Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tremper Longman at COS


I am looking forward to Tremper Longman being with us at COS. Dr. Longman, Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in California will be the speaker on Saturday March 28th at our "Cry of the Soul" seminar based upon his book of the same title. If you are a COS attendee or live in the Philadelphia area you will want to make plans to be with us.


Also, Dr. Longman will be leading a marriage seminar on the evening of the 28th.


It is going to be a great weekend.


Tremper Longman is a prolific author. I have benefited from many of his books both academic and pastoral.

A few titles I recommend are:





Friday, February 27, 2009

When Heresy is Hip


Tony Jones, one of the kids playing about in the theological sand box called "the emergent church" has come to embrace yet one more heresy. He has now embraced the most roundly condemned heretic in the history of the church - Pelagius.




Over at the Beliefnet blog, Tony Jones has been posting some thoughts about Pelagius. The series is not quite finished, but you can find the latest in the series and the other links here). The gist is pretty simple. Jones puts his thesis in bold letters in his Intro: "I have come to reject the notion of Original Sin. I consider it neither biblically, philosophically, nor scientifically tenable." For good measure, Jones excerpts from a blogger named Brian (not McLaren) and his piece "Thank You, Saint Pelagius.

"There are so many things wrong with these posts, from the erroneous historical reconstruction, to the strawmen arguments (e.g., if you believe in original sin you can't believe in human responsibility), to conversation stoppers from Jones like "Watch out, Brian, the NeoReformed stormtroopers went after Scot McKnight last week, and they'll probably come after you here!"

In July, Ted Kluck and I have a new book coming out, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. In the epilogue, I make the argument that the missing element in the contemporary church is a robust doctrine of original sin. It saddens me to get further confirmation that this assessment is correct...

More recently, however, prominent “evangelicals” have questioned the validity of the doctrine of original sin. Brian McLaren mocks it, making original sin the subject of Mary’s Magnificat until it sounds ridiculous. Steve Chalke denies it, claiming that “Jesus believed in original goodness.” David Tomlinson rejects it, finding total depravity “biblically questionable, extreme, and profoundly unhelpful.” And Doug Pagitt is completely fed up with it, basing his rejection of original sin on the belief that “Augustine’s doctrine of depravity was based on a particular linguistic and cultural reading of certain passages of the Bible."

Note to Tony, Brian, Doug, etc.: Leave the theology to the grown ups.


Read DeYoung's entire post HERE.

Watch This!

Trust me and watch THIS.

What hath Tulsa in common with Corinth?

This Sunday I am preaching from 2 Corinthians 4 on how the Gospel must be the starting point for our "soul care."

In studying for the message I have been using Scott Hafemann's outstanding commentary on 2 Corinthians in the NIV Application Commentary series. If you are planning on studying, preaching, or teaching 2 Corinthians you want to get Hafemann's commentary.

Anyway, one of the problems at Corinth was their fascination with what we would call today a "health, wealth gospel." Paul finds himself having to defend his apostleship to the Corinthians. His status as a true apostle was being openly challenged by the "super apostles" of Corinth because he suffered and was not impressive in a worldly sense. "Certainly," it was argued, "that one as unimpressive and scared by suffering could not be an apostle." But Paul points to his sufferings and weakness as indications of the authenticity of his apostleship.

In his book "A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement" D.R. McConnell writes that the so-called "Faith gospel" is:
without question the most attractive message being preached today or, for that matter, in the whole history of the church. Seldom, if ever, has there been a gospel that has promised so much, and demanded so little. The Faith gospel is a message ideally suited to the 20th century American Christian. In an age in America characterized by complexity, the Faith gospel gives simple, if not revelational answers. In an economy fueled by materialism and fired by the ambitions of the 'upwardly mobile,' the Faith gospel preaches wealth and prosperity...in an international environment characterized by anarchy...the Faith gospel confers an authority with which the believer can supposedly exercise complete control over his or her own environment.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Inspiration and Intention


The latest edition of Themelios includes an article by Jared Compton concerning the dual authorship of Scripture. It is particularly interesting considering some of the recent discussions on this blog.

Compton writes:


It was not too long ago that Kevin Vanhoozer answered the question Is There a Meaning in This Text? by relocating meaning in authorial intention,1 doing so even more robustly (not to mention, evangelically) than E. D. Hirsch had done. The difficulty, however, with any general hermeneutical theory, including speech-act, is that on the surface Scripture’s dual authorship seems to fit uncomfortably within any set of interpretive rules, particularly since one of its authors is God. While the inherent complexity in and exceptionality of Scripture’s authorship are well noted by evangelicals, hermeneutical rules are nevertheless still proposed and, quite often, even mandated. In fact, two particular rules are prescribed with some frequency. On the one hand, some evangelicals (as we shall see) suggest that inspiration demands that what one author intends the other must as well. To suggest, therefore, that God could intend more in a text than the human author runs the risk of being labeled hermeneutical Docetism, for such a proposal denies the full humanity of the text. Moreover, many of these same interpreters also
suggest that interpretation demands that what one author intends so too must the other. Suggesting that God could intend more in this case runs the risk of being
labeled hermeneutical nihilism, for one has removed the only means for interpretive control and stability. Despite the risks, other evangelicals (as we shall also see) are uncomfortable with this line of argumentation and suggest that these rules are ill-fitting, not least because the apostles themselves, they claim, do not seem to be preoccupied with following them. These evangelicals insist that our assumptions about general hermeneutics and dual authorship must be open to revision if Scripture and God’s hermeneuticians consistently transgress our rules.

The following essay will seek to enter this debate, freshly sketching the issues involved and seeking to justify these latter assertions, though not absolutely and not by directly exploring the apostles’ use of the OT. Rather, the essay will proceed at a preliminary step to that discussion and will argue that (1) inspiration does not suggest that the divine and human authors must share intentions and (2) shared intentions are not the sole means of interpretive stability.
Read the entire article HERE.

Take and Read











Here are some suggestions for reading in the days leading up to Lent:


The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy

Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross Nancy Guthrie (ed.)

