Another thing we talked about though was the propensity of many Evangelical pastors only to try to give assurance of salvation, that is, the tendency to downplay any parishioner's fears that perhaps they are not in Christ. We both agreed that this is wrong. It isn't bad to wrestle with whether or not you are saved. Many who have gone forward at one time and prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" have perhaps not really given over their lives to Christ. Many have not realized the gravity of their own sin and what Jesus is actually saving them from. For these people it isn't a bad thing to wrestle with whether or not they are saved because by the grace of God and the action of the Holy Spirit they will be made aware of the true nature of their sin and the true nature of Christ's death on the cross. Even if they are already saved this can only have a good effect on their faith. Of course there are individual believers who struggle inordinately with the fear that they are not saved and these people most likely do need reassuring words from their pastor. But in the American Church I believe that the opposite is what is usually true, that too much assurance is given, not allowing people to work out their salvation, "with fear and trembling," and come to a deeper understanding of the cross or a saving faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Lately I've been going on long runs with one of my classmates and during our jogs we like to talk theology. Last night we ran 10.5 miles, making a loop and going from the middle of Loma Linda to downtown Redlands. I've really enjoyed our conversations. We've talked about a wide variety of things, from the problems of liberalism creeping into the Church to the debate between Arminians and Calvinists. My running buddy, by the way, is a hardcore Calvinist. But yesterday one thing that came up was assurance of salvation. We talked about how we had both struggled with it at times and I admitted that on bad days a frequent prayer of mine is still, "Lord, save me." I don't think that there is anything wrong with that prayer depending on what assumptions are going into it. But assurance is something I've thought a lot about and what I said was that what assures me the most of my salvation, aside from the plain testimony of Scripture, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," is the experience of God calling me back to Himself even as I have tried to run away. When I look back on my life, both before and after I asked Christ to save me from my sins, I see such providence from God in people, in books and especially in some of the hardest things I've experienced that have caused me to cry out to Him. God has changed me and freed me from sins that once bound me but the more compelling evidence to me is that during those times when I was farthest from God in my thoughts and actions, I can look and see that He was actively reminding me of His existence and His goodness.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I arrived home after a long day of studying to find a package with my name on it at home. I knew right away that my new ESV Study Bible had arrived. I've been looking forward to getting this Bible for at least six months now and I thought the earliest I would get it would be tomorrow (the 15th) which was listed as the release date on the website. I felt like a little boy on Christmas morning as I tore apart the packaging and began to get to know my new best friend. My trusty NIV Study Bible, given to me by my grandparents who have since passed away, has been my companion for over a decade now and is seriously falling apart. My new ESV Study Bible will replace it and my venerable, marked-up NIV will take a place of respect high on my bookshelf.
One of the things that made me so excited about this Bible are the theologians who worked on it and some of the pastors who recommended it. John Piper said, “The ESV is a dream come true for me. The rightful heir to a great line of historic translations, it provides the continuity and modern accuracy I longed for. Now the scope and theological faithfulness of the ESV Study Bible study notes is breathtaking. Oh how precious is the written Word of God.” And Mark Driscoll, "The ESV Study Bible is the most important resource that has been given to the emerging generation of Bible students and teachers. The ESV Study Bible is the best. Period.” I've cracked it open and have liked what I've seen so far. I'll look forward to another decade or two of meeting God through this Bible. Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary was the general editor and the Anglican theologian, J.I. Packer was the theological editor.
Monday, October 13, 2008
On Saturday I checked off one of the goals I set for myself when I moved to Southern California to go to medical school. The goal was to try surfing and when I finally got around to it I was not disappointed with the experience. I headed down early in the morning with two of my classmates, one with some surfing experience and the other a first-timer like me. We went to Huntington Beach, put on our wetsuits and walked down to the ocean's roar. The biggest obstacle for me was overcoming my fear of the ocean. I'm not the strongest swimmer and growing up my grandparents, who lived on the Washington coast, constantly hammered the dangers of the ocean into me. I know that their words were wise ones but they didn't exactly help me to paddle out into the surf my first few couple of times. I slowly became more comfortable though with being thrashed around by waves and then getting back on my surfboard after a little time spent out at sea. The conditions were pretty choppy on Saturday but I was still able to ride a couple of good waves on my belly. The one time I tried to get up I ended up driving the nose of my board down into the water and then going head first over my board. Overall it was a great experience though and I plan on trying to make a habit of it and becoming somewhat decent.
