Blogging Calvin’s Institutes


I’m beginning a fairly ambitious project here at A Peculiar Pilgrim; one that I hope to stick out until the end. I pray it will bless my readers as it has blessed me in writing it.

I just received a copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion – 1541 Edition by John Calvin a few weeks ago. I’ve been reading through the first few sections and have been so blessed by it that I’ve decided to share all this theological goodness with my readers. Every chapter of The Institutes is divvied up into small sections. It makes for great devotional reading.

The format for my blog articles will start with selected quotes from each section followed by my own thoughts and insights. I plan to keep each post at 500 words or under. I want quick, easily digestible nuggets for maximum readability. That will be the biggest challenge for me, as I tend to get long-winded at times. So, if I occasionally exceed my own self-imposed limits hopefully you won’t mind all that much.

I hope to churn out  2-3 posts per week – but I’m keenly aware of my inconsistencies. I tend to promise more than I can deliver. It may be more, prayerfully it won’t be any less.

I also plan to write other articles as well as some new works of fiction this year.

Again, it is my prayer that this new series will edify and encourage fellow believers. Perhaps it will engage skeptics as well and pique their curiosity enough to take a deeper look into the Christian faith.

I’m confident you will be blessed, not because my insights are keen but because  I’ll be quoting one of the greatest theological minds the Church has ever produced.

Read Entry One Here.

 

The Heart of the Gospel


But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom 5:8-10)

I believe the above text of Scripture captures the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of human history finds its pinnacle in the death and resurrection of the Son of God. I’ll attempt to break down the heart of this glorious gospel verse by verse.

But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

The Gospel always begins with God. God is the giver and sustainer of life and of all creation. I wouldn’t be sitting here telling this most wonderful tale if not for the God, who upholds all things by the word of his power. All men everywhere owe God a debt of gratitude for every single breath of life they have ever enjoyed. God is due all glory from his creation. If men will not cry out his praise then the rocks we stand upon surely will. God is glorified in his creation.

God’s glorious attribute of love lies at the golden gates of the gospel message. God is love. He so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall never perish but have everlasting life. God’s love is incomprehensible, its borders cannot be defined. His love is manifested in his grace to all men. God’s grace is about his mercy and compassion on lost sinners who cannot do anything to save themselves.

Sin is the reason the relationship between God and man has been severed. Sin is why we need a savior. Yet the inspired Apostle Paul says here that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Men do more than commit occasional sins, sins that are an affront to a Holy God. Men are sinners. We are depraved in every part of our being. We were born in this fallen, corrupt state. Every thought of our minds and desire of our souls is sinful. We are an affront to a holy God, a stench in his nostrils. Continue reading

Happy


I’ve probably heard the catchy “Happy” tune a thousand times if I’ve heard it once. Only this last time, as I searched the airwaves for a decent tune on my short drive to work last week, the lyrics jumped to my attention. This one in particular:

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy

My knee-jerk reaction to this proclamation was a decisive scoff. Us Christian curmudgeons don’t believe in happiness. Faithfulness to God is our calling. Happiness is not to be pursued, lest we fall out of the way at Vanity Fair and never return to the pilgrim’s path. I’ve been known on occasion, whenever people dare to call themselves Christian AND happy, to pour rain on their parade with a pithy platitude about how we are called to faithfulness, not fulfillment. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Conversions: Shallow


My junior year of high school marked a significant milestone in my transition from hopeless daydreamer to somewhat functional member of society. I began obsessing less with the fantasy realms I entered in through books, movies, D&D and other vehicles that would transport me away from the dreary existence of my everyday life. I shifted my focus to more worldly concerns: What would I be when I grew up? Who would I date and someday marry? Am I making the grades I need to pursue a higher education? How much money did I need to put away to help upgrade my girl-repellant vehicle? The nebulous lands of my vivid imagination dissipated under the relentless rays of reality.

