Monday, June 30, 2014

Breaking: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 in Favor of Hobby Lobby

This is great news for religious liberty, the first amendment, and life itself. Here is the story from the AP:
The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.
The justices' 5-4 decision Monday is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.

Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.

Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama's campaign for re-election.

On Monday, dealing with a small sliver of the law, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety.

Read the rest here.

Matthew 26:30-35 - A Pilgrim’s Regress: Why Christians Need Grace Daily

Sunday we slowed down and studied Matthew 26:30-35.
30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

31 Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.


January 12, 2014 | Matthew 19:1-9: All the King's Horses: Marriage, Divorce & the Gospel
January 19, 2014 | Matthew 19:10-12 - What's the Point?: Marriage, Singleness, & Living for the Glory of God
January 26, 2014 | Matthew 19:13-30: What Must One Do to be Saved? 
February 2, 2014 | Matthew 20:1-16: Marvel at Grace
February 16, 2014 | Matthew 20:17-28 - The Key to True Greatness
February 23, 2014 | Matthew 20:29-34
March 3, 2014 | Matthew 21:1-11: The Royal Entry
March 9, 2014 | Matthew 21:12-22 
March 23, 2014 | Matthew 21:23-46
March 30, 2014 | Matthew 22:1-14 - What Not to wear or Heeding God's Invitation to Celebrate His Son
April 6, 2014 | Matthew 22:15-22: Life After Death and Taxes
April 13, 2014 | Matthew 22:23-33 - I Don't Want to be a Sad-You-See, or Why the Doctrine of the Resurrection Matters
May 4, 2014 | Matthew 22:34-46
May 11, 2014 | Matthew 23: Religion vs. the Gospel, or Why Don't You Tell Us How You Really Feel Jesus
May 18, 2014 | Matthew 24:1-31 - Is It the End of the World As We Know It?: The End Times, the Present Times, and the Kingship of Jesus
May 25, 2014 | Matthew 24:32-51
June 1, 2014 | Matthew 25
June 8, 2014 | Matthew 26:1-16 - O Worship the King
June 15, 2014 | Matthew 26:17-30: The Lord' Supper
June 22, 2014 | Matthew 26:30-35 - A Pilgrim’s Regress: Why Christians Need Grace Daily 

For more:
Matthew 1-18 | The King Has Come: The Gospel According to Matthew Series
MacArthur on the Greatest Act of Love
Ain't No Grave . . .
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus
The Gospel of Matthew Movie
Humpty Dumpty & Grace
I Am Yours, Save Me

All Around the Web - June 30, 2014

Russell Moore - Questions & Ethics: Should We Teach the Story of Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery
Russell Moore explains how this passage clearly lines up with Jesus’ teaching throughout the Bible and why we should in fact teach this passage.

Albert Mohler - How Scalia's prophecy became a moral crisis
One year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, this much is clear: Justice Antonin Scalia is a prophet.

Back in 2003, when the court handed down the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down all criminal statutes against homosexual acts, Scalia declared that the stage was set for the legalization of same-sex unions. That was 2003.

“Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as a formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” wrote Scalia.

He was proved to be absolutely prophetic when, just ten years later, the court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional — thus striking down the federal statute defining marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman.

Hershael York - 10 Unique Challenges That Make Ministry Unlike Anything Else
1. A pastor or church leader deals with the eternal and spiritual nature of things.
2. The second challenge is that a pastor’s role is prophetic in nature.
3. The pastor leads an army of volunteers.
4. In most churches the pastor has an unclear identity.
5. Compounding this problem is an increasing uncertainty about church polity.
6. The church expects the pastor’s family to be involved in his work.
7. Another challenge of ministry that results from the expectations of the congregation is the belief that the pastor should be the initiative taker.
8. The demand for originality is an especially burdensome and constant pressure.
9. One of the most frustrating challenges of leadership in the church is that churches often give the pastor or other leaders responsibility without authority.
10. Simmering below the surface of all leadership is the pastor’s friendship development difficulty.

Denny Burk - The future of gay marriage within evangelicalism

Practical Shepherd - How does a pastor deal with “Carnal Christians” in his church?
1)  Recognize there is no biblical category for a Carnal Christian
2)  Try to discern whether someone is simply unconverted, or just immature in their faith
3)  Involve solid believers in your church to evaluate those people with you
4)  Change the way you take in members into your church
5)  Preach the gospel

What gives paper money its value?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Some Dave Ramsey Videos

We are the riches country in the world and yet we are drowning in debt. Without a doubt, the most recognizable figure in resolving our finances woes is Dave Ramsey. Here are a few videos featuring him you might find helpful.

Dumping Debt: Freedom from Debt

"The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness" audiobook

7 Baby Steps

The Number One Money Myth

For more:
Dave Ramsey on the Truth of Cash Advances 
Dave Ramsey on the Truth of the Lottery 

"Sex and Money" by Paul David Tripp: A Review
"The Treasure Principle" by Randy Alcorn
Economic Freedom Is Better: A Video Worth Considering

All Around the Web - June 28, 2014

HT: 22 Words

New York Times - A Christian Convert, on the Run in Afghanistan
In a dank basement on the outskirts of Kabul, Josef read his worn blue Bible by the light of a propane lantern, as he had done for weeks since he fled from his family in Pakistan.
His few worldly possessions sat nearby in the 10-by-10-foot room of stone and crumbling brown earth. He keeps a wooden cross with a passage from the Sermon on the Mount written on it, a carton of Esse cigarettes, and a thin plastic folder containing records of his conversion to Christianity.
The documents are the reason he is hiding for his life. On paper, Afghan law protects freedom of religion, but the reality here and in some other Muslim countries is that renouncing Islam is a capital offense.

Justin Taylor - What is Hell?

Trevin Wax - 4 Marks of Biblical Discipleship
1. Discipleship is Modeled
2. Discipleship is Balanced
3. Discipleship Includes a Worldview
4. Discipleship is Eschatological

Joe Carter - How to Tell the Difference Between the PCA and PCUSA
Throughout the twentieth century, various Presbyterian denominations arose, merged, and split into various break-away groups.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (often abbreviated as PCUSA) was established by the 1983 merger of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, whose churches were located mainly in the South and in border states, with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, whose congregations could be found in every state.

In 1973, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States in "opposition to the long-developing theological liberalism which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture." In 1982, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, joined the Presbyterian Church in America.

Billboard - Imprisoned As I Lay Dying Frontman Admits to Faking Christianity for Sales
Tim Lambesis, frontman for the Christian metal band As I Lay Dying, has admitted he and his band had faked their faith to sell records.

In May, Lambesis was sentenced to six years in jail after pleading guilty to paying a San Diego police officer posing as a hit man $1,000 to kill his wife.

Speaking to Alternative Press in the days leading up to his sentencing, Lambesis described a Christian band circuit where phony faith was prevalent. He said, "We toured with more 'Christian bands' who actually aren’t Christians than bands that are. In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands."

Lambesis continued, speaking of his own band's believes, "I actually wasn’t the first guy in As I Lay Dying to stop being a Christian. In fact, I think I was the third. The two who remained kind of stopped talking about it, and then I’m pretty sure they dropped it, too. We talked about whether to keep taking money from the 'Christian market.' We had this bizarrely 'noble' thing, like, 'Well, we’re not passing along any bad ideas. We’re just singing about real life stuff. Those kids need to hear about real life, because they live in a bubble.'"