The two classmates I went with both catching a wave.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
... or the hike to Deep Creek Hot Springs.
So last night, after our Christian Medical and Dental Association meeting, some of my housemates and I decided to go for a hike on Saturday. We took out the trail book I had recently purchased and located a nearby hike that looked interesting. The hike was to Deep Creek Hot Springs outside of Hesperia, California. The drive up was interesting and involved a good amount of time on dirt roads. The first thing that made this hike interesting was that the trailhead was on private property. We arrived at the "ranch" payed a fee to park and got a free trail map. The weather was perfect for a hike to hot springs, being sunny but also breezy and cool. As we began the hike through the desert populated with agaves, ephedra and ocotillo, I began to think about some of my preconceived notions about the kind of people who hang-out at hot springs. The only other hot spring I had ever been were on the Owyhee River outside of Ontario, Oregon. At that time it had just been my family so I don't really know how I had come of formulate these preconceived notions short of reading about Esalen in Big Sur, Calif. So I had to laugh when we came into view of the springs and what is the first thing that I see? A big naked hippie.
The springs were actually very nice and are located right next to Deep Creek which is a sizable stream for the middle of a desert. When we got to the springs we were lucky to find that the top pool, above the few other people there, was free so three of us jumped in. The water was about the same temperature as your average hot tub and only smelled very faintly of sulfur. To make the conformity with my preconceptions complete, we smelled the scent of a certain herb being smoked down below as we enjoyed our time in the pool. Overall it was a very interesting hike and I was not disappointed by the hot spring. Here are some nudity-free pictures for your enjoyment:
Deep Creek, near the hot springs.
This is the top pool we found and hung out at for a while.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Last night I was reading my Bible and I came to a passage where it seemed strange to me that the word "God" in my NIV was not capitalized. I have a wide selection of Bibles in my room and I happened to pull my John MacArthur Study Bible off the shelf. This John MacArthur Bible was given to me by a customer with whom I had become friends at a bookstore I worked at a few years ago. After I had looked up the passage in question, I decided to flip to 1st Corinthians 14 to see what MacArthur had to say about that. I had just read the 14th chapter of 1st Corinthians the night before and I was curious to see what MacArthur, a strong Cessationist, would do with the passage. I was disappointed by what I saw. In my opinion MacArthur had to seriously twist the clear meaning of Scripture to deny that there is a God-given form of tongues which is not any intelligible human language, and to argue that even tongues, as the ability to speak a real language unknown to the speaker, had ceased. His arguments were weak and they involved assuming that Paul was speaking "sarcastically" over a good portion of the passage and that the singular "tongue" had a different meaning from the plural "tongues." I'm always very skeptical when I hear someone give an interpretation of Scripture where the writer is interpreted to be speaking in a joking or sarcastic manner. I think it is often a way of just avoiding whatever truth is being expressed there.
But on a deeper level, seeing MacArthur's commentary on 1st Corinthians showed me that MacArthur is just as tradition bound as any other Christian. His tradition is American Fundamentalism and in many ways I respect his tradition. I am thankful for the stress that the Fundamentalists place on the authority of Scripture, and the need for repentance and faith in Christ for salvation. I like the fact that Fundamentalists are about as far as you can get from post-modernism and relativism. But Fundamentalism is still a tradition that must twist Scripture here and there to hold on to some of its assumptions, especially its cessationist assumption.
The fact is that all Christians are in some way "tradition bound." I've always said that if a person could show me any place where the Tradition I am a part of, Anglicanism, conflicts with Scripture in any way, that I will leave that belief or practice behind. And I think that is the spirit of the English Reformation and the attitude all Christians should have. That where the Tradition conflicts with Scripture we will remove that aspect from our belief and practice. But where there is no conflict, where Scripture is silent, we will allow freedom. Personally, I am thankful for the kind of Tradition that doesn't conflict with Scripture. I believe that much of this Tradition, like the liturgy, is a gift from the Holy Spirit to the Church. If I am going to have any Tradition I want it to be the Ancient Tradition, accepted by all Christians before the division between East and West and confirmed as good and true by centuries of Christians.