"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth." Romans 1:16 Christianity may be viewed as: (1). a worldview of truth; (2). a system of ethics; and (3). a gospel. In each aspect it is immeasurably superior to any other worldview, system and gospel to which it may be compared. As a worldview of truth it excels human philosophy both in the range and the method of its truths. It teaches us of God, his character, perfections, creative power, providential care, and redemptive grace. It teaches us of man, his character, constitution, purpose and eternal destiny. And it teaches these things, not by human discovery, but by divine revelation. As a system of ethics it transcends all human ethics- not only by placing man in a wider set of relationships, setting forth man's responsibilities with greater precision, and supplying principles of behavior higher than anything originating with man-but preeminently by presenting a perfect and unchangeable standard of right and wrong in Biblical law, liberating us from the constantly shifting sands of pragmatism and utilitarianism. Because of Christianity's ethics, we are no longer subject to the whims of fancy or of taste, but have a definite law for measuring both character and conduct.
At the request of a few friends, this month's column will address a critique of the theonomic position in Christian ethics which was written, as well as personally published, by John W. Robbins in his own newsletter, The Trinity Review (no. 84: Feb, 1992; for a copy write to P. O. Box 700, Jefferson, MD 21755). I understand that other periodicals declined to publish it.
What has come to be called the "theonomic" approach to ethics has been expounded in this column previously (see Sept., Oct., Nov., 1991). It is also explained at length in my books Theonomy in Christian Ethics (1977, 1984), By This Standard (1985), and most recently No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics (1991).
Oddly enough, the 1992 piece by Mr. Robbins comes to us in the form of a book review of my By This Standard, which was published fully seven years earlier (1985)! It has taken him some time to accomplish the task.
Sometimes a Christian will be called upon to suffer undeservedly for thinking and behaving as a Christian. When he does it is God's will, vs. 17. When we go through these difficult times faithfully, we are nevermore like Christ, and never closer to Him. We are experiencing "the fellowship of His sufferings."
Furthermore, our suffering for righteousness' sake brings great benefit, not only to us, but also to other people. The PROOF that this is true, and the MOTIVE for rejoicing when we suffer for Christ is none other than the experience of undeserved suffering in the life of Jesus Christ Himself, the prince of sufferers. Believing meditation on the sufferings of Christ - their nature, purpose and consequences - will reconcile the Christian to undeserved persecution and slander, and will give him support and direction while being persecuted.
In 1652 the founding father of South Africa, Jan van Riebeck, landed in Table Bay and knelt on the shore of what was to become Cape Town, the mother city of South Africa. His prayer was that the settlement he was about to establish would be for the glory of God and for the "spreading of the light of the reformed faith" throughout "the dark continent" of Africa.
This missionary vision was shared by the Dutch Reformed settlers that accompanied him and by the Huguenot refugees who fled to the Cape to escape renewed persecution in France. German Calvinists and Scottish Presbyterians later joined the growing community of reformed Christians who made up the expanding civilization on the southern tip of the vast continent of Africa.
The missionary influence of the Afrikaners (the first people to ever call themselves Africans were these Calvinist settlers and their descendants spread rapidly from 1836 as the pilgrims migrated away from what they saw as the decadent British Colonial influence. (The British had seized the Cape during the Napoleonic wars). This great migration became known as the Great Trek as thousands of families loaded their belongings into covered wagons and set off to establish their own Boer (or farmers) Republics.
We live in an era widely dominated by dispensational antinomianism. Because of the free-spirit rootlessness of the age, there is little regard for historic creedal formulations. "We have no creed but the Bible," is the modern, self contradictory and illusory creed. Nevertheless, it is precisely because of the temper of the times that creedal studies and aids to confessional research are so important. Consequently, I wholeheartedly welcome the current work by reformed pastor, James E. Bordwine (Th.D. candidate, Greenville Theological Seminary).
Bordwine has performed an invaluable service to students of reformed theology in general and the Westminster Standards in particular. Both versions of his Guide to the Westminster Standards will surely prove helpful to student and scholar alike. Let me consider the book version first.
The Psalms of David in Metre with notes by John Brown.
Although I do not hold to the position of exclusive psalmody (that only psalms should be sung in worship services), I am very happy to see this book in print.
In his preface the author points out three reasons why he believes hymns should not be a part of public worship: 1) Hymns are extremely dangerous because of possible errors creeping in by them. 2) With the existence of the psalms and scriptural songs there is no need for other songs. 3) Psalms are "a standing form of praise in the church." While my purpose is not an in-depth defense of the use of hymns in worship services I do believe a couple of remarks at this point are needed.
Mark and Lonna Akin were recently interviewed by Debbie Raines. They tell of God's mercies to them in the midst of Lonna's current battle with Leukemia. Lonna is still in need of a bone marrow donor.
Q. What particular books, tapes,or Scripture passages have encouraged you?
Lonna: I was reading Why Pray If God Already Knows in the hospital, and I enjoyed that. It helped me take my mind off of my situation and put it into prayer. Not that I was a great prayer warrior in the hospital. I think there are a lot of spiritual battles that go on there that make it real hard for you to pray. I heard this from another man who has a similar disease. We also liked Spurgeon's Twelve Sermons For the Troubled and Tried. Mark would read those aloud to me as I was having trouble reading. Something - the chemotherapy or the drugs you take to premedicate for that - make you real drowsy. It's real hard to read. Mark would read Scripture aloud to me or those sermons and that would really help. Of course, I enjoyed Steve Schlissel's tapes especially one called Rock/in Doctrine. It was a great boost to me. Reading the Psalms were very comforting, and then Byron Snapp shared with me Romans 8:28.
In our last message we noted that we had come to the last of the series of visions that Zechariah received on one night. But before a new day of revelation was experienced by Zechariah (7:1), we have the concluding words of the present experience in Zechariah 6:9-15.
The material in the last few verses in the chapter do not record another vision. The actions portrayed are introduced in a way that is quite different from the "seeing" of a vision (Zech. 6:9). This is a revelation of the word of God to Zechariah, with a command for him to do something (Zech. 6: 10). These words serve as an historical appendix to the visions.