Lambesis, 33, said he has been an atheist for years and had distanced himself from Christianity while in college. He said, "In the process of trying to defend my faith, I started thinking the other point of view was the stronger one."

Friday, June 27, 2014

More Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

One of the most popular Christian blogs is Thom Rainer's, the President of Lifeway Christian Resources. Every day he posts stereotypical blogs that are almost always "4 Ways This" or "8 Ways That." Nevertheless, what makes his blog so popular is his intended audience and clear insight. Rainer writes to the church in general and pastors in particular. His recent post Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor is case in point.

Here is his list:
  1. Criticize the pastor’s family. Few things are as painful to pastors as criticizing their families, especially if the criticisms are related to issues in the church.
  2. Tell the pastor he is overpaid. Very few pastors really make much money. But there are a number of church members who would like to make the pastor feel badly about his pay.
  3. Don’t defend the pastor. Critics can be hurtful. But even more hurtful are those who remain silent while their pastor is verbally attacked. Silence is not golden in this case.
  4. Tell your pastor what an easy job he has. It can really sting when someone suggests that the pastor really only works about ten hours a week. Some actually believe that pastors have several days a week off.
  5. Be a constant naysayer. Pastors can usually handle the occasional critic. But the truly painful relationships are with church members who are constantly negative. How do you know you’ve succeeded in this regard? The pastor runs the other way when he sees you.
  6. Make comments about the pastor’s expenditures. I heard it from a pastor this past week. A church member asked, “How can you afford to go to Disney World?” Wow.
  7. Compare your pastor’s preaching and ministry unfavorably to that of another pastor. Many times the member wants you to know how much he or she likes that pastor on the podcast compared to you. If you really want to hurt your pastor, you can make certain he knows how inferior he is.
This is a good summary and I applaud Dr. Rainer for this post. I am a pastor myself and understand firsthand the many struggles and pains a pastor goes through on a daily basis. When Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12 that his greatest pain wasn't the countless scars, wounds, and persecutions, but his endless concern for the churches he planted, I can relate.

With that said, I would like to add to Dr. Rainer's list with some thoughts of my own in no particular order.
  1. Talk behind his back. Pastor's expect their members to both model Christ and to contribute to the unity of the church. Oftentimes, however, gossip, anger, bitterness, and backbiting are all-too-common. Someone who complains behind the pastor's back makes the problem worse.
  2. Refuse to open your Bible during the sermon. Say what you want about your pastor's public speaking ability, but he is standing in his pulpit out of a sense of calling and conviction. Every sermon, he believes, is from God not because he is special, but because he seeks to proclaim "thus says the Lord." Refusing to trust his ability to handle the Word of God is a monumental insult.
  3. Do not submit to his leadership. Scripture is clear that pastors are to shepherd their flock and exercise appropriate authority over them. It is also clear that the sheep are to submit to their undershepherd as they submit to Christ. A pastor worth his salt has a vision for the church and a passion to see God's people obeying God's word. Pride and rebellion often stand in the way of that being done.
  4. Fight the wrong enemy. We humans seem to be natural fighters. There is always someone or something we must be against. Unfortunately many churches wrongly think they ought to fight against each other rather than against our real enemy. Contribute to congregational hostility and your pastor will feel hopeless.
  5. Turn the other leaders (elders, deacons, etc.) against him. Pastors must be surrounded by godly men who are as passionate about the local church as he is. Using the elders/deacons of the church as artillery to use against him is ungodly.
  6. Vote on everything. This is related to point #3. A church that votes on every minute thing is a church uncomfortable with submission and unfamiliar with leadership.
  7. Have sporadic attendance. Some of the pastors greatest critics are those who rarely attend. Pastors pour their hearts out for the local church. It is heartbreaking to see so many with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.
  8. Don't Volunteer or serve. Regardless of the size of the church, no pastor can do it all nor does Scripture expect him to. Too many churches have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
  9. Be insensitive to his finances. Most pastors are poor and have surrendered financial security in order to serve Christ. Serve him by taking an active role in getting him a raise or serve him in a way that would help him financially.
  10. Be high maintenance. The pastor is responsible for every member of the church. Some selfishly demand more time and maintenance from the pastor often to no effect. Be sensitive to his schedule and demands. Serve him as he seeks to serve Christ.
  11. Refuse to model Christ. The best way to serve your pastor is to model Christ. The best way to hurt your pastor is to remain stagnant or grow cold.
No doubt more ways could be shared, but this should suffice. Ultimately Christians should go out of their way to serve one another in a way that models their Savior. If we do, such posts would become obsolete.

A cursory study of history will reveal an all-too-common struggle among pastors with depression. The reason for this is not because pastors are weak or cowardly, but because they have been entrusted with a calling that is overwhelming. We will all stand on the day of judgment and give an account for Christ's church. That is a daunting task. Add to that countless members who come and go insensitive to Christ or his undershepherds makes the task all the more difficult.

"Nearing Home" by Billy Graham: A Review

Billy Graham is over 90 years old and remains one of the most recognizable faces who single handily shaped the 20th Century.  His sermons, books, travels, interviews, speeches, and ministry have changed the world.  Now at the end of his life, Billy Graham has published a book on growing old, death, dying, and retirement entitled Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well.

Though I am still under 30 myself, I thought it would be important to read this book for several reasons.  First, anything written by Graham is worth the investment. Graham's ministry is international and he remains one of the most respected voices in evangelicalism.  He is worth listening to even today.

Also, Graham writes with the heart of a minister.  He offers some real practical advice to the reader on how to age, what to expect, and how to prepare ourselves and our families for our aging, retirement, and death.  He discusses the difficulties and joys of retirement, the right attitude of work and money, ministry after retirement, working for God's glory, preparing wills and living wills, and all kinds of issues that many of us choose to ignore.  Graham does not right as a legal expert, but as a minister concerned for the reader.

Furthermore, Graham writes from his experience. We have all watched him age and in this book, Graham offers some real and honest insight into the struggles he has. He still wants to preach but repeatedly tells us how difficult it is for him to get out of his chair.  He shares his struggles of being a widower. He is oftentimes lonely, misses the "good ol days," and just wants to preach one more time.  He confesses the difficulties of turning over the ministry to someone else (namely his son Franklin) not because he felt they were unqualified (he praises Franklin for his work), but because he didn't want to let go.

This is a great book and one I would recommend for both the elderly and their pastors. Graham rightly encourages the retired and the elderly to continue to serve God. With the extra time they have gained in their retirement, Graham encourages them to work for the Kingdomand serve their family and their community.  I wholeheartedly endorse this.  Some of the hardest workers in our church are retired or widows.  They have chosen a life of service, not a life of ease.

Graham likely does not have very long to live and this should fill us with much sadness. But Graham confesses, as did Paul, that to live is Christ, but to die is gain.  Graham looks forward to being reunited with his wife Ruth Bell and united with the Savior he has served so faithfully for so long. Graham walks the reader through the joys of death - and the life that follows.  May we long for that too.  Death is not to be feared and Graham shows us why.  Certainly age has its own problems, but life is worth it and death, for the believer, is never the end.

