Sunday, March 28, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
- How do we confess for others?
- How do we get to the point where we think judging is wrong?
- How do we confess for others when we hold that judging is wrong?
- How do we apologize for ...
And watch out - it contains the "f-bomb" (I think that's a funny way of saying that) and I apologize for Chris saying that.
Friday, March 26, 2010
“Faith is not our saviour. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Saviour is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God.
Our security is this, that it matters not how poor or weak our faith maybe: if it touches the perfect One, all is well. God has asked and provided a perfect righteousness; He nowhere asks nor expects a perfect faith. So a feeble, very feeble faith, will connect us with the righteousness of the Son of God; the faith, perhaps, that can only cry, ‘Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief.’ “
Thursday, March 25, 2010
“[Faith] is not a meritorious work, one facet of human righteousness, but rather an appropriating instrument, an empty hand outstretched to receive the free gift of God’s righteousness in Christ; that faith is God-given, and is itself the animating principle from which love and good works spontaneously spring; and that communion with God means, not an exotic rapture of mystical ecstasy but faith’s everyday commerce with the Savior.” ~ J.I. Packer, The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
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I recommend reading the intro post here and then following the links he has to the rest.
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HT:JT via RMS (Bob)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
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What shall we say then? It is clear that forgiveness - promising another never to bring up his offense again to use it against him - is conditioned on the offenders willingness to confess it as sin and to seek forgiveness. You are not obligated to forgive an unrepentant sinner, but you are obligated to try to bring him to repentance. All the while you must entertain a genuine hope and willingness to forgive the other and a desire to be reconciled to him or her. Because this biblical teaching runs counter to much teaching in the modern church, it is important to understand it. Such forgiveness is modeled after God’s forgiveness which is unmistakably conditioned on repentance and faith.
Chris Brauns lists other great quotes on the topic here.
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I think that is the definition often (but not always) intended by those that would say, "the gospel is that man is accepted just as he is, a sinner standing in need of a saviour." When that statement is used to indicate that Jesus saw worth in those that are unworthy, I agree. When that statement is used to indicate that Jesus suffered and died to bring reconciliation to those that not only didn't seek His redemption but were His enemies, I agree. And so forth. But when that is used per the dictionary definition, i.e., we are approved, I do not agree. Sadly, it often starts with the ideas I can affirm but then drifts to the latter which is not acceptable and a rampant liberal worldview. The significance is the former recognizes the beauty and miracle of what Christ accomplished while the latter does not see the real need for a savior, especially a substutionary one.
While we were slaves to Sin, Christ Jesus extended grace, mercy and life to us. As J. Gresham Machen writes in Christianity & Liberalism:
“The atoning death of Christ, and that alone, has presented sinners as righteous in God’s sight; the Lord Jesus has paid the full penalty of their sins, and clothed them with His perfect righteousness before the judgment seat of God.
But Christ has done for Christians even far more than that. He has given to them not only a new and right relation to God, but a new life in God’s presence for evermore. He has saved them from the power as well as from the guilt of sin.
The New Testament does not end with the death of Christ; it does not end with the triumphant words of Jesus on the Cross, “It is finished.” The death was followed by the resurrection, and the resurrection like the death was for our sakes. Jesus rose from the dead into a new life of glory and power, and into that life He brings those for whom He died. The Christian, on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work, not only has died unto sin, but also lives unto God.”
Monday, March 22, 2010
How when asked do you respond to those who basically agree with these passages but then state that for this claim to be 110% true then the canonizing process must also be "unbreakable, irrevocable, final, plenary, and inerrant," and then if that is the case...then scripture isn't exactly the final authority - canonization is. It's a problem I've not resolved, yet.
Good question. I don't think I've resolved it completely either but sadly, I'm not sure I've given it much thought. Phil Miller provides a simplistic response that I agree with (at least for now).
I would say a good analogy would be a scientific law like gravity - Newton wasn't the final authority on gravity, he testified to the truth of gravity.
This fits with Michael Patton's thinking in Why I Believe the Canon of Scripture is Theoretically Open ... And I Am Fine With It (it's worth reading the entire post):
[T]o say that the canon is “closed” needs to be understood more in an observational way rather than an authoritative pronouncement. The term “closed” might not be the best word since it implies a necessary finality concerning the contents of Scripture.
Of course Patton also is fine with the idea that the canon is fallible. James Swan also agrees writing in the Alpha & Omega Apologetics Blog:
The canon list is not revelation, it's an artifact of revelation. It is Scripture which Christians believe inspired, not a knowledge of the canon which is inspired. The church has discovered which books are canon, they haven't infallibly determined them to be canon. For a detailed explanation of this, track down a copy of Dr. White's book, Scripture Alone, chapter five.
Both Patton and Swan reference R.C. Sproul's position that the canon is a fallible collection of infallible books. Swan writes:
The statement itself originates from Sproul's mentor, John Gerstner. This statement is not an admission that there is an error in the canon. It is a statement simply designed to acknowledge the historical selection process the church used in discovering the canon. By God's providence, God's people have always identified His Word, and they didn't need to be infallible to do so. Remember that large set of books in your Bible before the Gospel of Matthew? The church had the Old Testament, and believers during the period in which the Old Testament was written also had God's inscripturated word, this despite a lack of magisterial infallibility.
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It is unbreakable. Another biblical claim for inspiration is that the written word is unbreakable, or infallible. Jesus said to the Jews, to whom He had quoted from Psalm 82, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Edward J. Young has put it,
The force of his argument is very clear, and it may be paraphrased as follows: “what is stated in this verse from the psalms is true because this verse belongs to that body of writings known as Scripture, and the Scripture possesses an authority so absolute in character that it cannot be broken.” When Christ here employs the word Scripture, he has in mind, therefore, not a particular verse in the psalms, but rather the entire group of writings of which this one verse is a part.
For Jesus, then, inspiration meant a divinely authoritative and unbreakable writing.
It is irrevocable. Another claim for inspired writings is that their message is irrevocable. The Bible states, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). Again, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail” (Luke 16:17). The claim is unequivocal; the message of the written word, including the smallest letters, must be fulfilled. In a similar claim, Jesus included the whole Old Testament, section by section, as He said, “All the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Peter added these words: “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold” (Acts 1:16).
