Friday, July 30, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--Higher Criticism: What's really at stake

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

According to the faith of the universal church, the Pentateuch, that is, the first five books of the Bible, is one consistent, coherent, authentic and genuine composition, inspired by God, and, according to the testimony of the Jews, the statements of the books themselves, the reiterated corroborations of the rest of the Old Testament, and the explicit statement of the Lord Jesus (Luke 24:44; John 5:46-47) was written by Moses (with the exception, of course, of Deuteronomy 34, possibly written by Joshua, as the Talmud states, or probably by Ezra) at a period of about fourteen centuries before the advent of Christ, and 800 years or so before Jeremiah. It is, moreover, a portion of the Bible that is of paramount importance, for it is the basic substratum of the whole revelation of God, and of paramount value, not because it is merely the literature of an ancient nation, but because it is the introductory section of the Word of God, bearing His authority and given by inspiration through His servant Moses. That is the faith of the Church.

But according to the Higher Critics:
1. The Pentateuch consists of four completely diverse documents. These Completely different documents were the primary sources of the composition which they call the Hexateuch: (a) The Yahwist or Jahwist, (b) the Elohist, (c) the Deuteronomist, and (d) the Priestly Code, the Grundschift, the work of the first Elohist (Sayce Hist. Heb., 103), now generally known as J. E. D. P., and for convenience designated by these symbols.

2. These different works were composed at various periods of time, not in the fifteenth century, B.C., but in the ninth, seventh, sixth and fifth centuries.

3. These different works, moreover, represent different traditions of the national life of the Hebrews, and are at variance in most important particulars.

4. And, further. They conjecture that these four suppositive documents were not compiled and written by Moses.

5. These four suppositive documents are, moreover, alleged to be internally inconsistent and undoubtedly incomplete. How far they are incomplete they do not agree. How much is missing and when, where, how and by whom it was removed; whether it was some thief who stole, or copyist who tampered, or editor who falsified, they do not declare.

6. In this redactory process no limit apparently is assigned by the critic to the work of the redactors. With an utter irresponsibility of freedom it is declared that they inserted misleading statements with the purpose of reconciling incompatible traditions.

7. And worst of all. The Higher Critics are unanimous in the conclusion that these documents contain three species of material:

(a) The probably true.
(b) The certainly doubtful.
(c) The positively spurious.

"The narratives of the Pentateuch are usually trustworthy, though partly mythical and legendary. The miracles recorded were the exaggerations of a later age." (Davidson, Introduction, page 131). The framework of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, says George Adam Smith in his "Modern Criticism and the Preaching of the Old Testament," is woven from the raw material of myth and legend. He denies their historical character, and says that he can find no proof in archaeology for the personal existence of characters of the Patriarchs themselves. Later on, however, in a fit of apologetic repentance he makes the condescending admission that it is extremely probable that the stories of the Patriarchs have at the heart of them historical elements. (Pages 90-106).

Such is the view of the Pentateuch that is accepted as conclusive by "the sober scholarship" of a number of the leading theological writers and professors of the day. It is to this the Higher Criticism reduces what the Lord Jesus called the writings of Moses.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review of Wordsearch 9 Preaching Library Bible Software

I have always loved computers.  It probably has something to do with the fact that my dad was a computer programmer so I always thought they were interesting.  As I have grown in my faith, I have learned that the computer can be used as a great tool to study the Bible more efficiently and in-depth.  My first exposure to bible study software was the old Nelson Electronic Bible Reference Library on Windows 95.  However, I recently acquired a copy of the Wordsearch 9 Preaching Library from Wordsearch and let me tell you, bible study software has come a long way since I got started using it.

First of all, the sheer volume of material in this library is pretty overwhelming.  The library contains 22 different bibles including some Greek New Testament tests and an interlinear, more than 20 commentaries (NT, OT, NT/OT, and individual books), numerous books on theology, word studies, not to mention books on culture, sermon preparation, and more.  There are literally thousands of pages of clear biblical scholarship, searchable with merely a mouse click.

However, it's not just the size of the library that is impressive, but it's also easy to use.  The software opens up with a browser-like interface that is both attractive and fairly intuitive.  Basically, if you've used Windows, Internet Explorer, or any other graphical user interface in the past 10 years, you will have no problem navigating your way around the software.

Of course, I've only had the software for a few weeks so I'm still learning things about it, but I'd like to point out what I think are some of the most attractive features of the software.  First of all, the ability to customize the appearance of the software makes it easy to find what you want in a snap.  You can set a preferred bible, commentary, or with a single click open up a customized parallel bible with translations that you choose.

Further, not only can you search bibles, or your whole library, for words or phrases, but Wordsearch 9 offers a new feature that lets you see your search results in a graph.  It's like having an interactive concordance.

Finally, the most impressive feature in my book and the one that makes the software absolutely invaluable to me for bible study is the Cross Reference tool.   Here's how it works:  You click on a verse in the text of the bible that you have open.  Then you click the "Cross Reference" button at the top.  The software automatically searches through every book in the library for any reference to that verse.  It is amazing.  Instead of having to hunt and peck through your library, with a mere click you have access to everything mentioned anywhere in your library (commentaries, theology, word study, history, etc) in a simple, easily organized window that you can examine, saving literally hours of time searching through the library.