Graham is always the evangelist and this book only continues this legacy.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze

"The Social Principles of Jesus" by Walter Rauschenbusch: A Review

The Social Principles of JesusWhile working on a paper in seminary on Walter Rauschenbusch I came across his book The Social Principles of Jesus. This book is quit different from his rest.  It is written primarily to college students and includes daily reading primarily from the Gospels with comments from Rauschenbusch seeking to prove that Jesus was a social gospel leader before the social gospel was trendy and cool. Each chapter ends with a series of questions, similar to a study guide, for the reader to reflect on the content of the chapter.

The book puts forth standard social gospel texts but like all of the other such social gospel and liberation theology efforts, the exegesis, hermenteutics, interpretations, applications, and theology simply fail. There is little said about the atonement (apart from his chapter on vicarious suffering). Many of his interpretations (particularly of some of Jesus' parables) are problematic and some are simply wrong. Furthermore, Rauschenbusch puts forward passages that fit his agenda (like Luke 4 and Matthew 25) but fail to put forward passages that run against his whole social gospel agenda.

In the end, if one wants to understand Rauschenbusch's theology, though this isn't the best book for that (I would recommend A Theology for the Social Gospel for that) there is a lot of great insight here. His excursions on the Kingdom of God and his definition of it as the reign of God are great.  This text gives brevity to what he expounds on in more detail elsewhere.

This is a fairly brief book that can be downloaded for free on your Kindle. I recommend it to those who want to know more about Rauschenbusch and the social gospel. Beyond that, like everything else from him, there are better things to read.

But I will say that another great insight in this book is how at times I couldn't tell if I was reading Rauschenbusch of the early 20th Century or various liberal leaders of the early 21st Century.

For more:
"The Kingdom is Always But Coming" by Christopher Evans: A Review

All Around the Web - June 27, 2014

Thom Rainer - Seven Reasons the Pastor’s Salary Can Be a Source of Tension
  1. The pastor’s salary is often public information. In some cases, the entire church sees the amount on a regular basis. In other cases, certain members have ongoing access to the information. The constant availability of the information can engender discussion.
  2. Some church members view a low salary as a necessary tool for the pastor’s humility. No, I am not kidding. But I bet those people would not like the same humility for themselves.
  3. There continues to be a misunderstanding of the pastor’s “package.” In the secular world, there is a clear distinction between salaries and benefits and expenses. But in many churches, benefits, such as retirement and health insurance, and expenses, such as automobile reimbursement, are lumped together. It thus makes the pastor’s salary seem higher than it really is.
  4. Critics of the pastor often use the salary as a lever to make life miserable for the pastor. Many of the critics understand that the topic is sensitive to the pastor. So they use that lever to inflict greater pain.
  5. There is a misperception among some church members that the pastor is overpaid. That reality is a rare exception. Most pastors are by no means overpaid. Some church members will use one bad example to paint a broad stroke about all pastors.
  6. Family members can be embarrassed by this issue. I told the story recently about living in a parsonage when I was a pastor. A deacon showed up at the house to tell me that our utility bill was too high, and that my wife needed to stop using the clothes dryer and put up a clothes line. We would later find out that our air conditioning unit was not functioning properly; it was the source of the energy drain.
  7. There is a misperception that pastors work very little. Most pastors work extremely long workweeks. But if a church member really believes a pastor only works ten hours a week, the per hour wage can seem rather high.

Canon and Culture - The Contraceptive Coverage Mandate as Legislated Morality
According to the defenders of the Obama Administration’s contraceptive coverage mandate, employers and health insurance plans are simply required to cover basic preventive health services for women. The mandate, however, represents so much more.

In the mandate, the Administration legislated its moral vision and values. Indeed, the mandate rests upon moral judgments made by the Administration based upon its conception of the good and the just society. However, the administrative agencies that developed and issued the mandate employed regulatory procedures that hindered public participation and hampered dialogue between policy makers and interested individuals and institutions. In other words, the Administration manipulated regulatory procedures and thwarted what is supposed to be a transparent, deliberative decision-making process. The Administration did this to ensure that the outcome of the process would be what it desired.

Consequently, the mandate should concern Christians and non-Christians alike—and for more reasons than simply the real threat it poses to religious liberty. Both Christians and non-Christians should also be concerned with (1) the procedures employed in adopting the mandate, (2) the shift in health policy implemented through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the mandate, and (3) the Administration’s moral decision making that resulted in the mandate.

Trevin Wax - The Kindness That Will Kill Your Church
How does kindness kill a church? By masking our indifference toward one another.
In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis explains what kindness divorced from love looks like:
Kindness cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided that it escapes suffering… It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.
Lewis is right. We don’t treat the people we love with mere “kindness.”

Our desire for our children to be good outranks our desire for our children to be comfortable. It is the indifferent parent who “kindly” permits a child to play video games all day long. It is a loving parent who does the hard work of instilling in a child a good work ethic.

The parents who love are those who want their children to become all they were created to be. For this reason, we are willing to put children through temporary discomfort and challenge their ideas of what they need to be “happy”in order to see them grow into maturity, even if it means a rebuke, a difficult conversation, or a loss of privileges.

The “kindness” that kills a church, on the other hand, is unwilling to put in the hard work of love. It is a subtle form of contempt, an unwillingness to rock someone’s boat when you can clearly see it sinking.

Tim Challies - 7 Good Reasons To Stop Looking at Porn Right Now
1. The Cost to Your Soul
2. The Cost to Your Neighbor
3. The Cost to Your Church
4. The Cost to Your Family
5. The Cost to Your Mission
6. The Cost to Your Witness
7. The Cost to Your Savior

Variety - 9 Ways Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ Changed Superhero Movies Forever
It seems difficult to imagine a time when movie screens weren't packed with comicbook titles, but before June 23, 1989, masked heroes were in short supply. On the 25th anniversary of “Batman,” here's how the Michael Keaton starrer revolutionized the modern comicbook movie.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Could Jesus Have Sinned?

Could Jesus have sinned? That is not to ask if Jesus was guilty of sin, but given the real temptations he faced, could Jesus have sinned? The question reflects a major challenge in understanding the incarnation of our Lord. It forces us to seemingly pit his absolute deity - God is holy and thus he cannot and does not sin - and his absolute humanity - we frail humans sin every day.

In this regard, theologians debate whether Jesus was peccable or impeccable. I raised the issue some time ago as I was blogging through Millard Erickson's excellent systematic theology (read it here). Though we will return to Erickson in a minute, let us consider Paul Enns helpful framing of the issue in his book The Moody Handbook of Theology.

He begins by suggesting that, for the most part, the debate separates Calvinists and Arminians. Usually, Calvinists affirm Christ's impeccability (he could not have sinned) while Arminians affirm Christ's peccability (he could have sinned).

Enns notes that Those who hold to the peccability of Christ do so on the basis of Hebrews 4:15 . . . If the temptation was genuine then Christ had to be able to sin; otherwise the temptation was not a genuine temptation (249). In other words, all of Christ's temptations - especially the most famous temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4 and parallels)  - were real temptations. They were not illusory.

