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Theological Fragments – 01-08-16


Christian Living

Garrett Kell wrote a piece over at the Gospel Coalition entitled Finding Forgiveness After my Abortion. In it he shares the gospel proclamation in which Christ was crushed for our sins so that we don’t stand condemned. I think you will enjoy reading this. As Christians we understand full well that we are the most undeserving of all sinners and yet we stand before God as justified. That should affect how we view others. If we have passion without compassion then we do not have the heart of Christ. The Christian has a  duty to not only to oppose injustice but also to have compassion on the lost; for Christ had compassion on us.

Last week, Michael Kelley wrote a blog post at For The Church decrying self-condemnation. It’s really a good read. Please note that I do not believe that the author is talking about conviction leading to a recognition of the need to repent. He specifically mentions a posture of pride that accompanies our self-condemnation. He’s on to something here. I would like to explore this a little in the comments if anyone is willing to take on this topic.

Over at The Blazing Center, Matt Rogers is writing about the hopelessness we sometimes have when we do not feel like we are making progress. He encourages us to hold fast to Christ and not lose heart, for he is “making us perfect, whether we feel like it or not”. Head on over and give it a read.

Culture Wars

The Christian Post recently wrote an article on a family in Norway whose children were seized and are now entering the adoption process. What crime did their parents commit? Their parents taught them that God punishes sin. It’s not entirely clear if there is more to the story but this is one to keep your eyes on.Pray for truth. Always pray for truth. As the facts start to come out we will know more. If there is something sinister going on with the parents such as abuse or molestation then the children are victims and need protection. If this is what it is starting to look like (i.e. the state controlling the beliefs of the citizens) then this is something to beware of. Read the article here and pray for truth to be revealed.


The topic of sin is vitally important to Christian theology. If sin is not an issue then we have no need for the cross. Why do Christians talk about sin so much? Richard Phillips gives a good explanation that he adopted from James Montgomery Boice: “It is simply because Christians are realists. They recognize that sin is an everyday experience and the number one problem of mankind. What is more, they recognize that the Bible everywhere insists upon this.” However, Phillips takes it one step further and explains that we have good news to offer. He hits the nail on the head. Our hamartiology can’t end at the problem. It leads naturally into our soteriology.Read, Why We Talk About Sin

Recommended Reading

I’m getting ready to post a review on a book called Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney. It’s published by Crossway and will be released on January 31. It’s short but powerful. I think you may want to get your hands on this one.

I’m reverting back to my background in philosophy for a moment and I’m going to recommend a book that I normally wouldn’t. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a book that I recommend that everyone read at least once in their life. This is not because I think that Kant has stumbled upon truth. In fact, I think quite the opposite. However, I can’t think of a single book that has influenced the Post-Christian mind more than Kant’s magnum opus. It’s thick reading but if you want to understand the modern mind this is a foundational book. You can find it for cheap, but the Cambridge Edition is by far my favorite translation. You should take your time with this one. You will want to. Take the entire year if you need to.Perhaps we can discuss his contributions to modern philosophy in 2017.

If you want to start with an introduction to Kant I’d recommend the VSI book by Roger Scruton. More so than anyone else, I think he has captured the essence of Kantianism without over complicating it. It may be the best place to start if you are new to Kant’s philosophy.

At some point in reading Kant you will need to set him aside and reset your mind. I recommend Revolutions in Worldview and Building a Christian Worldview Pt. 1 both by Hoffecker.

Of course, you will also need to renew your mind in which case I recommend the ESV Jouraling Bible. I have found that the wide margins with lines for note taking come in handy for working through passages and mining the meaning. Read this (or any other solid Bible) regularly.

12 thoughts on “Theological Fragments – 01-08-16

  1. The post on forgiveness after abortion. I cried. This is what kept me from church for so long. We don’t realize how hateful we come across sometimes. I say we because I’m one of you now. God was calling me to the cross long before I repented. But Christians and the way we talk about abirtion, yelling, spitting, angry Christians. It’s scary when you are the sinner they hate. Even when the message is so clearly true. I knew I was a sinner. I was broken and depressed because God was being so good to me and I was sinning against him. I wanted to join the cause against the sin I flaunted to boldly. But my secret was too shameful and I feared that if I survived the yelling, humiliation, name calling and rejection by Christians theiron rage might turn against me and harm me. I love that this guy came clean. I want his boldness to say yes, I committed the unforgivable and yet was forgiven. I’m not there yet. Maybe putting this comment out there with my name attached it a first step. But even now I’m scared. Will my Christian friends leave me alone? Will they stop talking with me and not want to be seen? God forgives me. That should be enough. But it’s not. I want friends to accept me. Christian friends. Not the ones that will tell me my sin is okay. Most of you probably won’t understand the shame and the fear of the Christian activist rage. It’s scary but the only thing scarier is not telling people I’m forgiven and new and pure. Pure lol. I never thought I would call myself that.