When you add to that the fact that Wordsearch is the exclusive distributor for the software version of the Complete Biblical Library (it's not available from Logos or Accordance), free training available on their website, and the fact that you can add even more volumes of material to your library, I really don't see how you could go wrong with this product.  Quite simply, if you want to harness the power of your computer to better understand the bible regardless if you are a pastor, teacher, or lay person, this is one tool you can rely on to help you do that. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Matthew 8:26-27 Two Rebukes

No one likes to be corrected. It’s not fun and has a particular kind of “sting” that comes with it. It’s especially painful when it comes from someone whom you love and/or respect. Imagine then how the disciples must have felt when the Lord responded to their pleas “Save us”. As we read this passage of scripture, we see the Lord not only rebukes His disciples but also nature itself, providing further proof of His divinity.

First of all, notice the manner in which the Lord rebuked the disciples. For all intents and purposes, He called them “girly men”. When He asked them “Why are you afraid?” He wasn’t just talking about any kind of fear. The word translated “afraid” is the Greek word “deilos” (1169) which always means afraid in a negative sense as in “cowardly”. Talk about being called out. That must have been a stinging rebuke, and quite ironic considering that these men had followed Christ when others who professed similar devotion waffled when it came time to get on the boat.

Furthermore, observe with me Christ’s evaluation of their faith. He calls it “little faith”. I believe this is in direct contrast to the “great faith” of the centurion a few verses earlier. I mean, these men had heard Christ teach, seen Him perform miracles, and committed themselves to following Him and they’re going to worry about a rainstorm? Seriously? I’m reminded of the Israelites standing at the bank of the Red Sea and worrying about Pharaoh’s army behind them. You just want to yell at the page when you read that “Um, guys, did you miss the miracles that God just did to deliver you out of Egypt?” What we see here, in the disciples is a seriously lack of perspective. Our response, then, should be to remember as we enter life’s storms that we serve the same God and that just as He is faithful to these men of little faith, He’ll be faithful to us.

Finally, let’s examine Jesus’ next rebuke. He gets up and rebukes the wind and the sea. Now, for Him to have that kind of power is awesome and we should rightly reverence Him because of that. But the next phrase to me is even more striking—“it became perfectly calm”. All of a sudden, in an instant, in the midst of this terrible tempest, it all stopped. Now, the winds coming to a complete standstill is one thing. That’s pretty amazing. But the wind and the sea became still—perfectly calm—all of a sudden. I mean, physics tells us that once set in motion the waves of the sea should have remained in motion for a while even after the wind stopped. That is not what happened. All of nature, all natural laws, bend and conform to the will of the Master. He didn’t just stop the storm; He removed all evidence that there had been a storm. What an awesome display of power.

Now, as we leave these verses, let’s reflect on the reaction of the disciples here. The text says “They were amazed”. This was a truly marvelous sight to them. I can picture some of them sitting there with their mouths hanging wide open. For that matter, when I read the miracles recorded in scripture I feel like that sometimes. However, the marvel they felt as they saw what the Lord did caused them to reflect “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the seas obey Him?” That is the million dollar question. That, in fact, is the only question that matters. Who is Jesus? How do we reconcile the fact that He was so tired that He was in such a deep sleep that even a storm on the open water didn’t wake Him, demonstrating that He was fully human, with the fact that He calms a storm with only His word which demonstrates that He is none other than God in the flesh? We can’t. However, what we can do is proclaim that Jesus is the God-man and the only possible way to get to heaven is to come by faith to Him and repent of you sins. I may not be able to explain the hypostatic union but I can choose to place my faith and trust in Him and call Him my Lord and Savior.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reasons To Leave A Church: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Kevin DeYoung recently published a post on reasons to leave a church.  Since, last year around this time actually, I led my family to leave the church we had been at for 3 years knowing when and more importantly why to leave a church is something that I think Christians need to think about.  Of course, in my context, it was due to a greedy, arrogant man who was called a pastor and his group of "yes men" who were willfully blind to the fact that he was unqualified due to his lack of character.  However, you may be in a situation where you have to ask "Do I need to get out?"  If so, here are some good ideas to think through.

“What right do you ever have to leave a church?” I can remember that question being asked by my ecclesiology professor in seminary. It is a good question and one that would benefit us all to wrestle with. As Kevin has recently pointed out on this blog, there is biblical warrant and there are practical reasons for entering into covenant through local church membership. Having entered into that covenant our breaking of it should never be done lightly. Clearly, there are reasons to leave a local church. But what are they? I have been thinking about this for the past ten years and this is my attempt at answering the question:

Good Reasons for Moving On—The Four P’s

1. Providential moving—If my job, family, or life has moved me from Dallas to Austin then I should probably find a local church in Austin, let alone if I moved from Michigan to North Carolina. It is right and good to belong to a local church and covenant with brothers and sisters in my own “backyard.”

