Friday, April 25, 2008

Planting Trees

No, this is not a post about global warming or environmentalism. I'm a white male of European decent, so I don't really care about those things, remember? No, it's Friday and that means Paz has another article up on the ACWI blog. It's called Love Your Neighbor and Plant a Tree. To find out the connection, go ahead and read.

In other news, Paz and I will be making appearances all over the state of Missouri, so please ask to find out if we're coming to your part of the state. We'd love to make ourselves available for "meet and greet"as well as "Q & A" sessions.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Conclusion of the Puritan Catechism

This morning, I posted the last question of the Puritan Catechism. I now have not only the entire catechism on my blog, but also the 1689 London Baptist Confession. I think I'll take a break with posting creeds and catechisms for the time being, but I am currently thinking about doing something similar with the Canons of Dordt, where what are now known as the Five Points were affirmed against the Five Points of the Arminian Remonstrants. Dort is important, not only because it affirmed these five Biblical doctrines, but also because in spite of being an issue for the churches in the Netherlands, representatives from Reformed churches all over Europe were present. But back to the catechism...

As I blogged about before, catechisms are designed to be summaries of doctrine put together primarily for the purpose of educating new Christians or the children of Christians. The series of questions and answers provide an outline for a Christian worldview, built upon the truths of Scripture. As I said before, I know have the entire catechism on my blog, and so if you would like to go through a read them all from the beginning, here it is:

A Puritan Catechism

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith

The Purpose of a Catechism

A Body of Beliefs

A Puritan Catechism: Question 82

Q. What is meant by the words, "until he come," which are used by the apostle Paul in reference to the Lord's Supper?

A. They plainly teach us that our Lord Jesus Christ will come a second time; which is the joy and hope of all believers (Acts 1:11, 1 Thess. 4:16).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 81

Q. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord's Supper?

A. It is required of them who would worthily partake of the Lord's Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body (1 Cor. 11:28-29), of their faith to feed upon him (2 Cor. 13:5), of their repentance (1 Cor. 11:31), love (1 Cor. 11:18-20), and new obedience, (1 Cor. 5:8) lest coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves (1 Cor. 11:27-29).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 80

Q. What is the Lord's Supper?

A. The Lord's Supper is an ordinance of the New Testament, instituted by Jesus Christ; wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to his appointment, his death is shown forth (1 Cor. 11:23-26), and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporeal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace (1 Cor. 10:16).

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 79

Q. What is the duty of such as are rightly baptized?

A. It is the duty of such as are rightly baptized, to give up themselves to some particular and orderly Church of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47; 9:26; 1 Pet. 2:5), that they may walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Lk. 1:6).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 78

Q. How is baptism rightly administered?

A. Baptism is rightly administered by immersion, or dipping the whole body of the person in water (Matt. 3:16; Jn. 3:23), in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, according to Christ's institution, and the practice of the apostles (Matt. 28:19-20), and not by sprinkling or pouring of water, or dipping some part of the body, after the tradition of men (Jn. 4:1-2; Acts 8:38-39).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 77

Q. Are the infants of such as are professing to be baptised?

A. The infants of such as are professing believers are not to be baptised, because there is neither command nor example in the Holy Scriptures for their baptism (Exod. 23:13; Prov. 30:6).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Creationism and Intelligent Design

The recent rise in popularity of the intelligent design movement has attracted the interest and ire of laymen and scientists alike. Many of these men and women consider their criticisms to be in defense of what they consider good science, and see themselves as crusading against the forces of anti-intellectualism and ignorance. In particular, many of these figures, so zealous for the faith, misunderstand what they are fighting against. Indeed, many people writing the anti-Intelligent design literature are condemning it for being creationism in sheep’s clothing. Conversely, many anti-evolutionists are whole-heartedly embracing the ID movement as a sort of messiah for high education. While there are similarities between ID and creationism, they are significantly different and deserve to be treated as such.

There are three points on which ID and Creationism must be differentiated. The first is that they have very different theses. The second has to do with the identity of the designer. The last point is the role that natural selection plays in the development of life. The difference in these two positions will ultimately show that while Creationism is a kind of Intelligent Design theory, Intelligent Design does not automatically entail Creationism.

