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Archive for March, 2010

The trend of networking through the internet has grown immensely in the last decade. Though I do not readily have the figures but it is what you hear and see in the news, a visit to the internet café or when talking with people from every walk of life. Each rung on the ladder of society is involved in getting connected anytime, anywhere and with anyone through the numerous social pages like Friendster, My Space, Facebook, Twitter, YM, Live, Multiply, Picassa, Flickr, WordPress,  Blogspot, et al.

The “Add as Friend” icon is perhaps the most familiar feature and for those who have not jumped into the bandwagon yet, the method is look for someone whom you know, or are interested in, and add that person as a friend.  It starts with an honest search of people from the past even current ones, but as time goes by, the objective morphes into just adding up the numbers so that we can show the world that we have either a lot of “friends” or have simply become an increasingly popular person.

As I have posted a few days ago, the preoccupation of ‘self’ in this networking sites is unabashedly the norm but to no surprise. However, the term ‘friend’ resonates a hollow sound.  Let’s see, what is a friend? We could define it in many ways. You can even redefine the word.  BFF (best friends forever) rolls off the tongue quite smoothly but just wait for a serious tiff, and the meaning along with the acronym disappears altogether.

But as a Christian, I understand that ‘friend’ has a more lofty, say noble, meaning.  The Lord said,

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:12-15

I take this truth in a vertical sense; the transformation that the Holy Spirit mediates upon wretched sinners, making them the object of God’s love and friendship instead of His wrath through Jesus’ propitiating sacrifice at the cross, and the ensuing obedience as fruit accompanying that salvation. This is true for anyone who has repented and received the Son of God in faith according to His terms (the details of which are described in His gospel).  I should make this clear first hand to avoid being guilty of de-contextualization.  However, on a horizontal level, with my human relationships, there are a few secondary yet important aspects to exegete from the passage:

  • First, while we are all fallen image bearers of God, we can still reflect a less than perfect kind of friendship to one another. Hence, there should be a sense of seeking to establish a meaningful relationship, more than just simple acquaintances.  That’s my initial definition of friendship.
  • Second, in order to have a meaningful friendship, the horizontal level of it must be transcended. To do so would require every Christian to, first and foremost, share what Jesus said –“for all I heard from my Father, I have made known to you”- I need to deliver the Gospel to my friends so that they may know the biblical Jesus Christ and the One who sent Him.
  • Third, friendship requires conveying why Jesus laid down His life – the penal substitutionary part, not just stating that He died for us – sinners. Unless the real reason is announced, the act of laying His life would not carry the same impact that God so designed and desires.
  • Lastly, the friendship offered must also be characterized with the patient and uncompromising love of Jesus Christ. To reflect that love is impossible except only if it has come through the gracious outpouring by God through the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of every adopted child of God in Christ.

Just my take on how to “Add as Friend” meaningfully.

 

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To view original article, please click on the following link: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-have-you-done/

 

by David VanDrunen

Get a group of conservative Christians together and before long someone will probably express shock at the latest evidence of cultural decline: “Can you believe what they did?” It’s not nearly as common in such settings for someone to say, “Well, of course outrageous things happen in society — we’re all a bunch of rotten sinners.”

From a biblical perspective, perhaps what is really surprising is not how morally corrupt things can be but how well they often turn out. Many societies have legal, economic, and healthcare systems that, however imperfect, provide tremendous benefits for large numbers of people. Given the moral state of humanity — “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5) — this is remarkable.

Christians have appealed to several theological concepts to explain the existence of these wholesome aspects of human culture. By His providence God works out good results from wicked human intentions. God’s common grace restrains the full outbreak of evil and showers many non-saving blessings upon human life. And many Christian theologians have pointed to natural law to explain the moral instincts and insights of so many non-Christians. Natural law is simply an aspect of natural revelation. God reveals Himself and His moral law in the structure of the created order, including human nature itself as it reflects the image of God. Natural law does not reveal the gospel and has no power to regenerate fallen human hearts. Though natural law does not save, it does press God’s moral claims upon the conscience of all people, even those unaware of God’s revelation in Scripture.

