Rod Rosenbladt – Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification

Any evangelical–indeed, any Christian–would probably say that the key issue of human life is that of a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Those who are familiar with the scriptures and know what is described with regard to the nature of the fall of the human race in Genesis three and have come to grips with the texts that plumb the true depths of that fall and the ramifications for every human being born after Adam and Eve, would probably not hesitate to say that man became at that point totally depraved.

Total depravity, of course, does not mean that man has become as bad as he can possibly be, but that every part of us is infected with a deep infection and that we cannot solve our own problem with regard to that infection. This realism moves the evangelical to affirm, therefore, that the eternal Logos assumed to himself a particular human nature and had as his work to be our prophet, priest, and king and to solve our basic problem in our stead or in our place. The word that most evangelicals would use for that is a biblical word…salvation.

And so, in one way, our subject is a very very simple one: How am I to be saved? And in a way, the answer to the question is as simple: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved! Or, to use a couple of texts which Luther and Calvin cited in their debates with great frequency, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law…” (Rom. 3:28) and, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

Now the basic motifs are as follows: (1) The reformers really believed that the popular (and, by the mid-sixteenth century, official) Roman Catholic position was a self-salvation. By “Roman Catholic” I don’t mean what’s going on necessarily at St. John’s by the gas station today. Rather, it is to the medieval position which I refer, the Roman Catholic theology that was represented in the Council of Trent.

(2) When God gives orders and tells us what will happen if we fail to obey those orders perfectly, it is in the category of what the reformers, following the biblical text, called “law.” When God promises freely, providing for us because of Christ’s righteousness the status he demands of us, this is in the category of “gospel.” It is good news from start to finish. The Bible includes both, and the reformers were agreed that the scriptures clearly taught (contrary to many forms of dispensationalism) that the Law (whether Old or New Testament commands) was not set aside for the believer. Nevertheless, they insisted that nothing in this category of “Law” could be a means of justification or acceptance before a holy God.

The Law comes, not to reform the sinner, nor to show him or her the “narrow way” to life, but to crush the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through self-effort or even cooperation. All of our righteousness must come from someone else–someone who fulfilled the Law’s demands. Once we have been stripped of our “filthy rags” of righteousness (Is.64:6), our “fig leaves” through which we try in vain to hide our guilt and shame, only then can we be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. First comes the Law to proclaim judgment and death, then the Gospel to proclaim justification and life. One of the clearest presentations of this motif is found in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

For many in the German “Higher Life” movement, and those in the stream of Wesley generally, the motif is Law-Gospel-Law. B. B. Warfield, the great dean of “Old Princeton” Reformed theologians, was one of the clearest early critics of this trend, which has now culminated in the vast literature of “victorious living” versions of the Christian life. Warfield argued that, at the bottom of it all, the Higher Life movement was nothing more than a revival of prominent Wesleyan-Arminian features. Warfield also stated that he was fairly convinced that the Arminians had another God. That’s a deep shot. Is it justified? To answer that, let us go back for a moment to the Reformation debate.

In the sixteenth century the issue of law and grace was more clearly dealt with than at almost any other time since the apostles. The lines were cut cleanly, and as the great Yale historian, Roland Bainton, has written, “This was the only issue of the century.” Anybody who is studying the sixteenth century primarily through the issue of economics is going to miss the whole point of the century. It is impossible to understand the sixteenth century if you start with the categories of Marxism and revolution, or anything else.

Continue Reading

Tim Chaffey – How Should We Interpret the Bible, Part 1: Principles for Understanding God’s Word

Introduction

A popular seminary professor recently wrote the following about the creation of Adam and Eve:

Any evils humans experience outside the Garden before God breathes into them the breath of life would be experienced as natural evils in the same way that other animals experience them. The pain would be real, but it would not be experienced as divine justice in response to willful rebellion. Moreover, once God breathes the breath of life into them, we may assume that the first humans experienced an amnesia of their former animal life: Operating on a higher plane of consciousness once infused with the breath of life, they would transcend the lower plane of animal consciousness on which they had previously operated—though, after the Fall, they might be tempted to resort to that lower consciousness.1

So according to this professor, Adam and Eve were animals before God breathed the breath of life into them. At that point, they experienced “amnesia of their former animal life” so that they would no longer remember their animal past.

