Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Reformation Day!!!

On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther knocked on an old wooden door, but he wasn't looking for Halloween candy.  However, he scared the snot out of quite a few people, particularly the leadership of the church, with his 95 thesis that he tacked on the door of the church in Whittenburg, Germany.

You see, what was scary to them was Luther's rediscovery of the truth of the word of God, particularly the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  To Catholic ears, this sounded (and still sounds) like so much nonsense.  To the ears of a Christian, it sounds like freedom.

Let's all pray for the courage to stand up for the truth of God's word like Martin Luther.  Praise God for the Reformation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Final Authority--Scripture or Something Else?

The Bible asserts in several key scriptures that because the Bible is the word of God it carries the authority of God. Therefore, to disbelieve or disobey the scriptures is to disobey or disbelieve God. For instance, in John 17:17, Jesus declares in His prayer to God that “Your word is truth”. In doing so, He uses the Greek word “alethia” (225) which is translated “truth” and is a noun. In other words, the scriptures are not true (measured by another standard) but are themselves truth (the standard). This is further evidenced by the character of God as always telling the truth. For example, Balaam declares in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Also, because God’s word is truth, resulting from the fact that God speaks truth, His word carries authority because it is effectual—it accomplishes the purposes God intends for it to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11).

In contrast, people who reject the authority of scripture use various substitutes as their basis for final authority. For example, some people, particularly Catholics, substitute the traditions of the church for the authority of scripture. However, because church tradition is not inspired it is not adequate as a source of final authority. Also, some people use human experience and observation as the measure of final authority. However, there are limits to what people are able to perceive and understand and therefore human experience and observation are unreliable as sources of truth. Further, some people use science and philosophy as their final authority. However, because humans are not able to know all facts their conclusions cannot be 100% accurate. Finally, some people declare that, based on personal autonomy, they can decide absolute truth for themselves. However, no person is truly autonomous to the extent that they can decide what is true for themselves in a vacuum.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Insufficient Concepts of Biblical Inspiration

The liberal, neo-orthodox, neo-evangelical, and ultra-fundamentalist concepts of biblical inspiration fall short of the biblical concept.  For instance, according to the liberal model, scripture is an entirely human product.  In other words, the words of scripture are man’s words and are subject to the limitations of men.  However, scripture repeatedly affirms that it is the word of God that has come through human beings (2 Peter 1:20-21). 

The neo-orthodox model suggests that the words of scripture are inspired in the sense that they point to Christ but because they came through men they could not have been God’s words.  However, as noted in the passage from 2 Peter referenced above, the Holy Spirit superintended the process and carried the writers along (“men moved by the Holy Spirit”).  Further, in John 17:17 Jesus doesn’t describe scripture as being true, but rather as “truth”. 

The Neo-Evangelical model insists that either God inspired the concepts but the author put those concepts in his own words or that parts of the Bible are inspired (related to faith and practice) while others (science, history, etc) are not.  In contrast, Jesus and the apostles appeared to have the attitude that both historical (i.e. Jonah and the great fish) and scientific (i.e. God’s creation of Adam and Eve) were as true as anything else in the Bible and they therefore made no distinction between them and texts related to “faith and practice”. 

Finally, the ultra-fundamentalist concept of inspiration would be best described “mechanical dictation”, where the authors of scripture were no more than secretary’s taking a memo.  However, scripture indicates in numerous places that various authors used various means including their life experience (Hosea), methodical research (Luke, Acts), and supernatural revelations (Revelation).  These would not appear to be consistent with any sort of dictation theory.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism 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.

A third fallacy of the higher critics is the doctrine concerning the Scriptures which they teach: If a consistent hypothesis of evolution is made the basis of our religious thinking, the Bible will be regarded as only a product of human nature working in the field of religious literature. It will be merely a natural book. If there are higher critics who recoil from this application of the hypothesis of evolution and who seek to modify it by recognizing some special evidences of the divine in the Bible, the inspiration of which they speak rises but little higher than the providential guidance of the writers. The church doctrine of the full inspiration of the Bible is almost never held by the higher critics of any class, even of the more believing. Here and there we may discover one and another who try to save some fragments of the church doctrine, but they are few and far between, and the sal-age to which they cling is so small and poor that it is scarcely worth while. Throughout their ranks the storm of opposition to the supernatural in all its forms is so fierce as to leave little place for the faith of the church that the Bible is the very Word of God to man. But the fallacy of this denial is evident to every believer who reads the Bible with an open mind. He knows by an immediate consciousness that it is the product of the Holy Spirit. As the sheep know the voice of the shepherd, so the mature Christian knows that the Bible speaks with a divine voice. On this ground every Christian can test the value of the higher criticism for himself. The Bible manifests itself to the spiritual perception of the Christian as in the fullest sense human, and in the fullest sense divine. This is true of the Old Testament, as well as of the New.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Asking Questions--Can Satan see the future?

