For Your Edification (5.25.12)

For Your Edification is a bi-weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.

BIBLE & THEOLOGY

Training Parrots or Making Disciples?  In his pastoral epistles to Timothy, Paul says that his son in the faith should rightly divide the word of truth (1 Tim 2:15).  Later, Timothy is exhorted to pass on all that he learned from Paul to the next generation of teachers and Christian leaders (2 Tim 2:2).  To say it another way, in order for maturing disciples to pass on the faith to future generations, they must learn how to handle God’s Word and not just parrot answers from other talking heads.

To this end, author, pastor, and professor, Jim Hamilton, has given a concise definition of three keys terms that relate to rightly handling the Word of God..  These terms—exegesis, biblical theology, and systematic theology—are a good place to begin understanding how biblical interpretation relates to theological understanding.

Here are Hamilton’s one sentence definitions to each.

Exegesis is the careful analysis of the meaning of a particular passage.

Biblical theology is canonical exegesis. That is, biblical theology seeks to correlate the meaning of relevant texts from across the pages of Scripture.

Systematic theology then seeks to bring everything together for a full statement of what the whole Bible teaches on particular topics.

If these terms are unfamiliar to you, or, alternately, if you have read numerous books on the subject, Hamilton’s short piece is helpful for defining and relating exegesis, biblical theology, and systematic theology.  Check out the whole thing to see why biblical interpretation is so important for Bible reading and teaching.

The Rose.  Southern Baptist Pastor, Matt Chandler, exposes the hypocrisy of many Christian preachers when he recalls an incident where a preacher uses fear as the primary weapon against sin.  By contrast, he states (screams!) that “Jesus wants the dirty rose!” because he has died to make us righteous.

You can find the whole sermon, ‘A Shepherd and His Unregenerate Sheep,’ at Desiring God, and his new book The Explicit Gospel is a helpful articulation of the gospel that is too often assumed.

FAMIILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

Summer Family Activity Book.  Summer is a great time for rest, relaxation, and recalibration.  But, it is also a time for families to take extra time together and to use the summer as a time to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But where should a family begin?

Enter the Village Church, who has come up with an excellent children’s activity book for your summer.  This book is filled with ideas for instructing children in the gospel and having lots of fun at the same time.  Here is the outline of the chapters:

SET A RHYTHM: Activities to help your family set a rhythm [of Bible intake] as you spend time this summer

AT HOME: Activities to help you be intentional with time you spend at home

OUT AND ABOUT: Outings and adventures you can take as a family

ON THE WAY: Things to do as your family travels

You can find the whole PDF here: Summer Family Activity Book.

Childhood Conversion. While we are on the subject of children, you should be aware of helpful article by Jim Elliff on the subject of children’s conversion.  Elliff, a pastor of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City, examines the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of children and how conviction of sin, biblical revelation, and spiritual regeneration are necessary for true conversions.

Elliff points to the ways that many churches, pastors, and child evangelists have misled children and their parents by giving false assurance for salvation based on a prayer, a service, or some other outward act instead of the powerful inner-working of the Holy Spirit.  For ministers and church members, Elliff’s article is worth reading to have a better understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and how to share the gospel with children.


Soli Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (5.17.12)

For Your Edification is a bi-weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.  

BIBLE

Is the Bible Really Living and Active?  Imagine a conversation at the end of Sunday service:

Pastor:  Fred, did you spend time in the word this week?

Fred: Oh, yes.  I spent hours in the word this week.  It was refreshing.  God says that he gives rest to those who ask, and when I was in the word this week, I felt the comfort of resting in the word.

Wilma, Fred’s wife (driving home later): Honey, I didn’t know that you spent so much time in the Word this week.  With your busy schedule, how did you do that?

Husband: Well, what I failed to mention was the fact that I named my Lazy Boy “the word,” so that whether I am watching TV, reading the paper, or reading my Bible, I can “be in the word.”

Wilma: Huh . . . that’s a good idea.  Maybe, I’ll try that.

Of course, no one would really say that.  Right?  But the point is made: The time we spend in the word is as effective as the way we spend it.  Jen Wilkin, mother of four, writes about why so many Christians get so little out of the word.  She nails down the fact that those who read the Bible, need to use effective means of Bible study, or they will just reinforce unbiblical ideas, and remain unchanged.  This is how she begins,

Why, with so many study options available, do many professing Christians remain unschooled and unchanged? Scripture teaches clearly that the living and active Word matures ustransforms usaccomplishes what it intends, increases our wisdom, and bears the fruit of right actions. There is no deficit in the ministry of the Word. If our exposure to it fails to result in transformation, particularly over the course of years, there are surely only two possible reasons why: either our Bible studies lack true converts, or our converts lack true Bible study.