It has final authority. The biblical writers and Jesus Himself claim that the written word is the final arbitrator in matters of faith and practice. Jesus quoted the Old Testament Scriptures with finality when resisting the tempter (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). He used the Old Testament decisively to settle the question about the resurrection in His answer to the Pharisees (21:42) and in vindicating His authority to cleanse the Temple (Mark 11:17). Paul used the Scriptures as the basis for his arguments with the Jews (Acts 17:2). Peter declared that “the untaught and unstable distort [Scriptures] . . . to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). In fact, the finality that is based on the verbal inerrancy of the Old Testament as the word of God “is demonstrated by New Testament arguments which rest on a small historical detail (Heb 7:4-10), a word or phrase (Acts 15:13-17), or even the difference between the singular and the plural (Gal. 3:16).”
It is plenary (full, complete, extending to every part). It is the claim of 2 Timothy 3:16 that all of Scripture (i.e., the whole Old Testament) is inspired, and not just part of it. That inspiration extends universally to all of Scripture is borne out by the use of the inclusive phrases “it is written,” “the Scriptures,” “the law and the prophets,” “the word of God” (cf. Mark 7:13; see chap. 5 for a more complete elaboration of this point). Jesus referred to all sections of the Hebrew canon as predictive of Himself (Luke 24:27, 44), and Peter considered the Old Testament as a whole to be “prophetic writing” (2 Peter 1:20-21) given by the “Spirit of Christ” (1 Peter 1:10-11).
In light of these numerous claims concerning the divinely authoritative nature of Scripture, it is difficult to understand why James Barr asserts that the Bible does not teach its own inspiration and inerrancy. Carl Henry’s “Introduction” discusses this very issue to the contrary of Barr’s thesis, and he expounds it throughout fifteen theses in four volumes entitled God, Revelation and Authority.
It has complete inerrancy. The Bible is wholly true and without error. Jesus said, “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). To those who denied the truth of Scripture He said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). The psalmist said, “The law of the Lord is perfect,”and, “The sum of Thy word is truth” (Pss. 19:7; 119:60). The Bible is God’s Word, and God cannot err (Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2). Scriptures are the utterances of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16), and the Spirit of Truth cannot err. “To err is human,” but the Bible is not a mere human book. It is divinely inspired, and a divinely inspired error is a contradiction in terms.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010
Tim Keller, in The Reason for God (pp 113-114), addresses the common objection that "you can't take the Bible literally." I totally agree with his last two lines.
If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you. For example, if a wife is not allowed to contradict her husband, they won’t have an intimate relationship. Remember the (two!) movies The Stepford Wives? The husbands of Stepford, Connecticut, decide to have their wives turned into robots who never cross the wills of their husbands. A Stepford wife was wonderfully compliant and beautiful, but no one would describe such a marriage as intimate or personal.
Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have a Stepford God! A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it.
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It is sometimes objected that it is a “circular argument” to refer to biblical passages in support of biblical claims. But that objection is unfounded for several reasons. (1) Practically, there is no better place to begin than with what is self-claimed. (2) Legally, a man can testify in his own behalf in a court of law. Why should not the Bible be permitted to witness in its own behalf? (3) Logically, the claim is not being used to support itself, but as a point of departure to study itself. The claim for inspiration within the Bible itself includes several pertinent characteristics.
It is verbal The classical text for inspiration in the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16) affirms that the writings are inspired. Inspiration extends to the very words of Scripture. “Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord” (Ex. 24:4). Isaiah was told to “take for yourself a large tablet and write” (Isa. 8:1) and to “inscribe it on a scroll, that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever” (30:8). The distinct claim of the New Testament is that what had been written by the prophets is God’s word; for example, the gospel of Mark introduces the prophet’s word by the statement “It is written.”
Some have denied that the Bible actually claims to be verbally inspired by saying, “We need to remind ourselves that the verbal plenary formulation is, after all, only a doctrine—a nonbiblical doctrine at that.” However, in the light of the repeated general and specific claims that the words of the prophets are God’s words, it would be a more consistent view simply to admit that the Bible does claim “verbal inspiration” for itself, whether or not that claim is accepted. The evidence that the very words of the Bible are God-given may be summarized briefly as follows:
- It is the claim of the classical text that the writings are inspired (2 Tim. 3:16).
- It is the emphatic testimony of Paul that he spoke in “words . . . taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:13).
- It is evident from the repeated formula “It is written” (e.g., Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).
- Jesus said that that which was written in the whole Old Testament spoke of Him (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Heb. 10:7).
- The New Testament constantly equates the Word of God with the Scripture (writings) of the Old Testament (cf. Matt. 21:42; Rom. 15:4; 2 Peter 3:16).
- Jesus indicated that not even the smallest part of a Hebrew word or letter could be broken (Matt. 5:18).
- The New Testament refers to the written record as the “oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).
- Occasionally the writers were even told to “not omit a word” (Jer. 26:2), and John even pronounced an anathema upon all who would add to or subtract from the “words of the book of this prophecy” (Rev. 22:18-19).
- The very words uttered by men in the Old Testament were considered to be God’s words by the New Testament writers. It may be an academic option to deny that the Bible claims “verbal inspiration” for itself, but it is clearly not a biblical possibility.
- It is identified with God’s words. The words of the writers of Scripture are used interchangeably with what “God said.” This gives rise to the expression “What Scripture says, God says.” Sometimes the Old Testament gives what the human author said, and the New Testament quotes the statement as what “God said.” At other times the Old Testament records what “God says” and the New Testament quotes that text as what the human author says. Thus, what the author says and what God says are used interchangeably, as the following chart illustrates.
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Saturday, March 20, 2010
1. If We Deny Inerrancy, a Serious Moral Problem Confronts Us: May We Imitate God and Intentionally Lie in Small Matters Also? This is similar to the point made in response to objection #4, above, but here it applies not only to those who espouse objection #4 but also more broadly to all who deny inerrancy. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God. But a denial of inerrancy that still claims that the words of Scripture are God-breathed words necessarily implies that God intentionally spoke falsely to us in some of the less central affirmations of Scripture. But if this is right for God to do, how can it be wrong for us? Such a line of reasoning would, if we believed it, exert strong pressure on us to begin to speak untruthfully in situations where that might seem to help us communicate better, and so forth. This position would be a slippery slope with ever-increasing negative results in our own lives.
