Monday, June 30, 2014


By grace ye are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8)

Grace (the undeserved favor of God) is the source of salvation. Faith is the condition of salvation.

But what faith is it that saves us? Faith that God exists will not save you. Nor will faith in the right set of doctrines. Indeed, not even genuine and positive interest in the person of Christ will save you. It is faith in Christ that saves you. Most specifically, it is faith in the purpose of his death and the power of his resurrection. And it is not just mental assent, but also a hearty trust in him.

What, though, is meant by the term salvation? We are saved from sin. We are saved from the guilt that it brought upon us and from the power that it has on us. We are so saved from the power of sin, in fact, that a person of faith ceases to continually sin, to willfully sin, or to desire sin. The faithful person is free from sin.

There are all sorts of objections one could make against this doctrine. Doesn’t it make works too unnecessary? Doesn’t it make salvation too easy? Only misunderstood versions of the doctrine are subject to such critique.

In the end, salvation by faith is the root of our Reformation faith. The enemy hates this truth and tried to stifle those who revived it, but to no avail. Thanks be to God for salvation by faith!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


It is the covenant of grace that God through Christ has established with people in all ages, but in paradise (and in the minds of many people today) there was/is another covenant… a covenant of works.

The covenant of works was available to Adam/Eve. It required perfect obedience. The first couple would have had to be perfect inwardly and outwardly, perfect to every degree, and perfect in an uninterrupted manner in order to receive the benefits of that covenant. Obviously, however, the first couple failed in all of these ways.

And how foolish it is for anyone else to think they could possibly be saved by this covenant. What person, since The Fall, could even come close to making a claim to perfection? Who avoids outward, let alone inward sin? Who has a perfect past? Who could create such a future?

The covenant of grace is the only hope for humanity, for it is not based on the achievements of sinful people, but on the achievements of Jesus. Only the covenant of grace reaches out to sinners and pays the price of sin. It is the only covenant God is offering and, in any case, the only one that works.

Stop wasting your time trying to be saved by works. Don’t make excuses about why you can’t, right now, receive salvation by grace through faith. There are no prerequisites. Besides, the only good that you could possibly offer is found only on the other side of grace.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

CS Lewis Passes on Pacifism (Pt. 3)

In this series, I'm critiquing C.S. Lewis' essay Why I am Not a Pacifist bit by bit. With this particular post, I'd like to respond to his statement that "On the test of fact... I find the Pacifist position weak."

You may be wondering what 'fact' (supposed by pacifists to be true) Lewis weighed and found wanting. The fact in question is whether or not "wars always do more harm than good." Apparently, this is "the main contention urged as fact by Pacifists." It is, of course, entirely possible that the pacifists Mr. Lewis encountered were exclusively of this contention, but if so that is an unfortunate reality because it prevents Lewis from responding to contemporary Evangelical pacifism.

In my observation, most contemporary Evangelical pacifists do not argue pragmatically. In other words, they do not hold to their pacifism because pacifism always yields the best results. Truth be told, some of them would probably agree that "wars always do more harm than good," but few of them, it seems to me, would fail to recognize that some wars created a better situation on earth than would have been produced by simply refusing to fight.

Lewis dismisses the supposed 'fact' that "wars always do more harm than good" on the grounds that this is merely speculative. I completely agree. I also agree with Lewis that "wars never do half of the good which the leaders... say they are going to do." What's more, I agree that "history is full of useful wars as well as useless wars." My issue is that my pacifism doesn't rest on the 'fact' disputed in this section to any degree. I think that it was better for the allies to stop Hitler than it would have been for them to sit idly by.

Lewis has made a good argument against those who are pacifist for pragmatic reasons, but will he have any good arguments against Christ-based pacifism?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CS Lewis Passes On Pacifism (Pt. 2)

In his essay Why I am Not a Pacifist, C.S. Lewis discusses the conscience as the means by which humans decide between right and wrong. A person's conscience is formed by their appraisal of the facts, by intuition, by reasoning, and by authority. One should always go where their conscience leads them, but their conscience should go where these factors lead it. In other words, if a man's conscience insists that he never utilize violence, then under no circumstances should that man utilize violence. But, Lewis would add, that man should re-look at the facts, intuitions, reasons, and authorities involved so as to come to a better conclusion (re-forming his conscience).

All of this was in response to the over-arching question "How do we decide what is good or evil?" Lewis accepted the "usual answer" of conscience. I was tempted to respond in protest. Isn't Christ himself to be our deciding factor? But, of course, even our understandings and interpretations of Christ get filtered by the facts that we perceive to be true, our intuitions, our reasoning, and our evaluation of authorities.