Jen goes on to explain a number of common ways Christians “lack true Bible study.” Read the rest of her helpful article: Why Bible Study Doesn’t Transform Us?

Summer Bible Reading Plan.  Here is a 100 day Bible reading plan that would be great to use this summer if you do not currently have a reading schedule, or you have fallen off the wagon since January.  It is called E100, which stands for Essential 100 Scripture passages, and it designed to help Bible readers get through the whole of the Bible in a manageable amount of time.  It is published by Scripture Union and is designed to help young Bible readers or discouraged Bible readers make their way through the most important parts of the Bible.  The E100 website has more details; here is an easy access print-out.

THEOLOGY

Lessons in Ecclesiology.  Jonathan Leeman answers a couple important questions about the doctrine of the church.  First, he defines what the characteristics of a local church are.  Most importantly, in his article, What Is the Local Church?, he defines the difference between a ‘group of Christians’ and a ‘church’ (Hint: They are not the same thing!)  Then, he follows up by considering church membership.  In his article, What Is Church Membership?, he points out that a church is more than just a ‘voluntary organization.’ For those who want their church reflect the priorities of Christ, these are important questions, and Leeman gives biblical answers.

Additionally, Leeman is finishing his doctoral research on ecclesiology (i. e. the doctrine of the church) and has written a number of helpful resources on the subject, most recently: Church Membership and Church Discipline.  His larger work, The Church and the Surprising Offense of the Love of God: Reintroducing Church Membership and Discipline, goes even deeper into the biblical case for reclaiming a knowledge and practice of church health.

Carl Trueman on John Owen. John Owen has been described as the “Redwood of the Puritans” by J. I. Packer, and indeed his exegetical theology stands tall centuries after he has passed into glory.  Trueman, a church historian and gifted writer, introduces Owen in this ten minute biographical sketch that is worth watching to know better this great pastor-theologian.  For more on Owen, see John Piper’s biographical sermon: The Chief Design of My Life: Mortification and Universal Holiness.

FAMILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

What Should We Say About Gay Marriage?  A few weeks before President Obama made his public declaration to endorse Gay Marriage, Southern Baptist Pastor, Mark Dever, sat down with seminary president, Albert Mohler, to discuss the subject of marriage according to the Bible and in our culture.  This discussion recorded at Together For the Gospel, will give you a good handle on a number of the key points in the gay marriage debate, and how Christians can defend God’s design in marriage–one man, one woman, united by law, until death.

Don’t Be a Passive Reader.  N. D. Wilson, author of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl and a handful of other well-regarded fiction books, gives his critical review of The Hunger Games.  His review is spot-on and shows that Christians who enjoy the book/movie are in need of reading the book with much greater sensitivity to the world in which we live.  His review reminds us that when we read, watch, or listen to any sort of entertainment, we are imbibing a worldview (that is probably not inspired by the Holy Spirit) and thus we need to read pro-actively.  Beware of being a passive reader.  It may be more dangerous than the hunger games themselves.


May God use these resources to grow you in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (5.14.12)

For Your Edification is a bi-weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.  

BIBLE

On the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament. Professor of New Testament Studies and Biblical Studies at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ardel Caneday, has started an excellent discussion of how the New Testament uses the Old Testament.  Part 1 can be found at the Credo blog, and future installments should follow.

For an excellent resource on this see Beale and Carson’s book-by-book commentary, Commentary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

THEOLOGY

Eschatology in song. What do world-renowned New Testament scholar, a sixties rocker, and a Taylor Guitar have in common? Watch and find out.

When the Man Comes Around. Here is another sixties rocker singing about eschatology.  How many biblical allusions can you count?

Even Moore Cash. Russell Moore has greatly influenced my understanding of eschatology, the already/not yet, and Christ-centered hermeneutics.  But he was also the person who introduced me to Johnny Cash in the frequent references to the “man in black” in his Sunday School and seminary classes.  Dr. Moore is a connoisseur of all things Cash and has offered many insightful reflections on his music on his weekly program called “The Cross and the Jukebox.”  Take a listen.

“The Engineer’s Dying Child” by Johnny Cash

“Drive On” by Johnny Cash

“A Boy Named Sue,” by Johnny Cash

The Cross and the Jukebox: Ring of Fire

“Man in Black” and “Hurt,” by Johnny Cash

As professor of theology and Dean of the Theology School at Southern Seminary, Dr. Moore has written a very helpful book on eschatology and its development since World War II.  See his The Kingdom of Christ.  You can also find full reading list from his doctrinal seminary on Eschatology that may help you do some reading on the subject.

