The Two Johns On Old Testament Faith

John Newton and John Owen were two very different Christians but they were united in their view of how Old Testament believers were saved and what their faith was in.

John Newton taught that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was revealed immediately after Adam and Eve’s first sin and became the object of faith from that moment on.

The Lord Jesus was promised under the character of the seed of the woman, as the great deliverer who should repair the breach of sin, and retrieve the ruin of human nature. From that hour, he became the object of faith, and the author of salvation, to every soul that aspired to communion with God, and earnestly sought deliverance from guilt and wrath (Works, Vol. 3, p. 3).

Newton went on to say that although this revelation of Christ was initially veiled under types and shadows, “it was always sufficient to sustain the hopes, and to purify the hearts, of the true worshippers of God.” Newton even goes so far as to say that they were Christians.

That the patriarchs and prophets of old were in this sense Christians, that is to say, that their joy and trust centered in the promised Messiah, and that the faith, whereby they overcame the world, was the same faith in the same Lord with ours, is unanswerably proved by St. Paul in several passages; particularly in Heb. xi. where he at large insists on the characters of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, to illustrate this very point.

What about when the law came at Sinai? Did that change or annul the Gospel promises? No, says Newton.

His grace always preserved a spiritual people amongst them, whose faith in the Messiah taught them the true meaning of the Levitical law, and inspired them with zeal and sincerity in the service of God.

John Owen puts it even stronger.

That the faith of all believers, from the foundation of the world, had a respect unto [Christ], I shall afterwards demonstrate; and to deny it, is to renounce both the Old Testament and the New. (John Owen, Works, Vol. 1, p. 100).

Owen, however goes on to argue that their faith was different to ours in this respect, that “this faith of theirs did principally respect his person” but they little understood “his office, or the way whereby he would redeem the church.”

He gives Peter as an example of this distinction in Matthew 16:16 where he confesses faith in Christ’s person but then almost immediately rejects the idea that he would save by suffering and dying (v. 22).

Owen accepts that the Old Testament, especially the sacrificing work of the priests, revealed Christ’s office and work also, but much of that was in shadow form, especially when contrasted with the “glorious revelations they had of his person” so that “their faith in him was the life of all their obedience.”

In answer to those who wonder what’s the point of reading the Old Testament, Owen argues that with the benefit of New Testament light, “The meanest believer may now find out more of the work of Christ in the types of the Old Testament, than any prophets or wise men could have done of old.”

Despite this disadvantage that Old Testament believers labored under, Owen vehemently refutes the idea that there was ever any way of salvation for anyone apart from faith in Christ.

From the giving of that promise the faith of the whole church was fixed on him whom God would send in our nature, to redeem and save them. Other way of acceptance with him there was none provided, none declared, but only by faith in this promise.

After a survey of Old Testament believers to prove his point, Owen returns to clarify his basic person/work distinction.

It is true that both these and other prophets had revelations concerning his sufferings also. For “the Spirit of Christ that was in them testified beforehand of his sufferings, and the glory that should follow,” (1 Pet. 1:11)….Nevertheless their conceptions concerning them were dark and obscure. It was his person that their faith principally regarded. Thence were they filled with desires and expectations of his coming, or his exhibition and appearance in the flesh. With the renewed promises hereof did God continually refresh the church in its strait and difficulties. And hereby did God call off the body of the people from trust in themselves, or boasting in their present privileges, which they were exceedingly prone unto.


How Primitive Sociology is Killing the Church of England
Brian Brown turns to basic sociology to argue against the current “dumbing down” or “de-Christianizing” of the Church of England’s liturgy.

Any society worth joining has elements of moral capital. From the high school chess club to sports team fan bases to fraternal organizations to communities and nations, moral and social cohesion are maintained through shared expectations of what it means to be a member and what it requires of you. To use an American analogy: nobody would consider you a real baseball fan if you didn’t come to games, wear your team’s colors, know its players and coaches and history, despise the rival team, and understand the unwritten rules players and fans observe during a game (the British used to call them “manners”).