The first point has to do with the main theses of both theories. The main thesis of intelligent design is that there are, in the natural world, some complex systems that cannot be explained by purely naturalistic means. Inference to the best explanation suggests that some intelligent agent was responsible for the design of such complex systems and thus was designed. In short, purely naturalistic theories are useful and sufficient in most cases, but do not sufficiently explain everything.

The central thesis of Creationism is that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis provides man with a literal, historical account of how life came about and developed. The evolutionary natural selection contradicts this account, and therefore, it cannot be true. The key point is that God is the creator of everything and that Genesis accurately tells us how he did it.

The difference is clear: Intelligent design is concerned with complexities in nature that cannot be explained solely on the basis of natural selection and simply posits that a designer is responsible. Creationism is advancing the position that a supernatural entity, God, created the world and the life in it according to a specific reading and interpretation of a Christian text. Clearly these are not the the same theses.

Intelligent design theorists posit no identity of the designer. As far as they are concerned, the designer could be anything from advanced extra terrestrials to time-traveling scientists. While the designer could be God, and many ID proponents, such as William Dembski, believe it is, the theory does not, at least explicitly, rest on the assumption that the designer is God. The identity of such a designer is not relevant to the ID theory and is thus either down-played or ignored by ID proponents.

Creationism clearly articulates who they believe to be behind the design of Creation. This being is God, who has revealed himself to mankind through the Judeo-Christian tradition. He is attributed omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. Further, he commands all men to believe in him and conform their will to his.

Again, the contrast between ID and Creationism is clear. ID is silent on the identity of the designer, and Creationism clearly and boldly articulates who is behind creation. As stated above, it is not impossible for the Intelligent Designer to be identical with the Judeo-Christian God, and ID proponents such as Dembski believe that to be the case. However, it is not the case that ID necessarily entails Jehovah God as the designer. ID proponents have been clear that the designer’s identity is not essential to their theory.

The last point of contrast, and the most important one, has to do with the relation of natural selection to ID and to Creationism. In Intelligent Design, natural selection accounts for almost everything in nature. They do not argue that everything was intelligently designed, but that only certain irreducibly complex systems were specifically designed. However, there is little room for natural selection in Creationism. God directly creates every kind of creature, and thus, there is nothing for nature to select. While more recent Creationists have allowed for some natural selection to take place, they insist that it can and does only happen on a micro-level, that is, within a species. So, God originally creates the dog species and through micro-evolution all of the various breeds are derived.

Creationism and Intelligent design are clearly not the same thing. Intelligent Design is concerned with proposing an intelligent designer to explain a few complex systems that they do not believe could have evolved naturally. Creationism is concerned with affirming the theological doctrine of special creation and a particular interpretation of the Genesis text. Further, ID makes no assertions about the identity of the designer, whereas Creationists firmly assert that the Judeo-Christian God is responsible. Lastly, intelligent design is not hostile to evolutionary natural selection and most proponents are comfortable with it accounting for much of the organs and organisms in nature, save for a few specific cases. Creationists have little room for natural selection, which contradicts their interpretation of Genesis, which calls for the special creation of all things, not the slow, gradual development of organisms over long spans of time.

There is one nuanced point the needs to be made: Creationism is a form of intelligent design. While this may seem to contradict the case I have just made, it does not. Intelligent design, as a theory, on its most basic level, holds that there is a designer who has a role to play in the development of life. Creationism, by virtue of the fact that it affirms that God designed the world and created life in it, meets the criteria for an intelligent design thesis. However, just as the small size of a room does not entail that the building the room is in is small, so too with Intelligent design: simply because one kind of intelligent design theory posits certain things does not entail that all intelligent design theories much posit the same things. It might be helpful to think of Intelligent Design as a meta-theory, and under this meta-theory, are several sub-theories that all meet the basic criteria of an intelligent design theory. One of these sub-theories is Creationism. Another is Intelligent Design, as the specific theory advanced by people such as Dembski and Behe. So, while Creationism and Intelligent design are taxonomically related, it is only in so far as they both posit that purely materialistic theses of life are insufficient and that there must have been an intelligent agent behind it.

