Saturday, December 30, 2006

Matthew Henry didn't love his 'stuff'

I love Matthew Henry for so many reasons. Here's one of them: He wasn't like us. He wasn't materialistic like we all are these days.

One day when Mr Henry was robbed while journeying, he returned home to write this in his diary:

Lord, I thank you
that I have never been robbed before;
that although they took my money, they spared my life;
that although they took everything, it wasn't very much;
that it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.

Not sure that would be my response.

Praise the Lord for men who like this who have continued to form 'so great a cloud of witnesses' before us. God give us grace to run as they did!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Denial of Sola Scriptura Leads to Subjectivism

I've got a Greek exam tomorrow, and the passage I'm studying tonight is Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. I couldn't help but stop to ponder a few things when I got to these verses:

For truly I say to all of you, until heaven and earth pass away, one iota or one dot will not pass away from the Law, until all has come about.
A couple brief points worth noting here. (1) Jesus uses a cool little word play, 'pass away', that is often missed in English translations. (2) Jesus uses a really strong negation to indicate that not a single dot on an 'i' or cross on a 't' could pass from Scripture until all heaven and earth are done away with.

So what? Well, I got to thinking this: For those who are willing to accept the basic tenets of verbal plenary inspiration and sola Scriptura these verse indicate that the Word of God is perfect, and sufficient for the needs of humanity until the end of the earth.

These verses will do little, however, to convince someone who is not already persuaded of this position. They will simply make snide remarks about the 'Matthean community' which produced this text. Some comments might be made about the Matthean variation from Q here or some Jew-pleasing in this Jew-oriented apologetic book. Either way, they will be unconvinced.

That's fine, I suppose. They see it as circular logic to argue from Scripture that Scripture is authoritative, sufficient, God-breathed, etc. If that's the line you want to take, fine, but please realize that the beginning and end of this view is subjectivism, if you want to find any good in the Bible at all.

How's that, you ask? Well, as long as Jesus is talking about social justice or moral virtues most people are fine with him. When he's speaking up for women and including them in his ministry people today love him.

When he talks about the need for perfect righteousness, or the reality of hell, they hate him. They say he's been tampered with, adulterated, his words have been changed by the corrupt church seeking to suppress the historical Jesus who was just too much of a rebel for us to handle.

Hoogly. You can say that only if you take the texts that you want to take and reject the ones you want to reject. You can cite all kinds of Gnostic nonsense, text-critical trash, or church conspiracy claptrap, but in reality all you've done is import your own desires for what you want Jesus to be on to the text, and then let than determine which texts are 'authentic.'

The only people who have any hope of discovering Jesus for who he said he was are those who accept Sola Scriptura. Why? Because then it's not me deciding what issues I really believe Jesus would speak on, or what he would really say about them. I have to let the text speak. I have to honestly do business with the text that exists and somehow let that form my understanding of who Jesus is.

I start with the Bible and end with the Bible. I let it shape and conform my mind's image of Jesus. To pick and choose verses and chapters from the gospels and the NT epistles which I will adhere to is to conform the Bible to my understanding.

Even worse, it's to make my God in my own image.

It's ultimately subjective.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life

The end of the school semester is almost upon us. The end of 2006 is almost upon us.

The season when people like to reflect on the year that was, and ponder their life in the year to come is just beginning.

As I was getting ready for bed last night I got to thinking... I have been so incredibly blessed. In so many ways I've received infinitely (and that's not even exaggerating a little bit) better than what I have deserved.

I have been blessed with the chance to be in a church that is dedicated to teaching the Scriptures, attend a seminary that remains faithful to the word of God, and have friends who are faithful to expound the Bible to me. In short, I seem to just go from one opportunity to learn to another.

That's it. That's my life. Always learning, wherever I am. Here are some of the things I've been learning about lately:

  1. I've been learning about the glory of Christ from John Owen (Works, v.1).
  2. I've been learning about friendship from Esther Edwards Burr (from her letters to her friend Sarah Prince).

  3. I've been learning about parenthood from my one-month-old daughter (who, by the way, thinks I still have a lot to learn!)
  4. I've been learning about leadership from my pastor.
  5. I've been challenged in the areas of prayer and evangelism by one of my closest friends, Rielly.
  6. I've been encouraged to work harder and serve more by my always-loving, always working wife, Stacey.
  7. I've been learning lots about the nature of sin: why I need to hate it more, what it's real goals with me are, and how to put it to death, from John Owen (Works, v.6). I've been going through this together with a couple of brothers from church every week.
  8. I've been challenged to love Christ more and to be more disciplined and more productive with my time through some accountability with my friend Josh.
  9. I've been learning tons about how to worship Jesus at Christmas-time from my dear friends, Bob Kauflin, Mark Altrogge, and co. at Sovereign Grace Ministries who have no idea how much they've blessed the saints through their various ministries.
  10. I've been learning about perseverance from my friend Darrin Brooker, who--believe it or not--has actually been a Sabres fan for a while now, and is still sane.

I could go on and on, but I won't because I need to go to sleep.

Suffice it to say, God is good, and it's a wonderful life.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Oh, the Audacity!

I have found it quite curious over the past few years, the reaction that people get when they speak on the topic of hell and its reality.

Typically people (often 'Christian' people) get quite offended and ask things like, 'Who are you to judge another?' And, 'Doesn't the Bible say more about love and acceptance than it does about hell and judgment?' Thus disgruntled, these ones typically all find each other in a crowd and get themselves and each other quite worked up about the audacity of the one who would dare to speak on hell.

I find it more than interesting that the one who speaks on hell the most in the Bible is the one who loves us the most.

Ever notice that?

It's doubly interesting when you consider he's the one who knew the most of its reality. He's also the one who would experience the full brunt of it for the sake of his people.

Now, are we to accuse Jesus of being audacious? Of course not.

What we must see is that it is not unloving or proud to speak of the reality of hell--even for people who only committed 'minor' sins (see here), or those who 'have never heard of the real God' (see here)--if we are truly speaking about it for the same reasons that Christ speaks of them.

What are those reasons?

  1. A knowledge of the reality of hell. Christ spoke about hell as one with authority because he knew it was a real place, where real people remain under the real wrath of a real God.
  2. A desire for people to see their need of salvation. As Christ preached on hell it was with a view to having people avoid it. Preaching on hell must never be used to exalt oneself above others who we think are destined there.
  3. Love. This encompasses both of the above, but needs to be stated. Jesus didn't end with hell, but having taught of its reality, offered a way of escape. He who taught of eternal condemnation for the rejection of an eternally holy God also taught of eternal reconciliation with that same holy God. He said 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Will preaching on hell bring bad feedback and negative reactions? I'm sure it always will. But if we're careful to preach the reality of hell for the same reasons as Christ did, in the same way Christ did, offering the same hope that Christ did, we can never be charged with being unbiblical, judgmental, or audacious.

At least not correctly.