Thursday, July 29, 2010
Read the entire article HERE.
When it comes to interpreting Christ's saving work, everything turns on our view of God's character and the seriousness of sin. God's law is not merely a reflection of his will but of his moral nature. God cannot relax his holy will or righteous demands. Death is not merely an example of his displeasure or an arbitrary punishment. Rather, it is the legal sentence for violating his covenant (Ezek 18:4; Rom 6:23).
Losing Substitution Yale theologian George Lindbeck says that at least in practice, Abelard's view of salvation by following Christ's example (and the cross as the demonstration of God's love that motivates our repentance) now seems to have edged out any notion of an objective, substitutionary atonement. "The atonement is not high on the contemporary agendas of either Catholics or Protestants," Lindbeck surmises. "More specifically, the penal-substitutionary versions...that have been dominant on the popular level for hundreds of years are disappearing."
This situation is as true for evangelicals as for liberal Protestants, he observes. This is because justification through faith alone (sola fide) makes little sense in a system that makes central our subjective conversion (understood in synergistic terms as cooperation with grace), rather than the objective work of Christ. "Our increasingly feel-good therapeutic culture is antithetical to talk of the cross" and our "consumerist society" has made the doctrine a pariah...
Protestant liberalism repeated the Socinian arguments against any judicial concept of the cross. "And so it came about," notes Colin Gunton, "that various forms of exemplarism took the field, under the impulses provided by the rational criticism of traditional theologies by Kant, Schleiermacher, and Hegel. In place of an act of God centered in a historic life and death, towards the otherwise helpless, the emphasis came to be upon those who by appropriate action could help themselves."
At least implicitly combining various subjective theories already mentioned, this trajectory is especially represented in the work of Jürgen Moltmann and liberation theology but also in much of the popular preaching and teaching in contemporary evangelicalism. In much of evangelicalism today, the emphasis falls on the question "What Would Jesus Do?" rather than "What Has Jesus Done?" Jesus provides the model for us to imitate for personal or social transformation. Especially in some contemporary Anabaptist and feminist theologies, the theme of God's wrath against sinners is regarded as a form of violence that legitimizes human revenge. Rather than see Christ's work as bearing a sentence that we deserved, it is seen as moral empowerment for our just praxis (good works) in transforming the world.
As God has self-contained being and all other being has created or derivative being, so also God has self-contained and man has derivative knowledge. In contrast with this all forms of non-Christian epistemology speak first of knowledge in general and introduce the distinction between divine and human knowledge afterwards. It is true that there are forms of non-Christian epistemology that speak of the divine knowledge as though it were wholly other, qualitatively different, from human knowledge. So there are also forms of non-Christian metaphysics that speak of God's being as wholly other, as qualitatively different, from man's being. This is notably the case with the Theology of Crisis, [neo-Orthodoxy, Karl Barth, etc.] informed as it is by a skeptical theory of knowledge. But when this God, whose being and knowledge is said to be who wholly different from the being and knowledge of man is, as he must be, brought into contact with the being and knowledge of man, there follows a fusion of the two. Either God's being and knowledge are brought down to the level of the being and knowledge of man or the being and knowledge of man are lifted up to the being and knowledge of God. There is always the same monistic assumption at work reducing all distinctions to correlatives of one another...
Hence man's dealings in the realm of truth are not ultimately with God but with an abstraction that stands above God, with Truth as such. For apologetics it means that the basic principle of the non-Christian conception of truth cannot be challenged. According to this most basic assumption it is man rather than God that is the final reference point in all predication...
A moment's reflection upon the fall of man in paradise will prove this to be true. In paradise God said to man that if he ate of the forbidden fruit he would surely die. The truth about the facts in the created universe, Adam and Eve were told in effect, could be known ultimately only if one knew their relationship to the plan of God...God did not, because he could not, look up to an abstract principle of Truth above himself in order, in accordance with it, to fashion the world.
- Christian Apologetics, pp. 31-33
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Every once in a while, you read a book which seems so basic and solid you wonder why no one has already written it. Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel? felt that way to me. So did Richard Phillip’s The Masculine Mandate...