2. Planting another church—It may be that I haven’t left my home town, but the church I belong to has decided to send me out with others to plant another church in the area. Notice though, that I am being sent out by my church, not leaving with a group of people because I am disgruntled or think it is a good idea.

3. Purity has been lost— It may take different forms, but primarily this occurs when the Word is no longer proclaimed. It could be that heresy is being taught, the Bible is never read or preached, or a much more prominent manifestation these days is that the Word is no longer seen as sufficient; it is used as a seasoning for the message of the week rather than the diet by which the congregation is fed and nourished upon. However, we must be careful here; patience should always be exercised and I must always test my own heart to see if I am “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

4. Peace of the church is in jeopardy due to my presence— This “reason” is hard to suggest for fear of it being abused, as it is by far the most subjective “reason.” However, there are cases where an individual/family can personally become a hindrance to the ministry of the local church and it is best for that person/family to move-on. If this is the reason I am contemplating leaving the church, then I must first test myself and discern whether it is because of sin on my own part. If that is the case then I must be quick to repent rather than move-on. This “reason” should always be approached with trepidation,

Possible Reasons for Moving On – The Three S’s

1. Spouse—An unbelieving or non-church attending spouse is not willing to attend this church, but will attend another with you.

2. Special Needs—Every family has special needs, so this one needs to be handled with care. A possible example may be that my family has a disabled child and another faithful church in the area has a wonderful ministry to disabled people which can help us.

3. Special Gifts—Another faithful church in the area may have asked for you to use your special gifts in their midst for the building up of the body (i.e. organist). Never decide this one on your own. If it is a possible reason, then it is too easy to think too highly of oneself and go running to the greener pastures. This is always something that should be taken to the leadership of your current church and wrestled through.

Reasons Often Used Which are Insufficient

1. Children’s Ministry—The Children’s ministry at another church is better. This cannot be a reason for changing churches. It is rather an opportunity for you to get involved in the children’s ministry of your church.

2. Buzz—Many people will flow to whatever church in town has the current “buzz.” The argument will be that the Spirit is at work there and we want to be part of it. But buzzes come and go. And so do the people that follow them.

3. Youth Group—The unhappiness of our teenage children in the current Youth Group, because of activities, other youth, etc. is not a reason for leaving the church we have covenanted with. I know this one will be controversial. Believe me, I have empathy as a parent and a former Youth Pastor. But our children are not the spiritual directors of our home. They should not be choosing the church we attend based upon their social status and network.

4. Church has changed—Churches always change. Unless the changes are unbiblical than we don’t have a reason to move on. We don’t move on when our wife or husband changes! We are we so quick to do so with the church we have covenanted with.

5. New Pastor—A new pastor is not a sufficient reason to change churches. It doesn’t matter how stiff, impersonal, unfunny, etc. he is. The list is endless. It doesn’t even matter if he is not the most interesting preacher. He is the man God called to this church for this time. And this is your church. Again, unless he is unbiblical why move on? You haven’t covenanted with a man, but with this body.

6. I’m Not Being Ministered to—I tell every one of our new member classes, “If we all walked into church each week and had a list of people we were going to try and ‘touch,’ encourage, or minister to, do you know how dynamic this church would be? Just on Sunday mornings, let alone if we did it during the week. If we each were concerned about the other person and walked in each Sunday with that in the forefront of our mind instead of, “Why didn’t he talk to me?,” “Why doesn’t anyone care about me?,” “Why isn’t anyone ministering to me?” Start ministering to others and you will find that you are being ministered to.

7. Music—Not a reason—whether it is slow, fast, traditional, contemporary, Psalms, hymns, or gospel choruses. Stop using it as an excuse!

8. There are others…we haven’t even mentioned the service is too early, the coffee is terrible, the pastor doesn’t know how to shuck corn (Yep…those are all true ones I have heard).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--Higher Criticism: Why is it identified with unbelief Part III

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

How is it, then, that the Higher Criticism (the study of the origin of the Biblical texts) has become identified in the popular mind with attacks upon the Bible and the supernatural character of the Holy Scriptures?

In the first place, the critics who were the leaders, the men who have given name and force to the whole movement, have been men who have based their theories largely upon their own subjective conclusions. In the second place, some of the most powerful exponents of the modern Higher Critical theories have been Germans, and it is notorious to what length the German fancy can go in the direction of the subjective and of the conjectural.

In the third place, the dominant men of the movement were men with a strong bias against the supernatural. Some of the men who have been most distinguished as the leaders of the Higher Critical movement in Germany and Holland have been men who have no faith in the God of the Bible, and no faith in either the necessity or the possibility of a personal supernatural revelation.

We must not be misunderstood. We distinctly repudiate the idea that all the Higher Critics were or are anti-supernaturalists. What we do say, as we will presently show, is that the dominant minds which have led and swayed the movement, who made the theories that the others circulated, were strongly unbelieving.

