Theology

Does Dispensationalism lead to “Christian Nationalism”?

In the wake of recent events in the United States, several have suggested that dispensational theology is at the root of an embrace of Christian nationalism. Few offer any substantive evidence beyond the charge, however. I want to offer three reasons I think this claim is inaccurate. 1) A misunderstanding of the distinctives of dispensationalism. 2) A failure to see that in church history, there has been far more symbiosis between covenant theology and seeing…

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Theology

How to Practice Theological Criticism Responsibly

Suggestions for combatants At the remove of many centuries after the apostolic era, we have not just competing voices stating what is true and false, we have whole choruses, antiphonally arrayed. The Reformation is, by some accounts, one of the most significant historical events for the Western world. It is not difficult to see how that is the case. Out of the Reformation came a surge of theologizing; believers who sifted and weighed the evidence…

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The Atonement

A Wrathless Atonement Signifies a Meaningless Death

Theories of atonement are several. Sometimes they overlap, i.e., there is certainly victory in the penal substitutionary death of Christ. But various atonement theories are opposed to one another and irreconcilable. Whether they are irreconcilable with one another is of less concern than whether Scripture supports them. One also has to be careful to note that quite often, people hold to elements from more than one theory, to parts of a theory but not the…

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The Decalogue The Law of Moses

Why Christians Don’t Observe the Torah

Questions about how Christians relate to the Law are a theological expanse that seems only to keep growing. In interacting with other Christians, there are some shared assumptions, but when speaking with Jews, these assumptions don’t necessarily work. When answering questions from Jewish interlocutors, I can only speak about the New Testament perspective on the law. I admit that part of this is due to my own ignorance about the fullness of the Jewish tradition…

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The Extent of the Atonement

John Owen’s Arguments Are Not Irrefutable

The Oxford divine relies too much on a “logic of inevitability.” The extent of the atonement has a been a topic of study for me for years. On and off I have read various defenses of the definite atonement position, as well as those for unlimited atonement. While the 2013 publication of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her may challenge this, for a very long time many people pointed to John Owen’s Death of…

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The Extent of the Atonement

Can “World” mean “Elect” In John’s Theology?

Examining the Context of John 3:16 Of the several places in Scripture where Jesus is said to die for the sins of the world, John’s writings offer the most occurrences. Those who defend definite atonement have a challenge in explaining the meaning of this as something other than all sinners. The claim of the definite atonement position is that Jesus did not die for the sins of all, but only for those who will ultimately…

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The Extent of the Atonement

Is a “Purchase of Faith” Taught in the New Testament?

Is faith our response to the gospel, or a substance given?  A hallmark of definite atonement is the view that what God requires of people to be saved, he has provided to them. That is, that the faith which brings us into a right relationship with God has been purchased for us at Calvary. The atonement includes the purchase of faith, but only for the elect. How sure is the exegetical ground for this teaching?…

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The Decalogue The Law of Moses

The Spirit and the Letter: A New Covenant Contrast

photo by Ferdinand Feng Does the indwelling of the Holy Spirit bring to the believer in this age of salvation history something prior ages did not have? It is hard to answer otherwise, for the new covenant is a better covenant than the old, and whole the Spirt came upon God’s saints to do certain things, the indwelling and sealing of the Holy Spirit puts us in a different realm from what came before. No…

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The Extent of the Atonement

Atonement Views and Trinitarian Disharmony

Among the arguments made in favor of definite atonement is that it represents a harmony among the persons of the Trinity. Unlimited atonement, on the other hand, undermines and indeed, destroys this harmony because it separates extent from application; that is, the collection of those for whom extent exists differs from those to whom the atonement is applied. The editors of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her make this argument.  photo by Ali Arif…

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The Extent of the Atonement

The Double Payment Argument and Definite Atonement

One of the more popular arguments for definite atonement—that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved, and not for mankind as a whole—is the double payment argument. John Owen, in his book The Death of Death in the Death of Christ makes this argument. In that Owen’s work is commonly held to be an unanswerable defense of definite atonement, we may regard his position as emblematic. “If the full debt…

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