“Jonathan Edwards and Hell” by Chris Morgan

There is a lot of things that could go into buying a book.  Most of the time, I will see a recommendation of sorts and be compelled to purchase the book.  Sometimes, I am given the book by friends, family, or at conferences.  And sometimes, I’ll be strolling through a book store and see an intriguing book and have to buy it.  That was the case with “Jonathan Edwards and Hell” by Chris Morgan. 

Honestly, most of the purchase had to do with the cover art and thinking it was cool looking.  After that grabbed my attention, I noticed “Jonathan Edwards” and “Hell” on the cover and thought, “That sounds intriguing.”  And the purchase was made.  And is the case with most books I bought, it was placed in a large pile of books that had to wait until after Seminary was over. 

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I was going to walk to work.  Leah needed the car, I needed the exercise and didn’t have my bike at home, and I figured it would be a good chance to do some reading.  A light 2 mile walk with a good book is an hour well spent. 

Once I was well into the book, I was quickly disappointed as to the actual content of the book.  The first three chapters are all about annihilationists and their view points, followed by a chapter on the evangelical response.  That makes up Part I of the book.  Part II had to do with Edwards.  The first chapter of Part II was about annihilationism in the 18th century, followed by a chapter on Edwards response.  The closing chapter discusses how to apply Edward’s method to today’s theological climate. 

So, in 140 pages of content in a book entitled “Jonathan Edwards on Hell”, there are 16 pages specifically about Jonathan Edwards on the topic of Hell.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t an enjoyable and profitable read, but it seemed misleading to say the least.  During my time in seminary I had to read through Robert Peterson’s book “Hell on Trial”, and that covered most of what this book does.  The only thing that this book does differently, is just scratch the surface of Edward’s thoughts on the topic. 

What Morgan does is explain the views in the words of the proponents of such views, and then offers a critique of the strength of the argument.  Morgan offers good insight and has good things to say about how the debate should be discussed.  There are good things about linguistic, exegetical, philosophical, and polemic approaches to the argument, but Morgan appeals to the theological approach Edwards takes. 

The other approaches offer good input, but both sides are still left at an impass.  Here are some helpful notes taken from those sections:

  • One insight that I found interesting is the debate over the word ‘aiwvios’.  That is the word for ‘eternal’.  Some annihilationists would say that there are two senses to the word.  One is quantity, meaning everlasting.  The other is a qualitative sense, meaning a time to come in contrast to the present time.  This view is best propgated by Edward Fudge.  Instead of focusing on everlasting punishment, they focus on the eternal result of the punishment.  The main weakness, as I understand, would be the same word being used in relation to the eternal life granted to believers.
  • The other main point that I liked was how he pointed out that many Annihilationists, including John Stott, find it primarily difficult to believe because of the heinous nature of everlasting torment.  They see it as being a doctrine that does not fit with their defintion of God.  Edwards had this to say:

“It is an unreasonable and unscriptural notion of the mercy of God that He is merciful in such a sense that He cannot bear that penal justice should be executed.  That is to conceive of the mercy of God as a passion to which His nature is so subject that GOd is liable to be moved, affected, and overcome by seeing a creature in misery so that He cannot bear to see justice executed… The Scriptures everywhere represent the mercy of God as free and sovereign, and not that the exercises of it are necessary.”

Edwards saw it as an issue of questioning God’s sovereignty of His creation.  God’s sovereignty is absolute, universal, and unlimited. 

To the objection that everlasting punishment is not suitable for God, Edwards had this to say:

“Since the infinite hatred of sin is suitable to the divine character, then the expressions of that hatred are also suitable to His character… It is suitable that He should execture infinite punishment on it.”

All in all, it was a profitable read, but reader beware that the title may mislead you into thinking the book is about Jonathan Edwards and Hell.

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Cha Cha Changes

A few changes recently have rocked my world lately.

.99 cent only?  Not so much

For those of you who have been out here, you probably have had some experience with the “.99 Cent Only” stores.  Just recently, Leah and I headed to one to get some small things for Micah to play with on the way to Hume.  You can find all kinds of fun stuff, and most everything for .99.  Some stuff is two for .99 and some are even cheaper than that.  Even the trucks say that the driver carries no more than .99 cents.  Well, those days are over.

There are 277 .99 Cent Only stores, mostly in California, and now they will be charging more than .99.  Due to inflation, they will be pricing some items above .99 cents.  In the last quarter they lost 2 cents on every share.  During the same time last year, they gained 4 cents on each share.  Apparently, they are keeping the name of the store “.99 Cent Only”.

