Monday, August 31, 2015

"What is Christianity" Article

In Sunday's State Journal, the following opinion piece of mine was published. You can access it online here but subscription is required.

She was a young student sitting at my kitchen table crying uncontrollably. The tears increased as she sobbed her way through her life story of victimhood from men who claimed to love her. She could no longer pretend everything was OK.

Days later I rushed to comfort parents who had just lost their child. There is nothing more tragic in this world than that.

What do you say in moments like these?

I am a pastor and find myself in similar situations frequently always asking the same question. The answer continues to be: nothing brings greater hope and comfort than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But what is the gospel of Christianity? In the midst of endless culture wars many have opinions but few have the truth. I would like to briefly explain what Christianity is here.

Christianity is not primarily a political ideology, an ethical philosophy, or legalistic ritualism. Christianity, in its essence, is a message of freedom and hope rooted in the person and work of Jesus who, through the cross and empty tomb, liberates us from what enslaves us – fear, guilt, and sin – which begins in this life only to conclude in the next.

The promise of heaven, therefore, becomes a reality for us now. This means our joy is not based on our circumstances but on the victory of our Savior. We have found peace, love, and contentment because Christ is our everything. Regardless of life’s troubles the gospel remains good news. Whether we are at rock bottom, haunted by our past, or burdened with guilt too great to carry, Jesus is our freedom and hope. This personal transformation is the key to bringing communal change. Given the free gift of God’s love, I am now free to love others.

Jesus, then, is joy to the hopeless, love to the forgotten, and grace to the guilty. This is Christianity.

All Around the Web - August 31, 2015

Albert Mohler - Ashley Madison and the Death of Monogamy

Joe Carter - When Did the Decline of Marriage Begin in America?

RNS - Southern Baptist mission board to cut as many as 800 positions

Owen Strachan - The Depressing and Weirdly Encouraging Data on Ashley Madison Users

Gizmodo - Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site

Friday, August 28, 2015

All Around the Web - August 28, 2015

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Margaret Sanger

Russell Moore - Human Dignity in a World of Abortion Clinics

Ligonier - Convictions and Cultural Change: A Google Hangout with John MacArthur

Andy Naselli - “Here I Stand”: Elsa (from Frozen’s “Let It Go”) vs. Luther (at the Diet of Worms)

Popular Mechanics - Making Ocean Water Drinkable Is Much Harder Than You Think

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Complete Series

I have said before that not all books are created the same. Some are barely worth cracking the spine while others are simply a regurgitation of old arguments. Certain books, however, deserve to be devoured slowly. It has been my attempt the past few years on this website to explore such books.

Recently I concluded blogging through the book Collected Writings on Scripture (Crossway, 2010). Shortly after beginning the book, it became clear that the author, Dr. D. A. Carson, has penned a book worth further exploration.

Since we have completed our series, below you will find the links to each article exploring the book. I highly recommend you pick up a copy for yourself.
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Introduction 
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The Canonization of Scripture
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The New Hermeneutics
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Faith and Practice
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Walter Bauer Thesis
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Progressive Revelation
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - On Redaction Criticism
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Final Word on Redaction Criticism
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - On Perspicuity

Here are the other books we have explored.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Which Comes First Faith or Regeneration: Erickson's Take

Some time ago I came across the following quote from a Charles Spurgeon sermon:
If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinner.
This quote is taken from The Warrant of Faith (preached on September 20, 1862; you can listen to it here) and in this isolated quote, it appears that Spurgeon contradicts the "I" in the Calvinist acronym T.U.L.I.P.  I was first exposed to the above in an anti-Calvinist book whose arguments I was seriously considering. As a Great Commission Baptist, the ongoing debate between Reformed and non-Reformed theology continues and so I find myself considering the historic arguments frequently.

The book went on to suggest, based solely on the quote above, that Spurgeon denied effectual calling. As I have explored in a series of posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), such a suggestion could not be more wrong.

But what do other theologians argue? Typically, theologians either side with the Calvinist doctrine (regeneration precedes faith) or the Arminian doctrine (faith precedes regeneration). I want to suggest that considering the totality of Scripture, perhaps it is a little bit of both. I want to suggest that Scripture swims in ambiguity on this issue.

In his wonderful systematic theology textbook Christian Theology, Millard Erickson makes a similar case. He introduces the issue with the following:
We are not talking here about temporal succession. Conversion and new birth occur simultaneously. Rather, the question is whether one is converted because of God's work of regeneration within, or whether god regenerates the individual because of his or her repentance and belief. (944-945)
So which came first, repentance or conversion? Erickson begins by acknowledging the logic of Calvinism on this subject:
It must be acknowledged that, from a logical standpoint, the usual Calvinistic position makes good sense. If we sinful humans are unable to believe and respond to God's gospel without some special working of his within us, how can anyone, even the elect, believe unless first rendered capable of belief through regeneration? To say that conversion is prior to regeneration would seem to be a denial of total depravity. (945)
Two comments. First, the Calvinist position is rooted in both Scriptural conviction and logic. Calvinist cite a number of passages but most notable are Ezekiel 36-37 and John 3. The implication in both passages favors the Calvinist position. With that said, most Calvinist root their defense in the logic of the doctrine. As Erickson suggest, one cannot defend both radical depravity and then deny effectual calling. Therefore, if one affirms total depravity, one must logically embrace irresistible grace.

Yet Erickson (a 4-point Calvinist) then adds: "Nonetheless, the biblical evidence faors the position that conversion is prior to regeneration. Various appeals to respond to the gospel imply that conversion results in regeneration" (945). The specific biblical evidence he offers is Acts 2:38 and 16:31. This leads him to write:
This appears to be the pattern throughout the New Testament. even John Murray, who unequivocally regards regeneration as prior, appears to deny his own position when he says, "the faith of which we are now speaking is not the belief that we have been saved, but trust in Christ in order that we may be saved." Unless Murray does not consider regeneration to be part of the process of being saved, he seems to be saying that faith is instrumental to regeneration and thus logically prior to it. (945)
So where does Erickson stand on this issue? He acknowledges the strengths of both passages and then proposes a "way out." He suggest we "distinguish between God's special and effectual calling on the one hand, and regeneration on the other" (945) I will let the reader consider the rest of his argument. My point in this blog post is to offer intellectual and theological honesty to the issue.

