This is not a new video, but it’s good to watch it again!
This is not a new video, but it’s good to watch it again!
Warfield’s world, once he arrived at Princeton in 1887, was not very large at all. His house, the Old Hodge House, conveniently situated him next to Alexander Hall, which contained Princeton Seminary’s dorm rooms and classrooms. Across the lawn stood Miller Chapel. His own well-stocked study — as editor of The Princeton Review he had a constant flow of books sent to him — could be supplemented by a short trip to the seminary’s library. Yet, Warfield’s impact belies this small world, stretching far beyond the tree-lined campus of Princeton. From the lectern he trained two generations of ministers, and with his pen he impacted virtually the whole world.
His writings, most of them gathered in a ten-volume set published posthumously by Oxford University Press, defend orthodox views of Scripture and Christology, just as liberalism was ramping up its challenge to these crucial doctrines. Three volumes reveal Warfield’s work as a historical theologian and church historian. Another volume brings together many of his book reviews first appearing in The Princeton Review. And then there are two volumes fully devoted to the issue of perfectionism. At first glance, this appears to be an inordinate amount of space and attention. Why was Warfield so concerned about perfectionism?
It only appears to be excessive. Looking a little deeper, one finds that Warfield’s attention to perfectionism is quite fitting. Further, his work here, as with his treatment of other topics, quickly moves beyond polemics and yields a great deal of positive material. Warfield’s treatment of perfectionism becomes an entry point into his understanding and teaching of the Christian life, and such teaching, Warfield would argue, was absolutely central to his own work of training ministers.
The Imperfections of Perfectionism
Perfectionism, at least in its manifestation in modern Protestantism, traces its roots to John Wesley, who taught that sanctification can be entire and complete in this life; “perfect love,” Wesley’s preferred term, could be exercised this side of glory. By Warfield’s day and the turning of the twentieth century, perfectionism had come to be espoused by a rather diverse group, constituting an extreme case of strange bedfellows. Warfield found perfectionism in the teachings of the leading German liberal Albrecht Ritschl, in the revivalistic sermons of Charles Finney, in the Keswick movement, and in Pentecostalism. Warfield also saw it among fundamentalists in the 1910s who were proponents of the so-called “victorious life.”
In his critique of perfectionism, Warfield names names and offers detailed criticisms of its teachings, dismantling it literally line by line. These varied and multiple criticisms may be boiled down to three major contentions. Warfield argues that the adherents to the victorious life movement build a high wall of separation between justification and sanctification. This bifurcation between entering the Christian life and living the Christian life put asunder what Warfield argues must be kept unified. “We cannot divide Jesus,” Warfield intones, “and have Him as our righteousness while not at the same time having Him as our sanctification” (The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol. 8, p. 475). This division, Warfield tells us, stems from a deficient view of Christ and the cross.
First, in reference to Christ when we receive Him at salvation, we receive both His person and His benefits, and, Warfield adds, “when we have Him we have all” (Works, vol. 8, p. 569). The victorious life movement teaches that at salvation we do not receive all, but that we need to wait until the second blessing or wait for some later time of empowerment in order to live fully the Christian life. Further, perfectionism promotes a deficient view of what Christ accomplished on the cross. In the victorious life teaching, Christ’s death is looked upon as merely saving us from the guilt of sin; the salvation from the corruption of sin comes later. Warfield responds this way: “It is a fatally inadequate conception of salvation which so focuses attention on deliverance from the penalty of sin and from continued acts of sin, as to permit to fall out of sight deliverance from sin itself — that corruption of heart which makes us sinners” (Works, vol. 8, p. 579).
Warfield was not naïve. He understood that the Christian, saved from the guilt and corruption of sin, did not then proceed to sin no more. Yet, he advocated a view of sanctification that looked quite different from his victorious-life protagonists. In their view, there are two classes of Christians, some on the higher plane experiencing victory in Jesus and another class wallowing below. This teaching frustrated Warfield as he saw it undermining Christ’s cross-work, not to mention the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. In Warfield’s view, such classes do not exist. All those in Christ have all that they need to live the Christian life, to strive after holiness.
