestination in about 380 AD, we know of no church father who was a Calvinist.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard an Arminian make this claim.  And I don’t suppose it will be the last.  Regardless, what should we make of the statement?  Is it true?  Was there not one poor Calvinist running around Macedonia or Italy in the days before Augustine, the first *gasp* Calvinist?

The frustrating thing about this claim is the manner in which it is framed.  If anyone has read through the apostolic fathers, for example, they’ll know that they simply weren’t concerned with expounding the doctrines of sovereign grace, or nearly any other doctrine for that matter!  They wrote letters, not systematic theologies.  They were dealing with false teachers and persecution.  They were trying to survive.  And since the early false teachers weren’t distant cousins of a guy by the name of Pelagius, the issue wasn’t a matter of great concern.  So no, the apostolic fathers weren’t running around with tulips for bookmarks.

That being said, what did they say?  During one my reads through the apostolic fathers, I marked every location that touched on the sovereignty of God, at least in an overt way.  If I have missed one, please let me know.  I likewise kept an eye out for “Arminian” proof texts.  But in all honesty, I’m not aware of any distinctly Arminian statements.  Again, if someone thinks otherwise, please let me know.  At the end of the day, I think you’ll find that while the apostolic fathers didn’t articulate a robust view of the doctrine of unconditional election (either for or against!), they nevertheless held to a very high view of the sovereignty of God, which, of course, provides the necessary substructure for the doctrine.

Want to see what I found?  The following quotes are taken from “The Apostolic Fathers,” second edition, edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes.

1 Clement

1 Clement 0.0, “The Church of God which sojourns in Rome to the Church of God which sojourns at Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

A potentially (it’s a LONG stretch) synergistic statement, 7.5, “Let us review all the generations in turn, and learn that from generation to generation the Master has given an opportunity for repentance to those who desire to turn to him.”

21.9, “For he is the searcher of thoughts and desires; his breath is in us, and when he so desires, he will take it away.”

27.4-5, “By his majestic word he established the universe, and by a word he can destroy it. “Who will say to him, ‘What have you done?’ Or who will resist the might of his strength?”  He will do all things when he will and as he wills, and none of those things decreed by him will fail.”

Ignatius to the Ephesians

0.0, “Ignatius… to the church at Ephesus in Asia, blessed with greatness through the fullness of God the Father, predestined before the ages for lasting and unchangeable glory forever, united and elect through genuine suffering by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God…”

To the Smyrnaeans

4.1b, “But I am guarding you in advance against wild beasts in human form- men whom you must not only not welcome but, if possible, not even meet.  Nevertheless, do pray for them, if somehow they might repent, difficult though it may be.  But Jesus Christ, our true life, has power over this.”

The Didache

3.10, “Accept as good the things that happen to you, knowing that nothing transpires apart from God.”

Barnabas

(This isn’t a copy error) 19.6b, “Accept as good the things that happen to you, knowing that nothing transpires apart from God.”

The Epistle to Diognetus

5.4, [speaking of Christians] “But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food…”

9.1, “So then, having already planned everything in his mind together with his Child, he permitted us during the former time to be carried away by undisciplined impulses as we desired, led astray by pleasures and lusts, not at all because he took delight in our sins, but because he was patient; not because he approved of that former season of unrighteousness, but because he was creating the present season of righteousness, in order that we who in the former time were convicted by our own deeds as unworthy and, having clearly demonstrated our inability to enter the kingdom of God on our own, might be enabled to do so by God’s power.”

[There are several statements to effect of our needing to persevere in order to obtain the promises, but I won’t reproduce them here.  Any Calvinist worth his salt believes that every Christian must continue in the faith.]

Debates are a fickle thing.  In order for them to be helpful, which, unfortunately, many are not, there needs to be a few crucial ingredients.  (1) Both speakers need to really understand the position they are defending. (2) Both speakers need to be clear and competent presenters. (3) Both speakers need to really understand the opposing viewpoint. And (4) both speakers should avoid overindulging in rhetoric.  In other words, articulate truth and avoid ad hominem, as well as sensational argumentation.

Unfortunately, the debate between Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Comis wasn’t very good.  In fact, it was pretty bad.  Point (4) was about the only thing that shined, and even that wavered at times.

Honestly, the only reason I listened to this debate was because I saw it on James White’s blog… well, and it was either listen to this or cycle through my songs, yet again.  I do love the Beautiful Mind soundtrack, but when it’s hot, and it has been hot, a depressing score tends to push me over the edge.  Sweat and minor keys don’t mix well.  At least not for me.  So in an attempt to avoid suicidal thoughts, I thought I would give this debate a listen, which in turn led me to pause before ferocious dogs, wondering if I should go ahead and throw myself inside their fenced-in lairs. Continue Reading »

If there’s one thing I appreciate about the podcast Christ the Centerit would be their willingness to keep the cookies on the top shelf.  In other words, they aren’t afraid to toss around heavy theological concepts and technical words.  In fact, they act like it’s the most natural thing in the world, which is fun, if you’re into that kind of stuff.

Now granted, this excludes a fairly large portion of their potential listening audience, but hey, I love it, so who cares, right?  No seriously, podcasts like the White Horse Inn are great and serve a good purpose, but for those looking to chomp on a little more meat, Christ the Center provides the dish.