There are plenty of books that call men to something which sounds more wild and adventuresome, but Pastor Phillips, himself a former tank commander, argues that we should leave adolescence and listen to what the Bible says. He begins in Genesis 2, where God calls Adam to work and keep the Garden, to name the animals, and to love Eve. The first five chapters then provide a theological foundation of what it means to be a man. In one sentence, the masculine mandate is “to be spiritual men placed in real-world, God-defined relationships, as lords and servants under God, to bear God’s fruit by serving and leading.”
The second half of the book moves to the practical. Phillips considers what it means to be a biblical man in marriage, in parenting, in work, in friendship, and in the church. Throughout, Phillips grounds his biblical vision in the gospel. He doesn’t say, “Men, be what Adam should have been.” He tells us, “You’ve been saved by Christ and given his Spirit to be what Adam should have been.”
At the risk of undermining the reader’s confidence in my objectivity, I have to admit that I have nothing negative to say about the book. I believe that it provides a compelling, balanced, and pastorally-wise picture of biblical manhood.
•He captures why a biblical theology of work—a hot topic these days—should make distinctions between men and women.
•He explains how a father should conceive of his parental role differently than a mother, and what it means to give your heart to your children before asking them to give theirs to you.
•He discusses how a husband should labor to understand his wife before he can lead her well.
•He tells men to befriend one another, not just over beer and football, but like Jonathan did when giving his royal robe to David.
Here are some pastoral plans I have for Phillips’ book:
•Read it with a couple of men I’m discipling.
•Request that it be placed on our church’s bookstall.
•Recommend that it be added to the four or five books we ask couples to read in our newly-married small groups, which couples join for the first two years of marriage.
•Apply some of his lessons in my own life, particularly his advice to be more deliberate about what kind of time I’m spending with my children (he advises four things: read, pray, work, and play).
I say all this because I genuinely hope other pastors and elders will do the same with the men in their churches. As Christian men grow in recognizing the authority that God has given them as his servants, they will increasingly use that authority to author life in everyone around them, like Adam harvesting a fruitful garden in church, work, and home.
Anyway, Ted has started a new church near the one he devastated by his sin. Haggard's justification is simple and, as it turns out, is all about him:
“Tiger Woods needs to golf. Michael Vick needs to be playing football. Ted Haggard needs to be leading a church.”
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Reporting on the controversy, Michael Foust writes:
Among the more controversial elements, the proposal says kindergarteners would learn the "basic reproductive body parts (penis, vagina, breast, nipples, testicles, scrotum, uterus)" and first-graders would learn "human beings can love people of the same gender & people of another gender." Fifth-graders would learn that "sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration" and seventh-graders would learn about Supreme Court opinions on abortion and "reproductive health."
Among the other controversial elements of the Helen, Mont., policy:
-- Kindergarteners would learn "a baby grows in a woman's uterus."
-- Third-graders would learn "the ovary produces eggs and the testicles produce sperm."
-- Fifth-graders would learn that "sexual orientation refers to a person's physical and/or romantic attraction to an individual of the same and/or different gender, and is one part of one's personality."
-- Sixth-graders would learn that "the penis, fingers, tongue or objects" can be used in sex. They would also learn that "gender identity is different from sexual orientation."
-- Beginning with seventh-graders, students would discuss Supreme Court decisions that have given people "the right to make personal decisions concerning sexuality & reproductive health matters, such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception."
-- Ninth-graders would begin learning that "erotic images in art reflect society's views about sexuality & help people understand sexuality."
Read the entire article HERE.
It boggles the mind. But these are the consequences of the government taking on the responsibilities that belong to parents.
Friday, July 16, 2010
The whole public discussion about whether Christians and other believers should be praying for Christopher Hitchens, currently stricken with throat cancer, strikes me as a rather unfortunate exercise. Surely it goes without saying that he should be prayed for, but surely it would be better if the people doing the praying kept it to themselves a little more. Talking about it all the time can seem a bit smug, or even Pharisaical. You may recall that Jesus had some rather sharp remarks about this sort of thing:
… And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I’m glad to see, though, that Hitchens himself — at least judging by his comments in this interview with Hugh Hewitt — is responding to the prayer campaign with forbearance, grace and even gratitude. It would be forgivable, I think, if he took the opportunity to raise one more middle finger to his longtime foes. But instead, we have this:
I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way. It makes up for those who tell me that I’ve got my just desserts … I wish it was more consoling. But I have to say there’s some extremely nice people, including people known to you, have said that I’m in their prayers, and I can only say that I’m touched by the thought.