Much of the Calvinism/Non-Calvinism debate regards categories and matters Scripture does not address directly. Most notable in this regard is effectual calling and particular redemption. This is why both sides cling tightly to their favorite verses that support their position without being able to explain the other verses that contradict their claims.

In regards to irresistible grace, we are splitting time in a way that is unnecessary.  The two are likely so closely connected chronologically that we should not be surprised ambiguity on this issue in Scripture. Ultimately, however, we must (wherever we stand on this issue) continue to preach the gospel. When one embraces Christ, we can be certain that both faith and regeneration is present. So, in the end, preach Christ trusting that the Spirit is at work in the hearts of the lost.

All Around the Web - August 27, 2015

National Review - Can Russell Moore Unite the Religious Right?

Justin Taylor - The 8th Planned Parenthood Video + A Prayer at the Protest, and Counsel for Healing from an Abortion

Christianity Today - Tullian Tchividjian Files for Divorce

New York Times - How Changeable Is Gender?

Christianity Today - One in Three Americans Say Divorce Is Still a Sin in Cases of Abuse

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: New Theology is False Theology

From his book, An All Round Ministry:
Beside this, dear brethren, you and I believe in the doctrines of the gospel. We have received the certainties of revealed truth. These are things which are verily believed among us. We do not bow down before men's theories of truth, nor do we admit that theology consists in "views" and "opinions." We declare that there are certain verities,—essential, abiding, eternal,—from which it is ruinous to swerve. I am deeply grieved to hear so many ministers talk as if the truth of God were a variable quantity, a matter of daily formation, a nose of wax to be constantly reshaped, a cloud driven by the wind. So do not I believe! I have been charged with being a mere echo of the Puritans, but I had rather be the echo of truth, than the voice of falsehood. It may be want of intellect which prevents our departing from the good old way; but even this is better than want of grace, which lies at the bottom of men's perpetual chopping and changing of their beliefs. Rest assured that there is nothing new in theology except that which is false; and that the facts of theology are today what they were eighteen hundred years ago.

All Around the Web - August 26, 2015

The Wardrobe Next Door -  Jared Fogle, Ashley Madison, Planned Parenthood and Our Men Without Chests

Thinking Christian - Why “Jesus Saves” Is More Real Than “Jesus Affirms You”

Denny Burk - Why I went to Planned Parenthood on Saturday

Thom Rainer - Do Churches Practice Age Discrimination in Hiring Pastors and Staff?

The New Yorker - You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much

Even though I usually try to avoid political videos, I thought the following was just too good to pass by. Even if your a fan of Secretary Clinton, I think you'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels

One of the leaders of a dead former movement that once had influence (the Emergent Church), Tony Jones, has been writing a series of blog posts on Questions that Haunt Christianity. In one such post, the following question is asked:
In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes many confident self-proclamations (conservative Evangelical’s favorite verses which seemingly demonstrates the exclusivity of Jesus). Now, I’m sure that claiming to be God in 1st century Judiasm is a really big deal; however, how is it that none of these self-proclamations make it into any of the synoptic gospels? Is it possible that Jesus never made these self-proclamations? If not, how does this effect our understanding of Trinitarian theology in the gospel accounts?

It should be briefly mentioned that Jones does not answer this question directly. He deals primarily, and almost exclusively, with the Gospel of John. However, as the title of his article (It's Probably True, Even If Jesus Didn't Say It) suggests Jesus never clearly claimed to be divine. Instead what we have, as (post)modern liberals have argued, the doctrine of Jesus' deity was later created by the church (blame Constantine, Athanasius, and Nicea). The Synoptics, the argument oftentimes goes, did not present a divine Jesus and the Man Himself never claimed deity for Himself. It is John that makes that explicit claim and being that John was written at the end of the first century, it is less reliable as a reflection of the earliest form of Christianity.

Is this true? In a word, no. I have put together 12 reasons proofs of Jesus' deity from the Synoptic Gospels (in no particular order).*

1. Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive sins

Mark 2:1-12 (parallels in Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26) records the famous story of the paralytic lowered from the roof and eventually healed by Jesus. Before Jesus healed Him, the Nazarene claimed rather boldly and shockingly to have forgiven His sins (vs. 5). The religious elite rightly, from their perspective, protest. They ask “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (vs. 7) Jesus responds, not by just proclaiming his deity but by proving his deity. When Jesus heals the paralytic, the crowd got the message; this is no mere miracle worker (see vs. 12).

2. The Demons proclaimed He was God

In both Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:33-34 demons confess that Jesus is "the Holy One of God." Similarly in Luke 4:40-41, demons refer to Jesus as "the Son of God." If your enemies proclaim you divine, then you are divine.  

3. Jesus Possesses the Attributes and Names of God

Consider, first, the attributes of God present in the ministry of Jesus the following:

  • Omnipotence (Matthew 8:26-27, 14:19, 28:18)
  • Omnipresence (Matthew 28:20)
  • Omniscience (Matthew 11:27)
  • Sovereign over the Future (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 20:18-19, 26:1-2)
  • Without Sin - (Matthew 27:3-4; Luke 23:22, 41, 47; Acts 3:14) 
  • Suggestion of pre-existence - Mark 1:38; 10:45;
Consider also the titles of God attributed to Jesus throughout His ministry:
  •  Immanuel - Matthew 1:21-23
  •  Son of God (Matthew 4:3, 6; 8:29; 16:16; 26:63; 27:40; 27:43, 54; Mark 1:1; 3:11; 5:7; 15:39; Luke 1:32, 35; 4:3, 9, 41 8:28; 22:70)
  • Son of Man (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:37, 41; 16:13, 27-28; 17:9, 12, 22, 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39; 24:44; 25:31; 26:2; 26:24, 45, 64 - I'll stop there)

4. He Accepted Worship

Only God is to be worshiped, but in Matthew 15:25, the Canaanite woman "knelt before him" and said, "Lord, heal me." More explicitly, in Matthew 28:8-9 reads, "And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him." Consider also Acts 7:59-60 where Stephen prays to Jesus.

5. Jesus claims to be the final judge of the world - Matthew 25:31-46

6. He bestowed Eternal Life (Matthew 19:16-21; Mark 10:17-21; Luke 18:18-22)

7. Jesus applied a number of Old Testament texts about God to himself (cf. Matthew 21:16 with Psalm 8:2)

8. He is Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus makes the claim of being Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5; 13:15. Millard Erickson says here that Jesus "was clearly claiming the right to redefine the status of the Sabbath, a right that belongs only to someone virtually equal with God" (Christian Theology, 702).