2. If Inerrancy Is Denied, We Begin to Wonder If We Can Really Trust God in Anything He Says. Once we become convinced that God has spoken falsely to us in some minor matters in Scripture, then we realize that God is capable of speaking falsely to us. This will have a detrimental effect on our ability to take God at his word and trust him completely or obey him fully in the rest of Scripture. We will begin to disobey initially those sections of Scripture that we least wish to obey, and to distrust initially those sections that we are least inclined to trust. But such a procedure will eventually increase, to the great detriment of our spiritual lives. Of course, such a decline in trust and obedience to Scripture may not necessarily follow in the life of every individual who denies inerrancy, but this will certainly be the general pattern, and it will be the pattern exhibited over the course of a generation that is taught to deny inerrancy.
3. If We Deny Inerrancy, We Essentially Make Our Own Human Minds a Higher Standard of Truth Than God’s Word Itself. We use our minds to pass judgment on some sections of God’s Word and pronounce them to be in error. But this is in effect to say that we know truth more certainly and more accurately than God’s Word does (or than God does), at least in these areas. Such a procedure, making our own minds to be a higher standard of truth than God’s Word, is the root of all intellectual sin.
4. If We Deny Inerrancy, Then We Must Also Say That the Bible Is Wrong Not Only in Minor Details but in Some of Its Doctrines as Well. A denial of inerrancy means that we say that the Bible’s teaching about the nature of Scripture and about the truthfulness and reliability of God’s words is also false. These are not minor details but are major doctrinal concerns in Scripture.
In light of this I was thinking more about the common emergent/liberal perspective that the Bible doesn't have to be true. At one level, their deception is just an attempt to sound noble and somehow more faithful or trusting. But the more I think about it the more I think it is really that the true Church has lost the power of God. To the previous generation, the Bible becomes a rule book that requires the effort of scholars to build upon. One of my favorite quotes is that constitutions and by-laws are really the Church preparing for the absence of the Holy Spirit.
That becomes ugly and distasteful to the following generation. But they don't want to abandon the Bible so the think of it as a guidebook to right living and a story. Now, since the words are not God's inspired communication to man with power and since there is no real transforming power by the Holy Spirit, they can easy talk about what applies to their story or not - and overall, it's ok if it's not true. And ironically, the emergent/liberal has embraced what they hate, a works based salvation.
In response we must desperately seek God. He is to be experienced and known. We need Him to change our lives in a way far more amazing than that accomplished via good advice and counseling. We need the God of the Bible and we need to devour and champion His Holy Word.
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- John Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 108-109.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Today I read an emergent proclaim, "I began to realize I didn’t need it [the Bible] to be perfect in order for it to be true. The more I engage it, the more I realize that it holds profound meaning and insights that do transform. But in order for it to be true for me, I had to experience it." That's amazing to me, the Bible holds meaning and insight and yet doesn't need to be true. Wow! The fallen mind is capable of amazing irrationality.
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- The most basic principle is that christians should forgive others as God forgave them (Mt 6.12; 7.2; Eph 4.32)
- Christians should have an attitude or disposition of grace toward all people even as God offers forgiveness to all who receive it. God does not forgive all people, but he does offer grace and forgiveness to all (Jn 1.12; 3.116; Eph 2.8-9).
- Chrtstians must be willing to forgive all who ask for forgiveness (Luke 17.3-4). Remember: whatever anyone has done to offend you will always pale in comparison to what you have done to offend God.
- Christians can conquer bitterness by trusting in the justice and providence of God. God is just. Vengeance belongs to him. He will repay. God providentially works all things together for good for those who know him. This includes the acts of people who intend to harm us. You are not ultimately a victim (Romans 12:19; 8:28; Genesis 45:5-7)
- Never excuse bitterness or an unwillingness to forgive. Those unable or unwilling to forgive should question their salvation. Read this sentence aloud: Saying "1 cannot or ivili not forgive " is another way of saying "I am thinking about going to hell" (See Matthew 6:14-1S; 18:21-35).
I recently had some folks cut off interaction with me. They said I was forgiven but they were not interested in any kind of reconciliation. I've been thinking about that a lot and I think they have absolutely missed the truth of forgiveness and God's way of forgiving. Repentance is required, and it is required so that reconciliation can begin. At the same time, while unlike God we cannot in an absolute sense penetrate the heart of another to change it, we can through grace and love approach that. Therefore we must show up always willing to forgive, demonstrating radical kindness and love, but reserving forgiveness for repentance. These guys missed that. They knew they should forgive but used those words in an empty way, a mere verbal formality since nothing relationally is resolved and in fact their hearts are filled with anger and bitterness.
It saddens me because I think this pain in the world is on the increase as folks popularize the move away from atonement, hell, etc...
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What do we need to do to be able to fully forgive, or more so, to live lives of freedom in Christ Jesus? We need a renewed perspective. We need a clear vision of who God is (Heb 12.1-3). The Psalmist in Psalm 121.1-2 models this:
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Brauns rightly points to Psalm 77 as an excellent overview of what happens in the battlefield of our mind. "In the day of trouble" Asaph "meditates" but sadly he begins by thinking on what is not true (Psa 77.7-9) and "his soul refuses to be comforted" (v.2). But eventually he rightly turns his attention toward God (Psa 77.10-12). As one reads the rest of the chapter it is clear that Asaph's soul is comforted, that his meditations do eventually heal his soul. But to do this he must first turn his affections toward the truth of God.
In Philippians 4.4-7, Paul is not proposing a self-help style solution of using mere words to affect our thinking. It's more powerful than that. Through prayer and meditation on the truth of God, His peace will permeate our spirit in a supernatural way - we will be transformed from the inside. Our meditation will become our practice (Phil 4.8-9)! Not because we focused on it enough, but because it is true. And the beauty of this is, as we then practice it, when experience truth more internally, which then leads to better practice, and so on ...
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010
New Testament passages that deal with the deceptive appearance and words of false teachers:
Matthew 7:15-16 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits."
Matthew 24:4-5 "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray."
Romans 16:17-18 "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive."
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough."
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness."
Galatians 1:6-7 "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."
Ephesians 4:14 "so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."
Colossians 2:4 "I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments."
Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way."
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
1 Timothy 4:1-2 "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared."
1 Timothy 6:20-21 "O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith."
2 Timothy 3:5 "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power."
2 Timothy 3:12-13 "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."
2 Peter 2:1-3 "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words."
2 Peter 2:13 "They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you."
1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world"
2 John 7 "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist."
Revelation 2:2 "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false."
Revelation 13:11 "Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon."
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6. There Are Some Clear Errors in the Bible. This final objection, that there are clear errors in the Bible, is either stated or implied by most of those who deny inerrancy, and for many of them the conviction that there are some actual errors in Scripture is a major factor in persuading them to challenge the doctrine of inerrancy.
