Dear Dr. Craig
Hi I'm an Australian who converted to Christianity about a year ago after reading Richard Dawkins’s book 'The God Delusion'. Ever since I read the book I became interested in Christianity and so after 3-4 months of research I came to the conclusion that Christianity is the most probable worldview, hence this is why I'm a Christian.
Over the last year I have continued to search for answers to my greatest questions by reading the works of people like you, Ravi Zacharias, Alvin Plantinga, John Lennox, Hugh Ross, Timothy Keller and many others. In all my many hours of research I have yet to find a direct answer to the question I'm about the pose ...
Editors’ note: This article begins on occasional series on the SBTS blog, Why Every Student Should Read . . . This series is intended to spotlight and commend for further investigation pastors, teachers, theologians, books, sermons, and figures from church history as well as from the current evangelical scene.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones is one of my heroes.
I am not sure when I first encountered his ministry. Like many of my generation, it was probably through John Piper. However the introduction came about, I decided to spend a year slowly working my way through his sermons on Romans. It was the summer of 2002. I was planning on attending seminary, but I would have to wait a year before I could enroll. I thought this would be an excellent way to prepare me for seminary.
At the time, I was a struggling youth minister in a struggling church. I intentionally arrived at the office one hour before anyone else, and spent that hour, Monday through Friday, slowly and systematically reading one sermon per day. On Fridays, I collected my notes from the week and prepared a Bible study for a small group of high school boys that I led on Sunday evenings. I had no idea how that exercise would change me.
Seeping in of Romans
The slow and steady seeping in the text of Romans, at the feet of the Doctor, has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. The rigor and vigor of his proclamation and the precision and power of his exposition has shaped me in ways of which I am not fully conscious.
It provided for me the categories and the questions I encountered in my theological studies, but it did so from a deeply scriptural perspective. This is theology done right—
done for the church, in the church, and to strengthen the church. J.I. Packer says that if your theology can’t be sung, it isn’t good theology. Lloyd-Jones showed me that if your theology can’t be preached, it isn’t good theology.
I was especially impressed by the sermons in which his diagnostic powers are on full display. When he diagnosed and analyzed a section of Paul’s letter, and showed the beautiful symmetry and interconnectedness of the parts—how each section contributed to the flow and development of the whole—is a thing of beauty. (For example, listen to the second message from chapter 1, or the first message from chapter 6, and let him sweep you up into the glories of that great book.)
At the same time, I also encountered Ian Murray’s two-volume biography of Lloyd-Jones and was greatly moved by his early ministry in Wales. By the time I finished the biography, Lloyd-Jones was firmly entrenched into the pantheon of my ecclesiastical heroes. I dreamed of experiencing the type of ministry and revival that he experienced in his early days of preaching. I dreamed of one day of preaching like he did.
A model and a mentor
We all have our heroes. We all love our heroes. They become our heroes because we taste life through their ministry. In fact, we might even be in the ministry because of their ministry. Their preaching changed us. We want to preach like them. So we do . . . just like them. We talk like them. Inflect our words like them. Gesture like them. We copy their illustrations, intonations, and applications. We preach their sermons—their way.
Without realizing it, and with the best of intentions, we become parrots. And of course, if you have never been guilty of such a thing, then I am sure you know people who are. But I doubt I am the only one who has struggled with this.
The problem is not that we have our heroes. We should. The problem is not that we are trying to preach like John Piper, Tim Keller, or Charles Spurgeon. We should. The church and the world would be better places if there were more preaching like theirs. The problem is that we are not mimicking them in the right way.
Practically every skill, in every field, throughout history has been taught through the apprenticeship model. Why should preaching be any different? Novices sit at the feet of mentors, and they mimic. This is how they learn. This is how they develop. This is how they find their voice. One of the greatest gifts of your time in seminary is the intentional time you can sit at the feet of the great preachers and theologians of the past. And there are few better for you to learn from than Lloyd-Jones. But, the trick is you have to learn to mimic him in the right way.
3 action steps
So how can you go about reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones? Don’t you have enough to read already? Here are a few suggestions for learning from the Doctor.
1. Slowly work your way through one of his great sermon series. Romans is his magnum opus. It is 14 volumes of profound and practical exegesis. If you read one sermon a day, it would take you just over a year. Or look at his sermons on Ephesians or the Sermon on the Mount.
But be active. Incorporate them into your personal devotional time and your ministry. Each sermon, generally, focuses on a very narrow section of a text. Read the sermon. Take good notes. Then use that sermon as a springboard for writing a devotion on each text. Or consolidate five to six messages into one outline and use it to teach a Sunday school class or a small group discipleship meeting.
2. Read his evangelistic sermons. Few people have preached the gospel more powerfully. Every sermon he preached on Sunday night for his entire ministry was an evangelistic message. Start with his Evangelistic sermons from Aberavon and then move into his sermons on Psalm 1.
3. Reach out. If you would like more information or help reading Lloyd-Jones, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out www.thecompanyofpastors.com. I am in the process of creating some reading guides for his sermons on Romans and a “Preach Like Martyn Lloyd-Jones” resource that will help you dive deep into his preaching. I can also send you a full list of his printed evangelistic sermons and my recommendations for where to start. (or perhaps this could be another blog post)
Go, and read Lloyd-Jones.__________________
Ben Bailie received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He serves as pastor of The First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Alabama. He did his doctoral work on Martyn Lloyd-Jones, focusing on how his medical training shaped his pastoral ministry. Ben appeared in the new film on Lloyd Jones’s life, Logic on Fire. He is in the beginning stages of creating an online community called The Company of Pastors. You may contact him here: email@example.com. Ben and his wife Cynthia have two daughters.