9. He juxtaposes His words with that of the Old Testament - Matthew 5:21-22 and 27-28.

10. If He was not divine then His condemnation and punishment were just.

11. Similarly, if Jesus is not divine then his enemies were sorely mistaken.

12. He is the risen and ascended Lord!

More could be added and said, but these 12 points should be clear enough. Jesus did not merely claim to be God He proved it.

* It should be noted that I include references to the book of Acts since its author is the same as one of the Synoptic Gospel writers, Luke.

Tony Jones - It’s Probably True, Even If Jesus Didn’t Say It [Questions That Haunt]

For more:
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
John Knox on the Threefold Office of Christ
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension

All Around the Web - August 25, 2015

The Federalist - Questions Every Planned Parenthood Supporter Should Have To Answer

Joe Carter - Is There Any Actual Demand for Same-Sex Marriage?

Tim Challies - Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online

The Cripplegate - Congratulations! It’s a Gender-Neutral!

Art Rainer - Why Married Couples Should Have Joint Bank Accounts

Monday, August 24, 2015

"The Kennedy Assassination - 24 Hours After" by Steven Gillon

For the first few minutes after they arrived at Parkland Hospital, O'Donnell was able to maintain false hope that doctors could save Kennedy. But by roughly 12:50 pm, when Father Huber entered the room and saw Kennedy covered in a white sheet, it was clear that doctors had stopped trying to save his life. the president was dead, and everyone knew it. Within a few minutes, the Secret Service notified its office in Washington. Shortly after 1:00 pm, Robert Kennedy would get a phone call at his home in Virginia (where it was 2:00 pm EST) informing him that the wounds his brother suffered had proved fatal. yet, Lyndon Johnson, standing in a cubicle a few yards away, was still in the dark. (80)

Perhaps no day has been more chronicled and debated than November 22, 1963 when the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, TX. Accusations of conspiracy were instant and though decades have passed, it remains a hotly debated topic of discussion.

That day has been of interests to me as well. Ever since high school I have been intrigued by the crime and find myself looking into it ever so often. Some time ago I watched the History Channel documentary that traced the events of that day. I discovered it was based on a book by Steven Gillon entitled The Kennedy Assassination--24 Hours After: Lyndon B. Johnson's Pivotal First Day as President. The special was intriguing and, as I later discovered, so was the book.

As the titled suggests, the author chronicles the events of that day in full focusing on the Kennedy and Johnson people. In doing so, it allows us to understand what happened apart from wild conspiracy theories and speculation. When we do so we discover there are greater reasons to be concerned; namely, that for a considerable time there was no clear chief executive. Gillon reveals that by the time LBJ turned on the TV on Air Force 1 (before his swearing in), Americans knew more about what happened than he did even though he was just a few cars behind.

Had this been an international act of war or conspiracy from either the Soviet Union or Cuba, America may not have survived. The author reminds the reader of how unique this event was. The previous Presidents who died in office prior to Kennedy did so in a way that the vice-president could somewhat prepare. FDR slowly died as did Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding. The most recent assassination had been decades prior and was in another world. 

In other words, the executive branch was facing a new and unique situation. LBJ was always a politician and knew that every action he took would be scrutinized. If he was now the President, he did not want to appear to be too eager to take the mantle nor did he want to appear to be insensitive to the Kennedy family. Gillon does a great job balancing what was going through LBJ's mind between his new responsibilities and genuine concern, but at the end of the day, it seems LBJ the ambitious politician won out.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for any and all history buffs and book lovers. November 22, 1963 was a dark day in our nation's history. Gillon's take is unique and sifts through all of the constant ramble of conspiracy. My one criticism would regard how little is said regarding Oswald but it appears that story required another book. 

For more:
"Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review

JFK: 3 Shots that Changed America

All Around the Web - August 24, 2015

Denny Burk - Should Christians lionize Stephen Colbert?

John Stonestreet - Families Are Unfair?

Eric Metaxas - Jesus' Hometown

Crossway - Lessons on Church Planting from the Prince of Preachers

Bloomberg - Bison Is the New Beef as More Diners Choose It Over Steak

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sin and the Plotline of Redemption

In the book Fallen: A Theology of Sin, there is a theme that appears from the various contributors. Many make the important point that without an orthodox view of sin, Christianity does not exist. In other words, the Christian doctrine of salvation on the Christian doctrine of sin. Consider the following quotes from the various authors in the book edited by Drs. Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson.

DA Carson

In his chapter, "Sin's Contemporary Significance," Dr. Carson writes:
There can be no agreement as to what salvation is unless there is agreement as to that from which salvation rescues us. The problem and the solution hang together: the one explicates the other. It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is; conversely, to augment one's understanding of the cross is to augment one's understanding of sin.

To put the matter another way, sin establishes the plotline of the Bible. . . . In the general sense, then, sin constitutes the problem that god resolves: the conflict carries us from the third chapter of Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation. (22)
He goes on to say later:
In short, if we do not comprehend the massive role that sin plays in the Bible and therefore in biblically faithful Christianity, we shall misread the bible. Positively, a sober and realistic grasp of sin is one of the things necessary to read the Bible in a percipient fashion; it is one of the required criteria for a responsible hermeneutic. (23)

Robert Yarbrough

In his chapter "Sin in the Gospels, Acts, and Hebrews to Revelation," Dr. Yarbrough writes poetically:
What should not be forgotten, however, are the ways in which New Testament depictions of sin "contribute to the different interpretations of the work of Christ." The non-Pauline portions of the New Testament do not dwell on sin as an academic question for ethicists or metaphysicians. Nor do they expound on sin for the sake of fueling some Christian moralism. They rather regard sin as a human plight that God has sworn to address. And they do this by steadily bringing the sin problem into proximity with Jesus. As Guthrie puts it, "If sin is enslavement, Christ brings deliverance. If it is falsehood, Christ presents truth. If disobedience, Christ shows the way of obedience. If deviation from the will of God, Christ sets the perfect example of righteousness." Christ does all of this, and more, by virtue of his death and resurrection, which break forever the tyranny of sin and death. (106)

Christopher Morgan

In his chapter, "Sin in the Biblical Story," Dr. Morgan writes:

For our purposes, notice how Christ's saving work sheds light on the doctrine of sin, especially through "saving events" such as his sinless life, substitutionary death, life-giving resurrection, and triumphant coming. And Christ's saving work sheds light on the doctrine of sin through the biblical pictures, as [Robert] Petersons shows:
The multiplicity of images of salvation corresponds to the multiplicity of the images of sin. The many ways of speaking abotu our plight correspond to the many ways God in his grace comes to our aid. Sin is so odious to God that he depicts it in a variety of ways . . .