Already and Not Yet.  Perhaps you have already seen this poster but have not yet purchased it. I could have provided a really helpful quote from George E. Ladd on eschatology, but instead I chose this.

FAMILY, MINISTRY, & LIFE

25 Ways to Provoke our children to angerPaul Tautges, pastor of  Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and author of  Teach Them to Pray,  Counsel Your Flock, and a handful of other counseling books has a listed twenty-five ways parents can provoke our children to anger.  This list is a good reminder that there are countless ways for us, as parents, to go wrong, and how much we need to daily submit ourselves to the examination of God’s word, repent of our failures, believe the gospel again, and press on in our calling to disciple our children.

The Story of Evolution. Here is a humorous explanation of the scientific theory of evolution and why it fails to be compelling.  Many have adopted this secular myth, that the world came into being through the combination of chance and time, but in the end it has no compelling narrative, no aesthetic beauty, nor any grounding for morality.  For a helpful resource on the debates between creation and evolution, see World Magazine’s book of the year for 2011: Should Christians Embrace Evolution?: Biblical and Scientific Responses.  You can read the whole chapter on “Adam and Eve” by Michael Reeves online.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (5.11.12)

BIBLE

Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens.  Here is how Michael Williams explains  the main emphasis of his new book, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens.   This is one of the books that I am commending for our church to read this summer in our “Summer Biblical Triathlon.”  It looks to be a great resource and help for seeing how all the pieces in the puzzle reveal the face of Jesus Christ.  Take a listen.

THEOLOGY

Ian and Larissa.  Will your view of God sustain you in the face of cancer, heart attack, or brain damage?  The story of Ian and Larissa testifies to the power of a vision of God that sees him as good and glorious in all circumstances.  The book that they reference is called This Momentary Marriageand it is grounded on the singular premise that “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him” (John Piper), a truth that is wonderfully put on display in John Piper’s book Desiring God.  Ian and Larissa’s story is unique because of what God has given to them–yes, given to them (Phil 1:29)–but it is not unique in the sense that every child of God will be given opportunities to suffer and bring glory to God in the process (cf 2 Cor 1).  The video is worth watching a couple times and will need a box of tissues.

FAMILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

May 9, 2012: A Dark Day for Marriage. Albert Mohler provides a very helpful podcast analysis of President Obama’s renewed commitment to supporting “gay marriage” in law and in our land.  Mohler is one of many voices who have reacted to our president’s recent announcement.  Below I have included Mohler’s written response, as well as, a number of other faithful responses.

Evolution’s End? President Obama Calls for Same-Sex Marriage by Albert Mohler

Five Reasons Christians Should Continue to Oppose Gay Marriage by Kevin DeYoung

How to Win the Public on Homosexuality by Collin Hanson

Marriage and the Presidency  by Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George, and Sherif Girgis

The Blasphemy of Barack Obama by Joe Carter

President Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Future of Evangelical Response by Ed Stetzer


May these resources serve to edify you this weekend and spur you on towards love and good deeds in Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Don’t Waste Your Summer: Read the Bible

What is your church doing to redeem the time this summer?  

Here is something we started last night called “The Summer Biblical Triathlon.”  Here is the invitation and explanation I gave to our church, Calvary Baptist Church (Seymour, Indiana)

Don’t Waste Your Summer: How Will You Build Up Your Most Holy Faith?

In the short but powerful epistle of Jude, Jesus’ half-brother commands: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”  In his context and ours, this instruction is vital for Christians who are on their heavenly journey.  Only those who continue in faith, hope, and love will enter the gates of heaven (Matt 24:13; Col 1:23).  Those who start well, but leave their first love are in jeopardy of proving themselves wolves in sheep’s clothing, flowers planted in rocky soil.

To spur us on, Jude commands “those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” to “keep themselves” in the love of God.  And he gives three ways that Christians are to do this: (1) by waiting for the mercy of God to come in Christ (v. 21b), (2) by praying in the Holy Spirit (v. 20b), and (3) by building yourselves up in your most holy faith (v. 21a).  It is this last that we consider today.

One of the primary ways that your love for God will continue is to walk in faith, faith that is not self-generated, but faith that comes from the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:23) as a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9; Phil 1:29).  But this faith does not come like a digital download from the Internet.  It is an exercise of your Spirit-enlivened soul, such that Jude can tell us that we need to build ourselves up in our most holy faith.  So, how do we do that?