The New Testament refers to Christians as “sojourners and exiles” in this world (1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11). By God’s grace in Christ we are already citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), but we live temporarily away from home, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15). Natural law must surely play an important role as we seek to live “peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18) in such a world.

Though Scripture never uses the term “natural law,” it refers to the concept of natural law on all sorts of occasions. Some of the most interesting and relevant occur in the stories about the patriarchs in Genesis. When the New Testament calls us “sojourners,” it points us back to the experience of the patriarchs, the original “sojourners” (Gen. 12:10; 15:13; 20:1; 21:34; 23:4). The patriarchs were believers in the true God, living amidst pagans and without a true home in this world. Scripture wishes us to learn something about our life in the present world by observing the patriarchs in their world. How did the reality of natural law shape their sojourn?

The fascinating encounter between Abraham and the pagan king Abimelech in Genesis 20 is an illuminating example. Fearing for his own life when he entered Gerar, Abraham announced that his wife Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech promptly took Sarah for himself. Informed by God that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Abimelech confronts Abraham: “What have you done to us?” (v. 9). The pagan king is apparently shocked by this reckless disregard for marriage. He accuses Abraham: “You have done to me things that ought not to be done” (v. 9). Abraham replies, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place” (v. 11). As it turns out, Abraham was wrong. These pagans actually did fear God (in some sense) and understood that people should not do certain things to one another. Natural law had impressed fundamental moral truths upon their consciences.

There are certainly things to learn from this story that are relevant for Christian sojourners today. First, natural law gives unbelievers a sense of moral boundaries that people simply should not cross. Even pagans like Abimelech are sometimes appalled when such boundaries are transgressed. This should provide encouragement and remind us that it is possible to have meaningful moral conversations with unbelievers.

Second, people often transgress these moral boundaries, though they know better, and this can bring great hardship for believers. Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by a pagan prince, though “such a thing must not be done” (Gen. 34:7). Sodom and Gomorrah grossly violated social propriety and Lot was forced to flee (Gen. 19). Natural law will never usher in utopia. We should be sober-minded with respect to this world and remember to set our hearts upon the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).

Third, believers themselves, sadly, sometimes transgress fixed moral boundaries. Abraham and Isaac tried the wife-sister stunt three times and were rightly rebuked by pagans on each occasion (Gen. 12:18; 20:9; 26:9–10). In response to cultural decline, Christians can be self-righteously quick to denounce others for moral degeneracy. But we are often the ones who do terrible things, and we shouldn’t think that unbelievers don’t notice. Christian sojourners should live with circumspection and humility. We must always remember that our own true righteousness is not of ourselves but is a gift of Christ to which we cling by faith.

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Dr. David VanDrunen is Robert B. Strimple Professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He is contributor to By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification.  

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It has been a while since I wrote my personal observations but the activities these past few days brought  to mind what the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 10:

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

I had the privilege of engaging, together with a brother, someone at Facebook who proposed that ‘holy communion’ (the term used by Roman Catholics for the ‘Lord’s Supper’) is a sure and quick means to heaven.

The biblical explanation for the Lord instituting this ordinance is to let  His people be continually reminded of  His death, resurrection and return (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-21, Acts 2:42 and 1 Corinthians 11:22-26). There was no explicit teaching that the bread and wine becomes the literal flesh and literal blood of the Lord. Even the Jews in John 6 thought they were being commanded to eat His flesh and drink His blood literally. To take that literally is to misunderstand the whole point of John 6 that as the bread in the desert sustains physical life, so the Lord  shall give eternal life through His death (a sacrifice of His body and blood) to those whom God shall give Him to save through faith in Him.

The discussion went on for almost the whole morning and our sole objective was to point Him to the Person of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation through faith – a gracious gift and working of God. But each time, the person we engaged in would appeal to every conceivable wordly intellectual issue and church tradition that when placed side by side with Scriptures will not hold water at all.  We avoided what is called in evangelism “pandora’s box” – this is getting into all sorts of discussion by address every point of view thrown at us that the Gospel gets buried in the heap of secondary issues. I recall the words of the Lord in Mark 7:6-9:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

Nevertheless, our objective is to preach the Gospel. In the end, we can only pray for that soul that the eyes of his heart and his mind be opened by God to see the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that he may repent and turn to the Lord, and may receive the propitiation for  his sin and escape the wrath that is to come.

