Tim Challies – Too Low, Too Human, Too Safe

More than once I have been accused of being a bibliolater, a person who idolizes the Bible, who has excessive reverence for the letter of the Bible. I’m sure many other Christians have been accused of this as well. In my experience, this charge tends to be leveled against those who affirm the infallibility or inerrancy of Scripture; it may also be leveled against those who affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. People who level such a charge are objecting to what they see as a woodenness of faith and practice that stems from an understanding of Scripture they deem too literal.

I am quite sure that I do not idolize the Bible and I am quite sure it is far more difficult to do than the accusers may think. Let me tell you how I think about this charge.

We, as sinful human beings, have lost the right and the ability to have unmediated access to God. Before they fell into sin, Adam and Eve had the privilege of walking and talking with God. They had direct, face-to-face access to the Creator. This is a privilege we eagerly anticipate reclaiming when the Lord returns, but in the meantime, polluted as we are by sin, we have severed that direct communication. We now rely on communication from God that is mediated by Scripture. John Stott once said, “God has clothed His thoughts in words, and there is no way to know Him except by knowing the Scriptures. … We can’t even read each other’s minds, much less what is in the mind of God.” God’s Word tells us that we can only know God as he actually, truly is, through that same Word.

The Bible is the Word of God. John Frame, in Salvation Belongs To The Lord, defines the word of God as “God’s powerful, authoritative self-expression.” God’s word is powerful in that it does more than merely communicate, but also creates and controls. Frame says, “the word is the very presence of God among us, the place where God dwells. So you cannot separate the word of God from God himself.”

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Ronald Nash – Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?

Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?

by Ronald Nash

During the first half of the twentieth century, a number of liberal authors and professors claimed that the New Testament teaching about Jesus’ death and resurrection, the New Birth, and the Christian practices of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were derived from the pagan mystery religions. Of major concern in all this is the charge that the New Testament doctrine of salvation parallels themes commonly found in the mystery religions: a savior-god dies violently for those he will eventually deliver, after which that god is restored to life.

 

Was the New Testament influenced by the pagan religions of the first century A.D.? Even though I surveyed this matter in a 1992 book,1 the issues are so important — especially for Christian college students who often do not know where to look for answers — that there is considerable merit in addressing this question in a popular, nontechnical format.

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Tim Keller – How Christians Should Mortify Sin

tim-keller HOSTILE TO GOD

Romans 8: 7 is simple and stark: “The sinful mind is hostile to God .” The mind is not neutral ground, and cannot love one preoccupation without rejecting the other. A mind “that is set on the flesh” (ESV translation) must also be treating God and the desires of his Spirit as an enemy. This is why our minds are, naturally, unable to deal with sin. We may realize that a particular impulse is unhelpful, or that a certain course of action is destructive. We may even decide to cut it out, and may do so successfully. But the root of sin is still implanted in the mind— hostility to God. So sin will still grow unchecked in our lives.

And that hostility makes us incapable of pleasing God. Verse 8 is an equally striking statement : “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Left to ourselves, we are totally unable to live in a way that causes our Creator to approve of us. Why? Because the mind that drives the actions is acting out of hostility to him. The person controlled by their own flesh is able to have a thought that is good, or perform an action that is right. But it cannot please God, since it is thought or done in enmity toward him.

Here is a helpful illustration: a man in a rebel army may look after his comrades, may keep his uniform smart, and so on. Those are “good” — but they are done in hostility to the rightful ruler. You would never expect that ruler to hear of this rebel’s conscientiousness or generosity and be pleased by his conduct in rebellion!

But none of this needs to be, or ought to be, the way “you” — Christians — live (v 9). Every Christian is “controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit,” since the Spirit lives in anyone who belongs to Christ. When we received Christ and became righteous in God’s sight, the Holy Spirit came in and made us spiritually alive. The Christian has a body that is decaying (v 10), yet also enjoys a spirit, a mind, that is alive.

And, Paul says, not only must our spirits/ minds not follow our flesh now, but one day our flesh will follow our spirit. In Greek thought, the physical was bad, to be rejected and hopefully one day to be left behind; the spiritual was good, to be embraced. Verse 11 overturns all this: ”He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Someday, even our bodies will be totally renewed and made eternally alive by the Spirit. There is no dualism (body bad, spirit good) here — one day, both will be perfected.

