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Excerpt from Thom Rainer’s article. To view original, please click on this link

 

Seven Characteristics

It is inevitable that, when we do research on evangelistic churches, we learn about one or more members in the church who, to use the book title by Charles H. Spurgeon, embody the traits of “The Soul Winner.” Oftentimes one of those members is the pastor. But we have also seen many laypersons who are themselves soul winners.

In our interviews with these people, or with those who tell us about the soul winners, we began to discern some clear patterns. We called those patterns “the seven characteristics of highly evangelistic Christians.”

1. They are people of prayer. They realize that only God can convict and convert, and they are totally dependent upon Him in prayer. Most of the highly evangelistic Christians spend at least an hour in prayer each day.

2. They have a theology that compels them to evangelize. They believe in the urgency of the gospel message. They believe that Christ is the only way of salvation. They believe that anyone without Christ is doomed for a literal hell.

3. They are people who spend time in the Word. The more time they spend in the Bible, the more likely they are to see the lostness of humanity and the love of God in Christ to save those who are lost.

4. They are compassionate people. Their hearts break for those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have learned to love the world by becoming more like Christ who has the greatest love for the world.

5. They love the communities where God has placed them. They are immersed in the culture because they desire for the light of Christ to shine through them in their communities.

6. They are intentional about evangelism. They pray for opportunities to share the gospel. They look for those opportunities. And they see many so-called casual encounters as appointments set by God.

7. They are accountable to someone for their evangelistic activities. They know that many good activities can replace Great Commission activities if they are not careful. Good can replace the best. So they make certain that someone holds them accountable each week, either formally or informally, for their evangelistic efforts.

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In one of the leading Philippine internet dailies, the leader (or ‘pastor’ as people refer to) of a popular religious group in the country hosted a sumptuous gathering for ‘presidentiables’ in the forthcoming elections in May 2010. Everyone was hoping to hear whom he will endorse as the country’s next president. But he decided to withhold it, claiming that he needed more time to pray (and pray) so that he will clearly hear the will of the Father (referring to God). To read the full article, please follow this link

The Inquirer writes: 

Earlier, Quiboloy said in a statement that he was still waiting for the clear sign from heaven on who had been chosen by God to lead the country. According to the pastor, all he has been seeing are cloudy visions, which he says might signal chaotic elections. It is His will that we have leaders, in particular a President, who is willing to give up his or her life for our country, so that our people will prosper. That is the kind of President that the Almighty Father is looking for. It is that revelation I am waiting for,” said Quiboloy. Choosing a candidate for President and Vice President in the May 10 elections is not mine to make, it is the Father’s choice. My personal preferences in this matter, and as an ordinary person, a regular citizen of the Philippines, I do admit I have my own, take a back seat to the Almighty Father’s wishes. As His Appointed Son, I carry out His will,” he added.

His presidential endorsement is never my concern but notice how he called himself the “Appointed Son” of God. I have heard this claim in the past but it is only now that I have any proof. The other troubling (yet expected) fact is that his group boasts of  4 million members in the Philippines alone (plus another 2 million internationally).

Now why should this be a concern can only be answered by a portion of the sermon on the Mount of Olives by the Lord Jesus who is the true Law Giver. Many times in the sermon you will read the Lord Jesus saying, “you have heard…but I say to you”. Moses, in Mt. Sinai, received the Law from God, but the Lord Jesus, as the true Law Giver, referred to the Law and expounded its depth of meaning to His hearers at the Mount of Olives. Let’s now refer to Matthew 7:7-22 below:

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

May I note here the original texts do not have sub-headings which were conveniently inserted in modern translations, and I took the liberty to remove them (except the verse numbers for reference purposes). This will allow us to have good view of context. I would endeavor to go through this section step by step and hopefully, come to the place of  understanding  the difference between the narrow gate-wide gate and hard way-easy way comparisons. Thereafter, grasping the flow of thought leading to identify what kind of false prophets here are being referred to.

The Father’s Good Gift to His Children (verses 7-12). Following through short and indepth exposition on a series of commands pertaining to a righteous way of life, the Lord introduced verses 7-12 regarding the privilege of asking God, and God’s willingness to give the good gifts to His adopted children in Christ (specifically those who believed and received the Lord Jesus Christ referred to as ‘His disciples’). Many Christians commonly refer to these verses as the prayer for needs because of the example given. However, the prayer transcends the physical and indeed helps us comprehend that our most vital needs are spiritual which the Father will never deny – that His disciples be enabled and sustained in doing what is good and lawful to others. No wonder you will ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened – all certainties and assurance that the prayer will definitely be answered.

