Saturday, January 30, 2010

Encouraging God's People Through Exposing Error

"Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus."
- Acts 18:24-28

There are times when polemics are necessary. This of course is often unpopular in the church because it feels "mean" to modern sensibilities. "Let's just say what we believe," it is reasoned. "There's no need to point out another's error." It would be nice I suppose if we never needed to identify errors. It would be nice if there were no errors to refute. But one of the ways the apostles served God's people was through polemic - speaking out against specific errors. Indeed, much of the Bible itself is polemic.

In our own day, when competing truth claims often sit side-by-side, it has become essential for sermons, statements of faith, and the like to contain both affirmations and denials.

Deed not Creeds?

PLEASE take time to listen to Ligon Duncan's message from the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference.

The church today needs this challenge. I have been heartened in recent years by the evidence that a younger generation of evangelicals are hungry for sound and vibrant doctrine. May it grow! The title of Duncan's message is "Sound Doctrine - Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry."

Book Note

I have not read Dug Down Deep yet but will try and do so next month. That said, it looks helpful and is endorsed by some folks who I respect very much.

"More than forty years of quadriplegia has underscored to me the matchless value of knowing—really knowing—the doctrines of the Christian faith. Dug Down Deep reveals how biblical doctrine provides a pathway to understanding the heart and mind of God. If you're looking for 'that one book' that will push you farther down the road to faith than you've ever journeyed before, Dug Down Deep is it. I highly recommend it!"
- Joni Eareckson Tada, author; founder and CEO, International Disability Center, Agoura Hills, CA

"When the apostle Peter says, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxiety on Him," he implies that humble people are fearless. They have the courage to stand up for truth humbly. I love the term "humble orthodoxy." And I love Josh Harris. When they come together (Josh and humble orthodoxy), as they do in this book, you get a humble, helpful, courageous testimony to biblical truth. Thank you, Josh, for following through so well on the conversation in Al Mohler's study."
- John Piper, author of Desiring God; Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis

"Josh says that this book is his 'reveling in theology in my own simple way.' Having read it, I can say that it is also a popular defense of the importance of theology and, at the same time, an introduction to it. I enjoyed reading it. And my mind immediately began to go to how I could use this book. Josh has given me a new tool! It is interesting, well written, and excellently illustrated. Josh has succeeded again in giving us a book that is clear, engaging, direct, solid, easy to read, sound, God centered, balanced, humorous—and it even has pictures!"
- Mark Dever, author; Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC

Relationships in the 'Already/Not Yet'

“The problem with relationships is that they all take place right smack-dab in the middle of something, and that something is the story of redemption, God’s plan to turn everything in our lives into instruments of Christlike change and growth. You and I never get to be married to a fully sanctified spouse. We will never be in a relationship with a completely mature friend. We will never live next to a neighbor utterly free of the need to grow and change. We will never have self-parenting children. We will never be near people who always think, desire, say, or do the right things. And the reason for all of this is that our relationships are lived between the already and the not yet.”

From Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Lane & Tripp (108)

Friday, January 29, 2010

What do you think about God? from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

The TBN Cesspool

John MacArthur weighs in on Trinity Broadcasting Network, the most successful purveyors of heresy in the world.

The continued growth and influence of TBN is baffling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the thick aura of lust, greed, and other kinds of moral impropriety that surrounds the whole enterprise. A long string of scandals involving notable charismatic televangelists between 1988 and 1992 should have been sufficient reason for even the most credulous viewers to scrutinize the entire industry with skepticism. First came the international spectacle of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's moral, marital, and financial collapse. That was followed closely by the revelation of Jimmy Swaggart's repeated dalliances with prostitutes. Shortly afterward, an episode of ABC's Primetime Live exposed clear examples of deliberate fraud on the part of three more leading charismatic televangelists. Those incidents were punctuated by a score of lesser scandals over several years' time. It is clear (or should be)—based on empirical evidence alone—that preachers promising miracles in exchange for money are not to be trusted. And for anyone who simply bothers to compare Jesus' teaching with the health-and-wealth message, it is clear that the message that currently dominates religious television is "a different gospel; which is really not another" (Galatians 1:6-7), but a damnable lie.

TBN is by far the leading perpetrator of that lie worldwide. Virtually all the network's main celebrities tell listeners that God will give them healing, wealth, and other material blessings in return for their money. On program after program people are urged to "plant a seed" by sending "the largest bill you have or the biggest check you can write" with the promise that God will miraculously make them rich in return. That same message dominates all of TBN's major fundraising drives. It's known as the "seed faith" plan, so-called by Oral Roberts, who set the pattern for most of the charismatic televangelists who have followed the trail he blazed. Paul Crouch, founder, chairman, and commander-in-chief of TBN, is one of the doctrine's staunchest defenders.

The only people who actually get rich by this scheme, of course, are the televangelists. Their people who send money get little in return but phony promises—and as a result, many of them turn away from the truth completely.

If the scheme seems reminiscent of Tetzel, that's because it is precisely the same doctrine. (Tetzel was a medieval monk whose high-pressure selling of indulgences—phony promises of forgiveness—outraged Martin Luther and touched off the Protestant Reformation.)

Like Tetzel, TBN preys on the poor and plies them with false promises. Yet what is happening daily on TBN is many times worse than the abuses that Luther decried because it is more widespread and more flagrant. The medium is more high-tech and the amounts bilked out of viewers' pockets are astronomically higher. (By most estimates, TBN is worth more than a billion dollars and rakes in $200 million annually. Those are direct contributions to the network, not counting millions more in donations sent directly to TBN broadcasters.) Like Tetzel on steroids, the Crouches and virtually all the key broadcasters on TBN live in garish opulence, while constantly begging their needy viewers for more money. Elderly, poor, and working-class viewers constitute TBN's primary demographic. And TBN's fundraisers all know that. The most desperate people—"unemployed," "even though I'm in between jobs," "trying to make it; trying to survive," "broke"—are baited with false promises to give what they do not even have. Jan Crouch addresses viewers as "you little people," and suggests that they send their grocery money to TBN "to assure God's blessing."
Read the entire article HERE.

R.C. Sproul Q & A

Where are the prophets in the church?

How does Jesus prophetically speak to His church today?

Does He know when He is coming back?

R.C. Sproul deals with these questions HERE.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why I still like Christopher Hitchens

From an exchange between Christopher Hitchens and Maryiln Sewell, a Unitarian minister:

Maryiln Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

The fading discipline of biblical discernment

The landscape of contemporary evangelicalism has become a garbage heap littered with all manner of heresy and sentimental sappiness. Exactly how this has come about may be debated but it is certainly related to both the failure of preachers to proclaim the whole counsel of God and American Christians desire to be spiritual entrepreneurs accountable to nothing higher than the quiver in their liver.

Al Mohler offers a timely and devastating critique of The Shack with emphasis upon the spiritual and intellectual climate that makes such aberrations possible.

In the shack, "Mack" meets the divine Trinity as "Papa," an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and "Sarayu," an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. "Papa" is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed...