In every case, the first answer that should be made to this objection is to ask where such errors are. In which specific verse or verses do these errors occur? It is surprising how frequently one finds that this objection is made by people who have little or no idea where the specific errors are, but who believe there are errors because others have told them so.
In other cases, however, people will mention one or more specific passages where, they claim, there is a false statement in Scripture. In these cases, it is important that we look at the biblical text itself, and look at it very closely. If we believe that the Bible is indeed inerrant, we should be eager and certainly not afraid to inspect these texts in minute detail. In fact, our expectation will be that close inspection will show there to be no error at all. Once again it is surprising how often it turns out that a careful reading just of the English text of the passage in question will bring to light one or more possible solutions to the difficulty.
In a few passages, no solution to the difficulty may be immediately apparent from reading the English text. At that point it is helpful to consult some commentaries on the text. Both Augustine (a.d. 354–430) and John Calvin (1509–64), along with many more recent commentators, have taken time to deal with most of the alleged “problem texts” and to suggest plausible solutions to them. Furthermore some writers have made collections of all the most difficult texts and have provided suggested answers for them.
There are a few texts where a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek may be necessary to find a solution, and those who do not have firsthand access to these languages may have to find answers either from a more technical commentary or by asking someone who does have this training. Of course, our understanding of Scripture is never perfect, and this means that there may be cases where we will be unable to find a solution to a difficult passage at the present time. This may be because the linguistic, historical, or contextual evidence we need to understand the passage correctly is presently unknown to us. This should not trouble us in a small number of passages so long as the overall pattern of our investigation of these passages has shown that there is, in fact, no error where one has been alleged.
But while we must allow the possibility of being unable to solve a particular problem, it should also be stated that there are many evangelical Bible scholars today who will say that they do not presently know of any problem texts for which there is no satisfactory solution. It is possible, of course, that some such texts could be called to their attention in the future, but during the past fifteen years or so of controversy over biblical inerrancy, no such “unsolved” text has been brought to their attention.
Finally, a historical perspective on this question is helpful. There are no really “new” problems in Scripture. The Bible in its entirety is over 1,900 years old, and the alleged “problem texts” have been there all along. Yet throughout the history of the church there has been a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture in the sense in which it is defined in this chapter. Moreover, for these hundreds of years highly competent biblical scholars have read and studied those problem texts and still have found no difficulty in holding to inerrancy. This should give us confidence that the solutions to these problems are available and that belief in inerrancy is entirely consistent with a lifetime of detailed attention to the text of Scripture.
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I realized that in verses 3 through 12 we have all the themes of the rest of the book, and therefore a kind of mini-guide to faithful living. There are five things that comprise a wise, godly life. They function both as means to becoming wise and godly as well as signs that you are growing into such a life:
1. Put your heart's deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)
2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don't think you know better than God's word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.
Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)
3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)
4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have left.
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)
5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.
My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12)
As I meditated on these five elements--rooted in his grace, obeying and delighting in his Word, humble before other people, sacrificially generous toward our neighbor, and steadfast in trials--I thought of Jesus. The New Testament tells us that the personified 'divine wisdom' of the Old Testament is actually Jesus (Mt 11:19.) And I realized that a) he showed the ultimate trust and faithfulness to God and to us by going to the cross, b) he was saturated with and shaped by Scripture, c) he was meek and lowly in heart (Mt. 11:28-30), d) he, though rich, became poor for us, e) and he bore his suffering, for us, without complaint. We can only grow in these five areas if you know you are saved by costly grace. That keeps you from idols, from self-sufficiency and pride, from selfishness with your things, and from crumbling under troubles. Jesus is wisdom personified, and believing his gospel brings these character qualities into your life.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The authors claim the gospel isn't the answer of Jesus to the sin-problem of men and women. Rather, it's "[God's] love and acceptance and vision for every human being ... God's love for his created humanity." That description of the gospel too easily marginalizes the passion, crucifixion, and substitutionary death of Jesus. In fact, if the gospel is merely about God's love and acceptance of every human being, then why would Jesus have to die? They go on to claim that the gospel isn't just about God's love, it's about love in general - people adopting children, having block parties, and planting trees ... "it's all Kingdom, and it's all good news." While Christians are called to love others, that's not the gospel - that's an outworking of the gospel. The good news in the New Testament isn't a message about us, it's a message about Jesus. The authors go on to claim, we should look for ways to "Witness to this gospel by bringing tangible slices of heaven down to life on Earth, and continue to do this until those we're reaching out to acknowledge that our ways are `good news'." Again, the gospel is not a message about me. It's a message about Jesus, who is more than sufficient. For all persons have the same problem a non-Christian does. It's called sin, and Jesus provides an incredible answer to it - His life. His good news is about Him, not about me trying to be Him.
5. Inerrancy Overemphasizes the Divine Aspect of Scripture and Neglects the Human Aspect. This more general objection is made by those who claim that people who advocate inerrancy so emphasize the divine aspect of Scripture that they downplay its human aspect.
It is agreed that Scripture has both a human and a divine aspect, and that we must give adequate attention to both. However, those who make this objection almost invariably go on to insist that the truly “human” aspects of Scripture must include the presence of some errors in Scripture. We can respond that though the Bible is fully human in that it was written by human beings using their own language, the activity of God in overseeing the writing of Scripture and causing it to be also his words means that it is different from much other human writing in precisely this aspect: it does not include error. That is exactly the point made even by sinful, greedy, disobedient Balaam in Numbers 23:19: God’s speech through sinful human beings is different from the ordinary speech of men because “God is not man that he should lie.” Moreover, it is simply not true that all human speech and writing contains error, for we make dozens of statements each day that are completely true. For example: “My name is Wayne Grudem.” “I have three children.” “I ate breakfast this morning.”
