Here is what made it on Intelmin this past week:
In this series we are tracing the history of Christianity in 25 objects, 25 relics of the past that survive today. Having visited the Vatican Museum to look at Augustus of Prima Porta, we travel now to England, to the University of Manchester, to peer at a tiny fragment of papyrus. Carefully encased within a climate-controlled cabinet in the John Rylands Library is Rylands Library Papyrus P52, the St. John’s fragment. Measuring only 8.9 by 6 centimeters at its widest points (3.5 by 2.5 inches), this is just the smallest fragment of a long-lost codex. But why would 53 square centimeters of papyrus merit such a display and a position in this list of 25 objects?
Rylands Library Papyrus P52 is a fragment of a single page from a codex that once contained the gospel of John. It is the oldest New Testament manuscript ever discovered.
The Christian faith is utterly and unapologetically dependent upon God’s revelation of himself. We believe that the New Testament Scriptures were given by God as he spoke to his apostles and that they faithfully recorded his every word. Some wrote a biography of Jesus or a history of the early church, but most wrote letters directed to a specific audience. It was only natural that after these Scriptures were recorded, they would be shared with others. A young pastor like Timothy, the recipient of two letters from his mentor Paul, would wish to share Paul’s wisdom with other pastors; a church like the one at Ephesus, also the recipient of a letter from Paul, would wish to share that letter with other nearby churches. Those who wanted to know about the life of Jesus would be drawn to the account written by his friend Matthew or the account penned by Luke, the early church’s foremost historian. As the Christian faith grew and spread there was ever-greater demand for copies of the Scriptures. This in turn brought about a proliferation of manuscripts.
Bible doubters, even ones who claim to be Christians, often make the accusation that the Bible of teaches a flat Earth. They do this in order to undermine the authority of the Scriptures concerning origins and thereby insert a wedge of doubt by which they can introduce millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution into the Scriptures. In other words, they use a wedge of doubt to subvert Biblical authority and supplant it with the authority of modern man. In the end, it really does come down to what we hold as our ultimate authority: God’s revealed Word or the word of fallible, finite men who weren’t there and suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness.
For example, Bible doubters often cite Isaiah 40:22 as proof of a flat earth. The passage reads:
“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…”
Bible doubters immediately seize upon the word “circle,” noting that a circle is a flat 2-dimensional shape and certainly not a 3-dimensional sphere. Of course, their entire analysis is based on a modern understanding of the word circle. When interpreting the Bible, it is important to note the context of the passage as it was originally intended to be understood.
For example, James Patrick Holding of Tecktonics.org comments on the word rendered “circle” here in this passage:
“Apologists dealing with this issue often cite Isaiah 40:22 with the explanation that Hebrew, having no specific word for sphere, may here indicate a spherical earth. Of course we may also read into the text a flat circle, as Seely does. Interestingly, Seely attempts to confirm his own interpretation by making an error exactly like that of a skeptic I once confronted on this issue:
“If Isaiah had intended to speak of the earth as a globe, he would probably have used the word he used in 22:18 (dur), meaning “ball”.”
‘And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.’
Obviously, unless they were professional gymnasts as well as tacticians, the soldiers could not camp in the shape of a sphere around the city! Based on this, this word appears to be making a statement about a circular pattern rather than specifying a given shape.
Seely offers two citations in support of a ‘flat earth’ view that we need not spend much time on: Daniel 4:10, 11 and 20, and Job 37:3. The Daniel passage is actually a statement by a pagan king, which doesn’t mean that the Bible endorses that view. And it is a vision, and is therefore not intended to be a picture of reality any more than Pharaoh’s dream of cannibalistic cows and even cannibalistic ears of wheat (Genesis 41). And Job 37:3 hardly requires a flat-earth reading — it merely states that lightning occurs all over the earth. Even if it did teach a flat-earth reading, it would prove only that Elihu believed such a thing — not everything reported in the Bible is endorsed in the Bible.
As is standard to note in such cases, the statements of characters in the Bible are not automatically granted inerrancy unless the speaker is either God or indicated to be inspired of God.”
I have experienced the sting of Christian criticism many times as I’ve posted Scripture or encouragements online. I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. Christians critique my use of the Bible and correct my theological positions. This happens so frequently on Twitter, there is now a hashtag, #JesusJuked, for Christians who use Scripture as a correction-weapon to tell others how they are wrong. This isn’t cool and this isn’t classy. Nowhere in the Bible has God given us license to treat each other like jerks.
If we continue to pridefully announce our objections to everything, we will soon lose credibility to speak the truth of the gospel. We will be known for our desire to be right and prove others wrong, instead of being known for our love for one another. The world will not believe our points about God’s love when they are delivered with disrespect and pride. Some Christians have been so busy trying to make their argumentative points, they have lost the opportunity to make a difference. It’s that kind of non-Spirit-led, fleshly preaching that turns people from the gospel everyday.
Again, why do we act with such pride and arrogance toward one another?