While the literary device of an unconventional "trinity" of divine persons is itself sub-biblical and dangerous, the theological explanations are worse. "Papa" tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity "spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God." Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence. The Christology of the book is likewise confused. "Papa" tells Mack that, though Jesus is fully God, "he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being." When Jesus healed the blind, "He did so only as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone."

While there is ample theological confusion to unpack there, suffice it to say that the Christian church has struggled for centuries to come to a faithful understanding of the Trinity in order to avoid just this kind of confusion -- understanding that the Christian faith is itself at stake.

Jesus tells Mack that he is "the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu." Not the only way, but merely the best way.

In another chapter, "Papa" corrects Mack's theology by asserting, "I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it." Without doubt, God's joy is in the atonement accomplished by the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible consistently reveals God to be the holy and righteous Judge, who will indeed punish sinners. The idea that sin is merely "its own punishment" fits the Eastern concept of karma, but not the Christian Gospel...

All this reveals a disastrous failure of evangelical discernment. It is hard not to conclude that theological discernment is now a lost art among American evangelicals -- and this loss can only lead to theological catastrophe.

The answer is not to ban The Shack or yank it out of the hands of readers. We need not fear books -- we must be ready to answer them. We desperately need a theological recovery that can only come from practicing biblical discernment. This will require us to identify the doctrinal dangers of The Shack, to be sure. But our real task is to reacquaint evangelicals with the Bible's teachings on these very questions and to foster a doctrinal rearmament of Christian believers.

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. An assessment like that offered by Timothy Beal is telling. The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us -- a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine.

Read the entire article HERE.

"Half a God is not God at all"

Tim Keller weighs in on The Shack:

Over the holidays I read a good (and devastating) review of William P. (Paul) Young’s The Shack in the most recent print edition of Books and Culture: A Christian Review (Jan/Feb 2010.) It was a reminder that I was one of the last people on the planet not to have read the book. So I did. So why write a blog post about it? It had sold 7.2 million copies in a little over 2 years, by June of 2009. With those kinds of numbers, the book will certainly exert some influence over the popular religious imagination. So it warrants a response. This is not a review, but just some impressions.

At the heart of the book is a noble effort — to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form. The argument Young makes at various parts of the book is this. First, this world’s evil and suffering is the result of our abuse of free will. Second, God has not prevented evil in order to accomplish some glorious, greater good that humans cannot now understand. Third, when we stay bitter at God for a particular tragedy we put ourselves in the seat of the ‘Judge of the world and God’, and we are unqualified for such a job. Fourth, we must get an ‘eternal perspective’ and see all God’s people in joy in his presence forever. (The father in the story is given a vision of his deceased daughter living in the joy of Christ’s presence, and it heals his grief.) This is all rather standard, orthodox, pastoral theology (though it’s a bit too heavy on the ‘free-will defense’). It is so accessible to readers because of its narrative form. I have heard many reports of semi-believers and non-believers claiming that this book gave them an answer to their biggest objections to faith in God.

However, sprinkled throughout the book, Young’s story undermines a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Many have gotten involved in debates about Young’s theological beliefs, and I have my own strong concerns. But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God’s statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn’t give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship. The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John ‘fell at his feet as dead.’ (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

There is another modern text that sought to convey the character of God through story. It also tried to ‘embody’ the Biblical doctrine of God in an imaginative way that conveyed the heart of the Biblical message. That story contained a Christ-figure named Aslan. Unlike the author of The Shack, however, C.S. Lewis was always at pains to maintain the Biblical tension between the divine love and his overwhelming holiness and splendor. In the introduction to his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis cited the example from the children’s text The Wind in the Willows where two characters, Rat and Mole, approach divinity.

“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
“Afraid? of Him? O, never, never. And yet — and yet — O Mole, I am afraid.”

Lewis sought to get this across at many places through his Narnia tales. One of the most memorable is the description of Aslan.

“Safe?…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

That's better.

Check out Tim Challies' extensive review of The Shack HERE.

The Tyranny of the Savior State

Americans would be wise to understand that the more power we invest in the state the more liberties we surrender. Perhaps this is what the majority of Americans desire but I doubt it. Nevertheless, it is never a good or noble thing for the state to take away the people's liberty under the guise of making life better for them. Even more tragic is when the people willingly give away their liberty to the insatiable appetite of the state.

Writing for Touchstone, Douglas Farrow examines the danger of the state assuming the role of savior. Specifically Farrow addresses the impact upon the family and the church that results from a "sacralized state."

Today we live in a society that shrinks in horror from the very idea of established religion, something the American Constitution in any case forbids. Yet we live, even if we live in America, in states increasingly ready to withdraw conscience clauses not only from public servants but also from doctors and druggists and so forth, requiring them to violate the teachings of their religion and the dictates of their consciences in order to demonstrate their allegiance to the state.

In Britain, and increasingly in North America, even churches and charitable organizations are not exempted from laws that demand conformity to state-endorsed ideologies loaded with religious implications. Penalties for violation include heavy fines or even imprisonment. Thus have we come round to accepting Erastus’s invitation to the state to punish the sins of Christians, supplanting the church’s sacramental discipline. We have come round, that is, to the de-sacralization of the church and the re-sacralization of the state, which is once again taking a tyrannical turn...

Tyranny can nowhere succeed without pulling down the two most prominent pillars of political freedom, the pillars that have always provided for a roof or shield over the individual and his conscience. One pillar is the natural family unit; the other is the religious community. Of course, these pillars are not everywhere equally strong or upright. They may themselves be transformed into instruments of tyranny by this or that form of idolatry. But they are pillars for the simple reason that they do not concede to the audacious and immodest state the total authority it craves.

The natural family unit confronts the state as an entity that claims rights not granted by the state but brought to it—rights the lawful state is obliged to recognize and respect. The religious community likewise claims rights and liberties that derive from a source other than the state, a source that transcends and relativizes the state.

These two pillars are beginning to crack, however, in the grip of a modern-day Samson. I mean precisely that muscular but (if he only knew it!) blind and captive creature called “the individual.” Not the individual of whom Kierkegaard spoke when he asserted, in view of the peculiar dignity bestowed on human beings by the incarnation of God, that “one is worth more than a thousand.” But rather the individual fancied by the likes of Bentham, whose dignity consists merely in the freedom to pursue his own interests in his own way, whose interests must therefore be balanced against those of his neighbor under the formula, “Each to count for one and no more than one.”

Even this individual comes to the state with rights of his own, rights that do not derive from the state; but the state is always the arbiter of his rights. Moreover, this individual is not natural (as the “state of nature” philosophers claim) but unnatural, just because he is naked and alone, brought into the world by no one, lacking kin or allegiance, unclothed by tradition—or at all events resentful of it. With such an individual the state that has tyrannical aspirations can happily do business, for he is the individual who has been taught to see himself as chained between the two great pillars of family and church, constrained and belittled by their conventions; who in his shame and fury is willing to call, not on God, but on the power of the state as if on God, to bring them down to the dust.