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Monday, March 15, 2010
1. Hell. This is hands down the most difficult doctrine in the Christian faith. We believe in a loving God who sees fit to allow his creation (his children) to suffer in a place we call hell—a place, by the way, that affords more suffering than anything imaginable. A place, by the way, that is never-ending. It is not as though I don’t believe it. I do. It is not as though I look at God in judgment. I don’t. It is simply something that confuses me. While I completely disagree with any form of “Christian” universalism (i.e. all people are going to make it to heaven), second-chance theories (i.e. unbelievers will experience a second chance to escape hell in the after life), or the idea of annihilation ism (i.e. the belief that hell, along with all its inhabitants, will eventually be annihilated forever), I understand and sympathize with the reason why they go in this direction. If I could find some sort of loop-hole to get out of believing in the doctrine of an eternal hell, I would. If there was such a thing as a Christianity that did not necessitate a belief in hell, I would submit my resume. (And believe me, I have tried). Oh, closely connected to this are the cliché answers Christians give about hell. Many Christians I have encountered act as if hell does not bother them in the least. Of all the things you can be cliché about, don’t do so here.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
4. The Biblical Writers “Accommodated” Their Messages in Minor Details to the False Ideas Current in Their Day, and Affirmed or Taught Those Ideas in an Incidental Way. This objection to inerrancy is slightly different from the one that would restrict the inerrancy of Scripture to matters of faith and practice, but it is related to it. Those who hold this position argue that it would have been very difficult for the biblical writers to communicate with the people of their time if they had tried to correct all the false historical and scientific information believed by their contemporaries. Those who hold this position would not argue that the points where the Bible affirms false information are numerous, or even that these places are the main points of any particular section of Scripture. Rather, they would say that when the biblical writers were attempting to make a larger point, they sometimes incidentally affirmed some falsehood believed by the people of their time.
To this objection to inerrancy it can be replied, first, that God is Lord of human language who can use human language to communicate perfectly without having to affirm any false ideas that may have been held by people during the time of the writing of Scripture. This objection to inerrancy essentially denies God’s effective lordship over human language.
Second, we must respond that such “accommodation” by God to our misunderstandings would imply that God had acted contrary to his character as an “unlying God” (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). It is not helpful to divert attention from this difficulty by repeated emphasis on the gracious condescension of God to speak on our level. Yes, God does condescend to speak our language, the language of human beings. But no passage of Scripture teaches that he “condescends” so as to act contrary to his moral character. He is never said to be able to condescend so as to affirm—even incidentally—something that is false. If God were to “accommodate” himself in this way, he would cease to be the “unlying God.” He would cease to be the God the Bible represents him to be. Such activity would not in any way show God’s greatness, for God does not manifest his greatness by acting in a way that contradicts his character. This objection thus at root misunderstands the purity and unity of God as they affect all of his words and deeds.
Furthermore, such a process of accommodation, if it actually had occurred, would create a serious moral problem for us. We are to be imitators of God’s moral character (Lev. 11:44; Luke 6:36; Eph. 5:1; 1 Peter 5:1, et al.). Paul says, since in our new natures we are becoming more like God (Eph. 4:24), we should “put away falsehood” and “speak the truth” with one another (v. 25). We are to imitate God’s truthfulness in our speech. However, if the accommodation theory is correct, then God intentionally made incidental affirmations of falsehood in order to enhance communication. Therefore, would it not also be right for us intentionally to make incidental affirmations of falsehood whenever it would enhance communication? Yet this would be tantamount to saying that a minor falsehood told for a good purpose (a “white lie”) is not wrong. Such a position, contradicted by the Scripture passages cited above concerning God’s total truthfulness in speech, cannot be held to be valid.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010
The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that one has sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.
Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth: Illustrations of the Book of Proverbs (orig., London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1884), p. 311.
HT:By Every Word
Who will dissolve this union? Will he himself? No, he will not; we have his word for it; ‘I will not turn away from them’ (Jer 32:40). But perhaps the sinner will do this mischief to himself? No, he shall not; ‘they shall not depart from me,’ says their God. Can devils do it? No, unless they be stronger than Christ and his Father too; ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,’ says our Lord (John 10:28).
But what say you of death, which parts husband and wife; yes, separates the soul from the body? Will not death do it? No: the apostle (Romans 8:38, 39) is ‘persuaded that neither death,’ terrible as it is, ‘nor life,’ desirable as it is; ‘nor’ devils, those evil ‘angels, nor’ the devil’s persecuting agents, though they be ‘principalities, nor powers’ on earth; ‘nor’ evil ‘things present,’ already lying on us; ‘nor’ evil ‘things to come’ on us; ‘nor’ the ‘height’ of worldly felicity; ‘nor depth’ of worldly misery; ‘nor any other creature,’ good or evil, ’shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”
—Thomas Boston, “Mystical Union”Human Nature in Its Fourfold State (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1964)
3. We Have No Inerrant Manuscripts; Therefore, Talk About an Inerrant Bible Is Misleading. Those who make this objection point to the fact that inerrancy has always been claimed for the first or original copies of the biblical documents. Yet none of these survive: we have only copies of copies of what Moses or Paul or Peter wrote. What is the use, then, of placing so great importance on a doctrine that applies only to manuscripts that no one has?
In reply to this objection, it may first be stated that for over 99 percent of the words of the Bible, we know what the original manuscript said. Even for many of the verses where there are textual variants (that is, different words in different ancient copies of the same verse), the correct decision is often quite clear, and there are really very few places where the textual variant is both difficult to evaluate and significant in determining the meaning. In the small percentage of cases where there is significant uncertainty about what the original text said, the general sense of the sentence is usually quite clear from the context. (One does not have to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar to know where these variants are, because all modern English translations indicate them in marginal notes with words such as “some ancient manuscripts read...” or “other ancient authorities add....”)
This is not to say that the study of textual variants is unimportant, but it is to say that the study of textual variants has not left us in confusion about what the original manuscripts said. It has rather brought us extremely close to the content of those original manuscripts. For most practical purposes, then, the current published scholarly texts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts. Thus, when we say that the original manuscripts were inerrant, we are also implying that over 99 percent of the words in our present manuscripts are also inerrant, for they are exact copies of the originals. Furthermore, we >know where the uncertain readings are (for where there are no textual variants we have no reason to expect faulty copying of the original). Thus, our present manuscripts are for most purposes the same as the original manuscripts, and the doctrine of inerrancy therefore directly concerns our present manuscripts as well.
Furthermore, it is extremely important to affirm the inerrancy of the original documents, for the subsequent copies were made by men with no claim or guarantee by God that these copies would be perfect. But the original manuscripts are those to which the claims to be God’s very words apply. Thus, if we have mistakes in the copies (as we do), then these are only the mistakes of men. But if we have mistakes in the original manuscripts then we are forced to say not only that men made mistakes, but that God himself made a mistake and spoke falsely. This we cannot do.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Sunday, March 07, 2010
But we are to know that Satan is real. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual authorities (Eph 6.12). To deal with this well, we must know that Satan exists, be aware of his tactics, and rest assured that our King rules over him (1 Jn 4.4.)