Second, Warfield viewed perfectionism as putting far too much emphasis on the human will, calling such teaching the Pelagianizing tendency (a reference to Augustine’s theological adversary Pelagius). Warfield puts it this way: “Everywhere and always,” he observes of this teaching, “the initiative belongs to man; everywhere and always God’s action is suspended upon man’s will” (Works, vol. 8, p. 610).
A Christianity for the Ordinary
Warfield’s final contention concerns perfectionism’s tendency to divorce the Christian life from everyday living. His most stinging critique of perfectionism comes in these words: “They love the storm and the earthquake and the fire. They cannot see the divine in ‘a sound of gentle stillness,’ and adjust themselves with difficulty to the lengthening perspective of God’s gracious working” (Works, vol. 8, p. 561). The teaching of perfectionism lends itself well to the mountaintop experiences, to the excitement of the camp meeting, or to the heat of the revival fires. It does not fare so well in the ordinary experience, it does not readily tell one how to live in the valley. Warfield’s view of sanctification points in a different direction. It reminds us that we not only live holy lives on Sundays, or at the week-long conference, but also on Mondays through Fridays, that is all of the Mondays through Fridays of our lives. He reminds us to strive after holiness in the ordinary experiences of our lives.
Warfield not only wrote on these beliefs, he also sought to instill them in his students. Holiness, humility, and service were to be the hallmarks of the minister’s life. Warfield believed that all ministers are theologians, and, speaking of theologians, he once said, “The Systematic theologian is preeminently a preacher of the gospel; and the end of his work is obviously not merely the logical arrangement of the truths which come under his hand, but the moving of men, through their power, to love God with all their hearts and their neighbors as themselves; to choose their portion with the Saviour of their souls; to find and hold Him precious; and to recognize and to yield to the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit whom He has sent” (Works, vol. 9, p. 86).
Yet, Warfield did not just teach this to his students; he modeled it for them. The primary reason that Warfield’s world was so small during his tenure at Princeton was owing to the failing health if not nearly invalid status of his wife. When Warfield left his home it was to teach and to worship. Otherwise, he cared for his wife in his home (and, of course, he wrote). This was the calling that God had for Warfield, to teach, to write, and to be a caring and loving husband. And in these roles Warfield sought to reflect the holiness of God, to exercise humility, and to serve selflessly.
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Parents, do not provoke your children to anger lest they become discouraged, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This single sentence combines the New Testament’s two most prominent passages on parenting and, as I said yesterday (see Fathers (and Mothers), Do Not Provoke Your Children!), offers a significant warning to parents: We can parent our children in such a way that we provoke them to anger and discouragement. There are times when we so provoke our children that anger is the fitting and inevitable response. Today I want to offer a few ways that we, as parents, may provoke our children to that kind of anger and discouragement.
Goodness instead of holiness. We may provoke our children to anger and discouragement when we teach them to be good instead of holy, when we care more for their good behavior than their holy hearts. We can too easily content ourselves with outwardly moral children instead of children who are inwardly holy. We can focus on bad behavior instead of the sinful heart that causes and enjoys that bad behavior. This will eventually provoke our children to anger and discouragement because they will see that we are calling them to a standard of behavior that is impossible, a standard they cannot reach until their hearts are first transformed. Not only that, but they will see the gap between what the Bible teaches and what we promote, and they will sink into angry despair. Parents, don’t content yourself with good kids but pray for holy kids, for children whose good behavior flows out of a transformed heart. Shepherd them with and to the gospel instead of badgering them with unfair and impossible demands.