Both evolutionists and creationists would do well to keep these distinctions in mind when discussing and debating the Intelligent Design issue. ID is not too different from theistic evolution, and so creationists who find such a thesis disconcerting and problematic do well to look more closely, and critically, at the specific claims of ID proponents. Finally, ID is not creationism, and for members of the scientific community to miss these important distinctions is puzzling, unless they are debating in bad faith and simply trying to poison the well of public opinion though misinformation.

A Puritan Catechism: Question 76

Q. To whom is Baptism to be administered?

A. Baptism is to be administered to all those who actually profess repentance towards God (Acts 2:38; Matt. 3:6; Mk. 16:16; Acts 8:12, 36-37; Acts 10:47-48), and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to none other.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Reformation Returns

Over at Reformation Theology, Nathan Pitchford has made a list of five factors in the rise of interest in Reformed theology:

1. Dissatisfaction with the theology and religious
environment of our parents.

2. Desire for a rootedness and connectedness with the
historic faith.

3. The resurgence of Puritan literature.

4. John Piper.

5. The internet (and Monergism in particular).
Nathan unpacks each of these points, showing why he thinks each one is a factor. I ordered Collin Hansen's new book, Young Restless and Reformed, which also explores this return to a more historic grounding in theology. It hasn't arrived in the mail yet, but when it does, I will be curious to see if Hansen picks up on some of the same reasons.

For those of my readers who consider themselves Reformed, or are interested in Reformed theology, what attracted you to it, and what have been factors in your shift?

A Puritan Catechism: Question 75

Q. What is Baptism?

A. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, instituted by Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19), to be to the person baptised a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death, and burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12), of his being ingrafted into him (Gal. 3:27), of remission of sins (Mk. 1:4; Acts 22:16), and of his giving up himself to God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4-5).

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 74

Q. How do Baptism and the Lord's Supper become spiritually helpful?

A. Baptism and the Lord's Supper become spiritually helpful, not from any virtue in them, or in him who does administer them (1 Cor. 3:7; 1 Pet. 3:21), but only by the blessing of Christ (1 Cor. 3:6), and the working of the Spirit in those who by faith receive them (1 Cor. 12:13).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 73

Q. How is the Word to be read and heard that it may become effectual to salvation?

A. That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend to it with diligence (Prov. 8:34), preparation (1 Pet. 2:1-2), and prayer (Ps 119:18), receive it with faith (Heb. 4:2), and love (2 Thess. 2:10), lay it up into our hearts (Ps. 119:11), and practise it in our lives (Jas. 1:25).

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 72

Q. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convicting and converting sinners, (Ps. 19:7) and of building them up in holiness and comfort (1 Thess. 1:6), through faith to salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 71

Q. What are the outward means whereby the Holy Spirit communicates to us the benefits of redemption?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby the Holy Spirit communicates to us the benefits of Christ's redemption, are the Word, by which souls are begotten to spiritual life; Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Prayer, and Meditation, by all which believers are further edified in their most holy faith (Acts 2:41-42; Jas. 1:18).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Puritan Catechism: Question 70

Q. What is repentance to life?

A. Repentance to life is a saving grace (Acts 11:18), whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sins (Acts 2:37), and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ (Joel 2:13), does with grief and hatred of his sin turn from it to God (Jer. 31:18-19), with full purpose to strive after new obedience (Ps. 119:59).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Great Books

Worldview Academy's Jeff Baldwin has developed a home school curriculum for high school students on the Great Books. Covering the Ancient, Medieval, Reformation and Modern periods, each over the course of a school year, students take part in the Great Conversation of Western Culture as they encounter the classic works and thinkers whose ideas have shaped and changed the world around us. Jeff Baldwin and Mark Bertrand have written study guides for many of the essential titles, which are available to buy on the website. If you are an educator, a home schooling parent, or someone interested in reading through the best books Western Culture has to offer, check out

A Puritan Catechism: Question 69

Q. What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace (Heb. 10:39), whereby we receive (Jn. 1:12), and rest upon him alone for salvation (Phil. 3:9), as he is set forth in the gospel (Isa. 33:22).