26 October 2012

An Inerrantist's Defence

Andrew Wilson, writing at Theology Matters, shares this brief poem on being an inerrantist.  He captures it well. 

If I began the book with “And God said”,
And supernovas went when I said, “go”,
And galaxies assembled at my word,
And every time I spoke, then it was so;
If all your problems started when the serpent
Cast doubt on whether I meant what I said,
And made you think that maybe, you knew better,
And you should be truth’s arbiters instead;
If lightning flashed and trumpet blasts rang forth
At Sinai when my holy voice was heard,
And if the worshippers to whom I look
Are those who humbly tremble at my word;
If every word of mine proves true and faithful;
If hearing my mere voice makes oceans quake;
If neither my apostles nor my prophets
Implied my words contained flaw or mistake;
If Jesus stated simply, “it is written”,
When Satan tried (and failed) to break his will,
And “how else will the Scriptures be fulfilled?”
Constrained him on his way to Calvary’s hill;
If leaders and confessions through the centuries
Proclaimed my word infallible and true,
And people died to spread it, and translate it,
So it could be accessible to you;
If all of Scripture is breathed out by God,
And thus is truly human and divine,
In such a way that every author’s phrasing
Is simultaneously both theirs and mine;
Then saying it does not contain mistakes
Might not imply pedantic, foolish youth;
Perhaps it speaks of courage, faith, submission,
And resolute commitment to the truth.

19 October 2012

Who I Am

Since I am in Christ, by the grace of God...
  • I have been justified--completely forgiven and made righteous (Rom. 5:1)
  • I died with Christ and died to the power of sin's rule over my life (Rom. 6:1-6)
  • I am free forever from condemnation (Rom. 8:1)
  • I have been placed into Christ by God's doing (1 Cor 1:30)
  • I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God (1 Cor 2:12)
  • I have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16)
  • I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God (1 Cor 6:19-20)
  • I have been established, anointed and sealed by God in Christ, and I have been given the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing my inheritance to come (2 Cor 1:21; Eph 1:13-14)
  • Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ (2 Cor 5:14-15)
  • I have been made righteous (2 Cor 5:21)
  • I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ's life (Gal 2:20)
  • I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3)
  • I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and am without blame before him (Eph 1:4)
  • I was predestined--determined by God--to be adopted as God's son (Eph 1:5)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven, and I am a recipient of His lavish grace (Eph 1:8)
  • I have been made alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5)
  • I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6)
  • I have direct access to God through the Spirit (Eph 2:18)
  • I may approach God with boldness, freedom and confidence (Eph 3:12)
  • I have been rescued from the domain of Satan's rule and transferred to the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins, The debt against me has been canceled (Col 1:14)
  • Christ Himself is in me (Col 1:27)
  • I have been spiritual circumcised (Col 2:11)
  • I have been made complete in Christ (Col 2:10)
  • I have been buried, raised and made alive with Christ (Col 2:12-13)
  • I died with Christ and I have been raised up with Christ. My life is now hidden with Christ in God. Christ is now my life (Col 3:1-4)
  • I have been given a spirit of power and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7)
  • I have been saved and set apart according to God's doing (2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5)
  • Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed to call me brother (Heb 2:11)
  • I have the right to come boldly before the throne of God to find mercy and grace in time of need (Heb 4:16)
  • I have been given exceedingly great and precious promises by God by which I am a partaker of God's divine nature (2 Pet 1:4)
-Neil Anderson, Victory Over Darkness

18 October 2012

What of people who claim to have gone to heaven?

Lots of books seem to tell stories of those who claim to have gone to heaven.  Evangelical churches happily sponsor events for these individuals to speak.  However, the concept has just never sat quite right with me.  Today, Phil Johnson shares an article entitled The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine, that basically expresses what I think about these experiences.  To be clear, I think people who have near death experiences experience something, but I do not think what they are reporting is a visit to heaven.  Johnson quotes John MacArthur:

For anyone who truly believes the biblical record, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that these modern testimonies—with their relentless self-focus and the relatively scant attention they pay to the glory of God—are simply untrue. They are either figments of the human imagination (dreams, hallucinations, false memories, fantasies, and in the worst cases, deliberate lies), or else they are products of demonic deception.
We know this with absolute certainty, because Scripture definitively says that people do not go to heaven and come back: "Who has ascended to heaven and come down?" (Proverbs 30:4). Answer: "No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man" (John 3:13, emphasis added). All the accounts of heaven in Scripture are visions, not journeys taken by dead people. And even visions of heaven are very, very rare in Scripture. You can count them all on one hand.
I would commend the whole thing to you. 