Read this important article HERE.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Thy Word is Truth"

Check out THIS MESSAGE by Sinclair Ferguson - Powerful!
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are inspired by God; that is, they are “God-breathed.” Because it is the Word of God, the Scripture is the final, inerrant, authoritative norm for faith and practice. Since the Enlightenment, however, the authority of God’s Word has come under constant attack. Sinclair Ferguson explores how Christian leaders who are followers of Jesus Christ must hold fast to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of God’s Word.

Al Mohler's Study

I want one of these...

Al Mohler - Study Video from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Mark Dever's Study

Mark Dever - Study Video from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

The Tragic Legacy of Harry Blackmun

In 1994 noted theologian Roger Nicole wrote a letter to Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun on the occassion of his retirement from the court. Blackmun is best known as the author of Roe V. Wade.

April 13, 1994

Mr. Justice Harry A. Blackmun
United States Supreme Court
Washington, D.C.

Your Honor:

The Orlando Sentinel reports that in the prospect of your impending retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court you are wondering what you will be remembered for...

To my mind nothing else that you ever have done can approximate the impact of your support of the majority opinion of the Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade.

This has opened the door to millions of abortions...

for the sake of expediency or selfish motives. It has encouraged millions of women and thousands of physicians to participate in this murderous course.

In 4 B.C. Herod the Great ordered the killing of perhaps a few dozens of babies, but his name remains famous for this "massacre of the innocents" (Matthew 2:16).

In the Civil War of 1861-65, one of the bloodiest on record in terms of the size of the armies involved, there were perhaps close to 500,000 casualties. But Roe vs. Wade has made already 30 million victims since 1973, and this number grows every day.

In World War II, the USA suffered somewhat more than 400,000 deaths due to the conflict: this is only 1/75th of the number of the abortion hecatomb.

In the Viet Nam hostilities there were some 60,000 fatalities. You would need 500 Viet Nam walls, enough to encircle the whole of D.C., to record those put to death by abortion.

The infamous holocaust engineered by the Nazis brought death to some 6,000,000 Jews and other innocent people. The name of Hitler is inextricably associated with this monstrous atrocity. Yet Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Treblinka and others together exterminated only one-fifth of those whose life was snuffed out before birth by Roe vs. Wade.

The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor cased the death of 2,300 Americans, and President Roosevelt, who surely cannot be accused of being politically right wing, stigmatized this occasion by calling it "a day of infamy." Now two "decades of infamy" have cost our nation a loss as great as 13,000 "Pearl Harbors."

Rest assured, therefore, your Honor, that this legacy of yours will ever be remembered and that your name will be associated with it. And unless you repent, when you appear before the Supreme Court of God you may well hear the verdict, "Your brothers; [and sisters'] blood cries out to me from the ground" (Genesis 4:10).


Roger Nicole, Ph.D. (Harvard)

HT: Justin Taylor

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"If I must have some failing..."

"I was born to fight devils and factions. It is my business to remove obstructions, to cut down thorns, to fill up quagmires, and to open and make straight paths. But if I must have some failing I would rather preach the truth with too great a severity than to ever once act the hypocrite and conceal the truth!"

-Martin Luther (cf, 2 Timothy 1:6-18)

"The Linchpin of the Plan"

"The God of the Bible is the righteous God of holy love. The trouble is, however, that we have become paradoxically the glory and garbage of the universe. Our great need is peace with God, and not just with God but also with one another. …

"There is no shalom, however, without sacrifice. Peace is made through the blood of the cross. The atoning life, death and vindication of the faithful Son bring shalom by addressing the problem of sin, death the devil and wrath definitively. Sacrifice, satisfaction, substitution and victory are key terms for understanding God’s atoning project in general and the cross in particular. Eschatologically speaking, the realization of the triune God’s reconciling project will see God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule living God’s way enjoying shalom in God’s holy and loving presence to God’s glory…

"The broad notion should humble us at the thought of a righteous God of holy loving purpose who, in love, has never abandoned his wayward creatures but in a plan of rescue has begun to reclaim the created order and will in the end restore creation to himself and to his glory. Love is the motive, glory the goal. The narrow one brings us to Christ and his cross. He is the linchpin of the plan. We are brought to a real Christ, to a real cross, to a real cost."

- From God the Peacemaker by Graham Cole

Why I Need the People of God

The Slough of Theological Liberalism

The latest edition of the Nine Marks Journal focuses on theological liberalism, particularly in the so-called evangelical church.

In the "Editor's Note" Jonathan Leeman writes:

In general, the danger of liberalism, which we define broadly as gospel-denial within the church, occurs when we allow the world's demands to ring a little too loudly in our ears. It occurs when we let the world dictate the terms of our beliefs or practices. Or when we let the world determine, "These things are good and worthy, not those things," or, "This is the salvation we are looking for." As soon as we let the world influence the terms of the church's life and mission, we have let another authority enter the house and tie up the king of the church, Christ. A question for evangelicals to ask themselves is, has the way we think about church prepared us for compromise?

The challenge for churches, we're told, is striking the balance between isolation and assimilation. Usually, this translates into, "Change your church structures and the way you talk, but not your doctrine." The trouble is, changing our structures and the way we talk changes the way we think, because words and structures shape thinking. For instance, change how you talk about the gospel and your congregation will think differently about the gospel. Change what membership means, to use another example, and your congregation will begin to understand the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of God's love—and so God himself—differently.

In short, the question about finding the balance between isolation and assimilation may be the wrong question. It may open a side door through which the authority of the world sneaks into the church. Wouldn't a better question be, how can we be utterly faithful to God's Word in everything? After all, faithfulness will preclude both isolation and assimilation. It's often been suggested that the doctrinally aberrant Emergent church is a reaction to fundamentalism. This may be true for some individuals, but could it be that the Emergent church's doctrinal aberrations are more the result of an entire generation who grew up in doctrinally anemic seeker-sensitive churches?

Al Mohler contributes an article on how liberalism happens. He offers a brief history of what motivates theological liberalism. It usually comes from a desire to make the church relevant to society without considering how that relevance will impact the church and its message. Mohler then briefly scetches the progression of liberalism within the church with emphasis upon the doctrine of hell.

First, a doctrine simply falls from mention. Over time, it is simply never discussed or presented from the pulpit. Most congregants do not even miss the mention of the doctrine. Those who do become fewer over time. The doctrine is not so much denied as ignored and kept at a distance. Yes, it is admitted, that doctrine has been believed by Christians, but it is no longer a necessary matter of emphasis.

Second, a doctrine is revised and retained in reduced form. There must have been some good reason that Christians historically believed in hell. Some theologians and pastors will then affirm that there is a core affirmation of morality to be preserved, perhaps something like what C. S. Lewis affirmed as "The Tao."[5] The doctrine is reduced.

Third, a doctrine is subjected to a form of ridicule. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral, known for his message of "Possibility Thinking," once described his motivation for theological reformulation in terms of refocusing theology on "generating trust and positive hope."[6] His method is to point to salvation and the need "to become positive thinkers."[7] Positive thinking does not emphasize escape from hell, "whatever that means and wherever that is."[8]

That statement ridicules hell by dismissing it in terms of "whatever that means and wherever it is." Just don't worry about hell, Schuller suggests. Though few evangelicals are likely to join in the same form of ridicule, many will invent softer forms of marginalizing the doctrine.