Outrageous Mercy by William Farley


The Heart of the Cross by Boice & Ryken


In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is God an Egomaniac?


Al Mohler has an outstanding post on whether or not God is self-centered and megalomaniacal.


He writes


Is the God of the Bible the supreme egotist? That question arises when human beings contemplate the meaning of the truth that God does everything for the sake of his own glory. Is God then a megalomaniac?

Human beings are trapped in a human frame of reference. When we think of motivation, we inevitably start with our own self-conscious knowledge of our own motivations. For a human to seek his or her own glory is narcissism in purest form. Human egotism is constantly on display. And, if we are honest, we know that we seek our own glory as a reflex.

In reality, this is the essence of sin. Our desire for glory is inherently idolatrous and selfish. Paul describes this perfectly in Romans 1:22-23: "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." This exchange that robs God of his glory is the very heart of sin. We want the glory that is God's alone.
Read the entire post HERE.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Al Gore's Misleading Movie


You know the evidence for man-made global warming is bad when even the former vice president turned scientific snake oil salesman changes his alarmist propaganda tool.


Check out the story from The New York Times HERE.

Was Jesus a Racist?


Miguel De La Torre of Illif School of Theology, in an article written for Associated Baptist Press offers some interesting exegesis on Matthew 15:21-28.

He writes:

In the fullness of Jesus' divinity, he had to learn how to be fully human. His family and culture were responsible for teaching him how to walk, how to talk, and how to be potty-trained.

He also learned about the superiority of Judaism and the inferiority of non-Jews, in the very same way that today there are those within the dominant culture who are taught America is No. 1.

For some, this superiority takes on a racial component where European descent makes one more advanced than does Hispanic ancestry. The minority who insist on voicing their superiority can easily be dismissed as racist and thus ignored...

Nevertheless, for Christians, the imago Dei finds its fullest expression in the personhood of Jesus as he turned many "rules" upside down. This is a truth that even Jesus, in his full humanity, had to learn.

To deny this woman a healing and call her a dog reveals the racism his culture taught him. But Jesus, unlike so many within the dominant social structure of today, was willing to hear the words of this woman of color, and learn from her.

And thanks to her, Jesus' ministry was radically changed. The Canaanite woman responded by saying, "For even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters."

Her remark shocked Jesus into realizing that faith was not contingent on a person's ethnicity. In fact, Jesus had to admit that this was a woman of great faith.

Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, February 23, 2009

God in Flesh


INCARNATION
GOD SENT HIS SON, TO SAVE US

by J.I. Packer


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. JOHN 1:14

Trinity and Incarnation belong together. The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the man Jesus is truly divine; that of the Incarnation declares that the divine Jesus is truly human. Together they proclaim the full reality of the Savior whom the New Testament sets forth, the Son who came from the Father’s side at the Father’s will to become the sinner’s substitute on the cross (Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:29; 3:13-17; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8).

The moment of truth regarding the doctrine of the Trinity came at the Council of Nicaea (A.D.325), when the church countered the Arian idea that Jesus was God’s first and noblest creature by affirming that he was of the same “substance” or “essence” (i.e., the same existing entity) as the Father. Thus there is one God, not two; the distinction between Father and Son is within the divine unity, and the Son is God in the same sense as the Father is. In saying that Son and Father are “of one substance,” and that the Son is “begotten” (echoing “only-begotten,” John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, and NIV text notes) but “not made,” the Nicene Creed unequivocally recognized the deity of the man from Galilee.

A crucial event for the church’s confession of the doctrine of the Incarnation came at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D.451), when the church countered both the Nestorian idea that Jesus was two personalities—the Son of God and a man—under one skin, and the Eutychian idea that Jesus’ divinity had swallowed up his humanity. Rejecting both, the council affirmed that Jesus is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, reaction, and action); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes. In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be really and distinguishably present in the one person of the man from Galilee. Thus the Chalcedonian formula affirms the full humanity of the Lord from heaven in categorical terms.

The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness. That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing. Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine. They all teach, however, that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Spirit-anointed son of David promised in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 11:1-5; Christos, “Christ,” is Greek for Messiah). They all present him in a threefold role as teacher, sin-bearer, and ruler—prophet, priest, and king. And in other words, they all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man. Observe how the four most masterful New Testament theologians (John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter) speak to this.

John’s Gospel frames its eyewitness narratives (John 1:14; 19:35; 21:24) with the declarations of its prologue (1:1-18): that Jesus is the eternal divine Logos (Word), agent of Creation and source of all life and light (vv. 1-5, 9), who through becoming “flesh” was revealed as Son of God and source of grace and truth, indeed as “God the only begotten” (vv. 14, 18; NIV text notes). The Gospel is punctuated with “I am” statements that have special significance because I am (Greek: ego eimi) was used to render God’s name in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14; whenever John reports Jesus as saying ego eimi, a claim to deity is implicit. Examples of this are John 8:28, 58, and the seven declarations of his grace as (a) the Bread of Life, giving spiritual food (6:35, 48, 51); (b) the Light of the World, banishing darkness (8:12; 9:5); (c) the gate for the sheep, giving access to God (10:7, 9); (d) the Good Shepherd, protecting from peril (10:11, 14); (e) the Resurrection and Life, overcoming our death (11:25); (f) the Way, Truth, and Life, guiding to fellowship with the Father (14:6); (g) the true Vine, nurturing for fruitfulness (15:1, 5). Climactically, Thomas worships Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus then pronounces a blessing on all who share Thomas’s faith and John urges his readers to join their number (20:29-31).

Paul quotes from what seems to be a hymn that declares Jesus’ personal deity (Phil. 2:6); states that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9; cf. 1:19); hails Jesus the Son as the Father’s image and as his agent in creating and upholding everything (Col. 1:15-17); declares him to be “Lord” (a title of kingship, with divine overtones), to whom one must pray for salvation according to the injunction to call on Yahweh in Joel 2:32 (Rom. 10:9-13); calls him “God over all” (Rom. 9:5) and “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); and prays to him personally (2 Cor. 12:8-9), looking to him as a source of divine grace (2 Cor. 13:14). The testimony is explicit: faith in Jesus’ deity is basic to Paul’s theology and religion.

