Monday, July 30, 2012

Jesus validated all of the Bible

Excellent and concise summary by John Stott from Urbana 1964 as to why accepting Jesus means accepting the authority of both the Old and New Testaments.

The Christian is under both instruction
and authority.
He looks to Jesus as his Teacher to instruct him,
and as his Lord to command him.
He believes what he believes
because Jesus taught it,
and he does what he does
because Jesus said to do it.

He is our Teacher to instruct us,
and we learn to submit
and to subordinate,
our minds to his mind.
We do not presume to have views or ideas or opinions
which are in contradiction to the views and ideas
of Jesus Christ.
Our view of Scripture
is derived from Christ's view of Scripture,
just as our view of discipleship,
of heaven and hell,
of the Christian life,
and of everything else,
is derived from Jesus Christ.
Any question about the inspiration of Scripture
and its authority
therefore resolves itself to:
"What did Jesus Christ teach about these points?"

We would say,
without any doubt,
that he gave reverent assent to the authority and
inspiration of the Old Testament.
There is no indication anywhere in his teachings
that he disagreed with the Old Testament writers.
He regarded the words of the Old Testament writings
as being the words of God.
He submitted to them in his own life,
he believed them,
he accepted their statements,
and sought to apply their principles.
He regarded Scripture as the great arbiter in dispute.
He said to his contemporaries,
"You make many mistakes,
because you don't know the Scriptures."

We find in the New Testament
that he invested the apostles with authority
to teach in his Name.
He said that the Holy Spirit
would lead them into all truth,
would bring to their remembrance what he had spoken
to them,
and would show them things to come.
He evidently expected
that in the providence of God
there would be others to interpret,
and bear witness
to the revelation given in himself,
just as there were prophets raised up by God
and inspired to bear witness
to what he did in Old Testament days.

To sum up,
the authority of Scripture
is due to the inspiration of Scripture.
The Old and New Testaments
are authoritative in our lives,
because they are in fact inspired.

And therefore,
since Jesus Christ is our Teacher
as well as our Lord,
the authority of Christ and the authority of Scripture
stand or fall together.

where loyalty is tested

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."   (Martin Luther)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

to glorify

"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him." (John 17:1b-2)

"This is always the ultimate purpose for all existence: that it might glorify God. Glorifying means to manifest or display a person's hidden virtue or wisdom or power or beauty, to bring out that which is hidden away in him or her. And here our Lord is asking that He be glorified, that things hidden in Him might now be made manifest in order that He in turn might manifest the beauty and the glory and the wisdom of the Father."  (Ray Stedman)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

no black shirts needed

I think it's time to go eat at Chick-fil-A. 

What a backlash they received for one statement in support of the biblical view of marriage.  Not even a statement anti-anything.  All of a sudden, it's not about reason or truth anymore, but about bullying and boycotts.

Salon says, "Chick-fil-A Starts a Culture War"  (Wow, and here I thought traditional marriage had been around a long time.)  A Chicago alderman wants to block Chick-fil-A from business.  Even the Muppets have dumped Chick-fil-A.

Read what the CEO really said here. Here's what the media is saying about Chick-fil-A.    

The reaction has been quite hostile.  "It’s fascism, actually," noted Elizabeth Scalia in the Patheos Catholic portal It's the increasing use of law, power and outright intimidation to bring people into line with a national social agenda.  No black shirts needed, just a loud voice.     

James Schall writes, "But distinctions do matter. We were once allowed to be what we held. Catholics were Catholics. Jews were Jews. It was all right. We now have an overarching 'law' that tells us that we cannot be what we are. The university, once a place that respected distinctions and diversity of ways of life, is now an engine that allows nothing but its own definition of diversity. And diversity means that nothing can be diverse."  (In "The Heaviest Oppression")      

The intolerance of postmodern tolerance is simply breath-taking. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

the goodness of God

Here are some notes from Don Emerson's class yesterday in the Attributes of God, specifically God's goodness...

"The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love, The Lord is good to everyone, He showers compassion on all his creation.”  (Psalm 145:8-9 NLB) 

Definition of God’s Goodness:  “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of goodwill toward men.  He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly.”  (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

“God’s goodness means that God is the final standard of good, and that all God is and does is worthy of approval.”   (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Relationship Between God’s Goodness other attributes (from Wayne Grudem): 

--God’s mercy is God’s goodness toward those in distress. 
--God’s grace is God’s goodness to those who deserve punishment.
--God’s patience is God’s goodness to those who continue to sin over a period of time.
--God’s love is God’s goodness in eternal self-giving for the benefit of others. 