The theological answer is that we need to hear the word of God in Christ, for our faith comes by hearing his Word (Rom 10:17), but the practical answer is that every week we are summoned to come and hear the word of God—read, sung, prayed, taught, and preached.  In fact, faith is built not by weekly activity, but daily meditation (Col 3:16).  Still, it is from the weekly instruction that most of us have learned how to read and rightly interpret the Bible.  With that in mind, I am calling our church to go deeper in the Word of God.

The Spiritual Discipline of Learning

For the last ten weeks, as we have read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, we have been considering how to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.  We began by considering the central place of “Bible Intake.”  In the weeks that followed, we considered prayer, fasting, evangelism, and worship—to name a few.  And finally, our last lesson has called us to a lifestyle of learning.

The danger of learning the spiritual disciplines is knowing about them and not practicing them.  Christian self-deceit always lurks with learning (James 1:22).  The solution is not to stop learning, but to put learning to practice, and this summer I am calling our church to do just that.

With the Olympic spirit that will wash over us by August, I am challenging you to participate in a ‘Summer Biblical Triathlon.’  As with an athletic triathlon, the goal is to train and push yourself in three endurance activities.  In our case, we will fight the temptation towards lethargy this summer, and strive to build up our most holy faith.

Together, I am calling us to grow in our understanding and adoration of God’s plan of salvation.  Here are the three components.

  1. Beginning (or continuing) a Bible Reading Plan.  For those just beginning (or starting over), our reading plan will be the The Essential One Hundred Reading PlanThis reading plan selects 100 Scriptures to move you from Genesis to Revelation in 100 days or 20 weeks (5 days per week).
  2. Attending one of two Wednesday Night classes.  These five-week classes offered in May/June and July/August will explain how the parts of the Bible fit with the whole.  It will give you a guide for seeing God’s drama in biblical history and current events.  If you have ever gotten lost in the Old Testament or wondered what God’s plan for the future is, then this class is for you.
  3. Reading a book (or three) about the Bible.  In the foyer are a selection of seven triathlon books, call them “Pastor’s Picks,” to help you better read the Bible.  For example, Tim Chester’s From Creation to New Creation is a helpful overview of God’s plan of salvation, while Michael Williams’s How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens gives 4-5 pages on every book of the Bible and how they relate to Jesus.

At the end of the summer, we will have a ceremony for those who complete the triathlon and those who read three books will receive a gift book.

As summer dawns, instead of just focusing on the vacation, the yard work, or the summer job, let’s build ourselves up in our most holy faith.  Before we know it, summer breezes will be replaced by falling leaves.  The seasons prove true Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flowers fade,” so let us resolve to live in the light of the rest of that verse: “but the word of God will remain forever.”

You will never regret spending more time in God’s word.  The investment is eternal.  And this summer we can protect ourselves from wasting our summers by running together and beholding the beauty of God in the pages of his Scripture.  I hope you join us!

For His Glory and your joy, Pastor David

Getting to Know Friedrich Schleiermacher (5): Conclusion

Last week, I took up most of the week to lay out the life and theology of “the father of liberalism,” Friedrich Schleiermacher.  Today, I will briefly evaluate his legacy and suggest how Bible-believing Christians can learn from this heterodox theologian.

Concluding Reflections

In the end, Schleiermacher’s work has had long ranging effect.  He has been labeled the father of liberalism and rightly so.  While much of his doctrinal content has been overturned, his experiential, community-oriented methodology carried the day in the nineteenth century and beyond.  In his work, one can find theological seeds for future schools of thought. His views on Christianity and world religions anticipates Wilhelm Bousset and Adolph Von Harnack’s conception of the history of religions.  The authority that he gives to experience and the local community mesh with postmodern theology.  Likewise, his emotive experientialism have many evangelical followers today.  As Mark Coppenger put it a few years ago: “Donald Miller [author of Blue Like Jazz] is Schleiermacher with a soul patch.”

In general, there is great need for evangelicals to know of Schleiermacher today because so many are unconsciously imbibing his brand of liberal theology.  Just this week, I watched a children’s video that sang about Jesus resurrection—something Schleiermacher denied—and its chorus was a testimony that the reason why we believe in the resurrection: I feel him in my bones, I feel him in the air, I feel . . . I feel . . . I feel . . .”

CCM: Guitar-Led God-Consciousness

Without knowing it, evangelicals who love the fundamental doctrines are eroding the foundation on which they stand, when they appeal to feelings instead of God’s word.  Popular hymns, written by men who would repudiate his doctrinal views, are yet sung in Baptist churches all over the country. At Easter many Bible-believing churches will sing songs like “He lives” which finishes the chorus with this question and answer: “You ask me how I know he lives?  He lives within my heart.”