In other words, nobody wants to be a member of a club that’s so inclusive that membership means nothing. This is especially true of religious organizations. Haidt and other social scientists have found that “costly religious rituals” that demand things of you, which they initially viewed with enlightened Western skepticism, are actually one of the crucial elements of building and sustaining moral capital.

Brown’s point is that under cover of making things more understandable so that more people will join the community of faith, there’s the huge risk that there will be nothing left to commune around!

More Than 1 Billion People Are Desperately Poor
Nearly half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Of these, 1 billion live on less than $1 a day. Experts call these the desperately poor. They live in places like in Haiti, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and Africa. They have no running water, no medical care, nor education. Most survive by eating at garbage dumps.

The Bible is not silent about God’s concern for the poor. He counts on us to help them, especially us whom He has redeemed.

The New Intolerance: Will We Regret Pushing Christians out of Public Life?
Christine Odone was invited to speak at a conference on traditional marriage in London, and twice the event was cancelled at the last minute because the venue managers at two prestigious locations said that it contravened their diversity policies. She started researching the matter and was shocked at the results:

Not not only Christians, but also Muslims and Jews, increasingly feel they are no longer free to express any belief, no matter how deeply felt, that runs counter to the prevailing fashions for superficial “tolerance” and “equality” (terms which no longer bear their dictionary meaning but are part of a political jargon in which only certain views, and certain groups, count as legitimate).

Only 50 years ago, liberals supported “alternative culture”; they manned the barricades in protest against the establishment position on war, race and feminism. Today, liberals abhor any alternative to their credo. No one should offer an opinion that runs against the grain on issues that liberals consider “set in stone”, such as sexuality or the sanctity of life.

Intolerance is no longer the prerogative of overt racists and other bigots – it is state-sanctioned. It is no longer the case that the authorities are impartial on matters of belief, and will intervene to protect the interests and heritage of the weak. When it comes to crushing the rights of those who dissent from the new orthodoxy, politicians and bureaucrats alike are in the forefront of the attacks, not the defence.

Odone warns America that what’s happened in Europe is crossing the Atlantic and calls on us to learn from…gays! She says that like gays, Christians and other minority religions should stop hiding bashfully and fearfully in the shadows and instead “step forward into the limelight, dismantling prejudices that they must be suspect, lonely, losers. Believers should present themselves as ordinary people, men and women who worry about the price of the weekly shop and the size of the monthly mortgage.

Let outsiders see the faithful as a vulnerable group persecuted by right-on and politically correct fanatics who don’t believe in free speech. Let them see believers pushed to the margins of society, in need of protection to survive. Banned, misrepresented, excluded – and all because of their religion? Even the most hardbitten secularist and the most intolerant liberal should be offended by the kind of censorship people of faith are facing today. If believers can awaken a sense of justice in those around them, they may have taken a first important step in reclaiming the west as an area where God is welcome.

I wish Odone was right, that a bit more boldness and ordinariness would do the trick. There’s one major flaw with her analogy and it’s John 3:19. If I may paraphrase: “Men love homosexuality rather than Christianity, because their deeds are evil.” Homosexuals have been successful because evil appeals to evil. We must not underestimate the enmity against God and good in the human heart (Rom. 8:7). The only solution is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in both common grace and saving grace.

The Distinct Positive Impact of a Good Dad
Jennifer Aniston said, ”Women are realizing it more and more knowing that they don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child.”

But this Dad-demeaning view overlooks a growing body of research suggesting that men bring much more to the parenting enterprise than money.

Yale psychiatrist Kyle Pruett has argued that fathers often engage their children in ways that differ from the ways in which mothers engage their children. Now a new book, Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives has highlighted four ways in which today’s dads tend to make distinctive contributions to their children’s lives:

The Power of Play: From a Saturday morning spent roughhousing with a four-year-old son to a weekday afternoon spent coaching middle-school football, fathers typically spend more of their time engaged in vigorous play than do mothers, and play a uniquely physical role in teaching their sons and daughters how to handle their bodies and their emotions on and off the field.