Ray Boltz Shatters My Childhood

Like many young Christians, I was subject to the crooning of Ray Boltz.  I remember listening to his casette with “I Pledge Allegiance” and loving it.  Then I saw a music video of people standing up for their faith in the midst of trials.  Well, apparently, Boltz didn’t really believe the message.  After 32 years of marriage, Boltz has come out of the closet and gone public with his homosexuality.  Ray’s wife has come out in support and joined a religious homosexuality advocacy group.

As I heard on Way of the Master Radio and read here, Boltz came to faith after a musical experience.  Interesting that it didn’t include the preaching of God’s Word.  He thought it was the solution to his homosexuality and that things would change.  They didn’t.

Here are some quotes:

“His faith was in transition — tenants he’d adhered to all his life suddenly were up for reconsideration, but there was a peace he hadn’t felt before.

“I had a lot of questions [about faith], but at the bottom of everything was a feeling that I didn’t hate myself anymore, so in that sense I felt closer to God.”

……………..

“If you were to hold up the rule book and go, ‘Here are all the rules Christians must live by,’ did I follow every one of those rules all that time? Not at all, you know, because I kind of rejected a lot of things, but I’ve grown some even since then. I guess I felt that the church, that they had it wrong about how I felt with being gay all these years, so maybe they had it wrong about a lot of other things.”

……………..

“I don’t want to be a spokesperson, I don’t want to be a poster boy for gay Christians, I don’t want to be in a little box on TV with three other people in little boxes screaming about what the Bible says, I don’t want to be some kind of teacher or theologian — I’m just an artist and I’m just going to sing about what I feel and write about what I feel and see where it goes.”

………………

Hogue, who worked with Boltz on his 1991 album “Another Child to Hold” and has helped him record a few new songs for a still-evolving possible new project, says he hopes for a day when Christians will see homosexuality as no more a perceived sin than it used to be for women to be ministers or for divorced Christians to hold leadership positions in churches.

……………

“This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”

A Flashback at the LA County Fair

Yesterday, when I mentioned the fact that I was going to be going to the LA County fair, one of my friends not in this area said, “LA has their own fair?  What I wouldn’t give to see that!”  That pretty much sums it up.  As one who was practically raised at New England fairs, you definitely see a different picture when you enter the LA Fair.  When you enter the gate we go in, you see a large section dedicated to Hispanic culture, then large convention buildings full of expo displays.  Unless you want something to polish your silverware or want new insurance, those buildings are largely useless.

You have some displays that celebrate California culture and history, a large building for interactive displays for small children.  Micah had a blast in that area, playing in sand, pushing trains, and looking in a big magnifying window at his dad’s huge head made even bigger.  There is a large animal barn where you can see new borns with their mom’s, whether they are pigs, sheep, goats, or chickens.  We took Micah into a big petting zoo and the small goats converged upon him sniffing him for food.  He laughed one second and nervously raised his hands up to get picked up the next.  We gave him some food and the goats licked it out of his hand.  He wasn’t sure what to think about this.

The highlight of the trip came when we were looking at the big sheep in a pen in the middle of the petting zoo.  Some animals hang out in there to avoid the kids running around, so I took Micah to the fence so he could pet an animal that wasn’t going to freak him out.  That’s when I heard something I haven’t heard in awhile.  I heard the ewe make a deep moaning noise and looked behind it only to see two little feet coming out of the sheep.  The poor thing was well into labor and no one that worked there had noticed.

Someone went over to tell the girl in charge of the zoo that there was a sheep lambing.  I started thinking back to my days raising sheep and thinking of the things that I needed to look for.  I was first of all, concerned that it was lambing in early September.  Normally, sheep of this breed lamb in the winter, Nov-Dec time of the year, but not this early.  Once in awhile you get a fall born sheep, but it isn’t normal because sheep have a certain time of the year where they go into heat.

Anyways, I’m sure my sister or mother could provide more info if you are interested.  The lamb seemed to positioned right.  I checked to see if the front feet and nose were coming out first and they were.  once I saw that, I knew it was good just to let things happen.  I called my mom to get any last minute advice should I need it, as no one had come yet.  Soon, the head started to poke out, and finally someone who knew what they were doing showed up.  He asked everyone to be quiet and the lamb popped out in a couple of minutes.  He cleared the mucus and such out of the lamb’s mouth and nose and the mother came over and started to lick the lamb.

All of this in the petting zoo.  Certainly not what we expected when we entered the pen, and the city folk saw much more than they ever imagined.  Here are some pics of the time!