13 October 2012

Two Books on the brain from a Christian perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Branson, Missouri to attend the American Association of Christian Counselors conference.  I was asked to be a respondent to two authors, Matthew Standford and Curt Thompson.  Each have written books that deal with the brain and Christian faith. 

Matthew Standford wrote The Biology of Sin (2010). In this book, he explores several conditions that are often labeled sinful including things like rage, homosexuality, lust, and so forth.  Stanford, a neuroscientist and professor at Baylor university, does a very good job of exploring the neurobiological underpinnings of a number of disorders without minimizing responsibility.  Further, as he did in his book, Grace for the Afflicted, he discusses how churches can appropriately respond to individuals who are dealing with mental illness.  I would strongly commend this book to you.

The second book, Anatomy of the Soul (2010), was written by Curt Thompson.  This book deals with the concept of interpersonal neurobiology.  Thompson contends that God created us to be known by others and that our brains were actually created in such a way that they function best in relationship.  Dr Thompson really talks a lot about bringing the more emotional right hemisphere online, which will help us to experience being known by both God and others, which ultimately contributes to greater mental health.  There are a few things that I have read that are paradigm shifters. I think this book is one of them, though I haven't fully realized this yet.  I disagree with some parts of his theology (he and I talked about this over a 3 hour dinner), but this book is certainly worth reading even despite those reservations. 

Book Review: Whiter Than Snow

Psalm 51 is my favorite psalm and Paul Tripp is one of my favorite teachers. In 2008, he published a series of 52 meditations, all based on this psalm of 19 verses. Psalm 51 is a wonderful reminder that God can mercifully forgive even the deepest sin.  Paul Tripp has ways of unfolding the layers of this psalm didactically and poetically.  If you are wondering if God's grace is big enough for your sin, Whiter Than Snow may be just the devotional for you. 

Brief Book Review: Transforming Grace

Transforming Grace (2008) by Jerry Bridges was another excellent book by Jerry Bridges who, as I have said previously, understands grace very well.  This book, like so many others of his, points us to the amazing grace of God, not only in salvation, but also in our transformation.  In chapter after chapter, Bridges reminds the reader that the Christian's standing with God is based upon His grace not our merit, which is a deeply freeing experience. 

Book Review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (2012) is a very short by Tim Keller and each of the 48 pages is packed with meaning.  He is focusing on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7.  Early in the book, he wrote, "Up until the twentieth century, traditional cultures (and this is still true of most cultures in the world) always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. What is the reason for most of the crime and violence in the world? Why are people abused? Why are people cruel? Why do people do the bad things they do? Traditionally, the answer was hubris--the Greek word meaning pride or too high a view of yourself. Traditionally, that was the reason given for why people misbehave."  He then moves on to show that so much of our difficulty is grounded in the idea that we are able to live life without God.  It is only 99 cents on Kindle.  It will take you less than an hour to read.  Both are good investments.

09 October 2012

Balancing Truth and Love

Balancing truth and love must be one of the most difficult things. In fact, sometimes I think we conceive of them as near opposites. We regard those who speak with a word of truth as unloving. We consider those who appear to overlook offenses as failing to uphold a righteous standard.  Somewhere, though (I hesitate to say in middle because we must take care to not think of them as opposite concepts) truth and love can both prevail. 

During my drive this morning, I was thinking about the story in John 8:1-11 describing the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was at the temple getting ready to teach when the Pharisees showed up dragging a woman behind them.  They thrust her to the ground in front of Jesus and basically say, "This woman was just caught having sex with someone other than her husband.  Jesus, we know the law and the law says that we are supposed to stone her.  She's a cheater, and she deserves to die. What say you?"

I imagine this woman to be a heap of tears.  She knew she was caught. She probably knew the penalty even before they all showed up to condemn her.  Now, she was resigning herself to the fact that she would probably be killed, rightly according to the law. 

