The Gospel and God’s Sovereignty

April 28, 2004

This is a few days late, but what follows is the outline of Sunday’s sermon. This is the continuation of the lesson from last week, The Gospel and God’s Choice, on Romans 9:1-18.

The Gospel and God’s Sovereignty: Romans 9:19-29

As with last week, Paul continues to answer the objections raised by Jewish critics of his gospel message of grace, through faith, for all.

  1. God’s right to make saving choices is not up for human review (19-20).

    The objection is raised that if God is sovereign
    over salvation, then he should not find fault for people being what
    they are. To this, Paul fires back some rhetorical questions of his
    own.

    1. The clay doesn’t have the capacity to critique the Potter (20).

      This is a no-brainer; after all, clay has no
      brains. There is a fundamental difference between the potter and
      the clay. Yet it is we who are the clay (cf. 2 Cor. 4:7).

      This is why Job got into trouble with God. He
      crossed a line by presuming to correc the Almighty (Job
      40:1-2). See also Isa. 45:9. Job went from questioning God to
      quarrelling with him, from “Where are you?” to “How dare
      you?”

      None of this is to say we cannot question God
      or bring our troubles to him. See Psalm 62:8, for example. We can
      talk to God, but not talk back to him. The clay has no
      capacity to critique the potter.

    2. The Potter has the right to do what He wants with the clay
      (21).

      God is sovereign over all that he has made; he
      does not answer to us, but to his own perfections. Unfortunately,
      we live in an era that exalts self-esteem when it should be
      esteeming God.

      Does this mean God is silent about his
      purposes? No, in fact Paul gives a hint about why God does what
      he does: to make his glory known.

  2. God’s sovereign choices will reveal His surpassing glory.
    1. The glory of His righteous judgments (22).

      This has already happened, big time, in the
      story of Moses and Pharaoh. See Exod. 14:4: “the Egyptians will
      know that I am the Lord.”

    2. The glory of His great patience (22).

      Why does God allow evil people to persist?
      Because it shows his great patience.

    3. The glory of His saving mercy (23).

      If we got what we deserved, we would get only
      wrath. But instead God shows mercy, both to Jews and
      Gentiles. Paul quotes both Hosea and Isaiah to prove this
      point.

    Why does God want to display his glory? For us,
    it is the best thing he could do, because we were created to savour
    it. God allows us to know him, to come close to him. God’s
    sovereign glory is our supreme good.

In addition, the evening sermon was a followup titled “Questions About God’s Sovereignty.” Unfortunately I missed it due to another meeting commitment that night, but I snagged the outline on the way out. I think I have done a passable job filling in the blanks.

Questions About God’s Sovereignty: Biblical Answers for Head and Heart

Definition of God’s Sovereignty: God’s right to do anything He wishes in line with His own perfections.

  1. God is sovereign over all things.
    1. Divine Names
    2. Biblical Statements
  2. God sovereignly uses evil without creating evil.
  3. God sovereignly works through evil people.
  4. God sovereignly works in ways that sometimes leave us perplexed.
  5. Responding to a Sovereign God
    1. Talk to Him about what’s on your mind.
    2. Accept responsibility for what’s in your heart.
    3. Trust Him for what’s beyond your control.

Bad abortion rights rhetoric, part 2

April 27, 2004

From yesterday’s New York Times:

Daniela Taveras could never have an abortion. Fabiola Peña believes it is morally wrong. Estrella Flores shakes her head at the thought. They were raised to view abortion as sin, in Latin American countries where it is illegal.

Just after dawn Sunday, these women boarded a bus with 32 other immigrants in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and left the New York area, many of them for the first time since coming to the United States. They headed to the march in Washington. But they did not go as anti-abortion protesters; they went to march for abortion rights.

“One has to respect a person’s freedom and rights,” said Ms. Taveras, 40, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic two years ago.

“I think abortion is killing a life,” said Ms. Flores, who left Ecuador 11 years ago. But, she added, “The person who is pregnant should decide whether to do it or not.”

[Full Story]

Speaking only for myself, I am opposed to killing Hispanic immigrants with stupid opinions, but I think that’s something everyone has to decide for himself whether he wants to do.

Update: No less a personage than First Lady wannabe Teresa Heinz Kerry has used this exact argument in the May 3, 2004 edition of Newsweek, saying, “I don’t view abortion as just a nothing. It is stopping the process of life.” She then goes on to say that if she has to commit herself to one position or another, she is pro-choice.

This seems to be a relatively new tactic in the pro-abort camp: acknowledge that a fetus is indeed “a life,” but without committing oneself to what kind of life it actually is. That, of course, would force them to admit that it is, and indeed cannot be other than, human life that they advocate destroying. In reality it’s just a new way of repackaging the same old circular assumption that the unborn are not human and can be exterminated at will.


Stamp out bad abortion rights rhetoric!

April 25, 2004

In Washington today, thousands of women (800,000 according to tonights CTV news marched for abortion rights. One of the women quoted in a sound bite extolled the virtues of abortion being “safe and legal.”

Swell. I really like my neighbour’s TV set. I don’t like the fact that attempting to acquire it might get me beat up or shot. Burglary should be made “safe and legal” so I can break into his living room without fear.

Closer to home, in a parallel demonstration, abortion-rights activists presented abortion doctor and activist Henry Morgentaler with a “human rights” award. (Morgentaler is the abortionist who opened the first private abortion clinic in Canada in 1968. Of course, it wasn’t legal until 1988, and it was never “safe” for at least one of the people who entered.)

It’s ironic that at all the formal abortion debates I have attended, sooner or later it is pointed out to the pro-life advocate (if he is male) that “men can’t get pregnant”; therefore, since as a man he lacks the equipment to have babies, he should shut the hell up.