Quite well said, I think. Let’s hope (and yes, pray — but quietly, quietly) that such graciousness is rewarded with many more years of life.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Al Mohler weighs in on Miss Eggebroten's article:
In “The Persistence of Patriarchy,” Eggebroten writes about “the wide reach” of complementarian views of manhood and womanhood among conservative Christians. Her article is subtitled: “Hard to believe, but some churches are still teaching about male headship.” Hard to believe?
Can anyone really be surprised that this is so? In some sense, it might be surprising to the generally liberal readership of Sojourners, but it can hardly be surprising to anyone with the slightest attachment to evangelical Christianity. Nevertheless, Anne Eggebroten’s article represents what I call a “National Geographic moment” — an example of someone discovering the obvious and thinking it exotic and strange. It is like a reporter returning from travel to far country to explain the strange tribe of people she found there — evangelical Christians believing what the Christian church has for 2,000 years believed the Bible to teach and require. So . . . what is so exotic?
She begins her article at Grace Community Church in California, where, in her words, “God is male, all the pastors, deacons, and elders are male, and women are taught to live in submission to men.” That is a snappy introduction, to be sure, but it requires some unpacking. When Eggebroten says that, at this well-known evangelical church “God is male,” she is echoing the arguments of the late radical feminist Mary Daly, who famously asserted that “if God is male, then male is God.” At Grace Community Church, as in the Bible, references to God are masculine, but God is not claimed to be male. Interestingly, she also missed the fact that Grace considers the role of the deacon in terms of service, rather than authority, so women in fact do serve as deacons with responsibility for particular ministries...
Eggebroten argues that the church has simply perpetuated the patriarchal traditions of the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures that formed the social context for the early Christian church. Against these she contrasts the Apostle Paul’s beautiful declaration in Galations 3:28 — “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
But this is the kind of sloppy and agenda-driven exegesis that reveals the desperation of those who would reject the New Testament’s limitation of the office of pastor to men. In Galatians 3:28 Paul is clearly speaking of salvation — not of service in the church. Paul is declaring to believers the great good news that “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” [verse 26]. He concludes by affirming, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” [verse 29].
To read Galatians 3:28 the way Eggebroten reads the verse, you would have to believe that the Apostle Paul was in direct contradiction with himself, when he restricts the teaching office to men in letters such as 1 Timothy and Titus.
Or . . . you can try to deny that Paul actually wrote those latter letters. Eggebroten accuses conservative evangelicals of ignoring “evidence that the ‘pastoral epistles’ (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were written in honor of Paul long after he died and reflect a second-century debate over women’s roles in the church–whether to conform to social customs for the sake of winning converts, or to advocate radical social equality (and even celibacy) in the last days before the Second Coming.”
What this reveals, of course, is the argument of many evangelical feminists that we can discard the teachings of the Pastoral Epistles. We can keep the Apostle Paul we like (taking Galatians 3:28 out of context, for example) and disregard the Paul we do not like.
Theological liberals have always dismissed the authority of Scripture. That is nothing new. What seems to be new is the number of those claiming the title "evangelical" who openly deny the truthfulness and authority of God's Word.
In recent posts I have noted the aggressive agenda at Biologos to rid the church of the doctrine of inerrancy by certain biblical scholars who claim to believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. But their own words testify against them.
One contributor denies the historicity of Adam and Eve. Interestingly enough, this same scholar was, only a few years ago, claiming to believe some of the very things he now denies. Another contributor claims that Scripture is in need of redemption, that it is "broken" and "warped." It is little wonder then that he also writes, "I have no interest in preserving Christianity ... I believe because, as I understand it, it makes sense of human experience. But if it turns out that Christianity fails to do that, I’ll simply turn elsewhere."
Gleason Archer warned that if we deny Scripture's inerrancy then we will replace the authority of God's Word with the authority of our own judgments.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
We live in a world of constant distraction. Not only are we constantly being interrupted by cellphones, email, and text messages, but we're also distracted from thinking and contemplation in a culture of constant entertainment. Joining the panel to discuss this topic is media ecologist, T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped The Messengers, and more recently, Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal.