I had a close-knit group of friends I hung out with. I had a car, a job and a measure of independence I had never felt before. Times were good. I felt content – aside from the occasional pangs of teen angst over my considerable lack of ability to charm the ladies.

God.

Sin.

Judgment.

Salvation.

Christ.

These were alien words in my high school vocabulary. I never heard them – I never spoke of them. Most importantly I never pondered their significance. However, this all changed sometime during the fall semester of 1988. Continue reading

Book Review: Tactics


TacticsTitle: Tactics – A Game Plan for Sharing your Christian Convictions

Author: Gregory Koukl

Publisher: Zondervan

Page Count: 207

Readability: Easy

Synopsis: This book may not be what you would initially expect from one filed under the category of Apologetics. The author doesn’t set out to pen an in-depth A to Z defense of the Christian faith as so many volumes before have already accomplished in staggering detail. No, Gregory Koukl is determined to help Christians be wise as serpents and harmless as doves when confronted with challenges to their faith. Hence the title, Tactics.

Koukl differentiates between strategy and tactics when it comes to defending the Christian faith. Strategy concerns the overall big picture of Apologetics. This panoramic vista consists in comprehensive knowledge of every aspect of Christianity. This insight can then be utilized in striking against all the Satanic powers that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God via both offensive and defensive attacks. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Conversions: Hardened


I grew up in a small western Oklahoma rural community with little to no religious convictions. I suppose that’s not the norm for a lad raised smack dab in the middle of the bible belt, but nobody has ever accused me of being normal. Oh, I remember attending a Sunday School class as a 5-year-old at a local Baptist church. I recall lots of coloring – and growing bean sprouts in a cup. I remember nothing else about it at all. After that stimulating experience I did not darken a church door again (weddings and funerals excluded) until I was well into my teenage years.

I’ve always believed in God. I suppose my parents ingrained that in me, though I can’t recall any specific instruction. I conceived Him as the ever watchful eye in the sky, who loved and protected me. The first traumatic moment of my early years came one July 4th evening as we went to a stadium to watch a fireworks display. It was an impressive exhibition of pyrotechnics. The crowd oohed and aaahed at every burst of light and color. However, I wasn’t impressed; I fretted through the entire show. With brow furrowed I tugged at my mother’s hand and whispered, “Are those fireworks hurting God?” My 5-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend an omnipresent God that transcends the material creation. Obviously I didn’t grasp his omnipotence either, else I wouldn’t have been concerned for his well-being in the wake of a few heavenward explosions.

So there you have it, perhaps my one and only childhood contemplation of God. I have no other memory I can recall that invoked God into the forefront of my conscience. I simply assumed God’s love, protection and providence. I had other, more important stuff to think and daydream about – with a heavy emphasis on daydreaming. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Conversions – Introduction


And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”    (Matthew 13:3-9 ESV)

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23; ESV)

The Hardened Sinner

This parable of Jesus demonstrates the reality of how sinners respond to the message of the gospel of salvation. First, the seeds scattered along the path represent a hardened sinner, who will hear the gospel but doesn’t fully comprehend it, nor does he respond to the message in any kind of receptive manner. This could be manifested in one of two ways. First, Hardened could react with impassive indifference. The message may seem foreign or totally unrelated to his situation. He doesn’t feel convictions of guilt over sin. This sadly results in a callous heart unaffected by the mercy and compassion of a loving God.

The other opposite reaction is passionate hostility. Hardened may indeed be pierced by a conviction of sin, yet the desired effect is not contrite sorrow but self-righteous rage. The idea that he may be guilty of high treason against the Lord of all creation is more than a prideful soul can bear. What does Hardened do? Scripture explains that he will suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. (Rom 1:18) The soil of Hardened’s heart is impenetrable. The seeds of the scripture bounce harmlessly off the sun-baked surface, unable to find a place to take root and are quickly taken away. Continue reading

