Friday, November 27, 2009

Copying and Journaling the Scriptures With the 17:18 Series From RHB

Early on in my new life in Christ I had started the practice of copying large portions of Scripture for the sake of study, meditation, memorization and devotion. At first I did this on simple notebook paper and kept the copies and notes in a three-ring-binder. This system never worked too well as when I wrote on the pages they would begin to tear from the binder. I then moved to regular notebooks, but found this to be cumbersome and eventually stopped the practice altogether though I had found it to be extremely helpful.

A couple of days ago I received the new catalog from Reformation Heritage Books in which I found a product that will, much to my delight, enable me to restart this old practice of copying and taking notes on the Scriptures. RHB now offers hard-cover, journal like books designed specifically for copying and taking notes on whole books of the Bible called The 17:18 Series. Here is their description of the formatting of the books:

Each book is organized so that you can write out your very own copy of Scripture.You will be writing the Bible text only on the right hand page of the book. This should make for easier writing and also allows ample space on the left page to write your own notes and comments. From time to time a question or word will be lightly printed on the left page; these questions are to aid in further study, but should not interfere with your own notes and comments.
Each book is very nicely labeled on the outside for easy storage and retrieval on any bookshelf. Right now you can purchase the Proverbs volume or the Galatians through Thessalonians volume for only $10 each! The catalog also shows that you can purchase volumes for John, Romans, 1 Timothy-Hebrews and James-Jude.

I highly recommend this resource and look forward to using it myself to the glory of God! I also think this would be a great thing to leave to your children someday if you have them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Best and Primary Argument for The Inerrancy of Scripture: The Gospel

Questioning or denying the inerrancy of Scripture is tantamount to attempting to remove the support structures from a large high-rise building while believing that the building will continue to stand unaltered. For centuries now the presupposition of the inerrancy of the Scriptures has been the foundation on which the salvation of innumerable souls, the continuance and form of the Church and western civilization was built. One cannot expect; therefore, that one can assault this vital substructure and not see the world as we know it come crashing down.

The attack on the inerrancy of the Scripture; however, seems to be only a proxy war being waged with a greater “enemy” in mind for those who have taken up arms against it. Efforts to undermine the inerrancy of the Bible with textual criticism and by pointing to seemingly apparent contradictions really are just a slight of hand meant to distract from the real, foundational premise used to assert the perfection or inerrancy of the Scriptures that is in the crosshairs—the one, perfect God is the author of the Bible and therefore the Bible is as perfect as He is perfect. The greater enemy of those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture is none other than God Himself. Arguments regarding the inerrancy of Scripture; therefore, lead (should lead) instantaneously back to the doctrine of whether or not the Bible is the word of God.

If God is indeed the primary author of the Bible, all facts and questions must be assessed in light of what that Bible makes undeniably clear about Him. Instead of subjecting the Scripture to the litmus test of flawed, subjective, often emotionally motivated human reason; we must look at every phrase, proposition, scientific and historical fact in light of the nature and character of God. The argument would look something like this: if God is, and God is X and God authored the Scriptures, then the scripture is (or isn’t) inerrant.

In my experience, arguments against the inerrancy of Scripture start from a primary motivation to either disprove that God exists at all or to argue against the holy and delightful perfection of His character. It is here, then, that all our manpower and weaponry should be employed; namely, in proclaiming the existence, perfection and greatness of God, thus proving the inerrancy of the Scriptures. This is where Jesus Christ and the cross come in, that is; this is where the gospel comes in, but I’ll return to that shortly.

Most of those who subscribe to the fact that the Scriptures are inerrant agree with Wayne Grudem’s definition of inerrancy from his Systematic Theology which states “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” Those who scoff at this definition do so with rather illogical arguments. Many of these arguments are formed by attempts to demand of the Bible what no one demands of normal, acceptable speech and writing. Examples of these illogical arguments would include assaulting historical figures that appear to be inaccurate. When one says “140,000 people were killed in the tsunami” we do not take them literally. It would be rather amazing if exactly 140,000 people died in that tragic catastrophe. Normal conventions of speech allow for this sort of rounding as well as using what Grudem defines as “loose or free quotations.” As an example, Grudem says this:

Consider this sentence: “Elliot said that he would return home for supper right away.” The sentence does not quote Elliot directly, but it is an acceptable and truthful report of Elliot’s actual statement to his father, “I will come to the house to eat in two minutes,” even though the indirect quotation included none of the speaker’s original words.

