Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 3

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 1
Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 2
Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird - Part 3

In the previous post, we considered Michael Bird's defense from Scripture of Christ's descend to Hades/Sheol following his crucifixion. Next we want to consider his argument from both history and the Apostle's Creed itself.

After commenting in What Every Christian Ought to Know this doctrine's "bad press" (146) in recent years and naming Wayne Grudem specifically (more on Grudem's perspective in future posts), Bird states categorically "Let me be clear that [Grudem's rejection of the Creed's assertion of Christ's descent]  is totally false; it is right that the descent is in the Apsotles' Creed and we are right to profess it." (147).

He begins by making a historical defense of the doctrine starting with the early church fathers. Bird suggests that those fathers were "absolutely unanimous" in agreement regarding this doctrine. He quotes, for example Irenaeus in Against Heresies states:
But the case was, that for three days He dwelt in the place where the dead were, as the prophet says concerning Him: "And the Lord remembered His dead saints who slept formerly in the land of sepulture; and He descended to them, to rescue and save them." And the Lord Himself says, "As Jonas remained three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth." Matthew 11:40 Then also the apostle says, "But when He ascended, what is it but that He also descended into the lower parts of the earth?" Ephesians 4:9 This, too, David says when prophesying of Him, "And you have delivered my soul from the nethermost hell"*
To Bird, this is "a very early tradition deriving from the immediate post-apostolic period." (147) Yet this is not the only evidence in the early church though, admittedly, much of the other examples "elaborate" or embellish what Bird believes to be the apostolic witness.

Beyond the early writings among the post-apostolic church leaders are the creeds which Bird suggests is "a more complex matter." First, "The problem is that there was no authorized version of the creedal formulas in the early church, so you do get some local variations on precise wordings." To the early church, he argues, burial may imply descent thus the absent of an explicit reference to the descent of Jesus does not mean that the early creeds deny or pass over the doctrine but rather presume it.

Another major challenge regards the change in the Latin in the Apostle's Creed which Bird traces back to a fourth-century monk named Rufinus who changed the language from "descended to Hades" to "descended to Hell" thus promoting the false idea that Jesus descended to Hell and not to the abode of the dead.

So his historical argument in a nutshell is simply that the belief in the descent of Jesus into hades, as opposed to Hell, is not only biblical with important theological implications, but was a common belief among the earliest believers in the post-apostolic age. The move away from this position is one of poor translation and misinterpretation of the doctrine.

*Not Bird's translation.

All Around the Web - February 21, 2017

The Gospel Coalition - A Two-Minute Clip on Homosexuality Every Christian Should Watch

David French - Washington’s Supreme Court Imposes Its Progressive Faith on a Christian Florist

WORLD Magazine - Washington florist loses discrimination case

John Stonestreet - Washington State Punishes Barronelle Stutzman

Denny Burk - Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything

GetReligion -  Back to the Washington state florist: Was Stutzman seeking right to shun all gay customers?

Sam Rainer - Seven Steps to Getting the Unchurched Interested in Your Church

Daily Signal - Study Finds Cohabiting Parents Twice as Likely to Split as Married Parents

Resurgent - Scarlett Johansson Says Monogamy is Unnatural – And She’s Right

LifeWay Pastors - Who’s Reading What? February 2017

Babylon Bee - Benny Hinn Loses Control Of Powers, Sends Audience Member Soaring Hundreds Of Feet Into Air

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Preaching" by Tim Keller: A Review

In the end, preaching has two basic objects in view: the Word and the human listener. It is not enough to just harvest the wheat; it must be prepared in some edible form or it can't nourish and delight. Sound preaching arises out of two loves - love of the Word of God and love of people - and from them both a desire to show people God's glorious grace. And so, while only God can open hearts, the communicator must give great time and thought both to presenting the truth accurately and to bringing it home to the hearts and lives of the hearers. (14)

If I were to make a "Mount Rushmore of Modern Preachers" (might make for a interesting future blog post) no doubt Timothy Keller would be on that list. Keller is unique among expositors. Though he is as strong as John MacArthur and Alistair Begg in his breaking down of the text, what makes Keller unique is his ability to apply the gospel to common cultural narratives. It is for this reason that I was eager to read his book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.

The book largely avoids textbook discussions though it is there. Keller does define and encourage his reader to engage in expository preaching over other methods. However, Keller is clear that other forms of preaching, like topical preaching, are just as legitimate as expository. This is a small point, but in my experience, a number of preachers, particularly within the Reformed tradition, believe that expository preaching is the only form that God approves. It is refreshing to see someone in that same tradition suggests otherwise.

Nevertheless, Keller looks primarily at three issues: the art of preaching, preaching to the culture, and preaching empowered by the Spirit. The first section is the most technical section and it is here one will find the standard preaching discussions. Central to his view of preaching is preaching Christ crucified.

I suspect it is the second section, preaching to the culture, that will draw the most readers. There is no one more qualified than Keller to speak to this issue. He helpfully walks the reader through a number of the primary cultural narratives and how to address them in our sermons from a gospel perspective. This section alone is worth the price of the book. One of the best examples of this regards his illustration of the Anglo-Saxon:
An even more serious problem is that an identity based on expressing ourselves - without listening to outside dictates - is actually an illusion. A popular exponent of the sovereign self was Gail Shehy in books like the seminal Passages in 1976. She insists that you can become yourself only when you can look inside and express yourself apart from any "external valuations and accreditations." This is patently impossible.