Regarding his tactics, we must know that he is above all a liar. he lies about God and he lies about us (Gen 3.1-7).
Satan seeks to distort our view of God:
- His character
- His communication (one doesn't have to look far to see the liberal jeer to destroy the concepts of inerrancy and sola Scriptura)
- His abilities (this shows up in opposing extremes, e.g., God prospers financially His people to God punishes causing widespread and routine suffering for individual and national sin)
- His heart toward us
And of course, a distorted view of God results in a distorted view of ourselves and our world. For us to have true life and freedom, we must know God rightly (Jn 8.31-32).
2. The Term Inerrancy Is a Poor Term. People who make this second objection say that the term inerrancy is too precise and that in ordinary usage it denotes a kind of absolute scientific precision that we do not want to claim for Scripture. Furthermore, those who make this objection note that the term inerrancy is not used in the Bible itself. Therefore, it is probably an inappropriate term for us to insist upon.
The response to this objection may be stated as follows: first, the scholars who have used the term inerrancy have defined it clearly for over a hundred years, and they have always allowed for the “limitations” that attach to speech in ordinary language. In no case has the term been used to denote a kind of absolute scientific precision by any responsible representative of the inerrancy position. Therefore those who raise this objection to the term are not giving careful enough attention to the way in which it has been used in theological discussions for more than a century.
Second, it must be noted that we often use nonbiblical terms to summarize a biblical teaching. The word Trinity does not occur in Scripture, nor does the word incarnation. Yet both of these terms are very helpful because they allow us to summarize in one word a true biblical concept, and they are therefore helpful in enabling us to discuss a biblical teaching more easily.
It should also be noted that no other single word has been proposed which says as clearly what we want to affirm when we wish to talk about total truthfulness in language. The word inerrancy does this quite well, and there seems no reason not to continue to use it for that purpose.
Finally, in the church today we seem to be unable to carry on the discussion around this topic without the use of this term. People may object to this term if they wish, but, like it or not, this is the term about which the discussion has focused and almost certainly will continue to focus in the next several decades. When the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) in 1977 began a ten-year campaign to promote and defend the idea of biblical inerrancy, it became inevitable that this word would be the one about which discussion would proceed. The “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” which was drafted and published in 1978 under ICBI sponsorship, defined what most evangelicals mean by inerrancy, perhaps not perfectly, but quite well, and further objections to such a widely used and well-defined term seem to be unnecessary and unhelpful for the church.
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When Israel’s prophets denounced the corruption of Israelite worship, they sought reform, not revolution. Though they vehemently criticized liturgicalism, they never attacked the liturgy. Though they railed against externalism and formalism, they never sought to remove the externals and forms God had instituted.
For the forms of worship to communicate the content they are designed to convey, there must be constant instruction so that people understand their meaning. The sacraments are not naked symbols. They must be clothed with the Word. Word and sacrament must go together. Sacrament without Word inevitably yields formalism. Word without sacrament inevitably yields a sterility of worship.
We need a reformation of worship, a new discovery of the meaning of classical forms. I cannot be casual about worshiping God. God stripped of transcendence is no God at all. There is such a thing as the Holy. The Holy is sacred. It is uncommon. It is other. It is transcendent. It is not always user-friendly. But it is relevant. It provokes adoration, which is the essence of godly worship.
Coram Deo: Think about the sacraments and liturgy of the church you attend. Are they truly meaningful to you or have they become mere forms of ritual?
Psalm 119:171: “My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.”
Psalm 108:1: “O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.”
Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
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Saturday, March 06, 2010
Friday, March 05, 2010
John W. Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Grand Rapids, 1984), page 18.
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From John MacArthur, Does God love the elect and hate the non-elect?
Question: There are some who teach that God loves only His elect and hates the non-elect. Please comment.
John: The fact that some sinners are not elected to salvation is no proof that God's attitude toward them is utterly devoid of sincere love. We know from Scripture that God is compassionate, kind, generous, and good even to the most stubborn sinners. Who can deny that these mercies flow out of God's boundless love? Yet it is evident that they are showered even on unrepentant sinners.
I want to acknowledge, however, that explaining God's love toward the reprobate is not as simple as most modern evangelicals want to make it. Clearly there is a sense in which the psalmist's expression, "I hate the assembly of evildoers" (Ps. 26:5) is a reflection of the mind of God. "Do I not hate those who hate Thee, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against Thee? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies" (Ps. 139:21-22). Such hatred as the psalmist expressed is a virtue, and we have every reason to conclude that it is a hatred God Himself shares. After all, He did say, "I have hated Esau" (Mal. 1:3;Rom. 9:13). The context reveals God was speaking of a whole race of wicked people. So there is a true and real sense in which Scripture teaches that God hates the wicked.
So an important distinction must be made. God loves believers with a particular love. It is a family love, the ultimate love of an eternal Father for His children. It is the consummate love of a Bridegroom for His bride. It is an eternal love that guarantees their salvation from sin and its ghastly penalty. That special love is reserved for believers alone.
However, limiting this saving, everlasting love to His chosen ones does not render God's compassion, mercy, goodness, and love for the rest of mankind insincere or meaningless. When God invites sinners to repent and receive forgiveness (Isa. 1:18; Matt. 11:28-30), His pleading is from a sincere heart of genuine love. "'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" (Ezek. 33:11). Clearly God does love even those who spurn His tender mercy, but it is a different quality of love, and different in degree from His love for His own.
I used to say: "Do you feel more loved when God makes much of you or when he frees you to enjoy making much of him?" Now I say, “Why does God make so much of us in a way that winds up making much of him?”
In this Piper rightly confronts the weltgeist that God must love us because we are special. I'm amazed when I hear people say that Piper promotes a God of hate and/or fear. When I hear that what I really hear them saying is that they cannot love the God of the Bible, only the one of their imagination - which I guess is true for them since these do not grasp the real meaning of love.
We are to feel loved by God but this is so that He is glorified. This is seen in the following:
- Predestination - Eph 1.5-6
- Creation - Isa 43.6
- Incarnation - Lk 2.10-14
- Salvation - 2 Cor 5.14-15
- Sanctification - Phil 1.9-11
- Propagation - Rom 1.5
- Consummation - 2 Thess 1.9-10
CS Lewis in The Weight of Glory; "'Well done good and faithful servant', and I’m very grateful to those who are sharing the load, the weight and burden of my glory."