Often an understanding of historical forms of written and verbal speech, especially in their original culture and language, can dispel many of these seemingly apparent errors in the Scriptures. Yet despite giving plausible and even convincing technical arguments for the inerrancy of Scriptures, especially in problem areas; those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture are most often left unconvinced and usually come up with new reasons to reject the Bible and the God of the Bible. If this is the case, and it often is, then perhaps there is a more base reason for why the inerrancy of Scripture is dismissed. The apostle Paul gives us the clearest reason:

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:7-14)

The inability to accept the inerrancy of the Scripture traces directly back through these branch issues of grammar, semantics and statistics to the very root problem; if you do not believe God exists and is the author, then you will not know the author and you will not know His character. If you do not know His character, you will not understand how His absolute, sovereign and glorious perfection could never produce a work filled with lies or errors. Furthermore, not having the Author present to explain His work is sure to lead to not understanding the Scriptures and eventually to deciding that it is flawed. One then comes full-circle as the belief in a flawed work leads to either a belief in a flawed God or a God that does not exist at all. If one approaches the Bible with a desire to prove that God does not exist or is flawed, then that is certainly what they accomplish time and again. How, then, do we respond to those who reject the inerrancy of Scripture and therefore the inerrancy of God Himself? Once again, Paul provides us with an answer:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

What arguments will be most effective against refutations of the inerrancy of Scripture? I think it is clear. No matter how much we may try to prove plausibly and convincingly (that perceived errors in the Scriptures are not errors at all by addressing grammar and conventions of speech); at the end of the day the best and most effective argument for the inerrancy of Scripture is the cross of Christ—the gospel. In Paul’s day, what we call Scripture now was largely (excluding the Old Testament) the message he and others were preaching—Christ crucified. Backing up a few verses from those quoted above we see Paul saying this:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

What men were refuting in Paul’s time regarding the inerrancy of Scripture was the very message of the gospel itself. On what grounds did they dispute the inerrancy of what we now call the (New Testament) Scriptures? Was it not on the grounds that God was not the author of this new covenant and that Jesus was not from God? Even today Jews will still ask for signs to prove that Jesus was the Christ and “Greek” (gentiles) will ask for wisdom, that is, convincing arguments. How shall we respond? “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

Both the existence and perfect character of God are most perfectly displayed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Any other argument employed to prove the inerrancy of the Scriptures and, more importantly, the perfection of its Author will always fail in comparison to God’s supreme argument for His existence, goodness and supremacy. Paul knew this and resolved to not let the gospel become a sub-argument, but the primary argument. Though men may reject the gospel and therefore God and the inerrancy of His Scriptures, the fact still remains that the greatest and most powerful “argument” we have for the inerrancy of the Scriptures is still the gospel. This gospel is that Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to glorify God by dieing on the cross to forgive our sins and bring eternal life to mankind; namely, to know and find ineffable joy in God forever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Call To Self-Examination: Research In Progress

Just wanted to let those of you know who are following my series on sin that I have not abandoned it. I want my conclusions to be accurate and thorough so I am currently in the process of gathering and sorting through texts relating to sin. I am hoping to post my first installment very soon. In the meantime stay tuned as I will be posting various other things that will hopefully be interesting, encouraging and perhaps sometimes a little bold and challenging.

For example, I plan on posting a little excerpt from a paper I am working on arguing that the primary purpose of the institution of the covenants is:

The glorification of God (the creator of the covenants) by means of us knowing, and thus enjoying Him, through union with Him forever by His grace in Christ Jesus.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Arise and Illuminate: Final Verse

I completed the final verse of the hymn. Here it is:

Illuminate, O Lord of all with glory undefined
Come manifest your Father’s name you had before all time
Arise to bring us grace and peace, deliver us from strife
To know you is our greatest joy, this is eternal life.