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Tony Breeden: I Call It Fascism: A Critique of the British Humanist Association’s “Teach Evolution, Not Creationism” Position Statement

Secular humanists, atheists and evolution enforcement groups [posing as "science advocacy groups"] have given up scientific debate. Instead they’ve resorted to a more fascist approach: mockery and legal suppression of alternative theories or dissent from Darwin in any form. Now they want even more, and what they want would make Galileo turn over in his grave.

A few days ago, I wrote an article called Evolution Is the Only Scientific Theory That Needs Laws To Protect It, in which I drew attention to efforts by the British Humanist Association and a handful of evolutionist, including misotheist Richard Dawkins, regarding science education in UK schools. In essence they want microbes-to-man evolution taught exclusively and uncritically in all UK schools, and, since they do in fact believe the Biblical axiom of Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”), they want our children indoctrinated in evolutionary dogma at an earlier age.

Now, as promised, I will dissect the position statement being promoted by the BHA to demonstrate the fallacies of logic contained therein.

It’s ironic, but I cannot even get past the title of their effort, “Teach Evolution, Not Creationism,” without having to caution my readers against a trick of rhetoric. By contrasting the term “evolution” with “creation-ISM,” the authors of this position statement have given us a question-begging epitaph. A fair presentation of the issue would have read, “Teach Evolution, Not Creation,” or even, “Teach Evolutionism, not Creationism,” but the BHA did not wish to put the creation origins framework on equal footing with evolution, so they added the “-ism” to their opponent’s position to make it seem less credible. It really doesn’t bode well when even the title begs the question.

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Book Review – The Scriptures Testify About Me

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)

Far too often, believers center their study of Scripture solely on the New Testament, viewing the Old Testament as something of a by-gone era. This approach is unfortunate as all of Scripture is inspired by God and perhaps more importantly, a full understanding of Jesus and the scarlet thread of redemption that runs throughout Scripture can only be truly obtained by reading the front of the book. The gospel message is one established before the foundation of the world thus a proper study of salvation contained in the gospel message has to begin where the story of God’s interaction with humanity begins, namely in the Old Testament corpus.

Dr. D. A. Carson has edited a book containing the transcript of eight addresses from the plenary session of the 2011 The Gospel Coalition Conference. In these addresses, a number of theological leaders address the importance of understanding Jesus from the pages of the Old Testament in order to more fully grasp the events and message contained in the New Testament. Men such as Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Tim Keller, Dr. Alistair Begg, Dr. James McDonald, Conrad Mbewe, Matt Chandler, Mike Bullmore, and Dr. D. A. Carson, engage this topic with great elucidation and theological insight helping the reader more fully understand the Messianic patterns and statements found throughout the Old Testament. While every chapter in this book is excellent and well worth reading, I will focus on the addresses of Dr. Mohler, Dr. Keller, and Dr. Carson for purposes of this review.

In his address, Dr. Mohler aptly sums up a reason why many young people are leaving the church noting “The absence of biblical, gospel preaching explains how we have created in our churches a generation of moralizing, therapeutic, practical deists.” The rejection of the meta-narrative of Scripture by the liberal establishment should cause concern. Far too often, the Old Testament is referred to as the Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures as if its content was only intended for the Jews. Furthermore, some have taken the opposite extreme claiming the Old Testament can be read without any need to engage the New Testament. Additionally, the dispensationalist approach to Scripture often wrongly bifurcate Scripture seemingly denying the flow of the biblical message. But wait, there’s more!

Dr. D. A. Carson – The Worldview Clash

In this article, Dr. D. A. Carson argues that in our evangelism we need to confront people with the ‘big story’ of the Bible. From an article originally published in Southern Cross Quarterly.

Don’t worry me with questions of culture, or the receptivity of hearers, fraormeworks, or worldviews, just let me get on and preach the gospel…

This is a complaint we often hear and part of me wants to sympathize with it. It is crucial that we learn the gospel and proclaim it. But it is also vitally important to understand that the people to whom we speak bring with them their own particular prejudices, backgrounds and biases. The way we go about communicating the gospel will need to vary depending on the audience.

Of course the gospel is the power of God for salvation, and evangelism is a spiritual activity. People are blinded by sin and it is the Holy Spirit who compels belief. However, if the example of Paul is anything to go by, we must address the cultural presuppositions of our hearers so that we do not unwittingly obscure the gospel.