A happy moment with the goats.

All they had was John Deere tractors.  Micah was clearly disappointed.

You may recognize this from last year’s picture.

Micah is interestingly still a horse…

Notice the David Ortiz jersey in the background!

Micah had a blast shaking the maraca along with the Spanish music.

Tuckered out after a long afternoon.

George and Mary Mueller

This week, in our series of “Forces of Faith”, I’m going over the life of George Mueller.  One highlite that I thought I’d share was his relationship with his wife.  After being married for 40 years and ministering in the orphanages together, Mary passed away.

These are some of the words that George spoke at her funeral:

“Were we happy? Verily we were. With every year our happiness increased more and more. I never saw my beloved wife at any time, when I met her unexpectedly anywhere in Bristol, without being delighted so to do. I never met her even in the Orphan Houses, without my heart being delighted so to do. Day by day, as we met in our dressing room, at the Orphan Houses, to wash our hands before dinner and tea, I was delighted to meet her, and she was equally pleased to seem. Thousands of times I told her—“My darling, I never saw you at any time, since you became my wife, without my being delighted to see you.”

Pastoring a Family

Now that Micah is getting older, I have found how much of a challenge pastoring my own family is becoming.  I don’t mean to say that the family is becoming difficult, but I find that it is stretching me more and more.  I’ve known that I want to have my home model a Christ-centered, Cross-centered family, but I’m finding that more and difficult to do.  For some things, it just doesn’t come naturally.  For example, when it comes to discipline, the easy thing is to tell Micah no and discipline him.  What needs to happen next, though, is an explanation of how that was displeasing to God and disrespectful to me.

I don’t know if it is the fact that this side of my own personal ministry is much more real and immediate for me, but it seems to be much more intimidating than my pastoral ministry.  I guess I feel a sense of confidence that I have been there and done that to a certain degree with Youth Ministry and have a handle on where things are going, but everything is so different and new when it comes to parenting and spiritual training my own family.  And it seems like the impact is much more long lasting, as I’m completely responsible for how I guide my wife and son.

I’ve had general ideas of what I want to do, but life never allows plans to be simple.  Obviously I know many of the general truths of parenting and have read many books on the subject, but it is sometimes more of an art than science.  You know the truths, but applying them can take wisdom and experience.  I want Micah to learn how to pray, learn to study his Bible, grow a Biblical worldview, and see what it means to be a godly father and husband. Leah and I have been reading through “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”, though we both read it before being parents.  We’ve also begun praying in the morning and including Micah in that.  We also want to get some books for Micah to read through in the evening during our reading time before his bedtime.  Anyone with good suggestions, we’re all ears.

Then today I was blog hopping and found this Piper post.  He was asked how he spiritual guides his family.  Here is what he said.

1. We encouraged our children from the very beginning to be alone with the Lord in the morning. That can start as soon as you can prop a child up with a pillow so that he doesn’t topple over and bonk his head. You can set a tape recorder beside him with a song about “Jesus loves me, this I know” or a Bible story.

So a child can have devotions from age 1 on, as strange as that may sound, if you train him to have a little time alone to be with God. He can’t read yet, obviously, and he won’t read yet for another 4 or 5 years. But he can listen and he can enjoy that time. So we did that, and then it turned into Bible stories. Then it turned into giving them their own Bible that they could read, which went on up through teenage devotions.

2. We were at the table together every morning, and I led devotions at breakfast with the children. And if the child is little he just says “Jesus” and that’s all he says. But we used to work our way through the Global Prayer Digest so that there was a missions component. And then we read a short passage of Scripture, and I would pray. It might not take more than 5 minutes, because of the children being little.

3. Then in the evening we had family devotions, which was a little longer. We read a longer portion of Scripture, and all the children–if they were able–would pray, not just me. Noel would pray, I would pray, and each of the children would pray. And as soon as they could talk, we taught them to pray.

4. And then when we put them to bed, we tucked them in, blessed them with

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace,
and joy, and hope, and love, and a good night’s rest,
and someday a godly husband. (Talitha will always laugh when I say this last line.)

And then I sing a song for Talitha. And then I give her a big hug. There is a very definite routine that we walk through. And there is a word component even as you tuck the child in bed at night.

That has been the routine for 31 years, basically, though I don’t want to create the impression that it is flawless or that we didn’t miss mornings or evenings. We did, but this was the goal and the routine. And pretty much we have been able to keep with it.

Hope someone might find this helpful!