[Higher Criticism] has become identified with a system of criticism which is based on hypotheses and suppositions which have for their object the repudiation of the traditional theory, and has investigated the origins and forms and styles and contents, apparently not to confirm the authenticity and credibility and reliability of the Scriptures, but to discredit in most cases their genuineness, to discover discrepancies, and throw doubt upon their authority:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Exposition of Hebrews Part 10

A friend of mine, Doug Searle over at Taking Up Space, is teaching through the book of Hebrews and posting the audio from his classes online.  You can listen to the audio for the class by clicking here.  Apparently, there are no notes for the class.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Matthew 8:23-27 Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale…

When Nehemiah led the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild it, they encountered opposition. Many of them concluded because of the problems they faced that they were operating outside of the will of God. They presumed because they were encountering difficulties that God was telling them their timing was off. However, adversity does not prove that we are outside of the will of God. I know Jonah was in a storm and ended up inside of a fish for 3 days due to running from God but, as we’ll see today, it is possible for someone to be in a storm and be right where God intended for them to be.

After having several folks profess devotion to Him but quickly fall away on account of the cost that true devotion would entail, Jesus entered a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. When He proceeded to leave, Matthew notes, “His disciples followed Him”. We can commend their devotion to Christ and should emulate it. They followed Christ of their own choosing, not under any sort of compulsion. I am reminded as I read this of Peter’s words in John 6:68-70 where he says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." A true disciple can’t help but follow Christ.

Now, here is the scene set before us by Matthew. The disciples were crossing this inland sea that, since many of them fished in this sea for a living, they knew very well. As they crossed over at night, a storm popped up. It is described as “a great storm”. Now, you might read that and think “Yeah, it’s a great storm—to an accountant (Matthew)”. But as we’ll see, it scared the disciples, many of whom had fished on this sea so they had seen this sort of thing before. These storms would come up suddenly from out of nowhere and they certainly could be dangerous. So, this is the predicament the disciples find themselves in as they have chosen to follow Christ. Now, Matthew goes on to give us two different perspectives on this storm.

Jesus wasn’t concerned about the bumpy boat ride at all. In fact, as Matthew records in verse 24, He was “asleep”. Now, there are two observations I’d like to make here. First of all, Jesus was fully God and fully human (John 14:8, Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 2:9). In coming to earth, He didn’t divest Himself of one of His divine attributes but He laid aside His right to exercise those attributes independently apart from the will of God the Father. So, .like any human being, He got hungry, thirst, and in this case tired. He was resting and undisturbed by the violent storm that had come upon them. He wasn’t worried about what was happening because God was, and is, in control. The Lord’s perspective was one of perfect peace.

The disciples had a different perspective—panic. Now, again, many of these men were fishermen who had sailed on this sea in stormy conditions. They knew this sort of thing could happen. Therefore, I think it’s reasonable to assume that their panic was caused by the severity of the storm. J. Vernon McGee and other commentators suggest that perhaps this storm was produced by Satan himself. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it must have been a bad storm for these experienced fishermen to get as frightened as they did. As Matthew notes in verse 24, the boat was in danger of “being covered with the waves”. Perceiving this as a dangerous situation, they went to Him and “woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’" Now, Mark and Luke don’t record this as exactly what they said to Jesus. For instance, in Mark 4:40 they suggest that Jesus doesn’t care about them and the fact that they are in danger. Now, someone might say “See, there’s a discrepancy in the text. Which of those is true?” We should notice, first of all, that in Greek, the way this is written, they probably didn’t all come up and say what they said to Him in perfect unison. They were all talking at once, probably, and repeatedly calling for His help because the verb “saying” is in the present tense in Greek. You might translate that as “kept on saying”. Anyway, they came to Him and were concerned for their very lives in the midst of this storm.

As much as you and I would like to chide the disciples, we really have no room to talk, do we? We’re just as likely to forget how good God is and how good He has been to us. Our perspective is often so much like that of the disciples who saw the storm but forgot the Savior. We are nor immune to fear but we can choose to trust Christ to bring us through any storms we encounter as we follow Him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

II Peter 3:9 God's Eternal Purposes Part III

When we left this verse last time, we had ourselves quite a quandry. Who was Peter talking about in the later half of verse 9. In order to examine the text a little better, or maybe it was just to make it easier for me to understand, I'm going to do things a little differently and rather than write a narrative exposition of the text, we're just going to ask some questions and see where they lead us.

The verse in question is

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

1) Who is “you”?

In the immediate context of the epistle, verse 8 says “But do not let this one fact escape your notice…” and verse 1 says “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.,,” In contrast, verse 3 talks about another group—“mockers”. Also, verse 5 uses a lot of 3rd person pronouns “…they maintain…their notice…” Also, in chapter two, Peter takes an entire chapter to describe this other group, consistently referring to them in the 3rd person and introducing the chapter by indicating that his audience is distinct from that group. v 1-“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” Further, the fact that Peter is writing to Christians and not just humanity in general is seen in chapter 1 and verse 1 of the epistle where he writes:” To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours,”

Therefore, the word “you” appears to be the Christians to whom Peter was writing.

2) Who is “any” and “all”?