Imagine an Anglo-Saxon warrior in Britain in AD 800. He has two very strong inner impulses and feelings. . Living in a shame-and-honour culture with its warrior ethic, he will identify with that feeling. He will say to himself, That's me! That's who I am! I will express that. The other feeling he senses is same-sex attraction. To that he will say, That's not me. I will control and suppress that impulse. Now imagine a young man walking around Manhattan today. He has the same two inward impulses, both equally strong, both difficult to control. What will he say? He will look at the aggression and think, This is not who I want to be, and will seek deliverance in therapy and anger-management programmes. He will look at his sexual desire, however, and conclude, That is who I am.

What does this thought experiment show us? Primarily it reveals that we do not get our identity simply from within. Rather, we receive some interpretive moral grid, lay it down over our various feelings and impulses, and sift them through it. This grid helps us decide which feelings are “me” and should be expressed - and which are not and should not be. So this grid of interpretive beliefs - not an innate, unadulterated expression of our feelings - is what gives us our identity. Despite protests to the contrary, we instinctively know our inner depths are insufficient to guide us. We need some standard or rule from outside of us to help us sort out the warring impulses of our interior life.
And where do our Anglo-Saxon warrior and our modern Manhattan man get their grids? From their cultures, their communities, their heroic stories. They are actually not simply “choosing to be themselves” - they are filtering their feelings, jettisoning some and embracing others. They are choosing to be the selves their cultures tell them they may be. (135-136)
In the final section, Keller addresses preaching to the heart that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is difficult and every preacher can confess frustration of  preparing sermons only to see little change in the hearts of their people. This is a section of the book that is pastoral, theological, and worth returning to over and over again.

Overall, this is an excellent work that every preacher should add to his library. Keller is unique among preachers and is beloved by young ministers for a reason. This book shows why.

All Around the Web - February 20, 2017

Joe Carter - Will Trump Defend Religious Liberty Against the LGBT Agenda?

The Gospel Coalition - What Christians Should Know About Embryo Adoption

John Stonestreet - BeyoncĂ©’s Three Hearts

The Blaze - Apparently, unborn babies are only human when they belong to Beyonce

Chuck Lawless - 8 Suggested Videos to Include on Your Church Website

Tim Challies - Your Calling: Bring Order from Chaos

Justin Taylor - Watch an Entirely Free, Seminary-Level Course with Carl Trueman on the Reformation

Pastors Today - 5 Keys to Preaching on Controversial Subjects

Daily Mail - Now HALF of families text each other in the same house: Experts say tech craze could have a 'catastrophic' effect on family life

Atlas Obscura - The First US Mosque

IMB - Redeemed to Go: A Rescued Refugee Returns to Africa with the Gospel

Friday, February 17, 2017

What a Pity the Human Animal Is: Harry Truman on Human Nature

After touring Berlin, Germany following the second world war, newly inaugurated President Harry S. Truman wrote the following in his diary on July 16, 1945:
Then we went on to Berlin and saw absolute ruin. Hitler's folly. he overreached himself by trying to take in too much territory. He had no morals and his people backed him up. Never did i see a more sorrowful sight, nor witness retribution to the nth degree.

The most sorrowful part of the situation is the deluded Hitlerian populace. Of course the Russians have kidnaped (sic) the able bodied and I supposed have made involuntary workmen of them. They have also looted every house left standing and have sent the loot to Russian. But Hitler did the same thing to them.

It is the Golden Rule in reverse - and it is not an uplifting sight. What a pity that the human animal is not able to put his moral thinking into practice!

We saw old men, old women, young women, children from tots to teens carrying packs, pushing carts, pulling carts, evidently ejected by the conquerors and carrying what they could of their belongings to nowhere in particular.

I thought of Carthage, Baalbek, Jerusalem, Rome, Atlantis, Peking, Babylon, Nineveh; Scipio, Rameses II, Titus, Herman, Sherman, Jenghis Khan, Alexander, Darius the Great. But Hitler only destroyed Stalingrad - and Berlin. I hope for some sort of peace - but I fear that machines are ahead of morals by some centuries and when morals catch up perhaps there'll be no reason for any of it. (52)

All Around the Web - February 17, 2017

Sam Alberry - Sam Allberry explains how the message of Jesus on marriage is life-giving

Trevin Wax - The 5 Weightiest Words of Love

Evangelical History - A Reformation Bibliography

The Gospel Coalition - 16 Ways to Promote Unity Amid Political Disagreement

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Things Singles Wish Married Couples Knew

Thom Rainer - Five Reasons to Recommend Books to Your Church Members

Chuck Lawless - 8 Things North American Believers Can Learn from Believers around the World

NAMB - Partnering well: Sending Church, pray for your planter

KY BCM - Experiencing the Millennials through Passion 2017

Albert Mohler - The Benedict Option: A Conversation with Rod Dreher

Babylon Bee - 7 Updates ‘The Message’ Totally Needs