The writer to the Hebrews, purporting to expound the perfection of Christ’s high priesthood, starts by declaring the full deity and consequent unique dignity of the Son of God (Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12), whose full humanity he then celebrates in chapter 2. The perfection, and indeed the very possibility, of the high priesthood that he describes Christ as fulfilling depends on the conjunction of an endless, unfailing divine life with a full human experience of temptation, pressure, and pain (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:14-5:2; 7:13-28; 12:2-3).

Not less significant is Peter’s use of Isaiah 8:12-13 (1 Pet. 3:14). He cites the Greek (Septuagint) version, urging the churches not to fear what others fear but to set apart the Lord as holy. But where the Septuagint text of Isaiah says, “Set apart the Lord himself,” Peter writes, “Set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter would give the adoring fear due to the Almighty to Jesus of Nazareth, his Master and Lord.

The New Testament forbids worship of angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8-9) but commands worship of Jesus and focuses consistently on the divine-human Savior and Lord as the proper object of faith, hope, and love here and now. Religion that lacks these emphases is not Christianity. Let there be no mistake about that!

From Concise Theology by J.I. Packer

Missional AND Reformed

Westminster Seminary California held a conference in January called "Missional and Reformed." Check out the audio HERE.

Uh Huh!

Does the incarnation analogy fit?

One of the issues we have been touching on is whether or not the incarnation is a fitting analogy for Scripture. I am of the opinion that it is not a helpful model.

In his chapter on the doctrine of Scripture in the helpful book Reforming or Conforming, theologian Paul Wells writes:
The analogy is not really an analogy at all in the formal sense of the word, since the mystery of the personal union of the two natures in Christ does not serve to shed light on the nature of the union in the divine-human word of Scripture. Christ and Scripture are not equivalent realities as there is but one hypostatic union. Following along this line, it can be said that "an incarnational model may not be the best because, whereas with Christ's incarnation there is one person with two natures, with Scripture there are two persons (God and the human prophet) and one nature (the one Scriptural speech act). Thus to try to make the analogy may be like comparing apples to oranges" (Henri Blocher from a review of Inspiration and Incarnation in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society).
Apples and oranges indeed. For the errantist the incarnational model serves as a way to explain the Bible's supposed errors. But what does this say about their understanding of incarnation? We already know that their doctrine of inspiration does not allow for God to ensure that His words were acurately written through human authors. Could it be that their inderstanding of incarnation allows for something less than a perfect Christ? I am only speculating. It just seems strange that a miracle as awesome as the incarnation of God in human flesh would be used as analogy to promote the idea that the Bible errs.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday's Sermon

Click HERE to listen to or download today's sermon: The Gospel-Driven Church - Part 5 "Relationships: The Gospel and Conflict".

Take and Read




The emergent church movement has been very influential. Certainly, some of the things they are saying ought to be said. Some of their critiques of the church in America today are spot on. But there are significant problems within the emergent church movement. Keven Deyoung and Ted Kluck are two men who fit the demographic of emergent. Why is it then that they are not emergent? In their book Deyoung and Kluck carefully explain why they are not emergent. They write with doctrinal precision, gracious hearts, and good cheer. This is an important book. If you want to know more about the emergent church, particularly why it is a problematic movement then this book will serve you well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Bible and Ancient Tradition


In his review of Dr. Pete Enns' book Inspiration and Incarnation John Frame writes:


"In the first section, I have a hard time seeing where the problem lies. Enns’ point is that Old Testament Israel spoke languages and had institutions (temples, prophets, priests, kings, legal codes) that were in some ways like the other nations of its time. He admits that the fact that the OT uses human languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek “hardly poses a theological problem” (19), except for a few people who once thought that NT Greek was a special “Holy Spirit language.” Nor, certainly, is there anything particularly odd or challenging about the fact that nations other than Israel had temples, priests, etc. That these nations had such institutions is plain in the OT narrative. In fifty years of studying the issues of biblical authority, I have never once heard or read anybody who said that the existence of such parallel institutions was any kind of problem for the Bible’s inspiration or authority.

"I have heard and read a lot of reflection about the parallels between Israel’s laws and narratives to those outside Israel. Israel’s laws are somewhat like those of the Code of Hammurabi; non-Israelite nations have their own creation stories and flood stories, their own wisdom literatures, which are both like and unlike those in the Bible. Perhaps there have been some evangelicals who have found these parallels problematic, but I think not very many. The fact that non-Israelite traditions are different, even older, does not prove or even suggest that there are any defects in the biblical versions.

"God wanted his people to have a well-functioning legal system, geared to its life in its ancient environment. For this purpose, there was no need to re-invent the wheel. The Code of Hammurabi and other ancient codes addressed that same need, in similar cultures, and so it should be no surprise that God’s laws reflected the legal tradition of which Hammurabi’s Code was an instance. Moses, or some source he made use of, may well have found in a pre-existing set of laws, statutes that would fit Israel’s situation. The traditional doctrine of organic inspiration says that there is no contradiction between divine inspiration and human efforts to determine the right thing to say. The former often makes use of the latter.

"Similarly, God wanted Israel to know something about the creation and flood. If we assume that these events actually happened, it is not surprising that the literature of non-Israelite nations bear witness to them. And it is not surprising that God would inspire Moses to give Israel true accounts, or that these accounts are like the others in some respects. These accounts are similar, not only because they presuppose similar literary conventions, but also because they are describing the same event. Here too it would not be contrary to the doctrine of organic inspiration to believe that Moses depended on pre-existing sources from other nations.

