Written by R.C. Sproul |
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
The assurance we need the most is the assurance of salvation. Though we are loathe to think much about it or contemplate it deeply, we know if only intuitively that the worst catastrophe that could ever befall us is to be visited by God’s final punitive wrath.
We are fragile mortals, given to fears of every sort. We have a built-in insecurity that no amount of whistling in the dark can mollify. We seek assurance concerning the things that frighten us the most.
The prohibition uttered more frequently than any other by our Lord is the command, “Fear not.” He said this so often to His disciples and others He encountered that it almost came to sound like a greeting. Where most people greet others by saying “Hi” or “Hello,” the first words of Jesus very often were “Fear not.”
Why? Perhaps Jesus’ predilection for those words grew out of His acute sense of the thinly veiled fear that grips all who approach the living God. We fear His power, we fear His wrath, and most of all we fear His ultimate rejection.
The assurance we need the most is the assurance of salvation. Though we are loathe to think much about it or contemplate it deeply, we know if only intuitively that the worst catastrophe that could ever befall us is to be visited by God’s final punitive wrath. Our insecurity is worsened by the certainty that we deserve it.
Many believe that assurance of eternal salvation is neither possible nor even to be sought. To claim such assurance is considered a mask of supreme arrogance, the nadir of self-conceit.
Yet, if God declares that it is possible to have full assurance of salvation and even commands that we seek after it, then it would be supremely arrogant for one to deny or neglect it.
In fact, God does command us to make our election and calling sure: “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10).
This command admits of no justifiable neglect. It addresses a crucial matter. The question, “Am I saved?” is one of the most important questions I can ever ask myself. I need to know the answer; I must know the answer. This is not a trifle. Without the assurance of salvation the Christian life is unstable. It is vulnerable to the debilitating rigors of mood changes and allows the wolf of heresy to camp on the doorstep. Progress in sanctification requires a firm foundation in faith. Assurance is the cement of that foundation. Without it, the foundation crumbles.
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By TRAVIS — 2 weeks ago
Grief is real. Grief is hard. Grief does not go away. But grief is not an enemy, for those who are in Christ. Death has no victory, for those who are in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55). “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning,” for those who are in Christ (Psalm 30:5). Grief is a close ally of hope, for those who are in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13). I thank God for the gift of grief, which is meant to lead us to put our trust in Him and nothing else.
Ten years ago this week, I learned what grief is. As I processed the reality that my father had breathed his last, and as I started working through funeral arrangements, grief became an unavoidable and constant presence. And an enduring presence. A decade later, the grief is not as sharp or intense as it was back then, but it is still very much a part of me. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t long for my dad to help with a house project or play with his grandchildren or go see a movie with me.
In recent days and months, almost all of us have become more acquainted with grief. Either we’ve suffered a loss in our own lives, or we’ve mourned the death and destruction that shows up in the headlines daily.
Like love or joy or hope, grief is not less than an emotion, but it is also much more. And certainly, love and joy are tightly connected with grief. We cannot truly grieve something or someone unless we love them first and take joy in them. It would be natural to think of grief as the opposite of joy, or the absence of love, but that’s not quite right. Grief seems more like joy interrupted, or love recalibrated, or hope deferred. Our love for someone does not evaporate when they have “fallen asleep” (to use a biblical expression). The joy of the relationship does not diminish.
None of us wants to carry the burden of grief, but grief is not our enemy. Death is the enemy. Sin is the enemy. Satan is the enemy. Grief, on the other hand, is a gift. Why a gift? Because grief helps us remember what we would never want to forget. Or it helps us remember that which we shouldn’t forget.
Perhaps most significantly, grief declares that things in this world are not as they should be. Joy is not meant to be interrupted; love is not meant to be recalibrated. And grief dares us to believe that what is broken will one day be restored. As C. S. Lewis observed, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
As a unique kind of desire, grief amplifies this sentiment as much as anything else in life.
By Staff — 6 months ago
In keeping with the journalistic tradition of looking back at the recent past, we present the top 50 stories of the year that were read on The Aquila Report site based on the number of hits. We will present the 50 stories in groups of 10 to run on five lists on consecutive days. Here are numbers 1-10.
In 2021 The Aquila Report (TAR) posted over 3,000 stories. At the end of each year we feature the top 50 stories that were read.
TAR posts 8 new stories each day, on a variety of subjects – all of which we trust are of interest to our readers. As a web magazine TAR is an aggregator of news and information that we believe will provide articles that will inform the church of current trends and movements within the church and culture.
In keeping with the journalistic tradition of looking back at the recent past, we present the top 50 stories of the year that were read on The Aquila Report site based on the number of hits. We will present the 50 stories in groups of 10 to run on five lists on consecutive days. Here are numbers 1-10:
A Pastor’s Preview to His Congregation of the 48th PCA General Assembly
Because the different commitments amongst the elders of the PCA are not petty, they will result in contrasting visions for ministry and priorities within the PCA. Those differences of vision and commitments become apparent at the General Assembly annually.
A New Exception to the Westminster Standards?