On Psalm 73... “Our faith must be founded on an understanding of the nature of God. Asaph’s original trust in the unchanging goodness of God prevented his confusing illusion with reality.  When we have settled in our hearts that God is good, that He is just, that He is all powerful, and that He will do right both now and for eternity, we will have the spiritual strength needed to defeat the temptation to envy others and pity ourselves.”  (E. Calvin Beisner, Psalms of Promise, p. 155)

Developing a healthy perspective of God’s Goodness:

1. Open your eyes to God’s goodness all around you every day 
2. Develop a consistent daily habit of thanksgiving 
3. Speak often of His goodness to others. Do good to others. 
4. Reflect on God’s goodness in your hard times.  
5. Meditate on your sin and God’s gracious provision at the cross.
6. Memorize and meditate on passages that speak of God’s goodness.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name... for THE LORD IS GOOD, His love endures forever and His faithfulness extends to all generations.”  (Psalm 100)

the complex role of a shepherd

The Pastoralized blog has an interesting post entitled, "Why Pastoral Work Is So Complex (And Why You Shouldn’t Try to Simplify It)"  

(Caveat: only Jesus is the true Prophet, Priest and King, though I agree that pastors are called to share in his ministry in all three areas.)

Pastoral work is inherently complex because it’s three jobs, not one. We are a prophet (teaching and preaching), a priest (ministering relationally and in prayer), and a king (providing leadership and vision). True shepherding takes place when these three roles overlap in a minister of the gospel. There is no other job in the world that requires so much from one person.  Trying to remove one of these roles is like removing a component from an atom. If you take away the electron, you no longer have an atom. If you stop preaching, you no longer are a shepherd. Shepherds feed their sheep. ...

Read the entire article here.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

theology and ministry

I have long believed that there is a vital and integral relationship between theology (biblical truths, good doctrine) and pastoral care.  Much of pastoral ministry is bringing people to see and appropriate biblical truth for themselves.  

And the doctrines in view are not merely those that we feel are aimed at us, being personally relevant to our situation, but are those truths which are eternally relevant, being about God, his nature, the person and work of Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.

Andrew Purves expresses this well in his book Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition:  

"One cannot be a pastor without being a theologian, in the sense of being a faithful and disciplined student of the Word of God.  Gregory's view [Gregory of Nazianzus, ca AD 463] prevailed for a long time in the church, and probably only in recent times has pastoral work come to have such an ambiguous connection to the church's theological heritage that psychology and counseling methods rather than the church's doctrine have come to dominate. ... A reading of Gregory's text is a timely reminder -- both in his day and ours -- that ministry should be entered into by those who recognize the need to commit themselves to the work of theology and who have the skill and sensitivity to understand the nature and needs of persons in such a way that the gospel can be addressed for them in healing and helpful ways."  

(Andrew Purves, Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition

Friday, July 20, 2012

holiness which condemns also saves

"My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath."  (Hosea 11:8-9 ESV)

There is a temptation to associate God's holiness strictly with his judgment.  That is, he is pure and good, and therefore hates evil.  Yet, in his words through Hosea it is precisely his holiness which also brings compassion and forgiveness.  

Likewise, those who come to God through Christ see in the gospel God's forgiveness and compassion, but more: they also begin to see his holiness in its fullest sense...

There is no real intimacy with the gospel that does not mean a new sense of God’s holiness, and it may be long before we realize that the same holiness that condemns is that which saves. There is no new insight into the cross that does not bring, whatever else come with it, a deeper sense of the solemn holiness of the love that meets us there.

(P. T. Forsyth, as quoted by Carl Trueman in Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

authority and relevance

"The modern world detests authority but worships relevance. Our Christian conviction is that the Bible has both authority and relevance, and that the secret of both is Jesus Christ."  