Each need, each way of describing sin, corresponds to God's way of overturning sin in Christ's work. So, God overturns sin as alienation with Christ's reconciliation. he overcomes bondage with Christ's redemption. He overturns guilt with Christ's propitiation. he overcomes our mighty enemies with a mightier champion's victory. He overturns Adam's disobedience with the second Adam's obedience. He overcomes our spiritual defilement with Christ's purifying blood. But the key point here is that these are multiple ways of communicating the same truth - Christ's death and resurrection save sinners!*
Similarly, the Bible's portraits of salvation also teach much about sin. Examples include: regeneration addresses our state of spiritual death; justification, our guilt; adoption, our condition as salves and outside God's family; sanctification, our unholy lives as well as the lingering reality of indwelling sin even in believers who continually need mortification, renewal, and repentance (Eph. 4:20-24). (137)

Gerald Bray

In his chapter, "Sin in Historical Theology," Dr. Bray writes:
There is no subject of grater importance to Christian theology than its understanding of the concept of sin and its effects. that may seem like an odd statement to make, but if we think about what the Christian gospel is, we shall quickly see why this is o. The gospel is a message of salvation from sin, achieved for us by Jesus Christ. To do that, he became sin for us, although he was himself sinless, and gave us his Holy Spirit so that we might be able to overcome sin and its effects in our own lives. Had there been no sin to begin with, there would have been no gospel and no Christianity because they would not have been necessary. Paradoxical as it sounds, sin and its consequences are the immediate cause of the coming of Christ in the world and of the work that he has done on our behalf. For that reason, we need to know what sin is in order to understand what that work accomplished. Just as a disease cannot be cured unless it is properly diagnosed, so salvation has no meaning unless we understand what it is that we have been saved from and why salvation is necessary in the first place. Knowing the nature and effects of sin is the essential preliminary to understanding what Christ did to defeat it. If we get that wrong, our appreciation of salvation will be distorted and the gospel will be lost. Understanding sin is not enough in itself to save us, but it can be said with complete certainty that failure to understand it will ensure that we shall never come to the knowledge of Christ and his salvation that God wants us to have. (163)

John Mahony

In the chapter entitled "A Theology of Sin for Today," Dr. Mahony shows how harmartiology is connected with other doctrines of the faith including salvation.
Another way to calculate the importance of a biblical understanding of sin is through the use of a series of theological continua. For example,a high view of humanity . . . and our capacity for good typically maintains a low view of sin's serious effects upon humanity. Alternately, a heightened view of sin . . . will result in a reduced view of human capacity for spiritual good.

The theological understanding of Christ's work is also impacted by one's view of sin. A milder view of sin tends to parallel a nonpunitive view of the atonement. When the cross is viewed as an answer to the wrath of God, a clearly heightened view of sin . . . is the presupposition.

God's grace is another area directly impacted by one's view of sin. The more sinful we appear to ourselves, the more we recognize the strategic nature nature of God's grace. In the matter of soteriology, a positive view of human ability coupled with an optimistic view of the human condition depreciates the need for salvation and opens the door for alternate interpretations of the nature of our deliverance from sin (e.g., liberationists definitions of salvation as deliverance from political, sexual, or racial exploitation). In terms of conversion, repentance and faith are directly related to the nature of sin. Thus, do we have the capacity to repent and believe or are these capacities granted to us at conversion? (190)


I agree with all of the above. Our doctrine of sin informs our doctrine of salvation. Once while leading a bible study through the Word of God, I made the observation that if it had not been for the original sin in the Garden, we would not possess the Bible. After all, prior to the Fall, God walked with man personally. Scripture becomes necessary because of the separation caused by sin. Salvation is very similar to this. As revelation is the result of sin, so is salvation. Redemption was given meaning the minute the first couple sunk their teeth into the mysterious fruit.

So though few find discussing the doctrine of sin stimulating, we cannot have an orthodox soteriology without an orthodox harmartiology.

* Robert A. Peterson, Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ, 556.

For more:
"Fallen: A Theology of Sin": A Review
"Is Hell For Real Or Does Everyone go To Heaven?"
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 9
Does the Calvinistic Doctrine of God's Providence Make God Responsible For Sin?: Grudem's Answer
When the Bad Do Bad: David Brooks & the Secular Question of Depravity
The Transcendence of Greed:  What Economics Can Teach Us About the Gospel
Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
The Utopian Myth: Pandora and the Avatar Blues
"Fall: God Judges" by Mark Discoll
"Its a Human Problem": What the History of Slavery Can Teach About Ourselves
What's the Difference?  Drawing the Line Between Liberals and Conservatives:  Politics
What's the Difference?  Drawing the Line Between Liberals and Conservatives:  Morality
Some Things Never Change: Why Evolution Is Contrary to the Gospel 

All Around the Web - August 21, 2015

LifeNews - Planned Parenthood is Likely Keeping Some Aborted Babies Alive “Until Their Hearts are Cut Out”

Albert Mohler - When ‘Discernment’ Leads to Disaster

Colson Center - Stonestreet Named Colson Center President

The Gospel Coalition - Do All Infants Go to Heaven?

Bloomberg - Revealed: Secret Strategies of World’s Most Lucrative Apps

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Gnostics Were the Conservatives

In his helpful book Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, Alister McGrath deals with a common preception of Gnosticism in popular culture. That image is that the Gnostics in early Christianity were fun loving progressives while the orthodox Christians were the killjoy conservatives.