Arise And Illuminate

Here's an attempt I made at writing a hymn a couple years ago. The lyrics are inspired by Isaiah 60:1-3 and Colossians 3:1-3. I thought I had written a 4th verse but I think I didn't finish it and thus can't find it. My plan for the fourth verse was to have content in it inspired by John 17, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.

Arise, O’ heart of mine, from muck and mire and woe
Be done with worthless earthly things and hurry to the throne
For you have died and in him rest who dwells at His right hand
And there with Christ in heaven above you do already stand.

Arise, O’ sleeping flame, ignited by His call
From ash and dust burst forth again fed by the All in All
Shine brightly now upon a stand for everyone to show,
The glory of sufficient grace and heights within the lows.

Illuminate, O’ child of God, Christ’s radiance display
With unveiled face be now transformed into the light of day.

Though darkness reign o’er all the earth have faith and be not shocked
If all the nations of the earth and kings to you do flock.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Drowning In Abundance

I have recently been reading The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel. In chapter four Flavel discusses God's providence in relation to our employment/work in this world. There is an interesting subsection in this chapter wherein Flavel shows that God's providence is displayed "in making your calling sufficient for you." The essence of this section could easily be summed up with the words of Paul where he says "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Php. 4:12&13).

What caught my attention most about this section was Flavel's warning regarding being consumed by your work:

And yet do not be so intent upon your callings [jobs] as to make them interfere with your general calling. Beware you do not lose your God in the crowd and hurry of earthly business. Mind that solemn warning: 'But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition' (1 Tim. 6. 9). The inhabitants of Oenoe, a dry island near Athens, bestowed much labor to draw in a river to water it and make it fruitful. But when the sluices were opened, the waters flowed so abundantly that it overflowed the island and drowned the inhabitants. The application is obvious. It was an excellent saying of Seneca: 'I do not give, but lend myself to business.'
Ultimately Flavel is making the point that we should be satisfied with the occupation that He has given us and not want more because more does not equate to better. On the flip side, don't desire a job with less work or that pays less because God's providence has placed you in it and He will provide you with the strength to accomplish the work and use the abundance rightly.

Abundance, argues Flavel, can drown out that which is most important to your joy--God. Work at your occupation giving thanks to God that He has given it to you so that you can help others, not starve yourself and so that you are not idle and therefore more prone to sin that often accompanies such idleness. Don't, however, work for abundance just for the sake of abundance or you may find yourself in the same position as the Oenoeans.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Call to Self-Examination: Considering How To Arrive at a Concise, Biblical Definition of Sin

As established in my introductory post; we have no lack of definitions of sin either amongst the theologians, the secular critics of the idea of sin, or among average people who haven’t given it much thought. The seriousness of these definitions varies widely. Some people’s definition of sin simply equates sin to spilled milk and nothing more than an accident that need not be fretted or cried over. Others define sin as a breaking of some list of agreed wrongs or evils, or not doing a list of good, that is, the breaking or not fulfilling of some code of law. Perhaps one of the most popular definitions of sin among modern, evangelical Christians describes sin as simply “missing the mark.”

Most of these definitions of sin are, regrettably, simply a matter of opinion or a regurgitation of what they have heard others define sin as being. Others attempt to define sin by looking at a few passages of the Bible and thus come to quick and incomplete or shallow definitions of sin. To come to a right, concise and most fundamental definition of sin; one must consider more than just the meaning of the word “sin” in the original Greek and Hebrew that the Bible was written in. One must also look at such things as: examples of people sinning, things that the Bible directly calls sin, what sin is contrasted with, penalties for sinning, Biblical prescriptions of how to deal with or respond to sin, any definitions that the Bible might give for sin (i.e. by saying “sin is” or “…is sin”), what causes sin, and examples of what has happened to people who have sinned. Moreover, how does what we know about the character and nature of God effect our definition of and response to sin?

Given the amount of information that must be considered in order to arrive at a right definition of sin; I will be presenting this data over multiple posts, since I know that no one reads blogs that are either long or contain an overwhelming amount of information and complex arguments. As a general format for these posts I will use the aforementioned list of things one must consider to come to a more comprehensive and concise definition of sin.