At the root, we are relying on our own intellect, ego, and proven arguments instead of Christ. We are prideful and think we can get people to see the truth in our own strength. We trust our smarts and wit more than Christ. With our eyes on our selves, we miss others and the gospel.
A MATTER OF CONTROL
Today, we have access to the Holy Spirit’s power to control our lives. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pt. 3:15) and be “the aroma of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15) to the world around us. God has commanded us to walk and live by the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. — Galatians 5:22-23
Scripture tells us “when the Holy Spirit controls our lives” we will have certain characteristics that demonstrate his character. Through our words and actions people should see certain aspects of God’s character: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. If we are speaking out of bitterness, anger, frustration, fear, we are not being controlled by the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are the picture of what it looks like to follow Jesus. If our actions do not display these fruits, we aren’t being controlled by the Spirit.
The Story: Yesterday, during oral arguments in a landmark Supreme Court case regarding same-sex marriage, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and pro-gay marriage advocate Theodore Olson had a discussion about the Constitution that sheds light on an issue within the church.
The Background: In the oral argument yesterday for Hollingsworth v. Perry, Justice Scalia repeatedly questioned Ted Olson on when same-sex marriage became unconstitutional. From the transcript:
JUSTICE SCALIA: I’m curious, when—when did — when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? Sometimes — some time after Baker, where we said it didn’t even raise a substantial Federal question? When — when — when did the law become this?
MR. OLSON: When — may I answer this in the form of a rhetorical question? When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages? When did it become unconstitutional to assign children to separate schools.
JUSTICE SCALIA: It’s an easy question, I think, for that one. At — at the time that the Equal Protection Clause was adopted. That’s absolutely true. But don’t give me a question to my question. When do you think it became unconstitutional? Has it always been unconstitutional? . . .
MR. OLSON: It was constitutional when we as a culture determined that sexual orientation is a characteristic of individuals that they cannot control, and that that -
JUSTICE SCALIA: I see. When did that happen? When did that happen?
MR. OLSON: There’s no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle.
Why It Matters: For Christians, this is an era of historical significance—and not just because of the marriage issue. While defending the institution of marriage is an important and worthy goal, the same-sex marriage debate has uncovered a question that is similar to Justice Scalia’s: When did it become acceptable for Christians to embrace and endorse homosexual behavior?
Like Mr. Olson, I would say there is no specific date in time. It was the result of an evolutionary cycle in which the church became more accepting of rampant idolatry.
At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.
“Don’t you know I have the power?” Pilate asks Jesus. How silly to see the bluster of a dithering man who stands before the true King of the world!
Pilate thought he could set Jesus free, but Jesus was the One with the power to set Pilate free – from sin and death and hell. But in that moment, who would have expected the reversal?
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down onthe judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it wasthe day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilatealso wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written. (John 19:12-22)
The history of the world is told in the tales of kings and kingdoms, people grappling for or holding onto power. The authority God invested in Adam is twisted into abuse and domination, with everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. Even the best of Israel’s kings were a far cry from the perfect ruler we long for.
We need a king. Someone to put things right. Someone to lead us.
“Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!” cried the crowd. What they failed to realize was that everyone has a king. We all live according to the dictates of someone or some thing. It may be money. It may be pleasure. It may be reputation. It may be power. It may be yourself.
But make no mistake. We have a king. The only question is – who is the rightful king? Who should be king?
Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s influence today is felt more than ever, as he is the most published Christian author in church history. Helmut Thielicke helpfully points out the impact and influence of Spurgeon’s ministry when he notes that, “The fire Spurgeon kindled turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through generations, was no mere brush fire of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths and was fed by the wells of the eternal Word. Here was the miracle of a brush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed.”
Dr. Albert Mohler explains that “the defining characteristic of Spurgeon’s ministry was an undiluted passion for the exposition and proclamation of God’s Word.” Spurgeon’s influence is felt today because he was a man of the people, a man whose infectious love for the Lord Jesus Christ spilled over into all he wrote, said and did. Spurgeon’s influence won him many friends and many critics but it is undeniable that his influence is felt on evangelicalism today because of his passionate pursuit of proclaiming the glory and majesty of Christ in everything he said and wrote.
“Do this in remembrance of me.” Those words spoken by Jesus to his disciples prior to him being betrayed, crucified, and later rising from the grave serve as a command to participate in something that provides the believer a point of reference. But just what is the Lord’s Supper all about, what is it rooted in, what should we be remembering when we partake of it, what does it signify, and what have been the various approaches in the church regarding the Lord’s Supper? Via a series of informative and excellent essays, the contributors to The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes discuss all those important elements.