Monday, July 12, 2010
I met a guy on Saturday who told me about his conversion from Catholicism. He was raising his kids in the Catholic church, having grown up there himself. Somehow he got the idea that as a dad he needed to know enough to teach his kids, so he started reading them the Bible. Then one of his kids came home from Catholic school with a pamphlet from a religion teacher entitled, “The Genesis Myth.” And of course his kid said, “Dad, I thought you said Genesis was the truth!”
So he started digging. He discovered that none of the other parents, few of the teachers, and not even the nun who was the principal of the school knew what the church taught about creation, but when he talked with the priest, he was told, “The church teaches that you can’t take the Bible too literally.” He didn’t quite know what that meant, but he came to two conclusions: The church didn’t believe the Bible, and the people in the church didn’t know about it. He had to leave, because, as uncertain as he was about what he believed, he couldn’t see the point of being a “Christian” if you didn’t believe the Bible. Only later did Bible-believing Christians introduce him to the gospel of grace.
Obviously the same situation is developing in “Evangelical” churches today. The comparison raises some questions:
What sort of witness is it when we assure the world that just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we believe what the Bible says?
What point is there, indeed, in being a non-Bible-believing “Christian”?
If we don’t doggedly believe what the Bible says, how exactly are we going to hold onto the gospel of grace, a message which runs counter to every instinct of natural man?
At this point, just what distinguishes Evangelicals from Rome? From Mainline Protestantism? From vaguely religious quasi-theism?
Let me say this as emphatically as possible: My main objection to the BioLogos agenda is theological, not scientific.
Evidently I need to underscore that point, because every time the subject comes up here, our comment-threads swarm with zealots who are keen to debate about geology, paleontology, astronomy, the fossil record, the age of the earth, or whatever—as if my criticisms of BioLogos were scientific rather than biblical and doctrinal. To date, not one person who supports the BioLogos agenda has even acknowledged (much less replied to) the real point we've been making.
So I'll say this once more: What concerns me most about BioLogos is not merely the enthusiasm with which they champion theistic evolution (bad as that is). I haven't complained about their baffling opposition to the simple, obvious teleological arguments of the "intelligent design" community. And what spurred my objections to their campaign has nothing to do with the old-earth/young-earth conflict per se.
But my greatest concern—by far—is the blithe willingness with which they are prepared to trivialize, disregard, discard, or denounce the foundational doctrines of Christianity.
In every post I have made about BioLogos, I've been critical of two things in particular: 1) their relentless assault against the authority of Scripture, and 2) an attitude toward the doctrine of original sin that ranges from utter indifference to condescending dismissal.
The authority of Scripture and the doctrine of original sin are, of course, bedrock truths of all historic Christianity; they are not merely Reformed or evangelical distinctives. (Nor are they trifling "exegetical molehill[s]," as Peter Enns suggested in his reply to Al Mohler.)
The serious doctrinal problems raised by the BioLogos campaign don't end with those two issues, either. As I pointed out in an earlier post, if the BioLogos team applied their Genesis hermeneutic consistently to the gospel accounts and the resurrection narratives, they would soon relinquish every essential element of the Christian faith.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
But it is also true that if we fill the bellies of the hungry but leave their souls empty by not proclaiming to them the crucified and risen Christ then we have neglected to give them what it is they need above all else. In other words, to alleviate physical suffering (a good thing) but withhold the Gospel is actually to be guilty of spiritual violence against the ones we presume to help. Doing good deeds apart from the clear proclamation of the gospel will not draw the suffering to Christ. Rather we will be pointing only to ourselves.
In his article, How Missionaries Lost Their Chariots of Fire, Greenberg writes:
The 1910 World Missionary Conference was a watershed moment for Protestantism. Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, the assembled 1,200 Protestants believed that Christianity was on the cusp of spreading to every corner of the world, and that Christ would come again once every ear had heard the good news of salvation. Their master plan for missions would hasten his return.Greenberg goes on to cite David Livermore, Executive Director of the Global Learning Center at Cornerstone University who believes it is a good thing to shift away from "proselytizing." He says that the "millenials" see efforts to convert unbelievers to Jesus Christ as "al Qaeda in Christian wineskins." And, in the context of his comments, Livermore seems to agree with this assessment.