Hypocrisy instead of authenticity. We can provoke our children to anger and discouragement when we live with hypocrisy instead of authenticity, when we hold ourselves to one standard but hold them to another one. When we allow this, our children will see that we have no firm standard and they will come to believe that the Christian faith only calls for change in the eyes of other people, not in the eyes of God. Yet God calls us to discipline and instruct our children by explanation and demonstration, by explaining with words and demonstrating with our lives. We need to live before our children in such a way that we can say not only “Do what I say” but “Do what I do.” We need to take our cues from the apostle Paul who could boldly tell others, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). (See The Humblest Words.)
Doubt instead of confidence. We can provoke our children when we live in great doubt instead of great confidence in God’s desire to save them. There are all sorts of good things we want for our children, but nothing more than their salvation. Parents can live with crippling fear that God will not save our children, and this fear has consequences: We can become heavy-handed, demanding our children turn to Christ, or we can become manipulative, constantly begging or pleading with them to make a profession. Our children may then grow angry and discouraged because they will see their parents professing faith in a God who is sovereign and good but then acting as if God is neither one. God’s instruction to parents is to discipline and instruct our children with confidence that God loves to save the lost and that he saves them through the appointed means—the gospel. (See 1 Timothy 2:4 and What Gives God Pleasure.) As we expose our children to the gospel through our discipline and instruction, we can expect that the gospel will do its work. We need to raise our children to hear the gospel proclaimed and to see it lived out. All the while we need to trust that God will work through his gospel.
Fear instead of boldness. We may provoke our children when we raise them in fear instead of boldness. It is wise parenting to protect our children by holding back evil influences until they have developed and matured. But it is unwise parenting to so shelter our children that they never see and experience sin and its ugly consequences. Many parents make decisions about relationships or church or education or family involvement based on fear. But fear-based parenting provokes children because we create a fictional world, a bubble that does not reflect reality. Not only that, but we hide from our children the experience of seeing sin and its consequences, the undeniable reality that sin promises joy and life but brings sadness and death. While we need to boldly raise our children to be in but not of the world, we cannot do this by sheltering them entirely from the world. We need to wisely protect our children, but without fearfully sheltering them.
Anger instead of patience. We may provoke our children to anger and lead to their discouragement if we raise them with anger instead of patience. So many can testify that their parents used anger or the threat of anger as a means of correction and punishment. Discipline was not delivered with calmness and self-control but with angry slaps or cutting words. And of course this leads to anger. A parent’s anger leads to their child’s anger. How couldn’t it? But in this case the parent’s anger is unjust while the child’s anger is just. God expects that we will discipline and instruct our children with patience and kindness. This involves modeling the very actions, attitudes, and words we want them to display.
Aloofness instead of involvement. We may provoke our children when we raise them with aloofness instead of involvement. Too often we are involved in our kids’ lives only when there are problems. We have little real relationship with our children, but then come rushing in during times of danger, disobedience, or difficulty. The parents I most want to imitate are the ones who deliberately build friendships with their children, who have a vision of their grown children being their friends and Christian brothers or sisters, and who then work deliberately toward those goals. These parents give time and attention to their children while they are young, they raise them with kindness and discipline, and they do this by holding in mind the future relationship they long to have. Parents, we need to pursue and befriend our children. (See An Unexpected Blessing of Parenting.)
Pride instead of humility. We will undoubtedly provoke our children to anger and discouragement if we raise them in pride instead of humility. Every generation of Christians seems to have to rediscover the ugliness of pride and the beauty of humility. Every parent needs to discover it as well. Parental pride manifests itself in a hundred different ways, but perhaps never more clearly than in an unwillingness to seek our children’s forgiveness. Pride convinces us that apologizing to our children displays weakness, that it gives them power over us. Nothing could be further from the truth! Humility convinces us that apologizing to our children displays the greatest strength, that it models the very character of Christ. We will inevitably sin against our children so we need to humbly seek their forgiveness, trusting that while God opposes the proud he gives great grace to the humble (see James 4:6).