Unless he is telling the pro-aborts what they want to hear, of course. Then he deserves a “human rights” award.


Scripture and certainty

April 24, 2004

I was recently asked on a message forum how I could determine for myself, out of all the myriad of translations of the Bible, which is the correct one for any given reading. What, in other words, is my authority? This is a question that could be (and frequently is) posed (and is) in many different contexts:

  • By KJV-onlyists arguing for the infallibility of the King James Version of the Bible.
  • By Roman Catholics arguing for the infallibility of the Pope and the Magisterium.
  • By pagans (e.g. Muslims, Wiccans, Hindus, atheists, etc.) dismissing Christianity altogether.

Here is my pat answer to that question.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. . . . (Eph. 4:11-12)

God gave learned and wise men to the church, as Scripture says, “for the work of the ministry” and “the edifying of the body.” They are there to build us up. When my own understanding is insufficient, then it is to pastors, friends, scholars, commentaries, and theologians of the past that I turn for help. I would be a fool not to, notwithstanding the prevailing attitude amongst many evangelicals and fundamentalists that “history is bunk.”

It seems to me that the presupposition driving this question can be formulated like this: Lack of certainty = lack of truth. KJV-onlyists look at the plethora of English Bibles and pronounce them the work of the devil. Roman Catholic apologists point to the 20,000 Protestant denominations (or however many they are saying there are this week) and conclude that Protestantism cannot be right if they can’t agree amongst themselves. The atheists note that no one can agree on who or what God is, and conclude that he must not exist at all. (By the same argument, we may as well look at all the differing interpretations of Hamlet and deny that Shakespeare ever existed.)

But why should I accept that presupposition? Is there no such thing as “close enough”? Are the scholars infallible? Of course not. Do I sometimes have to weigh the evidence for competing theories and decide which one (if any) is correct? Of course. That’s what God gave us brains for.

Put another way: Slide rule accuracy got men to the moon.


What the . . . ? Update

April 23, 2004

I received an email this morning from Greg A. Tyler, one of the links on my What the . . . ? page of links to wacky weirdos. This is what I said about Greg and his company, Creative Products 2000:

Greg A. Tyler is bitter because he keeps having great ideas for inventions, only to find out that some major corporation has already made millions off of his ideas.

Tyler’s rants just go to show that it is far easier to be an armchair inventor. But why is it that the Acme Corporation makes so much money off a widget? Unlike Tyler, they spent some R&D money to build the thing.

Here is what Mr. Tyler had to say, along with my comments. I would like to have responded in person, except that the email address he provided was non-functional:

Subject: about a year later …

Actually, it’s been about six months that my Web page has been up. (Close enough for engineering purposes though, right?)

and the second visitor from your site came to mine

Great! Glad to know my Web pages are providing entertainment. I don’t have access to logs myself, so it’s feedback like this that is so valuable.

AND YOU STILL DONT HAVE A FUNCTIONING EMAIL LINK TO YOU…PRETTY DUMB

No, pretty smart. Spammers like to crawl Web pages for active email links. I already get something like 100 spam messages a day. That could be worse. Instead, I provide a human-readable email message on all my pages. Sure, you have to type it in, but exactly how hard is it to type m c c l a r e @ n c f . c a anyway? (You managed, didn’t you?)

And, as you can see, Mr. Tyler, my email address actually works – unlike yours. My personal response bounced; hence this public reply.

AND … i now have a line of prototypes and am about to make more money this year than you will make in your life

Cool. I assume that’s why your Web page hasn’t been updated since 2002 and still looks like vintage 1997. Do these prototypes include a functioning domain name and email address, by any chance? Not to mention shift and period keys?

If you’re a third party reading this, do be sure to click on this link or the ones above. Obviously Greg checks his logs to see where people are coming from. Wouldn’t want him to miss out on all the attention.


Random street scene

April 22, 2004

As I was walking to church tonight from the public library, I came to an intersection where a woman in a car was attempting to make a right turn. As is the (bad) habit of so many drivers, she had pulled so far ahead that her vehicle completely straddled the crosswalk, making it necessary for pedestrians to cross in front of her (thus risking death in traffic) or behind her (thus risking death by the car coming up behind).

Unless you were the guy coming up the street in the opposite direction as me. He walked halfway across the intersection, stopped approximately opposite the driver’s seat, and stared at her. After a few moments she actually backed slowly out of the crosswalk. No kidding. I think she was probably a little bit intimidated, as I am not sure this guy was entirely “there.”

Nonetheless, he actually does what I, a perennial pedestrian, have been merely thinking for years. I wanted to buy him a drink.


Tolerance of homosexuals: A one-way street?

April 22, 2004

Check this out: A gang of homosexual activists calling themselves the “Gay Militia” crashed a fundraising meeting of the Concerned Christian Coalition in Calgary on April 17. The activists, many of whom were dressed in camouflage and wearing bandannas over their faces, disrupted the meeting by pounding drumsticks together and chanting slogans such as “Gay militia here to stay, right-wing bigots go away.” The site linked above has video of the event, in both Windows Media and RealAudio formats.

Ironically, the guest speaker at the meeting was lecturing on “Christophobia” – intolerance of Christianity and Christians. To their credit, the attendees did not resist the thugs, but all but ignoring their disruption, held an impromptu prayer meeting.

There is legislation on the verge of being passed, Bill C-250, that would add “sexual orientation” to the list of identifiable groups in the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code. This demand for “tolerance” of the deviant homosexual lifestyle isn’t a two-way street.

Update: The good news is, the Calgary police have received videotape of this incident and are investigating whether charges of mischief or disturbing a peaceful assembly might apply. The “gay militia” might well be hoist upon its own petard.