Moving beyond mere anecdotal evidence, Keith Johnson reports the research of Robin Parry.  He observes,

In a study of trinitarian content of twenty-eight worship albums produced by Vineyard Music from 1999 to 2004, Robin Parry discovered only 1.4 percent of the songs explicitly named Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together, 8.8 percent addressed two of the divine persons, 38.7 percent addressed only one person, and 51 percent could be described as “you Lord” songs. . . . This reality stands in stark contrast to someone like Charles Wesley, who wrote hundreds of hymns that are explicitly shaped by (and expressing) a trinitarian grammar. (Keith Johnson, Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism212).

Sadly, Friedrich Schleiermacher could sing right along.  Contemporary Christians have imbibed the spirit of Schleiermacher, and perhaps the only way to fight against his feelings-based religion is to become more aware of his brand of theology, so that we might preach, pray, and sing about the objective work of the Triune God, recorded in Scripture, than to merely seek greater religious experiences.  As Johnson rightly concludes, “Not every song needs explicitly to name the three persons . . . but a proper ‘trinitarian syntax’ should shape the composition of worship songs” (212).

Friedrich Schleiermacher: A Needed Foil for Our Generation

In the end, Schleiermacher is a good reminder that we are always one generation away from liberalism, and hence we need to continue to contend for the faith—not the feeling—once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Evangelicals by definition–at least David Bebbington’s definition–are a people whose theological convictions would not accept Schleiermacher’s explicit denegration of the Trinity, the Bible, and the person and work of Jesus (to only name a few).  However, as the evangelical left continues to espouse new theological aberrations, it is proof that liberalism methodology (based on religious experience) will in time produce liberal content.

Thus, evangelicals need to ask themselves if and where they might practice some of the same feelings-based religioun that are systematically articulated in Schleiermacher’s The Christian Faith.  The goal is not to study in detail the works of someone whose convictions contradict orthodoxy; the goal is to ask how our own views about God, the world, sin, and redemption may mirror Schleiermacher, and then to ask for wisdom from God, what the genesis of that doctrine is?

For most, Friedrich Schleiermacher’s works are not the direct cause of such subjective thinking, but neither is Declaration of Independence the direct reason why Americans are willing to fight for personal liberty.  Rather, in both instances, it is not the reading of old works that impact most people, it is the breathing of the air that others who have read the works have expired.  Culture is created not only by the thinkers, but by their popularizers, and today it is popular and trendy to hold to a non-descript God-consciousness.  In the name of ecumenism, pluralism, and spiritual uncertainty, clear articulations of the gospel are papered over by broader, blander forms of religion.

In Schleiermacher’s The Christian Faith, we have such a display of what hyper-subjective Christianity is and becomes.  Hopefully, as people are introduced to his thought, they will be more aware of their own liberal(izing) tendencies, and be willing to turn from it to the explicit gospel of Jesus Christ.  Only when we do that will we have the promise that the next generation might hear the gospel in all its beauty and truth, instead of passing onto them a shell in which they fill in the terms with their own experience.

I would never commend Schleiermacher on its own, but as a means to seeing the liberal trends and tendencies resident in evangelicalism, it is a helpful foil.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (5.7.12)

For Your Edification is a weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.  

BIBLE

Scripture & Worldview.  Perhaps, you are aware that Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew have written a handful of helpful books on biblical theology, worldview, and missions.  But did you know that they have also put up a powerpoint presentation on line for your use in teaching through their material?  You can find Powerpoint for The Drama of Scripture and Living at the Crossroads.

Wednesday, I am starting one of two classes this summer, to help our church read the stories of Scripture in light of the Big Story, and I have adapted my notes from these slides.  Check them out and then pick up one of Goheen and Bartholomew’s books: The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story and Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Worldviews.

THEOLOGY

McDonald’s, Jonathan Edwards, and Holy Affections. LifeWay VP and co-author of Simple ChurchEric Geiger, provides a colorful explanation of true conversion.  If you want to understand what happens in the new birth, you should read this–unless you just ate McDonald’s.  Better yet, read Jonathan Edwards book Religious Affections, which Geiger references.  Edwards work  is, perhaps, the definitive work on helping to understand the acquisition and exercise of “tastebuds” for God.

Philosophy RapDr. Jim Orrick, a professor of literature and culture at Boyce College (and also a tenacious basketball player), provides a very humorous and educational “rap” on the nature of world views (Weltenschaungs).  The video quality is poor but the lyrics are outstanding.  Check it out:

FAMILY, LIFE & MINISTRY

Muscular Christianity.  Professor, theologian, and prolific author, Michael Horton, has written an insightful piece calling into question the “over-reaction” or some younger Reformed types and their obsession with Christian sports figures and the bravado necessary to be a masculine Christian.  The historical aspect of the piece is most helpful as it situates the current Tebowmania and Linsanity in the larger context of Muscular Christianity.

