Thursday, January 26, 2012

Simple Gifts - an American song of Regeneration and Repentance

Before I get to the meat of this post I want to say that I'm well aware the shakers were fools, and if they were around in Paul's time he would have had strong words for them. I'm also pretty confident that this song probably means the opposite of what I take it to mean, but you know what, if the emergent junk crowd can appropriate our own language and vocabulary and make it mean something else we should be able to do the same. So I will.

Tis the gift to be simple (Ep 4:7)
Tis the gift to be free (Rom 6:7)
Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be (1 Cor 4:7)
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, it will be in the valley of love and delight (1 Cor 15:52)

When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed (Ps 110:3)
to turn turn will be our delight (Ps 119:16)
Till by turning, turning we come round right. (Is 45:22,25)

While it's definitely a gift from above, I normally wouldn't think of regeneration as becoming simple, but maybe that's why it's so striking. When you are regenerated your old sin nature is pushed off, blown away, swept clean. Your life is uncluttered from a kind of necessary lusting after every horrid pleasure, and I suppose you could call that a kind of divine simplification.
Obviously the gift of freedom in Christ is ours by faith, and it is just that, a gift from above liberating us from wrath, and sin Rom 6:7, so that free like sons John 8:36.
The next thought is straightforward as well, God must grant us repentance from our pride 2 Tim 2:25, our inflated view of ourselves as God before we will come down to where we ought to be in His sight, but no sooner do we find ourselves there, then God lifts us up to new life and standing in Christ 2 Cor 6:18. And when we grasp that new life, it's sheer delight, it's being surrounded by love, it's like a warm sun lit valley where the trees are in bloom.

The next three lines collectively are simply an outstanding treatment of repentance. Once regenerated we are not too proud to beg, we are not too puffed up to demand an fair showing of our deeds and records before God, no, we are content to bow to Him and accept His charity. In fact, it's not mere contentment, it's a delight to lose your old nature, to hear His judgement concerning your hopelessness, of your evil deceptive heart, and to agree with Him. It's like getting out of old cold soaking wet clothes into a hot bath.
And repentance doesn't stop at conversion, on the contrary that's where it starts, it's something we always do from then on out, gradually becoming more sanctified, until we have grown to be like Christ in all ways Eph 4:13.

I'm going to hit play again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book Review- the World Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips

Dan Phillips is well loved by a narrow subset of John MacArthur friendly dispensationalists as a watchdog blogger, and pretty well disliked outside those boundaries. To be honest I'm outside his tribe. I don't think he's a good thinker, or a good preacher (some of his historic sermons are downright terrible) and regard most of his blog posts as flat wrong (although his work at Pyromaniacs isn't too bad.) His high Calvinism drives him to wonky conclusions. His pugilistic attitude is unnecessary confrontational. So my expectations for his book was low, and I am astonished to see how mistaken I was about this book.  Here's what's stayed with me after reading.
When you open it you are treated to a very biblical, very basic, very concise, and yet very powerful summation of what it means to have life, what it means to die in Adam, what sin is, what total depravity means, and the necessity of being born again.  His exegesis is very moving and I found myself continually flipping pages. The only thing I could think to ding him for was a few minor misses, for example when he talks about the ancient concept of heart is really more akin to the modern concept of head and doesn't quote Luke 5:22 "Jesus asked them Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?" But that's superfluous. It's really one of the best sections in any book I have ever read.
And here is the but portion that causes me to rate it lower than 5 stars: the book doesn't keep the momentum up.  Had Dan been able to do so his book would go down as one of the few must reads that I'm going to make sure my children read alongside The attributes of God by Pink, The Holiness of God by Sproul, Knowing God by Packer, but it doesn't quite. 
There are really three books trying to come out of this one and it would have been better to pick one and make it happen: there is the book of Christ, where he goes through the prophecies in the Old Testament and shows how Christ is a savior, there is the explanation of the Ordo Salutis and what all the ancient doctrines mean and why they matter, and then there is a dressing down of the modern Charismatic movement.  (Obviously the first and second are somewhat related.) The third I have the most problem with, not because I disagree with his conclusions, but because they are in there at all, it makes less of scripture. Now don't misunderstand me, he is still using scripture, but he takes it out of the drivers seat and makes it subordinate to his logic. "I'm right, this scripture proves it" rather than "this is what it says, this is what that means and why it's important." There are a few gems, like the analogy of the dead fish floating belly up in a current to a spiritually dead person not struggling against the world, but by in large it's not that good.
So somewhere about the half way point the book falls apart and becomes something that was perhaps better posted on a blog. I'd rate it as a two stars not because it's bad per se, but because it's such a radical drop in quality from the amazing heights he was treading on. The very last chapter has much more in common with the first half of the book and it's once again excellent, the drop in quality is most noticeable at that point.
Oh and the personal touch he puts into the book is both hit and miss. I very much liked how he translated the Scriptures himself, it gave it a kind of "I worked really hard to understand this, and now I'm going to help bring out the obvious meaning" and I really disliked the colloquial slang. I mean really disliked. It sounded at times like a Californian surfer was writing it, thus taking the whole timelessness right out of the book.
Would I recommend it? Yes. Was it worth my time? Yes. If someone told me which chapters to read and which to skip would I have been happier? Yes. Should you buy it and read it? It's worth the money, particularly if you are like me and read things on your Kindle.

Orthodoxy Chapter 5 - The Flag of the World

So it’s beyond question that our world is a fairy tale, but there’s also no denying that something is seriously wrong with it as well, becau...