Fourth, a doctrine is reformulated in order to remove its intellectual and moral offensiveness. Evangelicals have subjected the doctrine of hell to this strategy for many years now. Some deny that hell is everlasting, arguing for a form of annihilationism or conditional immortality. Others will deny hell as a state of actual torment. John Wenham simply states, "Unending torment speaks to me of sadism, not justice."[9] Some argue that God does not send anyone to hell, and that hell is simply the sum total of human decisions made during earthly lives. God is not really a judge who decides, but a referee who makes certain that rules are followed...

Remember that the liberals and the modernists operated out of an apologetic motivation. They wanted to save Christianity as a relevant message in the modern world and to remove the odious obstacle of what were seen as repugnant and unnecessary doctrines. They wanted to save Christianity from itself.

Today, some in movements such as the emerging church commend the same agenda, and for the same reason. Are we embarrassed by the biblical doctrine of hell?

If so, this generation of evangelicals will face no shortage of embarrassments. The current intellectual context allows virtually no respect for Christian affirmations of the exclusivity of the gospel, the true nature of human sin, the Bible's teachings regarding human sexuality, and any number of other doctrines revealed in the Bible. The lesson of theological liberalism is clear—embarrassment is the gateway drug for theological accommodation and denial.

Be sure of this: it will not stop with the air conditioning of hell.
Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Greg Beale on Inerrancy (3)

From Martin Downes:

Part 3: The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism

What have been some of the contributing factors to what you have called the 'erosion' of inerrancy in evangelicalism?

There are a number of factors. One has to do with the well-known term ‘postmodernism’. What I mean by that term is the essential notion that truth is relative, and as that has come to be baptized within evangelicalism, especially in the United States, there is a focus away from the notion that the Scriptures are the inerrant Word of God and a focus on the Spirit coming to give every person a particular message through the Scriptures that may not have been originally intended. Hence, original inspiration is not that necessary or, at least, it comes to be seen as not so important.

Indeed, for the evangelical postmodernist, we no longer live in the former apologetic age. We live now in an age of experience where we want to meet the living God. We must not be so concerned about the inerrant propositions of Scripture. ‘Propositions’ almost has become a naughty hermeneutical word. We are told we should be concerned only with the God we meet who reveals His presence in Scripture. That is the kind of ethos that I think has worn away at the idea of inerrancy in evangelicalism.

Together with that there is another angle of the postmodern influence, and that is the notion that we moderns should not judge ancient peoples, i.e. the peoples who wrote the Bible, by our standards of what we believe is true and what is false. They may have had different standards. We should not impose our modern standards on these ancient peoples. For example, it is claimed that the synoptic gospels may indeed contain historical contradictions. That does not mean that the synoptic writers, and their readers, would have thought that they were contradictions and that they were false.

It is this kind of argument that you hear again and again, and this begins to touch even closer to the notion that truth is relative, especially from one age to another. That is one factor in the erosion of inerrancy in evangelicalism, even at some of our traditional evangelical institutions.

Secondly, there is a sociological phenomenon. Beginning at least thirty years ago, and increasingly today, evangelicals have been doing doctoral work in Old and New Testament and theology. One reason for that in Biblical Studies is that evangelical seminaries are rigorous in requiring Greek and Hebrew, whereas the other seminaries typically are not. There are more competent students potentially qualified to do doctoral work coming out of our seminaries (who know Greek and Hebrew well), and they are going on to do doctorates at non-evangelical institutions.

In the United States when one enters into a doctoral program that is not evangelical it is like entering a new world, a world that does not have the values that the student had back at their Christian college. When you go into that world as an evangelical you are made to feel like an ignorant fundamentalist if you really believe in the inspiration, indeed the inerrancy of Scripture. And if that were made known, you are then made to feel odd. No one wants to be made to feel odd by their professors and scholarly student peers. So it is very easy to downplay one’s view, and it becomes very easy to want to fit in. In other words a student wants to be considered normal; no one wants to be seen as abnormal, and so there is tremendous pressure not to reveal one’s belief in inerrancy, when particular occasions may call for it.

There is this huge sociological pressure placed on students, and if they are not tremendously founded on the Word of God and in a strong Reformed epistemology, then I have seen that it is easy for them to become conformed to that environment in which they are around. So students come out and maybe they are still evangelical, they believe in the gospel, but some of their other beliefs have been eroded, such as the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, which they also begin to think is the fundamentalist view.

Those are two reasons for the erosion of inerrancy in evangelical: postmodern theological reasons and the sociological factors. I must say there are some students who go through these programs, and they do fine, but there is a significant percentage who come out still considering themselves as evangelical but not with the same set of beliefs on Scripture.

How do you assess the status of inerrancy today among evangelical theologians and biblical scholars? Is the doctrine in good health?

Part of my answer goes back to the rise of postmodernism and its baptism into evangelicalism. You see this with some of our theologians at evangelical schools that do not want to be called systematic theologians. Systematic theology of some of these theologians is a matter of the past, a matter of Church history. Some contemporary theologians do not consider systematic theology to be a viable approach for the doing of theology today. These theologians sometimes like to refer to themselves as constructive theologians.

For them systematic theology focuses too much on reason, and the notion that you can organize Scripture into categories. They would also say that it focuses too much on propositions. So there is a de-emphasis on the inspiration of the propositions and an emphasis on the presence of God in Scripture. Of course that is a wonderful emphasis. Karl Barth had that emphasis. But you do not downplay one for the other. The propositions are true because they are living oracles of God and God is there speaking through them. The way He speaks to us existentially through the Scriptures is going to be consistent with the way they were originally penned under inspiration. There are not going to be different or contradictory meanings given by the Spirit.

I published a book in the mid 1990s called The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? There is a debate still among evangelicals that the New Testament writers used the Old Testament but gave it completely new meanings, and yet what they wrote was inspired. I have to say ‘no’ to that. I have argued against that in a number of my writings and I think that is the opening of the door toward a dilution of inerrancy. Peter Enns, most recently of course, argued for this position in his book Incarnation and Inspiration.

Another symptom of the dilution of the authority of Scripture among evangelicals is the popularity of the Barthian view of Scripture. Of course, I don’t want to paint everyone with this brush; there are some fine evangelicals upholding the doctrine of inerrancy, (and I’m not going to go school by school!), but some schools are mixed in this regard. I do think that the theology of Karl Barth’s view of Scripture continues to live on, and in fact is becoming very, very much more influential, even more than it has been in the past, much more influential among evangelicals.

What that means is that the key issue is the presence of God confronting one in Scripture, and not so much the focus on propositions. Barth himself believed that there were actual errors in the inscripturated form of the Bible, but that God can reveal Himself even through those errors. This is a kind of strange hyper-Calvinist view. Some of these theologians would think that it is antiquated to try to defend inerrancy as an apologetic because of what they consider to be an appropriate lack of stress on propositions.