Much in Facebook today is the relentless exchange of information that feeds the self. Two friends succinctly said that this is the cheapest form of entertainment and the place to be noticed – all directed to the pleasures of self. Christians should continue to take advantage of this media platform to preach Christ. Otherwise,  many people will not hear, neither will they know who nor why nor how to receive eternal life as clearly expressed by God through the Gospel of His Son.

 

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I find this excerpt from Bob DeWaay’s book helpful in understanding two terms:  “missionary” and “missional”.  For a while I have heard some Christians used the term missional and the assumption is always placed on the preaching of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  However, the term “missional” may have a different connotation altogether as explained hereunder.

EmmausTrekker

 

by Bob DeWaay

Missionary or Missional?
For hundreds, if not thousands, of years Christians have used the term “missionary” to describe one who goes out to preach the gospel to an unsaved world headed toward judgment—repentance for the forgiveness of sin found in the death and resurrection of Christ. The mission of the missionary was to proclaim the absolute truth of the gospel—a fact proven by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The gospel is “good news” because it provides condemned sinners with a certain escape from God’s wrath.

Missional means zealous—about what ?
Emergent’s word “missional” does not convey this meaning. “Missional” sounds like “missionary” except that the “mission” is undefined. Emergent leaders disagree among themselves concerning the definition of their “mission,” but the mission they tend to embrace is to improve society now. They borrow much from Catholic liberation theologians and liberalism itself—that Christianity’s mission is to make the world a tangible paradise immediately. Outside of bettering society, the missional concept has no content; it specifically denies a mission of proclaiming an escape from God’s coming wrath. For Emergent, “The journey is the reward,” and the journey will certainly end well for all—without exception.

According to Emergent thinking, being missional means following the journey wherever it leads as long as it corrects society’s evils. In their view, missional is more like the opposite of apathy; it is zeal to right the wrongs of society. Because the eschatological end of the journey is assured for everyone, the path the journey takes doesn’t matter much. One mission to fight social evil is as good as another; what matters most is that we are missional together.

“Escape from Coming Wrath” or a “Certain Future of Hope”
The content of the gospel (that God has offered a path to escape His coming wrath) is the core issue to a missionary but irrelevant to one who is missional. To the missionary, those who repent and believe the gospel are reconciled to God and enter His kingdom. That message is unimportant, or at least not central, to one who is missional. Why? Because to the Emergent there is no impending judgment and if we do something nice on our journey nothing more is needed. To them, a focus on the content of the message is a distraction at best and harmful at worst.

 

(Excerpted from Bob DeWaay’s book, The Emergent Church, pp. 31-32)

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Originally titled EXCUSE ME, WAITER – DID YOU MESS WITH THE FOOD?  by Rev. John Samson, this article is of very good reminder to the elder/pastor of a congregation on feeding the flock of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please click here to link to Pastor John Samson’s website.

 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  – 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 ESV

To serve as the pastor in the newly formed King’s Church in Phoenix is a high calling and an amazing privilege. To serve the King of Kings and the people Christ died for – what could be greater than this? Yet with every great privilege comes great responsibility.

Have you noticed in the above text how it is the presentation of Scripture as God breathed (at the end of 2 Timothy 3) that is the basis for the solemn and holy charge given to preach the Word, in chapter 4? The one thing naturally leads to the other. It is because of the nature of Scripture as divinely inspired that Paul tells Timothy to preach it with boldness, in season and out of season. Literally this phrase means “in good times and bad times,” or by way of application, “preach the word when the people like it and when they do not.”

Being a pastor and talking with other pastors, I think I understand how pastors think. God has placed a servant’s heart in every true shepherd’s heart. The genuine pastor did not get into this for money or fame, for the gold or the glory, but because there is a driving passion in the heart, placed there by God, to obey the One who called him for His own eternal purposes. Sadly, what is crystal clear at the beginning phaze of ministry can become fuzzy over time as Church pressures, politics and personalities all have their influence. But the above passage gives us a solemn charge to stay at our post knowing our chief responsibility under the gaze of God is to serve the people of God the Word of God.