The opposite, it turns out, is true. He rights:
Nor is the Gospel of Judas even a radical document. The British New Testament scholar NT Wright dismisses the widespread belief that Gnosticism was innovative, providing a surge of creative intellectual energy that threatened to sweep away traditional ideas. If anything, Wright argues, ti is the Gnostics who are better seen as the cultural conservatives, echoing many of he themes of the mystery religions of the age. In contrast, the orthodox Christans "were breaking new ground," and encountering opposition for doing so. Where some suggest that the gnostic gospels represent radical alternatives to the "conservative" canonical gospels, Wright argues that quite the opposite is true. it is the message of the new Testament hat is truly radical. Yet centuries of cultural familiarity with Christianity, together with the relative novelty of a rediscovered gnsoticism, have created a somewhat different cultural perception. religious orthodoxy has become the victim of a familiarity fatigue, which creates a yearning for novelty. (10-11)

All Around the Web - August 20, 2015

Joe Carter - A Quarter of Americans Would Not Vote for an Evangelical Presidential Candidate

Michael Patton - Ten Commandments in Reverse

Doug Wilson - Heir of Isildir 

John Stonestreet -  The God Who Works in History

Mental Floss - The True Purpose of Microsoft Solitaire, Minesweeper, and FreeCell

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: On Liberal Christianity

From Letters to Malcomb:
By not belonging to a press-cutting agency I miss most of the bouquets and brickbats which are aimed at me. So I never saw the article you write about. But I have seen others of that kind, and they'll break no bones of mine. Don't however, misjudge these "liberal Christians." They genuinely believe that writers of my sort are doing a great deal of harm.

They themselves find it impossible to accept most of the articles of the "faith once given to the saints." they are nevertheless extremely anxious that some vestigial religion which they (not we) can describe as "Christianity" should continue to exist and make numerous converts.They think these converts will come in only if this religion is sufficiently "demytholigised". The ship must be lightened if she is to keep afloat.

It follows that, to them, the most mischievous people in the world are those who, like myself, proclaim that Christianity essentially involves the supernatural. They are quite sure that belief int he supernatural never will, nor should, be revived, and that if we convince the world that it must choose between accepting the supernatural and abandon all persistence of Christianity, the world will undoubtedly choose the second alternative. It will thus be we, not the liberals, who have really sold the pass. We should have re-attached to the name Christian a deadly scandal from which, but for us, they might have succeeded in decontaminating it.

If, then, some tone of resentment creeps into their comments on our work, can you blame them? But it would be unpardonable if we allowed ourselves any resentment against them. We do in some measure queer their pitch. But they make no similar contribution to the forces of secularism. it has already a hundred champions who carry far more weight than they. Liberal Christianity can only supply an ineffectual echo to the massive chorus of agreed and admitted unbelief. Don't be deceived by the fact that this echo so often "hits the headlines."  That is because attacks on Christian doctrine which would pass unnoticed if they were launched (as they are daily launched) by anyone else, become News when the attacker is a clergyman; just as a very commonplace protest against make-up would be News if it came from a film star.

By the way, did you ever meet, or hear of, anyone who was converted from scepticism to a “liberal” or “demythologised” Christianity? I think that when unbelievers come in at all, they come in a good deal further.  (118-119)

All Around the Web - August 19, 2015

Chuck Allison - 10 Questions to Ask before Attending Worship this Weekend

Denny Burk - Reaping the whirlwind of sexual idolatry

Thom Rainer - Five Love Languages of Pastors

Thom Rainer - Five Problems with Church Committees

Washington Post - Want ‘sustained happiness’? Get religion, study suggests

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Do You Love Me?": John 21 and the Debate Over Love

This week I have been studying John 21 and in that chapter, a lot of issues are raised. Perhaps the most debated issue regards John 21:15-17 where Jesus ask Peter if he loves him. The debate is over the words that Jesus uses for love (agapao twice and phileo once) and how Peter responds (always using phileo). John's account reads:
Jesus: Do you love (agapao) me?
Peter: Yes Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Do you love (agapao) me?
Peter: Yes Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Do you love (phileo) me?
Peter: Lord, you know all things, you know that I love (phileo) you.
If you notice, the first two times Jesus questions Peter He uses the word agapao. Peter responds with the same affirmation using a different word for love; phileo. Finally, Jesus asks the same question the third time only using a different word for love; phileo which is the same word that Peter had used.

This interchange has caused many to find special significance in this passage. Truth is, to find special significance between Jesus and Peter and the difference words for love preaches very well. Many argue that the significance is that Jesus wanted Peter to affirm a higher form of love for Him (agapao) but Peter refused (phileo). Thus, many sermons are preached saying that Jesus wants us to love Him with agape love, not just love him like a friend or a brother (phileo).

But is this what John has in mind here? Is this what we are to gain from these verses? Better yet, is there any significance of the change of verbs in this text? After a lot of study this week, I have concluded; no. Although it is tempting to find special significance in the use of agapao and phileo in this passage, I do not think that John is telling us anything significant regarding love for Jesus in this text as a result of these two verbs. There are many reasons to affirm this.

First, John frequently uses synonyms through his Gospel. The fact that John uses two different verbs for the same word is not surprising. In his commentary on The Gospel of John, FF Bruce makes this point very clear. In this passage alone, a number of synonyms are used and yet we do not find any special meaning behind them. In verses 15-17, John uses four sets of synonyms
  • agapaw & fileo
  • bosko & poimaino
  • arnia & probatia
  • oida & ginosko
It is interesting how in one passage where John frequently interchanges between synonyms, we primarily focus on the difference between one of them (although some discuss why Jesus changes between "tend my sheep" and "feed my lambs" but by far, most focus on love). In his commentary on John, Burge argues "John has two words each for love, send, heal, ask, speak, do, feed, sheep, and know, and in most cases these variations seem to merely avoid monotony" (588).

John frequently uses these two words interchangeably in his Gospel. First, John argues that the Father loves the Son and he does so by using both agapao (3:35) and phileo (5:20). Secondly, John refers to himself as "the disciple in whom Jesus loved" throughout his Gospel, but he uses both words interchangeably. In 13:23; 19:26; 21:7, 20 John uses agapao, but in 20:2 he uses phileo.

John is not alone in using agapao and phileo interchangeably. In the Septuagint (LXX), the same Hebrew word in the same passage is translated as both agapao and phileo. One such passage is Genesis 37:3 which details Jacob's preferential love for Joseph and in this passage the translators of the LXX use both words interchangeably, just like John.

Furthermore, agapao does not necessarily man a "loftier love" in the New Testament. In 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul describes Demas' love for the word as agapao. Surely, Paul didn't consider such love "lofty" and higher than any other form.