Jesus didn't respond by saying, "you are absolutely right.  Let's kill her."  Rather, something happened...a word from his mouth, perhaps something he wrote on the ground...to convince them all that they too were sinners under the law.  Something Jesus shared demonstrated that they were also deserving of condemnation. 

One by one, they dropped their stones and walked away.  She was left alone with Jesus. He said to her, "woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "no one Lord." He absolved her, saying "then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." 

This is such a great story.  The people who downplay the message of truth in favor of being loving (i.e., tolerant) love to point to this story.  They remind us that all of us have sinned and that Jesus' message was that we shouldn't judge anyone else.  Sin is passe. 

The truth folks cling to those last 5 words--"go and sin no more."  (They also like to remind others that this story was wasn't in the earliest manuscripts and there should not be considered authoritative at the same level that other biblical passages are).  They are quick to imply that Jesus didn't let her off the hook.

Who's right?

          Jesus is. 

The point of this story is not that Jesus said that all behaviors, all sins are okay now.  He was not approving of adultery.  The point of the story was not to browbeat others for their sins.  Rather, this is a story that shows truth and love each in full measure. 

Jesus knew that the Pharisees were right.  Under the law of Moses, she did deserve to be stoned to death.  Jesus also did not stop at "neither do I condemn you." His words were clear that what she did was sin and he told her to go and sin no more.  He wasn't overlooking her sin.  He wasn't minimizing the sin.  He was wasn't ignoring the sin.  He knew what it was and, in love, he told her to stop doing it. However, because of what he would accomplish on the cross, he could also tell her that she was not condemned. 

As churches and as Christians we have a challenging task.  We must remember how much Jesus loved sinners and offered them words of grace and hope.  We must also remember that sin is still a very real thing.  Finally we must remember that it is only through Christ's perfect law keeping and substitutionary atonement that we can tell people that they are no longer condemned. 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.-Romans 8:1

02 October 2012

Book Review: The Furious Longing of God

Brennan Manning's The Furious Longing of God (2009) must have been a free Kindle offering some time back. I don't recall ever thinking that I must get a book from Brennan Manning.  In fact, I confess I had never heard of him.  He is probably best known for The Ragamuffin Gospel, a book that deeply influenced the late Rich Mullins.

Manning is many things. He is a recovering alcoholic, writer, and former Franciscan priest.  He writes like a poet, employing beautiful language in often rambling prose.  He gets to his destination eventually, though he is not afraid to take unplanned detours along the way. 

The Furious Longing of God is about what it says.  It is about a God who loves His children passionately. He presents a view of God who rejoices over His children with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17). He seems to be calling us to remember, every day, the love of God. He then calls us to live in light of that love, pouring our lives into others. 

This is most certainly an engaging text.  Manning writes beautifully. He calls the believer to experience and understand God in ways that many of us probably never have.  This book, if read carefully, will probably generate more emotion than most books.  With that said, I don't think he is careful with his theology. He doesn't necessarily set out to be, but I think that some may read his work and come away with a different, or perhaps incomplete, impression of who God truly is.  In any case, this book is a good read, especially for us more cerebral types. 

"In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity."-Brennan Manning

01 October 2012

Book Review: The Chiveis Trilogy

Last night, I finally finished the Chiveis trilogy, a fictional series written by professor of theology Bryan Liftin.  The series is set in Europe, several centuries from now.  A war and plague have essentially wiped out modern technologies leaving groups of people and villages that seem in many ways, to be what would be expected 1000 years ago. 

More importantly to the story is that the Word of God has essentially disappeared.  People worship other "gods" but the God of the Bible has been systematically eliminated. There are those who know if it, but have diligently sought to remove all traces of it from the world. 

However, the two main characters, Teofil and Anastasia, meet and through a series of circumstances seek to learn more about the one God, Deu.  This trilogy tracks their adventures to learn the word of God and to stand up to all who would seek to destroy it. 

It is an interesting series.  I don't read much fiction these days, but I thoroughly enjoyed these books.  His writing is adequate and he knows how to keep the reader moving from chapter to chapter, wanting to know what happens next.  I would certainly commend it to you.