Narrow Gate and the Hard Way (verse 13-14). Interpretations often point to the Lord Jesus as the narrow gate and that is definitely true. However, the “narrow way”  is at times neglected or misunderstood.  The narrow way represents that kind of life that God requires of His people. Still having the prayer in verses 7-11 in view,  despite the difficult narrow way, the gift of the Father to every disciple who would ask of Him must be the grace for obedience and unity of heart to heed His commands. It is the will of God for anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior would  also have this same Jesus Christ as Lord. God has made this Jesus as both Christ and Lord (Acts 2:36), which was gloriously demonstrated by His resurrection on the third day following His death at the cross.

One of today’s problems in evangelism is what is called “easy believism”. Faith in Jesus Christ includes these following essentials of the faith: He is the Son of  God who came into this world and born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, propitiated for the sins of the people chosen by God at the cross while imputing His righteousness on them at the same time, resurrecting on the third day and ascending to heaven sitting at the right hand, to come again as judge all living and dead. All these facts are to be received by faith alone. But this kind of faith  is not alone and has fruits of good works – the evidence of a righteous walk that God has prepared for His redeemed people before the foundation of the world. Those who insist that faith is believing devoid of any resulting evidence of a repentant life falls in the error of ‘easy believism’.

Now I need to be careful of what I have just written so as not to fall on the other end of the ditch – legalism. This is where salvation is not by faith alone, but by faith plus works which the apostle Paul outrightly condemns. He asked the Galatians, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law of by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3). It must be clear that God desires those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation also have His Son as Lord. The difference lies with what obedience really is – obedience as a result, not the means, of salvation that is by faith in Christ alone.

Wide Gate and the Easy Way. Considering a major issue in the context of the entire sermon, the contrast is made between what the scribes and Pharisees do and teach versus what Jesus is saying. He said that unless one exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). The one wrong notion is to think, by default, the scribes and Pharisees are righteous. On the contrary, they are not since they have rejected the Lord of Righteousness – Jesus, nor can they be made righteous by following the Law (when one law is broken, the entire Law is broken). To exceed their righteousness is gained by believing in Christ who perfectly obeyed the Law (what is called ‘positional righteousness’- see 2 Corinthians 5:21) and displayed in obedience to Him (‘practical righteousness’).

A gate is defined as an opening in a wall or fence, or the frame or door that closes a gate (ref: Merriam Webster). Applying the first meaning which fits the flow of thought, the gate is wide because there are many teachers with teachings what is contrary to Christ. Partnered with this wide gate is the easy way. The way definitely becomes easy because the Law of God is re-intrepreted to suit the desires of men rather than God. Many popular so-called Christian groups today have diluted, edited, relativized and compromised the word of God. They have become ‘user-friendly’ – give what the people want so that they will keep on coming to church. The term ‘seeker-sensitive’ has been coined for this kind of groups. In one particular case, the Word of God has been redefined altogether like the Emergence Christianity (a.k.a. Emergent Church or Progressive Christianity).

The False Prophet (Verse 15-20). A prophet essentially has similar function with the scribes and Pharisees. Although biblical prophets foretold the future in the past, their primary function was to reinforce the Law. They called to Israel to obey and warn them of disobedience and its serious consequences. The scribes and Pharisees were the ‘caretakers’ of the written Word in scrolls and are to expound the entire counsel of God as well. Instead they had their way of setting aside God’s commands by their traditions. Here, the disciples were warned on false prophets (essentially‘scribes’ used in Mark 12:38, Luke 20:46). They guard the wide gate and teach the wide way – as inferred, these are anything that is contrary to Christ and what He taught. Jesus said thay can be recognized by their fruits – anything that will be a curse (represented by thorns and thistles; echoes from the curse on man in Genesis) but the false prophets will use their charming ways and deceitful kindness (sheep’s clothing) to deceive people. This is basically the outward character of a false prophet – they look warm and endearing but will feed thorns and thistles to the people (examples are best-selling books such as “Purpose Driven Life” and “Your Best Life Now”).