But this position has its weakness. First, being that Christ is eternal and fully divine - the second person of the Trinity - imagine if we asked the same question regarding God the Father or the Holy Spirit. Clearly they are each impeccable.* Peccability suggests a weakening of Christ's deity.

Regarding impeccability, Enns writes:
The purpose of the temptations was not to see if Christ could sin, but to show that He could not sin. The temptation came at a critical time, the beginning of Christ's public ministry. The temptation came at a critical time: the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. The temptation was designed to show the nation what a unique Savior she had: the impeccable Son of God. It is also noteworthy that it was not Satan who initiated the temptation but the Holy Spirit (Matt 4:1). If Christ could have sinned, then the Holy Spirit solicited Christ to sin, but that is something God does not do. (James 1:3). (250)
He then proceeds to point to other evidence for Christ's impeccability. He points specifically to Christ's immutability, his omnipotence, omniscience, deity, will, and authority. He also points to the nature of temptation. He writes:
The temptation that came to Christ was from without. However, for sin to take place, there must be an inner response to the outward temptation. Since Jesus did not possess a sin nature, there was nothing within Him to respond to the temptation. people sin because there is an inner response to the outer temptation. (251)
I will add to the above evidence the following argument from Millard Erickson:
But the question remains, "Is a person who does not sin truly human?" If we say no, we are maintaining that sin is part of the essence of one who believes that the human has been created by God, since God would then be the cause of sin, the creator of a nature that is essentially evil. Inasmuch as we hold that, on the contrary, sin is not part of the essence of human nature, instead of asking, "Is Jesus as human as we are?" we might better ask, "Are we as human as Jesus?" For the type of true humanity created by God has n our case been corrupted and spoiled. There have been only three pure human beings: Adam and Eve (Before the fall, and Jesus. All the rest of us are but broken, corrupted versions of humanity. Jesus is not only as human as we are; he is more human. Our humanity is not a standard by which we are to measure his. His humanity, true and unadulterated is the standard by which we are to be measured. (737)
In the end, I would point to Russell Moore's helpful discussion of this issue in his book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ:
In any discussion of Jesus' temptations, someone will typically ask, "Could Jesus have sinned?" To answer that, I would simply ay that it depends on what you mean by "could." I’ll respond with another question. Think of the person you love the most. While you have this loved one’s face before your mind, let me ask you: “Could you murder that person?” Your response would probably be, “Of course not!” You would then tell me how much you love the person, what the person means to you, and so forth. You’re incapable of murdering this person because the very act is opposed to everything that you’re about. (Note: If you answered with a cheery, “Boy, could I!” to that question, please put down this book and seek professional help.)

In your response to my question, you would be assuming “could” to mean a moral capability. But “could” here could also mean a natural ability. You tell me you “couldn’t” murder your loved one, but that’s no sign that you are saying you couldn’t physically take this person on. You're saying you would never do such a thing.

Jesus is himself the union of God and man, with both a human and a divine nature. God is, of course, morally incapable of sinning. But Jesus, in his human nature, really desires those things humanity’s been designed to desire. Could he have sinned—is his nature one that is capable of being both light and darkness? No. Could he have sinned—was he physically capable of eating bread, of throwing himself from a temple, of bowing his knee and verbalizing the words “Satan is lord”? Yes, of course.

It’s at this point that we often further misunderstand Jesus’ solidarity with us. We too often assume our current sinful status is what it means to be “real.” That’s because we’ve never known a world in which there is no sin. If you grow up all your life on a coastline near an uncapped oil spill, you might conclude that seagulls are covered in tar. As you read or travel, though, and see the birds in their natural state, you’ll discover your experience was abnormal; that’s not the way it’s meant to be. Too often we dismiss as “all too human” what is not human at all; it’s a satanic nature parasitically imposed on the human after the fall of Eden.

Jesus “sympathizes” with us in our temptations, the Bible tells us (Heb. 4:15). Yet we err when we think of this sympathy as some kind of psychologically motivated dismissal or minimizing of sin. Just think about the reactions if you were to sit around with your friends as you all talk about your temptations. One friend might confess to lust, and many in the group would nod heads in understanding. Another might confess an unforgiving spirit or a tendency toward hotheadedness. Again several would offer the words “I know how that is” as a means of encouragement. Probably, though, if someone were to say, “I have this persistent desire to throw kittens in a wood chipper,” the nods and affirmations would end. You’d probably be nudging the person next to you under the table in disbelief and exchanging looks with the person across from you that would mean something along the lines of, “Man, is this a sick one or what!” We often are most able to justify the sins in others if they correspond with our own failings, because we understand them. (43-44)

* Though I believe this is a helpful argument against peccability, it does have its limitations. Those who affirm the peccability of Christ would rightly respond by reminding us that what makes Christ unique is his incarnation. God, who is Spirit (John 4) does not tempt nor is He given into temptation.

For more:
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 7
John Knox on the Threefold Office of Christ
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension
The God Who Became Man: Millard Erickson on the Implications of the Humanity of Christ 
Alumni Academy Christology Lectures From Dr. Bruce Ware
"The Jesus We Missed" by Patrick Henry Reardon   

"The Word was preached, people came and the building was a bit tattered"

I love this from Phil Newton and Matt Schmucker book Elders in the Life of the Church:
It was the difference between a train station and a museum. That is how I would describe the contrast between Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church and the city's First baptist Church. One was filled with hustle and lives in motion; the other was pretty, still, and deathly quiet. The difference was startling.

It was the mid-1990s, and Mark Dever and I traveled to Philadelphia in search of a model inner-city church to learn from as we worked to rebuild Capitol Hill Baptist Church. At the invitation of James Montgomery Boice - just a few years before his death - we decided to spend the day with this long-time pastor and his staff.

Arriving early, we walked around the city and stumbled upon the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, which at the time was marking its 300th anniversary. After ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door repeatedly we nearly gave up. Finally an older man opened the door. He looked like he belonged on an Amish farm in Lancaster County rather than in an inner-city Baptist church. Mark, ever the historian, immediately set about learning the history of the church and attempted to discern what the "Amishman" - who identified himself as the pastor - believed. Watching the interchange was like watching two dogs sniff each other, until finally Mark realized that the pastor though you can believe whatever you want to believe. sensing a dead end, Mark asked to see the sanctuary.

We were ushered into one of the most finely adorned Protestant sanctuaries I had ever seen. it was immaculately maintained from floor to ceiling and featured massive gold-leaf arches centered over a large, wooden pulpit. The pastor informed us that they had just completed a restoration. mark asked, "That must have cost a small fortune. You must have a lot of people coming?" the pastor said, "A couple of dozen." Mark asked, "How did a couple of dozen people afford this?" The pastor told us that the money came from the Andy Warhol Foundation, a foundation supporting the visual arts that Warhol himself funded . . .

In short, you could summarize what we saw at First Baptist this way: the Word was not preached, nobody came, and the building was beautiful.

So we made a beeline down 17th Street for Tenth Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1829. The contrast was striking. The doors were open and the place was teeming with people. "The Catacombs" (the church basement) housed a classical school for inner-city kids. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals was pumping out great books and audio. An AIDS program cared for "the least of these." A wide-reaching radio ministry extended the strong expositional pulpit ministry which filled the main hall every Sunday. And the staff was large and welcoming. The building? Though attractive, it was clear by the worn carpet on the stairs and dirty walls along handrails that hoards of people constantly passed through.