Lessons from Jeremiah

This summer, our high school group has been going through “Forces of Faith”, biographies of personalities in the Old Testament who displayed great amounts of faith throughout their lives.  A few weeks ago, we focused on Jeremiah and I thought I would include some of my observations from that study and what we can learn about ministry and standing for the truth today.

When you ask people what makes a successful ministry, one can’t help but look at the numbers of those involved.  Maybe you can count the people in the room, the amount collected in the plate, or maybe the number of people who have walked an aisle or made professions of faith.  I remember a few years ago, our Pastor, Steve Balentine, preached a message on the differences between Jeremiah and Jonah.  In the world’s view, and even many of those who judge the success of ministries, Jonah would have been the obvious choice for ‘head of the class’.  But when we look at the ministries of each prophet, and their obedience to God’s call in their lives, we see a different picture.

When Jeremiah was called, he first objected on the basis of not being old enough or not having the ability to be the great speaker he expected oracles of God to be (1:7).  God’s promise to him was to not let Jeremiah rely on his own words, but that he’d give him the words to speak (1:9).  Prior to Jeremiah’s objecting, God let him know that he was appointed for this office before he was even born.  In God’s grand plan, Jeremiah was always going to play the role of prophet on behalf of the covenant God of Israel, Yahweh.

When told of what his job would be, the Lord had some interesting and foreboding words for him.  In verse 8 we see God’s promise to deliver Jeremiah, which immediately told Jeremiah that he would be facing a tough crowd.  If someone promises to deliver you, a significant and painful objection is implied.  And if that weren’t clear enough, God then tells him that they will fight against him, they will reject him and his message, but they won’t prevail against him (1:17-19).

Just as promised, Jeremiah preached the message God gave him, and he was treated as a traitor.  When Babylon was coming down upon them, he urged surrender, hoping to preserve Jerusalem, because he knew that Babylon would eventually prevail against Israel.  False prophets rose up, with a nicer message, and the people listened to them.  They claimed to represent God, but brought a message of ‘health and wealth’ and that everything was ok.  They came out against Jeremiah, saying he was preaching a bad message and didn’t represent God.

In chapter 20, we find a very intriguing confrontation.  Pashhur was a priest who most likely was profiting from giving false messages and leading people away from a pure worship in Jerusalem.  When he heard Jeremiah saying these things, he beat him and placed him in the stocks over night.  Jeremiah was placed by a main gate, for all to see and mock.  You might think that Jeremiah would shrink back after his release, but he does quite the opposite.  in what seems miles from the shy and hesitant person when he was first called, Jeremiah rips into Pashhur and tells him that his end is near.  He says,

“The Lord does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror On Every Side.  For thus says the Lord: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends.  They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on.  And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon.  he shall carry them to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword… And you, Pashhur, and all who dwellin in your house, shall go into captivity.  To Babylon you shall go, and there you shall die, and there you shal be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely. (20:3-6)

After this section of boldness, we have a remarkable section where Jeremiah speaks and laments to God.  Recently, I read a wonderful journal article on the Lament and its roll in our livess in the “Bibliotheca Sacra” journal from Dallas Theological Seminary.  It was saying that we often misunderstand the lament, and what the person is saying.  In this section, Jeremiah cries out to God about how weak and miserable he is by himself, how everyone just laughs at him and whoever he speaks to considers him a fool and derides him.

Jeremiah speaks of being tempted to hold back the message (v.9), to not proclaim the words of the Lord, but knows he can’t do that.  He says that his heart begins to burn and his bones cry out if he even thinks of not speaking the message of the Lord.  He can’t help but proclaim the message God has given him.  He realizes he is compelled to do this, and cannot do anything else.

In verse 10 he speaks to some of the occupational hazards that come with his job.  He hears cries for him to be denounced and to be opposed.  And these cries aren’t coming from hardened opponents, but from his own friends, who have been alienated by the message he bore.  Instead of standing beside him in friendship, they now circle him, waiting for him to fall flat on his face.

But in the face of all of this, he is able to push through because of what he knows to be true (v.11).  He says, the Lord is my dread warrior.  It isn’t Jeremiah who will stumble, but rather it will be his opponents and persecuters.  They will be put to shame and will eternally be known for their dishonor in God’s program.  Jeremiah lifts his head beyond his day, and sees things in an eternal scope.  The present situation saw him being persecuted by opponents and those whom he thought to be his close friends.  But eternally speaking, his actions were acts of obedience to God, and he would not suffer shame or dishonor for eternity.

Often times we are faced with opposition, sometimes from our closest friends.  Let Jeremiah’s faith be an example of boldness and obedience to us all!