From Risking the Truth by Martin Downes

Book Notes

by Michael Reeves

Published in 2009 by IVP UK, The Unquenchable Flame is, without question, the best, most enjoyable introduction to the Protestant Reformation I have read. It would have made my top five of 2009 if I had read it last year. I understand that it is going to be published in the US this year. If you don't want to wait you can obtain a copy through Amazon. Reeves writes history the way it ought to be written. You will be introduced to all the major players and events of the Reformation. And you're going to have trust me on this - it is a page turner. I know that church history is often thought of as a dry topic, but this is certainly not the case with The Unquenchable Flame. From now on it will be the first book to which I direct people who are desiring to learn more about that most significant of revivals since the apostolic age.

Magnifying God in Christ
by Thomas Schreiner

I just began reading Magnifying God in Christ last week at the recommendation of Carl Trueman. So far I am gobbling it up! It is shaping up to be the most helpful introduction to the New Testament I have read (and I've read a few!). In 2008 Dr. Schreiner published his massive New Testament Theology which is a book primarily for the academy. But with Magnifying God in Christ Dr. Schreiner has given to the church a great gift. This is New Testament theology at its best written for a more popular audience. If this book continues with the same excellence that I have experienced so far then I can say without hestitation that it will be the first book to which I direct laypersons who desire a deep grasp of God's revelation in the New Testament.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's sermon was part 27 in our current series through Hebrews. It is entitled "Draw Near and Hold Fast" (Heb. 10:19-23) and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Pastor's Job Description

"And my heart aches for pastors these day, it really does, because it's seemingly more difficult now than it was in past years. We live in an anti-authority culture, we live in a culture that has lost all respect for people in positions of influence and authority. It tears down everybody, tears down everything. It's a destructive culture and it's hard for us to survive in that because even our churches are seems to me that this is the age of Diotrephes, people want to rise to have the preeminence. You know, they've been fed a steady diet of you should have your way, this is a self-esteem kind of mentality, and you should get what you want and your opinions are equal to everybody else's. And I know it's challenging. Very few guys are bolted out of churches because of a poor sermon. They usually run out because of conflict with somebody who struggles to be in the power. And I know it's a challenging thing. And I know there is not only that kind of intimidation, but there's the intimidation of all the internet pastors, all the big media pastors, all the big church pastors, and it can be very, very intimidating. You get discouraged because you don't have more people, or your church isn't growing. You go to some seminar and somebody gives you a bag of tricks how to get more people, and books are written about how to increase your numbers. And you go to another seminar and somebody tells you how to impact your culture and how to penetrate your community, and how to come up with this program and that problem...that program so you can reach beyond the church and grasp the culture and revolutionize the culture., and pastors get beleaguered with this stuff, they get discouraged with this. It's all intimidation. It really is, and it's really off the point of what we do, and I want to tell you what the point is as simply as I can.

"If you're a pastor, you have one have one job. It's this, Shepherd the flock of God among you....that's your job. You are not a cultural evangelist, you are not a society penetrator, you're not an entrepreneur, you're not a revolutionary, you are a feeder of the flock of God.

Jesus said:

I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

All whom the Father chose will be called.

All who are called will come.

All who come will be received by Christ.

All whom Christ receives, He will keep. All whom He keeps, He will raise at the last day.

"Our job is to feed His sheep. And the day you move your eyes beyond the people sitting in your church who belong to Christ, that's the day you just lost your purpose."

- From the transcript of a message delivered by John MacArthur at the 2009 Moody's Pastor's Conference

At such a time...

"At such a time, what should be done by those who love Christ? I think, my friends, that they should at least face the facts; I do not believe that they should bury their heads like ostriches in the sand; I do not think that they should soothe themselves with the minutes of the General Assembly or the reprts of the Boards or the imposing rows of figures which the Church papers contain. Last week it was reported that the churches of America increased their membership by 690,000. Are you encouraged by these figures? I for my part am not encouraged a bit. I have indeed my own grounds for encouragement, especially those which are found in the great and precious promises of God. But these figures have no place among them. How many of these 690,000 names do you think are really written in the Lamb’s book of life? A small proportion, I fear. Church membership today often means nothing more, as has well been said, than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus; the Church in countless communities is little more than a Rotary Club. One day, as I was walking through a neighboring city, I saw, not an altar with an inscription to an unknown god, but something that filled me with far more sorrow than that could have done. I saw a church with a large sign on it, which read somewhat like this: “Not a member? Come in and help us make this a better community.” Truly we have wandered far from the day when entrance into the Church involved confession of faith in Christ as the Savior from sin."

J. Gresham Machen

"Ashamed of the Gospel" (3rd Ed.)

The new edition of John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel is now available at Monergism Books for less than $16.00.

In the late 1800s, Charles Spurgeon warned that the church was drifting away from the purity of the gospel, candy-coating God’s Word rather than boldly proclaiming the truths of Scripture. As a result, Christianity’s influence in nineteenth-century England was severely weakened. One hundred years later, John MacArthur, troubled by the seeker-sensitive movement and an emphasis on pragmatism within the church, sounded the same alarm with the first edition of Ashamed of the Gospel.

In this newly revised and expanded edition, MacArthur gives an overview of developments in the seeker-sensitive movement since his book was first published in 1993. New material traces the line of pragmatic philosophy from the seeker-sensitive movement through the Emergent phenomenon, explaining why the latter is a philosophical heir of the former—and an even greater danger; chronicles the failure of pragmatic approaches to church growth; and emphasizes the importance of evangelicals solidly committed to biblical doctrine rising to positions of leadership.

Science and Faith

Coming in March to Westminster Theological Seminary:

Speakers will also include Discovery Institute Fellows Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design; Dr. Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution and The Edge of Evolution; Dr. Jay Richards, co-author of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed For Discovery; Dr. C. John Collins, author of Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?; Dr. John West, author of Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science; and Dr. Bruce Gordon, co-editor of The Nature of Nature.

This conference will be of special interest to seminary students, college students, and pastors and other church leaders. The conference will also highlight practical resources (curricula, videos) that churches can use to incorporate science and faith issues into their ministries.

The conference is sponsored by Westminster Theological Seminary and Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Go HERE to register.

The Bible Can't Be Boring!

Yes, the President's position on abortion does matter

It is certainly an incovenient truth for many that the President's position on abortion has a significant impact on the practice of abortion in the United States.

In an excellent article at First Thoughts Joe Carter writes,
What if I told you the only significant influence the President has on the economy is in selecting the Chairman of the Federal Reserve?

While the role of the president in managing the economy is often overstated, most serious voters would rightly dismiss such a narrow claim as absurd. Yet how often do we hear the similarly daft assertion that the only significant role the president plays in advancing the pro-life agenda is nominating Supreme Court justices?