You could summarize what we saw at Tenth Presbyterian this way: The Word was preached, people came and the building was a bit tattered. (83-84)

For more:
"Elders in the Life of the Church" by Phil Newton and Matt Schmucker: A Review

All Around the Web - June 26, 2014

Trevin Wax - Don’t Waste Your Twenties
  • Read beyond the requirements of college, church, or work. That’s right. Read. Feel free to enjoy video games, movie-watching, or other fun activities, but make sure you are intentional about deepening the well of your spiritual and educational life. You’ll soon discover how much need to draw from that well.
  • Build relationships and connections with people who care about similar things. Find people you respect. Learn from them. Walk with people in ministry and learn from their successes and failures. Seek out mentors and listen to them.
  • Embrace the big markers of life. If you believe God is calling you to marriage and childbearing, don’t postpone those two things indefinitely. Truth is, no one is ever really “ready” to have a kid. Ever. You’re never “mature” enough or “financially stable” enough to get married or have kids. I actually think, most of the time, the reverse is true. Marriage and kids are often what God uses to grow us up.
  • For those who are single by circumstances or by calling, please do not misinterpret the previous word as suggesting that you can’t be mature without marriage or kids. History is filled with examples of Christians whose singleness (whether permanent or temporary) provided the opportunity to channel passion and wisdom into fruitful ministry. Take John Stott’s advice: “Go wherever your gifts will be exploited the most.”
  • Future pastors, sermon preparation doesn’t start when you get a ministry position. It’s the result of whole-life preparation. Remember that. And start preparing now. Immerse yourself in the Word and in the lives of people.
  • Future missionaries and church leaders, you are on mission now. You don’t need a title, a ministry position, or a seminary degree before you’re on mission. Jesus’ commissioning is all you need to love God, love people, and witness to the truth of the gospel. John Mayer sings ”Waiting On the World To Change.” It did. 2000 years ago when a dead Man walked out of His tomb. So let’s get going.
  • When the day arrives and a leadership role is thrust upon you, you’d better be the person you need to be. You can and will do some training, of course, but so much of your role requires you to be a certain kind of person, not just do a certain kind of thing. 
  • Be willing to serve in the trenches of ministry without praise or acclamation. Serve your church. Work hard at whatever job you’re at. Encourage the people around you. If God chooses to expand your sphere of influence, wonderful. If not, then be the best you can be right where you are.

Matt Capps - 7 Disciplines to Strengthen Evangelistic Focus
1. Pray for the unbelievers in your life by name.
2. Be intentional in pursuing relationships and scheduling time with unbelievers.
3. Don’t withdraw from unbelieving family members. Lean in.
4. Love your neighbors.
5. Appreciate your workplace as the best place.
6. Harvest relationships from your children’s activities.
7. Take up a new hobby, especially one shared in groups.

Chuck Lawless - 10 Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup
  1. Are you reading the Bible daily? If you adopted an annual reading plan at the beginning of 2014, is your reading up to date? If not, take time this week to caught up. You might choose, if necessary, to adjust your plan – but still read daily. If you did not adopt a plan in January, pick a strategy for rest of the year.
  2. Are you praying daily? Are you praying regularly and recurrently (1 Thess. 5:17)? Do you pray for those in authority, including government and church leaders (1 Tim. 2:2)? Are you praying by name for other believers to speak the gospel boldly and clearly (Eph. 6:18-20, Col. 4:2-4)? Do you pray for your enemies (Matt. 5:44)?
  3. How often have you shared the gospel this year? Is the gospel so striking to you that you cannot keep it to yourself? Have you reached beyond the church world to develop gospel-centered relationships with unbelievers? For what non-believers are you praying as Paul did (Rom. 10:1)? Ask God to increase your burden for lost people (Rom. 9:1-3) throughout the remainder of this year.
  4. Are you faithfully fighting sin in your life? Be honest – have you experienced victory over sin this year? Is there a sin that continually haunts you even though you’ve sought to overcome it? If so, what steps do you still need to take this year? Confess that sin to someone? Seek accountability? Simply repent?
  5. What scriptures have you memorized this year? Do you echo the desire of the psalmist: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You” (Psalm 19:14)? Based on your memorization of God’s Word this year, would I conclude that you treasure God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:9-11)?
  6. Are you serving faithfully in a local church? The church is much more than a place to attend; it is a family that loves us and provokes us to good works (Heb. 10:24). Through the first half of 2014, have you used your spiritual gifts as a member of a local body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:1-11, 1 Pet. 4:10)? Are you supporting His work financially? Commit today to invest yourself in God’s church throughout the rest of 2014.
  7.  Are you exhibiting the work of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-23)? Here, allow the Word to guide your self-evaluation: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious:sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,gentleness, self-control.” Which traits most characterize your life today?
  8. Who is walking more with God because of your influence this year? That is, are you making disciples? Have you purposefully pointed away from self to direct others to follow the Son of God (John 1:29)? Or, to ask the question in the negative, is there anyone who walks less with God today because of your example and influence this year?
  9. What steps have you taken to spread the gospel to the nations? The Great Commission is a global calling (Matt. 28:18-20), even for those not called to go to the nations full-time. Have you intentionally studied about God’s work around the world this year? Are you praying for missionaries by name? Are you fully open to taking a mission trip this year or next?
  10. How would your family assess you as a family member and a believer this year?  Those who live with us are most equipped to evaluate our spiritual walk. If I were to ask your family about your walk with God, what would they say? Would they say your life – all of it, including behind the scenes – models Christ? If not, decide today what steps you will take the next six months.

John Stonestreet - From Assassination to Restoration
Between 1986 and 1991, Adriaan Vlok served as South Africa’s Apartheid-era Minister of Law & Order and also sat on South Africa’s State Security Council.

Vlok was behind many of the regime’s most repressive and drastic measures: hit squads, bombings and assassinations of anti-apartheid activists. The regime was desperate to stay in power in the wake of growing unrest at home and near-universal condemnation abroad.

All of which makes Vlok’s post-apartheid story all the more remarkable.

On August 1, 2006, he entered his old workplace in Pretoria and asked to see Frank Chikane, a minister and former anti-apartheid activist who was now serving in the government. As Eve Fairbanks tells readers in the New Republic, Vlok and Chikane had some history: Vlok tried to assassinate Chikane by lacing his underwear with “paraoxon, a potent insecticide.”

As comical as that sounds, the effects were no joke: Chikane survived only after “advanced medical treatment” in the U.S.

Why did Vlok want to see Chikane that day? Well, to ask forgiveness. Quaking as he stood before the man he tried to kill, he read from something he’d written on the front of his Bible: “I have sinned against the Lord and against you! Will you forgive me?”

Inside Higher Ed - 7 Apps for Cataloguing Your Home Library
1.     libib: This app allows you to organize your books (plus movies, music, etc.) via tags. I like the built-in annotation features (which could allow you to make notes about borrowing), and the basically limitless size (up to 100,000 items). This app also includes tools for measuring how much you’ve read, as well as the options to review items in your library and to make those reviews public. [Free. Web, iOS, or Android.]

