Future Grace

The evangelical hinge is not whether sacraments accomplish the blessings they speak of. The issue is whether they accomplish every blessing they speak of.

The sacraments, like the Scriptures, like the gospel itself, like the very existence of the Church, are eschatological. The words of baptism are future-oriented — from that moment forward, the baptized person is to be reckoned my brother or sister. The words of institution at the Supper are future words. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). We baptize and we commune leaning forward. Every Lord’s Day we break bread toward the end of the world.

In the meantime, the Church is God’s salvation community in the world, and there are two ways to come into this community. The first is real conversion. When someone is truly converted, and he comes into the Church, he receives all that the Church contains, or ever will contain (which is to say, Christ). Faith — and only faith — enables a person to inherit this complete future. Listen to Paul talking about this very thing when speaking of the riches of a true heir — “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:22–23, ESV).

If I am Christ’s, and Christ is God’s, then everything is mine. That includes — in Paul’s express words — the future. This means that if my future is not salvation future, then at some foundational level, my present is not salvation present. From this simple reality, all evangelical theology flows.

Like an Out-of-Control Office Christmas Party

“Much has been made of the Puritan opposition to Christmas, but more than a little bit of the problem was caused by how Christmas used to be celebrated . . . The problem was actually comparable to us objecting to the drunkenness and fornication at Mardi Gras, only to be told that we have a problem with the resurrection because Lent is the preparation for Easter, and Mardi Gras is the last blowout before surrendering things for Lent. One of the central reasons Puritans were opposed to it was because of all the immorality that was going on in the name of Jesus” (God Rest Ye Merry, pp. 77-78).

Natural Evil and the Classical Christian School

One of the central arguments that materialistic atheism offers against the Christian faith is that the reality and universality of suffering is inconsistent with the doctrine that we were created by, and are loved by, a gracious heavenly Father. If we intend to do our job in training our students to be able to defend their faith as they go out into the world, it seems to me that we ought not to begin by granting the foundational premise of unbelief.

Believe me, the pressing reality of natural evil is a major argument that the atheists use, and the theistic evolutionists will have to do a lot better than they have done thus far in mounting a reply.

If evolution was God’s means of creating, then this means that pain, struggle, suffering, agony, and torment were His means of creation, and He pronounced all of it “good.”

There are two kinds of evil that we have to consider — natural evil and moral evil. While moral evil is more horrendous, it is a little easier to handle because we are doing so much of it to ourselves. We can handle that another time. But natural evil is a different thing altogether, and on the theistic evolutionary account natural evil cannot be considered evil at all.

Here we have to posit millions of years of death-dealing events — volcanoes, floods, tar pits, and so on — without anybody having done anything wrong such that it would bring this state of affairs about. This is just how God likes to do things.

This means that the pain and suffering of sentient animals has to be simply dismissed with a wave of the hand. It is no longer the problem of evil, but rather “evil? no problem!”

Persevere In What?

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #175

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1–2).

Paul now comes to his great summary of gospel truth. He declares to them as brothers the gospel that he had previously preached to them. Their response to this preaching was two-fold—they had received what he had declared, and they had taken their stand in what he had said. This gospel—preached and received—was a gospel that would save them, provided they kept what he had said in memory. If they had not kept this gospel in memory, then their belief would have been in vain.

I am not saved from drowning by having had a lifejacket on once. I am saved from drowning—if I am in the water—by putting on a lifejacket and by keeping it on. This is why we hold to the perseverance and preservation of the saints, which is not exactly the same thing as “once saved, always saved.” Of course, if someone is truly once saved, then they are truly always saved. That is true enough, as far as it goes. But there is a category that Paul knew about—believers who had believed “in vain”—who would fit very nicely in the modern category of someone who got saved at a revival once and who has been cavorting with the devil since then. We believe that the elect, once regenerate, will in fact persevere to the end. But they will, by God’s grace, persevere in holiness to the end.