The fact is that the president has a limited but substantial and broad-based role in protecting life and defending the most vulnerable in society. Since this week is both the first anniversary of the Obama presidency and the thirty-seventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it’s a prime time to provide a remember five of the reasons why it matters that we elect pro-life presidents:

1. Preserving the Pro-Life Riders — Each year pro-life provisions or “riders” are attached to the annual appropriations bills, preventing public funds from supporting abortions, abortion providers, or abortion promoters. The pro-life riders are attached to funding legislation and typically come up in the appropriations process or Department of Defense reauthorizations. As AdvanceUSA notes, under President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush, federal regulations were clearly written to prevent recipients of Title X funds from referring for abortions or combining family planning services with abortion services (i.e., working at the same location).

Examples of pro-life riders include:

•The Dickey-Wicker provision which prohibits federal funding for research that harms or destroys human embryos.
•The Kemp-Kasten Amendment which prevents funding from going to those who support or participate in a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
•The Hyde-Weldon provision which offers conscience protections for health care entities that refuse to provide or encourage abortions. It requires federal funds to be withheld from any state that discriminates against a hospital, insurance provider, or individual doctors and nurses for refusing to participate in abortion.
•The Mexico City Policy, first enacted by Ronald Reagan and later reinstated by George W. Bush, which prohibits USAID (foreign aid) money from going to any organizations that promote or perform abortions. Obama was in office three days before overturning the policy.
•Other provisions that are more specific include bans on funding for: abortions for federal prisoners, abortion in the District of Columbia, abortions through the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, abortions through Peace Corp, and abortion through the international HIV/AIDS bill.

A pro-life president can threaten to use the veto—as George W. Bush often did—to prevent the removal of such riders. Obama, however, would almost certainly veto any legislation that included these pro-life provisions.
Read the entire article HERE.

Greg Beale on Inerrancy (2)

The following is part two of Martin Downes' interview with Greg Beale on biblical inerrancy:

Part 2: Dealing with denials and criticisms of the doctrine of inerrancy

What are some of the consequences of denying inerrancy?

Ultimately, if you hold just to limited infallibility (for example, just the theological and soteric doctrines are inspired, not the other parts of the Bible), what can happen is that one ends up choosing what is inspired and trustworthy. What is infallible is different for different interpreters, and so one can end up making a Bible within the Bible for oneself. That is problematic. Someone might say that there are not a lot of errors, just a few. Well that is up to the ‘error’ decider. For some it may be more, for others less, but that way you don’t end up with a fully inspired Bible.

I should address the typical objection that it is irrelevant to hold that the Scriptures were inspired in the original autographs, since we no longer have them. However, if
we didn’t have originally inspired autographs who knows how many errors we could have? And when did the Bible become inspired if they were not inspired in the originals? We are left with even more problems if we don’t affirm a view of the inspiration of the original manuscripts. Furthermore, why do textual criticism if there was not an inspired original? Textual criticism is based on the fact that there was an original and that we are trying to get back to it.

Some people are concerned about the New Testament because there are corruptions in the manuscripts, which of course there are. But, in terms of the textual problems that we have, the really serious ones probably equal only one percent of the whole New Testament. Someone has compared this to the department of weights and measures in Washington D. C. Apparently, they have the perfect ruler there and the perfect foot. Carpenters around the country have rulers also. They are not as perfect as the one in Washington but they are very near it. To all intents and purposes we can say ‘thus saith the Lord’.

If we are preaching from a text of which there is serious doubt about what the original said, then we have to acknowledge that, just as we have to acknowledge that there may be interpretative problems with some texts that maybe Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Hodge disagreed over. In fact, if we had the original autographs it wouldn’t solve most of our problems. Most of our problems are theological and interpretive, not textual.

The doctrine of inerrancy has been criticized as “‘practically worthless’ because it requires so much qualifying. Andrew McGowan has recently questioned it on those grounds. Is it a fair criticism?

You may be referring to his comments about the Chicago Statement on inerrancy. I do think it is important to make qualifications. All that is to say is that the Scripture is inerrant from the angle of God’s intention through the human authors. If numbers are given in one text, and in parallel texts they are not exactly the same, is that an error? Well it depends on the intention of each particular author. One may be approximating and the other may not be. Some will say that is a qualification and that this qualification is a good example of inerrancy dying the death of a thousand qualifications. I don’t think so.

Even those who hold to a broad view of inspiration, for example the infallibilists, will point to intention, even though they limit that intention to soteric issues or theological issues and not historical ones. I feel very happy with the qualifications that the Chicago Statement makes and I don’t think that those qualifications qualify inerrancy in a way that it ‘dies the death of a thousand qualifications’! In this connection, intriguingly, it is very striking, astonishing really, that Andrew McGowan’s book has hardly any exegesis in it.

Another objection to inerrancy is that it is really a nineteenth-century invention that was forged in the conflict with liberal theology and higher criticism. How do you respond to that claim?

What tells the tale on that are some of the articles and books that have been written that deal with the doctrine of Scripture in the apostolic fathers, the church fathers, the medieval period, the Reformation, and on up to the 1700s. The language used of Scripture throughout the history of the Church is the language of perfection, of not making mistakes, of not making errors and other synonymous terms. John Hannah has edited the book Inerrancy and the Church, in which there are several articles, beginning with the church fathers, that show that the doctrine of inerrancy is traceable long before the nineteenth century.

It is also a typical response to say that inerrancy arose from the Enlightenment, especially as this pertains to the use of reason in understanding Scripture. The response to this has to be the same as with the above discussion of the view of inspiration held throughout Church history.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Full Confidence

The church will always be harassed by those who deny the full truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible as God's Word. That is not new. What is new however are the number of so-called evangelicals who accuse the Bible of errors, contradictions, and inconsistencies. Fortunately however God has given the church those who are clearly and confidently articulating why it is we can have full confidence in the Bible.

I am excited about the Full Confidence conference taking place at Church of the Saviour the weekend of September 24-26, 2010.

From Westminster Seminary:

Change is inevitable. And when the unpredictability of tomorrow consumes our hearts, with insatiable tyranny, it devours any sense of stability, confidence, and peace. A violent and merciless master, change relentlessly erodes the very things to which we cling for confidence and assurance.

But there is good news, indeed, great news. Into that tumultuous world, God has spoken. His unbreakable words yield strength, hope and stability, and as the very words of God, Scripture grants us full confidence for today, tomorrow...forever.

Westminster Theological Seminary's conviction is that this revealed, self-attesting Word of God must ground and shape all human thought, and that this Word, centered on Jesus Christ the Eternal and Incarnate Word, bears absolute authority in defining, understanding and defending all issues of life in a changing world.

The Inescapable Evil of Abortion

All abortion providers know that what they do is an act of destruction. Try as they might they cannot escape the truth that abortion is homicide. What is more, abortion is homicide against the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family. It is the most heartless of heartless actions. It is the cruelest of cruel acts.

In an outstanding article in the Weekly Standard David Daleiden and Jon A. Shields explore the reasons why so many abortionists are turning pro-life.

In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, second-trimester abortions were usually performed by saline injection. The doctor simply replaced the amniotic fluid in the patient’s uterus with a saline solution and induced labor, leaving it to nurses to dispose of the expelled fetus. That changed in the late 1970s, when “dilation and evacuation” (D&E) emerged as a safer method. Today D&E is the most common second-trimester procedure. It has been performed millions of times in the United States.

