There is no point in trying to hide the fact that the Bible has been used by Americans to justify both race-based, demeaning slavery and its abolition. Mark Noll’s book God and Race in American Politics: A Short History clarifies this painful confession. With an eye for concrete (incarnational) stories and meticulous historical detail, Noll is above all a seer of the both-and. Or call it paradox. Or historical conundrum. There are no simple explanations.
The thesis of Noll’s book is: “Together, race and religion make up, not only the nation’s deepest and most enduring moral problem, but also its broadest and most enduring political influence.” That is provocative enough. But his working out of how race and religion are interwoven is where the puzzles come. For example, “Before the Civil War, religion drove abolitionist assaults upon slavery even as it under-girded influential defenses of slavery in both the North and the South.” Agonizingly both-and, not comfortably either-or….
It is fitting that we frankly confess that Christians—we Christians—have often used our Bible to justify sinful attitudes and actions. We have done it in our personal lives, and we have done it in the larger structural dimensions of life.
John Piper, Bloodlines (pg. 228).
Delivered and delivering.
Jesus held by the wood.
Witnesses on either side.
Mary stood waiting,
with great feeling,
on her Son.
The sky dark above.
As at the beginning,
so at the end.
Jesus held by the wood,
delivered and delivering.
Jesus held by the wood.
The scene of Christmas and of Calvary.
Of the cradle and the cross.
Mark Dever, The Christmas Thingamabob (Leyland, England: 10Publishing, 2013), 26.
Without Jesus willingly living the prayer that he taught all of us to pray, the angels would have had nothing to sing about, those tombs would’ve never opened, sin and death would have never been conquered, and we would be the dead walking. Without Jesus living in the same surrender to which he now calls us, there would be no hope of the defeat of sin and no reality of eternal life for all who believe. It is true and valuable to remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that the most wonderful things in life come to us not as the result of demand and control, but through sacrifice and surrender. Blessings that you could never achieve on your own come when you humbly and willing pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, right here, right now as it is in heaven.” Aren’t you glad that Jesus willingly did on earth what he taught us to do in this prayer?
Paul David Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him (pg. 65).
I was in the foregoing part of this week. But now these thoughts seemed to be wholly dashed to pieces; not by necessity, but of choice: for it appeared to me, that God’s dealings towards me had fitted me for a life of solitariness and hardship; and that I had nothing to lose, nothing to do with earth, and consequently nothing to lose by a total renunciation of it. It appeared to me just right, that I should be destitute of house and home, and many comforts of life, which I rejoiced to see others of God’s people enjoy. And at the same time, I saw so much of the excellency of Christ’s kingdom, and the infinite desirableness of its advancement in the world, that it swallowed up all my other thoughts; and made me willing, yea, even rejoice, to be made a pilgrim or hermit in the wilderness, to my dying moment, if I might thereby promote the blessed interest of the great Redeemer.
David Brainerd, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd
Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and gifts that he often withholds, when they have been long offered in vain. I grant you true repentance is never too late, but I warn you at the same time, late repentance is seldom true. I grant you, one penitent thief was converted in his last hours, that no man might despair; but I warn you, only one was converted, that no man might presume….
It was said of a famous general of old, when he could have taken the city he warred against, he would not, and by and by when he would, he could not. Beware, lest the same kind of event befall you in the matter of eternal life.
J. C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (pg. 10).
If you think legalism is simply too much emphasis on the law, then you will think the antidote is to talk less about obedience and more about acceptance and forgiveness. If you think that antinomianism is simply too loose an attitude toward morality and law, you will assume the remedy is to talk less about mercy and acceptance and more about God’s righteousness and holy commands. In short, you will try to cure one with a dose of the other. That will be a disaster, because both of them have the same root cause. Both come from the belief that God does not really love us or will our joy, and from a failure to see that “both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace.” For both the legalist and the antinomian, obedience to the law is simply the way to get things from God, not a way to get God, not a way to resemble, know, delight, and love him for his sake.
Tim Keller, Preaching (pgs. 54-55).
He who lives in obscurity will live an ordinary life without complaint, so that he won’t be found guilty of deserting his divinely appointed post. Indeed, in the midst of troubles, hardships, annoyances, and other burdens, he will find great relief when he remembers that God is his guide in all these matters. The magistrate will more gladly attend to his duties. The father will more gladly commit himself to his responsibilities. Each person, in whatever station in life, will endure and overcome troubles, inconveniences, disappointments, and anxieties, convinced that his burden has been placed upon him by God. Great consolation will follow from all of this. For every work performed in obedience to one’s calling, no matter how ordinary and common, is radiant–most valuable in the eyes of our Lord.
John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life (pg. 125-126).
I have great respect and affection for Paedobaptist Christians who argue along these lines. Some of them are my close friends or historical heroes. And the arguments [for paedobaptism] I’ve sketched above display careful attention to Scripture and reverence of Scripture. Yet I don’t think they’re persuasive. Here are six reasons why.
- Paedobaptism applies the sign of union with Christ to those who are not united to Christ. It divorces the sign from the reality.
- Paedobaptism confuses being born of Christian parents with being born again by the Spirit.
- Paedobaptism mistakenly assumes that God is forming his new covenant people the same way he formed his old covenant people.
- Paedobaptism undermines the church’s saltiness and lightness (Matt. 5:13-16).
- Paedobaptism dissolves two crucial differences between baptism and circumcision.
- Paedobaptism makes God’s new covenant promise less than a promise.
Bobby Jamieson, Understanding Baptism (pg. 25-35).
Can you truly say, that you have so far taken the everlasting enjoyment of God for your happiness, that it hath the most of your heart, of your love, desire and care; and that you are resolved, by the strength of Divine grace, to let go all that you have in the world, rather than hazard it; and that it is your daily, and your principal business to seek it? Can you truly say, that though you have your failings and sins, yet your main care, and the bent of your whole life, is to please God, and to enjoy him for ever; and that you give the world God’s leavings (leftovers), as it were, and not God the world’s leavings; and that your worldly business is but as a traveller’s seeking for provision in his journey, and heaven is the place that you take for your home?
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (pg. 248).
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either–but right through every human heart–and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within the hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an unuprooted small corner of evil.