But Edinburgh 2010, the centenary conference that concluded last month, drew only about a quarter of the crowd and received attention only from a few Christian publications. The modern master plan was less ambitious as well: a call to global missions and "to witness and evangelism in such a way that we are a living demonstration of the love, righteousness and justice that God intends for the whole world."
This dramatic change was summed up at a small gathering of academics and missions professionals at Fuller Theological Seminary in late May. "At (1910) Edinburgh, people thought they were going to take over the world," said C. Douglas McConnell, dean of Fuller's School of Intercultural Studies in his opening remarks. "And now many of our students wonder if they should even try."
Indeed, colonialism is dead (thankfully). But the term "missions" itself now carries with it a negative connotation, even in politically and theologically conservative circles. Christians today typically travel abroad to serve others, but not necessarily to spread the gospel.
While meaning well and certainly doing good, this form of outreach has allowed the pendulum to swing too far from 1910. Today, Christian missionaries need to balance both actions and words. The overwhelming majority of American missionaries today are "vacationaries." Joining mission trips of two weeks or less, they serve in locales where Christianity already predominates.
The purpose, then, of their visit is to battle the ills of poverty and to stretch their own spirituality. According to studies by Robert J. Priest, a missiologist and director of the doctoral program in intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 82% of short-term missions today go to countries in the most-Christian third of the world. Only 2% land in the Middle East.
Greenberg also cites Scott Moreau of Wheaton College who estimates that nearly half of his graduate students once believed that planting churches overseas was a top priority. "Today, it might be 10%." It is clear that the good work of alleviating suffering, instead of being an accompaniment to, is now replacing the matter of first importance - the proclamation of the Gospel.
Spreading Christianity through deeds alone aligns with a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." But research suggests that non-Christians often miss the message without the words.
A 2006 study by Calvin College's Kurt Ver Beek found "little or no difference" in the spiritual response between two groups of Hondurans—one which had its homes rebuilt by missionaries who did not proselytize and the other by local NGOs. Intuition would suggest as much. Unless foreigners explain that they are motivated to help by their religious beliefs, locals may be grateful for the new home but they should not be expected to connect dots that they may not even know exist.
The reality is the Church should be doing both: serving the needy and spreading the gospel. This is what makes the humanitarian work of Christians different than that of the American Red Cross. Both are motivated by the desire to help others, but Christians are spurred by that Jesus thing.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Dr. Dever writes the following about John Wenham's excellent Christ and the Bible:
I’ve saved the best for last. If I could just recommend one book on the inerrancy of the Bible it would undoubtedly be this one—John Wenham, Christ and the Bible. . .
Wenham’s book . . . makes the simple point that our trust in Scripture is to be a part of our following Christ, because that is the way that He treated Scripture—as true, and therefore authoritative. . . .
In Christ and the Bible, Wenham, who taught Greek for many years at Oxford, an Anglican evangelical, has done us all a great service in providing us with a book which understands that we do not come by our adherence to Scripture fundamentally from the inductive resolutions of discrepancies, but from the teaching of the Lord Jesus. Only because of the Living Word may we finally know to trust the Written Word.
May God use these resources of those who’ve gone before us to equip and encourage us in so trusting.
In Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life, Packer writes the following about the importance of the word in inerrancy as it applies to the Bible:
I find that nowadays I need the word. Verbal currency, as we known, can be devalued. Any word may have some of its meaning rubbed off, and this has happened to all my preferred terms for stating my belief about the Bible. I hear folk declare Scripture inspired and in the next breath say that it misleads from time to time. I hear them call in infallible and authoritative, and find they mean only that its impact on us and the commitment to which it leads us will keep us in God’s grace, not that it is all true.
That is not enough for me. I want to safeguard the historic evangelical meaning of these three words and to make clear my intention, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, to receive as from the Father and the Son all that the Scripture, when properly interpreted–that is, understood from within, in terms of its own frame of reference–proves to be affirming. (50-51)
My own experience bears witness to this. Because of the influence of postmodernism the regular use or historical meaning of certain words is often completely recast. Today, someone who makes statements like "the Bible is broken," and "there is not a single page of the Bible that does not bear the taint of error," can simultaneously say that the Bible is inspired and authoritative. Sound like a contradiction? It is. Words like inspired, true, and authoritative once made very clear the nature of the Bible as God's fully trustworthy Word. But now the meaning of those very same words has been almost entirely abandoned and redefined by a generation of so-called evangelicals who hold the right of private interpretation - same vocabulary, different dictionary.