Encouraging risk: In their approach to childrearing, fathers are more likely to encourage their children to take risks, embrace challenges, and be independent, whereas mothers are more likely to focus on their children’s safety and emotional well-being.

Protecting his own: Fathers play an important role in protecting their children from threats in the larger environment…Fathers, by dint of their size, strength, or aggressive public presence, appear to be more successful in keeping predators and bad peer influences away from their sons and daughters. Paternal absence has been cited by multiple scholars as the single greatest risk factor in teen pregnancy for girls.

Dad’s discipline: Although mothers typically discipline their children more often than do fathers, dads’ disciplinary style is distinctive. Fathers tend to be more willing than mothers to confront their children and enforce discipline, leaving their children with the impression that they in fact have more authority.

The contributions that fathers make to their children’s lives can be seen in three areas: reduced teenage delinquency, pregnancy, and depression.

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Dear Daddy in Seat 16C
You may want to read this if you have an autistic child. You definitely want to read it if you don’t.

A Weak Gospel Creates Weak Families
A summary of a speech by Shawn Mathis at the Family in Crisis Symposium: “Any objective evaluation of this family crisis must include the fact that a man-centered religion has replaced a Christ-centered Gospel. When legalism or lawlessness infects and weakens the wonderful doctrines of grace, families will begin to crumble. A weak gospel creates weak families.”

Thirteen Tips for Giving a Well-Organized and Informative Speech
The first six of these could transform many’s a sermon. Note especially #1 and #4.

Ministering to the Middle Class
Jeremy Walker squares off with Mez MccConnell: “Behind those manicured lawns and mock-Tudor frontages, behind those nice townhouse exteriors, behind those saccharine portraits of domestic bliss, are hearts full of sin. The people I go to are not nice, law-abiding citizens. Some of the tensions and feuds between neighbors are scarcely believable, fought out with icy silences and letters to local authorities rather than with bottles and bats, though the tensions often break out in angry, vicious speech that would make a docker blush.”

Abortion Meets a New Generation
A new generation of evangelicals is queasy with making a big issue of abortion. Dan Darling and Andrew Walker explain how you can;t tout social justice will side-stepping the sanctity of life.

Light in the Darkness
Get yourself over to Challies to watch this stirring film and show it to your family at the weekend.

Kalashnikov’s Conscience

How would you like to go to the judgment as the creator of the AK-47?

Aged 94, Mikhail Kalashnikov just did.

He had previously refused to accept moral responsibility for the people his creation killed. But as death loomed, fear of hell increased, and the 91 year-old went to church for the first time. He followed that up with a long emotional letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church saying he was suffering “spiritual pain” over the many deaths his gun had caused. If you’ve ever doubted the power of conscience, read these extracts from his letter, published in Russia’s pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia:

My spiritual pain is unbearable….I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?

The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.

He signed it “a slave of God, the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov.”

Don’t Give up
This should encourage us never to give up on someone, no matter how old they are or how hard they seem. The conscience within is our greatest ally and God can “drill” into it even after years of searing and numbing.

Let’s just hope that Kalashnikov took his conscience to the blood of Christ and not only to a Russian priest. The blood of Christ can cleanse from every sin, even the tons of blood shed by Kalashnikov’s guns.

Who’s to Blame?
It does raise the question as to whether it can ever be morally right to design weapons like the Kalashnikov. But is it really that different to someone making a bow and arrow or a primitive spear? It all depends on motive. Is it just to make money? Interestingly, Kalashnikov made virtually nothing from his gun. Is it to simply kill as many people as possible or is it to defend from aggressors? As the Russian Orthodox press secretary said:

The Church has a very definite position: when weapons serve to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both its creators and the soldiers who use it. He designed this rifle to defend his country, not so terrorists could use it in Saudi Arabia.

Is it possible for a Christian to work in the arms industry? Yes, God can give some Christians that calling and a clear conscience in doing it.

Here’s hoping we see Mikhail Kalashnikov one day, dressed in white, washed in the blood of the lamb, and fellowshipping with many of the millions his gun sent to glory.