I have met some people in ministry who have openly told me that they teach through the Scripture but seek to avoid controversial subjects. I know why they do this. They do not wish to divide their congregation. The Evangelist may count how many people were in a service, but a pastor is far more likely to count how many were not there – he aches inside to see the people he loves come and be built up in their most holy faith and knows what the Word of God can do for them. He organizes his whole week to make room for the serious study of God’s word. It is labor indeed – real work. Often it is in the early hours of the morning that he is awakened from sleep with inspiration to dig out or mine the Scripture – and the inspiration lasts until the clock tells him he must take a quick shower and get on with the business of the day (and restful sleep is only a hope for the next night).

But here’s the problem. Love for the people is very commendable, but it should not be the chief motivation in ministry. There should be a greater love for the God who called us to obey Him. The truth is, if we preach the Word accurately and with the fire and passion He instills in us, this shows great love for people too, because we are giving them the very best thing imaginable – the word of Almighty God. People need a lot more than a pep talk once a week, as in a coach’s half time team talk. No, they need far more substance than this. What they need is a genuine word from God.

If we love Him, we will teach and preach in order to please Him first, for the message of the text is that we preach to the audience of One. God is watching us closely as we preach His Word. 2 Timothy 4:1 could accurately be translated, “I solemnly charge you as one under the gaze of God…”

I think if we were to see this from God’s perspective, when a pastor or preacher says he teaches the Bible but avoids controversial issues, he is acting as a disobedient slave of the Master as well as short changing the people. The fact is that controversy cannot be avoided. There’s no main truth of Scripture that is free from controversy. That’s true whether we are talking about the existence of God, His purpose in suffering, the Trinity, the full Deity and full humanity of Christ, the atoning work of Christ, the Person of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of grace and how God saves by His grace alone through faith in Christ alone. You can try to find something in there that is not controversial, but I cannot. Truth is controversial – so get used to it.

Having a doctrinal position is unavoidable if we are to say anything about what Scripture means. The question is not can we avoid theology, but which theology is biblical. To try to avoid it is like saying to a waiter, “may I have some water, but can you hold the wet!” The wet comes with the water, because quite simply, water is wet.

If for illustration purposes the waiter is the preacher, then the cook (and owner of the restaurant and the franchize) is God Himself. Waiters are not permitted to look at the plate handed to them by the cook and then cut off the edges of the meat before serving the people. The cook determines what is served to the people not the waiter.

If the text speaks of controversial things such as true discipleship or Divine Sovereignty, who do we think we are if we then say, “this is not what the people want to hear, so I will leave that part out of the sermon”? This would be an act of defiance not of servant-hood, both of God and of the people. We need to ask, “who is it we are really serving?”

It is because of the fact that we are called to serve God first before we serve people that the text goes on to say “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…” This is the truth so let us face it. Not everyone who listens to us will like us or the message we proclaim. As preachers, we must face this and get over it! If everyone likes the message, and I mean everyone, then perhaps the One we should always seek to please first may well be displeased. And this should scare us a lot more than it does, because one day we will stand before Him and give an account to Him, when no crowd is applauding us, its just you or me standing before the King.

There is an offense to the message of the cross – Jews want signs and Greeks seek wisdom – but preach the cross anyway, for this indeed is the true sign and the true wisdom of God. Not everyone who hears us can handle the truth of God’s Sovereignty, and they may leave. Lets remember that the crowd left Jesus, the Master communicator, when He preached it too:

John 6:65-68 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…

People will come and go. As much as it may sadden us, not everyone will stay with us for the longhaul. So lets face this fact and decide beforehand who we will be serving, and who it is we will be prepared to lose! We will lose people, but let us not lose true disciples who really want to know what the Word of God says. If we are going to lose people, lets be prepared to lose those who put their opinions and traditions above His word. Making this choice does not mean that in doing so our ministry will always be small. The God who called us is in charge of such things. Paul may plant, an Apollos may water but it is God who causes the growth. The size of the ministry is not in our hands, that is God’s decision, but because of His amazing providence, God’s book certainly is. Lets preach this Divine Word with boldness as heralds of the King, knowing the truth that “Christ’s sheep will never be offended by Christ’s voice.“ (C. H. Spurgeon)

Preachers are to use wisdom in how they go about this task, of course, but that’s another subject for another day. But when it comes to a preacher’s job responsibilities, we have no real choice when it comes down to subject matter concerning what we leave out or what we put in. It is the height of presumption to think any other way. God has never asked us for our opinion on the matter. He is the Owner and cook – we are simply humble servant-waiters with an amazingly high calling to be His Royal Ambassadors.