Many arguably are not fully aware of where the communion ritual they participate in each Sunday came from. Some seem to believe it was something created by the Apostle Paul or that over time just became part of church tradition. They understand it relates to Christ’s death on the cross; however, the true roots of what communion is founded upon have been all too often overlooked or misunderstood. Andreas Kostenberger, noted New Testament scholar, rightly establishes that the event during which Jesus stated to his disciples and by extension all future generations of believers “Do this in remembrance of me” was that of Passover. It is unfortunate that some scholars have objected to the fact that Jesus was partaking of the Passover meal with his disciples when he said these words and the very thing he connected what they were to do in remembrance was specifically the celebration of Passover. So while many in the church view the Feasts of the Lord in general as some set of events no longer applicable to us today, Schreiner rightly rejects that idea by properly addressing what the Lord’s Supper is established upon, that of a remembrance of Jesus as the perfect Passover Lamb that was slain for our sins. A book on the Lord’s Supper necessarily should begin with this discussion and I was pleased to see this book aptly address this fundamental aspect.
Of additional note are the essays that address the difference between the Protestant and Catholic views of the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist as it is called by Catholics. I found the discussion by Gregg Allison in his essay on the subject to be quite fascinating as he unpacked how the Catholic Church and their theology approaches the Lord’s Supper. Some of the material I was familiar with such as their belief in transubstantiation, the concept that the bread and wine/juice actually transform into the body and blood of Christ during the partaking of this sacrament. Allison does an excellent job of explaining where this belief system derived from and how it was presented in church history, further elaborating how the positions by men such as Tertullian and Augustine helped shape church doctrine in this area. Martin Luther’s disagreement with transubstantiation is also addressed by Allison as well as the similar position espoused by Zwingli which was supported later by John Calvin. All in all, this essay was a fascinating look into not just the Catholic Church’s position on this sacrament, but also how Protestant leaders rejected that position and their biblical reasoning.
Another essay I found particularly helpful was Brian Vickers’ discussion of what believers are to be doing when they partake of the Lord’s Supper. Given Jesus told us we are to be remembering something when we do this, it is imperative to understand what it is specifically we are commemorating. As noted by Vickers, the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the past and the future in the present. This is an important concept for us to grasp as it ties together what God has done, is doing, and will yet do in the future concerning salvation history. Throughout Scripture, God established holy convocations for the express purpose of His people remembering what He had done for them. Passover was one of those moedim or appointed times, one that pointed to the deliverance by God of Israel from bondage in Egypt. Not only did it serve as a historical marker to times past, it also, at least for them, served as a means to look forward to the coming of the Messiah. Vickers saliently addresses both those important theological issues in his essay. Furthermore, he reminds the reader of the true purpose behind this meal, the renewal of God’s covenant with His people through Christ’s blood for the purpose of fixing our relationship with our Creator that was marred by sin.
The Lord’s Supper understood against the backdrop of the Passover and taken with the understanding of remembering God’s activity with His people in the past, in the present, and in the future is the Lord’s Supper properly done in remembrance of Jesus. Those desiring to understand what the Lord’s Supper is really all about, how it has been viewed throughout Church history, how it is presented in the Gospel accounts and throughout Scripture for that matter, as well as why this is such an important part of what we do as believers in a corporate sense, should read this excellent collection of essays. I highly recommend this book for all believers as we have all been commanded as God’s people to partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ until that glorious day when he returns for his bride.
This book is available for purchase from B&H Academic by clicking here.
I received this book for free from B&H Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
One argument often raised by people doubting that God created in six ordinary earth-rotation days is that ‘day’ can mean a period of time longer than 24 hours, i.e. a non-literal day.
“In my father’s day … ”, they say, and also point to Bible passages such as Genesis 2:4b (KJV )— “in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens”. They might also refer to Numbers 7:10 (KJV) — “in the day that it was anointed”—which refers to the twelve days of sacrifice at the dedication of the temple. (All Bible quotes in this article are from the KJV, unless otherwise indicated.) “See?”, they argue, “In those instances ‘day’ doesn’t mean a 24-hour day, but is clearly referring to an extended period, longer than a day.”
On that point, they’re absolutely right. ‘Day’ can sometimes mean something other than a 24-hour day. It can indeed refer to a longer period than 24 hours, as they say. Sometimes too it is shorter than 24 hours, i.e. referring only to the daylight hours. But often ‘day’ does mean an ordinary 24-hour day, and it’s the context that determines this.
For example, consider the three occurrences of the word ‘day’ in the following sentence:
In my father’s day, it took six days to drive a car across this great country of ours, driving only during the day.
The next two days are destined to stand as among the most significant days in our nation’s constitutional history, but the issues at stake reach far beyond the U.S. Constitution. Nothing less than marriage is in the dock, with the nation’s highest court set to consider two cases that deal with the question of the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The first time the issue of same-sex marriage came before the Court, back in 1972, the Court dismissed the question succinctly: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”
But now the Supreme Court is faced with two cases that demand a more substantial response. One case deals with a challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the other addresses Proposition 8, the amendment to the California constitution defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Both cases are significant. Together they represent a monumental set of issues for the justices. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed by huge majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate back in 1996. It was then signed into law by President Bill Clinton. DOMA requires the federal government to define marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman, and it makes clear that no state is obligated to recognize a same-sex union conducted in any other state. President Obama, whose constitutional responsibility requires him to defend the laws of the United States, has ordered his Attorney General not to defend DOMA in court. It will be defended by attorneys representing the House of Representatives.