How does this line up with the Word of God, which states that God made Adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:22)? Has the professor made a plausible interpretation of God’s Word? Is his interpretive work what Paul had in mind when he advised Timothy to be diligent in his efforts to accurately interpret the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)?

The example above highlights the importance of being able to properly interpret the Bible. In this postmodern age, bizarre interpretations are accepted because people believe they have the right to decide for themselves what a passage means. In other words, meaning is in the eye of the beholder, so you can decide truth for yourself.

Continue reading “Tim Chaffey – How Should We Interpret the Bible, Part 1: Principles for Understanding God’s Word”

Michael Boling – Reflections on Numbers 35-36

quotescover-JPG-11

Numbers 35-36

God spoke to Moses as the children of Israel were camped by the Jordan River, giving him instructions about the inheritance for the Levites. The people of Israel were to give the Levites common-land around their cities for their cattle to dwell in and the Levites were to be allowed to dwell in the cities. The common land provided to the Levites was to be a thousand cubits all around. Additionally, six cities of refuge were to be provided to the Levites, cities to which a manslayer may flee. In total, the Levites were to be given 48 cities in which they could live, 42 cities from amongst the tribes of Israel and 6 cities of refuge.

The cities of refuge were again for the manslayer. One who accidentally killed someone would be able to flee to the nearest city of refuge. Three cities of refuge were to be appointed on both sides of the Jordan River. If a man struck another person with an iron implement, a stone, or a wooden hand weapon and the person died, that person is a murderer and shall be put to death. The avenger of blood was permitted to avenge that death. If someone kills another out of hatred, as a result of lying in wait, or hurls something at another so that they die, that person is a murderer and was to be put to death.

If someone pushes someone without any hatred, throws something at someone while not lying in wait, or hits someone with a stone accidentally resulting in the death of someone, the congregation would deliver the manslayer from the hands of the avenger, allowing the manslayer to reside in a city of refuge. However, if the manslayer journeyed outside the city and the avenger catches him, the avenger would be allowed to put the manslayer to death.

The chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Joseph came to Moses to speak with him regarding the land promised as an inheritance to his brother Zelophehad’s daughters. Their concern was related to the possibility of those daughters marrying someone from another tribe, thus resulting in the potential for their brother’s inheritance to be scattered amongst the tribes. When the time of Jubilee came, they feared that inheritance would be added to the tribes of those to whom the daughters were married, rather than remaining with their brother’s family.

Moses told them the daughters could marry whomever they wanted, provided they married within their tribe. This would ensure the inheritance would stay with that tribe and family. No inheritance was to change from tribe to tribe.

This concludes our journey through the book of Numbers. Next up is Deuteronomy!

Dr. Jason Lisle – Fool-Proof Apologetics

Fool-Proof Apologetics: A Powerful Way to Defend the Christian Faith

by Dr. Jason Lisle

The Apostle Peter was emphatic that every Christian needs to be ready to defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, defending the faith is an essential component of evangelism. Yet Christians often find this command difficult and intimidating because some highly educated people have argued that scientific evidence refutes the claims of the Bible. How can we answer such people unless we know a lot of science?

It’s understandable that many Christians feel inadequate to respond to the lofty rhetoric of the academic elite. But this need not be so. The Bible gives every one of us, regardless of age or formal education, the basic tools we need to defend the faith. You don’t need an advanced degree in science or theology. Anyone can do it. We simply have to understand a few basic biblical principles.

The Ultimate Issue—Competing Worldviews

When we defend the Christian faith, we must avoid the temptation to get side-tracked on secondary issues, such as nuances of scientific arguments.1 The goal is to quickly hone in on the heart of the matter—the debate is ultimately an issue of competing worldviews.

We all have a worldview (a way of thinking about life and the universe) that shapes our understanding of what we observe. But not all worldviews are equal. Non-Christian worldviews always have internal defects. Because they reject the Bible at their foundation, they end up being inconsistent, arbitrary, and ultimately irrational. With practice, anyone can learn to identify these flaws.

Continue reading “Dr. Jason Lisle – Fool-Proof Apologetics”

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue reading “Ronald Nash – Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?”

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.

Continue Reading

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.

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

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”