2 Timothy 4 reminds me that my primary task at King’s Church is to serve the King’s food to the King’s people. Let us also realize that Christ’s sheep are amazingly precious to the Shepherd. He is concerned for the welfare of His flock and has established the menu for the diet of the sheep.

“Excuse me waiter, did you mess with the food?” Selah.

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This is a portion of a lengthy article on a highly important subject, entitled “A Layman’s Historical Guide to the Inerrancy Debate”written by William Evans and can be read in its entirety at Reformation 21 website. Please click this link . What can be read below are: the reasons for the authority of the Bible and what innerancy does not mean.

-EmmausTrekker

 

             
The Bible’s authority flows from its divine origin.  Note that 2 Timothy 3:16 moves from inspiration to authority (“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching . . .”). The Bible is not authoritative because of the sublime subject matter it contains, or because it is infallibly accurate (though it is that). It is authoritative because of its divine origin.  It comes from God, and the Bible has a good deal to say about this divine authority of Scripture.  For example, in the Old Testament, the prophets frequently invoke the covenant name of God himself in their oral and written messages (“Thus says the LORD”).  In the New Testament, the words of Christ in the Gospels ascribe an extraordinary authority to the Old Testament scriptures viewed as a whole. Not the slightest bit of the Law will fail (Matthew 5:18; Luke 16:17). The “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).  Moreover, the New Testament writers refer sometimes to the human author (e.g., “as the prophet Isaiah says”) and sometimes to the divine author of Old Testament scripture (Acts 4:25; Hebrews 1:5; 3:7; 9:8).  Finally, within the New Testament writings themselves New Testament documents were being viewed as “scripture,” that is, on a par with the Old Testament (2 Peter 3:15-16).  Thus, in obedience to Scripture the Church has historically held that the Bible comes to us with a divine and infallible authority, and that it is without error in all that it teaches.  Any attempt to restrict the authority of Scripture to an “infallible message of salvation” or the like fails to do justice to what the Bible itself claims.  Our task as Christians is to interpret the Bible properly and to obey it, not to sit in judgment upon it and decide what portions of Scripture are God’s word for us and what are not. 
             
Having discussed what inerrancy is, we also need to note what it is not.  That is, the doctrine is sometimes misunderstood, and all too often a caricature of the doctrine is attacked.  Five persistent misconceptions may be mentioned here. 

First, as we noted above, the Bible’s view of inspiration is not a sort of mechanical “dictation theory.”  Such theories we rightly associate with the Book of Mormon and the Muslim view of the Qur’an.  By contrast, the Christian view of inspiration involves a proper recognition of the genuinely human element in Scripture, and so as students of the Bible we strive to understand the historical context of the biblical writings and the characteristics of the human authors.  To be sure, there are isolated examples of dictation, such as the giving of the Ten Commandments, but that is not the usual mode of inspiration.
             
Second, the doctrine of inerrancy does not require that we impose upon the Bible standards of accuracy and evaluation that are alien to it.  That is to say, inerrancy does not mean that everything in the Bible has to be stated with scientific precision.  Sometimes the biblical writers have chosen to present truth in an impressionistic fashion.  For example, in John 6:1 we read, “After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.”  But at the end of John 5 Jesus is still in Jerusalem, and John does not bother to tell us how Jesus got to Galilee or which “other side” of the lake is referenced.  Moreover, it has long been recognized (since the second century AD, in fact) that the Gospel writers did not necessarily present the events of Jesus’ ministry in precise chronological order.  In short, we must allow the biblical writers to present the material in the way they deemed best under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 
             