If, as seems to be the case based on examination of II Peter, the “you” in this sentence is indentified as the Christians to whom Peter wrote, it doesn’t make sense for “any” and “all” to refer to any human being and all human beings. Given the context and train of thought here, it doesn’t make sense for him to shift from the specific audience that he has addressed to a more general “all of mankind” audience. Mockers will come, and they will be destroyed (vs 3-7). In contrast, you are objects not of God’s wrath but His love and the delay in judgment is for your benefit (vs 8-9).

3) If “you”, “any”, and “all” are believers, what does it mean when Peter uses the word “wishing”? Doesn’t that mean that God’s desire is for everyone to be saved?

Short answer—no, that’s not what this means. While God certainly takes no pleasure in the death or punishment of sinners (Ezekiel 18:23), it would be very foolish for us to think that God does not demand justice for the sins commented that have offended Him so badly. Therefore, God’s will is to punish sinners who do not repent of their sins and trust Christ to save them. Further, God’s will is to save sinners who place their faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Therefore, it appears the most logical conclusion is that God’s patience is extended towards those whom He will save based on their repentance from sin and faith in Christ because He does not desire for them to perish but rather He desires to redeem them, all to the praise of His glory.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Men leading the church?? Outlandish says Eggebroten

Albert Mohler reviewed an article by Anne Eggebroten, a femi-nazi writer published by the liberal magazine Sojourners, where she recounts her experience visiting Grace Community Church led by John MacArthur. To her horror, she found the church being led by (gasp) men. The pastors were all male. The teachers all had Y chromosomes. The horror of it all!!!

Now, I have some friends that are eglaitarians (they believe that the idea that men and women are assigned different roles by God is not the correct interpretation of scripture and that men and women are both equally qualified to teach and preach in the church) and on many points they would agree with Eggebroten. However, they would not agree with the following understanding of scripture.

She states that there is "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.”

See, my e-gal friends don’t deny the inspiration and authority of scripture. They just interpret it differently. This lady, however, is denying the fact that the scripture is what Christians recognize it to be—the authoritative word of God. In my mind this is an insidious and satanically inspired attack on the faith—questioning the validity of God’s word.

Check out the whole article when you can.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--Higher Criticism: Why is it identified with unbelief Part II

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

How is it, then, that the Higher Criticism (the study of the origin of the Biblical texts) has become identified in the popular mind with attacks upon the Bible and the supernatural character of the Holy Scriptures?

In the first place, the critics who were the leaders, the men who have given name and force to the whole movement, have been men who have based their theories largely upon their own subjective conclusions. In the second place, some of the most powerful exponents of the modern Higher Critical theories have been Germans, and it is notorious to what length the German fancy can go in the direction of the subjective and of the conjectural. For hypothesis-weaving and speculation, the German theological professor is unsurpassed. One of the foremost thinkers used to lay it down as a fundamental truth in philosophical and scientific enquiries that no regard whatever should be paid to the conjectures or hypotheses of thinkers, and quoted as an axiom the great Newton himself and his famous words, "Non fingo hypotheses": I do not frame hypotheses. It is notorious that some of the most learned German thinkers are men who lack in a singular degree the faculty of common sense and knowledge of human nature. Like many physical scientists, they are so preoccupied with a theory that their conclusions seem to the average mind curiously warped. In fact, a learned man in a letter to Descartes once made an observation which, with slight verbal alteration, might be applied to some of the German critics: "When men sitting in their closet and consulting only their books attempt disquisitions into the Bible, they may indeed tell how they would have made the Book if God had given them that commission. That is, they may describe chimeras which correspond to the fatuity of their own minds, but without an understanding truly Divine they can never form such an idea to themselves as the Deity had in creating it." "If," says Matthew Arnold, "you shut a number of men up to make study and learning the business of their lives, how many of them, from want of some discipline or other, seem to lose all balance of judgment, all common sense."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Centrality of the Cross Part III

Byron Yawn, pastor of Community Bible Church, is preaching through the book of I Corinthians. You can listen to part 3 of his sermon on The Centrality of the Cross by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

II Peter 3:9 God’s Eternal Purposes Part II

Our limited perspective colors everything in our lives. We are limited in how we perceive time, other people, circumstances, and even ourselves. While being a Christian give us a biblical perspective on spiritual things (I Corinthians 2:14-16) that perspective is not complete because we still live in sinful flesh in a fallen world. God’s perspective, in contrast, is eternal and perfect—untainted by sin. We know that He is sovereign and has a plan that will come to pass. In fact, as Peter has taught us, His plan is a plan from eternity past and He will bring it to fruition at His pleasure and for His glory.

Therefore, Peter reassures his audience to remember their limited perspective. Christ’s return has been imminent since He ascended into heaven and to these believers, who may have endured persecution for their faith, it might have seemed like God was taking forever to do what He promised to do. Knowing this, Peter reminds his audience that “God is not slow”. In fact, it’s the exact opposite as Peter points out that rather than demonstrating that God is slow, the time between Christ’s ascension and God’s judgment reveal that God “is patient”. The fact is, God is not taking His time but is allowing the time to pass for a purpose. In waiting, God demonstrates His patience or long suffering. While He waits patiently, He endures the mockery, the defiance, the hostility, and the unbelief of mankind. Instead of instantly dealing with sinners as they deserve, God demonstrates a remarkably long fuse. The question that we must ask as we interpret this passage is “Why?”