That being said, some of their programs are easier to follow than others.  And in the case of one of their more recent shows, “God without Parts: The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity,” the technical lingo factor shoots through the roof.  But you know what?  It’s a great show.  Some of the most fundamental issues of reality, indeed, the very bedrock of ontology, is discussed, and it’s discussed with considerable erudition.  I loved the short discussion of Plantinga at the end.  Interesting stuff.

So if you want to think through the absoluteness of God, an oft neglected subject, check out this program.  But be forewarned, it is a highly technical discussion.

Must Listen Factor: Moderate (or High if you’re an audio scavenger with a strong penchant for theology).

Difficulty: Advanced

Length: About an hour

To Download: Left click the picture

Instead of walking the mail this week, which affords me the pleasure of listening to many an MP3, I’ve been delivering the mail from the ease of a postal truck, which of course means that I haven’t been gorging my ears with podcasts (Postal policy doesn’t allow us to drive while talking on a cell phone or listening to an MP3 player).  So it’s been a time of fighting my portable radio, as it doesn’t want to pick up any decent stations.  Therefore, I’ve been stuck mostly with my thoughts, seeing how I usually grow weary of the incessant static and angrily turn off the radio.  And when I’m stuck with my thoughts, strange things often bubble forth.

So here you go:  A week’s worth of mental meanderings, which, I might add, could probably be placed under the category paradoxes- paradoxes both serious and stupid.

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So I was thinking: What if you want to mail a large envelope, and when you place it on one of those handy-dandy postal scales, it reads: $1.32.  But what if it’s so close to $1.33 that when you toss on a few stamps, it adds just enough weight to push it over the edge, and so now it will be sent postage due: .01 cent?  Sweet mother!  A postal paradox!

When I posed this conundrum to a fellow carrier, he thought for a moment and then said, “I guess I’d just tear off a corner of the envelope.”  Ah, paradox solved!

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So I was thinking: Imagine two young, sophomoric Jedi pupils at Yoda’s school of Jedi Knight training.  What if one of them said to his training partner, while waving two fingers in the air, “I want you to Jedi mind trick me to Jedi mind trick you so that I keep Jedi mind tricking you to keep Jedi mind tricking me in this way”?

Two hours later, imagine Yoda walking in and slapping his head at the sight of these two weak-minded pupils locked in an infinite repetition.  “Very stupid, they are.”

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So I was thinking: What if people started coming to grips with the hopelessness and meaninglessness of life in a naturalistic and materialistic universe; and as a result, they started committing suicide at an alarming rate, thereby endangering the human species; and so evolution, which is all about adapting to problems, evolved rationality out of mankind so that humans wouldn’t be able to logically think through the implications of evolution, thereby lowering the suicide rate?

Wait a minute… has this already been going on?!?  Hmmmm.

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Speaking of Neo-Darwinian evolution… I can’t say I’m a fan.  Now in all honesty, I flunked my first year of biology (The Drizzt Do’Urden fantasy novels slid nicely behind a propped open biology book), so I’m not exactly the go to guy when it comes to the subject.  Nevertheless, I’ve listened to my fair share of committed evolutionists since the days of High School.  Some of what they’ve said has made me rub my chin, but on the whole, I’ve found the position, so far as macro-evolution is concerned, to be weak.  A lot of conjecture and tendentious argumentation.

A person could point to a thousand different things and ask, “So, uh, yeah, tell me again how this level of complexity evolved via natural selection?”  I’ve often wondered, for example, how a spider ended up spinning webs, given Neo-Darwinian evolution.  Just think about it.  The spider’s body had to evolve the ability to make webs- I mean the actual stuff that webs are made of.  This alone is a tremendous feat when you think about the size of the hole, the rate of formation, the “turn off” switch, the potential toxicity, balance of energy, etc.  But to complicate matters:

(1) The spider had to somehow recognize the web’s potential function.  “Oh, look, this gooey, yet surprisingly strong stuff spilling out my rear- which I can control!- will help me catch insects!”
(2) The web had to be such that the spider wouldn’t become entangled in his own net, while also being such that other insects would.
(3) The spider had to pass home ec class, specifically the sowing semester.
(4) The spider had to know not only how to weave a web, but how to properly connect it to trees or limbs, which is no small feat for a creature who can’t reason.
(5) The spider had to learn to persevere (for storms and animals would knock down the web, after all).
(6) The spider had to learn the tune “Good Vibrations,” which of course means that the spider had to learn to connect vibrating web with freshly caught insect, which means, of course, “hurry up and bite the sucker before he gets away.”

So anyway, I’ve always wondered how a Neo-Darwinian would explain the rise of the spider.

But this last week, I’ve been thinking more seriously (no doubt on a layman level, but nevertheless seriously) about the rise of emotions, given a Neo-Darwinian worldview.  I just can’t make sense of it.  But seeing how this post is getting a bit too long, I think I’ll share my thoughts in part II, which will hopefully be coming soon.

In the meantime, check out Alvin Plantinga’s fascinating lecture, “An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.”  You can hear it here: http://www.veritas.org/Media.aspx#!/v/454