"Enns asks, “if the Bible reflects these ancient customs and practices, in what sense can we speak of it as revelation?” (31) I reply, why not? It is revelation because it’s God’s word and therefore true. It’s like asking, “Luke and Josephus both speak of Jesus, so how can Luke be revelation?” Easy. Luke is an inspired apostle and Josephus is not. Is Enns attributing to some the view that a book cannot be revelation unless it reveals an entirely unique culture? I know nobody who says that, and such a view would be so implausible as to be undeserving of refutation. Maybe this is Enns’ own point, that a document can be God’s word even if it doesn’t reflect or establish a unique culture. But I can’t imagine why he thought this needed to be argued.

"We do often refer to Scripture as unique. But we don’t call it unique because it reflects a unique culture, rather because it is the written word of God and bears a unique witness to Christ."


You can read the rest of Dr. Frame's review HERE.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Avant Garde Exegetes

"Perhaps the most revolutionary suggestion that can be made in contemporary theological debate is that the traditional viewpoint is not axiomatically wrong, that even among the heady outpouring of today's avant-garde exegetes, it may still sometimes be true that the old is better, not because it is old, but because it is rooted in the sheer exegetical common sense which is one of the first casualities of the scholar's quest for originality."

- R.T. France

Guarding Life in North Dakota


The Christian Post reports:

BISMARCK, N.D. – A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.

The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said.

Representatives voted 51-41 to approve the measure Tuesday. It now moves to the North Dakota Senate for its review.

The bill declares that "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.

The measure's sponsor, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said the legislation did not automatically ban abortion. Ruby has introduced bills in previous sessions of the Legislature to prohibit abortion in North Dakota.

"This language is not as aggressive as the direct ban legislation that I've proposed in the past," Ruby said during House floor debate on Tuesday. "This is very simply defining when life begins, and giving that life some protections under our Constitution — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Critics of the measure say it will cost millions of dollars to defend. Ruby said the state has been willing to go to bat for other principles that were less important.
Read the entire report HERE.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Hath God said?"


From the earliest days of human existence the enemy has enticed men and women away from their Creator by challenging His truthfulness. It is the serpent sowing the seeds of doubt and rebellion the mind of Eve by his insidious question, "Hath God said?" Today the challenge is still being issued. Sadly the challenge often comes from within the body of Christ.

In his book The Christ of the Prophets O. Palmer Robertson writes:


But immediately upon man's creation in innocency, the serpent introduced the first lie that contradicted the truth of God (Gen. 3:1, 4-5). From that point on, the voice of the speaking serpent resonated in the utterances of the false prophets.

If the intent of Satan is to oppose the purposes of God with respect to the redemption of his people, then it is understandable that he would seek to misrepresent the truth in a way that would contradict the revelation given through the Lord's prophets.

By this method he would strike at the root of the means by which God had determined to direct the faith and life of his people. (p. 92)


Of course all of this is moot if Adam and Eve, the garden, and the fall are nothing more than Ancient Near Eastern myths erroneously included in an already error filled Bible.

"It is God we have to deal with."


"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."


- 2 Timothy 2:15



"The source of all doctrinal disputes is that clever men wish to show off their abilities before the world, and Paul here lays down the best and most fitting remedy for this by telling Timothy to keep his eyes fixed on God.

"It is as if he had said, 'Some men seek popular applause, but let it be your aim to approve yourself and your ministry to God.' There is indeed nothing more likely to check a foolish desire for display than to remember that it is God we have to deal with."

- John Calvin

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

God's Word is Trustworthy (5)

A few years ago Al Mohler wrote an article reflecting on John Killinger's book "Ten Things I Learned Wrong from a Conservative Church." I read Killengers book when it was released. It is a powerful illustration of what happens when the Scriptures are abandoned as God's trustworthy and truthful Word. It is an article that fits well in my current series of posts on the reliability of the Bible.

Mohler writes:
Basic to Killinger's theological transition is his rejection of the Bible as the literal, inerrant Word of God. Having been taught as a young Southern Baptist that the Bible is, word for word, the very Word of God, Killinger moved on to see the Bible as a mere record of theological reflections, limited and corrupted as they are, of ancient people. Those who believe that the Bible is actually God's Word are, by implication, just simplistic fools yet unenlightened by modern scholarship...

Conservative Christians, we are now told, are also hung up on sex. This leads to our repressive understanding of human sexuality and explains, of course, why we believe homosexuality to be sinful. Jesus, Killinger claims, "almost never said anything condemning sexuality." Freed from a commitment to the comprehensive truthfulness of the biblical text, he can just ignore whatever passages declare all sexual expression outside of marriage to be sin...

In the confrontation between the Bible and science, science wins. We should not be concerned about this, Killinger assures, because, "God doesn't need an inerrant Bible to be God. True believers shouldn't need it either." At this point, Killinger commends the example of Benjamin Franklin, who said that he read the Bible as he ate fish, throwing aside the parts that would stick in his throat...

In his first chapter, Killinger recounts a lunch conversation with Jerry Falwell, Pastor of Lynchburg's Thomas Road Baptist Church. One can only imagine the fireworks which must have resulted from the encounter between Falwell and Killinger during the years they served prominent pulpits in the same city. During their lunch conversation, Falwell warned of the slippery slope toward doctrinal compromise that follows the denial of biblical authority. At the end of Ten Things I Learned Wrong From a Conservative Church, Killinger acknowledges that Jerry Falwell was right. "Once we were able to say out loud that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God--that its inspiration is not really different from that of the Bhagavad-Gita or Thoreau's Walden or Maya Angelou's poems--then a great number of conservative and fundamentalist idols begin to topple." Furthermore, Killinger recounts that without an affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture, it is "a simple step to denying that Jesus is the only way to God, or that he really had to die for our sins."

Read the entire post HERE.

Humble Epistomology

"We contend for the objectivity of truth, and we must insist that all persons do actually believe in the objectivity of Truth. The fact is that even the relativists objectivize their own positions. The difference for us is that we know that truth exists in God, who is Truth, and whose Word is truth. Our knowledge is true only in so far as it corresponds with God's revealed truth. We are dependent upon the Word, the Word is not dependent upon us. As Martin Luther stated so clearly, "The objectivity and certainty of the Word remain even if it isn't believed." We have no right to seek refuge in a halfway house of false epistemological humility. To deny the truthfulness of God's Word is not an act of humility, but of unspeakable arrogance.

