It is possible to swim against the tide and have views on issues that are unpopular. That makes life difficult in many ways right now for faithful, Bible-believing Christian people. It is hard to believe in something when everyone around you sees it as superseded, bizarre or even just wrong. Christians should hold the line. Don’t compromise what you believe because it is unpopular. You are not on the wrong side of history when you look from God’s perspective.
It seems that whenever a traditional Christian viewpoint on a hot topic is raised, Christians are accused of being “on the wrong side of history”. Many see this as a deal-breaking argument. They assume that society has moved on from Christian principles. Why would anyone hold to such a view, they think, when most people in our current culture believe something different? We should think about this accusation clearly; it is not the convincing put-down it seems to be.
An obvious problem with the accusation of being on the wrong side of history is that the popular view on a lot of issues has changed so dramatically over time. If you asked people about whether some races are superior to others in the 1900s and 1910s, the vast majority of people would agree with you. Respected scientific institutions published major works reinforcing this viewpoint. Anyone who put forward a view that all people were fundamentally equal would be laughed at for being unpopular and on the wrong side of history. Yet the popular opinion of that time was wrong both Biblically and practically.
This accusation also assumes a view of history as progressively getting better. It assumes that as we move through time, we are becoming more accurate in our viewpoints.
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By David Schrock — 7 months ago
In Acts, we see the doctrines of grace in action. And this gives us confidence for our salvation and for God to save those to whom we proclaim Christ. God is a God who opens hearts (Acts 16:14) and grants salvation, at the proper time, to all those whom he has appointed (Acts 13:48).
…I am sending you, to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:17–18).
When it comes to the doctrine of salvation (soteriology), monergism is doctrine that says God alone accomplishes salvation. Etymologically, the word means one (mono) energy (energos), and suggests that all the power for salvation comes from the triune God. Monergism stands against any form of cooperation in salvation whereby God’s work is joined with or completed by man.
Historically, monergism stands upon the writings of Augustine, Calvin, and others in the Reformed tradition. But more importantly, those writings stand upon the words of Scripture. Recently, as I read through the book of Acts, this doctrine stood out, in thinking about the way Luke often spoke of salvation and attributed the faith of believers to the antecedent work of God. In other words, Luke makes it apparent, salvation comes by faith and repentance, but faith and repentance come from the grace of God. (I also spent time laboring this point in my last two sermons on Romans 3 and Colossians 1–2).
In Acts, we find at least seven instances where Luke stresses God’s singular work in salvation. And for the sake of understanding this doctrine and our experience of salvation, not to mention its impact on evangelism and missions, we should see how the pattern of God’s monergism runs through the book of Acts.
Seven Monergistic Texts in the Book of Acts
Forced to give an answer for the hope they have, Peter and the apostles testify before the Jerusalem leaders, that salvation comes in no other way, but by faith in Christ. And importantly, such faith comes because Christ raises people to life.
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
If the Christ-centeredness of Acts 4:12 is not sufficiently monergistic, Acts 5:31 begins to fill in the details: the exalted Lord gives repentance.
31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
God’s salvation comes to the Gentiles, just like it came to the Jews—God granted repentance that leads to life.
18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
After Luke records Paul’s sermon in Acts, he reports how the Gentiles heard the Gospel and believed. But instead of leaving it there, he also declares that those who believed were the one’s God appointed to believe (cf. Eph. 1:4–6; Rom. 9:1–23; 1 Thess. 1:5).
By R.C. Sproul — 10 months ago
Written by R.C. Sproul |
Friday, August 27, 2021
Creedal statements are an attempt to show a coherent and unified understanding of the whole scope of Scripture. In that sense, they are brief statements of what we historically have called “systematic theology.” The idea of systematic theology assumes that everything that God says is coherent and not contradictory.
The Latin word credo means simply “I believe.” It represents the first word of the Apostles’ Creed. Throughout church history it has been necessary for the church to adopt and embrace creedal statements to clarify the Christian faith and to distinguish true content from error and false representations of the faith. Such creeds are distinguished from Scripture in that Scripture is norma normans (“the rule that rules”), while the creeds are norma normata (“a rule that is ruled”).
Historically, Christian creeds have included everything from brief affirmations to comprehensive statements. The earliest Christian creed is found in the New Testament, which declares, “Jesus is Lord.” The New Testament makes a somewhat cryptic statement about this affirmation, namely, that no one can make the statement except by the Holy Spirit. What are we to understand by this? On the one hand, the New Testament tells us that people can honor God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. That is to say, people can recite creeds and make definitive affirmations of faith without truly believing those affirmations. So, then, why would the New Testament say that no one can make this confession save by the Holy Spirit? Perhaps it was because of the cost associated with making that creedal statement in the context of ancient Rome.
The loyalty oath required by Roman citizens to demonstrate their allegiance to the empire in general and to the emperor in particular was to say publicly, “Kaisar Kurios,” that is, “Caesar is lord.” In the first-century church, Christians bent over backward to be obedient to civil magistrates, including the oppressive measures of Caesar, and yet, when it came to making the public affirmation that Caesar is lord, Christians could not do so in good conscience. As a substitute for the phrase, “Caesar is lord,” the early Christians made their affirmation by saying, “Jesus is Lord.” To do that was to provoke the wrath of the Roman government, and in many cases, it cost the Christian his life.
By Russ Vought — 7 months ago
Life is confounding. Faithfulness requires us to seek truth and to pray constantly for shrewdness in approaching the world around us. To do so, we must gain the moral clarity of a dissident. And when we do, we will be able to reason toward a consensus with our fellow Christians on how we should then live.
Almost two years into a worldwide pandemic, amidst at least a decade of bitter partisanship in society, and increased confrontations over race and what to do about it, the American evangelical church is extremely divided. While Christians work hard to stay unified and respect each others’ consciences throughout the turmoil, the lack of any Christian consensus on how to approach the prevailing issues of the day is stark. What explains it?
One important explanation is that it stems from a lack of Christian shrewdness. Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I am sending you as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Perhaps no verse in the Bible presents so simply the duties for Christians living in the modern age. It recognizes that the world around us is fallen and opposed to God’s truth, and that discernment is therefore paramount if we are to understand and properly respond to events.
Many Christian elites skip this call for shrewdness and suffer from profound naivety. The fall did not just result in a world marked by evil—it created massive confusion and disorder. Humanity is left searching for some foundation beneath its feet. For Christians, that bedrock is the word of God, providing the mind of God to filter all of reality. But this is difficult because we often accept and bring the world’s categories of understanding to the process. Our posture is not appropriately and biblically oppositional, and therefore we lack the moral clarity of, for instance, a dissident. A dissident is one who is opposed to what an evil regime stands for because he understands its true nature. That critical assessment creates clarity that must then be matched with shrewdness.
One of the great challenges to answering our intuitive question—“what is actually going on in our world?”—is that our culture’s categories have become utterly confused . Take the example of a ladder. A ladder’s purpose is to be a series of connected steps that allow one to climb up or down. But at some point, a ladder may lose all connection to its purpose, and to continue to speak of it as such has no meaning. Of course, one can still climb a ladder if the first rung is broken. But what if all the rungs are broken? It’s now just wood—some hardware may still be on it, but the wood has been robbed of its purpose. We can think of other, more serious examples in this vein as well: marriages, homes, communities.
Now consider some of the categories of our modern policy debates: the role of experts, the media or even the government itself.