But although D&E is better for the patient, it brings emotional distress for the abortionist, who, after inserting laminaria that cause the cervix to dilate, must dismember and remove the fetus with forceps. One early study, by abortionists Warren Hern and Billie Corrigan, found that although all of their staff members “approved of second trimester abortion in principle,” there “were few positive comments about D&E itself.” Reactions included “shock, dismay, amazement, disgust, fear, and sadness.” A more ambitious study published the following year, in the September 1979 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, confirmed Hern and Corrigan’s findings. It found “strong emotional reactions during or following the procedures and occasional disquieting dreams."...

(Pro-choice advocates also falsely insist that second-trimester abortions are confined almost exclusively to tragic “hard” cases such as fetal malformation. Yet a review of the literature in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that most abortions performed after the first trimester are sought for the same reasons as first-trimester abortions, they’re just delayed. This reality only intensifies the guilt pangs of abortion providers.)

Theologians and philosophers call it Natural Law. Those who dismember babies in their mother's wombs cannot not know it is a heinous act. Daleiden and Shields quote Paul Jarrett who stopped performing abortions. The moment that ended it for him happened after he aborted a baby at 14 weeks of gestation: “As I brought out the rib cage, I looked and saw a tiny, beating heart,” he would recall. “And when I found the head of the baby, I looked squarely in the face of another human being—a human being that I just killed.”

The article also makes reference to a former employee of notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller.

Handling fetal remains can be especially difficult in late-term clinics. Until George Tiller was assassinated by a pro-life radical last summer, his clinic in Wichita specialized in third-trimester abortions. To handle the large volume of biological waste Tiller had a crematorium on the premises. One day when hauling a heavy container of fetal waste, Tiller asked his secretary, Luhra Tivis, to assist him. She found the experience devastating. The “most horrible thing,” Tivis later recounted, was that she “could smell those babies burning.” Tivis, a former NOW activist, soon left her secretarial position at the clinic to volunteer for Operation Rescue, a radical pro-life organization.

One of the most important (perhaps the most important) developments in turning hearts away from this dastardly procedure has been the advance in ultrasound technology.

The most recent example is Abby Johnson, the former director of Dallas-area Planned Parenthood. After watching, via ultrasound, an embryo “crumple” as it was suctioned out of its mother’s womb, Johnson reported a “conversion in my heart.” Likewise, Joan Appleton was the head nurse at a large abortion facility in Falls Church, Virginia, and a NOW activist. Appleton performed thousands of abortions with aplomb until a single ultrasound-assisted abortion rattled her. As Appleton remembers, “I was watching the screen. I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. .  .  . After the procedure I was shaking, literally.”

The most famous abortion provider to be converted by ultrasound technology, decades ago, is Bernard Nathanson, cofounder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the original NARAL. In the early 1970s, Nathanson was the largest abortion provider in the Western world. By his own reckoning he performed more than 60,000 abortions, including one on his own child. Nathanson’s exit from the industry was slow and tortured. In Aborting America (1979), he expressed anxiety over the possibility that he was complicit in a great evil. He was especially troubled by ultrasound images. When he finally left his profession for pro-life activism, he produced The Silent Scream (1984), a documentary of an ultrasound abortion that showed the fetus scrambling vainly to escape dismemberment.

Read the entire article HERE.

Please pray that the God of grace would break the hearts of those who perform abortions and the politicians who champion their cause.

Planting life in the midst of death

John Ensor is a great leader in the pro-life movement and author of one of my "must reads" - The Great Work of the Gospel

God's Story or My Story?

Once again the seemingly ever present Brian McLaren is poised to present something as new which is actually just a retread of ideas that tend to cling to the outer banks of Christianity like so much flotsam.

To be a Christian – in the West, at least, since the fifth or sixth century or so – has required one to believe that the Bible presents one very specific story line, a story line by which we assess all of history, all of human experience, all of our own experience. Most of us know the story line implicitly, subconsciously, even though it has never been made explicit for us. We begin our quest for a new kind of Christian faith by questioning this story line.

-Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (forthcoming February 9, 2010)

In contrast to McLaren's non-innovations is the timeless story line of God's redemptive acts in history to save for Himself a people.

Does our worship focus on the historical drama of the Triune God? Are we being constantly directed outside of our inner experience and our own felt needs to the real newsmaker in history? Is our corporate or private worship centered on “human will or exertion” or “on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16)? Is the main point trying to see how God fits into our existing plotline or to hear God tell us how we fit into his unfolding drama of redemption? Like the Old Testament feasts, the great events celebrated by Christians have to do with God’s mighty acts: the Son becoming flesh (Christmas), the crucifixion (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter), Christ’s exaltation to the right of the Father (Ascension Day), and the sending of the Spirit (Pentecost). There is no room in the Christian calendar for celebrating our own works.

-Michael Horton, The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World

HT: John Starke

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Needed - A Good Doctrine of Scripture...

"To me, God is..."

"God told me..."

"What does this verse mean to you?"

"I'm into God not doctrine."

"God speaks to me through the mountains."

In a day when the evangelical church is saturated with intuitive, mystical, and otherwise breezy approaches to spirituality the need for a robust doctrine of and confidence in the Word of God is as needed as ever.

I am looking forward to getting my copy of the newest book from Ligonier -
Sola Scriptura.

Contributors include Michael Horton, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Derek Thomas, Sinclair Ferguson, and James White.

The following is a review from Monergism:

Anyone who has even the most basic awareness of Reformation history will know that the Latin phrase sola scriptura means “scripture alone,” and that it is a foundational dividing point between Roman Catholic and Protestant theologies. But what exactly did the Reformers understand sola scriptura to mean, in what ways is it different from the Roman understanding of authority, and more importantly, how is the doctrine of the Reformers faring in modern Protestantism? The cast of Protestant contributors to Reformation Trust's recent reprint, Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, have done a tremendous job of answering those questions. The result is not just a book that Roman Catholics would do well to read if they sincerely want to understand where Protestants are coming from – it is also, and perhaps even more fundamentally, a book that modern Protestants would do well to read if they sincerely want to know whether or not they may appropriately consider themselves the heirs of the Protestant Reformation at all. The excellent selection of contributors – Joel Beeke, R. C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, James White, among others – is enough to warrant a presupposition of capable and stimulating writing, and in this expectation they have not failed to disappoint.

In his foreword, Michael Horton immediately affirms a point which will be well substantiated throughout the remainder of the book: “While this book has the Roman Catholic Church's view of scripture in mind when it asserts Protestantism's position, it is Protestantism that this book is trying to reach as much as Rome. We contributors lament that Rome is so aggressive in its error, yes, but we equally lament that Protestantism is so passive in its capitulation.... But this book is not simply a lamentation; it is a way forward”. Perhaps, more than any other characteristic, that is what makes the book valuable. As an apologetic aid to Rome, it will doubtless have some value; but as a way forward for unknowingly errant Protestants, its value is apt to be much, much greater.

