Phil Johnson – The story of Calvinism

Photo from Spurgeon.org which also happens to be one of Phil Johnson’s websites. It contains an entire library of Spurgeon’s sermons.
phil johnsonPhil Johnson (Pyromaniacs) does a survey of Calvinism. Phil Johnson is Executive Director of Grace to You. He teaches regularly as a lay pastor at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA. He has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of Dr. MacArthur’s major books. Phil is an elder at Grace Church, a trustee of the UK-based Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust, a member of FIRE, husband to Darlene, father of three sons (two of them married), and grandfather to three precious children. Phil is probably best known for his websites, which include The Spurgeon Archive (www.spurgeon.org) and a blog known as Pyromaniacs (teampyro.blogspot.com).

The Video –  Published on Nov 18, 2012 by needanewstartcom.

The Christian doctrine of ‘Election’ has caused more difficulties to believers than any other. It is indeed one of the most frequently misunderstood of all Biblical teachings. Many have been distressed by what they think this teaching means. But rather than causing Christians concern, this doctrine is actually one that should fill believers with comfort and a much better grasp of the great and sovereign God that they serve.

In the first message Phil introduces us to this doctrine, and begins by dispelling the myth that election was an addition to the gospel invented by the Apostle Paul, and which cannot be found in the teaching of Christ. But as Phil shows us, this is simply not the case, and he then goes on to explain what election is really all about, directly from the teaching of Christ.

The second message provides a very helpful overview of Calvinism and its history, which actually sets the doctrine of election in the context of the Biblical teaching with which it is most commonly associated. Once correctly understood, election is seen to be actually a demonstration of the Lord’s love for his people. These two recordings will be a great help to those who are struggling to understand this most difficult doctrine.

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C.S. Lewis – (Essential Reading) God as God (1) God’s omnipotence

Excerpt from The Theology of C.S. Lewis  (Pleasures Forevermore by John Randolph Willis, Chapter 2):

C.S. Lewis never intends in his writing to make startling or original contributions to Christian thought; his aim throughout is to present „mere Christianity” from the standpoint of the layman. We can begin to examine Lewis’ writings by seeing how he views the one God, the „I Am” of Exodus 3:14. For Lewis, God is definitely not the amorphous spirit of pantheism. He strongly emphasizes the fact that God is concrete and individual. „He is ‘absolute being’– or rather the Absolute Being– in the sense that He alone exists in His own right. But there are things which God is not. In that sense He has a determinate character. Thus He is righteous, not a-moral; creative, not inert. The Hebrew writings here observe an admirable balance. Once God says simply I AM, proclaiming the mystery of self existence. But times without number He says, ‘I am the Lord’– I, the ultimate Fact, have this determinate character and not that. And men are exhorted to „know the Lord,” to discover and experience this particular character.”

To stand before God is to be confronted by the incomprehensible. „He is unspeakable, not by being indefinite but by being too definite for the unavoidable vagueness of language… Gramatically the things we say of Him are ‘metaphorical’ : but in a deeper sense it is our physical and psychic energies that are mere ‘metaphors’ of the real Life which is God.”

Yet in the devotional and moral life, we constantly bump up against something concrete, and the growing emptiness of our idea of God is gradually filled with something definite.

What definite qualities does Lewis attribute to God?

First, he declares that God is omnipotent. But we must realize in what this omnipotence consists. It does not mean that God can do things which are intrinsically impossible. To ask if God could make a stone too heavy for Him to lift is ti ask a meaningless question. Of course it is possible for God to perform miracles, but He can never perform nonsense.

What God does perform always is the work of a consummate artist…  The majesty of God is only dimly reflected in his creation of the universe, created freely out of absolutely nothing. Using the triune formula od Father, Redeemer, and indwelling Comforter, Lewis shows that the universe is small indeed compared with Ultimate Reality; so how much smaller earth is when compared to the universe, and man when compared to the earth.

Important attributes of God are His justice and mercy, which are one in him but different from our perspective. Lewis indicates that such attributes can be predicted from the human standpoint because they have a foundation in reality. He likewise treats of God’s wrath and God’s pardon in this way. Of course applied to God these are metaphors; but we must be aware what Scripture tells us, and certainly God’s anger can be a consuming fire.  Yet the reverse side of the coin is his mercy, which is tender, loving and forgiving to the blotting out of sins. What God is in actuality is simply beyond human imagination. God is his mercy and much more; God is his justice and much more than „eye hath seen or ear heard” (1 Cor. 2:9).

In Reflections of the Psalms, Lewis writes, „There were in the 18th century terrible theologians who held that ‘God did not command certain things because they are right, but certain things are right because God commanded them.’  To make the position perfectly clear, one of them even said that God has, as it happens, commanded us to love Him and one another, He might equally well have commanded us to hate Him and one another, and hatred would then have been right.” Lewis rejects this voluntaristic approach to God. God can be no other than what he is: absolute goodness, justice, mercy and love. And he is all of these supereminently, as we have just said.

Being all-sufficient in himself, God still loves into existence the superfluous, since he is almost overflowing with goodness. This is not to be understood in the Neo-Platonic sense, for God is under no compulsion to create anything. He creates and conserves in existence so that he can love all created being.

to be continued…. coming up tomorrow God’s love and ‘Do I have a right to be happy?

