Saturday, January 12, 2013

Easy Chairs, Hard Words

This book by Douglas Wilson, subtitled Conversations on the Liberty of God, is written as a dialogue between two fictional characters. Martin, the older man is a mentoring pastor who answers questions from a younger Christian man who narrates the conversation.  The book is short and the chapters are brief, but the dialogue is full of biblical discussions and exegetical explanations.

This is not my first book on this topic, I have read several others over the last decade but this one did bring up verses and arguments that I had not heard before.  Since I am in agreement with Martin's position which is the teaching of Reformed theology, it was an enjoyable and helpful read.  I have selected three conversational quotes from three different chapters to help give an understanding of how this book is written and the content contained therein.
Chapter 3: Ideas Have Consequences 
"The basic issue we have been discussing these past couple weeks has been the difference between man-centered religion and God-centered religion."
"I follow that."
"Now, have you ever known any Christian whose beliefs or doctrines, were what we have been calling 'man-centered', but whose life was clearly God-centered?"
I nodded again. "Yes."
"And we would call that inconsistent?"
"And if you wind up changing churches, you will quickly encounter Christians whose doctrines are 'God-centered' but whose lives are man-centered. This is also inconsistent."
"Well this brings us back to my first question.  If this is the case, what difference does it all make?"
"It is quite simple.  The Church, being an assembly of people, will eventually live in a manner consistent with her doctrine over time. If the doctrine is man-centered, then there will come a time when the lifestyle, morals, ceremonies, teaching, etcetera, are also man-centered."
"So even though an individual is inconsistent with his false doctrine, the Church at large will eventually be consistent with it."
"Correct. This explains why certain beliefs can be held by pious Christians, while those same beliefs go on to corrupt and defile the piety of the Church."

Chapter 4: Carnal Reasoning 
"Now if carnal living is a lifestyle that does not submit to God's Word, then how should we define carnal reasoning?"
"The same way, I suppose?"
"Right. It is not enough to submit to what we do externally to God; we must also submit the way we think.
Your friends are trying to defend God's standards for living by abandoning His standards for thinking. It can not be successful."
"What does the passage say God is doing?" Martin asked. [Philippians 2:12,13]
I looked down at my Bible again. "It says that He is working in the Philippians, both in willing and doing, and that the result is His good pleasure."
"And what would carnal reasoning do with that?"
"Well, the response would be that if God is doing the willing, and if God is doing the doing, and the result is whatever He wants, then there is no reason for me to put myself out.  It is going to happen anyway."
"Right. The reasoning says that if God is going to do the work, then why should I have to."
I nodded, and Martin went on.
"But what application of this truth does Paul command the Philippians to obey?"
I looked at the passage again. "He tells them to work out their salvation, with fear and trembling. I glanced down further. "And in the next verse he goes on to specific ethical instruction--to avoid murmuring and disputing."
I sat and thought for a moment. "But my friends would say that the application they are making is obvious--common sense."
"Well it certainly is common.  But is it biblical?"

Chapter 16: God in the Dock 
"But couldn't an advocate of 'God allowing sin' say that He allows it for a very good reason?"
"Sure, but the other side could say the very same thing. God controls sin the way He does for a very good reason."
I sat for a moment, stumped. Martin continued. "The reason people accept the view that God allows sin is not because it deals with the question of the problem of evil effectively. It does not, as many non-Christian philosophers have seen very well. The reason people accept this explanation is because of 'the very good reason' God supposedly has for allowing sin."
"What is that 'very good reason'?"
"Free will. Man's free will is, in this view, so important, that God is willing to let little girls be murdered for the sake of that. Beyond that, He is willing for non-Christians never to hear the message of salvation so that messengers may have free will. People are willing to accept horrendous evil, if that evil exists for the sake of free will."
"What is the 'very good reason' of the other side?  Why does evil exist according to the view that God controls everything?"
"God controls everything for His own glory. In the minds of many this is totally inadequate. What is the glory of God compared to the free will of man?"
"Are you being sarcastic?"
Martin smiled. "A little."

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