Secondly, the Aramaic would have used the same word. It is likely that Jesus and Peter would have spoken in Aramaic rather than Greek, and thus, in the original language, the two probably would not have used two different words. This is very similar in English. In very few translations do the translators use a different word in this passage between agapao and phileo. In English, both mean love and we use love to describe both.

As a result of this and other evidence, Bruce concludes "it is precarious, then, to press a distinction between the 2 synonyms here" (405). And after much study and struggling with this text, I must concur.

So what does this text mean? What is John trying to say in this passage? To answer such a question, we must look at the entire chapter. John 21 begins by telling of another miracle where the disciples cannot catch any fish until Jesus tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat in which they then catch over a hundred fish. This should recall us back to Luke 5 where Jesus performed a similar miracle where Jesus called Peter and other disciples to become "fishers of men."

Perhaps the same is happening here, but Peter has just denied Christ in a matter of feet of His Lord. Jesus is both forgiving Peter (by asking him 3 times) and calling him to follow Him regardless of the cost. Forsaking all and following Jesus in full obedience cannot happen unless we truly love Him. Therefore, Jesus asks Peter, "do you love Me?" After affirming yes three times, Jesus immediately tells Peter what will happen to him if he does.

Although Peter gets distracted after such a prophecy, the text implies that Peter accepted such a calling and as the rest of the New Testament and Church History affirm, Peter remained faithful to the Lord, obeyed fully (though not always perfectly, see Galatians 2), and continued to follow Him for the rest of His life. And just as Jesus had warned, it meant that he would have to die, just like Jesus. And all of this was accomplished because he loved Jesus more than anything else.

This is why John includes this chapter at the end of his Gospel. He could have concluded with 20:32 where he explains why he wrote his Gospel. But by including this story, the Gospel of John concludes the gospel of Jesus. Chapter 20 involves belief whereas chapter 21 involves repentance and by telling this story, John defines true repentance as true, sacrificial, self-denying love for Jesus Christ regardless of the cost.

So is there special significance between agapao and phileo in this passage? No. But that does not take away from John's purpose of this chapter. We must be careful not to look for significance within a passage whenever the author already has a specific significance that is obvious for all to see. We must always look for what the author wanted us to take away and nothing more and nothing less.

All Around the Web - August 18, 2015

The Federalist - Hey Christians, Say Goodbye To Religious Freedom

The Daily Signal - The Racist Views of Planned Parenthood’s Founder

Carl Truman - We're all sadists now

Justin Taylor - The Bible Project: Free, Animated Biblical Theology

The Federalist - Why Marrying Robots Is A Terrible Idea

Monday, August 17, 2015

"God's Secretaries" by Adam Nicolson: A Review

The following was originally published a nearly a decade ago.

My pastor preaches from the King James Bible. Whenever he had open heart surgery and was spending a lot of time recovering unable to do much I gave him a copy of the book, "God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible." I always thought that the book would be interesting to read, and so, once I found it for real cheap at a used bookstore, I thought I might read it. And I am glad that I did.

I am not a KJV-only kind of person for several reasons. First, its language is difficult for contemporary readers. Secondly, it is based on poor manuscripts (it was the best they had at the time, but since then, we have been able to uncover a more accurate Bible). Therefore, I do not teach or preach from the King James. Usually I will teach and preach from the New King James Version because I know my audience. However, my personal favorite is the New American Standard Bible along with the English Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

But with all of that aside, what the King James Bible has done for the English language and for Western culture in general cannot be overlooked. 200 years prior to the 1611 Bible, it would have been unthinkable that a Bible would have been translated into English with the full authority of a protestant king.

The work of men like Tyndale, Wycliffe, Luther, and others had finally come to fruition. These ground breaker's deaths had not been in vain.

The book as a whole is an excellent read. The author looks at many of the translators, the events leading to the translation, and the events surrounding the translation. I was most surprised by the "terrorist" attack that took place by the hands of some Catholics who tried to kill the King and others in his court.

One thing is obvious about the author, he loves the language of the King James Version. Throughout the book, especially at the end, he gives example after example of the richness of the language and translation of the KJV. He does this best whenever he compares the KJV to other versions available at the time and even translations since. One of the advantages of such a study reveals the benefits of having a committee of translators (like the KJV) rather than just one person doing all of the translation (like the Tyndale Bible and Luther's Translation).

One cannot deny the richness and precision of the translation. The only problem today, with most people, is the that the language is outdated. Though I do not use the KJV myself (for reasons mentioned above), I have great respect and even refer to it in my own ministry. Just because the KJV is hard to understand doesn't mean we should abandon it. What it means for Western Christianity, culture, and literature is profound.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book comes at the end where the author looks into some of the printing mistakes of the KJV. One such mistake is a known as the "'Wicked Bible." The Wicked Bible had one one inherent flaw: it was missing a word in the seventh commandment. Instead of saying, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." It said, "Thou shalt commit adultery." Therefore, the Bible was replaced with a more accurate copy.

Overall, if anyone is interested in the history of King James, his translation and the events surrounding it, I highly recommend this book. It is a good read, with excellent research, and is a story that keeps your attention. I have walked away with a better understanding of its legacy and a greater appreciation of it.

The one thing the author emphasized throughout the book was the purpose of King James making this translation: unity. And though it took some time, unity was reached (though at times strained). How important it is to note that what should bring us together is the Word of God above everything else. Perhaps this is the greatest of legacies of the KJV: unity among the brethren.

All Around the Web - August 17, 2015

CBS Denver - Court: Baker Who Refused Gay Wedding Cake Can’t Cite Beliefs

The Atlantic - The Coddling of the American Mind

Trevin Wax - I Want a Bigger Bible

The Gospel Coalition - Why Gay Marriage Proponents Can’t Appeal to the Abolitionist Movement

Paul Chitwood - Kentucky already seeing impact of Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Top 10 Free iPhone Apps For the Pastor

I am not necessarily an Apple guy.  I am typing this on my Windows PC and have always been more of a Microsoft fan, but I don't think there is any question that the Apple iPhone is an incredible invention and an amazing tool for pastors.  The concept of apps is great and as a pastor my iPhone has become an invaluable tool.  With this one phone, I can get twice as much done anywhere I am from the moment I get up to the minute I lay down.