--John R. W. Stott, Culture and the Bible

Saturday, July 14, 2012

a person never to be conquered

"A Christian is an impregnable person. He is a person that never can be conquered. Emmanuel became man to make the church and every Christian to be one with him. Christ's nature is out of danger of all that is hurtful. The sun shall not shine, the wind shall not blow, to the church's hurt. For the church's Head ruleth over all things and hath all things in subjection.  Therefore let all the enemies consult together, this king and that power, there is a counsel in heaven which will disturb and dash all their counsels."   

(Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed)

more on reading Lit

Here are more highlights from Tony Reinke in Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading (Crossway, 2011).  

On imagination and the gospel:

We imagine because God imagines. In fact, before the world began, everything merely existed in God’s imagination. Entire chapters could be devoted to God’s imaginative genius on display in creation: the design of the sun, planets, plants, animals, molecules, DNA, and more. 

But God’s imaginative genius is also displayed in the gospel. Think about it. The gospel weaves together a genealogy of dodgy characters into an unlikely ancestry for the Savior. The gospel was foretold by centuries of ancient prophecies, many of them fragmented and scattered throughout the Old Testament, to a people who could not make sense of it all. In time, the genealogy and the prophecies merged together into a cohesive plan that led to the birth of the incarnate Son of God.

So ingenious is the gospel plan, that when men and Satan conspired to kill and bury the Savior, they only hastened the Father’s plan for his Son’s victory. This entire plan developed in God’s imagination long before the world existed (Eph. 3:7–10; 1 Pet. 1:18–20).

We imagine because our Creator imagines. And with our imagination we can now “see” eternal reality (2 Cor. 4:18). This divine imagination, this ability to see the unseen, is a skill God has given us for our spiritual profit. 

On reading Christ-centered theology:

Christ is the centerpiece of Scripture, the focus of heaven, and the stage that displays God’s glory. “For in the cross of Christ, as in a magnificent theatre, the inestimable goodness of God is displayed before the whole world,” John Calvin wrote. “In all the creatures, indeed, both high and low, the glory of God shines, but nowhere has it shone more brightly than in the cross.”

Theologically weighty books about Christ are essential for the soul—for men and women. And although women purchase the 
majority of books released by Christian publishers, women are far less likely to read theological books, writes counselor and author Elyse Fitzpatrick. In her 2003 evaluation of the Christian publishing industry, she writes, “Many women are intimidated by the thought of studying something that is ‘theological’ in nature. They are afraid of being bored, looking foolish, becoming unattractive to men, or becoming divisive.” And she confronts women who would rather read only novels as a way to escape personal disappointments, and who read these books to “build fantasy castles filled with knights on white steeds who will come to rescue her from her mundane, stressful, empty, or disappointing life.” Rather, she offers this challenge: “Let’s become known as a generation of women who delight in, tremble before, receive counsel from, drink, devour, digest, muse upon, and absolutely cherish God and the truth that He’s revealed about Himself and about ourselves. Let’s not worry about whether we look dumb or too smart.” 

On reading for pleasure:

I do not use reading to avoid reality, but I do read to temporarily escape to another world. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Now there is a clear sense in which all reading whatever is an escape. It involves a temporary transference of the mind from our actual surroundings to things merely imagined or conceived. This happens when we read our Bible or history books, and no less when we read fiction. All such escape is from the same thing; immediate, concrete actuality. The important question is what we escape to.”

If time allowed, I would march across Middle Earth annually.  Escaping into this foreign land is not an escape into unreality, but is very often an escape into a more blunt form of reality. 

“The end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing.” Good literature instructs the reader as it delights the reader, because thoughtful readers are “putting together what should never be split—excitement and knowledge, joy and truth, ecstasy and value."  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

reading Lit!

Here are my highlights, so far, in reading Tony Reinke's book, Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011)...

On reading, as a Christian:

Once God enlightens our spiritual eyes, we can read books for the spiritual benefit of our souls—whether it’s the Ten Commandments, a thick systematic theology, the poems of John Donne, C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, or a microbiology textbook. To read any book for eternal benefit, we must behold the glory of Christ. His glory lies at the bottom of all sound knowledge and learning.

Christian book reading is never a solitary experience, but an open invitation to commune with God. By opening a book we can stop talking and we begin listening. We can turn from the distractions of life. We can focus our minds. Sometimes we can even lose all sense of time. Although it’s difficult to protect, this reading environment can be the atmosphere that sustains the life of interaction with God.