"This is our proper epistemological humility - not that it is not possible for us to know, but that the truth is not our own. We are dependent upon the Word of God. Indeed, we submit ourselves to the Word of God, as believers, teachers, and preachers. And this is genuine knowledge, revealed knowledge. It is knowledge of which we are not ashamed. As Gordon Clark warned: "If man can know nothing truly, man can truly know nothing. We cannot know that the Bible is the Word of God, that Christ died for our sin, or that Christ is alive today at the right hand of the Father. Unless knowledge is possible, Christianity is non-sensical, for it claims to be knowledge. What is at stake in the twentieth century is not simply a single doctrine, such as the Virgin Birth, or the existence of Hell, as important as those doctrines may be, but the whole of Christianity itself. If knowledge is not possible to man, it is worse than silly to argue points of doctrine--it is insane."

"We confess that knowledge is possible, but knowledge of spiritual things is revealed. Without the Word of God we would know nothing of redemption, of Christ, of God's sovereign provision for us. We would have no true knowledge of ourselves, of our sin, of our hopelessness but for the mercy of Christ. As Professor R. B. Kuiper reminded his students, the most direct, the simplest, and most honest answer to the question, 'How do you know?' is this: 'The Bible tells us so.'"

- Dr. Albert Mohler

The Old Paths


"I am afraid of an inward disease which appears to be growing and spreading in all the Churches of Christ throughout the world. That disease is a disposition on the part of ministers to abstain from all sharply-cut doctrine, and a distaste on the part of professing Christians for all distinct statements of dogmatic truth."


"Let no scorn of the world, let no ridicule of smart writers, let no sneers of liberal critics, let no secret desire to please and conciliate the public, tempt us for one moment to leave the old paths, and drop the old practice of enunciating doctrine--clear, distinct, well-defined, and sharply-cut doctrine--in all utterances and teachings."


- J.C. Ryle

God's Word is Trustworthy (4)


J.I. Packer's classic work Fundamentalism and the Word of God is now 50 years old. I encourage you to read it. I believe you will find that it helps to bolster your faith in the Bible as God's Word.


The Bible excludes the idea of a frustrated Deity. ‘Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth’. He was well able to prepare, equip and overrule human writers so that they wrote nothing but what He intended; and the Scripture tells us that this is what in fact he did. We are to think of the Spirit’s inspiring activity, and, for that matter, of all His regular operations in and upon human personality, as (to use an old but valuable technical term) concursive; that is, as exercised in, through and by means of the writers’ own activity, in such a way that their thinking and writing was both free and spontaneous on their part and divinely elicited and controlled, and what they wrote was not only their own work but also God’s work. (80)

Not that the text of Scripture is made up entirely of formal doctrinal statements; of course, it is not…In fact Scripture is an organism, a complex, self-interpreting whole, its theology showing the meaning of the events and experiences which it records, and the events and experiences showing the outworking of the theology in actual life. All these items have their place in the total system of biblical truth. (94)

Scripture must interpret Scripture; the scope and significance of one passage is to be brought out by relating it to others….The Reformers termed this principle the analogy of Scripture; the Westminster Confession states it thus: ‘The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the truth and full sense of any scripture, it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly’. This is so in the nature of the case, since the various inspired books are dealing with complementary aspects of the same subject. The rule means that we must give ourselves in Bible study to following out the unities, cross-references and topical links which Scripture provides. (106)

Monday, February 16, 2009

The World's Most Beautiful Car?


That's right. The french Citroen DS has been named the world's most beautiful sports car. Suddenly the universe holds a greater mystery than it has ever known.


Read the sad story HERE if you dare.


Any nominations for the car that should have won?


My Lunch with Kent


Kent Sparks and I met for lunch today. Since our relationship has played out a little bit on this blog I thought I would follow up. I had a great time with him. If you don't know Kent, he is a terrific guy. We talked about family, COS, life, theology, epistomology, and biblical studies - you know, typical lunch conversation.


I loved hearing about Kent's own spiritual journey. It is interesting that as we each struggled with some of the same questions in our days as students we ended up coming to different conclusions about the nature of Scripture. We definitely disagree on some issues and those issues are not unimportant. That said, I rejoice in the fact that Kent is my brother in Christ. While the issues on which we disagree will probably mean that we cannot serve together regularly in the same church I nevertheless hold him in high esteem as one who loves the Lord Jesus.


If anyone would like to ultimately pit Kent and I against one another then you will probably get frustrated. While I disagree with some of his views I only have good things to say about the man. One of the things we in the body of Christ must do better (certainly I do) is how to disagree as brothers and sisters. Don't misunderstand, we must not ignore issues that are truly important. In some cases those disagreements are worthy of vigorous debate (not for the sake of debating but for the purpose of arriving at the truth). While Kent and I differ on some things that are very important to us, on the most essential issues we are, I believe, agreed.


Kent Sparks is a good man and I look forward to fellowshipping with him in the future.

* Let me add a thought. It might be better to say that Kent and I would struggle organizing a church together. I can imagine a number of ways in which we could serve and worship together. We probably would not be able to write a detailed statement on Scripture together but I could certainly stand by his side and worship with him.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

God's Word is Trustworthy (3)

Take time to watch, listen to, or read John Piper's sermon "Thank God for an Inspired Bible" by clicking HERE.

Also, check out Dr. Piper's excellent message "Why I Trust the Scriptures" HERE.

Gratitude for Sovereign Grace


"I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit.


"Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my spiritual life-no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good. Wooings were lost upon me-warnings were cast to the wind-thunders were despised; and as for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, "He only is my salvation." It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him.


"I can in very deed, say with Doddridge and Toplady - "Grace taught my soul to pray, and made my eyes o'erflow;" and coming to this moment, I can add - 'Tis grace has kept me to this day, and will not let me go.'"