2.     iBookshelf: I like this app because with its built-in borrowing status for every item, it lends itself well to tracking the current location/guardian of each book. I also appreciate the barcode scanning feature for easy use, and the fact that this app automatically calls up available info on each book by the ISBN you enter.  [$1.99. iPhone or iPad.]

3.     Libri: This is a very basic cataloging app, which allows you to input simple information about each item (author, title, publisher, year, ISBN, simple annotation). Its features are pretty limited, but that’s what makes it so easy to learn. I haven’t yet figured out a trick for tracking book lending in this app. [$1.99. iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch.]

4.     My Library: This one strikes me as being very similar to iBookshelf. You can input information via barcode scanning or ISBN, and it allows you to catalog all kinds of media (not just books). It also has built-in features for tracking borrowing/loans, allows you to rate items, features streamlined backup options, and can handle up to about 8,000 items at a time. [$3.99. iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch.]

5.     Book CrawlerI started looking at this tool because it boasted its status as the highest-rated book database app in iTunes. Again, this is another app that allows input via ISBN or barcode scanning, and it automatically generates associated information (including basics like title and author, but also Goodreads reviews) for each item. I also appreciate that this app is specifically designed to export to Dropbox for easy backup. [$1.99. iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, & Mac desktop.]

6.     Home Library: This app not only allows you to catalogue and track the loan status for each item in your library, but it also allows you to send “polite reminders to friends who haven’t returned your books.” It also accommodates wishlists. I like that this one allows you to easily track the books that you’ve checked out from the library, and that it sends you reminders before they’re due (farewell, late fees). [From $2.99. iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android, and Mac OS X.]

7.     iCollect Books Pro: Key features in this app include barcode scanning or manual UPC/ISBN entry, automatic cover art and bibliographic information (via Google spidering), genre sorting, tracking loans and borrowing, wishlists, and preorder cataloging. [$2.99. iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch.]

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Google Hangout on God’s Attributes with Steven Lawson Live

The Google Hangout is live at 4 pm eastern. For more information, click here.

Worship Wednesday: "The Shephard is the Lamb" by the OC Supertones

For more:
Wednesday Worship: "Lamb of God" by Tenth Avenue North

From Lewis' Pen: The First Fact of Christianity

From Miracles:
The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences were the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the “gospels,” the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection. (234-235)

From Lewis' Pen Series:
From Lewis' Pen: A Christianity Stripped
From Lewis' Pen: On Karl Barth
From Lewis's Pen: Nonsense Questions are Unanswerable
From Lewis' Pen: Intellectual Slackers
From Lewis' Pen: Worship God as Creator
From Lewis' Pen: Thirsty
From Lewis' Pen: Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Not Idealistic Gas
From Lewis' Pen: But He's Good
From Lewis' Pen: Read Old Books
From Lewis' Pen: When Love Becomes a Demon
From Lewis' Pen: Until You Fully Love God
From Lewis' Pen: As the Ruin Falls
From Lewis' Pen: Screwtape on Marriage
From Lewis' Pen: Lay Down Your Arms
From Lewis' Pen: Aslan is on the Move
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: An Exaggerated Feminine Type
From Lewis' Pen: Theology as a Map
From Lewis' Pen: A Lot of Wrong Ideas
From Lewis' Pen: Children Know Better Than Grownups
From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus
From Lewis' Pen: Aim at Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Satan Speaks

For more:
"CS Lewis: A Life" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"C.S. Lewis In A Time Of War" by Justin Phillips: A Review
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: A Brief Look at Perelandra
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: Doug Wilson Says Yes 
Mere Christianity: An Original Recording
McGrath on the Memory of Lewis
"Letters to Malcom" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review  
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism
Lewis on Practical Theology
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics 
Theology As a Map: Lewis, Practical Theology, and the Trinity
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 1
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 2
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 3 
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 1
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 2
He is Not a Tame Lion: Aslan, Jesus, and the Limits of Postmodern Inclusivism  
To Be Undragoned: Aslan, Christ, and the Gift of Regeneration 
Lewis on Practical Theology  
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics      
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
"The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism" Full Documentary
"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" 1979 Cartoon
Alister McGrath on CS Lewis

All Around the Web - June 25, 2014

HT: Mic

Thom Rainer - Six Surprising Traits of Effective Pastors
  1. They are persistent. Their lives could be characterized as “three steps forward, two steps backwards.” They have setbacks, but they remain persistently pugnacious.
  2. They have a good sense of humor. They take their ministries seriously; but they don’t take themselves too seriously.
  3. They are highly intentional about connecting with unchurched persons at least once a week. In fact, weekly intentionality is the norm. They put such interactions on their calendar. They take unchurched people to lunch. They are involved in non-religious community events.
  4. They look in the mirror. These pastors have clear self-awareness. They are not only evaluating themselves constantly, they typically have a trusted advisor who tells them on a regular basis what he or she sees.
  5. They are intentionally consistent learners. These pastors read a lot. They attend conferences. They expand their educational opportunities, both formal and informal.
  6. Their most consistent discipline is daily Bible reading. This time in the Bible is beyond sermon preparation. This discipline is kept with greater rigor than any other discipline in their lives.

Michael Bird - The Bible’s Attitude to Rape

John StonestreetBreakPoint This Week: Faith Under Fire
The Bible warns us to expect trials and tribulations this side of Heaven. And no trial tests faith more for parents than a child in a life-threatening condition. During this week’s broadcast, John Stonestreet welcomes Fox News anchor, Bret Baier, whose new book, “Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love,” looks at growing faith in the most challenging of situations.

Most of us know Bret Baier as the host of the Fox News segment, “Special Report,” succeeding household name Brit Hume as one of the most recognized faces in the American news media. But to one special young boy, Baier is much more than the man on TV. He’s a father who never gives up, and whose faith in God only grows with each trial their family faces together.

Bret and Amy Baier’s oldest child, Paul Francis, was the most anticipated arrival of the couple’s lives. What they didn’t anticipate was the medical challenge their son would suffer from the beginning, and the taxing journey they would have to endure together to see him healed.

Justin Taylor - What’s Wrong with “The Wrong Side of History” Argument
Michael Hanby:
The appeal to history is thus a nifty little piece of rhetorical violence, a ‘performative utterance’ that seeks to bring about the fate that it announces and to excuse the opposition’s loss of agency as the inevitable triumph of justice.
William Voegeli:
Upon inspection, “X is on the right side of history” turns out to be a lazy, hectoring way to declare, “X is a good idea,” by those evading any responsibility to prove it so.

Tim Challies - The Bestsellers: Jesus Calling
Compared to other bestselling authors, Sarah Young is a mysterious figure. Notoriously secretive, she has written a book that has sold in the millions, but to my knowledge has never spoken in public, has never appeared on television or radio, and has completed only the smallest handful of written interviews (and even then only through a publicist).

What we do know is that Young is American, was a 1968 graduate of Massachusetts’ Wellesley College, is married to a Presbyterian missionary, lived in Japan for many years, and has recently returned to America after living in Australia. Also, she suffers from significant health concerns related to vertigo and Lyme disease.