I’m not sure where the teaching got started, but I’ve heard it in more than one Southern Baptist church that God is waiting on that one last soul to repent and trust Christ to save him/her and then God is going to send Christ to get His bride—the church. The idea, then, is that God is waiting on someone to make a decision and that He is bound to wait until they make up their mind so that He can accomplish His eternal purposes. I can’t find any evidence in scripture that the God Who knows the end from the beginning and works all things out according to the counsel of His own will is sitting on His throne with His finger hovering over “the button” just waiting to see if someone is going to choose to trust Jesus to save them

Therefore, in order to properly interpret the last half of this verse (or maybe it’s the last 2/3 of it) we have to ask a very important question. When Peter says God “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” we need to know who “you”, “any”, and “all” are? Is this “you” in a general sense?” Does “all” mean everyone is going to be saved? These are questions that would be best answered in a blog post unto themselves.

So, while I normally hate to leave you in a cliff hanger, I must say “Tune in next time…same Bat-time…same Bat-channel”.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Matthew 8:21-22 You REALLY Better Be Sure

I recently read a book about some missionaries in Japan. In that book, the author mentions that due to the expense of traveling to the US and their commitment to their ministry they were not able to return home for the funerals of either of their parents. I can’t imagine how heart wrenching that must have been. However, while they did express sorrow there was no bitterness or resentment. They had resigned themselves to serving God where He had called them no matter what the cost. To be sure, they had counted that cost, the cost of being a disciple, and were able and willing to pay that price. As we observe in these two verses recorded in Matthew, Jesus lays out very plainly the cost of discipleship and tells us that the call overrides any other human relationship.

Again, as Jesus is walking to a boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, another unnamed disciple asks for permission to bury his father before following Christ. At this point, Christ may have spent some time in the area and this was a local guy who was near enough to home that he could be a disciple of Christ and still be home with his family. With Christ looking to leave the area, the man had a choice to make.

The text doesn’t say, as far as I can tell, how imminent this burial was. The Greek verb for “bury” is in the aorist tense which is completely Greek to me anyway so it’s not like the man is clearly asking “Let me go bury my father today” as if it were something he needed to take care of in a few days or so. The other option, and I believe the more plausible one, is that he was asking to wait and follow Christ after his father had passed away. One could spend fruitless hours in endless speculation as to why he might have wanted to wait like that. Perhaps his father was a strictly devout Jew who bought into the works based righteousness of the religious leaders and would be scandalized to have a son following this Carpenter around the Judean countryside. Perhaps his father needed his help in the family business. We are not told the reason and in the end it really doesn’t matter. Jesus lays it out for this disciple very clearly.

Following Christ will not be popular with people, particularly with our family sometimes. In fact, it may be that we have to come to a choice one day between our loyalty to our family and our loyalty to Christ. We may find, as my friend who served with her husband and family as missionaries to Japan, that we will miss out on important life events such as funerals because of our commitment to the Lord. The call to discipleship is the call to place everything in a lower priority when compared to serving Christ.

Not all of us will be called to leave our families but all of us should be willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to serve God where He has called us—our obedience demonstrates the genuineness of our faith. May we all show ourselves to be obedient followers of Jesus.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Asking Questions--Hearing from God

I am a volunteer writer for the website GotQuestions. People who come to that website can browse a huge data base of already asked and answered questions or they can submit a question which is assigned to a writer to answer. I thought as I had opportunity to answer some of these questions, I would share them in a series of posts under the label "Asking Questions". I pray that you are encouraged.

I should note that the question below is published as it was submitted and the writer of the question does not speak English as their first language.

Q: Hi, I`am a christian. I have a question. I ever heard from reading some philosophy of old philosopher that God will not do business with beleivers in the World. So, If we pray to request anything, God will not give us. Also, When we do sin, God will not punish us before our death. The effect from sin will give us sorrow automatically. I`ve been a chirstian for 7 years but I have not touched God. I ever pray to him when I am in the most discouarge in my life but noting is happened. So, I understand that God will ignore us to decise and recieve its result on our own because we should get the result preperly from what we select to do base on our mind and soul. This world is not belonged to his business except only time Jesus born to show he could revive after death. Is this true ?

A: If I understand you correctly, there are really two overriding issues that you're asking about--Does God still work in the world and how do we hear His voice? As to the first one, I can testify to God's work in my life in circumstances at work, at home, and when I was in school. However, my testimony is not as relevant as Scripture. The book of Job tells us that God was aware of and permitted everything that happened in Job's life. God was in control of the entire situation. Further Romans 8:28 tells us "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)" God is certainly in control and we can take comfort in that.