Substitute LGBTQ+ with the words “white supremacy” or “pedophilia.” Does it still work? Of course not! To attempt to be a part of a culture or community that is directly opposed to nature and has at its root a fundamental misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit is dangerous. At that point you are not merely a part of some kind of subculture, but diving deeper into the quicksand of heinous sin. As Thomas Watson so aptly quipped, “We pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ but do we lead ourselves into temptation?
Update On The 2021 PCA General Assembly
In this extraordinary time, we are requesting extraordinary understanding from our church family. We are asking that you register now (see link below) for a June 28-July 2 Assembly, but also reserve September 20-24 on your calendars. If pandemic control is not attained in advance of the June dates, you will automatically be registered for GA at the September dates.
Why I Plan to Vote Against BCO Homosexual Changes
The proposed amendments give clear constitutional authority for Side B Christians (gay but celibate) to be office holders in the PCA. The present BCO without these changes does not give this position any constitutional status…My Presbytery (Westminster) has stated clearly in a statement on “Conflict Resolution” that Side B Christians are not eligible to hold office in our Presbytery.
ARP Pastor Steve Richardson Faces Possible Imprisonment For Conducting Church Services
The Rev. Steve Richardson, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, of the Associate Presbyterian Church [ARP], in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, was previously fined $850 on January 3, 2021 for breaking an emergency powers order concerning the Covid-19 Public Health Act. Subsequent to that fine, Richardson and his congregation continued to meet for worship services with more than 10 people in attendance.
Conservative Wins At The PCAGA 2021
The passing of Overture 23: This is the big one that everyone was talking about. It was most critical that this be passed. The statement this overture sought to add was that “Men who self-identify as a ‘gay Christian,’ ‘same-sex attracted Christian,’ ‘homosexual Christian,’ or like term shall be deemed not qualified for ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America.” Despite much debate against the point, this passed with 77% in favor
Significant Issues Portend Vigorous Debates At the 2021 PCA General Assembly
What is at stake? Many consider that the disposition of the judicial cases (which concern investigations and actions of Missouri Presbytery re: Johnson and Revoice doctrine) and the fate of the various related overtures will signal the PCA’s future course vis-à-vis the allowability of “gay Christian” or SSA officers and pastors.
PCA General Assembly 2021: A Review of Some of the Actions
This year’s GA consisted of 1,503 Teaching Elders (TE) and 613 Ruling Elders (RE) assembling to vote on 48 overtures which were submitted by various PCA presbyteries over the course of last year. This is a 500 commissioner increase from the last GA in 2019 (2020 GA was canceled for COVID). There were 48 overtures initially presented to be considered during the week of the Assembly.
To My Fathers and Brothers: A Plea from Your Sister
I need men who unabashedly profess the whole doctrine of God, all of Scripture, who are not ashamed of its direct language. I need pastors who exegete these difficult and sometimes uncomfortable passages, who explain the entirety of God’s Word plainly to me and to my children without embarrassment. I need in my pastors’ examples of personal piety; men who do not shy away from words like purity or are bashful about devoutness. I need pastors who pursue holiness, not charisma. In short, I desperately need Jesus.
And the number one story on The Aquila Report for 2021:
Covid-19 Vaccines And Vaccination Mandates: How Should Christians Respond?
My message is divided into three parts. First, I discuss whether Christians should be vaccinated with one of the new genetic vaccines. Second, I discuss how I believe Christians should respond to vaccination mandates. And third, I offer of a list of resources on this subject that have helped me greatly. My goal is to give Christian leaders, Christian laity, and all concerned citizens the biblical wisdom and reliable information they need to decide well and remain safe.
By Michael Shermer — 6 months ago
Conservatives wish to conserve traditional institutions, so unless an organization or publication is avowedly conservative it will inevitably drift Leftward.
In April of 2001 I began my monthly Skeptic column at Scientific American, the longest continuously published magazine in the country dating back to 1845. With Stephen Jay Gould as my role model (and subsequent friend), it was my dream to match his 300 consecutive columns that he achieved at Natural History magazine, which would have taken me to April, 2026. Alas, my streak ended in January of 2019 after a run of 214 essays.
Since then, I have received many queries about why my column ended and, more generally, about what has happened over at Scientific American, which historically focused primarily on science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM), but now appears to be turning to social justice issues. There is, for example, the August 12, 2021 article on how “Modern Mathematics Confronts its White Patriarchal Past,” which asserts prima facie that the reason there are so few women and blacks in academic mathematics is because of misogyny and racism. Undoubtedly there are some misogynists and racists in mathematics, as there are in all walks of life, but we know that the number and percentage of such people throughout society has been decreasing for decades (see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature and my own The Moral Arc). As well, this may be another example of base rate neglect: before indicting academic hiring committees as hotbeds of misogyny and racism, which they most assuredly are not (academics are among the most socially liberal people in any profession), we need to know how many women and blacks are applying for such jobs compared to whites. The percentage is lower, and according to a 2019 Women in Mathematics survey “senior faculty composition both reflects the BA and PhD pipeline of prior years, and also influences the gender composition of new graduates.” If “structural” causes are the culprits—for example, if base rate comparisons do not match population percentages because of differential educational opportunities or vocational interests—such variables should also be factored into any scientific analysis of causality, especially in a popular and respected science publication. Again, there is no denying that some bias against some women in some fields exist, but that this is the only explanation on offer is unscientific.