Paul’s speech to the Athenians in Acts 17:22-31 is the longest sermon recorded in the New Testament where a Christian is evangelizing people who do not have any knowledge of the Bible. (Compare this with Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13 where he is evangelizing people who are familiar with Judaism.) In Athens, he is dealing with people who have never heard of Moses, never read the Old Testament, and are clearly polytheists. They had a different worldview.

Today, in the West, we are in a similar situation. Increasingly, we are dealing with people who are biblically illiterate and hold a modernist or postmodern worldview (or perhaps a combination of both). Up until fairly recently we could presuppose that 80 to 95 per cent of our hearers had a Judeo-Christian worldview, or at least were informed by it. Accordingly, if we were dealing with an atheist we were dealing with a ‘Christian atheist’ in the sense that the type of God this atheist disbelieved in was the Christian God. Accordingly, in evangelism one could explain the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the need for repentance and it would be fairly well understood. Continue reading “Dr. D. A. Carson – The Worldview Clash”

Nathan Busenitz – In What Way Was Jesus ‘Made Sin’ on the Cross?

crown_of_thorns Yesterday, as I was reading through portions of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians, I came across the following:

“Christ took upon Himself our sins, not by constraint, but of His own good will, in order to bear the punishment and wrath of God: not for the sake of His own person (which was just and invincible, and was not in any way guilty), but for our person. So by means of a joyous substitution, He took upon Himself our sinful person, and gave to us His innocent and victorious person: with which we, being now clothed, are free from the curse of the law. . . . By faith alone therefore we are made righteous, for faith alone lays hold of this victory of Christ.” (Commentary on Gal. 3:13)

John Calvin’s comments on 2 Corinthians 5:21 are similar:

“How can we become righteous before God? In the same way as Christ became a sinner. For He took, as it were, our person, that He might be the offender in our name and thus might be reckoned a sinner, not because of His own offences but because of those of others, since He Himself was pure and free from every fault and bore the penalty that was our due and not His own. Now in the same way we are righteous in Him, not because we have satisfied God’s judgment by our own works, but because we are judged in relation to Christ’s righteousness which we have put on by faith, that it may become our own.” (Commentary on 2 Cor. 5:21)

Those quotations, which underscore the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and Christ’s imputed righteousness, reminded me of an earlier study I had done regarding 2 Corinthians 5:21 specifically with regard to this question: In what way was Jesus “made sin” on the cross?

I thought it’d be worth rehearsing some of that material in today’s post.

To state the question another way: Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary?

The heart of the question centers on Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

In what sense did Jesus become “sin on our behalf”? Does that phrase mean that Jesus literally became a sinner on the cross?

There are some today who teach that Jesus became a sinner (or took on a sin nature) at the cross. Benny Hinn is one such advocate. In a TBN broadcast, Hinn exclaimed:

“He [Jesus] who is righteous by choice said, ‘The only way I can stop sin is by me becoming it. I can’t just stop it by letting it touch me; I and it must become one.’ Hear this! He who is the nature of God became the nature of Satan when he became sin!” (Benny Hinn, Trinity Broadcasting Network, December 1, 1990)

Prosperity-preacher Kenneth Copeland echoes those same teachings. In Copeland’s words:

“The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own spirit. And at the moment that He did so, He cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ You don’t know what happened at the cross. Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me. I said, ‘Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there; the sign of Satan? Why didn’t you put a lamb on that pole?’ And the Lord said, ‘Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross.’ He said, ‘I accepted, in my own spirit, spiritual death; and the light was turned off.’” (Kenneth Copeland, “What Happened from the Cross to the Throne,” 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2)

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James Stambaugh – Creation’s Original Diet and the Changes at the Fall

Creation’s Original Diet and the Changes at the Fall

by James Stambaugh

August 1, 1991

The declaration of God in Genesis 1:31 was His signal to observe that everything in existence was there by His design. Those who believe God used evolution (or another naturalistic process) as the agent of creation must believe that death, cruelty, suffering, scarcity, and the food chain were a part of that design. If we accept this, then we must say that God was the creator of these evils.

However, one might ask, ‘Does the Bible teach that resource scarcity and the current food chain were an essential part of the finished creation?’

There are many who contend that these things were in operation then. They are even so bold to suggest that this is the correct interpretation of the biblical record.