On this subject, here is a piece I wrote as a college senior entitled: “Muscular Christianity.”   It may be a little rough, but it helpfully traces the history of the engagement, disengagement, and re-engagement of Christianity and sports.

An Agenda for Recovering Christianity in America. Tim Keller reflects on Ross Douthat’s new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Hereticswhich outlines a number of causes for Christianity’s decline in the United States.  Some of these, Keller lists as

  • political polarization that has sucked churches into its vortex;
  • the sexual revolution that has undermined the plausibility of Christian faith and practice for an entire generation;
  • globalization that has made the exclusive claims of Christianity seem highly oppressive;
  • materialism and consumerism that undermines commitment to anything higher than the self; and
  • alienation of the cultural elites and culture-shaping institutions from Christianity.

Keller, a pastor in New York City, broadly affirms Douthat’s assessment, which includes three ways churches can respond to a post-postmodern society.  He summarizes Douthat’s three proposals, saying,

A church that could welcome them, he warns, would need three qualities. First, it would have to bepolitical without being partisan. That is, it would have to equip all its members to be culturally engaged through vocation and civic involvement without identifying corporately with one political party. Second, it would have to be confessional yet ecumenical. That is, the church would have to be fully orthodox within its theological and ecclesiastical tradition yet not narrow and harsh toward other kinds of Christians. It should be especially desirous of cooperation with non-Western Christian leaders and churches. Third, the church would not only have to preach the Word faithfully, but also be committed to beauty and sanctity, the arts, and human rights for all.

As always, Keller’s insights are worth listening to.  And from the sound of it so is Douthat’s Bad Religion.  For a review of the new book, see Collin Hansen’s TGC Review.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

George Smeaton on Christ’s Own System of Hermeneutics

Ever wonder how the apostle’s developed their particular brand of Christ-centered hermeneutics?  This has been a frequently-discussed and hotly-debated subject over the last few years.  Numerous books have addressed the subject.  For instance, Greg Beale, ed. The Wrong Doctrine from the Right Texts?; Richard Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period; Dennis Johnson, Him We Proclaim; Sidney Greidnaus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament are a handful of them.

Yet, perhaps the best answer I have found goes back nearly 150 years.  In the opening pages of his book, The Apostles’ Doctrines of the Atonementnineteenth century New Testament theologian, George Smeaton, answers this question: How did the apostles develop their hermeneutics.

Without batting an eye, he turns to the forty days that Jesus spent with his disciples between his resurrection and ascension.  He posits that the “Lord’s system of hermeneutics” was passed on to these inspired authors and that in every instance where the disciples spoke of the terms, concepts, and types found in the Old Testament, they did so as learned pupils of their master teacher–Jesus Christ.

Smeaton’s quotation is lengthy, but well worth pondering.

But the fresh instruction which they received from personal interviews with the Redeemer subsequently to the resurrection must next be noticed.  This oral instruction received from the lips of the risen Lord is certain as to the matter of fact, and on many grounds was indispensably necessary.  Nor was it limited to the eleven alone.  Paul, too, received it at a later day, when he took rank among the apostles as one born out of due time.  How far the oral instruction of the risen Redeemer extended, it may be difficult for us to say.  Whether or not it comprehended all the great articles of divine truth, it certainly extended to the atonement (Luke xxiv. 25).  This was to be the substance and foundation of all their preaching [1 Cor 2:2], and it was indispensably necessary for them to possess the most accurate knowledge of it.  One object, therefore, which the Lord had in view during those forty days’ sojourn with the disciples after His resurrection, was to open their understandings in the course of these personal interviews, to apprehend with all possible precision the nature of His death–its necessity, consituent elements, and efficacy; against which, in every form, they had long entertained the most invincible prejudice.  He now made all things plain, showing that the Christ must have suffered these things.