  2. Oh Jen you know I love you friend. I know exactly how your feeling remember I had so many I don’t even know how many and three in one year on time! Can you beleive how much we are forgiven its amazing!!! But I know the fear and the looks and even now when friends start getting all angry about it which they shuld be but then you juest get quiet and don’t say anything because you know if you do it might slip out that they are relly yelling at you and you don’t want their anger all over you but you don’t blame them it’s a horrible thing weve done but how can we ever tell anyone but we know we are forgiven by God but not others. It reminds me to be patient with other people who don’t believe yet because think of how we were and one day bam!!!! God making us love him. I juest wish there were more people who understand that we need extra assurence that were not hated.I cried too. I wish I could call you but Internet is waaay cheaper than phone here. Russia is still cold and 1000 years behind.

  3. Ryan

    Jen I had no idea. I’m sure I am one of those that you see in a “rage”. Please don’t mistake my passion for rage. You know I love you no matter what you have in your closet. God knows I have things that I have never told anyone for the same reasons. You are a dear sister in Christ and your comment has made me realize that my passion for an issue can easily come across as hatred to those who are crushed by their sin or wanting to suppress the guilt they feel. I’m so ashamed. But even in this wrong attitude that I have had Christ has offered forgiveness. I’m going to be in Portland soon. Let’s meet for a hug and a coffee. My wife is dying to see you because we haven’t seen you since your conversion.

  4. Ryan

    On a few other topics from the post I think know Jen just showed a good example of a person who is not bogged down in self condemnation. She knows Christ has forgiven her. I hope others will as well. Like the Rogers post, I hope she can find peace in knowing God is perfecting her.

    The thing going on in Norway scares me. I have to admit I got a little mad when your suggested that we should wait for and pray for truth. Isn’t truth always serving my interests? Lesson learned. I’d bet a good amount of money that this is an oppressive government and an innocent family but if I’m wrong it is at the expense of victimized kids. I don’t want this to be a family molesting their kids because that doesn’t serve my agenda. Where did all this sin come from in me. God help me want truth and justice more than anything goes else! The comment about the kids saying they were abused is what is making me pause. What if? I’m learning to always believe the victim and let the facts play out. But I sure hope the facts are on my side.

    I’m looking forward to Whitney, love Hoffecker and fear Kant.

  5. Prideful self-condemnation. You invited comments specifically on this so I will jump in! I see this a lot in myself. I don’t know what to call it but the poster probably said it as good as anyone. Sometimes though I start to debate with myself that I should casting stones at myself because of my sin. But then Jesus didn’t say the solution was stone casting. The solution is go and sin no longer. I wish the author would have dug a little deeper into that. If I constantly find myself sinning and never “going and sinning no longer” then I need to take a good hard look at myself and ask if I am really saved (ergo not condemned) or if I am unsaved (ergo condemned). I can’t just assume I’m saved and ignore the conviction. I need to consider if the conviction is a sinful pride, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or confusion.

    This shows itself in a different way too and the writer kind of alluded to it. When in the midst of other Christians it has become trendy to bemoan how sinful we are without ever announcing the gospel message of substitution, forgiveness, and redemption. Just a pride in understanding and talking about how bad we are. There’s something wrong with that too.

  6. Lenette

    Jen and Serena, in my previous faith I would have said that there is grace and forgiveness available to you but only on two conditions. The first is if you were never baptized then all you would have to do is get baptized and it will wash your sins. Second is if you were already baptized, even as a baby, then you would have to do penance on order to be forgiven. But this is a false gospel ladies. You can be sure of that. I have learned through these discussions and posts and through Christian friends and my new church that forgiveness is given freely and fully to everyone who believes by faith because true faith justifies like it did for Abraham before his works and apart from his works. I think Paul says that in Galatians or Romans which is from the same Bible the Catholic Church has but ignores. So forgiveness for abortions has to be included as one that is forgiven when you trade your sin for Jesus righteousness. That picture was from RC Sproul or at least where I have heard it. Not sure where he got it or if it is his own example. So be glad in your forgiveness!

    When I read the one on self condemnation it made me chuckle and think of the silly things I had done as a Catholic to prove to everybody and God that I was humble.I did everything but mutilate myself to be perceived as pious but it was a show. I would have mutilated myself if it had come to that. Just so others would see that I was willing to deny the flesh in order to be closer to God. It never gave me more than a passing satisfaction because nothing I could do to myself was lasting and final. I kept going back to more and more denial of the flesh so that I could feel like I have paid for my sins and earned God’s love.

    Jen and Serena. Do not start believing that you must punish yourself for your sins. Don’t you know Jesus has taken what you deserve for those abortions on his own back? And it is more horrible than you ever thought you deserved but he truly did it for you. That punishment and death was final and never to be inflicted again! And it was sealed with his resurrection which gives us whole bodies instead of the burned crushed mutilated ones we deserve.

    I usually don’t write this long but your posts made me. I am sure you both know this much better than I do since I am so new to true faith. But I had to get that out.