- Charles H. Spurgeon

Saturday, February 14, 2009

God's Word is Trustworthy (2)

"Is the Bible Inerrant?"
by Professor John Frame

Quite a few people have suggested that "inerrant" is not a good word to use in describing Scripture. This article is designed to respond to that objection. Before we take up the specific term "inerrant," however, it will be well for us to remind ourselves, in more general terms, of what the Reformed faith and the Bible itself teach us about Scripture.

First, Scripture is the covenant constitution of the people of God.1 The first written Word of God, the first Bible, was the Ten Commandments, written by the very finger of God on tables of stone (Ex. 24:12, 31:18, 32:15f, 34:1). In it, God speaks as the author of the document: "I am the Lord your God." That written Word was put in the holiest place in Israel, beside the Ark of the Covenant, where it was to stand as God's witness against Israel (Deut. 31:26).2 As such, the written Word was to govern every aspect of the lives of God's people (Deut. 4:1-14, 5:32-6:25).3 Nearly every chapter in Deuteronomy urges the people to obey all the laws, testimonies, statutes, commandments, and words... (such eloquent redundancy!) of God's written Word. Nearly every verse of Psalm 119 calls God's people back to these statutes; revival in Israel is always a revival of obedience to (sometimes rediscovery of) the law.

Beyond the Decalogue, God gave other Words to his people. The song of Moses in Deut. 32 (see 31:19) is such a Word. Words of Joshua were later added (Josh. 24:25f). And God sent prophets; the very definition of a prophet was that he proclaimed God's Word, not words of his own devising (Deut. 18:18-20). Many of these prophecies were written down. Jesus regarded the whole Old Testament as God's written Word (Matt. 5:17-19, John 5:45, 10:33-36), as did the apostles (Rom. 15:4, II Tim. 3:16, II Pet. 1:21, Jas. 4:5, 11).

The New Testament is a New Covenant, and thus it involves the giving of divine Words (Matt. 7:24-27, Mark 8:38, John 6:68f, 12:47ff, 14:15, 21, 23f, 15:7, 10, 14, 17:6, 17, I John 2:3-5, 3:22, 5:2f, II John 6, I Tim. 6:3, Rev. 12:17, 14:12). Jesus himself wrote no books, but he provided for his apostles to speak and write for God (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13, I Cor. 2:10-13, 4:1, 14:37, Gal. 1:1, 11f, 16, 2:2). By the Holy Spirit's witness and the content of the books themselves, Christians recognize the New Testament, as they do the Old, as God's book.

Thus the church has historically confessed that Scripture is the Word of God. It is God speaking to us. There are also human authors of Scripture, and the content of Scripture reflects their personalities, styles, and experiences. But the humanity of Scripture does not mean that Scripture has less authority than, say, the divine voice at Mount Sinai. The authority of Scripture is nothing less than the authority of God himself, as the passages cited earlier clearly demonstrate.

We have, therefore, no right to bring negative criticism against the Bible. As the Belgic Confession states, with the canonical books "there can be no quarrel at all," (Article 4), "we believe without a doubt all things contained in them..." (Article 5), and "the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects" (Article 7). When God speaks to us, we dare not criticize what he says. Our only recourse is to believe and to obey.

Now, what of inerrancy? Well, the inerrancy of Scripture is certainly implied in what I have said already, if we are permitted to take "inerrancy" in its normal, dictionary meaning. "Inerrant" simply means "without error," or "true" in the sense that we normally speak of true sentences, true doctrines, true accounts, true principles. Were God to speak to us in person, "directly," none of us would dare to charge him with error. Errors arise from ignorance or deceit; and our God is neither ignorant, nor is he a deceiver. Similarly, we dare not charge his written Word with error.

This is not a mere "modern" position. As we have seen, it is the position of Scripture itself. Augustine in the fifth century declared, "None of these (scriptural) authors has erred in any respect of writing." Infallibility4 is affirmed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1 and in the Belgic Confession, Article 7.

Shall we speak today of biblical "inerrancy?" The term does, to be sure, produce confusion in some circles. Some theologians have gone far astray from the dictionary meaning of "inerrant." James Orr, for example, defined "inerrant" as "hard and fast literality in minute matters of historical, geographical, and scientific detail."5 Well, if "inerrancy" requires literalism, then we should renounce inerrancy; for the Bible is not always to be interpreted literally. Certainly there are important questions of Bible interpretation that one bypasses if he accepts biblical inerrancy in this sense.

But we should remember that Orr's use of the term, and the similar uses of contemporary theologians, are distortions of its meaning. Perhaps those distortions have become so frequent today as to inhibit the usefulness of the term. For the time being, however, I would like to keep the term, and explain to people who question me that I am not using it in Orr's sense, but rather to confess the historic faith of the church.

We do have a problem here: Other things being equal, I would prefer to drop all extra-scriptural terms including "infallible" and "inerrant" and simply speak, as Scripture does, of God's Word being true. That's all we mean, after all, when we say Scripture is inerrant. But modern theologians won't let me do that. They redefine "truth" so that it refers to some big theological notion6 , and they will not permit me to use it as meaning "correctness" or "accuracy" or "reliability." So I try the word "infallible," a historical expression that, as I indicated in a footnote above, is actually a stronger term than "inerrancy." But again, modern theologians7 insist on redefining that word also, so that it actually says less than "inerrancy."

Now what is our alternative? Even "accuracy" and "reliability" have been distorted by theological pre-emption. "Correctness" seems too trivial to express what we want to say. So, although the term is overly technical and subject to some misunderstanding, I intend to keep the word "inerrant" as a description of God's Word, and I hope that my readers will do the same. The idea, of course, is more important than the word. If I can find better language that expresses the biblical doctrine to modern hearers, I will be happy to use that and drop "inerrancy." But at this moment, "inerrancy" has no adequate replacement. To drop the term in the present situation, then, can involve compromising the doctrine, and that we dare not do. God will not accept or tolerate negative human judgments concerning his holy Word. So I conclude: yes, the Bible is inerrant.