Finally, I believe God still speaks to us today. He does so through the Bible. In II Peter 1:16-18, Peter recounts his experiences as a disciple of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Having been an eyewitness to that supernatural event, Peter makes a startling statement in verse 19 when he says "So we have the prophetic word made more sure". The English word "made" is a supplied word. In other words, it was not in the Greek text but was added by the translators to help smooth out the English. What Peter wrote in the Greek was "We have the more sure prophetic word". What I believe he meant by that is this--The Bible is a more sure revelation of God, His purposes, His character, and His will than even Peter's eye witness experience. Allow me to encourage you in the words of Martin Luther--"Let the man who would hear God speak read holy scripture".

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--Higher Criticism: Why is it identified with unbelief

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

How is it, then, that the Higher Criticism has become identified in the popular mind with attacks upon the Bible and the supernatural character of the Holy Scriptures?

In the first place, the critics who were the leaders, the men who have given name and force to the whole movement, have been men who have based their theories largely upon their own subjective conclusions. They have based their conclusions largely upon the very dubious basis of the author's style and supposed literary qualifications. Everybody knows that style is a very unsafe basis for the determination of a literary product. The greater the writer the more versatile his power of expression; and anybody can understand that the Bible is the last book in the world to be studied as a mere classic by mere human scholarship without any regard to the spirit of sympathy and reverence on the part of the student. The Bible, as has been said, has no revelation to make to unbiblical minds. It does not even follow that because a man is a philological expert he is able to understand the integrity or credibility of a passage of Holy Scripture any more than the beauty and spirit of it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

II Peter 3:8 God’s Eternal Purposes Part I

My family just returned from vacation. We visited my family and my wife’s family over the 4th of July holiday. Now, the drive to my folks house from where I live is about 7.5 hours even if you drive “under grace, not under the law”. My kids take that trip much better than I took the drive to my maternal grandmother’s house, which was only about an hour and a half. I can, to this day, remember nagging my parents with barrages of Are We There, Yet’s. My perception of time was different then than it is now. Of course, when we consider God and His existence, we should remember as Peter tells us in this verse, that God’s perspective of time is not our perspective. As we examine the judgment Peter teaches about in this chapter, we would do well to consider that.

First of all, Peter has already taught us that, while they assert that God has never judged the world, it “escapes their notice” (v 5) that God has in fact judged the world. Furthermore, God has reveled that there is a judgment coming and if He did it before He’ll certainly do it again. The point that Peter makes here, then, is linked to his statement refuting their senseless claim. I think Peter is providing them ammunition as they are confronted with these mockers of the gospel and their mockery of God’s word so that they will be able to stand on the truth rather than being misled by false teaching. The truth of God’s word “escape[s] [the] notice” of these false teachers, but Peter says here that the true believers should not “let this one fact escape your notice”. In other words, this truth is essential. Don’t ignore it or neglect it. After reminding them in verse 2 to continue studying Scripture (and, just as an aside, he equates the New Testament [“the commandments of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles”] with the Old Testament [“the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets”]—in other words it is equally authoritative and inspired), Peter points out a particular truth to these Christians that is applicable to the claims of the false teachers.

Peter, alluding to Psalm 90:4, tells his readers that for God “one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day”. Now, there is speculation as to what exactly Peter meant here by some people. People who do not believe in a literal 1,000 year period in Revelation 20:1-6, a view called “amillennialism”, see Peter as giving some kind of clue that the one thousand years mentioned in Revelation is not to be taken literally. However, I don’t think that is what Peter or the psalmist had in mind at all. Time doesn’t exist for God. We are finite beings—we have a beginning and an end. God, however, does not. I would submit to you that God exists outside of time (and I know this is going to sound all Star Trek) because He created time. In Genesis 1:1, we read “In the beginning, God…” What beginning? It can’t be the beginning of the universe, because it was after the beginning that God “created the heavens and the earth”. The “beginning”, then, is the beginning of time—the succession of one moment after another. Now, God existed before that “beginning”. Therefore, God exists outside of time. We can’t conceive of existence outside of time.

We don’t have any way to imagine moments not coming one after another. Therefore, when we see 2,000 years have passed since Christ was resurrected, we wonder “How much longer?” However, time has not passed for God. So from His perspective, there will have been no waiting from the time Christ ascended into heaven and when He comes back to take us to heaven with Him. The mockers, therefore, take this period of time as proof that God isn’t going to judge the world when, in fact, God doesn’t operate with the constraints of our space-time continuum (See, I told you it was gonna get all Star Trek-y). God is in control of time, space, and everything in it. As a result, when He executes His judgment on His timetable, it will be perfect.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review: The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Kostenberger/Kruger

In today’s society, there appears to be only one unassailable absolute truth—there is no absolute truth. Further, the quickest way to be labeled hateful, intolerant, or mean spirited is to suggest that the gospel as revealed in scripture is true and is the exclusive way to God. It used to be that those who would label you hateful or mean spirited for saying that were those outside of the church. That is no longer the case, however, and in fact it is among those who profess Christ that you are likely to find the loudest, most shrill voices railing against the notion of absolute truth. Many of those who advocate accepting any and all beliefs as being equally Christian base their position on the works of German theologian Walter Bauer and a contemporary disciple of his, Bart Ehrman. In short, Bauer, and now Ehrman, propose that what we know today as Christianity is not the Christianity of the apostles and certainly not what Jesus taught. Rather, they propose, there was a diverse opinion about Jesus, what He taught, and what the apostles taught and that there was no one view that was more “right” than any of the others. The fact that we today believe that there is only one correct theological position on, for instance, the Virgin Birth is because the Roman church finally won enough theological and political power to squash any theological opposition to their positions. In fact, they assert, what we know today as orthodox Christianity represents the view of the winning side rather than the truth of the gospel.