I intend to show here the relationship that resource scarcity and the modern food chain have with the diet of the finished creation. Theistic evolutionists, and those who accept other naturalistic theories, usually assume that animals and man have always eaten meat. Yet the Bible presents to us a vastly different story. Therefore, the diet of the finished creation will be examined to see how it is different from the diet of today.

Finally, this study will venture off into an area of speculation. When God finished His work of creation there was an idyllic, harmonious existence between earth, animals, and man. The world that we observe today is not very idyllic, and it is certainly not very harmonious. The questions of why this came about, and what kind of change resulted will be raised and an answer proposed.

We have very little information concerning the original diet of mankind and animals in the Garden of Eden. If one were to accept a naturalistic theory for the origin of animals, then one must believe that mankind and their animal ancestors have always been carnivorous. Yet God clearly said, in Genesis 1:29–30, that both men and animals were to eat only vegetation. This was certainly part of the creation being [very good], and was God’s best for His creation. Continue reading “James Stambaugh – Creation’s Original Diet and the Changes at the Fall”

Carl Trueman – Adam and Eve and Pinch Me

It is encouraging to see that Dr. Albert Mohler is one of the two leaders of the TGC seminar on Adam (the other being Dr. Bryan Chapell). Kudos to TGC for a very good choice. Dr. Mohler has made it clear that evolution is not simply wrong but has gone so far as to describe it as a myth which is ‘not only incompatible with any historical affirmation of Genesis, but … also with the claim that all humanity is descended from Adam and the claim that in Adam all humanity fell into sin and guilt.’ He has also stated that ‘[t]he Bible’s account of the Fall and its consequences is utterly incompatible with evolutionary theory. The third chapter of Genesis is as problematic for evolutionary theory as the first two.’ In other words, he thinks that evolution excludes the biblical view of an historical Adam and therefore of original sin. In short, consistent affirmation of evolution ultimately requires denial of the gospel. You can read the whole statement here. As always, I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s forthright candor on this issue, as on so many others. And I find his argument on the significance of evolution for orthodox conceptions of the gospel to be persuasive, compelling and timely.

Dr. Tim Keller, one of the two most senior TGC leaders, also sees the church’s attitude to evolution as a watershed issue for the gospel. Unlike Dr. Mohler, however, he has made it clear over the last few years that he is not only committed to some form of theistic evolution (though maintaining an historical Adam, reconstructed in light of evolutionary theory) but also regards the church’s failure to take evolution on board as potentially catastrophic. His comments to this effect at a Biologos-sponsored colloquy were reported by Christianity Today here; and Mike Kruger offers an excellent response to that particular gathering here.

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Death: Evolution vs. Creation

This week’s illustration, ‘Evolution – Creation’, includes five Bible verse illustrations: Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:26; Genesis 1:29-30; Genesis 9:3.

This picture illustrates the fact that if someone believes in millions of years of Earth’s history and/or evolution, then death, bloodshed, disease, and suffering occurred before man’s existence. However, if someone believes in the Creation account as written in the book of Genesis, then death, bloodshed, disease, and suffering of man and animals is a consequence of sin.

If a person takes the Bible consistently from Genesis to Revelation, interpreting Scripture with Scripture, then he or she really can come to no other conclusion than death, bloodshed, disease, and suffering of the ‘nephesh’ animals and man is a consequence of sin.

Genesis 1:29-30 makes it obvious that originally, animals and man were vegetarian. Some would say therefore that plants died before sin. However, the Bible in Genesis 1 makes it clear that animals and man have a ‘nephesh’—that is, a ‘life spirit,’ or soul. Plants do not have this. Plants were given for food—they are not living in the same sense that animals are. Man was told he could eat animals after the Flood in Genesis 9:3. Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 make it clear that death came into the world because of sin.

Some people try to say that this death only refers to man, and not to the animals. However, it is clear from taking the whole of Scripture that animals were vegetarian (like man) before the Fall, and understanding the Biblical doctrine of the atonement (as will be discussed in a future illustration) there could be no animal death or bloodshed before the Fall either.

1 Corinthians 15:26 calls death an enemy. Death is an intrusion. Some try to make out that this death is only ‘spiritual’ death and not ‘physical’ death. However, the Bible verses cited make it clear that Christ’s death on the Cross is related to the death that came into the world because of the first man’s sin. This was a physical death. When Adam sinned, man died spiritually in the sense that he was separated from God, and he also began to die physically.