Secondly, the people who follow are essentially the false prophet’s fruit. Goats crave for goat food. Goats eat anything. Sheeps eat only what is in the pasture of the Lord – His Word. The Lord said that when His sheeps hear another voice other than His, they will run away from that.

(Verse 21-23) It will be these false prophets/shepherds/teachers and their disciples that will be denied by Lord and will be judged as workers of lawlessness since they have trusted in a false prophet and teachings that are not in accord with the whole counsel of God resulting to a life that is unacceptable to God.

Unmasking the Wolf.   Apollo Quiboloy is a false prophet who claimed that he is the Appointed Son of God – usurping the place that rightfully belongs to the Only Begotten Son – Jesus Christ. He is the guardian of the wide gate and the easy way.

He teaches doctrines that are not in keeping with what the Lord has proclaimed.  He assumes that God’s will is to put a president who will bring prosperity to the Philippines. What is his basis for this audacious claim when I consider that many people in my country have turned a deaf ear to the Gospel in pursuit of worldly riches. Don’t misconstrue but I do care for our poor and hope that government leaders would do more to alleviate their condition. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? No wonder Jesus commanded His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and not be like pagans whose preoccupation is materially-oriented. He also explicitly denies the three distinct Persons of the One God: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. On top of this, he is a purveyor of an old heresy called Modalism, that is, one God three modes of operation.He is a mystic who relies on “revelations” supposedly coming from God instead of the clarity of Scriptures.

He is a wolf in sheeps clothing with his respectable and caring appearance to his flock but have only set the cursed way for them. The millions of people who have believed him are now traversing the easy way that leads to destruction,  to be revealed on the last day unless they heed the Gospel and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14-15

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While doing my short post on Facebook regarding the 10/40 Window, I googled articles that pertains to this topic and saw a link with an internationally recognized magazine. Of course, my first thoughts were, “hey this is a good source, this particular source is known for reliable journalism” – maybe….

The article has in its opening paragraph “the three Abrahamic faiths” and then another article writes “reconciling the three Abrahamic faiths”. At first instance, I am tempted to nod my head and give my approval to the term and the intention to reconcile.  However, a few moments later and after some thought it dawned on me that the term “three Abrahamic faiths” is some kind of an oxymoron (Merriam Webster definition: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words).  That’s it!  I find joining “three” and “Abrahamic faiths” contradictory.

The three groups referred here are Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Now, I do not profess to be an expert on the last two but I will try to put forward here how the Bible defines “Abrahamic faith”, in a briefest way possible, and then we will work out our conclusion from there.

Grammatically, we can understand the term “Abrahamic faith” as the “faith of Abraham”. It may also mean the content of faith which finds its root in Abraham. Let us therefore proceed with what the biblical Scriptures say:

The Promise: In Genesis 11, God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldea and made a unilateral covenant with him. By the time he reached 100 years old and with a wife, Sarah whose womb is past childbearing capability, it was an impossible for them to have a child.  God, with whom nothing is impossible, promised them a son. The Old Testament records that Abraham has 3 sets of children: Ishmael from Hagar their Egyptian servant, Isaac from his wife Sarah, and after Sarah’s death, six addtional boys (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah) from his last wife Keturah. Yet God calls Isaac as Abraham’s only son (Genesis 21:15). Each time God mentions the promise, it is always to “Abraham and his offspring” – not offsprings. Genesis 21:12 narrates to us what God spoke to Abraham, “…for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” God then promised that from this offspring shall all the nations be blessed (Genesis 22:18).  Clearly, not all of the 3 sets of sons mentioned above  was the term “offspring” meant for. Neither was it meant exclusively to Isaac as the final fulfillment of the promise. History proves that not all the nations today were blessed through all of Abraham’s sons.  The “offspring” here must refer to someone coming in the future from the lineage of Abraham and Isaac.

Not by Genealogy: Now if it were a matter of genealogy beginning with Abraham then Isaac followed by Jacob, then at this point the forgone conclusion would be to point to the Jewish nation as blessed – that is hardly “all nations”.  During one of the confrontation of the prophet John the Baptist with the religious elders of Israel, he rebuked them, saying, “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9: Luke 3:8).  They presumed to be inheritors of the kingdom of God by virtue of genealogy and national identity while rejecting the call to repent and be baptized as John prepared the way of the coming of the Lord as prophesied in the Old Testament. By extension, neither was the religion of Judaism, with all its modifications done by the Pharisees, the kind of faith that connects a person to Abraham’s faith. This is not to negate Israel and Judaism altogether for still, it is through this nation and religious system shall the promised offspring come. However, national identity is not the means to be linked to Abraham’s faith.