Why I Am A Calvinist – Part 5


During my years as a Pentecostal/Arminian Christian I focused my theological studies on an array of supposedly sound biblical topics. I studied Dispensational Theology (though at the time I had no idea what it was called), learning the different epochs of time Earth’s history had been neatly packaged into. I dabbled with spiritual warfare, waging battle against all principalities and powers of darkness. I learned how to defend my family against the wiles of the devil. I read many kooky books that inspired me to take up the armor of God and stand firmly against the devil’s fiery darts in ways that now make me cringe with chagrin. I danced as King David did (except fully clothed) and anointed everything with olive oil (or Crisco if the former was not conveniently available). I claimed enough territories for Christ during those years that I could have established a whole other country. I scoured the scriptures, scrapping together verses in an effort to discern the times, and determine the signs of Christ’s Second Coming.  I agreed with both Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsey that the temple in Jerusalem would soon be rebuilt and the secret rapture of the church would whisk us away while the world would suffer beneath the iron heel of the Antichrist’s reign of terror.  I spent hours pleading and wrestling with God at the altar, in the desperate hope that he would grant me an authentic, earth-shattering spiritual experience akin to the ones enjoyed by my brethren, who appeared to get a ‘dose of the Ghost’ on a weekly basis. Continue reading

Why I Am A Calvinist – Part 4


Precisely nine years ago I embraced the doctrines of Grace (also called 5-point Calvinism). It was a chaotic time, where both the tearing down of my old theology and the construction of this new theology were taking place simultaneously in my mind and spirit. To complicate matters, an old friend, who had faithfully attended my weekly bible study for college students, came to my office one day and begged me to start up a new study group. She had come to a difficult point in her life and had a deep hunger for someone to bring her the Word. I had sympathy for her, but didn’t feel I was in any position to teach.

First, I could no longer teach much of what I had in the past. Many of those doctrines, like a house built on shifting sand, laid in a collapsed heap. I was in the process of bulldozing those aberrant beliefs right off my intellectual property. Second, I still did not know enough about Calvinism to be confident enough to teach it. Third, I still had not resolved all the points of Calvinism in my heart and mind yet. I readily accepted the T, the U, and the I but I wasn’t so sure about the L and the P. Odd, I know, if the U then the P should follow, right? I’ve never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer!

Anyway, against my better judgment, I plunged ahead with the study and presented my understanding of sovereign salvation to that small audience. It all worked out for the good, though. The class constantly presented challenges that helped to sharpen me. In the end though, only one person from the group came to believe in the doctrines of Grace. She came to visit me in my office one afternoon last year and I asked her pointedly, “have you become convinced that Calvinism is true?” My friend gave me an unforgettable reply. In a humble and almost broken-hearted tone, she said, “Yes it has to be true, because I know my own heart.” Continue reading

Why I Am A Calvinist – Part 2


Surprisingly, my conversion from free-will theology to Calvinism came rather swiftly. It’s shocking really, if only you could understand the depths of hatred I once held toward those doctrines.

I resisted initially, desperately hopeful that some sensible compromise existed between these diametrically opposed belief systems. I figured the Semi-Pelagian flavor of Arminianism fell into one ditch while Calvinism veered clear over to the other side of the road. I searched in vain for the imaginary highway that ran through the middle of both views, but I never found any signs to point the way. After wrangling with Calvinism for about 4 months, I finally beheld its beauty with a clarity only the Holy Spirit could grant.

The ditch I had plowed into, turns out, is really an off-ramp exiting the pothole plagued ‘Free Will’ service road. It flows into a smoothly paved four-lane interstate winding a clear path to the Celestial City. The road first runs through the firmly established townships of Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura and finally Soli Deo Gloria, which lies at the very gates of the streets of gold.

You may have already deduced the obvious. My diligent search through the scriptures utterly convinced me of the truth of the Doctrines of Grace.

So, the first and foremost reason I became a Calvinist is the overwhelming evidence contained in the scriptures declaring God’s unquestionable sovereignty over every person, place and event in all of history. Continue reading