The Evil in Nigeria
What should Christians do if the Government turned against homosexuals and started rounding them up to torture and kill them? Rod Dreher, an Eastern Orthodox Christian journalist, says that Nigerian Christians who are in that position should hide and protect homosexuals.

Just to be perfectly clear, I hold to the Christian orthodox position on the morality of same-sex relations, and I am against gay marriage. But I also hold to the Christian orthodox position on human decency and dignity. What is going on in Nigeria is an abomination.

He then goes on to describe what’s happening to homosexuals in Nigeria and finishes up with this:

I hope there are Christians in Nigeria who have the courage to hide gay men and women when the police come for them. I wouldn’t presume to speak for Islam, of course (Nigeria has a large Muslim population, in case you didn’t know), but to fellow Christians in Nigeria: Is this really how you witness to orthodox Christian truth? Really?

Even although the persecution in the West is increasingly done by homosexuals against Christians, I agree with Dreher that in moral and spiritual matters, torture and death should not be used as a substitute for the power of the Gospel. In fact, what a powerful caricature-smashing witness it would be for Christians to take the side of homosexuals in this situation.

No Moms and Dads Needed to Make a Family
Denny Burk reflects on Breeders, a new documentary that critically examines surrogacy and it’s contribution to the redefinition of the family.

Pressure to Have Fantasy Weddings Threatening Marriage
Former Archbishop of Canterbury , Rowan Williams, says marketing push to turn weddings into an “experience” to be marketed, rather than simply a public declaration of commitment. He went on to want that “the growing pressure on couples to have a perfect wedding has become one of the biggest threats to marriage itself.” His main points:

  • Young people are now faced with an immense offensive by advertisers and others driven by profit to have a showy and expensive day – often to the detriment of their relationship itself.
  • It has turned weddings into massively fantastical events, which leave the day-to-day reality of married life looking decidedly dull by comparison.
  • The obsession with glitzy, celebrity-style weddings is a symptom of the short-term, unimaginative, emotionally unintelligent culture of modern Britain.
  • Speaking against the trend to sign pre-nuptial agreements he said, “If we begin with a sense of relationships needing to be governed by contract because we need to establish precisely what our claims are then we may find we have problems in a relational and ethical register arriving from that.
  • He spoke of “The real challenge posed in some sections of society by the marginalising, the weakening, the making impotent – I chose my words – of young males; the fact that in many parts of our society you men particularly have dysfunctional networks, small chances of employment, insecurity internal and external.”

The BBC say his comments echo a warning last year by the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith that a culture of “fairytale weddings” promoted by magazine articles featuring celebrities had driven up the average cost of a wedding far beyond the means of some young couples.

Modern Medical Challenges for Christians in 2014
Dr. Christopher Bogosh says the two major challenges are modern medicine’s redefining life into evolutionary categories and redefining hope into modern medical advances.

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A Letter to the Family of my ICU Patient
A nurse’s perspective on the stress of working in ICU and her easily misunderstood coping mechanisms.

Proverbial Maturity
Rebecca Vandoodewaard plunders Proverbs for the marks of Christian maturity: “Even as we see our own immaturity, God gives us a desire for maturity and the Spirit’s power to make progress in it as we live in this world, so that we can live as mature Christians in a profoundly immature age.”

Mortifying the Fear of Academic Books
Jared Oliphant trues to persuade us to read bigger books: “If you can clear the fog of fear and hesitation hovering over academic books, you might find an unexpected depth and richness between the pages. Heavy theological reading will never take the place of a heart-gripping novel or a devotional full of soaring words of worship. But a rich read can often add color, dimension, and vibrancy to your Christian walk and give those devotionals a few more volts.”

One Small Change: Sunday Rest
One Christian’s long struggle to maintain a weekly day of rest through school and motherhood.

Losing the Horror of Hell
Despite working in a hospice, Christopher Bogosh fears he has lost a sense of the horror of hell. Searching his heart, he’s come up with two explanations.

Four Characteristics of Control Freaks
Written by a recovering control freak

Remembering Sam Berns
One word – Kleenex.