The rest of Lewis' essay is essentially a discussion of how pacifism stands or falls in light of these filters, which are not altogether different from what we call in my tradition "The Wesleyan Quadrilateral" (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience). With his word "authority" Lewis includes both Scripture and tradition. His word "facts" and "reasoning" both fit under the reason category. His word "intuition," I think, fits with our experience (which includes the experience of our emotions/sentiments). Lewis is basically putting pacifism up against the quadrilateral.

In part 3, we'll begin walking that path with him.

But before we get to that, I want to express my agreement with something Lewis says just before he begins that journey. He states, "Mathematical certainty is not here to be looked for." In other words, Lewis admits, as we all must, that when dealing with an issue as big as church vs. culture, war vs. peace, etc., and with as many factors as Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience... we are dealing with something too big and too complex to come to dogmatic conclusions about. There is legitimate debate about these issues. Good Christians will disagree.

Monday, June 16, 2014

CS Lewis Passes on Pacifism (Pt. 1)

Recently I was on reading reviews of Brian Zahnd’s book A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace in order to decide whether to add it to my wishlist. It seemed like an easy-add: An affordable ($10) book by someone like me (an Evangelical Pastor evolving from prioritizing patriotism to prioritizing the kingdom call of peace) with a good ratio of 5-star reviews (average review was 4.5 out of 5). But one reviewer comment caught my attention:

“Zahnd does not engage other prominent Christian voices that deeply disagreed with the accuracy of Christ-based pacifism. Perhaps the best example is CS Lewis's essay "Why I am not a Pacifist" in The Weight of Glory. It is deeply compassionate and rigorously logical while offering a Christ-compatible view on war. I reread it immediately after finishing Zahnd's book, and the comparison leaves A Farewell to Mars (sadly) decimated.”

Interestingly enough, I was in the midst of reading “The Weight of Glory” and had just reached that very essay. As a lover of Lewis’ work, I was very interested to read his argument against pacifism, knowing that it would provide some of the best counter-arguments available to Christians. Over the next who knows how long, I’d like to comment on Lewis’ essay bit by bit. I did add Zahnd’s book to my wish list, but I have no wish to neglect a counter-perspective as thoughtful and cleverly stated as Lewis surely offers (I also doubt Zahnd neglects it… even if this particular book wasn’t the place to address it). 

Today, I’ll struggle just to limit my reaction to the 1st sentence! Lewis’ essay begins with this statement: “The question is whether to serve in the wars at the command of the civil society to which we belong is a wicked action, or an action morally indifferent, or an action morally obligatory.”

There are 3 quick responses I have to this way of phrasing the question. First, we should eliminate ‘morally indifferent’ (I’m sure Lewis agrees!). War includes both violence toward and the death of human beings made in the image of God. Our participation in such is clearly a moral issue. Second, we must insist that the phrase ‘the wars’ is much too broad. Even if Lewis proves persuasive in his non-pacifism… surely that cannot indicate a blanket approval of Christian participation in all wars that an earthly nation may call them toward.  Third, we must question what authority the ‘civil society’ has to ‘command’ Christians. It seems to me that any authority a nation has is derived. A Christian submits to an authority other than Jesus only insofar as Christ has delegated said authority. Ultimately, we don’t ‘belong’ to anyone but Christ. 

With those clarifications in mind, Lewis’ opening question may be re-stated in a number of ways: The question is whether or not Christ has given earthly nations the right to war in general (I think He has). The question is whether or not an earthly nation has the right to war in a particular case (they must be considered case by case). The question is whether or not that particular case should involve the participation of Christ’s people (surely Christians shouldn’t sit on the sidelines during such a serious event as war!). The question is whether or not that participation should mirror that of other citizens of that nation (it is my position that our participation should not mirror the violence/killing of worldly soldiers, but should be participation of a quite different kind!). 

We’ll see if the rest of Lewis’ essay persuades me away from any of these positions.

Friday, June 06, 2014


Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good (Romans 7:12).

Many people are confused about ‘the law’ in this verse. While some have argued that it refers to the Jewish law (which came through Moses), and others to Roman law, it actually refers to the moral law of God.

The moral law, of course, precedes both the Roman Empire and Judaism. It flowed from the very nature of the eternal God into the heart of the original man. The Fall dammed this flow, but by the grace that comes through Jesus it trickles into our hearts even still.

This moral law has several purposes: First, it convinces the world of its sin. It is the ordinary method by which the Spirit convicts sinners (through their conscience).

Second, it points people from this sense of guilt to Jesus. People who realize they are sick begin to search for a Savior.

Third, it keeps us alive in Christ. Just as the law leads us to Christ; Christ leads us to the law. We don’t keep the law to be justified, but once justified we keep the law.

And it is this third point which is too often forgotten. Justification is not an invitation to lawlessness, but an initiation in holiness… for the moral law, now bursting forth from God, is holy and just and good.