Third, the doctrine of inerrancy does not require the Bible to have been transmitted without mistakes in the copying process.   Before the invention of the printing press manuscripts and books had to be copied by hand, and scribes sometimes made mistakes in copying.  Though in general the biblical manuscripts were transmitted with great care, we do see some evidence of scribal mistakes.  For the most part, these manuscript differences are inconsequential and even trivial, and no major doctrines of the Christian faith are placed in jeopardy by such findings.  The branch of biblical studies that deals with these matters is called “textual criticism,” and many Evangelical scholars with a high view of Scripture have made important contributions in this field.  Because of the issues raised by textual criticism, we speak of the inerrancy of the Bible “in the original autographs”–that is, as the books were originally written by the human authors and not as they were subsequently transmitted.  It is popular in some circles to mock this notion of “inerrancy in the original autographs.” Some claim that because we obviously do not have the original autographs available to us now, this doctrine presents meaningless claims that conveniently cannot be disproved.  But our reference to the “original autographs” is not an attempt to shield Scripture from scrutiny or to “prove” the inerrancy of the Bible.  Rather, it is simply a faith statement seeking to do justice both to what the Bible claims for itself and to the findings of textual criticism. That being said, we are also assured of God’s providential care for his Word and that the message has been preserved. 
             
Fourth, when properly understood the doctrine of inerrancy does not entail the necessity of rational proof that the Bible is without error.  It does not make the infallible truth of Scripture hang on our human ability to prove its veracity.  Though Evangelical scholars certainly may present solutions to so-called “Bible difficulties” (see, e.g., Gleason Archer, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties [1982]) such efforts are best understood as efforts at “faith seeking understanding”–we affirm the truth of God’s word on the basis of what Scripture teaches, and then we seek to understand and explain the form that inerrancy takes in specific passages.  At the same time, we also recognize in proper humility that we lack the data needed to solve all such apparent problems.
             
Finally, the doctrine of inerrancy does not close off interpretive discussion.  Some people reject the doctrine of inerrancy because they think it restricts us to particular disputed interpretations of Scripture, such as a literal interpretation of the days of creation in Genesis 1 or a particular view of God’s sovereignty.  But it is quite possible for people with equally high views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible to disagree on the interpretation of individual texts.  While there are certainly some interpretations that compromise the authority of God’s word (e.g., the suggestion that Paul’s views on women were those of a sexist Rabbi, and that we should reject them) and some interpretations that are simply mistaken, we must make a practical distinction between the authority of the Bible and the interpretation of the Bible.  The fact that the Bible itself is without error does not mean that our interpretations are inerrant.  Once again, an appropriate humility is essential. 

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A self-described “paleo-orthodox ecclesial Calvinist,” William Evans is the Younts Prof. of Bible and Religion at Erskine College in Due West, SC.  He holds degrees from Taylor University, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University.   He is the author of Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology (Paternoster, 2008). He also served as an Assistant Editor of the New Geneva Study Bible/Reformation Study Bible and as Moderator of the 2005 General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  In his spare time he writes the ARP Adult Quarterly Sunday School curriculum for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

William Evans, “A Layman’s Historical Guide to the Inerrancy Debate”, Reformation21 (February 2010)

© Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Inc, 1716 Spruce St Philadelphia PA 19103 USA.

This article was originally published in/on Reformation21.org, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  The Alliance calls the twenty-first century church to a modern reformation through broadcasting, events, and publishing.

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By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

(From: Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution)

Out of the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day had risen teachers of the law who did not know what the law meant. Jesus found himself saying things like ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?’ ( John 3:10 ESV). Some of the teachers had lost all sense of biblical proportion, ‘straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!’ (Matt 23:24 ESV). And as they lost their bearings, they came under Jesus’ most serious charge: ‘You have made void the word of God’ (Matt 15:6 ESV).

Emotionally, Jesus’ response was a sinless combination of grief and anger. ‘He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart’ (Mark 3:5 ESV). Why both anger and grief?