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Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul Learning from the Mind and Heart of C. S. Lewis – Desiring God

Born November 29, 1898 was one Clive Staples Lewis. His friends called him Jack. We know him as C. S. Lewis. He died just shy of 65 years old on November 22, 1963, the same day as John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Davdi Mathis over at Desiring God writes a birthday note along with a link to this John Piper tribute to Lewis in his biographical address „Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul.”

1) It Seems I Shouldn’t Find Lewis So Helpful

My approach in this talk is personal. I am going to talk about what has meant the most to me in C. S. Lewis—how he has helped me the most. And as I raise this question, as I have many times over the years, the backdrop of the question becomes increasingly urgent: Why has he been so significant for me, even though he is not Reformed in his doctrine, and could barely be called an evangelical by typical American uses of that word?

He doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, 1 and defaults to logical arguments more naturally than to biblical exegesis. He doesn’t treat the Reformation with respect, but thinks it could have been avoided, and calls aspects of if farcical. 2 He steadfastly refused in public or in letters to explain why he was not a Roman Catholic but remained in the Church of England. 3 He makes room for at least some people to be saved through imperfect representations of Christ in other religions. 4 He made a strong logical, but I think unbiblical, case for free will to explain why there is suffering in the world. 5 He speaks of the atonement with reverence, but puts little significance on any of the explanations for how it actually saves sinners. 6

In other words, Lewis is not a writer to which we should turn for growth in a careful biblical understanding of Christian doctrine. There is almost no passage of Scripture on which I would turn to Lewis for exegetical illumination. A few, but not many. He doesn’t deal with many. If we follow him in the kinds of mistakes that he made (the ones listed above), it will hurt the church and dishonor Christ. His value is not in his biblical exegesis. Lewis is not the kind of writer who provides substance for a pastor’s sermons. If a pastor treats Lewis as a resource for doctrinal substance, he will find his messages growing thin, interesting perhaps, but not with much rich biblical content.

The Ironic Effect of Reading Lewis

So you see the kind of backdrop there is for this message. How and why has C. S. Lewis been so helpful to me when I think he is so wrong on some very important matters? Why don’t I put Lewis in the same category as the so-called “emergent” writers? At one level, the mistakes seem similar. But when I pose the question that way, it starts to become pretty clear to me why Lewis keeps being useful, while I think the emergent voices will fade away fairly quickly.

In fact, I think posing the question this way not only explains why he has been so helpful to me, but also goes right to the heart of what the life and work of C. S. Lewis were about. There was something at the core of his work—of his mind—that had the ironic effect on me of awakening lively affections and firm convictions that he himself would not have held.

Something About Lewis

There was something about the way he read Scripture that made my own embrace of inerrancy tighter, not looser. There was something about the way he spoke of grace and God’s power that made me value the particularities of the Reformation more, not less. There was something about the way he portrayed the wonders of the incarnation that made me more suspicious of his own inclusivism, not less. There was something about the way he spoke of doctrine as the necessary roadmap that leads to Reality, 7 and the way he esteemed truth and reason and precision of thought, that made me cherish more, not less, the historic articulations of the biblical explanations of how the work of Christ saves sinners—the so-called theories of the atonement.

It may be that others have been drawn away by Lewis from these kinds of convictions and experiences. I doubt very seriously that more people on the whole have been weakened in true biblical commitments than have been strengthened by reading Lewis. I am sure it happens. I am sure that for many, for example, who have taken the road to Roman Catholicism away from evangelicalism, Lewis has played a part in that pilgrimage. He devoted his whole Christian life to defending and adorning what he called “mere Christianity”—“the Christian religion as understood ubique et ab omnibus [everywhere by everyone].” 8 “I have believed myself to be restating ancient and orthodox doctrines. . . . I have tried to assume nothing that is not professed by all baptized and communicating Christians.” 9 This means that he rarely tried to distance himself from Roman Catholicism or any other part of Christendom. He rarely spoke about any debates within Christianity itself. 10

A Pastoral Price to Pay

There is a price to pay when you set yourself this kind of agenda. You will almost certainly omit things essential to the gospel. Not that you yourself do not believe those things, but since virtually all important doctrines have been disputed from within the church (not just from outside), the effort to omit what’s disputed runs the risk of omitting what’s essential. We all should be warned about this, because the disputes in the New Testament letters themselves are virtually all disputes within the church, not with those outside. In the marketplace and the synagogue, Paul argued for the gospel with unbelievers. But in his letters, he defends and defines the heart of the gospel not by disputing with those outside the church, but with those inside the church. He did not consider these disputes—for example in Galatians—as peripheral skirmishes but rather as part of what “mere Christianity” actually is.  This dispute is what the Reformation was about.

Therefore, Lewis set himself a lifelong task that no pastor should follow—namely, to adorn and defend only those truths that he thought all Christians always and everywhere have believed. 11 Lewis was not a pastor. He was a professor of English Literature from 1924 to 1963, first at Oxford and then at Cambridge. He did not have to open the Scriptures week after week for a group of people over the course of 30 or 40 years. He didn’t have to explain to his flock the fullness of God’s written revelation. He was a scholar, a writer of science fiction, children’s books, poetry, essays, and apologetics. In these spheres, he chose his focus. He called it “mere Christianity.” Within that limited focus (which he would say is infinitely large), he fell short of saying many important things regarding the gospel of Christ. But if I focus not on what he failed to say, but on what he said and did, I find that even for me—for one who considers some doctrines to be crucial that he neglected—even for me, the blessings of his work have been incalculable.

2) Why Lewis Is So Helpful to Me

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