And, unsurprisingly, reverse asymmetries never warrant explanations of reverse biases. To wit, this same study reported that “women earned 57%, 60% and 52% of all Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees respectively in the U.S. in 2013-14,” but proposed no reverse biases against men to account for such imbalances. Neither did a 2019 Council of Graduate Schools study that found for the 11th year in a row women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities (41,943 vs. 37,365, or 52.9% vs. 47.1%). Our attention is drawn to the lower percentages of female doctorates in engineering (25.1%), mathematics and computer sciences (26.8%), physical and earth sciences (35.1%), and business (46.7%), followed by discussions of systemic bias, but no such structural issues are on offer for the lower percentages of male doctorates in public administration (26.4%), health and medical sciences (29%), education (31.6%), social and behavioral sciences (39%), arts and humanities (48.1%), and biological sciences (48.6%). When the data is presented in a bar graph rank ordered from highest to lowest percentages for females earning doctorates (below), the claim that the fields in which women earn lower percentages than men can only be explained by misogyny and bias is gainsaid by the top bars where the valance is reversed, unless we are to believe that only in those bottom fields are faculty and administrators still bigoted against women whereas those in the top fields are enlightened.
Then there is the July 5, 2021 Scientific American article that “Denial of Evolution Is a Form of White Supremacy.” Because we are all from Africa and thus black, the author Allison Hopper avers, evolution deniers (AKA creationists) are ipso facto white supremacists. “I want to unmask the lie that evolution denial is about religion and recognize that at its core, it is a form of white supremacy that perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies,” she begins. “The fantasy of a continuous line of white descendants segregates white heritage from Black bodies. In the real world, this mythology translates into lethal effects on people who are Black.” Setting aside what, exactly, Hopper means by “lethal effects”, or that the vogue reference to “Black bodies” seems to reduce African Americans to nothing more than mindless matter, her thesis is verifiably wrong. As I and other historians of science have documented extensively (see, for example, Edward Larson’s Summer for the Gods, Eugenie Scott’s Evolution and Creationism, Ronald Numbers’ The Creationists, Robert Pennock’s Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, and my own Why Darwin Matters), the primary motivation behind creationism is religious (and secondarily political), not racist. Again, no doubt some creationists in the first half of the 20th century were also white supremacists, as were many more people throughout America then compared to today, but the chain of reasoning Hopper employs—that the Genesis story of Cain and Able suggests that “the curse or mark of Cain for killing his brother was a darkening of his descendants’ skin,” ergo the Bible endorses white supremacy—is not an argument made by mainstream creationists then or now. In any case, the hypothesis is gainsaid by the fact that polls consistently show a larger percentage of blacks than whites hold creationist beliefs. Apparently they didn’t get the white supremacist talking points. Finally, since anecdotes are often treated as data these days, let me add that I personally know a great number of creationists and I can attest that they would be horrified at the accusation. They are creationists not because they are white supremacists who wish to perpetuate “violence against Black bodies” but because they believe that God created the universe, life, humans, consciousness, and morality, and that the design inference to a designer makes the most sense to them (however wrong in their reasoning I believe them to be).
The most bizarre example of Scientific American’s woke turn toward social justice is an article published September 23, 2021 titled “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ is Problematic for Describing Programs that Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” Apparently, some social justice activists have embraced the Star Wars-themed acronym JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) as a martial reference to their commitment, and is now employed by some prominent institutions and organizations such as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The JEDI acronym is clearly meant to be uplifting and positive. It isn’t, opine the authors of this piece that is clearly not in the satirical spirit of The Onion or Babylon Bee. Make of this what you will:
Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes.
One may be forgiven for thinking that anyone who sees in a lightsaber duel clashing penises has perhaps been reading too much Freud…or watching too much three-way porn. Nevertheless, the authors grouse about “Slave Leia’s costume”, Darth Vader’s “ableist trope”, alien “racist stereotypes when depicting nonhuman species,” and too many white men in the galaxy, no matter how far away or long ago they are. Worst of all, the authors propose, is that the Star Wars franchise is owned by a for-profit company. “How ready are we to prioritize the cultural dreamscape of the Jedi over the real-world project of social justice? Investing in the term JEDI positions us to apologize for, or explain away, the stereotypes and politics associated with Star Wars and Disney.”
It’s hard to know what this piece has to do with Scientific American’s commitment to STEM issues, and readers have sent me other such essays and articles whose connection to science seems tenuous at best. Perhaps some insight might be gleaned from the British historian and Sovietologist Robert Conquest, who observed in what became an eponymous law that “any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” The reason, I surmise, is straight out of John Stuart Mill: “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.” Conservatives wish to conserve traditional institutions, so unless an organization or publication is avowedly conservative it will inevitably drift Leftward, a hint of which I noted creeping into the editorial process for my final columns.