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". Just as an FYI, I present the questions in the form they are asked without correction of spelling or grammar. I pray that you are encouraged.

Q--I have a friend that told me that satan has the ability to see the future as God. I don`t believe it and the Saul story is always brought up and how he contacted a medium if he was going to win the battle. I don`t know any scriptures to disprove this so is there any or is this true, that satan can see into the future?

A--I believe the passage you're talking about is I Samuel 28.  Yes, Saul does consult a medium but you should observe that he asks her to call up the prophet Samuel (vs. 11).  So he wasn't inquiring of Satan.  Now, it is true that demons and presumably Satan know some things about the future such as the fact that there will a future judgment (Matthew 8:29).  However, there is nothing in scripture that indicates that Satan or demons have a comprehensive knowledge about the future that is equal to God's omniscience.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism 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.

A second fundamental fallacy of the higher criticism (the study of the origin of the biblical texts) is its dependence on the theory of evolution as the explanation of the history of literature and of religion. The progress of the higher criticism towards its present sate has been rapid and assured since Vatke (Die Biblische Theologie Wissenschaftlich Dargestellt) discovered in the Hegelian philosophy of evolution a means of biblical criticism. The Spencerian philosophy of evolution, aided and reinforced by Darwinism, has added greatly to the confidence of the higher critics. As Vatke, one of the earlier members of the school, made the hypothesis of evolution the guiding presupposition of his critical work, so today does Professor Jordan (Biblical Criticism and Modern Thought," T. and T. Clark, 1909) the very latest representative of the higher criticism. "The nineteenth century," he declares, "has applied to the history of the documents of the Hebrew people its own magic word, evolution. The thought represented by that popular word has been found to have a real meaning in our investigations regarding the religious life and the theological beliefs of Israel." Thus, were there no hypothesis of evolution, there would be no higher criticism. The "assured results" of the higher criticism have been gained, after all, not by an inductive study of the biblical books to ascertain if they present a great variety of styles and vocabularies and religious points of view. They have been attained by assuming that the hypothesis of evolution is true, and that the religion of Israel must have unfolded itself by a process of natural evolution. They have been attained by an interested cross-examination of the biblical books to constrain them to admit the hypothesis of evolution. The imagination has played a large part in the process, and the so-called evidences upon which the "assured results" rest are largely imaginary.

But the hypothesis of evolution, when applied to the history of literature, is a fallacy, leaving us utterly unable to account for Homer, or Dante, or Shakespeare, the greatest poets of the world, yet all of them writing in the dawn of the great literatures of the world. It is a fallacy when applied to the history of religion, leaving us utterly unable to account for Abraham and Moses and Christ, and requiring us to deny that they could have been such men as the Bible declares them to have been. The hypothesis is a fallacy when applied to- the history of the human race in general. Our race has made progress under the influence of supernatural revelation; but progress under the influence of supernatural revelation is one thing, and evolution is another. Buckle ["History of Civilization in England."] undertook to account for history by a thorough-going application of the hypothesis of evolution to its problems; but no historian today believes that he succeeded in his effort, and his work is universally regarded as a brilliant curiosity. The types of evolution advocated by different higher critics are widely different from one another, varying from the pure naturalism of Wellhausen to the recognition of some feeble rays of supernatural revelation; but the hypothesis of evolution in any form, when applied to human history, blinds us and renders us incapable of beholding the glory of God in its more signal manifestations.The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What does "double honor" in I Timothy mean?

I’m a self professed geek. I ask questions that would cause most people to think “Why are you bothering to wonder about that?” I remember things that most people would find completely trivial (J.S. Bach was born in 1685 and died in 1750. Now you know.). I was reading something the other day by John MacArthur related to I Timothy 5:17 where he seemed to be making the point that “double honor” means double salary. There are Christians who believe that this means to literally pay an elder who rules well twice as much as other pastor’s make. I decided I wanted to investigate for myself and see if I could determine what the word honor meant in the verse in question.

First of all, the English word “honor” translates a Greek word “time” (5092). Strong’s dictionary defines it as follows: a value, that is, money paid, or (concretely and collectively) valuables; by analogy esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself. This word and its related word “timao” (5091) are used 58 times in the New Testament. Of those 58 times, forty-two times (72.41 % Oh, what do you expect, I am an accountant.) are about giving respect or reverence and have nothing to do with money. The remaining sixteen times (27.59%) the words are used in a way related to money or other material possessions. However, in the uses outside of I Timothy 5:17 there is no instance where these words are used to indicate that there was an ongoing payment of some sort being made. For instance, in Acts 4:34, the word is used to describe the money that is brought in by people after they sold possessions so that that money could be distributed among the poor. It’s pretty sure that they didn’t sell the possessions on some sort of payment plan and brought the monthly payment they received in and gave it to the apostles but rather they brought the lump sum proceeds from the sale. Therefore, it is not reasonable to conclude that the use of “honor” in the verse in I Timothy 5:17 means a salary.