How they were introduced into the theology of the Old Testament is specially worthy of notice.  A due consideration of this point serves to bring out one most important fact, viz. that Christ’s oral expositions are to be taken as THE MIDDLE TERM, or as the connecting link between Old Testament records on the one hand, and the apostolic commentary on the other.  In a word, He was Himself the interpreter of Scripture, and of His own history, in the course of those oral communications.  In the book of Acts, and in the epistles, we find numerous interpretations of the prophecies, as well as of the types and sacrifices which owe their origin to this source.  The evangelist Luke relates, that on the first resurrection-day, upon the Emmaus road, in order to instruct the two disciples with whom He entered into conversation, the Lord, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27); that is, He led them to a full survey of the typology and of the prophetical system of the Old Testament Scriptures.  The same evening He reviewed the whole subject not less fully in presence of the eleven and other disciples, expounding them how the Old Testament Scriptures received their fulfillment in Himself, and  opening all that related to His death and resurrection. . . . The evangelist [Luke] mentions that His exposition extended to the Law of Moses, to the Prophets, and to the Psalms.  The allusion to the Law of Moses recalls the whole range of typical theology–the sacrifices, the priestly institute, and the temple services.  The allusion to the prophets reminds us of the wide field of Messianic prophecy, form the first promise in the garden of Eden to the last of the prophets.  The allusion to the Psalms recalls those utterances which were put beforehand into the mouth of the suffering Messiah in a series of psalms in which the Lord Jesus found Himself.  He thus, in all these three divisions of Scripture, supplied them with the key which served to unlock what had never been so fully understood before in reference to His atoning death.

These invaluable expositions, which may be called in the modern phrase the Lord’s own system of hermeneutics, formed the apostles to be interpreters of the Old Testament, directing them where and how to find allusions to the suffering Messiah.  Hence the certainty and precision with which they ever afterwards preceded to expound those holy oracles in all their discourses.  Although these comments from the lips of the Messiah, have not been preserved to us in a separate form, they are doubtless to a large extent wrought into the texture of Scripture; and under the apostle’s allusions to the Old Testament we may read the Lord’s own commentary.  These expositions, whereby He opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures, introduced the apostles into the true significance of the Old Testament (Luke 24:44), throwing light on the two economies [Old and New], and thus bringing in the authority of Christ to direct them in all their future career.  His sanction is thus given to the apostolic interpretation of the Jewish rites; and we are warranted to say that we see the Lord’s own commentary underlying that of the apostles, whether we find allusion to the types, or to the prophecies, or to the Psalms, in their sermons and epistles.  These expositions made the apostles acquainted with the doctrine of the atonement, in its necessity and scope, in its constituent elements and saving results.  The apostles received the fullest instruction from the lips of their risen Lord; and on this theme it appears that the instruction was subject to none of the reserves which checked their curiousity upon another occasion, when they would make inquiries as to points bearing on the future of His kingdom (Acts 1:7).  (George Smeaton, The Apostle’s Doctrine of the Atonement, 4-7)

If you are not familiar with Smeaton, you should be.  He is a model exegete and a learned theologian.  In his day, he was the foremost New Testament scholar in Scotland and maybe beyond.  His two volumes on the atonement of Jesus Christ are excellent as is his reading of the gospels and the epistles.

May we continue to see Christ in all Scripture and faithfully show others how the Old and New Testaments are united in him.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (5.4.12)

For Your Edification is a weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.  

BIBLE

Read the Gospels.  When N. T. Wright is wrong, he is very wrong; but when he right, he is really right.  And in this video, he is really right.  Asked the question what legacy would you want to pass on to your children, he points them to the inimitable Jesus of the Gospels.  Have a look.

Education or Imitation? Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me. Curtis Allen, assistant pastor at Solid Rock Church and rapper extraordinaire, has just released a book that looks like it will be a helpful read on biblical interpretation for people who never go to seminary.  Rightly, he points to Jesus as the model for learning how to interpret the Bible.  You can get the book for $10 at Amazon or for 99 cents on Kindle right now: Education or Imitation? Kindle Edition.  Here is the book’s witty and wise promotional video.


THEOLOGY

What is General Revelation?  Baptist Pastor, Fred Zaspel, lists a number of helpful biblical truths about General Revelation–the doctrine that describes how God has revealed himself to all humanity in nature (externally) and in human nature (internally).  His outline synthesizes the truth content of passages like Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23; Acts 14:16-17 and Acts 17:22-31.  He concludes with a number of practical implications, including this last point:

Since general revelation does not provide a knowledge of God as Redeemer, it cannot be made the basis of anything more than a preparation for the gospel. General revelation cannot be viewed as a means of salvation, even to such as have never had opportunity to hear the message of salvation from sin through Christ’s incarnation, atonement, and resurrection. Only a radical new birth, in which spiritual life is imparted to those who are spiritually dead, will suffice; and such a sweeping transformation cannot be brought about by general revelation, but only by the gospel of Christ!

You can read the whole thing at the CredoMag Blog.

Meditations on the Fear of God. In the Bible fear is a complex thing. For instance, Psalm 25:14 says that “the friendship of the Lord is reserved for those who fear him.” Psalm 130:3 states, “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  And in Exodus 20:20, “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’”  But, the positive outlook on fear changes in the book of 1 John, when the beloved disciple writes that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 5:18).