What [inerrancy] says is that in formulating my theology I shall not consciously deny, disregard, or arbitrarily relativize anything that I find Bible writers teaching, nor cut the knot of any problem of Bible harmony, factual or theological, by assuming that the writers were not consistent with themselves or with each other. Instead, I shall labor to harmonize and integrate all that is taught (without remainder), to take is as from God (however little I may like it), and to seek actively to live by it (whatever change of my present beliefs and behavior-patterns it may require). This is what acceptance of the Bible as wholly God-given and totally true requires of us. (52)
Any degree of skepticism about the portrait of Christ, the promises of God, the principles of godliness, and the power of the Holy Spirit, as biblically presented, has the effect of enslaving us to our own alternative ideas about these things, and thus we miss something of the freedom, joy, and vitality that the real Christ bestows. God is very patient and merciful, and I do not suggest that those who fall short here thereby forfeit all knowledge of Christ, though I recognize that when one sits loose to Scripture this may indeed happen. But I do maintain most emphatically that one cannot doubt the Bible without far-reaching loss, both of fullness of truth and of fullness of life. If therefor we have at heart spiritual renewal for society, for churches and for our own lives, we shall make much of the entire trustworthiness–that is, the inerrancy–of Holy Scripture as the inspired and liberating Word of God. (55)
HT: Justin Taylor
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Machen, however, saw the danger. In fact, the pressure he exerted upon the PCUSA to change course led to his being removed from the denomination. It should surprise no one that the PCUSA continues its long journey down the road of apostasy.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Let me begin with some self-disclosure. I don’t like books on evangelism. I find most of them to be profoundly unhelpful. Some of them are simply bad books. Some are little more than a series of anecdotes strung together. Worse, some of them, while heavy on methodology, (astonishingly!) get the Gospel wrong. Still others heap an enormous amount of guilt upon the unsuspecting reader.Read the entire review HERE.
There are some notable exceptions of course. The outstanding Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer opened my eyes to the relationship between the providence of God and the witness of his people. Bruce Metzger’s Tell the Truth drove a stake through the heart of my previously man-centered notions of evangelism. Both of these books ought to be on every Christian’s shelf.
I am pleased to say that there is another volume to add to that short list. Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles just may become my new “go-to” book for evangelism. It may be that this book is helpful precisely because its author has for years integrated his profession with a strong sense of responsibility to advance the Gospel. Currently, Stiles lives in the United Arab Emirates where he serves as CEO of Gulf Digital Solutions and is general secretary for the Fellowship of Christian UAE students (FOCUS).
The goal of Marks of the Messenger is to make the reader a better evangelist. I suppose that is the target toward which all books on evangelism aim. But through biblical fidelity and shear simplicity I think Stiles’ book may actually accomplish this for many. Nowhere does one get the idea that Stiles is some sort of superhuman witnessing machine. This is helpful for those of us who are quite sure we do not possess a “gift” for evangelism but nevertheless desire to be better witnesses.
Now Kevin DeYoung has weighed in with a helpful post. Along the way, he raises some interesting questions like, "Why would evangelicals see BioLogos as “one of us” (and, while we’re at it, why would the president of Gordon College be one of five persons on the BioLogos Board of Directors)? DeYoung points to a specific series of posts at the Biologos blog where the author (a local Old Testament professor) not only challenges biblical inerrancy but openly mocks the idea as "intellectually disastrous."
I recently came across an article online on the BioLogos site entitled “After Inerrancy: Evangelicals and the Bible in a Postmodern Age.” It’s a multi-part article (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) written by Kenton Sparks, a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University. Here’s how it starts:Read DeYoung's entire article HERE.
I write for Evangelicals who either believe or suspect that our tradition has painted itself into an intellectual corner. The Church has been down this road before. In the 16th and 17th centuries it mistakenly criticized Copernicus and Galileo because their scientific views were clearly “unbiblical.” And just as the evidence finally came crashing down on Church dogma in those days, so in ours, the facts are stacking up quickly against fundamentalistic beliefs in “creation science” and in the kind of “biblical inerrancy” that supports it.