Furthermore, the context of the verse seems to indicate otherwise. In verse 18 of this chapter, Paul makes two statements which are in scripture. He writes “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing” (Deu 25:4) and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (see Luke 10:7 for a similar statement by our Lord). Since Paul uses these two statements to support his claim that elders who rule well are worthy of double honor we should assume they are intended to be parallel. People read the second statement about a worker and say “See, that proves Paul is talking about paying elders double salary.” However, let’s think through the first example Paul uses. An ox was given a regular meal. That ox did not depend on what he ate while he was working in the field as his primary source of food. So, as a friend of mine over at The Assembling of the Church writes, the point Paul is likely making is this: We wouldn’t prevent an ox from eating while it worked and we wouldn’t withhold wages from someone who has earned them. In the same way, we should not withhold double honor from an elder who is ruling well.

Is the honor Paul speaking of monetary? I would say probably although it does not have to be exclusively monetary. However, it does not appear, based on the evidence in the Bible, to mean that Paul is saying that their salary should be doubled. However, as believers we should show love to those elders who do work hard to teach the Bible and we should show that love in any ways that they Lord give us the opportunities. One of the most affirming folks at the church I was privileged to pastor would occasionally give me a $20 after the service during the season where he would sell his crops and tell me to treat myself and my wife to lunch. His kindness encouraged me. I exhort you to find ways to do the same to those who teach you the word.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Clarity of Scripture--A Review of Chapter 6 of Grudem's Systematic Theology

In chapter 6 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Dr. Grudem puts forth the case for the clarity of scripture. For instance, he notes that the God instructs parents to teach the Bible to their children. Further, he notes that the epistles of Paul were written to be read to the entire congregation. However, while the bible is accessible to even children, this accessibility is not a result of a person’s intellectual aptitude but rather is a result of the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Grudem notes that there are many people with high IQ’s who completely missed the point of scripture during Jesus’ ministry on earth (Paul and other Pharisees). In addition, there was confusion in applying the biblical truth to the inclusion of Gentiles in the church and how that related to the Old Testament law. Grudem then points out that we can take practical encouragement from this doctrine. First of all, he states that this doctrine should help Christians focus on doctrinal disputes that really matter. If the bible is silent on a topic we can be encouraged to seek unity while allowing for differences of opinion on a matter. Secondly, we should be encouraged by the fact that the bible is not accessible only for people with advanced theological education. Rather, any Christian who is willing to prayerfully apply themselves to study can be sure that they can come to understand the bible and grow in their faith. Finally, while the bible may be simple enough that any Christian can study it and understand it, it is also filled with enough intellectual challenges that even the brightest biblical scholar will never exhaust themselves of things they can learn from God’s word.

I took particular encouragement from Grudem’s statement on page 110, that we should never assume that only professional theologians with advanced technical knowledge of biblical languages can read and understand the Bible. I used to regularly point this out to my congregation when I would preach that any insights or knowledge I had were not the result of my IQ but that they too could hear God speak to them through the Bible if they were willing to put in the study and work to understand the scriptures prayerfully. I believe helping Christians realize this and encouraging them to investigate the scriptures themselves is very important.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism

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.

I. The first fallacy [of Higher Criticism (the study of how the text of the Bible was produced)] that I shall bring forward is its analysis of the Pentateuch.

1. We cannot fail to observe that these various documents and their various authors and editors are only imagined. As Green has said, "There is no evidence of the existence of these documents and redactors, and no pretense of any, apart from the critical tests which have determined the analysis. All tradition and all historical testimony as to the origin of the Pentateuch are against them. The burden of proof is wholly upon the critics. And this proof should be clear and convincing in proportion to the gravity and the revolutionary character of the consequences which it is proposed to base upon it."

2. Moreover, we know what can be done, or rather what cannot be done, in the analysis of composite literary productions. Some of the plays of Shakespeare are called his "mixed plays," because it is known that he collaborated with another author in their production. The very keenest critics have sought to separate his part in these plays from the rest, but they confess that the result is uncertainty and dissatisfaction. Coleridge professed to distinguish the passages contributed by Shakespeare by a process of feeling, but Macaulay pronounced this claim to be nonsense, and the entire effort, whether made by the analysis of phraseology and style, or by esthetic perceptions, is an admitted failure. And this in spite of the fact that the style of Shakespeare is one of the most peculiar and inimitable. The Anglican Prayer Book is another composite production which the higher critics have often been invited to analyze and distribute to its various sources. Some of the authors of these sources lived centuries apart. They are now well known from the studies of historians. But the Prayer Book itself does not reveal one of them, though its various vocabularies and styles have been carefully interrogated. Now if the analysis of the Pentateuch can lead to such certainties, why should not the analysis of Shakespeare and the Prayer Book do as much? How can men accomplish in a foreign language what they cannot accomplish in their own? How can they accomplish in a dead language what they cannot accomplish in a living language? How can they distinguish ten or eighteen or twenty-two collaborators in a small literary production, when they cannot distinguish two? These questions have been asked many times, but the higher critics have given no answer whatever, preferring the safety of a learned silence;

"The oracles are dumb."