Piper gives two answers to “Why does God make so much of us in a way that winds up making much of him?”
- In revealing His love this way, He rescues us from the God belittling idolatry of putting our joy finally in being made much of.
- By revealing His love for us this way, God brings our joy out of self and into the infinite greatness of God and therefore brings us to full and lasting pleasure.
The love of God that makes much of us for His glory is a greater love than a love that would only make much of us. You are precious to Him and the greatest gift He has for you is not to let your preciousness to Him become your God but rather have Him as your God.
To the group railing against those being mean, all I can say is wake-up/grow-up. This concern fails to recognize the sad truth that this defect exists in all camps and while yes, it is not as we desire, it is not unique to Calvinism. Worse, in associating these characteristics with Calvinism, they fall into the group they are critiquing. The typical tactics are guilt by association and vague references (and when specifics are referenced they normally have nothing to do with Calvinism per se). They often get angry themselves and some even have full web sites dedicated to mocking. Again, one would be hard pressed to distinguish between these folks and those they accuse.
On the other hand, there are those that have issue with Calvinism and for them, I like Patton's list to help them be more clear on what they really have issue with. I have quoted nearly all of it below but added a small number of my comments and deleted some of Patton's so see his post for his complete view.
Calvinism is not system of theology that denies God’s universal love. - this is not a necessary or a central tenant of Calvinism. Calvinists believe that God has a particular type of love for the elect (an “electing love”), but most also believe that God loves all people (John 3:16). It is a mystery to Calvinist as to why he does not elect everyone. (More on this here.)
Calvinism is not a belief that God creates people in order to send them to hell. - Supralapsarians believe that God creates people to send them to hell, the majority of Calvinists are not supralapsarians. (More on this here.)
Calvinism is not belief that God is the author of evil. - Because of Calvinism’s high view of God’s sovereignty, many mistakenly believe that Calvinists hold God responsible for sin and evil. This is not true. Most Calvinists believe that to ascribe responsibility for evil to God is heretical.
As John Calvin put it:
“. . . the Lord had declared that “everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good” [Gen. 1:31]. Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity-which is closer to us-rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination. [Institutes, 3:23:8]”
Calvinism is not a belief in fatalism. - A fatalistic worldview is one in which all things are left to fate, chance, and a series of causes and effects that has no intelligent guide or ultimate cause. Calvinism believes that God (not fate) is in control, though Calvinists differ about how meticulous this control is.
Calvinism is not a denial of freedom. - Calvinists to do not believe that people are robots or pupets on strings. Calvinists believe in freedom and, properly defined, free will. While Calvinists believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, most are compatibalists, believing that he works in and with human freedom (limited though it may be). Calvinists believe in human responsibility at the same time as holding to a high view of God’s providential sovereignty. (More on this here).
Calvinism is not s belief that God forces people to become Christians against their will. - Calvinists believe in what is called “irresistible grace.” This might not be the best name for it since it does not really communicate what is involved (I [Rick] prefer RC Sproul's "effectual grace"). Calvinists believe that people are dead in the sin (Eph 2:1), haters of God, with no ability to seek him in their natural state (Rom 3:11; John 6:44; 1 Cor 2:14). Since this is the case, God must first regenerate them so that they can have faith. Once regenerate, people do not need to be forced to accept God, but this is a natural reaction—a willing reaction—of one who has been born again and, for the first time, recognizes the beauty of God.
Calvinism is not a belief that you should only evangelize the elect. - No one knows who the elect are. Since we don’t know, it is our duty to evangelize all people and nations. Some of the greatest evangelists in the history of Christianity, such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards, have held to the doctrine of unconditional election.
Calvinism is not a belief that God arbitrarily chooses people to be saved. - Calvinists believe that God elects some people to salvation and not other and that this election is not based on anything present or foreseen, righteous or unrighteous, in the individual, but upon his sovereign choice. But this does not mean that the choice is arbitrary, as if God is flipping a coin to see who is saved and who is not. Calvinists believe that God has his reasons, but they are in his mysterious secret will.
Calvinism is not a system of thought that follows a man, John Calvin. - While Calvinists obviously respect John Calvin, they simply believe that he correctly understood some very important Apostolic teachings concerning election, man’s condition, and God’s sovereignty. However, much of this understanding did not originate with John Calvin, but can be seen in many throughout church history such as Aquinas, Anselm, and Augustine. Ultimately, Calvinists will argue, they follow rightly interpreted Scripture.
Calvinism is not a system that has to ignore or reinterpret passages of Scripture concerning human responsibility. - Calvinists believe that all people are responsible to do what is right, even though, as fallen children of Adam, they lack ability to do what is right (in a transcendent sense; see below) without God’s regenerating grace. Therefore, God’s call and commands apply to all people and all people are responsible for their rejection and rebellion.
Calvinists does not believe that no one can do any good thing at all. - Calvinists believe in what is called “total depravity.” However, total depravity does not mean that people cannot ever do anything good (I [Rick] prefer RC Sproul's "radical depravity"). Calvinists believe that unregenerate people can do many good things and sometimes even act better than Christians. But when it comes to people’s disposition toward God and their acknowledgment of him for their abilities, gifts, and future, they deny him and therefore taint all that they are and do. An unbeliever, for example, can love and care for their children just as a believer can. In and of itself this is a very good thing. However, in relation to God this finds no eternal or transcendent favor since they are at enmity with him, the Giver of all things. Therefore, it might be said, while all people can do good, only the regenerate can do transcendent good.
Calvinists do not necessarily believe that God predestines (wills) everything, including the color of socks I chose this morning. - There is a spectrum to belief about God’s sovereignty in Calvinism. The one thing that unites all Calvinists is their belief in God’s sovereign choice to elect some people to salvation and not others. However, Calvinists differ concerning God’s involvement in other areas (for more on this, see here ... for what it's worth, I [Rick] think I'm a Providential Sovereignty guy). Some Calvinists believe in what might be called “meticulous sovereignty”, where God has not only predestined people to salvation, but also he has predestined everything that occurs. As the old saying goes: “There is not a maverick molecule in the universe. However, most Calvinists believe in what might be called “providential sovereignty.” Here, Calvinists would distinguish between God’s permissive will and his sovereign will. In his permissive will, many things happen that he permits, but is not necessarily bringing about as the first cause. In his sovereign will, many things happen because of his direct intervention (for more on this, see here).