On the primacy of language over image:

At one level, this word/image tension is a battle for our hearts. God wants us to listen to him, to love him, to experience his presence, to interpret what we feel and what we see in light of his Word. He wants us to hope for a world unseen. He wants his truth and his Word to govern our hearts. Language is the basis of our relationship with God, and a deeply personal means to experience him. Therefore how God is communicated is a matter of serious concern.

(Quoting Carl F. H. Henry:) “The Bible at the very beginning emphasizes that God is not merely an acting God of deed-revelation, but a speaking deity also who shapes language as a medium of intelligible communication with man made in his image. Words are the means of transmitting ideas from person to person: it is not centrally in symbols and visions, but especially in words, that the Old Testament focuses its account of divine-human relationships.” 

But the tension is not simply between the value of words and the value of images. Both language and visual images are valuable. The concern is whether Christians (like us) will be patient enough to find meaning embedded in words, or if we will grow content with the superficial pleasures offered to us in the rapidly shifting images in our culture. 

(Quoting Os Guinness:) “The world of sight, the world of the eye, cannot take us beyond what is shown. Because sight can only go so far, it takes words and thought to give the real truth and meaning behind what is seen." 

[T]he difficult work required to benefit from books is at odds with the immediate appeal of images. As Christians living in an image-saturated world, we must guard our conviction about the vital importance of words and language. For it is words and language that best communicate meaning.  

On having discernment through a well-developed worldview:

The biblical worldview will make us keenly aware of the wide gulf of differences between ourselves, as Christian readers, and the majority of authors. Christian poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “So long as we are conscious of the gulf fixed between ourselves and the greater part of contemporary literature, we are more or less protected from being harmed by it, and are in a position to extract from it what good it has to offer us.”

A biblical worldview, informed by the touchstone propositions of Scripture, is what distinguishes Christian readers from non- Christian readers. It equips us to see and treasure the truth, goodness, and beauty in Christian books (the books on our side of the canyon). And the biblical worldview helps us see and treasure the truth, goodness, and beauty in non-Christian books (the books on the other side of the canyon).

On reading non-Christian literature:

Calvin is saying that if we despise truth in non- Christian books, we ultimately “insult the Giver.” At first those words jarred me, but I've come to see Calvin’s point. God is behind all truth, even the truth that is expressed in non- Christian literature. Truth cannot be fabricated, writes Calvin.  All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and, therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose? Calvin understands what we discovered in the last chapter: a cohesive biblical worldview makes it possible for us to perceive and cherish the truth we read in non-Christian books. 

(Quoting Herman Bavinck:) "All the elements and forms that are essential to religion (a concept of God, a sense of guilt, a desire for redemption, sacrifice, priesthood, temple, cult, prayer, etc.), though corrupted, nevertheless do also occur in pagan religions. . . . Hence Christianity is not only positioned antithetically toward paganism; it is also paganism’s fulfillment. Christianity is the true religion, therefore also the highest and purest; it is the truth of all religions. What in paganism is the caricature, the living original is here. What is appearance there is essence here. What is sought there can be found here."

The bottom line is that I cannot reject non-Christian literature, nor give wholesale approval to it. This is an unresolved tension for the Christian reader. The Christian reader must simply treasure whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8)—wherever it is found. If a Christian reader is attuned to the whisper of the Giver, he will hear that whisper in some very unexpected places.

the art of giving

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35 ESV)

Miroslav Volf, reflecting on a lesson learned from the adoption of their two sons...

"Like our sons, all of us were a gift when we were born – a peculiar yet most beautiful of gifts, a gift that at first only receives, a gift that gives back only the joy parents might feel in giving and the delight they might experience in the child’s flourishing. Often enough, tiredness chokes up joy, and worry extinguishes delight. But still, most parents do their best to give, and they do so knowing well that their gifts will never be returned in full, but perhaps will be paid forward, that children will give to their own children or to others they encounter on their life’s journey. We know it is good to receive, and we have been blessed by receiving not only as children, but also as adults. Yet Jesus taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and part of growing up is learning the art of giving. If we fail to learn this art, we will live unfulfilled lives, and in the end, chains of bondage will replace the bonds that keep our communities together. If we just keep taking or even trading, we will squander ourselves. If we give, we will regain ourselves as fulfilled individuals and flourishing communities."

(Miroslav Volf, from Free of Charge)