3. Much has been made of differences of vocabulary in the Pentateuch, and elaborate lists of words have been assigned to each of the supposed authors. But these distinctions fade away when subjected to careful scrutiny, and Driver admits that "the phraseological criteria * * * are slight." Orr, [The Problem of the Old Testament," page 230] who quotes this testimony, adds, "They are slight, in fact, to a degree of tenuity that often makes the recital of them appear like trifling."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Asking Questions--Sanctification

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". Just as an FYI, I present the questions in the form they are asked without correction of spelling or grammar. I pray that you are encouraged.

Q-Is there a different in being saved and living a saved life? Please send verses. Thank you and God Bless

A-Well, if you mean do truly saved people continue to grow in their Christian faith, I would say that if someone is truly saved that they will certainly grow and mature as they live their faith out. In II Peter 1:5-7, Peter lists some qualities of a truly saved person, similar to the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5. Observe what he says in verses 8 and 9.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. (NASB)

In other words, a person who is saved ("these qualities are yours") will be "living the saved life" as you said ("are increasing"). Someone who does not exhibit these qualities is either not really saved ("blind") or they have forgotten the true value of their redemption on the cross ("short sighted").

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hebrews Chapter 8: A Better Covenant

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to sub for my Sunday School teacher teaching the book of Hebrews.  I taught Hebrews Chapter 8 and quite frankly, I got in the middle of the lesson and goofed up.  You can get the audio from the lesson by clicking here.

See, here's what happened, I was making the point that the Old Covenant of Moses did not do what the New Covenant did--transform a person spiritually.  However, as you can hear, some of the people (well, one guy) got the idea that I was saying that you were not saved the same way under the Old Covenant (by grace, through faith) as you are under the New Covenant (by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ). 

So, since I wasn't clear, I goofed up.  Now, why would I post something where I goofed up.  Because, it shows that not everyone hits a home run everytime they take an at bat.  Further, I believe that God's word has the power to change lives regardless of how bad I goof stuff up.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fundamental Friday's--Evidence for Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch

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.

The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is supported by the following, among other weighty considerations:

1. The Mosaic era was a literary epoch in the world's history when such Codes were common. It would have been strange if such a leader had not produced a code of laws. The Tel-el-Amarna tablets and the Code of Hammurabi testify to the literary habits of the time.

2. The Pentateuch so perfectly reflects the conditions in Egypt at the period assigned to it that it is difficult to believe that it was a literary product of a later age.

3. Its representation of life in the wilderness is so perfect and so many of its laws are adapted only to that life that it is incredible that literary men a thousand years later should have imagined it.

4. The laws themselves bear indubitable marks of adaptation to the stage of national development to which they are ascribed. It was the study of Maine's works on ancient law that set Mr. Wiener out upon his re-investigation of the subject.

5. The little use that is made of the sanctions of a future life is, as Bishop Warburton ably argued, evidence of an early date and of a peculiar Divine effort to guard the Israelites against the contamination of Egyptian ideas upon the subject.

6. The omission of the hen from the lists of clean and unclean birds is incredible if these lists were made late in the nation's history after that domestic fowl had been introduced from India.

7. As A. C. Robinson showed in Volume VII of this series it is incredible that there should have been no intimation in the Pentateuch of the existence of Jerusalem, or of the use of music in the liturgy, nor any use of the phrase, "Lord Of Hosts," unless the compilation had been completed before the time of David.

8. The subordination of the miraculous elements in the Pentateuch to the critical junctures in the nation's development is such as could be obtained only in genuine history.

9. The whole representation conforms to the true law of historical development. Nations do not rise by virtue of inherent resident forces, but through the struggles of great leaders enlightened directly from on high or by contact with others who have already been enlightened.

The defender of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch has no occasion to quail in presence of the critics who deny that authorship and discredit its history. He may boldly challenge their scholarship, deny their conclusions, resent their arrogance, and hold on to his confidence in the well authenticated historical evidence which sufficed for those who first accepted it. Those who now at second hand are popularizing in periodicals, Sunday School lessons, and volumes of greater or less pretensions the errors of these critics must answer to their consciences as best they can, but they should be made to feel that they assume a heavy responsibility in putting themselves forward as leaders of the blind when they themselves are not able to see.