Thomas Nelson published Young’s first book Jesus Calling in 2004. Though sales were slow at first, the book began to hit its stride in 2008, tallying over 200,000 sales that year and growing year-over-year from there. To date it has sold over 10 million copies and has outpaced many better-known New York Times bestsellers. The Daily Beast, writing for their non-Christian audience, rightly referred to it as “The Evangelical Bestseller You’ve Never Heard Of.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rethinking the Identity of the Beloved Disciple

I tweeted some weeks ago my reaction to hearing a Ben Witherington lecture where he argued the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel According to John is not the Apostle John but actually Lazarus who was raised from the dead by Jesus in John 11. In addition, Witherington makes an additional argument that John the Apostle did not write the Gospel attributed to him, but rather the eye witness testimony is from Lazarus whose account was compiled by the mysterious "we" of John 21. He would go on to conclude that John of Patmos is the final editor of Lazarus' account, an argument we will have to save for another time.

Soon after listening to Witherington's lecture (which you can listen to here) I did a quick Google search and found a fuller argument by Witherington on his blog in an article entitled Was Lazarus the Beloved Disciple? Below I offer only Witherington's basic argument being that it is long and detailed and do not interact with other scholars and resources who make the same argument. Witherington is a well-respected scholar  and makes his case well. Furthermore, I do not interact with those who disagree with him. This is, after all, a blog post and not an academic discussion.

Traditionally it has been assumed that the Beloved Disciple or, "the one in whom Jesus loved," was John the Apostle for several reasons. First, John, unlike the other disciples, is never named in the Gospel. Secondly, only the Gospel According to John uses this language. The Synoptics each offer a full list of the Twelve Disciples. Thirdly, John the Apostle was part of the inner three. The Beloved Disciple cannot be Peter and James dies too early, leaving John. Finally (and more reasons could be added), the Gospel's emphasis on love is consistent with the other writings in the New Testament attributed to John.

In spite of this, Witherington rejects this conclusion and believes instead that the Beloved Disciple is actually Lazarus. I offer Witherington's argument below:

1. Lack of "the sons of Zebedee" stories
One of the things which is probably fatal to the theory that John son of Zebedee is the Beloved Disciple and also the author of this entire document is that none, and I do mean none, of the special Zebedee stories are included in the Fourth Gospel (e.g. the calling of the Zebedees by Jesus, their presence with Jesus in the house where Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter, the story of the Transfiguration, and also of the special request for special seats in Jesus’ kingdom when it comes, and we could go on). In view of the fact that this Gospel places some stress on the role of eyewitness testimony (see especially Jn. 19-21) it is passing strange that these stories would be omitted if this Gospel was by John of Zebedee, or even if he was its primary source. It is equally strange that the Zebedees are so briefly mentioned in this Gospel as such (see Jn. 21.2) and John is never equated with the Beloved Disciple even in the appendix in John 21 (cf. vs. 2 and 7-- the Beloved Disciple could certainly be one of the two unnamed disciples mentioned in vs. 2).

2. "The One in Whom Jesus Loved" First Mentioned in John 11, not 13
This brings us to John 11.3 and the phrase hon phileis. It is perfectly clear from a comparison of 11. 1 and 3 that the sick person in question first called Lazarus of Bethany and then called ‘the one whom you love’ is the same person as in the context the mention of sickness in each verse makes this identification certain. This is the first time in this entire Gospel that any particular person is said to have been loved by Jesus. Indeed one could argue that this is the only named person in the whole Gospel about whom this is specifically said directly. This brings us to Jn. 13.23.

3. John 13 - Reclining on the Bosom of Jesus
At John 13.23 we have the by now very familiar reference to a disciple whom Jesus loved (hon agapa this time) as reclining on the bosom of Jesus, by which is meant he is reclining on the same couch as Jesus. The disciple is not named here, and notice that nowhere in John 13 is it said that this meal transpired in Jerusalem. It could just as well have transpired in the nearby town of Bethany and this need not even be an account of the Passover meal. Jn. 13.1 in fact says it was a meal that transpired before the Passover meal. This brings us to a crucial juncture in this discussion. In Jn. 11 there was a reference to a beloved disciple named Lazarus. In Jn. 12 there was a mention of a meal at the house of Lazarus. If someone was hearing these tales in this order without access to the Synoptic Gospels it would be natural to conclude that the person reclining with Jesus in Jn. 13 was Lazarus. There is another good reason to do so as well. It was the custom in this sort of dining that the host would recline with or next to the chief guest. The story as we have it told in Jn. 13 likely implies that the Beloved Disciple is the host then. But this in turn means he must have a house in the vicinity of Jerusalem. This in turn probably eliminates all the Galilean disciples.

4. Clearing Up Conundrums
For example: 1) it was always problematic that the BD had ready access to the High Priest’s house. Who could he have been to have such access? Surely not a Galilean fisherman. Jn. 11.36-47 suggests that some of the Jewish officials who reported to the high priest had known Lazarus, and had attended his mourning period in Bethany. This in turn means that Lazarus likely had some relationship with them. He could have had access to Caiphas’ house, being a high status person known to Caiphas’ entourage. ; 2) If Lazarus of Bethany is the Beloved Disciple this too explains the omission of the Garden of Gethsemane prayer story in this Gospel. Peter, James and John were present on that occasion, but the Beloved Disciple was not; 3) It also explains Jn. 19.27. If the Beloved Disciple took Jesus’ mother ‘unto his own’ home (it is implied) this surely suggests some locale much nearer than Galilee, for the Beloved Disciple will show up in Jerusalem in John 20 immediately there after, and of course Mary is still there, according to Acts 1.14 well after the crucifixion and resurrection of her son. 4) How is it that the Beloved Disciple gets to the tomb of Jesus in Jn. 20 before Peter? Perhaps because he knows the locale, indeed knows Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, being one who lived near and spent much time in Jerusalem. One more thing about John 20.2 which Tom Thatcher kindly reminded me of—here the designation of our man is a double one—he is called both ‘the other disciple’ and also the one ‘whom Jesus loved only this time it is phileĊ for the verb. Why has our author varied the title at this juncture, if in fact it was a pre-existing title for someone outside the narrative? We would have expected it to be in a fixed form if this were some kind of pre-existing title. Notice now the chain of things—Lazarus is identified in Jn. 11 as the one whom Jesus loves, and here ‘the other disciple’ (see Jn. 20.1-2) is identified as the one whom Jesus loves, which then allows him to be called ‘the other disciple’ in the rest of this segment of the story, but at 21.2 we return once more to his main designation—the one whom Jesus loved=Lazarus. All of this makes good sense if Jn, 11-21 is read or heard in the sequence we now find it. 5) of course the old problem of the fact that the Synoptics say all the Twelve deserted Jesus once he was taken away for execution, even Peter, and record only women being at the cross, is not contradicted by the account in Jn. 19 if in fact the Beloved Disciple, while clearly enough from Jn. 19.26 a man (-- called Mary’s ‘son’, and so not Mary Magdalene!) is Lazarus rather than one of the Twelve. 6) There is the further point that if indeed the Beloved Disciple took Mary into his own home, then we know where the BD got the story of the wedding feast at Cana—he got it from Mary herself. I could continue mounting up small particulars of the text which are best explained by the theory of Lazarus being the BD but this must suffice. I want to deal with some larger issues in regard to this Gospel that are explained by this theory, in particular its appendix in Jn. 21 But one more conjecture is in order here.[1]