Below is a list of my 10 must have free apps I use in ministry.  Aware that most pastors, like myself, are not wealthy, I am listening the following to apps that are available for free.Nonetheless, I hope this list is helpful especially for ministers of the gospel.  I hope it helps gain some insight into how we can utilize technology to further the Kingdom and to fulfill our calling.  Technology is not necessary in proclaiming the gospel, but they are tools that allow us to do more in less time.  As a pastor, I can't imagine doing as much as I do without some of these tools.

1.  ESV Bible, , Bible Gateway, You Bible

Every minister needs a Bible.  Although it remains best for ministers to carry a physical Bible with them to hospitals and such, it seems obvious that downloading a helpful Bible app is a must.  There are a number of good Bible apps available in the app store, but these three are the best. The ESV Bible app is easy to use and available offline. If you use the ESV a lot, this might be your best bet. However, the Bible Gateway app and the YouVersion Bible allow you to search myriads of translations.

2.  Dropbox

I have come to rely heavily on this simple app. With it I can connect various documents between our laptops, tablets, and phones. If I need to open something on another computer or on my phone/tablet, I no longer have to email myself.  Dropbox allows you to save pictures, .pdf documents, and word documents into folders that you can carry with you.  So if I need to go over my sermon, I can save it on my Dropbox and read it anywhere I want to.  This has been one of the most practical apps I use regularly. Furthermore, an increasing number of apps use Dropbox. That is to say that if you have a Dropbox account, other apps are easier to use.

3. Evernote

This is the best note taking app I've come across. There is a paid version that has a lot of nice features, but if you just want to take notes, etc. this is a great app. It is great for class, taking notes in meetings, or sermon prep. I know a number of pastors who use this app to prepare and deliver sermons.

4. Voice Record 

The best mp3 recording app I have come across is this one. Though you record in mp4, you can easily convert your recordings to mp3. I use this app to record my sermons and the quality is great and one does not need the internet to record. You can also upload each recording onto Dropbox.

5.  Twitter and Facebook

Social media is a must anymore.  I am on both Twitter and Facebook.  Both of these apps should be among the first you download.

6.  Kindle, Google Books, iBooks

I read a lot as do most pastors and one of the greatest inventions lately is the e-reader.  What makes these apps so great is that they are free on the iPhone and many books can be accessed, downloaded, and read for free.  In addition to these three I would recommend CBDReader, and Nook among others.  Each have their own advantage and I would encourage you to try each of them and figure out which one you prefer.  I enjoy Kindle the most because I think it reads the best, is from Amazon which I use a lot, and there are a lot of free books available. I like Google Books because it makes a lot of hard to find books available for free. I have found old theology books absolutely free.  The problem with Google Books is that it is slow, oftentimes frustrating and their digital copies aren't the same as what Kindle and Nook offer.

7. Sermons (Biblical Training, Covenant Theological Seminary, Grace To You, Desiring God, Ligonier, Mars Hill, Reformed Theological Seminary)

Part of my sermon prep includes listening to how other ministers I greatly respect treated the text. The iPhone provides me with a number of great resources from specific pastors, ministries, and seminaries. I can listen to lectures and sermons quickly and easily.

8.  Amazon and Ebay

Though I do and am growing to love digital books, nothing beats physical copy of a book. These two online stores are great for finding cheap books. I use Amazon the most, but if I can't find something cheap enough I'll give Ebay a try. I have ordered books for myself and the church as well as download Kindle books right from my phone.

9.  White and Yellow Pages

Do you need to call someone, find an address, locate a business, and get a map to them or it?  You can do it all with this app.  I have a lot of numbers saved in my phone, but not every number I will ever need.  This app combines both the White Pages and the Yellow Pages and you can easily switched between searching for individuals and for businesses.  You can save the number into your phone once you find what your looking for, get addresses instantly, and find where something is on a map.  An invaluable tool. 

10. Miscellaneus

Here are a few more I would recommend but won't say much about them:

Originally published August 22, 2011.

For more:
Must-Have Free iPad Apps For Pastors
Hump Day Humor: iPhone 5
Hump Day Humor: Did you hear a Click?
iFaith: The Hidden, Spiritual Side of Steve Jobs 

All Around the Web - August 13, 2015

Christian Audio - "Compelling Interest" | Free audio download.

Joe Carter - How Abortion Kills the Future

Justin Holcomb - 9 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse

Grace and Truth - 12 Things That Every First Time Dad Should Know

Telegraph - Delaying motherhood by freezing eggs could harm birth chances

Thursday, August 13, 2015

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1

We have established the cultural and historic importance of the ancient English tale of Beowulf. Now we must explore the story itself. The story is clearly divided into three general sections centered around the three battles the hero faces: (1) Grendel, (2) Grendel's mother, (3) and the dragon.

The Battle Against Grendel

The narrative opens with rejoicing in the Heorot - the mead hall of the Danish King Hrothgar. Out in the distance lies Grendel, a monster descended of Cain (the first murderer) who hates the sound of rejoicing. He enters the mead hall at night while everyone is asleep and begins to slaughter the innocent Danes. In all, Grendel murders thirty people before returning to his lair. King Hrothgar is protected and left unharmed.

Grendel, then, turns the mead hall of celebration into a funeral home of mourning.

Word spreads of Grendel's treachery and the ongoing threat he represents. A Geatish warrior by the name of Beowulf decides to sail to Hrothgar and offer his services to kill the trollish monster. Beowulf is welcomed with open arms after Hrothgar discovers that Beowulf's deceased father owed him a favor. Beowulf, he reasons, is the fulfillment of that promise.

With all bravado Beowulf assures victory against the monster. One man, perhaps a close counselor with the king, named Unferth challenges Beowulf reminding the Geat that he had once lost to Breca in a race across the oceans. Beowulf responds by explaining he lost due to his fight against various sea monsters. He then challenges Unferth himself. Unferth was a drunk who had murdered his own brother. Who was he to challenge the great Beowulf?

With that, the Danes leave the mead hall and await the Beowulf/Grendel battle. Late at night, Grendel enters the assembly hall and immediately kills one of Beowulf's soldiers. The hero, using no sword for Grendel could not be beaten by such human weapons, fights him barehanded. Grendel might have killed thirty Danes, but Beowulf, Grendel discovers, has the strength of thirty men in his grip.