As there are only seven chapters in the book, and each contributes to the topic in a unique and vital way, it will perhaps not be out of place to give a brief summary to potential readers: the first chapter, by W. Robert Godfrey, is a foundational overview of what is meant by sola scriptura and how it differs from Roman teaching, together with a helpful analysis of some of the ways in which Catholics and Protestants may inadvertently talk past one another, and a cursory description of the testimony of the scriptures about themselves.

In the second chapter, James White gives a hugely helpful overview of the doctrine of sola scriptura in early Church history, providing along the way some clarification and context for a few of the mis-contextualized quotes from the fathers that are often slung about on both sides of the debate.

Next, R. C. Sproul takes on the whole topic of canonicity, refuting the claim of the Roman Church to have authoritatively determined the canon and addressing the question of the Apocrypha.

Derek H. W. Thomas then examines the nature of divine authority, and makes a solid case for grounding all spiritual authority in the very Word of God, above any other power.

John MacArthur contributes a chapter focused on the sufficiency and perspicuity of scriptures, dealing specifically with Catholic teaching on the inherent insufficiency of the unmediated Word, but producing along the way some material very germane to many modern Protestants whose practice likewise implies some essential insufficiency in the Word of God.

Sinclair Ferguson then delves into a discussion of the interplay between tradition and scripture in the Roman Church which is very notable for tracing out recent but little-known developments within the attitudes and perspectives of some of her outstanding thinkers and scholars.

And finally, in the Puritan-like fashion that I've come to expect from him, Joel R. Beeke, together with Ray B. Lanning, makes all of the sound theology developed throughout the book richly devotional and intensely practical. This chapter, above all others, is geared specifically toward modern Protestants, and should be read by everyone claiming the legacy of the Reformers. These two contributors do not just show what sola scriptura is intellectually, they also trace out minutely and accurately the appropriate way to respond to that doctrine, and motivate the believer to follow those instructions with a rich array of immense spiritual blessings doubtless to follow.

That overview should give any potential reader a basic feel for the focus and emphases of the book which may serve to set it apart from other similar publications. For anyone feeling the need or confronted with the opportunity to engage Roman Catholics in dialogue on the topic, it will doubtless prove to be very helpful in providing some instruction as to what the issues really are, how the points may be argued from scripture, and thanks to James White, how the Church fathers may be brought into the mix (an area in which the average Protestant will likely feel much more poorly equipped than many Catholics); and for any Protestant feeling the emptiness inherent in so much of Protestantism today, in spite of the schmoozy productions and slick entertainment within the Evangelical Church at large, the immoveable and certain foundation of the holy scriptures alone for all of life and worship, faith and practice, will be driven home with what I trust will be a liberating and soberly joyful forcefulness.

Greg Beale on Inerrancy

From an interview with Greg Beale in Martin Downes' very helpful book Risking the Truth:

Part 1: The Exegetical Foundations of Inerrancy

Why do you believe the Bible, as originally given, is not only inspired but also inerrant?

What are some of the principle exegetical foundations of inerrancy?

As I mentioned, I believe that the concept of inerrancy is in Scripture. The syllogism that I referred to is found in some parts of the Bible, even though McGowan says that there is no evidence of such an exegetical syllogism but that it is an assumption imposed on the Scriptures.

You can, however, see this syllogism in the book of Revelation. I began to reflect on this when McGowan issued this challenge. Part of what I am now going to summarize can also be found partly in my commentary on Revelation. The key texts are Revelation 3:14 , 21:5, and 22:6.

In Revelation 3:14 Christ introduces Himself and says He is ‘the Amen, the faithful and true witness’. Now, it is acknowledged by most commentators that the Amen comes from Isaiah 65:16. This is the only place in Scripture where ‘Amen’ is a name. And it is a name for God. He is the ‘Amen’, and He is called the ‘Amen’ twice there in Isaiah 65:16. Christ expands that into ‘the Amen, the faithful and true witness’. That extension by the way is found in different LXX versions of Isaiah 65:16 and so there is already a precedent for expanding ‘Amen’ in the way Jesus Himself does in Revelation 3:14.

We have here an identification Christology. Christ is Yahweh. It is a wonderful Christological text. He says ‘the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God’ (the latter phrase probably coming out of Isaiah 65:17 which says, ‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.’ Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of that new creation).

So now Christ is speaking, and He is ‘faithful and true’. Therefore He can be depended upon in His oral Word. But this oral Word is inscripturated here, and so it too can be depended upon. Especially since it ends with, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ in 3:22. These are the words of Christ and they are the words of the Spirit, which John has been commanded to ‘write’. But at this point let us be satisfied merely to say that Christ’s oral Word here is faithful because He is seen as a faithful witness.

His character is faithful and true, therefore as God was called the ‘Amen, the faithful and true’ (putting the different Septuagintal traditions of Isaiah 65:16 together), Christ identifies Himself as ‘the Amen, the faithful and true witness’. His witness is faithful and true, and what He says is faithful and true. Very intriguingly, in Revelation 21:5 we have this statement: ‘He who sits on the throne says, “Behold, I’m making all things new.”’ Here we have the new creation again, and He says, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’

Here we have a development from 3:14, but it still has in mind Isaiah 65:16. But now, notice, this is not Christ who is faithful and true. What is happening here is that, what was true of Yahweh and Jesus – that their character is faithful and true –is now being taken and applied to written scriptural form in the same way as it was to their oral Word. That is, God (or Christ) is saying that His ‘faithful and true’ oral Word is extended to the written Word. ‘Behold, I’m making all things new’, and He said ‘write this down for these words are faithful and true’.

So we see the extension of God’s character, Christ’s character, to His witness and oral Word in chapter 3. And now John is commanded to write this word down in scriptural form in chapter 21. The faithful and true character of the oral Word is extended to the written form.

In 22:6 we see the same thing. We read, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ He is probably not just referring to the Revelation 21:1–22:5 vision but to the whole book. ‘These words are faithful and true.’ Again the whole book is categorized in this way. This is found in one other place. In 19:9 we read ‘Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’”And he added, “These are true words of God.”’He is commanded to write. Why? Because what has been spoken as true has been extended to the written form.
Only two verses later, Christ is again referred to as ‘faithful and true’.

Now some might say, as they have in fact said to me, ‘well there is a little room for slippage here. Yes, God is telling John to write these things down because the oral Word is “faithful and true,” but maybe he could have slipped a little bit and just a bit of inaccuracy could have crept in when he tried to record it.’ But, in fact, we know that John was a prophet, and we know that God views the whole book in its written form as prophetic. This is apparent from the well-known verses of Revelation 22:18-19, ‘I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life.’ And, likewise, remember that in chapter three, in the letters, at the end they are seen as the words of the Spirit, yet John was commanded to write.

So with this extension what we have here in Revelation is the syllogism. God and Christ are seen as faithful and true, therefore their oral Word is faithful and true, and because of this their Word is to be put down in written form, and this too is faithful and true. The word ‘inerrant’ is not used but certainly the notion is that God and Christ being ‘faithful and true’ includes that their witness not contain any untruth or error. Thus, the concept of inerrancy is likely expressed here.

HT: Martin Downes