The anger was because people were being hurt – eternally. These teachers were supposed to know what the word of God meant, but instead Jesus said they were ‘like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing’ it (Luke 11:44 ESV). This made Jesus angry. Their job was to teach what God had said. Instead, they were blind guides and were leading others with them into the ditch. Jesus loved people. Therefore, he was angry with professional teachers who imperiled people with biblical blunders.

But Jesus was not only angry; he was ‘grieved at their hardness of heart’. These were his kinsmen. These were the leaders of his people. These were the representatives of the Jerusalem he loved and wept over. ‘Would that you . . . had known . . . the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’ (Luke 19:42). The condition of their heart and the blindness of their eyes were a grief to Jesus.

This is how I feel today about teachers of Christ’s people who deny and even belittle precious, life-saving, biblical truth. When a person says that God’s ‘punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed’ would be as evil as child abuse, I am angered and grieved. For if God did not punish his Son in my place, I am not saved from my greatest peril, the wrath of God.

In part, I write this foreword to defend my Father’s wrath against me before I was adopted. He does not need my defence. But I believe he would be honoured by it. On behalf of my Father, then, I would like to bear witness to the truth that, before he adopted me, his terrible wrath rested upon me. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey . . . the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36; italics added). Wrath remains on us as long as there is no faith in Jesus.

Paul puts it like this: We ‘were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’ (Eph. 2:3). My very nature made me worthy of wrath. My destiny was to endure ‘flaming fire’ and ‘vengeance on those . . . who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . [and who] suffer the punishment of eternal destruction’ (2 Thess. 1:8-9 ESV). I was not a son of God. God was not my Father. He was my judge and executioner. I was ‘dead in . . . trespasses and sins’, one of the ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:1-2 ESV). And the sentence of my Judge was clear and terrifying: ‘because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 5:5 ESV; italics added).

There was only one hope for me – that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God.

This is exactly what happened, and I will sing of it forever. After saying that I was by nature a child of wrath, Paul says, ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:4-5 ESV). What a grievous blindness when a teacher in the church writes that the term ‘children of wrath’ cannot mean ‘actual objects of God’s wrath . . . [because] in the same breath they are described as at the same time objects of God’s love’. On the contrary. This is the very triumph of the love of God. This is the love of God – the ‘great love with which he loved us’. It rescued me from his wrath and adopted me into sonship.

‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Gal. 4:4 ESV). God sent his Son to rescue me from his wrath and make me his child.

How did he do it? He did it in the way one writer slanderously calls ‘cosmic child abuse’. God’s Son bore God’s curse in my place. ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’ (Gal. 3:13 ESV; italics added). If people in the twenty-first century find this greatest act of love ‘morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith’, it was not different in Paul’s day. ‘We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (I Cor. 1:23 ESV; italics added).

But for those who are called by God and believe in Jesus, this is ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (I Cor. 1:24 ESV). This is my life. This is the only way God could become my Father. Now that his wrath no longer rests on me (John 3:36), he has sent the Spirit of sonship flooding into my heart crying Abba, Father (Rom. 8:15). I thank you, heavenly Father, with all my heart, that you saved me from your wrath. I rejoice to measure your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of your mercy by putting Christ in my place.

Those who try to rescue the love of God by minimizing the wrath of God, undermine not only the love of God, but also his demand that we love our enemies. It is breathtaking to hear one of them say, ‘If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies, and to refuse to repay evil with evil.’ Those are deadly words, which, if they held sway, would take enemy love out of the world.

Why? Because Paul said that counting on the final wrath of God against his enemies is one of the crucial warrants for why we may not return evil for evil. It is precisely because we may trust the wisdom of God to apply his wrath justly that we must leave all vengeance to him and return good for evil. ‘Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him”’ (Rom. 12:19-20 ESV). If God does not show wrath, sooner or later we shall take justice into our own hands. But God says, ‘Don’t. I will see to it.’

Every section of this book yields another reason to thank God for the labours of the authors and for IVP in Britain. I pray that the Lord will give the book success in the defence and honour of God, and that Jesus Christ will be treasured all the more fully when he is seen more clearly to be Pierced for our Transgressions.

 

This book is important not only because it deals so competently with what lies at the heart of Christ’s cross work, but because it responds effectively to a new generation of people who are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says.”
D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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