There are undoubtedly many more ways that we can sinfully, unjustly provoke our children. There are undoubtedly many more ways that we actually do. So we honor God and love our children by examining ourselves and our parenting to find our particular temptations. Where we find them we must confess and repent. And all the while we can have confidence that God chooses to display his strength through our weakness, his power through our inadequacy.
this article was written by Tim Challies on
A few days ago I provided some suggestions for reading more and reading better. I recently dug up this valuable advice from the Puritan Richard Baxter. Centuries ago he wrote some advice on reading that seems as appropriate for us to learn from today as it was for the men and women of the seventeenth century. Perhaps the advice is even more important today as we have access to far more books and writing than the puritans could ever have imagined. The following is drawn from an article printed in the Banner of Truth (Issue 11, June, 1958). My commentary appears italicized.
“Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church … but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.”
This is invaluable advice. Devotion to reading must never take pre-eminence over our reading of Scripture. If we spend many hours every day reading but only a brief period of time studying the Scriptures, we need to examine our priorities. We should also take care if we find that we enjoy reading about the Bible more than we enjoy reading the Bible itself. When we do read, we need to give priority to good books that increase our knowledge of and love for the Scriptures. Beyond them, it is wise to study the history of the church so we can never lose sight of our roots and seek to avoid the mistakes of the past. And finally, we should read with discernment and avoid submitting ourselves to the writings of false teachers who will corrupt our understanding of the truths of Scripture.
1. As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy scripture, than in any other book whatever, so it has more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer Him, and make the reader more reverent, serious and divine. Let scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavours of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth shew that it is most necessary and desirable to you.
Once again, the Bible must be pre-eminent. The Bible alone is God’s full, inerrant, infallible, authoritative revelation to us and we must treat it accordingly. All other books must take a subservient and complementary role to Scripture.
2. The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching of the gospel to the eye, as the voice preaches it to the ear. Vocal preaching has the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregation which attend it: this way the milk comes warmest from the breast. But books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher when you have but a average one to hear. Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers: but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious; preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that, very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day, and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it: and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world: the Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve His doctrine and laws to the ‘Church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal traditions.
Perhaps the greatest reason to read is that it gives us direct access to the God-given wisdom of some of the greatest preachers and theologians of our day and days past. While Charles Spurgeon (and Richard Baxter, for that matter) has long since gone to be with the Lord, we can learn from him as readily and effectively as did those people who sat under his ministry in the nineteenth century.
3. You have need of a judicious teacher at hand, to direct you what books to use or to refuse: for among good books there are some very good that are sound and lively; and some good, but mediocre, and weak and somewhat dull; and some are very good in part, but have mixtures of error, or else of incautious, injudicious expressions, fitter to puzzle than edify the weak.
For every good book, there are five or ten (or, more likely, far more) that are fit only for the trash. Much of what is published under the banner of “Christian” is anything but. Be careful what you read, for a book can lead you astray as easily as it can lead you closer to the Lord. Find mature believers who can guide you to books and authors that will edify you.
Baxter’s Guide To The Value of a Book
1. Could I spend this time no better? – Some of the most godly men I know of are (and were) voracious readers. Charles Spurgeon read tens of thousands of books, and in our day I know that John MacArthur and Al Mohler are both examples of men with extensive libraries who read constantly. So Baxter was not downplaying the importance of reading, but merely suggesting that it is not a pre-eminent concern. It must not take priority over all other responsibilities. If I read while watching my elderly neighbours shoveling snow from their driveway, I need to examine whether I have given reading undue importance.
2. Are there better books that would edify me more? – While reading is a wonderful way to spend time, it is merely a means to an end. It may be that there is a book I can read that will edify me more and prove more valuable.