The battle ends with Beowulf ripping Grendel's arm off. The monster flees the mead hall where he slowly dies. Beowulf declares victory and the arm of the demon is hung from the mead hall ceiling as a trophy as Beowulf and his men are rewarded by Hrothgar.

But soon, their rejoicing will turn again to mourning again.  

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - August 14, 2015

Justin Taylor - The 6th Planned Parenthood Video

Ross Douthat - Pro-Choice Questions, Pro-Life Answers

Justin Taylor - Do You Have a Few Minutes to Listen to Matt Chandler on Abortion?

The Gospel Coalition - Forgiveness Is a Marathon

Weekly Standard - Ohio Judges Can't Choose Not to Marry Couples

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

All Around the Web - August 12, 2015

Trevin Wax - Sex is More AND Less Important Than You Think

The Gospel Coalition - Themelios 40.2

Denny Burk - Try not to think about the baby

Thom Rainer - Seven Steps Churches Are Taking to Replace the Stand-and-Greet Time

Yahoo! - Spirituality may be tied to easier cancer course

2016 Presidential Debates - GOP Primaries 1

Here are both debates featuring all 17 Republican candidates beginning with the "second-tier" debate.

From Lewis's Pen: Forgiveness

From Letters to Malcomb:
I really must digress to tell you a bit of good news. Last week, while at prayer, I suddenly discovered - or felt as if I did - that I had really forgiven someone I have been trying to forgive for over thirty years. Trying, and praying that I might. When the thing actually happened--sudden as the longed-for cessation of one's neighbour's radio--my feeling was "But it's so easy. Why didn't you do it ages ago?" So many things are done easily the moment you can do them at all. But till then, sheerly impossible, like learning to swim. There are months during which no efforts will keep you up; then comes the day and hour and minute after which, and ever after, it becomes almost impossible to sink. It also seemed to me that forgiving (that man's cruelty) and being forgiven (my resentment) were the very same thing. "Forgive and you shall be forgiven" sounds like a bargain. But perhaps it is something much more. By heavenly standards, that is, for pure intelligence, it is perhaps a tautology - forgiving and being forgiven are two names for the same thing. The important thing is that a discord has been resolved, and it is certainly the great Resolver who has done it. Finally, and perhaps best of all, I believed anew what is taught us in the parable of the Unjust Judge. No evil habit is so ingrained nor so long prayed against (as it seemed) in vain, that it cannot, even in dry old age, be whisked away. (106-107)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the OT

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introducing a New Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introduction
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the OT

After exploring where we stand today  today on the subject of Christ's deity, the editors of the book The Deity of Christ draw our attention to Dr. Raymond Ortlund's chapter on "The Deity of Christ and the Old Testament." Admittedly, the chapter was very different than I expected.

First, the chapter. Ortlund organizes messianic texts in the Old Testament that deal with the deity of Jesus into three categories:
  1. Old Testament passages inaccurately construed to reveal the deity of the Christ
  2. Old Testament passages accurately construed to reveal his deity
  3. Old Testament passages not clear enough for the reader to be certain one way or the other.
Obviously, a full treatment of the deity of Christ from the OT cannot be given in a single chapter. Therefore, in each category the writer highlights a few of the key passages most often referenced. In the first category, Ortlund highlights Psalm 2 (with emphasis on verse 7) and Proverbs 8 (with emphasis on verse 22). As the headline suggests, Ortlund believes these passages have something to say about Jesus, but do not articulate the deity of Jesus. Regarding Psalm 2, he writes:
Psalm 2 says much about the Christ - his unique role in God's plan for history, his inevitable judgment of the nations, all fulfilled in Jesus as the final son of David. But Psalm 2 does not reveal his deity. (42)
In the second category, the writer highlights Psalm 45 (with emphasis on verses 6-7), Psalm 110 (with emphasis on verses 1 and 4), Isaiah 9 (with emphasis on verses 6-7), and Daniel 7. These passages, Ortlund argues, reveals the full deity of Jesus. The exegetical highlight I enjoyed most regarded his discussion of Psalm 110. He writes:
The Messiah certainly is the son of David, as other passages affirm. But the messiah is grater than David, by David's own admission. . . . Psalm 110 demands a divine Christ, which made Jesus' argument unanswerable and the great throng's response delighted. (48-49)
In the final category, Ortlund exegetes Isaiah 7 (with emphasis on verse 14) and Micah 5 (with emphasis on verse 2). Those familiar with the issue will not be surprised with Ortlund's discussion here. Both Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2, though typologically cited by Matthew, have historically been difficult passages to understand. Ortlund's conclusion is fair enough (though I believe they are Messianic).

With that said, I must confess that I was expecting a very different chapter. Though I like how the chapter is organized, the chapter is lacking much. In a book that seeks to established a theological defense of the deity of Christ, Ortlund leaves the reader with a weak foundation that Jesus' deity is defensible from the Old Testament. He only highlights four passages (four key passages it should be said) that clearly articulate the deity of Christ.

Yet the Old Testament has more to say in this regard. One of the clearest examples regards the numerous "angel of the LORD" passages. Most notable is Genesis 16; Judges 6; 13; and Zechariah 3 where the angel of the LORD is worshiped, described as divine, or sitting in the heavens on God's throne. Clearly the angel of the LORD is divine. If he is not the preincarnate Son, who is the angel of the LORD? It is striking that this mysterious character who appears throughout the OT never appears in the NT. Or consider some of the following passages: Isaiah 48:16; Zechariah 3; and others.

Ultimately, I thought Ortlund offers a helpful chapter when it comes to understanding the challenge of uncovering the deity of Jesus in the Old Testament, he fails to fully articulate the deity of Christ in the Old Testament. Certainly the deity of Jesus is veiled there, but it still has much to say on the subject. Where the Trinity is hinted at, we should take note for Jesus is there and he is divine.

For more:
"The Man Christ Jesus" by Bruce Ware: A Review
Could Jesus Have Sinned?
How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?: Paul Enns Weighs In
How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?
David's Lord: Jesus on the Hyopstatic Union
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
The God Who Became Man: Millard Erickson on the Implications of the Humanity of Christ 
Martin Luther on how John 1:1 Contradicts Modalism & Arianism
"For Us and Our Salvation" by Stephen Nichols: A Review
And yet this Jesus of Nazareth . . .
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 10