1. Some will be pleased to see that I am not arguing as a "fundamentalist" ala the fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century, but very much in the Reformed tradition, expounding the implications of God's covenant with us. Others will not.
2. It is not men's witness to God, as theologians often suggest, but God's witness against men.
3. For more on the concept of Scripture as covenant constitution, see M. G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972). This is a very important, though much neglected study.
4. If we are permitted, again, to use the dictionary — and why shouldn't theologians use the dictionary!? — "infallible" is a stronger term than "inerrant." "Inerrant" means there are no errors; "infallible" means there can be no errors.
5. Orr, "Revelation and Inspiration," in Millard Erickson, ed., The Living God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), p. 245.
6. Emil Brunner's "Truth as Encounter."
7. e.g. J. Rogers and D. McKim, in The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979).

God's Word is Trustworthy (1)

"Divine trustworthiness is above all the trustworthiness of the divine speaking. Since the primary record and embodiment of this divine speaking is to be found in the Bible, which is quite literally 'the word of God,' we can speak of a trustworthy God only on the basis of a trustworthy Bible. If the human authorship of the biblical writings makes them in any serious sense untrustworthy, then divine trurstworthiness is inaccessible to us, for trustworthy divine speech would then be so adulterated by untrstworthy human speech that discrimination between the true and the counterfeit would be impossible. How could we know whether the prophetic 'Thus says the Lord' prefaced a genuinely divine speaking or an all-too-human speaking seeking to absolutize itself by claiming divine authority? If, however, the Bible is untrustworthy, then the trustworthy God would not have spoken clearly and unambiguously enough to elicit our trust. Yet divine trustworthiness must surely be manifested as such if we are to actualize the trust of which God is said to be worthy, and a trustworthy Bible is therefore a necessary condition for our ability to trust God - that is, to regard God as trustworthy."

- Francis Watson from The Trustworthiness of God

Mea Culpa

It has been brought to my attention that Dr. Kenton Sparks is connected to Church of the Saviour. He is either a member or has been a regular attendee. I do not know which. He has also served as a teacher in the young families department.

If I had known this I would have contacted Dr. Sparks before posting a link to Andy Naselli's post on his book. I would still have posted the link because I believe it is a very important issue for God's people. I would imagine that this is why Dr. Sparks wrote his book. He knows that our doctrine of Scripture is very important for us.

However, I regret not knowing that Dr. Sparks is, or has been, connected to Church of the Saviour.

So I offer my sincere apologies to Dr. Sparks. I am sure he is a fine and godly man.

* Update:
Without divulging any confidences I will simply say that I have corresponded with Dr. Sparks. He was very kind which won't surprise anyone who knows him. He is not a member of COS and is currently attending another church. I am sure Dr. Sparks and I will maintain very different understandings of the doctrine of inspiration. That said, I am thankful to call him my brother in Christ.

Infallibility, Inerrancy, and Interpretation


"Holy Scripture, as the inspired Word of God witnessing authoritatively to Jesus Christ, may properly be called infallible and inerrant. These negative terms have a special value, for they explicitly safeguard crucial positive truths.


"lnfallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.


"Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.
We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman's milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.

So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.


"The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (e.g., the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to set the so-called "phenomena" of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself. Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.


"Inasmuch as all Scripture is the product of a single divine mind, interpretation must stay within the bounds of the analogy of Scripture and eschew hypotheses that would correct one Biblical passage by another, whether in the name of progressive revelation or of the imperfect enlightenment of the inspired writer's mind.


"Although Holy Scripture is nowhere culture-bound in the sense that its teaching lacks universal validity, it is sometimes culturally conditioned by the customs and conventional views of a particular period, so that the application of its principles today calls for a different sort of action."


From The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

Friday, February 13, 2009

Is the Bible Reliable?

Here are some great resources that help to answer that question:

AUDIO

"The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable" - A lecture by Dr. Peter Gentry

"Why We Believe The Bible" - A Seminar by John Piper

"The Sufficiency of Scripture" - Two Lectures by Dr. Albert Mohler

"The Doctrine of the Word of God" - Lectures by Dr. Wayne Grudem

Articles

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

"The Witness of the Bible to Its Own Inerrancy" by Gleason Archer

"Is the Bible Inerrant?" by John Frame

Roger Nicole on Biblical Inerrancy


Books

The Erosion of Inerrancy by G.K. Beale

A Clear and Present Word by Mark D. Thompson

Scripture and Truth by D.A. Carson & John Woodbridge

Thy Word is Truth by E.J. Young

The Trustworthiness of God Helm & Trueman (ed.)

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield

Fundamentalism and the Word of God by J.I. Packer

God Has Spoken by J.I. Packer

Does the Bible Err?


* I have changed the original title of this post because, upon further reflection I decided it was a bit snotty.


One of the important functions of the pastor is to identify error. The church is constantly confronted with preaching, teaching, and literature that leads many of God's people into error. One book that has garnered much attention in recent days is Kenton Sparks' God's Word in Human Words. I do not know Dr. Sparks (Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University) but I am sure he is a fine man. His book however should trouble anyone who believes the Bible to be the Word of God.





Andy Naselli has posted some helpful thoughts on Dr. Sparks' book.



Sparks uncritically accepts critical views and is overconfident in his conclusions while severely criticizing evangelicals like D. A. Carson, Robert Yarbrough, Kevin Vanhoozer, and James Hoffmeier. Sparks takes the debate beyond Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation. The book’s subtitle should not include the word “evangelical”: God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation
of Critical Biblical Scholarship.

More reviews of this book are forthcoming. (For example, look for one by Robert Yarbrough in the next issue of Themelios.) Here are a couple of others already published:

1. The enthusiastic RBL review by Arthur Boulet, an M.A. student at Westminster Theological Seminary and an ardent supporter of Peter Enns, is sad. A sharp friend of mine who is working on a PhD elsewhere emailed me this after reading it: “This
review makes me want to cry. May God grant grace.”