  7. Ahmed

    Why we talk of sin. Yes that is the right way to speak. We habe the problem right and the solution right. Amen. Tis true.

  8. Adam

    The problem with the post on self condemnation is he is saying that Jesus doesn’t condemn us for our sin. That’s dangerous. If you say something like that, and I quote, “Neither do I condemn you”, then people will think it is okay to sin and we can’t let that happen. It’s never okay to sin. The same problem is in the post about feeling hopeless when we aren’t advancing. The problem with “just resting in God’s promise” is that this gives people an excuse to stop trying. If I can just rest and not work hard at maturing then I’ve done nothing at all and don’t deserve the reward. No, our message is work out your salvation with fear and trembling because the truth is our evil deeds will condemn us. Otherwise there is nothing to fear and tremble at in working out our salvation. I know why people say to rest in the promise and we’re not condemned but the danger is saying that will lead a procession of the damned to the lake of fire. I’m not trying to be mean or anything. I’m not like that. But we can’t leave out how important it is for us to do something. We can’t do nothing but believe and expect to be saved otherwise the devil will be saved because he believes.

    • Adam, thank you for your thoughts. One thing that I would encourage you to do is to go and read the passage in question. You can find it in John 8. The reason I would encourage you to read it is because the quote, “neither do I condemn you” was spoken by Jesus to the sinning party – a woman caught in the act of adultery. This presents a challenge for your position that we cannot say that we are not condemned because that would contradict Christ’s words and would insinuate that he was wrong to not condemn her.

      The truth is, there probably will be some who hear that and see it as license to sin. But those who truly belong to God will not take advantage of grace. It is the fruit of those who believe (those who are being saved) to respond with grateful obedience and the fruit of those who refuse to believe (those who are perishing) to respond with more sin. This is why Christ said, “go and sin no more”.

      I think there is a greater danger to teach that our works or lack of sinful behavior merits salvation, favor, or anything else. We need to teach what the passage says regardless of how we think people will respond. There was a point in history, in the 1700s in which a controversy arose over presenting the gospel based upon perceived results. This was known as the Marrow Controversy. The details were different but the core issue was that some were not proclaiming the gospel to certain people who did not already show signs of repentance. This was rightfully condemned by the church. To not proclaim the truth of “no condemnation” based upon our perception of how people will respond is to revisit this controversy all over again.

  9. Adam

    I’m that case it has to apply just to her in her specific situation. Because for the rest of us we are condemned by our sin. This is why we have working out our salvation with fear and tembling and our faith without works is dead. Faith by itself is not enough if you just have faith then you cannot be saved. James says it is our works that give us life not our faith. Our faith is dead without works to give it life. Also in addition to works we have to stop sinning. Jesus told her she was not condemned but that was because he must have forgiven her right then but to keep her not condemned he said don’t sin anymore. Once she sins again she’s condemned again.

    • Adam, I think it might be good to unpack the word ‘condemn’ a little. If by condemn you mean to make a moral judgment or discriminate then I can agree in part with what you are saying. For example, if one of my children lies to me then it is within my right to judge that behavior as inappropriate, morally corrupt, and worthy of consequences. I can discriminate between a morally good and a morally debased act. If that is how you are defining condemn then there is a clear problem with Jesus’ words because his saying, “go and sin no more” suggests that he has made a moral judgment about her behavior. If that’s the case then he tells her that he won’t condemn her and then follows it up immediately by condemning her. I don’t think that’s how this word is being used here. The context appears to clarify that for us. Remember the importance of context in any given conversation. After all, a text without a context is a pretext as they say. So what can the context tell us about his words?

      To establish the context you have to go back and read what was happening. A lady was in the act of adultery when she was discovered. The law at the time and in that culture required for an adulteress to be put to death. The men who caught her brought her to Jesus. He stooped down, wrote something in the dirt, and told the men that whichever of them was without sin to cast the first stone (the language suggests that he was referring t the same sin they were condemning her for). One by one they dropped their stones and left. Jesus says, “woman, where are your accusers”? She points out that there are none remaining and Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more”.

      When he says, “neither do I” he is using comparative language. Compared to what? Her executioners. They left their stones behind and speaking of the same type of condemnation, Jesus says “neither do I”.

      The condemnation Jesus was speaking of was not merely making a moral judgment but the actual carrying out of the death penalty. Jesus was telling her that she was not going to receive the just consequence of her behavior. Her behavior was illegal, there was a prescribed consequence to it according to the law. Jesus released her from the penalty. This is exactly what God does for us when we trust in him by faith. Our justification is not based upon our moral standing but upon our position in Christ. That is why Paul can say confidently . . .

      “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

      James is simply pointing out that if we claim to have faith but the fruit of our lives says otherwise, we don’t really have faith. He does not say that works give life to faith, but that faith without works is a violation of faith and therefore is not a living faith but dead. The works don’t produce faith, faith produces good works and the works are simply an evidence of the faith within a person.

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