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Thursday, March 04, 2010
If however, you are one of them, please, please take the excellent advice offered by Matt Dabbs here. Below are the top lines, see his post for the detail.
- Lessons must be teachable
- Lessons should be short
- Communicate one main point
- The point comes from the text
- Key question #1 - “What is this text trying to tell me?”
- Key question #2 - “What does this text require of me?”
- Empower your group leaders
- Avoid distractions and rabbit trails
- Avoid overuse of Greek and Hebrew
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Wednesday, March 03, 2010
cf. Rom 6.15-23
When you come to your deathbed, you will want something more than an example and a sacrament. Take heed that you are found resting all your weight on Christ’s substitution for you on the cross, and His atoning blood, or it will be better if you had never been born.”
- J.C. Ryle, The Upper Room (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), 108.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
1. The Bible Is Only Authoritative for “Faith and Practice.” One of the most frequent objections is raised by those who say that the purpose of Scripture is to teach us in areas that concern “faith and practice” only; that is, in areas that directly relate to our religious faith or to our ethical conduct. This position would allow for the possibility of false statements in Scripture, for example, in other areas such as in minor historical details or scientific facts—these areas, it is said, do not concern the purpose of the Bible, which is to instruct us in what we should believe and how we are to live. Its advocates often prefer to say that the Bible is “infallible” but they hesitate to use the word inerrant.
The response to this objection can be stated as follows: the Bible repeatedly affirms that all of Scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim. 3:16) and that all of it is “God-breathed.” Thus it is completely pure (Ps. 12:6), perfect (Ps. 119:96), and true (Prov. 30:5). The Bible itself does not make any restriction on the kinds of subjects to which it speaks truthfully.
The New Testament contains further affirmations of the reliability of all parts of Scripture: in Acts 24:14, Paul says that he worships God, “believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets.” In Luke 24:25, Jesus says that the disciples are “foolish men” because they are “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” In Romans 15:4, Paul says that “whatever was written” in the Old Testament was “written for our instruction.” These texts give no indication that there is any part of Scripture that is not to be trusted or relied on completely. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul can refer even to minor historical details in the Old Testament (sitting down to eat and drink, rising up to dance) and can say both that they “happened” (thus implying historical reliability) and “were written down for our instruction.”
If we begin to examine the way in which the New Testament authors trust the smallest historical details of the Old Testament narrative, we see no intention to separate out matters of “faith and practice,” or to say that this is somehow a recognizable category of affirmations, or to imply that statements not in that category need not be trusted or thought to be inerrant. Rather, it seems that the New Testament authors are willing to cite and affirm as true every detail of the Old Testament.
In the following list are some examples of these historical details cited by New Testament authors. If all of these are matters of “faith and practice,” then every historical detail of the Old Testament is a matter of “faith and practice,” and this objection ceases to be an objection to inerrancy. On the other hand, if so many details can be affirmed, then it seems that all of the historical details in the Old Testament can be affirmed as true, and we should not speak of restricting the necessary truthfulness of Scripture to some category of “faith and practice” that would exclude certain minor details. There are no types of details left that could not be affirmed as true.
The New Testament gives us the following data: David ate the bread of the Presence (Matt. 12:3–4); Jonah was in the whale (Matt. 12:40); the men of Nineveh repented (Matt. 12:41); the queen of the South came to hear Solomon (Matt. 12:42); Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:25–26); Naaman the Syrian was cleansed of leprosy (Luke 4:27); on the day Lot left Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven (Luke 17:29; cf. v. 2 with its reference to Lot’s wife who turned to salt); Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14); Jacob gave a field to Joseph (John 4:5); many details of the history of Israel occurred (Acts 13:17–23); Abraham believed and received the promise before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:10); Abraham was about one hundred years old (Rom. 4:19); God told Rebekah before her children were born that the elder child would serve the younger (Rom. 9:10–12); Elijah spoke with God (Rom. 11:2–4); the people of Israel passed through the sea, ate and drank spiritual food and drink, desired evil, sat down to drink, rose up to dance, indulged in immorality, grumbled, and were destroyed (1 Cor. 10:11); Abraham gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:1–2); the Old Testament tabernacle had a specific and detailed design (Heb. 9:1–5); Moses sprinkled the people and the tabernacle vessels with blood and water, using scarlet wool and hyssop (Heb. 9:19–21); the world was created by the Word of God (Heb. 11:3); many details of the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and others actually happened (Heb. 11, passim); Esau sold his birthright for a single meal and later sought it back with tears (Heb. 12:16–17); Rahab received the spies and sent them out another way (James 2:25); eight persons were saved in the ark (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5); God turned Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes but saved Lot (2 Peter 2:6–7); Balaam’s donkey spoke (2 Peter 2:16).
This list indicates that the New Testament writers were willing to rely on the truthfulness of any part of the historical narratives of the Old Testament. No detail was too insignificant to be used for the instruction of New Testament Christians. There is no indication that they thought of a certain category of scriptural statements that were unreliable and untrustworthy (such as “historical and scientific” statements as opposed to doctrinal and moral passages). It seems clear that the Bible itself does not support any restriction on the kinds of subjects to which it speaks with absolute authority and truth; indeed, many passages in Scripture actually exclude the validity of this kind of restriction.
A second response to those who limit the necessary truthfulness of Scripture to matters of “faith and practice” is to note that this position mistakes the major purpose of Scripture for the total purpose of Scripture. To say that the major purpose of Scripture is to teach us in matters of “faith and practice” is to make a useful and correct summary of God’s purpose in giving us the Bible. But as a summary it includes only the most prominent purpose of God in giving us Scripture. It is not, however, legitimate to use this summary to deny that it is part of the purpose of Scripture to tell us about minor historical details or about some aspects of astronomy or geography, and so forth. A summary cannot properly be used to deny one of the things it is summarizing! To use it this way would simply show that the summary is not detailed enough to specify the items in question.
It is better to say that the whole purpose of Scripture is to say everything it does say, on whatever subject. Every one of God’s words in Scripture was deemed by him to be important for us. Thus, God issues severe warnings to anyone who would take away even one word from what he has said to us (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18–19): we cannot add to God’s words or take from them, for all are part of his larger purpose in speaking to us. Everything stated in Scripture is there because God intended it to be there: God does not say anything unintentionally! Thus, this first objection to inerrancy makes a wrong use of a summary and thereby incorrectly attempts to impose artificial limits on the kinds of things about which God can speak to us.
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