In Philippians 3:8, Paul compares his religious credentials to knowing Jesus. The difference could not be more emphatic: “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” is of “surpassing value,” but Paul’s past success is like σκύβαλα (skubala). σκύβαλα is commonly translated as rubbish, refuse, or garbage, but sometimes more strongly as dung, in both ancient and modern translations (Vulgate, Tyndale, KJV, NET). Some have suggested another four-letter translation, stronger than dung.While teaching Greek, I used to say that σκύβαλα is the closest thing to a swear word you can find in the New Testament. But is that true? Is σκύβαλα a swear word, or maybe a rude word? Or is it unobjectionable?
The scientific community is abuzz this week with the announcement that liquid water has been confirmed on Mars. Of course scientists have long known that water is abundant in our universe (including on Mars), but specific evidence of a stable supply of liquid water has been lacking. It seems that we now have evidence of recurring seeps involving liquid that has, at a minimum, a water base. Not exactly the Amazon River or Lake Superior, mind you, but water nonetheless.
The reason this discovery is important, it is argued, is that the presence of water allows for the possibility of sustainable, carbon-based life somewhere other than Earth. Furthermore, it suggests that the provincial theory of biological evolution on earth now has a clear path to acceptance as a universal law. And if that is true, we finally have the last nail for the coffin of the Genesis account of origins.
Let’s look at the scientific data on its own terms and see how big this discovery really is:
- We begin with the observation that the discovery of water is nothing more than that—the discovery that two inorganic substances quite common to our universe have combined to form the compound we call water. That’s it.
- That water is necessary to life means nothing more than that either. It certainly doesn’t mean that life is necessary to water. That’s called affirming the consequent, and it’s usually one of the very first fallacies covered in your basic class on logic. Water on Mars does not prove life on Mars.
- However, even if we eventually discover carbon-based life on Mars (or anywhere else in the universe), this does not prove that evolution is occurring. It simply means that there is carbon-based life somewhere other than on Earth. This bare discovery, of itself, says nothing about the origin or development of that life.
- Furthermore, if we eventually discover carbon-based life on Mars (or anywhere else in the universe), this does not prove that personhood exists anywhere else. This is an unwarranted extrapolation from woefully incomplete data.
Now let’s consider the pertinent biblical/theological data:
- The discovery of any sort of inorganic matter (including water) outside of Earth is, theologically speaking, a non-event. I offer no proof texts because there just aren’t any. I have no idea why this discovery would carry any theological significance at all.
- The discovery of carbon-based life outside of Earth, were it to occur, might be an eyebrow-raiser, but would also be a theological non-event. It is an eyebrow-raiser because the Bible says that the whole creation suffers as the result of Adam’s sin (Rom 8:18–22), recovers as a result of Adam’s redemption/resurrection (v. 23), and is ultimately replaced at the commencement of the eternal state (2 Pet 3:10–13; Rev 21:1). How Martian amoebas would suffer as a result of Adam’s fall is not readily apparent; still, the fact that the whole creation needs replacement due to Adam’s sin means that every atom in the whole universe (even the carbon ones) must be made new. As such, the idea of carbon-based life on other planets, while perhaps unlikely, offers no threat to the biblical system.
- The discovery of personal life—life in God’s image complete with self-consciousness, freedom, moral and religious sensibilities, etc.—on the other hand, would offer serious hurdles to the biblical system. Such a discovery would mean that sentient life on other planets would, without explanation, consciously suffer irreparable harm and annihilation due to Adam’s sin (see the point above) without any possibility of emancipation (Heb 2:14–17). There is no room in the biblical system for alternative redemptive plans for other species; mankind alone receives this honor. God supplies one and only one unified end for the whole universe, funneled through his singular purpose for man-in-his-image, and no exceptions are possible.
- This speaks, finally, to the revealed purpose of God for the universe. Mankind is not only the singular object of God’s redemptive plan, but also the pinnacle of his civil structures (Psalm 8:5), with the whole of God’s creation subjected to man for man’s own service (Gen 1:28–30). The idea of undiscovered and rival sentient life forms on other planets seems quite incompatible with God’s overarching decree.
In summary, then, I would suggest that the discovery of water on Mars is no cause of alarm at all for believers, and certainly offers us no reason to amend the biblical paradosis. Nothing has happened.
This is fourth and final in a series of blogs on José Bowen’s book, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2012). I shared in my first blog that the main thrust of his book was for teachers to use technology to deliver content outside of class sessions, and shift the use of class time to processing that information, promoting critical thinking and the application of knowledge to real life situations. I then identified three ideas from Bowen’s work that I think have the potential of deepening the impact of our teaching in the church. In my second blog, I put the focus on his first idea, finding ways to use technology to provide content to group members, preparing them for active learning in your Bible study group. In the third blog I focused on how to better use your class time to help students in processing and applying the content of the Scripture you are studying together. In this final blog, I want to give our attention to ways we can use social media and other online technologies to connect with those we teach, promote a stronger sense of community as we follow Christ, and promote the application of what we are learning over time, deepening the impact of our studies ...
Theologians have often observed the paucity of details about the Holy Spirit in the Bible, as compared to revelation of the Father and the Son. This holding back by the Spirit who inspired Scripture seems typical of his humility, and the trait of divine love “that does not seek its own.” Sets of details that we can add to the several statements about the Spirit are connected with eight metaphors used throughout the Bible. Several of these metaphors pull together and give concrete expression to the declarative statements of pneumatology, such as “the Spirit sanctifies, indwells, teaches, assures, and convicts people" ...
What is the best time of day to pray and meditate on the Word of God? For me, the best time is the early morning. With four young children in the house, all of whom are usually still sleeping this is the only quiet time in my home. This time also has the advantage of beginning your day by lashing your heart to the mast that is Christ. This was the practice of many of the old divines from Calvin to Edwards and Spurgeon.
I see at least three advantages to practicing these fundamental spiritual disciplines early in the morning:
- Your first thoughts of the day are fixed on the Lord.
- You are admitting a deep dependence upon God. By praying first thing, you are submitting to God’s sovereign plan for your day, expressing allegiance to his kingdom, resting in his provision, celebrating his grace, and committing to his work.
- You begin the day practicing the command of Romans 12:2, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” God uses Scripture to renew your mind and it is important to begin each day by filling your mind with God’s Word.
In an age of iPhones and Facebook, this question has perhaps never taken on more importance and we do well to listen to an old divine who wrote about this fundamental bit of practical divinity, an old divine who apparently thought sleep was overrated.
William Law (1686-1761) was an English Puritan theologian best known for writing works in the category of practical divinity, a category to which we refer today as “Christian living” or “devotional literature.” His most famous work was a classic titled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. In it, he argues at length that the best way for a Christian to begin his day is to rise very early and spend the first hours in prayer and Scripture meditation. Law modeled that of which he wrote: “His own day, which began at 5 a.m., was carefully planned to allow time for reading, writing, and works of charity, as well as prayer.”
Law felt that early rising prepared a Christian to face the spiritual battle that would be his lot each day. Allow Law’s words to encourage you toward this practice, and don’t miss what he says about sleep at the end of the first paragraph:
“If our blessed Lord used to pray early before day; if He spent whole nights in prayer; if the devout Anna was day and night in the temple; if St. Paul and Silas at midnight sang praises unto God; if the primitive Christians, for several hundred years, besides their hours of prayers in the daytime, met publicly in the churches at midnight to join in psalms and prayers; is it not certain that these practices showed the state of their heart? Are they not so many plain proofs of the whole turn of their minds? Sleep is . . . a dull, stupid state of existence.
“If you were to rise early every morning as an instance of self-denial, as a method of renouncing indulgence, as a means of redeeming your time and fitting your spirit for prayer, you would find mighty advantages from it. This method, though it seems such a small circumstance of life, would in all probability be a means of great piety. If would keep it constantly in your head that softness and idleness were to be avoided, that self-denial was a part of Christianity. It would teach you to exercise power over yourself, and make you able by degrees to renounce other pleasures and tempers that war against the soul . . . .
“But, above all, one certain benefit from this method you will be sure of having; it will best fit and prepare you for the reception of the Holy Spirit. When you thus begin the day in the spirit of religion, renouncing sleep, because you are to renounce softness and redeem your time; this disposition, as it puts your heart into a good state so it will procure the assistance of the Holy Spirit; what is so planted and watered will certainly have an increase from God. You will then speak from your heart, your soul will be awake, your prayers will refresh you like meat and drink, you will feel what you say, and begin to know what saints and holy men have meant by fervors of devotion.”_____________
Jeff Robinson (M.Div. and Ph.D., SBTS) is editor of the Southern Seminary blog. He serves as senior editor for The Gospel Coalition and is also adjunct professor of church history and senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center at SBTS. Jeff served as a pastor for several years in Birmingham, Alabama. He is co-author with Michael A. G. Haykin of To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy (Crossway, 2014). Jeff and his wife Lisa have four children and belong to Clifton Baptist Church.
It is important to understand that all believers are called to ministry and all believers are to pursue Christ with all their heart and passion. It is also true that every believer should be diligent to share the Gospel and be in the habit of making disciples. There are those who would argue that there is no call beyond this universalistic call, but the overwhelming evidence of Scripture makes clear the necessity for the office of pastor, and it would be unwise for anyone to enter that office without the invitation of the Chief Overseer. I believe this is significant, because all members need to be more diligent in our churches in helping men understand the call to the pastorate, discern that call in their lives, and to have a confidence in that call.
L.R. Scarborough, the second president of Southwestern, explains,
“A divine call is a spiritual necessity to a Gospel ministry. He who goes out without God’s call has no promise of God’s power. The task is too great for us unless our hearts are assured that God has sent us.”
Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers,” puts it this way,
“In the present dispensation, the priesthood is common to all the saints; but to prophesy, or what is analogous thereto, namely, to be moved by the Holy Ghost to give oneself up wholly to the proclamation of the Gospel, is, as a matter of fact, the gift and calling of only a comparatively small number; and surely these need to be as sure of the rightfulness of their position as were the prophets; and yet how can they justify their office, except by a similar call?”
How can one discern if he has been called to enter into the office of pastor? I believe there are at least three important areas that must be examined. First, one should be able to recognize a God-given desire for the work. Second, the individual must meet the qualifications put forth in Scripture. Finally, the confirmation of a local body of believers is incredibly important in discerning a call to the pastorate.
In his instructions to Timothy on the qualifications of the pastor, Paul declares, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). In this one verse, you have two verb synonyms that are both translated “desires.” One of the verbs, orego, gives the picture of reaching for or longing for something. It is similar to the picture of a runner lunging for the finish line with every bit of remaining effort. The second term, epithymeo, seems to carry an even stronger idea of desire and could even be translated “to lust.” The word describes a desire that does not leave room for any other distractions. Such desire is determined to be negative or positive depending upon the object of the desire. The man who is truly called to the pastorate possesses such a desire for that role. It seems that such a desire would come from the Lord because ministry, as stated by Jimmy Draper, “is a terrible vocation, but it is a wonderful calling.”
One could argue, and rightly so, that desire is a very subjective measure and is difficult to discern. The final two areas examined lend themselves to a more objective approach. Even if one has a desire to enter into the role of a pastor, such a desire does not override the biblical qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The scope of this post does not allow space for a thorough treatment on the interpretation of the qualifications, but we, as those who believe the Scripture to be the very words of God, must recognize that these qualifications cannot be ignored. The Scripture gives us the most clearly objective standard of discerning a call to the pastorate. If one does not meet the qualifications presented in these texts, he can be assured that he is not called to the office. My colleague Terry Wilder exhorts,
“If God has called you to be a pastor, or for that matter, to any place of Christian Service, your call to ministry cannot be considered separately from what God has revealed in His Word.”
John MacArthur agrees,
“The call to the ministry is not a matter of analyzing one’s talents and then selecting the best career option. It’s a Spirit-generated compulsion to be a man of God and serve Him in the church. Those whom God calls will meet the [biblical] qualifications.”
An important question that must be answered is, “Who determines if a man is qualified for the office of pastor?” Scripture seems to leave that authority with the local church. Spurgeon exclaims, “The will of the Lord concerning pastors is made known through the prayerful judgment of his church.” The sending of Paul and Barnabas as missionaries in Acts 13 implies that authority for such confirmation has been left with the church under the direction of the Holy Spirit. At the very least, if an individual claims the call of God on his life but does not have the confirmation of a local body of believers, it should cause great hesitation on the part of those who might consider coming under his teaching. Again, Spurgeon is helpful here, as he writes,
“Churches are not all wise, neither do they all judge in the power of the Holy Ghost, but many of them judge after the flesh; yet I had sooner accept the opinion of the company of the Lord’s people than my own upon so personal a subject as my own gifts and graces.”
Are you called to pastor? Do you have a God-given desire to shepherd God’s sheep? Do you meet the Scriptural qualifications? Does your local body of believers confirm their belief that God has set you apart for the work of the pastor? The process presented above takes an individual to the Word of God, places that individual under the authority of a local church, and recognizes the importance of a personal walk with the Lord. Even still, the key is to diligently walk with Christ and in fellowship with His church as He directs our path! We can take great comfort in the words of Paul in Romans 12:1-2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
 L.R. Scarborough, Recruits for World Conquest (Chicago: FH Revell, 1914), 35
 Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 24.
 Keith Collier, “Draper Lectures on Heart of the Ministry,” http://swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/draper-lectures-on-heart-of-ministry/ Accessed September 19, 2015.
 Terry Wilder, Answering the Call, 14. http://www.mbts.edu/downloads/_future_students/answering_the_call.pdf
 John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church, (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 244.
 Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 32.
This past spring my wife and I traveled to five states and visited nearly 50 Talbot alumni. Our journeys found us in the San Joaquin valley of California, the Flagstaff-Casa Grande corridor of Arizona, parts of Illinois and Indiana, and the Colorado Interstate 25 from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs. And while our grads were doing all kinds of ministry in a multitude of settings, some basics about life and ministry came through loud and clear. Here are some of the most prevalent ...
Hello Dr. Craig.
I must say that I began my travels as an agnostic, and after watching a multitude of your debates, reading your book Reasonable Faith, and reviewing your website, I confess to be impressed by the breadth and depth of your research. I have come to accept Christianity. In fact, much of the apologetics I use now to help others understand what I had trouble understanding I learned from you! So thank you for that.
Now, as of recent, with the legalization of gay marriage across the United States, someone pointed out to me that the Bible says that to resist the authorities would be directly against God's wishes. To support this, he showed me Romans 13 verses 1-7. The verses seem to suggest that authority is placed by God, and we are to obey them because disobeying would be akin to disobeying God ...
Pastor, your spiritual health matters to your church. Your pursuit of Christ impacts your people. You know this, of course, but does your daily schedule reflect it? When you allocate time and energy toward the spiritual disciplines, do you do so with a view toward what is at stake? God’s sovereign purposes are not dependent on your maturity, of course, but the New Testament often speaks of the significance of a pastor’s spirituality to the health of his congregation. Consider the following seven reasons motivation for the pursuit of godliness and guides to praying for your own growth.
7 motivations for pursuing God:
1. God is holy and he will not be mocked.
Personal holiness is indispensable because you serve a holy God (1 Peter 4:14–16). But your growth in godliness must be rooted in faithfulness to Christ, not the pursuit of fruitful ministry. Your motivation has to rest on the character of God because no other incentive will be constant. Your people may not know if you falter in your private devotions, and you may not be a pastor forever. But he who called you into holiness will always be holy and he will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7–9).
2. Godliness is good for you.
The pursuit of godliness is not at odds with your hopes for happiness. In fact, as Paul reminded Timothy, godliness “holds promise for the present life” (1 Tim. 4:8). Pastors who are growing in their faith can take comfort in a clean conscience. You may not always know what to do in your ministry, but you can know with certainty how to do it—with Christ-like character. Moreover, godliness holds promise “also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Your regular efforts to discipline yourself are daily deposits into that moment when you hear your master declare, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).
3. Your spirituality can inspire or impede the salvation of others.
The apostle Paul once told a young pastor to keep a close watch on his life and teaching because “by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Paul was not suggesting that a pastor’s lifestyle alone will bring salvation to his congregation. Rather, he seemed to be pointing to the power of preaching the Word of God and living a life that makes it more believable. When others observe a life transformed by the gospel, they are inspired to consider the good news for themselves. Your life is not the means of salvation for anyone, but it can be used by God to point them in the right direction. Likewise, it can be a distraction from the truth you preach each week.
4. Your conduct impacts the effectiveness of your communication.
A brilliant sermon can be silenced by a lifestyle that contradicts it. As leaders, we must strive “to keep the commandment unstained” (1 Tim. 6:14), so that “the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5). You put hours into studying the text so that you can faithfully expound upon its meaning. Do not short-circuit your efforts by forsaking your own spirituality. Your prayer life is more important than your sermon prep. If you want to point your people faithfully to the power of the Word, start by persistently consuming it yourself.
5. Your people learn discipline from you as well as doctrine.
Paul’s example with Timothy reminds us that the people we lead and serve will inherit more from us than simply our sermons (2 Tim. 3:10). In fact, God commands them to do so (Hebrews 13:7). As a pastor, you can help your people grow in spiritual maturity by living a life worthy of imitation. This kind of leadership cannot be accomplished as you breeze past the pews on your way to the pulpit each week. You have to know your people and they have to know you. You ought to be able to say to them, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Then you must live a life that will give you no regrets if they do.
6. Your enemy wants to destroy you.
Wise pastors know their enemy well, and they recognize their daily peril as preachers of God’s Word (1 Peter 5:8). The enemy would love to see your study of Scripture become a professional skill rather than a personal discipline. He will coax you toward using the text as ammunition against your congregation rather than applying it to your own heart. He will draw your attention to the specks of others while distracting you from the log in your own eye (Matt. 7:3–5). Pastors, “Keep watch on yourself lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
7. A reckoning awaits.
Pastors are stewards of the mysteries of God (Col. 1:24–25) and will some day give an account for their work (Matt. 25:19, James 3:1). The prospect of this day ought to humble us to seek the Spirit anew every morning. As a pastor, you have not merely received a job to do but souls to guard (Heb.13:17). Therefore, pastors must pursue spiritual maturity for their own sake and for the sake of those entrusted to their care. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal.6:9).
Whether you are a pastor or future pastor, there are critical things at stake in how you live your life.________________
Matthew D. Haste, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Ministry Studies at Columbia International Seminary and School of Ministry in Columbia, SC, where he serves as Faculty Mentor for the 5-year B.A./M.Div Program. He is married to Cheyenne and they have three kids: Haddon, Anna, and Adelyn. He is co-author, along with Robert L. Plummer, of Held in Honor: Wisdom for your Marriage from Voices of the Past (Christian Focus, 2015).
“Prince of peace” is biblical language. In other words, it derives from its use in the Bible as a descriptive title with a very specific context. The title “Prince of Peace” is used of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. It is, therefore—according to Christian orthodoxy—a reference to Jesus Christ. This is an extraordinarily honorific title. It denotes the full realization of messianic hope. In the Christian Scriptures it alludes to human reconciliation with God, and only by extension to the realization of peace within the human community. The agent, of course, is the Prince of Peace ...
Dr. Joseph Hellerman, Professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology, talks about his volume on Philippians in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series ...
With all of the hullabaloo this week over the visit of antichrist (not THE antichrist, mind you, but surely one who most overtly and offensively epitomizes John’s general description of the spirit of antichrist), it is a delight to point our readers to a free eCopy of one of the better treatments of this topic on the market today–R. C. Sproul’s Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism.
Hint: the answer to the question is a resounding NO. The pope is a capital enemy of the Gospel and of the Church of God on earth. We are not together.
Tolle Lege (or perhaps I should say “download and read.” What’s that in Latin?)
A few weeks ago, another semester began here at Southwestern Seminary, and I began another course on Baptist Heritage, a class in which the people, places and ideas of the Baptist movement are discussed. On the first day of class, I ran through the usual first day of class procedures (introductions, syllabus, etc.) and then asked the question, “How many of you, honestly, have not been looking forward to this course?” This is a question I typically ask at the beginning of each semester, and the typical response is usually a handful of reluctant but honest students who raise their hands. The reason I began asking that question is that I have come to realize at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that many students not only do not have an understanding of what “Baptist” means, but also, many of them are negative to ambivalent about being labeled “Baptist.”
This is the case in my classroom, and I have found it to be the case in many churches as well. As I interact with these positions of reluctance about the label “Baptist,” I do recognize that they are borne from good questions, such as, “Should not my identity be found in Christ?” “Is being Baptist more important than being Christian?” or “Are denominations perpetuating division?”
In addition, historically, there have been legitimate problems with denominational labels, denominationalism, and responses to it. First, there is the problem that many denominations (beyond Baptists), at times, have claimed sole ownership of true Christianity or have dogmatically excluded others for not believing as they believe. In reaction to this thought, some have blamed denominationalism and eschewed denominations altogether, believing such division is detrimental to being a follower of Christ. Thus, we have seen the growth of “non-denominational” churches. Second, and, at times, in response to this broader sentiment, churches have begun to remove any denominational affiliation from their name. This is not necessarily because they dislike being Baptist, etc., though sometimes that is the case. At times, these churches no longer think the denominational descriptor is valuable for their church, nor is it helpful in ministering to or attracting the community in which they are engaged. Many of these congregations are still affiliated with Baptist conventions and fellowships and affirm Baptist confessions, but they are not Baptist in name.
These questions and situations—and many like them—are legitimate and deserve consideration, but if we can concede that Baptists are Christians, though a particular type of Christians, let me briefly address the question of the value of utilizing the label “Baptist” at all.
Before presenting a few values of being named Baptist, which is a contemporary debate, let us remember that Baptists had reasons for accepting the term. These reasons are found in the way in which they read and interpreted the Bible. In particular, these Baptists would strongly hold to Believer’s Baptism, the Believers’ Church, Congregationalism, and other doctrines related to the church. These reasons for being Baptist are theological at the core and, as such, are as much a defining element in Baptist identity as any other factor. Though many have opted to label themselves with the softer term “baptistic,” meaning they hold to these theological ideas, in reality they are, in fact, Baptist, whether they self-identify or not.
Though Baptists have been a people who strongly held to their principles, the majority of Baptist history shows a people who identify with the larger history of Christianity. And, as a part of the larger narrative, Baptists are a people who have contributed to the building of God’s Kingdom throughout history and around the globe. There are good, positive things about being Baptist that we should recognize and that should lead us to reevaluate our acceptance of the label “Baptist.” Let me provide a few reasons.
It is common to see a definition of “Baptist” in direct relationship to a regional or national body of believers. Thus, we have Southern Baptists, American Baptists, Independent Baptists, etc. Many of these political labels are intended to show the way in which various Baptist churches cooperate or fellowship with one another. For instance, to be a Southern Baptist says more about how one engages in missions than what one necessarily believes. However, the membership of the congregations in these fellowships is autonomous—that is, they are not constrained by any institution. This political connectedness of varying Baptist groups is based upon voluntary participation. Though we can say that many Baptists are often identified by their various connections with one another, we must affirm that there is something more to being Baptist than these connections alone.
Being named Baptist is finding oneself in relationship to a people whose history goes back hundreds of years. Though there is debate as to the general and particular origins of Baptists, there exists a history of those who today number in the millions worldwide. In looking at these people, one finds many accounts of sacrifice and even persecution. There are countless stories of those maintaining dissenting positions on how to read the Bible, of the struggles and victories in planting and operating churches, and of engaging the world with the Gospel. More than seeing a history of a people of closed-minded division, we find a robust history of a people who have been transformed by the Spirit and the Word and long to make ways for others to participate in this transformation.
Though this point is by no means unique to Baptists, a commitment to the Bible is historically a consistent theme for Baptists. From the beginning of the Baptist movements, the concern has been to see the Bible as the supreme authority for life and practice. Baptist teaching for 400 years has asserted the authority and necessity of the Bible, even to the extreme of claiming there is no authority but the Bible. Though at times it may be hard to pin down some Baptist doctrine, Baptists have exhibited a strong commitment to the Bible.
As mentioned above, being Baptist, on a foundational level, is a commitment to a particular theology, and in it, there is a rich tradition of theological engagement. Historical and contemporary Baptists have been broadly engaged in biblical exegesis, interpretation and theological formulation. One need only look at the panoply of Baptist Bible colleges, universities and seminaries to see the commitment to the theological enterprise. The tradition of Baptist theological thought often is neglected simply due to the reticence of acceptance because of the label “Baptist.”
Finally, Baptists are a people that fall in line with the majority of Christian history in matters of orthodoxy. On questions such as “Who is God?” and “Who is Jesus?”, Baptists have affirmed what orthodox Christianity has affirmed from the beginning. Though there are some doctrines Baptists hold that distinguish them within Christianity (baptism, etc.), we must remember that Baptists as a whole are Christians and have traditionally confessed orthodox Christianity.
These are five general points about who Baptists are, and by no means are they intended to be exhaustive in defining what it means to be Baptist. These are merely some points of consideration for those who are uneasy about being labeled Baptist. My encouragement is for you to take time to read and study the history and theologies of those named Baptist, and I believe you will find less of a disdain for the label and more of an appreciation for the name “Baptist.”
Pornography is one of the greatest dangers facing the church today. I could offer you statistics and case studies showing the devastating effects pornography is having on our church leaders but that is not needed. You know the dangers and the widespread effects of pornography. Based on statistics alone there is a reasonable chance that some reading this are physically addicted to viewing pornography. If you are not already addicted there is a greater chance that you have at least viewed pornography recently and on the verge of addiction.
As students pursuing (or currently in) ministry we are called to a higher standard. We will be leaders in our churches where our people will be looking to us as an example. Too often in the church our leaders fall prey to sexual temptation. One well-known pastor recently admitted to an “inappropriate relationship” and numerous pastors and church leaders names have appeared on the recent Ashley Madison list. In addition to the obvious personal and familial destruction, the people in our churches can begin to distrust the gospel and think less of the people who should be leading them.
“Teleiosness” and James
In one of the most practical books of the New Testament James, the brother of Jesus, exhorts his people to pursue of life of “teleiosness”—or in simpler terms, “wholeness.” This idea of wholeness means that our outward actions and our inward thoughts are in complete agreement with each other. “Teleiosness,” often translated as “perfection,” is not about “doing all the right things” but rather orienting our lives in line with Christian virtue. This the pursuit of holiness that is central to the Christian life.
Along with this idea of wholeness, James also says teachers will be held to a “stricter judgment” based on their position within the church (Jas. 3:1). Granted, this is in the context leading up to a small discourse concerning our speech, but I think it can be applied more universally. As teachers and preachers of the gospel, ours is a calling to holiness. Our lives, should be marked with a wholeness in the same way that Christ showed us in the gospel stories.
If we are engaged in pornography our life is not marked by “teleiosness” but rather “dipsychosness” (Jas. 4:8) or “double-mindedness.” Our outward actions may be righteous and holy but our lives are marked by a deep and dark addiction—pornography. We could list all the verses that pertain to sexual sins and apply that here but if you are reading this then you likely know that sexual sin is one that can erode the soul of even the godliest person.
Pornography and the addicted brain
Engaging in pornography not only erodes the soul, it also physically impacts the way that your brain is wired. John Piper in a recent article explains some research within the medical community that shows pornography has an addiction effect similar to cocaine and heroine. Cocaine and heroine cause a “high” in two distinct ways. Yet, as the article explains, viewing pornography actually taps into both these causes. A drug addict needs more and more drugs to realize the same sensation. Likewise, pornography re-wires the brain in the same way and, thus, needing more and more pornography to feel the same effects. Therefore, pornography is not only addicting in a spiritualized, sin-craving manner, but your body becomes physically addicted to the “high” and *needs* more material to achieve this high. This addiction is both spiritual and physical. It can all be accessed alone—”anonymously”—in the comfort of your personal computer or smartphone.
How can you help yourself prevent the seduction of pornography in the age of the Internet? Below I mention four basic levels of protection. These are not exhaustive and you should still do your own research beyond this article. I also want to note that some of these protections use the language of “parental controls” because they are focused on parents and children.
Use your spouse or a trusted friend to act as the “parent” with these solutions, giving them the passwords to monitor and control the accounts so you are not tempted to circumvent their protection. There are many articles on the Internet that discuss web accountability but many do not take into account mobile devices. So when you are doing your research realize that pornography is most easily viewed on mobile devices so protections against routers and computers are ineffective in this regard.
Four levels of protection
1. Prayer and community: You must fight the urge to engage in pornography through prayer and community. Satan wants to tell you that you can fight this on your own. You can’t. Don’t give into the lie that “this won’t effect me” and not establish the necessary precautions. As image-bearers we are built for community. Find trusted friends you can pray with and who will hold you accountable. Don’t be ashamed. We are not made to fight temptation alone.
2. Open DNS: This solution allows you to change settings to your home (or business) router that automatically filters web content at the router level. This will give you basic protection for anyone connected to the internet via the router in your home or business.
3. Mobile parental controls: Setting up Internet filtering protection at the router level is good and necessary, but pornography is being viewed more and more on mobile devices, which have access to the Internet beyond the router. Mobile operating systems such as Apple’s iOS provide parental control restrictions. While these may be labeled “parental controls” you can use these to your advantage by having your spouse or a trusted friend determine the settings and store your password. Not knowing your password helps ensure in the moment of temptation you are not able to “unrestrict” the filtering to view pornographic material. (iOS) (Android)
Third-party mobile solutions: While parental restrictions on mobile devices are great, they are generally not as customizable as one would want. This is why it is a good idea to also use a third party service such as Curbi or Covenant Eyes. Curbi and Covenant Eyes function in different ways on mobile devices. Curbi installs a “profile” on your mobile devices, which then speaks to their servers and provides filtering and content wherever you are. The disadvantage to Curbi is that this “profile” can be uninstalled but it will send out an instant alert if that is done. Covenant Eyes disables all Internet access on your mobile device except through their own browser. This means that you can only view web content through their custom browser. While this will work, I personally find it to be a less than elegant solution and would recommend checking out Curbi first. (Curbi) (Covenant Eyes)
These solutions do not and will not offer complete protection from pornography. There will always be a way to view it regardless of how many protections you put in place. But what they do is provide the necessary road blocks to limit easy access and put in place hazard lights warning you not to go any further. These solutions will not change your heart, but they will help protect you in the war for holiness.__________________
Brian Renshaw is a Ph.D. student in New Testament at Southern Seminary. His interests include Gospel studies, hermeneutics, theological interpretation of Scripture, and history of interpretation. He works as an instructional designer in the SBTS Online Learning department and also serves as the director of digital production for CACS. When he is not reading you can find him roasting and brewing craft coffee. He and his wife attend Sojourn East. He writes on biblical studies at his personal site and Techademic. Follow him on Twitter.
Have you ever noticed that the writer of Hebrews never directly quotes from Jesus? Of course, the New Testament epistles do not contain many quotations directly from Jesus. This is understandable in the case of Paul who probably never met the pre-resurrected Christ. Though even in Paul’s case, he does reference the words of Jesus (I Cor. 11:23-26). And we cannot really know how often Paul is directly quoting what the resurrected Christ said to Paul (2 Cor 12:9). Unsurprisingly, we do see more quotations from those who knew Jesus during his First Advent (e.g., Peter).
I am aware that we need to be careful about judging ancient literature by modern standards. Nevertheless, I want to make the argument that the lack of Jesus’ words in Hebrews is rather striking. Notice how Hebrews begins: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he created the world” (1:1-2, ESV). There is much to unpack here, but for our purposes we will focus on the implied contrast. The author of Hebrews (AH) compares the revelation of the prophets with the revelation of the Son. His point through the sermon/epistle is that the revelation through the Son is better revelation than the revelation through the prophets. But if so, why is there no direct verbal quotation of this revelation?
Let’s try to answer this question by starting with an examination of the comparisons made in Hebrews 1:1-2:Prophetic Revelation Son Revelation Timing of Revelation Given long ago Given in the last days Recipients of Revelation Our Fathers “Us”—1st century believers Channel of Revelation By the Prophets By the Son Mode of Revelation In many ways ———
You will notice that there is a clean, one to one comparison for the timing, recipients and channel of revelation. But did the AH forget to make a comparison between the mode of revelation? Clearly he makes the beginning of a comparison by mentioning the “many ways” Old Testament revelation was delivered. In my estimation, the AH did provide the second aspect of the comparison, and this fact provides the interpretive clue as to why the AH can claim to magnify the revelation of the Son even when he never directly quotes from Jesus’ verbal teaching. The mode of this last days “speaking” is not predominantly verbal; it is typological. Typological refers to the use of types. A type is like a shadow that hints at the reality of something similar to but greater than the shadow—the thing that is responsible for the shadow. In this case, the revelation of the Son is better than the revelation through the prophets (yes, even Moses Heb. 3:1-6) because it both fulfills and supersedes that prior revelation.
In what ways does Jesus fulfill the typology presented in the prophetic revelation? The chief example used in Hebrews concerns the priesthood (Heb. 7-10). Only Hebrews calls Jesus a (high) priest (though the concept of His sacrificial offering is present elsewhere in the NT). Using the Melchizedekian priesthood derived from Genesis 14, the AH shows how the OT prophesied (Ps. 110:1,6) about a coming king who would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus’ priesthood is the full reality for which the Levitical priesthood was merely the shadow. Even the Melchizedekian priesthood was a shadow of Jesus’ ultimate priesthood, for Melchizedek himself is said to “resemble the Son of God” (Heb. 7:3).
Much more could be said about the use of typology in Hebrews, but the main point here is to suggest that the AH believed the mode of God’s revelation through the Son was not so much what the Son said as what the Son did. It also could be said that it is not what the Son said but who the Son is. In this light, it is no longer surprising that the AH does not quote Jesus’ verbal teaching directly. Following many in the early church and the majority of biblical scholars today, I assume non-Pauline authorship of Hebrews. Regardless of authorship, in the book of Hebrews, there are no direct quotations of Jesus.  I am thinking here of judging the Bible on the basis of modern copyright laws or, more particularly, on the basis of modern frequency of attribution.  Most interpreters agree that Hebrews was originally a sermon that was later transcribed for wider distribution.  Better (κρειττων) is used thirteen times in the New Testament. Hebrews is responsible for eleven of the occurrences.  This word refers to more than the AH’s lifetime. It has eschatological implications that we cannot develop here.
It is commonly claimed that when Jesus used the phrase “I am,” (ἐγώ εἰμι, ego eimi) that he was making a direct reference to the name of God in the Old Testament, YHWH. There is some truth to this, but I want to suggest three important caveats to this claim:
- “I am,” (ἐγώ εἰμι), by itself, is not a code for the name of God;
- “I am” is only intended to refer to deity in some of Jesus’ sayings;
- Paying too much attention to the “I am” part of the sentence distracts readers from paying attention to the rest of the sentence.
Hi Dr Craig.
I've heard you say, on the topic of marriage, that you are an "essentialist" on the nature of marriage- that is, marriage has a certain intrinsic nature which is not merely a social construct. As a natural law theorist who thinks the moral law is grounded in what it is to be human, this gratified me immensely. On the other hand, you are also well-known for your nominalism on the topic of abstract objects, which I take to be the denial that there are real universals in any sense (either Aristotelian or Platonic). My question is how these positions can be made consistent.
As far as I know, to an essence just is a universal, so to affirm that marriage has an essence seems in direct contradiction with the idea that there are no such things as universals. Since I don't think you would permit so obvious a contradiction, either my account of essence or my understanding of your nominalism must be at fault. I would be much gratified if you could elaborate, as I think it would help me better understand your position on abstract objects ...
Editors’ note: Part I of this two-part series was published on Tuesday.
Engaging the culture involves more than the picking apart of opposing arguments. While this is important, you must develop and use well-reasoned arguments. It is far too easy to point out the faults and inaccuracies of someone else’s argument, but to make this your only method does little in advancing the truth. You must be ready to give an answer for what you seek to correct. To help you toward this end, here are four fundamental tips related to the answering aspect of engaging the culture.
1. Provide the solution, not just a critique. This may sound like I am being repetitive, but it is worth repeating. Don’t stop at pointing out your another’s faults (regarding his argument). For instance, I recently read a Twitter post where someone claimed that a particular theologian’s argument committed the straw man fallacy, thus undermining his argument and essentially all of Scripture. The tweeter failed to provide an explanation as to why the theologian committed the straw man fallacy. Merely labeling an argument as fallacious is nothing more than name calling. If an argument is fallacious, explain why.
But, do not stop there. Pointing out a fault without offering a corrective is like a dentist removing a cavity without putting in the filling. Sure, the patient no longer has the cavity, but without filling the hole properly, the patient will have worse dental problems in the long run. To fix the problem, the dentist must add a filling after removing the cavity. Likewise, you must offer a corrective or a solution after pointing out a fault in another’s argument.
With regard to the Richards’ interview, it is easy for Christians to lambast Richards for her views on abortion and the actions of Planned Parenthood. We do little by way of bring truth to light if we focus only on the weaknesses of her argument. Instead, build a case that demonstrates how Richards’ claim is untenable and how the argument made by the Center for Medical Progress demands action.
2. Be informed. Know what you are talking about. Facebook and Twitter are excellent mediums to use when engaging cultural issues. The temptation, though, is to jump into a discussion and rely solely on hearsay or personal experience. Another temptation is to provide immediate responses to keep the upper hand or momentum.
Take the time to research the topic at hand. If you are unfamiliar about a particular issue, do some research and think through your response before replying. Peter’s instruction in 1 Peter 3:15 implies that we reflect carefully upon why we believe what we believe and how we answer objections to the faith. We can apply this principle to our cultural engagement as well; we are to be ready to defend the truth, whatever the situation.
Will you be able to answer successfully every charge? No. Will you make mistakes when defending the Christian faith? Yes. But this should not stop you from preparing well to give an answer for your faith. Jesus Christ promises the Holy Spirit to guide you when you face opposition, but he also instructs us through Peter to prepare for such times. He will bless your work.
3. Let emotion support, not carry, your argument. The ongoing controversy with Planned Parenthood ought to anger you. It is natural and biblical to be outraged at the murder of helpless babies and the trafficking of human parts. You ought to be disgusted at the recent videos of PP doctors and the attempt by Richards to justify their actions. God has created us to experience emotions, and these emotions spur us into action. Care must be given, however, to not let your emotions carry the force of your argument.
Allowing emotion to carry the day can lead you to create a fallacious argument. Excessive emotion can inhibit your ability to think clearly, can lead you to attack you’re the other person as opposed to their argument, and can do more harm than good against those with differing views. A reasoned argument undergirded by a proper expression of emotion can address not only the opponent’s mind, but their heart as well.
4. Pray. Our Lord Jesus Christ did nothing without prayer. He prayed before choosing the 12 disciples. He went away to a mountain to pray after feeding more than 5,000 people. During the hours leading up to Jesus’s arrest, our Lord spent agonizing hours in the garden praying to the Father. If Jesus Christ prayed often about his ministry and about those to whom he ministers, so should you pray that the Holy Spirit will guide your thought process and your cultural encounter. Ask that he would work in the heart of those who propagate falsehood, open their eyes to their need for salvation through Jesus Christ. Through prayer, you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and submit yourself to the will of the Lord; without prayer, you walk in the futility of your own strength.
These tips are by no means exhaustive. They do, however, touch upon key factors to keep in mind when engaging our culture. As a student at SBTS or Boyce College, you have the privilege of sitting under professors who give you the tools necessary to face an unbelieving culture with the power of the gospel. Your Old and New Testament courses saturate you with the truths of God’s Word as you delve into the riches found from Genesis through Revelation.
Theology professors ground you in the essential doctrines of the faith and the reasoning behind such doctrines. Missiology and evangelism courses get you out of the ivory tower and into the trenches of spiritual warfare, applying what you have learned for the salvation of lost souls. Preaching and church leadership professors guide you in the art of shepherding and teaching the people of God. Your Christian worldview and apologetics professors teach you, in part, how to argue effectively in the defense of and propagation of the gospel.
I encourage you to take advantage of your time here at seminary or Boyce. We are in a day and age where all Christians must be apologists. You will face objections to the faith that will require every resource you have to answer in defense of truth.__________________
J. Daniel McDonald, Ph.D., serves as adjunct professor of Christian Worldview and Apologetics at Boyce College.