3. Are the lovers of such a book as this the greatest lovers of the Book of God and of a holy life? – This is a difficult question. I sometimes read books that are popular, but favored by those who do not hold high the Word of God. While I do believe there is value in reading books for the purposes of research (for example, to understand what 22 million people are reading in The Purpose Driven Life), I need to prioritize good books that are loved by godly men and women.
4. Does this book increase my love to the Word of God, kill my sin, and prepare me for the life to come? – In other words, does this book complement my reading of the Bible and help me live a life of godliness? Or does it pull me further from God or leave me with feelings of skepticism?
In all things, we must use discernment. As we read books we must continually search the Scriptures to “see if these things are so,” all the while praying to God for wisdom. Baxter’s advice is sound and we would do well to heed it, even (or perhaps especially) hundreds of years after it was written.
for more articles like this visit Challies.com
Brand new song from CityAlight. It is a great example of modern, biblical, song writing. In the face of the shallow songs played on the radio, this is refreshing.
Published by Stand to Reason on 09/25/2018
Written by Greg Koukl
Let me offer you a warning that will vastly improve your ability to understand Scripture, if you heed it. It’s a insight for every person who has ever asked, “How does this verse apply to my life?” Here it is: There are no verses in the Bible. Nope. Not a one. At least, not in the original, and that’s the Bible that matters.
First, a definition. A “verse” is a passage of Scripture distinguished from other passages of Scripture by a numerical address (e.g., John 3:16, famously). Those numbers, though, were not in the original, but were inserted nearly sixteen centuries later by French printer Robert Stephanus in 1551.
Beware the Numbers
There’s good news and bad news about verse numbers. The good news is it’s easier to find stuff. The bad news is it’s easier to get stuff wrong. Verse numbers tempt readers to take a passage as a collection of discrete statements having meaning and application in isolation from the larger work (“How does this verse apply to my life?”).
Take a verse like “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent” (Ex. 14:14). It wasn’t meant by Moses as a stand-alone promise. Sure, the Red Sea narrative has plenty of relevance for New Testament believers, but this individual verse has no application to any Christian isolated from its context. Simply put, it’s not our promise.
In fact, standing on their own, most “verses” have absolutely no application to anyone’s life. That’s because most of the time the precise point of a verse cannot be found in the verse itself but in the relationship of that verse to verses above and below it. We can’t simply isolate a line or two and ask, “How can I stick this line into my life?”
Here’s why. God did not give us 66 books of short, pithy sayings to be applied piecemeal to our lives (with a few exceptions, e.g., much of Proverbs). Most of Scripture is narrative—story. Most of the rest—NT epistles, for example—is argument (making a case) or instruction. Each of these—narrative, argument, instruction—involves a flow of thought within the passage from the larger part to the smaller part.
Chapters help us understand a paragraph’s role in the larger narrative. Paragraphs help us understand what a sentence means. Sentences help us understand individual word meanings. The account taken as a whole, then, has instructive value, not necessarily a verse standing by itself. That’s why at Stand to Reason we follow the rule “Never read a Bible verse.” Always read a paragraph (at least) before drawing conclusions about meaning.
Beware Section Headings
The same warning goes for section titles added by Bible editors. Headings can be helpful, but they can be harmful, too, by severing material from the larger flow of thought that’s important to the meaning of a passage the heading has now isolated.
Take Jesus’ teaching on the Good Samaritan. Read Luke 10:30–37 without reading the six verses that precede the heading “The Good Samaritan” that you’ll find in some Bibles, and you’ll miss why Jesus told the Samaritan tale in the first place. Which means you’ll completely miss the point of the parable—and most do (hint: it’s not about loving your enemy)—because Jesus’ main point hinges on a critical phrase in verse 29.
Start Big, Then Get Small
So, beware. A really good idea almost five centuries ago had a bad consequence that can sabotage your understanding of Scripture. I suggest you ignore the artificial divisions (chapters, verses, headings) and focus on the larger narrative, argument, or instruction. Start big, then get small. Look at the larger flow of thought, then zoom in on the particulars.