While there was perhaps a period in history when Evangelicals could deny the substance of these new theories because the available evidence seemed thin, it seems to me that we’ve now crossed an evidential threshold that makes it intellectually unsuitable to defend some of the standard dogmas of the conservative Evangelical tradition. Holding fast to these old dogmas merely perpetuates the “intellectual disaster of Fundamentalism” and the “scandal of Evangelical Mind.”
The intellectual cul-de-sac in which Evangelicalism finds itself can be traced back to many causes. But it seems clear, at least to me, that a fundamental cause of the scandal is its doctrine of Scripture. Often this doctrine involves a strict adherence to “Biblicism” … to a belief that the Bible provides inerrant access to the truth about everything it touches on … from biology, physics and astronomy to psychology, history and theology. In more progressive Evangelical circles inerrancy is sometimes defined more delicately, in a way that allows the non-biblical evidence to carry more weight in our reflection, but even here the subtle influence of inerrancy often engenders poor, or at least inferior, judgments about science, history, human beings and theology. In the pages that follow I will briefly explain why conventional Evangelical understandings of Scripture simply cannot be right. I will also survey some of the important resources that can help the Church get its bearings in a world without Biblicistic inerrancy.
I’m not sure what Biblicistic means, but any time you turn a word into an “ism” and then add an “istic” on top of that, it must be really bad. I’m pretty sure biblicistic is here to make inerrancy sound as lame as possible. Later, just to be crystal clear, Sparks opines, “Biblicist inerrancy is an intellectual disaster.”
The authority of Scripture has been, for the past two or three centuries been under almost constant attack. So it’s no surprise see it again. Even Christians hoping to be counted in the evangelical fold are eager to call into question the full and complete inspiration of Scripture. This means it is crucial that we understand, defend, and celebrate the authority of the Bible in our homes and in our churches.
One struggles to know where to begin with Sparks’ assault on biblical authority. A single blog post is not the place to launch a full-on defense of inerrancy. There are many fine books and articles written in years past that do just that, including Robert Yarborough’s fair-minded, yet devastating review of Sparks’ previous work.
Another angle on the subject might look at what constitutes evangelical theology. Sparks writes from “our” evangelical tradition, and yet he disavows any notion of penal substitution and understands the Scriptures to be fallen like creation and in need of redemption. In the comments thread after the fifth post, he argues, “I have no interest in preserving Christianity … I believe because, as I understand it, it makes sense of human experience. But if it turns out that Christianity fails to do that, I’ll simply turn elsewhere.” I don’t know Dr. Sparks and am not an expert on his thought. I just don’t see how he can claim to speak as an evangelical scholar (to use language from his book). And with articles like this, why would evangelicals see BioLogos as “one of us” (and, while we’re at it, why would the president of Gordon College be one of five persons on the BioLogos Board of Directors)?
So there are a lot of things one could say, but let me simply call to mind the Apostle Peter’s assessment of Holy Scripture:
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the mourning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produces by the will of man, but men spoke from God as theywere carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).
To treat the house of God or its activities as insignificant, or unworthy of serious Christian reflection, or to treat worship song as though it were nothing more than a matter of amusement or entertainment to be governed by personal preference, is to disregard or disagree with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures regarding both" (35).
For nineteen centuries, all previous generations of the church (Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, or Revivalist), in every culture, employed prayers and hymns that preceded them, and encouraged their best artists to consider adding to the canon of good liturgical forms. That is, none were traditional, in the sense of discouraging the writing of new forms; and none were contemporary, in the sense of excluding the use of older forms. So why now this insistence that many, most, or all forms of worship be contemporary? My father's generation did not demand that all hymns be written in a big-band idiom, and mine did not demand that they be written to sound like Eric Clapton or The Who...
The question is: Why do so many people appear to find it impossible or unprofitable to use the earlier forms? Why this craving for what sounds contemporary? Why can't Johnny sing hymns? Many people appear hesitant to answer this question, and some even evade it by reasoning that, for whatever reason, people today find contemporary musical forms attractive and noncontemporary musical forms unattractive, and that therefore we must provide such forms to them. But why should the sensibilities of those who many not even know God, or the sensibilities of a commercially driven, banal culture, rule in worship of God? (43).
Sunday, July 4, 2010
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
- For protecting them by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
- For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
- For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
- For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
- For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
- For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
- For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
- For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.
- We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.
- We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.
- We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.
They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare.
That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.