2. The review by Kevin Bauder is a breath of fresh air in comparison.

Updates:

1. S. M. Baugh reviewed Sparks’s book for Reformation21 in August 2008.

2. Gary L. W. Johnson comments on Sparks’s book in the introduction to Reforming or Conforming: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church (ed. Gary L. W. Johnson and Ronald L. Gleason; Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 23n21:

Sparks in particular paints contemporary defenders of inerrancy in very unflattering colors. Old Testament scholars such as R. K. Harrison, Gleason Archer, and E. J. Young are accused of sticking their heads in the sand to avoid dealing with the real issues raised by critical Old Testament scholars (133ff ) while New Testament scholars such as D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo are said to be guilty of deliberately dodging the issues of New Testament critics (167). Even greater disdain is heaped on Carl Henry, who had the misfortune of simply being a theologian and not a biblical scholar (138). However, the most reprehensible aspect of Sparks’s work is the facile labeling of all defenders of inerrancy as Cartesian foundationalists. Sparks declares Cornelius Van Til, and his presuppositional apologetics, to be Cartesian because Van Til underscored the importance of certainty, which to Sparks’s way of thinking automatically makes one a Cartesian (45). If that is the case, then we must place not only the Reformers and the church fathers in that category, but Christ and the apostles as well! Van Til was no Cartesian. His apologetical approach was rooted in classic Reformed theology, especially in the Dutch tradition of Kuyper and Bavinck, stretching back to the noted Dutch Protestant scholastic Peter Van Mastricht (1630–1706), who was an outspoken critic of all things Cartesian. As Richard Muller notes, “Mastricht’s consequent stress on the necessity of revelation for Christian theology (theology defined as ‘living before God in and through Christ’ or as the wisdom leading to that end) led to an adamant resistance to Cartesian thought with its method of radical doubt and its insistence on the primacy of autonomy of the mind in all matters of judgment.” Richard Muller, “Giving Direction to Theology: The Scholastic Dimension,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28 (June 1985), 185.



Read Andy's entire post HERE.





The theory of the seminarian in one generation will become the theory of the church in the next.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Megalomaniacal Messianism



I don't know if Oprah is or is not a nice person. That really is not the point. She is however a true believer. And what she believes is that she has a message of spiritual truth that must be delivered to the American people. It is a message which proclaims God to be a spiritual essence that pervades all reality. It is a message of the divine self. "God is all. All is one. I am God."





Oprah's religion is growing. It does not help that some of America's most prominent and popular preachers proclaim a message that echoes some of the same themes. Listen to Joel Osteen (if you can bear it). His is a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps spirituality. "Your a good person. God is nice. He helps those who help themselves." Everything he preaches could be said without any reference to Jesus Christ, much less the cross. So with Oprah, America's most influential media star advancing a spirituality that sounds, to the undiscerning ear a lot like that of America's most well known pastor then confusion and apostasy are not far away.


A recent post over at 40th Street Blog comments on Oprah's theology and influence.



In a nutshell, Oprah's journey of faith has led her away from organized "religion" and towards a broader notion of "spirituality", with many New Age tendencies. As one listens to the teachings of her spiritual confidants, the seemingly Eastern tenets become clearer. Essentially, this worldview affirms the inherent goodness of human beings. However, one somehow becomes distanced from this purer version of the self as he/she exists in the everyday world. Thus, human beings need liberation. This is achieved through practicing spiritual disciplines of meditation and reflection in order to realize our true connection with the Universe. As one guest on her show put it, we all have an inner light - like one inside a lantern. However, that glass tends to accumulate dirt, preventing the light from emanating in full. Our goal is to repeatedly wipe away the dirt in order that it may continue to shine. Faith is specifically addressed as a journey rather than adherence to any particular doctrine...

Unfortunately for its followers, this lifestyle places individuals at the center of their universe. The onus is upon them to both purify themselves and desperately try to find the good in even the worst of experiences. I recently listened to one show on spirituality hosted by Oprah and her panel of spiritual authorities. As caller after caller described their own experiences of tragedy, the panel essentially asked each one to smile and put on a happy face, or in other words, "To try to listen to what the Universe is teaching you" in the midst of it. What is the Universe teaching you when lose your job? What might the Universe want to say when your health insurance refuses to cover your child's cancer treatments? What might the Universe offer to a parent whose infant died upon birth? Sadly, this form of spirituality demands its adherents to pull themselves up by the spiritual boot-straps when things get tough. One caller even confessed her repeated failures to maintain this spiritual marathon, and asked what she could do to keep running.



Read the entire post HERE.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Book on the New Birth


The newest title to flow from the prolific John Piper concerns the doctrine of the regeneration or the new birth. I am very excited about this. There have been precious few books on this profoundly important topic.


Here are a few endorsements:


“Regeneration, or new birth, meaning simply the new you through, with, in, and under Christ, is a largely neglected theme today, but this fine set of sermons, criss-crossing the New Testament data with great precision, goes far to fill the gap. Highly recommended.
- J .I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada


“I cannot too strongly celebrate the publication of this book. Owing in part to several decades of dispute over justification and how a person is set right with God, we have tended to neglect another component of conversion no less important. Conversion under the terms of the new covenant is more than a matter of position and status in Christ, though never less: it includes miraculous Spirit-given transformation, something immeasurably beyond mere human resolution. It is new birth; it makes us new creatures; it demonstrates that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. All the creedal orthodoxy in the world cannot replace it. The reason why “You must be born again” is so important is that you must be born again."
- D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School


You can order a copy by clicking HERE.

Yes, The Reformation Still Matters


The New York Times reports on the return of indulgences to the Church of Rome:


In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin.

The fact that many Catholics under 50 have never sought one, and never heard of indulgences except in high school European history (Martin Luther denounced the selling of them in 1517 while igniting the Protestant Reformation), simply makes their reintroduction more urgent among church leaders bent on restoring fading traditions of penance in what they see as a self-satisfied world.

Read the entire article HERE.


Read the official teaching of Rome regarding indulgences HERE.


Tetzel would be a happy man today!