From these four verses alone, it is evident that knowing if and how and why we should fear God takes some serious biblical reflection. This week John Piper helps us think about a couple aspects of Goldy fear. It is not long so I have included the whole thing.

I think that when we are sinless we will still fear God in the sense of reverential, trembling awe — as when we stand on a peak before vast stretches of unscalable cliffs. And we will also fear, I suppose, in the sense of shuddering with thankfulness that we are not among the number who still dishonor God.

But the painful fear, the guilty fear, the craven fear, the humiliating fear — all such fear will one day be taken way. But only in the way God intends. And in his time. We should not be done with it in the wrong way, or too soon.”

Here is the way C. S. Lewis puts it:

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18]. But so do several other things — ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.

It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. (“The World’s Last Night” in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, 51)

FAMILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

Pure Hope: Christian Solutions in a Sexualized Culture. Today, I am on my way to the “Pursuing Purity Conference” at Southern Seminary.  About six months back a friend told me about this ministry, and after meeting their leaders, hearing about their vision, and commitment to the gospel, I am happy to commend it as a go to resource for finding helpful resources for growing in purity and holiness.  They are continuing to put resources on line in three areas: pureJUSTICEpurePARENTING, and pureRECOVERY.  Check them out!

Today, Pray for the conference as it equips leaders to take the message of purity back to their churches.

Desiring God INTERNATIONAL. Have you ever met someone whose heart language is not English.  With a desire to share the gospel, you feel like your are at an impasse because of the language barrier. What do you do?  Well, here is a resource to know about.  Desiring God has a growing list of resources translated into other languages.  It takes the teaching of John Piper and puts them in the heart language of your friend.  Check it out.

Getting to Know Friedrich Schleiermacher (4): The Church, Eschatology, and the Trinity

Yesterday, we looked at Schleiermacher’s theology of God, Sin, Redemption, and the person of Christ. Today, we will examine his views on the church, eschatology, and the Trinity.

The Church

The last section of his systematic theology is on the church.  This breaks down into three sections—the origin, existence, and perfection of the church.  On the churches origin, he speaks of election and the Holy Spirit.  Concerning election, Schleiermacher vacillates.  On one hand, from the vantage point of the decree (which he speaks about but doesn’t really fit his system) God is the causal agent of all things in the world and thus he causes the election of those in the church, but on the other, as the one who knows all things, he elects based on future knowledge. Schleiermacher seems confused on this matter, and this is one the stress points of his system.  Concerning the Holy Spirit, Schleiermacher denies any deity to the Holy Spirit; instead, the spirit is the common spirit of the church.  The shared experience and feeling of Christ unites the church, and thus there is this universal spirit.

On the existence and practice of the church, Schleiermacher lays out six aspects of practice that are organized with the three offices of Christ.  So the church focuses on the Word of God and preaching as a means of the prophetic office; the church performs baptism and the Lord’s Supper in conjunction with Christ’s priestly office; and the church is invited to pray in the Lord’s name and exercise the keys of the kingdom in conjunction with Christ’s royal office.  In all of these, Schleiermacher reformulates doctrine.  So for instance, communion is not an ordinance laid down by Jesus, it is man’s demonstration of need for grace and the expression of his Godward dependence.  Likewise, prayer for Schleiermacher is not to a God who is outside of space and time; rather, prayer is the inward longing for God and his kingdom to be exercised in the world.

Eschatology

Finally, on the perfection of the church, there is no true doctrine.  It is only an idea.  Since doctrines are those things which church communities experience and record, there has not yet been an experience of a perfect church, and thus what the historical theologians have described as eschatology are merely conjectures.  He renames these doctrines “articles” and offers very scant evidence for them.  Instead, with great agnosticism, he states that we cannot know for sure what the resurrection, intermediate state, and the final judgment will be like.  In the end, he qualifies the doctrine of heaven and hell, to insist that in some way, all men will be reconciled and perfected.  In this, his view of election and universalism are similar to Karl Barth, who is one of Schleiermacher’s greatest critics.

The Trinity: An Appendix

Finally, in an appendix, Schleiermacher relegates the doctrine of the Trinity.   Its position there shows Schleiermacher’s connection with church history—it would be impossible to be a Christian theologian and not talk about this central doctrine.  And yet, because of his Kantian presupposition, he decides that the Trinity is neither practical, nor knowable.  And thus should be mentioned but not greatly used.

While, all these features of Schleiermacher’s theology mentioned above and over the last few days require a great deal more consideration, it is a start.  Tomorrow, we will look at how we should evaluate this theological giant whose shadow still looms until today.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss