Just a reminder that the Rice Lectures are now just two weeks away on Wednesday, March 19. Pastor Peter Hubbard, who is the teaching pastor at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC, will be presenting three lectures based on his new book Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church.
The lectures will run from 8:30 a.m. till noon. A free lunch will be provided afterward. There is no cost to attend the Rice Lectures. However, for planning purposes, all guests are requested to register in advance so that adequate seating and food can be provided. Registration can be completed by calling (313) 381-0111, ext. 400, or sending an email to email@example.com.
If you have spent time counseling men in the areas of purity and pornography, you have probably, like me, struggled to find a resource that is biblical, straightforward, pastoral, and pure itself. In my opinion, Heath Lambert has written such a book, titled Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Zondervan, 2013). This book is designed as a resource both for those fighting against the sin of viewing pornography and for those helping those who are.
I recently read through the book while preparing for a retreat, and found it to be extremely practical. Lambert has served as a pastor and now as a teacher, and is also the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly NANC–which, in my view, bodes well for this organization). Lambert is biblical, pastoral, hopeful, and straightforward in his counsel.
Here are a few quotes I highlighted from the Kindle edition I purchased to get you started:
- “Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you” (28).
- “Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness” (38).
- “Employing radical measures is the path to life, while indulging sin is the path to hell. God does not forbid sexual immorality because he wants you to be miserable ; God forbids it because sexual immorality leads to brokenness, sadness, emptiness, death, and hell ” (62).
- “The great call of your life is to be holy, as Jesus is holy. Pornography stands firmly opposed to that call. You must run from it and toward Christ” (154).
Lambert outlines through the chapters an eight-pronged approach to a grace-founded fight against pornography. Also, there is an appendix that provides practical counsel for those hurt by another’s struggle that I found to be valuable as well. If you are a pastor, you will want to get a copy of this as a resource for yourself and others.
I’ve visited sub-Saharan Africa a few times and have started to get a handle on the grassroots economic theory that dominates the local villages: zero-sum economics. In brief, traditional African culture understands that there is a fixed amount of wealth available at all times, so if one villager becomes wealthy, he necessarily does so at the expense of others, who conversely become poor. In such a model, a man who works hard, earns money, and starts socking that money away in a bank account is immoral, because by “hoarding” this money, he is denying his neighbors the opportunity to prosper or even to survive.
The effects of this economic theory are manifold. Some of these are not entirely bad—the Africans I met tended to be relational, communitarian, less penurious than the average American, and even quite generous (of course they expected the same from me, so this wasn’t pure altruism, but there is a certain civility in African society that is rather pleasant). Still, the problems with this theory were glaring. People still hoarded, but deceitfully and hypocritically; envy often outpaced magnanimity. But the most obvious problem of zero-sum economics was that, absent the idea of wealth creation, almost all incentive for steady work, planning, investment, and advancement disappear. After all, if I may keep only my little sliver of pie, what reason do I have to earn more?
As Americans (and especially those of us of the Republican persuasion), we tend to have the opposite problem. We tend to see all wealth as created, and suppress the uncomfortable thought that my wealth might possibly contribute to the hardship of someone else…except when it comes to church planting. Here, zero-sum economics often flourishes. If a new church plant appears near the perimeter of an established church’s “turf,” worry sets in—worry that the new church will lure away members from the existing church and prosper at its expense. After all, there are only so many Christians to go around, so a new church means fewer Christians for all of the existing churches. And while no one would ever actually say this, a mindset begins to emerge that it’s actually better to eliminate churches than it is to plant them; after all, when a church dies, this means more ‘wealth’ to distribute among the surviving churches.
But here’s the problem. It denies the possibility of the creation of ‘wealth’—in this case the creation of new believers—and removes all incentive to work hard at evangelism, invest in discipleship, and advance the cause of Christ. Sure, the surviving churches often have a wonderful sense of community and belonging, but without ‘wealth’ creation, the community will never truly prosper.
I grant, of course, that some new church planters hold to a zero-sum economic theory too—they plant churches fully intending to populate them with stolen sheep rather than with new sheep, suppressing and eliminating competition as their primary means of church growth. This is a problem that I recognize to be fully as serious as the previous. But in both situations, the solution is not to stop planting churches; instead, the solution is for all parties to recognize that the primary means to the establishment and growth of churches is by the creation and cultivation of new believers through the hard work of evangelism.
In a handful of places the NT interprets Jesus’ resurrection (+ ascension) as his exaltation to God’s right hand, which is to say, as his fulfillment of David’s prophecy about the coming messiah in Ps 110:1: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” See, for example, Heb 1:13; 8:1 and 10:12–13. Despite all this, some still insist that it isn’t appropriate to say that Jesus is presently reigning as the davidic messiah, the davidic king (see, e.g., here). One problem with this reading is that it seems to contradict what Paul says about Jesus in 1 Cor 15:25. There Paul says that Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” The bit about the “enemies” recalls the end of Ps 110:1 and therefore suggests that Paul thinks that what Jesus is doing now at God’s right hand—the first part of Ps 110:1—can be summarized with the word “reign.” In short, if the NT says that Jesus’ exaltation fulfills the promise of Ps 110:1, then, according to Paul, we must say that Jesus, the davidic messiah, is presently reigning.
That’s the short version of the argument. Here, however, let me add one more note. Some may still wonder whether Paul’s language about “reign[ing] until he has put all his enemies under his feet” is indeed a reference to Ps 110:1, since Paul doesn’t indicate he’s citing Scripture and, as well, since Paul uses slightly different language than what we find in Ps 110:1. In this case, what Paul says here wouldn’t require us to say Jesus is reigning now, since the author could simply be describing something in the future, something different than what David prophesied in Ps 110:1 and, therefore, different from what the NT authors say was fulfilled at Jesus’ exaltation.
That sort of reading is possible, but unlikely. Just because Paul doesn’t use an introductory formula (e.g., “as it’s been written”) doesn’t mean he isn’t intentionally recalling Ps 110. He sometimes simply cites an OT text (e.g., Gal 3:6), often verbatim but not always. We call these latter instances allusions. What suggests that Paul alludes to Ps 110:1 here is that he uses language that is identical to Ps 110:1 and, moreover, language that is found only in Ps 110:1. That is, not only does he use language found in Ps 110:1 (“place,” “enemies,” “feet”) but this language is found together nowhere else in the entire Greek OT. What’s more, the parts of Paul’s presumed allusion that use different language don’t point away from the presence of Ps 110 but rather to the influence of Paul’s present context. That is, Paul’s changed the direct discourse of Ps 110:1 (“I will make your enemies a footstool for your feet”) into indirect discourse (“he will place his enemies under his feet”) to seamlessly incorporate the text into v. 25, and, as well, he’s substituted “footstool for…feet” for “under…feet” and added “all” before “enemies” probably because of the influence of Ps 8, which Paul recalls in 1 Cor 15:27. In fact, it is his certain allusion to Ps 8:6 in v. 27 that suggests, even more strongly, that Paul’s language in v. 25 intends to recall Ps 110, since everywhere that Ps 8:6 is discussed in the NT it is combined with Ps 110:1 (see, esp., Eph 1:20, 22 and Heb 1:13; 2:7).
Students in my Medieval Church History class recently read Augustine’s book, On Christian Teaching. As I was working my way back through this little volume, I was struck by a statement Augustine (354-430) makes which seems to have application to those who would be preachers and teachers of God’s Word in the local church. Augustine says,
The teacher who expounds what he understands in the Scriptures expounds it to his listeners like the reader of a text articulating the letters which he recognizes; whereas the teacher who teaches how to understand Scripture is like the teacher of the alphabet, one who teaches how to read (Augustine, On Christian Teaching, preface, 18).
Paul is quite clear that pastors are responsible to study God’s Word and to preach what they’ve studied to God’s people (1 Tim 4:13–16). But especially in a culture where God’s people have ready access to God’s Word, surely pastors should also invest some time in specifically teaching God’s people how to study the Scriptures for themselves.
It’s now been two weeks since the big debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. Everyone who watched has an opinion about who won and why. And most all of them, it seems, have blogged about it. Everyone who didn’t watch the debate also has an opinion about who won and why, and a lot of them have blogged about it too. What I’d like to do in this post is to classify the self-affirmingly Christian responses into four categories in such a way as to explain the differences of apologetic methodology at play. Here goes:
- Some hoped that Ken Ham would listen to the science guy as an expert in his field, abandon his young earth position as scientifically untenable, and adjust his hermeneutic for the sake of preserving the goodwill of the community of naturalistic, God-disinterested, deistic science. Those who hoped for this to happen were frustrated with Ham, even angry, and were very swift to distance themselves from and even to ridicule Ham as an intellectual embarrassment.
- Others (a majority of grass-roots young-earth creationists, I’d hazard, though I have no way of proving this) hoped that Ken Ham would out-science the science guy in point-counterpoint fashion, answering Nye’s every objection with plausible young-earth explanations. Those who held out this hope came away bruised and disappointed. Ham did some of this, but what little he did do was spotty and not very compelling. Ham had some chances to do more of this than he did, and one might argue reasonably that he missed a good opportunity here—after all, the apologist is supposed to spend at least some time answering the fool according to his folly to keep the fool from becoming smug (Prov 26:5). Clearly, Nye’s confidence (some would call it arrogance) never abated at any point during the exchange. But Ham made it fairly clear from the outset that he didn’t want the debate to unfold in point-counterpoint fashion. He wanted to take the debate to the level of worldviews, offering a worldview other than and superior to Nye’s, lest the faithful become like the fool himself (Prov 26:4).
- One might expect, then, that young-earth creationists in the presuppositionalist community would have been most favorable to Ham’s performance. In one sense they were—they were agreeable to his intention to defend the biblical account of creation presuppositionally. Unfortunately, those most favorable to Ham’s method were fairly uniform in kindly suggesting that Ham could have done a better job. To be fair, some blame for this falls on the governing question and format of the debate, which favored a point-counterpoint exchange on the fool’s home turf. Still, Ham missed several golden opportunities to identify Nye’s unargued assumptions (natural laws, laws of logic, etc.), to point out glaring inconsistencies in Nye’s own worldview (his non-uniformitarian explosion of matter out of non-matter and, later, of life from non-life), and to expose Nye’s surprising (but not totally unexpected) nod to Christian ethics as a pragmatic and utilitarian check on his otherwise lawless system.
- A final group enthusiastically declared Ham the winner, and would have done so no matter what happened during the debate. They cheered for him despite a certain perplexity that Ham acceded to the debate at all. And that is because for this group of believers, science and religion are antithetical: we accept the Bible even though doing so is totally irrational. In a provincial sense, this response is laudable: I accept the Bible even when I can’t harmonize it with some intricacies raised by the scientific community. Scripture is, after all, the norma normans non normata and the queen of the sciences, and thus has full warrant to “norm” scientific conclusions that are at odds with its own truth claims. But this response takes on an entirely new and dangerous countenance when it takes the form, “We should all accept the Bible even though it is irrational to do so.” The Bible is eminently rational (or to use Nye’s term, eminently “reasonable”). The standard of Christian reason, however, is a theistic one, and not Nye’s atheistic one. Or, to say it another way, Nye’s unstated supposition that “science is reasonable and religion is not” is untrue; instead, the Christian religion informs science such that both science and religion are together manifestly reasonable. This fourth group may hold the right view, but the fact that they don’t know why and how they are right is far from praiseworthy.
It probably comes as little surprise that I find myself in greatest agreement with view #3. To that end I recommend the reviews here, here, and here. I commend them to you with the hope that God will grant more opportunities to successfully defend the Christian worldview both privately and in the public square.
We’ve all heard it, and most of us have either thought it or even prayed it. “God, if You [do this thing I currently want], then I’ll [do something I probably should do but haven’t].” We find ourselves in a situation we don’t like or lacking something we crave, yet we feel incapable of attaining our desire. Thus, we turn to someone we believe is capable of accomplishing what we want and hope God will show us favor.
But we understand how life works. People don’t just give away favors. They want something in return. So we begin to barter with others when we are seeking their favors. We started doing this when we were young (e.g., trading your sandwich for your friend’s crackers). The other person has something we want—either an item (good) or the ability to accomplish something (service)—so we offer him something we think he wants. In our society the most common bartering item is money—you give me something and I give you money in exchange. But we occasionally offer other goods or services (e.g., housing and food in exchange for childcare; use of vehicles in exchange for professional work, etc.). In each situation, the offer is successful only if both parties have something the other lacks or needs.
But there’s a problem when we try to barter with God. He doesn’t lack or need anything! The truth that God does not need anything is part of a larger truth of God’s self-sufficiency or aseity. This means that God’s existence comes from Himself, thus He is not dependent on anyone or anything else. We as humans derive our existence from God and live continually in dependence on Him (Col 1:17), but God exists in Himself and needs nothing (Exod 3:14; Acts 17:24-25).
Most pagan gods respond to the barter system. You offer sacrifices to a god, and he responds to help you in the way that he can. Thus, you worship the god of travel, and he in return gives you safe travel; you bring a sacrifice to the god of fertility, and he makes you fruitful; or you give to the god of war to make your army successful.
The Christian God is nothing like these pagan gods, which means we have nothing to offer God that would make Him respond by giving us a favor.
- “God, if you give me this raise than I’ll give you 15% of it.” God is not sitting in heaven wondering how he will be able to finance His work and hoping someone steps up to foot the bill. The whole world is His! (Ps 50:9-12)
- “God, if you heal me of this sickness, I’ll go to church every Sunday.” God does not struggle through the week waiting for Sunday to come and hoping more people show up this time to lift His spirits. God takes pleasure in true worship, but He does not need it.
- “God, if you get me out of this difficult situation, then I’ll [stop doing something wrong or start doing something right].” God is not fretting over whether or not people do what is wrong or right. He has commanded us to do right and will justly punish us for doing wrong (either we bear the punishment or Christ does). So God is pleased with our obedience, but does not need it.
Why does it matter whether or not we can barter with God? Because if we can’t barter with Him, that means we have to accept His terms. We can’t entice Him with our offers. We can only accept His offers. He is not impressed by our promises of service or obedience and will not respond to them. But He, of His own will, determined to offer us a relationship with Him as a gift on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. We must submit ourselves fully to Him, offering our lives to Jesus as Lord. And He promises to give us eternal life—a relationship with Him.
God is the one who establishes what He will do and what we will do, and we either accept or reject those terms. But we can’t try to change the terms to something we prefer—you can’t barter with God.
Each year DBTS hosts the William R. Rice Lecture Series, named for the Seminary’s founder and first president. We are pleased to announce that the speaker for this year’s event on March 19, 2014, will be Pastor Peter Hubbard, who is the teaching pastor at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC, where he has served since 1992. He is the author of Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church, published in 2013 by Ambassador International. Pastor Hubbard has two Masters degrees and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
The lectures will run from 8:30 a.m. till noon. A free lunch will be provided afterward. There is no cost to attend the Rice Lectures. However, for planning purposes, all guests are requested to register in advance so that adequate seating and food can be provided. Registration can be completed by calling (313) 381-0111, ext. 400, or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was some delay between the writing of the NT documents and their universal acceptance as Holy Scripture (= canon). In fact, the first list to recognize the 27 books of our NT comes from the mid-4th century (see here). The delay feels a bit unsettling, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t, however, for at least three reasons.
First, remember that most of the NT documents were indeed recognized immediately for what they were—authoritative bearers of the gospel. Doubts persisted for only a handful (Heb, Jas, 2 Pet, 2–3 John, Jude and Rev). Second, that some documents took longer to be recognized as Scripture and that others that were later labeled as “non-canonical” were, for a time, read as Scripture should not be terribly surprising. The church, after all, was an international body and, at this point, lacked centralized organization. Transparently, it would take time for documents to spread around—travel was slower then than it is today. And, it would take time for the true character of individual documents to be assessed, especially since the theological savvy of individual communities surely varied. Moreover, if Christian communities could be confused about the reliability of traditions during the apostolic age (see, e.g., 2 Thess 2:2; Gal 1:6–9), is it at all surprising that they could be in subsequent ages? Third, and closely related, is the fact that the important criterion of traditional use demands some delay. As one observer notes, “The force of traditional usage could not come explicitly into play until the third and fourth centuries, by which time the church had some retrospect on its customary practices” (Gamble, “Canonical Formation of the New Testament,” DLNTD 192).
For this and related reflections, see my “Is the New Testament God’s Word?” (Bible and Spade 24.3 : 58–66). And for additional help, see, esp., Michael Kruger’s “Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon Every Christian Should Memorize.”
The web site for Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary has been given a refresh. We hope you like it. Just click the Seminary tab at the top of this page to check it out.
The Seminary publishes an annual scholarly journal, Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal. If you click on the Journal tab at the top of this page, you will be taken to the Journal page, which lists contents for all the past issues, as well as pdfs for issues more than three years old. But an article from the current issue (2013) is also available—”Why a Commitment to Inerrancy Does Not Demand a Strictly 6000-Year-Old Earth: One Young Earther’s Plea for Realism” by Dr. Mark A. Snoeberger. If you listened to the recent debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, you probably noticed that Ham often referred to the earth as being 6000 years old. But, as Dr. Snoeberger points out, not all young-earth creationists agree with that assessment.
Along with several million others, I watched the widely publicized debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham this past Tuesday evening. Since that time, many people on both sides of the origins issue have produced videos, articles, and blog posts discussing the debate. Here are a few of the posts that I found most helpful:
Within hours of the end of the debate, Al Mohler had posted some insightful analysis of the debate on his blog. Mohler, who literally had a front row seat at the debate, rightly points out that the discussion was less about fossils, geology, and astronomy than it was a debate between two diametrically opposed worldviews.
Over on the Reformation 21 blog, Rick Phillips suggested three key lessons to be drawn from the debate. In short, like Mohler, he points out that the debate was mainly about competing worldviews, not science. Phillips notes that Nye employed the common secularist strategy of ridiculing instead of replying. And he warns against the temptation to compromise, which such ridicule creates. The entire post is worth reading.
And then a few writers at Creation Ministries International recapped the debate largely focusing on the fact that Nye was apparently unaware that the numerous “scientific” objections which he raised against creationism have been answered by creationists. During the debate, Ham, wisely in my opinion, did not get sidetracked answering all of different objections which Nye tossed out. Rather, Ham stuck to the fact that historical science involves a great deal of interpretation which is inevitably influenced by the worldview of the interpreter. However, the folks at CMI have provided answers to such questions. At the end of their blog post, the CMI writers give links to places where Nye’s objections have been adequately answered by competent scientists.
And if you are curious about star light, tree rings, ice layers, and other such things, in addition to the CMI post mentioned above, you might be interested in these four books, all edited by Ken Ham:
American culture is fascinated with celebrities. American evangelicalism, as a subset of American culture, is too. For some reason, there remains a persistent belief that the public testimony of a well known athlete or entertainer will be more effective than that of a regular Joe.
I’ll concede that for the value of gaining attention, a high profile name works better than an unknown. People will watch, for example, Mark Driscoll interview Russell Wilson because he is a pro quarterback who won a Super Bowl. I get that. And whenever a clear word of testimony about Jesus Christ is given, I rejoice.
What concerns me is the tendency to think that having someone like Russell Wilson give his testimony is more powerful than a regular Joe. The thought seems to be that since Russell Wilson, or some other big name personality, has more influence, his testimony will be more likely to convert people. Without even recognizing it, we shift the power away from the message (the gospel) to the messenger, from what is being said to who is saying it.
This is the Corinthian problem repackaged for the 21st century. They were about big names and making the good news look more attractive. And the biggest names in our culture belong to athletes and entertainers, so evangelicals seem to be in love with these high profile testimonies. The slightest sign of “faith” becomes an instant point of celebration.
Please don’t misunderstand my point. I sincerely rejoice in anybody’s testimony of saving faith in Jesus Christ, and I have no desire to minimize the genuine faith and testimony of celebrities. The ground, though, at the foot of the Cross is level, so I have no desire to elevate them either. The salvation of any person is cause for great rejoicing in Jesus Christ, not the popularity of the one saved.
While it is true that the credibility of the messenger has an impact on the message, being popular or well known isn’t the same as being credible. High profile testimonies are more like celebrity endorsements in a commercial than they are expert testimonies in a court room. How does playing football or being a former child actor make you any more credible on the claims of the gospel?
Celebrity draws attention, and I suppose there is something to be gained by getting attention to an important message. As long as the method used to gain attention doesn’t obscure the message. Sometimes the practical outcome looks more like, “You should become a Christian because [insert celebrity name] is a Christian!” The content of the gospel is muted because the packaging gets all of the attention.
We need to hear and heed the words of Paul:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor 1:26-31)
Let’s not try to outsmart God. It is the message of the Cross that saves and God’s chief means of glorifying Himself is through simple, common believers who have been graciously redeemed by Him.
This morning I scanned through an interesting book put out by Georgetown University that analyzes the value of 171 common college majors available today. By “value” the authors mean almost entirely fiscal value, or how much money a graduate can expect to make after finishing his or her degree. Of course we all know that fiscal value isn’t the only kind of value by which to assess a degree, but the book is what it is, and it’s an interesting read, especially if you’re a statistics nerd.
Among the statistics that jumped out to me was that the “Theology and Religious Vocations” major ranked 169th (of 171) on the “most remunerative” list, and dead last among the most remunerative majors for vocations sporting a male majority.
There are a lot of things that one can potentially take away from this, but here are some of my thoughts.
(1) If you (or your spouse) have an insatiable appetite for having nice stuff, don’t go into the ministry. You can’t afford the ministry, and the church can’t afford you. You can grouse all you want that it shouldn’t be this way, and dream about being an exception to the rule, but don’t plan on it.
(2) If you (or your spouse) is unwilling to wear thrift store clothes, be seen in a 1998 Dodge Neon with 212,000 miles, or live in a small apartment in the unpleasant part of town in order to avoid debt, rethink what you’re doing. And BTW, there’s a silver lining here—if you lose all your pride and aspirations to wealth in college and seminary, the ministry opportunities will be endless when you graduate.
(3) If you’re planning to incur or compound debt to get your Bible college or seminary degree(s), rethink your strategy. You won’t be able to pay it off (unless you limit your ministry options to one of those extremely scarce, high-paying, entry-level ministry jobs, which you probably won’t get so you’ll end up in the secular work force with an unmarketable degree that will probably dog you for the rest of your life). Accreditation has been useful in recent years in improving some aspects of religious education, but one devilish side effect is the easy access to debt that it has made available. Don’t take on debt. Just don’t. Figure out a way to avoid debt at all costs.
(4) If the money just isn’t there and debt seems to be your only option, consider unconventional paths that are less costly. Mentoring is one such path, though the lack of comprehensiveness associated with this approach raises doubts. Working to save for a year or two isn’t a bad idea either, but stay focused by at least taking a class or two—it’s easy to lose sight of your ministry goals. On-line classes are also an option for the extremely self-motivated, though they are not the universal panacea that some imagine them to be. Another consideration is the pursuit of inexpensive local undergraduate degrees that give you an adequate background for seminary while allowing you to stay home and to give yourself wholly over to involvement in a local church—not only is this cheaper, but it immerses you in the church and encourages the church to invest in you. Finally, consider the benefits of a church-based seminary education. Costs at such seminaries are usually lower because local churches typically underwrite the costs.
This post may seem a bit dour (though not unbiblically so) and someone might detect a subtle argument here for considering our seminary (guilty—this is a seminary blog after all). But whatever you take from it, do consider the cost/return ratio of pursuing the ministry. And before you take the plunge, be sure to make whatever adjustments to your character, lifestyle, and life goals that are necessary to the pursuit of vocational Christian ministry.
If you think Paul wrote Hebrews, you’re in good company (see, e.g., here). One problem with this conclusion, however, is that what Paul says in Gal 1:11–12 seems to contradict what Paul says in Heb 2:3, presuming Paul wrote Heb 2:3. That is, in Gal 1:11–12 Paul emphatically states that he received his gospel directly from Jesus, whereas Heb 2:3 seems to imply that its author could not say the same thing. “This salvation [i.e., gospel] . . . was first announced by the Lord [and] was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”
It’s possible that the two texts are compatible, of course, since Heb 2:3 doesn’t clearly deny that its author received his gospel—“this salvation”—from Jesus himself. Perhaps it only suggests that an initial reception was later confirmed by eyewitness testimony (“those who heard [Jesus]”).
This sort of reading, however, is unlikely. The author talks about the gospel being “confirmed” in Heb 2:3 not to distinguish between its initial reception and its later apostolic confirmation. Rather, the author talks about the gospel being “confirmed” because he wants his doubting audience to know that God has really spoken a new word, a “great salvation”—a word that is even more “binding” than his previous word given through angels (Heb 2:2; i.e., the Law). After all this new word was spoken “by the Lord,” which is to say, by the one now seated at God’s right hand (see 1:5–14; see, similarly, Phil 2:9–11). Surely he is trustworthy! (Otherwise, he’d never have been given such honor.) And, moreover, the reality of this new word had been confirmed throughout the Roman empire, including among the author’s audience (“to us”), by those who’d seen and heard the now-exalted Lord. The author is certain his audience will remember all this, especially since the evangelists’ message had been accompanied—and further confirmed—by “signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Heb 2:4). Surely they’d not forgotten such a memorable event (see, similarly, Gal 3:2, 5)!
In short, Heb 2:3 talks about the author and his audience’s initial evangelization. Their community was a result of the apostolic mission. And, as such, Heb 2:3 contradicts what Paul says in Gal 1:11–12 and, thus, suggests that Paul did not write Hebrews.
This past week many people on both sides of the abortion issue commemorated the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision (issued 22 Jan 1973). Since that time, more than 56 million unborn children have been legally killed in the United States. While Roe v. Wade was a turning point in our nation’s history with regard to abortion, as I’ve pointed out before, abortion has a rather long history that can be traced back to the Roman Empire and beyond.
I recently came across a statement in John Owen’s works that does not specifically use the word abortion but seems to have direct bearing on the issue. John Owen (1616–83) was a seventeenth-century English theologian who wrote extensively on the doctrine of sin. In his discussion of human depravity, Owen described the sinfulness of an “unnatural” practice which was taking place in his day “in all nations.” He wrote,
Paul tells us of the old Gentiles that they were…“without natural affection.” That which he aims at is that barbarous custom among the Romans, who ofttimes, to spare the trouble in the education of their children, and to be at liberty to satisfy their lusts, destroyed their own children from the womb; so far did the strength of sin prevail to obliterate the law of nature, and to repel the force and power of it.
Examples of this nature are common in all nations; amongst ourselves, of women murdering their own children, through the deceitful reasoning of sin. And herein sin turns the strong current of nature, darkens all the light of God in the soul, controls all natural principles, influenced with the power of the command and will of God. But yet this evil hath, through the efficacy of sin, received a fearful aggravation. Men have not only slain but cruelly sacrificed their children to satisfy their lusts (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 6, ed. William H. Goold [London: Banner of Truth, 1966], 305-6).
In our own day, we must exercise our civil responsibilities to try to reduce or ideally to end the murder of unborn children. However, we need to recognize that abortion is not primarily a political issue but rather an issue of the heart. Abortion is an expression of human depravity that must be confronted with firm but compassionate witness to biblical truth about the nature of human life and the fact that all humans, no matter how small, have been created in the image of God.
Earlier posts about abortion on this blog can be found here.
One of the more surprising sources of parental advice that I have received came to me a few years ago in the form of a recorded lecture by Greg Bahnsen—a lecture in which he detailed the process of “becoming a philosopher.” Without explaining the entire discussion, I’ll truncate the discussion greatly into three critical phases:
- A philosopher is born when he begins to adopt, for arbitrary reasons, a worldview to which he has been exposed—usually the worldview of those closest to him—in order to make some provisional sense of his world. He usually does this without thinking a whole lot about “worldviews,” because at this point he is usually adopting the only worldview available to him.
- The juvenile philosopher then develops the intellectual/psychological capacity to imagine worldviews other than his own, and in the course of time begins to discover others who embrace these alternative worldviews.
- Once exposed to the marketplace of worldviews, the philosopher then makes a disciplined inquiry whereby he integrates everything that he knows to have happened, develops rules to explain why things happen as they do, and predicts what will happen next. In other words, he ceases defaulting to the provisional worldview with which he began his journey and makes a studied acceptance of his own worldview—one that may or may not resemble the worldview with which he began.
The context of these three phases was couched in a discussion of general apologetics, i.e., helping unbelievers to see the inadequacies of their own worldviews by exposing them to the biblical worldview. But I immediately recognized that this succession had some practical implications for Christian parenting. In short, this process describes quite accurately the normal maturation process of an ordinary child’s mind. Two key applications come to mind:
- When young children readily embrace the faith of their Christian parents (as they usually do), we should encourage and cultivate their religious expressions, but we should not assume that these expressions arise from a regenerate heart. Specifically, we should exercise extreme reserve before heralding their faith publicly. Very young children exist necessarily as “phase 1” philosophers, and are psychologically/intellectually incapable of the kinds of faith sometimes predicated of them. And parents/churches with accelerated expectations in this regard both misunderstand and injure the children in their care. This is why I have been drawn to the practice of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in delaying baptism/membership until children begin, independently of their parents, to make other major life decisions (working, dating/courting, college/career choices, etc.). This is by no means a statement that God regenerates young men and never little boys, but a statement that parents and churches have a much more difficult time correctly identifying the fruits of true faith in philosophical fledglings with underdeveloped worldviews.
- While Christian parents may delay the exposure of their children to noxious worldviews, working hard all the while to seat biblical values deeply in their souls, it is impossible and in fact injurious to their intellectual development to delay exposure indefinitely. How exceedingly sad it is to see a promising young man complete his tenure in a Christian home, a Christian high school, or a Christian college, and promptly “lose his faith.” Of course we all know that faith, once held, cannot be lost. But something happens to a great many such “Christians.” What is it? In many cases, I believe, our children delay too long in taking the second step of “becoming a philosopher”: they do not encounter other worlds until after they have escaped the reach of all valid Christian influence. How extraordinarily important it is, I deduced, (1) to offer a child controlled exposure to and instruction in engaging with alternative worldviews while still under the firm tutelage of parental structures. And beyond this, how much more important it is (2) to see that my children graduate from the home not into the presumptive protection of Bible colleges, CRU, IVCF, or other such structures (as helpful as these may sometimes be), but into the auspices of a church.
Who knew that presuppositional apologetics could be so downright practical?
DBTS will be sponsoring Seminary Days this spring on March 13-14. Complete information on Seminary Days 2014, including a brochure and registration form, can be found on the Seminary website.
Students will be able to attend classes, share meals with faculty and students, and tour the facilities of Inter-City Baptist Church (church, school, seminary). An optional weekend extension is also available, which allows students to attend worship services at Inter-City Baptist Church and have extended exposure to some unique outreach efforts (Wayne State University campus ministry, urban church planting, Muslim outreach).
DBTS will cover all expenses (transportation, housing, meals) of the trip for registered guests, other than a $50 deposit for those needing an airline ticket. A registration deadline is involved for those who need to fly. Interested persons should contact the Seminary by email at email@example.com, or call (800) 866–0111.
- “Why a Commitment to Inerrancy Does Not Demand a Strictly 6000-Year-Old Earth: One Young Earther’s Plea for Realism” by Mark A. Snoeberger
- “Paul, the Law, and Dispensationalism” by William W. Combs
- “The Debate over the Ordo Salutis in American Reformed Theology” by Timothy Miller
- “Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, and Current OT Scholarship” by Todd S. Beall
- “Ecclesiastes: A Review Article” by Robert V. McCabe
- Book Reviews
Information on subscriptions and back issues can be found here or just click the “Journal” tab at the top of this page.
Many college and seminary students are either preparing for another semester of school to start or have already begun working on classes. For some, this will be their final semester before graduation. Though some may have already determined the next step, others are still weighing options (or trying to find some). A myriad of factors contribute to what choice to make—where would I like to live, what would I like to do, what company would I enjoy, will this be a good fit for my spouse (or allow me to keep looking for a spouse), should I go for more schooling, etc. For those still deciding, let me propose a factor that is not on most people’s radar—should I go back to my home church?
The disregard most American Christians have for the church is disheartening. This disregard evidences itself in how little we think about our local church when living our lives—school, work, hobbies, sports/clubs, entertainment, and a whole host of things dominate the schedule while commitment to the church is squeezed in if possible. Even when attending a service, we give little thought to how we can prepare ourselves spiritually and what we can do personally to worship God and serve others.
The low priority of the local church is even more pronounced when considering career moves. We mull over the weather, schooling options, housing costs, convenience, career advancement, and nearly everything else before deciding to take a job or move to a new location but almost never consider whether there is a healthy local church where we will be going (not to mention the effect the move will have on our own local church).
The presence of a good local church where we can be actively involved should be a crucial factor in our life choices. Since the local church is practically inconsequential in the decisions of most Christians, it comes as no surprise that most students give little to no thought to the local church when determining what to do with their life after school.
But I’d like to encourage students not to merely consider the importance of a local church in general for their decisions, but to consider their home church in particular. Many of you have benefited greatly from your home church. Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, and pastors faithfully taught you God’s Word so that you could grow as a Christian. They prayed for you as you considered where to go to school and what to study and continued praying for you as you worked on your degree. For many, your local church helped support you financially and spiritually so that you could serve on a missions/ministry trip. They have invested much in your life.
And now, you are moving into a stage of life in which you can begin to invest more fully in others. Why not consider giving back to the church that gave so much to you? Why not look for a job that will allow you to return to your home church? Why not join those who ministered to you so that you can minister to and with them? Why not work to help your home church grow and be strengthened?
I’m not saying everyone needs to go back to their home church (I didn’t). Other factors certainly come into play. Nor would I want to discourage people from helping with a church plant after finishing school (though some of your home churches may be doing a church plant that you could join). But I do want to encourage you to at least consider going back to your home church—to perhaps take a job that is less appealing in order to serve those who served you. Allow those who labored to help you grow enjoy some of the fruits of their labor.
Congratulations to Matthew Rickett of Roseville, MI. He won our recent book drawing and should be receiving his books later this week.
Thanks to all who participated.