The book The Heresy of Orthodoxy was not written to refute this Bauer-Ehrman thesis. Rather, as the authors’ state, the purpose of the book is to determine “why the Bauer-Ehrman thesis commands paradigmatic stature when it has been soundly discredited in the past”. As such, the authors’ review three areas where this idea of multiple but equally valid “Christianities” has been thoroughly refuted in the three sections of the book. They first examine whether, as the Bauer-Ehrman thesis suggests, there were actually a wide array of theological beliefs in the early church and that heresy (diversity) actually preceded orthodoxy. Further, they review material related to the development of the New Testament canon and attempt to determine from the historical evidence if the 27 books we know as the New Testament are more the result of random chance (“some books have all the luck”), as Bauer and Ehrman, would have us believe rather than there being something peculiar about these books that makes them Scripture. Finally, they evaluate the assertion made by Bauer and Ehrman that the New Testament Text is so riddled with errors and inconsistencies that it is virtually unreliable as a record of what Jesus and the apostles taught.

Through the 8 chapters, the authors Kostenberger and Kruger deliver a slam dunk in their presentation. They take the thesis that there were no absolute truths in the early church and we certainly have no way to know exactly what they believed anyway and clearly present convincing evidence to the contrary. In fact, as the reader discovers, the evidence for what we know today as orthodox Christianity is overwhelming and that the thesis presented by Bauer-Ehrman ignores significant historical and textual evidence that discredits their position in addition to engaging in occasional circular reasoning. In short, the book would encourage any Christian to have confidence that their faith is in fact “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 1:3-NASB)”.

I would recommend this book for all Christians who are interested in a better understanding of their faith or who are looking to better educate themselves in issues related to apologetics. The work is a scholarly text and as such is not a “casual read”. I could see this being used in a college or seminary classroom. If you’re looking for a resource to gain a better understanding of issues related to postmodernism and its effect on Christianity, this would be a great book to add to your library.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Asking Questions---Forgiveness

I am a volunteer writer for the website GotQuestions. People who come to that website can browse a huge data base of already asked and answered questions or they can submit a question which is assigned to a writer to answer. I thought as I had opportunity to answer some of these questions, I would share them in a series of posts under the label "Asking Questions". I pray that you are encouraged.

Q-At what point do you stop seeking forgiveness from someone who is not willing to give it? Will God still forgive you if they will not?

A-In Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew records that Jesus taught `Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.` Therefore, we must certainly seek to be reconciled with other people when we wrong them. I don`t find that this text or any Bible passage that teaches we are to continuously plead with someone to forgive if they won`t. If a person has tried several times sincerely to ask forgiveness for a sin and the person they are asking forgiveness from withholds it, I believe they`ve done all they can.

God`s forgiveness of our sins does not depend on whether the person that we wronged forgives us or not. First of all, any sin, even those committed against someone else, are ultimately sins against God. As David writes in Psalm 51:4 `Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.` Secondly, God has promised to forgive us of our sins when we confess them and repent. John writes in the first chapter of his first epistle `If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (verse 9)` Notice, there is no condition ` long as the person who you wronged forgives you...` added to that statement. When we repent and ask God to forgive us, He does it. We should praise God for being so merciful to us.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--Higher Criticism, what it's all about?

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

One of the most important branches of theology is called the science of Biblical criticism, which has for its object the study of the history and contents, and origins and purposes, of the various books of the Bible. In the early stages of the science Biblical criticism was devoted to two great branches, the Lower, and the Higher.

The Lower Criticism was employed to designate the study of the text of the Scripture, and included the investigation of the manuscripts, and the different readings in the various versions and codices and manuscripts in order that we may be sure we have the original words as they were written by the Divinely inspired writers. (See Briggs, Hex., page 1). The term generally used now-a-days is Textual Criticism. If the phrase were used in the twentieth century sense, Beza, Erasmus, Bengel, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorff, Scrivener, Westcott, and Hort would be called Lower Critics. But the term is not now-a-days used as a rule.

The Higher Criticism, on the contrary, was employed to designate the study of the historic origins, the dates, and authorship of the various books of the Bible, and that great branch of study which in the technical language of modern theology is known as Introduction. It is a very valuable branch of Biblical science, and is of the highest importance as an auxiliary in the interpretation of the Word of God. By its researches floods of light may be thrown on the Scriptures.