Through this Offspring: By the time the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write the Roman and Galatian epistles, the fulfilment of that promise to Abraham is revealed.  In his letter to the believers in Galatia, he wrote the following:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” – (Galatians 3:16, 26-29)

The enscripturated Word of God in the Bible streamlines the Abrahim faith to Christianity.  I do not refer to “Christianity” as a generic term but the kind that adheres exclusively the centrality of Jesus Christ as expressed in the whole counsel of God. Although the message is exclusive, the message is universally proclaimed – it is intended for all nations to hear and believe. Jesus is the promised offspring and all those who put their faith in Him becomes spiritually connected to Abraham.

In order for the Gospel of Christ to travel beyond the borders of one nation, the historian Dr. Luke, as carried by the Holy Spirit, wrote in the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ:

Then He said to them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” – (Luke 24:44-47)

Only One Way: Based on these, there are not three Abrahamic faiths nor are there three faiths that can trace their unity with Abraham. Rather, only the faith that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ is the true Abrahamic faith.  The remaining two major religions cannot accurately make their claim to Abraham’s faith. Otherwise, we will end with “one God, different ways” – now that is another oxymoron!

 

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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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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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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. 

*     *     *     *     *
 

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 Jay Rogers, from The Apologetics Group

The usual answer to this question is that it was adjusted, like many Church feast days, to coincide with the pagan feast days, this one being the winter solstice. This is a convenient explanation, but the exact date of December 25th is for another reason entirely. It was proposed by several of the church fathers beginning in the second century, far too early for the “pagan copycat” thesis to be valid. To explain how the church fathers arrived at this date, we need to examine first the date of John the Baptist’s conception as told in Luke.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5).

According to 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, King David had divided the priests into 24 divisions who took turns serving in the Temple. During their service they lived in the Temple and were separated from their wives and children. Each order served for a period of eight days twice a year. The priests of the course of Abijah served during the 10th and 24th weeks of the Jewish year. Luke goes on to recount how the angel Gabriel appeared to Zecharias while he was serving in the Temple.

So it was that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:8-15).

Note here that “the whole multitude of the people” (i.e., the whole nation of Israel) was present outside the Temple. Some have attempted to reconstruct the weeks of service according to Josephus’ account in Antiquities 7:14:7, which relates that the first division, the division of Jehoiarib, was on duty when Jerusalem was destroyed on August 5, AD 70. Using this date as an anchor, the eighth division of Abijah would serve two times in the year, one of them being in late September. However, it is uncertain if these allotments began on exactly the same day of the year, since there would be four extra weeks to account for at the end of the year. But there were only two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem worshiping at the Temple. These were the fall and spring feast days. John’s vision apparently occurred on one of the high feast days, the church fathers thought it was the Day of Atonement, and then John returned to his home immediately after that.

So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23, 24).

Since “the hill country of Judea,” where Elizabeth lived according to Luke 1:39;65, is no more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem, the conception of John the Baptist must have occurred soon after that. Several of the Church fathers noticed this correspondence and made the inference that John must have been conceived shortly after the Day of Atonement, which usually falls in September. In fact, the church father John Chrysostom thought that Zecharias was actually the Jewish High Priest because he was in the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, which in 6 BC fell on September 22nd. So September 24th was calculated as the date of John’s conception. The birth of John occurred exactly nine months later on June 24th. Since Jesus was conceived six months after John, various dates around this time, December 25th, January 2nd and 6th were given by various church fathers and each of these have been celebrated as the Nativity of Jesus. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always used January 6th as the date of Christmas.

If John was conceived during one of the spring feasts — Passover or Pentecost, which were the other two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem — then we would have winter birth for John and a summer birth for Jesus.

Notwithstanding, the Day of Atonement fits well as an anchor date because it points to a winter birthday for Christ. Josephus notes that Herod died shortly before the Passover in 4 BC, which began on April 11th of that year. This gives several months for the events surrounding the Nativity and fits the narrative accounts of both Matthew and Luke.

We should not be dogmatic about the exact day. However, we can use December 25th as the anchor date. This date helps explain several events recorded in the nativity accounts and is important for establishing a timeline that supports the historicity of the Gospels.

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