5. The Conclusion to the Gospel
Most scholars are in agreement that John 21 makes clear that while the Beloved Disciple is said to have written down some Gospel traditions, he is no longer alive when at least the end of this chapter was written. The “we know his testimony is true” is a dead give away that someone or someones other than the Beloved Disciple put this Gospel into its final form and added this appendix, or at a minimum the story about the demise of the Beloved Disciple and the conclusion of the appendix. This line of reasoning I find compelling. . .
Why is the final editor of this material in such angst about denying that Jesus predicted that the Beloved Disciple would live until Jesus returned? Is it because there had been a tradition in the BD’s church that he would, and if so, what generated such a tradition? Not, apparently the BD himself. But now he has passed away and this has caused anxiety among the faithful about what was the case with the BD and what Jesus had actually said about his future in A.D. 30. I would suggest that no solution better explains all the interesting factors in play here than the suggestion that the Beloved Disciple was someone that Jesus had raised from the dead, and so quite naturally there arose a belief that surely he would not die again, before Jesus returned. Such a line of thought makes perfectly good sense if the Beloved Disciple had already died once and the second coming was still something eagerly anticipated when he died. Thus I submit that the theory that Lazarus was the Beloved Disciple and the author of most of the traditions in this Gospel is a theory which best clears up the conundrum of the end of the Appendix written after his death.
This is most of Witherington's argument which leads to his conclusion that John the Apostle did not compose the Gospel traditionally attributed to him. Instead, we are reading an edited account of Lazarus' memoir.

I do not endorse this view, at least not yet, but do admittedly find it compelling and worth exploring. I do not think his argument, if proven to be true, ought to call into question the canonization of the Gospel nor its infallibility. The question of authorship will not be explored here, but I find the suggestion of Lazarus as the Beloved Disciple too fascinating to not at least consider here.

[1] Witherington goes on here to argue that Mark 14:3-11 and John 12:1-11 can be harmonized if Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple. His assumption is that Simon the Leper in Mark is Lazarus' father which explains why Lazarus nor his sisters ever married. Furthermore, Witherington suggests it is possible that Lazarus may have died of leprosy contracted from his supposed father Simon. Thus the resurrection of Lazarus means his leprosy was cleansed.

Ben Witherington - Was Lazarus the Beloved Disciple? 

For more:
"The Historical Jesus": A Lecture by Ben Witherington 
Blessed on the Cheesemakers: Ben Witherintong on "The Bible" Series
Theology Thursday | The End: John 20:31 or 21:25?
Bibledex on the Four Gospels
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
"Lukan Authorship of Hebrews"

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 16

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 2
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 3
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 4-5
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 6
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 8
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 9
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 10-11
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 12
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 13
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 14
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 15
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 16

Who wrote the Gospel of John? Traditionally, it has been suggested that John the Apostle, one of the sons of Zebeedee - of thunder - is the author. Though that position remains popular today, and one I have held my entire life, such a conclusion is questionable. In his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, Dr. Richard Bauckham suggests the author of the fourth Gospel is not John the Apostle, but rather John the Elder.

His argument begins with what he has argued in previous chapters.
. . . the Beloved Disciple was not one of the Twelve, but a lesser known disciple, not known from the Gospel traditions generally, a disciple who had to establish his claim to a role of privileged witness to Jesus in the minds of readers or hearers who may well know nothing about him.

That the Beloved Disciple was not one of the Twelve, but rather a disciple generally resident in Jerusalem, who did not, like the Twelve and many others, travel with Jesus in his itinerant ministry, has been argued, from the evidence of the Gospel, by many scholars. (412)
To his point that the author was not among the Twelve, Bauckham points out that there is no list of disciples anywhere in John. In addition, not all of the twelve disciples are mentioned while a number of other disciples (like Lazarus and others) are given prominent roles.
All this suggests that the distinctive narratives of the Gospel of John derive not simply from the Beloved Disciple himself, but from a particular circle of disciples of Jesus in which the Beloved disciple moved. The circle includes a few of the Twelve, especially Philip and Thomas, but not the inner circle so prominent in Mark. Other disciples who were not members of the Twelve were just as prominent in this circle. It is notable that four of these lived in Jerusalem or its vicinity (Nicodemus, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary), a fact that supports the supposition that the Beloved Disciple himself was a Jerusalem resident. (414)
With that said, what evidence does he provide in favor of the little known John the Elder?  First, and most important, Dr. Bauckham turns to Papias again. Though he admits we do not possess anything that Papias said directly about the fourth Gospel, Bauckham argues that Papias not only was aware of John's Gospel, but preferred it. One area of evidence for this regards Papias list of the disciples. Instead of listing 12, he follows the order John provides in his narrative limiting his list to seven (seven is the number of completeness).

Furthermore, Bauckham asserts that At the time of which Papias writes, John the son of Zebedee was dead, but John the Elder survived. He would presumably have been writing his Gospel around this time (420). The author fails to provide any strong evidence for this especially considering some debate regarding how John the Apostle died. Nonetheless, it is important to note that, as Bauckham argues, Papias believed John the Elder wrote the Gospel, not John the Apostle.

Perhaps his strongest line of argument is this connection with 2 and 3 John. There the author identifies himself as "the Elder." Bauckham notes how Papias refers to John the Elder as "the Elder" which corresponds rather strikingly with the usage of the second an third Johannine letters, whose author designates himself simply as "the Elder" (2 John 1; 3 John 1) (421). This leads to the conclusion, The very unusual usage by both Papias and the author of 2 and 3 John makes a plausible case for identifying the latter with John the Elder (422).

One last point of evidence for Bauckham regards the Muratorian Canon. The author spends a lot of time connecting the Muratorian Canon and Papias, but what is interesting is how the author of the Muratorian Canon describes the author of John ("fellow disciples") and Andrew (an "apostle"). This suggest, at least to the author of the Muratorian Canon, that the author of John's Gospel was not an apostle, thus eliminating John the son of Zebedee.

Regardless, why does any of this matter especially as it relates to Bauckham's main thesis? One main reason is it verifies what Bauckham had previously argued that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have always been associated with those individuals. This includes the Gospel of John. This, then, eliminates persons like Lazarus from being considered the Gospel's author. The author of the book must be named John and an eyewitness. To Bauckham, John the Elder fits that criteria.

What are we to make of this? First, one chapter is not enough to convince me or others that John the Elder is, mostly likely, the author of the Gospel of John. Secondly, I still believe that John the Apostle is the likely author, but admit that there are problems with this. Thirdly, whether the author is Lazarus, John the Elder, or John the Apostle, Bauckham's main thesis remains: the Gospel is written by an eyewitness and thus is trustworthy and reliable.

For more:
"The Historical Jesus": A Lecture by Ben Witherington
"The Story of Jesus" Documentary
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus  
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
Ravi Zacharias' 12 Arguments For the Historicity of the Resurrection
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
"Raised With Christ" by Adrian Warnock: A Review
NT Wright: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster: A Review
"The Case for Easter"
"The Case For the Real Jesus" by Lee Strobel
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
The Quest For the Historical Satan: The Entire Series