Nathan Busenitz – The Blog in Our Eyes

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At times, the blogosphere can be notoriously nasty — a breeding ground for slander, gossip, misinformation, bickering, name-calling, arrogance, and quick-temperedness. Even Christian blogs can sometimes deteriorate into something between a tabloid and a talk show, built on a few provocative tidbits of juicy news and the massing of ignorance in response. Armed with anonymity and eager for an audience, bloggers (meaning both those who post and those who comment) often shoot first and ask questions only after they’ve trashed other people and embarrassed themselves.

So how can we, as believers, stem the tide and honor the Lord in the way we interact online? In answer to that question, here are ten practical principles derived from God’s Word.

Let’s start with the most foundational…

1. Have Your Quiet Time First

As believers, we are to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), being controlled and characterized by Him as we walk in His power (Gal. 5:16), 22–23). This begins with “letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16), daily renewing our minds with the truth (cf. Eph. 4:23), taking up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17), and recognizing that it is through “the pure milk of the Word” that we “grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). If we are to be Spirit-filled as we engage others in online dialogue, discussion, and debate — we need to first immerse ourselves in prayer and in the Word (cf. Pss. 1:2–3; 5:3; 19:7–14; 119:9–11).

This principle applies to blogs in at least two ways. First, we need to remember that blogs, as helpful as they are, should never be a substitute for one’s personal time of private devotion, Scripture reading, and prayer. If we are to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led every day, we need to daily go to the book that the Spirit inspired (2 Pet. 1:20–21) and empowers (cf. Is. 55:11; Heb. 4:12). Even the best of Christian blogs (or books for that matter) can never compare with the very words of God.

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Nathan Busenitz – Speaking the Truth in Love

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We live in a world where people love to talk. Studies suggest that the average American adult speaks approximately 16,000 words per day. Multiply that by a lifespan of 70 years, for a total of nearly 409 million words, and suddenly Christ’s warning in Matthew 12:36 takes on new significance: “I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”

Of course, actual vocalization is only part of how people communicate. The Internet, in particular, has given rise to many other ways in which to speak. A study in 2010 estimated that, worldwide, some 294 billion emails are sent every day. The birth of social media has added to that constant stream of communication. Consider that Facebook averages 55 million status updates daily, along with Twitter’s 340 million tweets, and you can begin to appreciate the magnitude of unending chatter that characterizes modern society.

The Internet did not exist when the Bible was written. But the biblical principles for Christian communication apply to online interactions just as they govern real-life interpersonal relationships and face-to-face conversations. Whether we are speaking in person, on the phone, in a letter, or online, Scripture provides us with God-honoring parameters for how we are to communicate with others.

One important passage in this regard is Ephesians 4:14–15, where the Apostle Paul tells his readers: “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Rather than succumbing to the sin-saturated thinking of the world around them, Paul’s readers are to reject falsehood and instead speak the truth to one another in love.

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Nathan Busenitz – Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers

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In his denial of the deity of Christ, Arius was arguably the most notorious heretic of the early church.

Though Arius’s heretical views were soundly condemned by the Council of Nicaea (in A.D. 325), the controversy he sparked raged for another fifty years throughout the Roman Empire. During those tumultuous decades, the defenders of Trinitarian orthodoxy often found themselves outnumbered and out of favor with the imperial court. Yet they refused to compromise.

Among them, most famously, stood Athanasius of Alexandria—exiled on five different occasions for his unwavering commitment to the truth. He was joined by the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzas, and Gregory of Nyssa.

But how did these early Christian leaders know that the doctrine they were defending was, in fact, a truth worth fighting for? How did they know they were right and the Arians were wrong? Was it on the basis of oral tradition, a previous church council, or an edict from the bishop of Rome?

No. They ultimately defended the truth by appealing to the Scriptures.

Gregory of Nyssa makes that point explicit in a letter to Eustathius. The Arians claimed that their tradition (or “custom”) did not allow for the Trinitarian position. Gregory responded with the following:

What then is our reply? We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. (Dogmatic Treatises, Book 12. On the Trinity, To Eustathius.)

When Arian custom ran contrary to Trinitarian custom, to what authority did Gregory appeal? The Scriptures.

As Gregory rightly understood, Scripture is a higher authority than tradition. That is why he appealed to the Word of God as the final arbiter in the debate over Arianism.

In so doing, Gregory provides a vivid illustration of the principle of sola Scriptura, twelve centuries before the Reformation. Of course, Gregory was not the only church father who shared in that conviction.

Though many others could be cited, here is a small sampling from eight church fathers who shared Gregory’s perspective on the authority of Scripture.

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Nathan Busenitz – Did the Early Church Believe in Transubstantiation?

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The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving” and was an early Christian way of referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Table. Believers in the early centuries of church history regularly celebrated the Lord’s Table as a way to commemorate the death of Christ. The Lord Himself commanded this observance on the night before His death. As the apostle Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26Open in Logos Bible Software (if available):

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

In discussing the Lord’s Table from the perspective of church history, at least two important questions arise. First, did the early church believe that the elements (the bread and the cup) were actually and literally transformed into the physical body and blood of Christ? In other words, did they articulate the doctrine of transubstantiation as modern Roman Catholics do? Second, did early Christians view the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice? Or put another way, did they view it in the terms articulated by the sixteenth-century Council of Trent?

In today’s post, we will address the first of those two questions.

Did the Early Church Fathers Hold to Transubstantiation?

Transubstantiation is the Roman Catholic teaching that in the eucharist, the bread and the cup are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ. Here are several quotes from the church fathers, often cited by Roman Catholics, in defense of their claim that the early church embraced transubstantiation.

Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 110): “Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God…They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1).

Irenaeus (d. 202): “He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood” (Against Heresies, 4:17:5).

Irenaeus again: “He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?” (Against Heresies, 5:2).

Tertullian (160–225): “[T]he flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may be filled with God” (The Resurrection of the Dead).

Origen (182–254): “Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink’” (Homilies on Numbers, 7:2).

Augustine (354–430): “I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table…That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227).

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Nathan Busenitz – Were Tongues Real Languages?

Agnes_Ozman_Tongues We begin today’s post with a question: In New Testament times, did the gift of tongues produce authentic foreign languages only, or did it also result in non-cognitive speech (like the private prayer languages of modern charismatics)? The answer is of critical importance to the contemporary continuationist/cessationist debate regarding the gift of tongues.

From the outset, it is important to note that the gift of tongues was, in reality, the gift of languages. I agree with continuationist author Wayne Grudem when he writes:

It should be said at the outset that the Greek word glossa, translated “tongue,” is not used only to mean the physical tongue in a person’s mouth, but also to mean “language.” In the New Testament passages where speaking in tongues is discussed, the meaning “languages” is certainly in view. It is unfortunate, therefore, that English translations have continued to use the phrase “speaking in tongues,” which is an expression not otherwise used in ordinary English and which gives the impression of a strange experience, something completely foreign to ordinary human life. But if English translations were to use the expression “speaking in languages,” it would not seem nearly as strange, and would give the reader a sense much closer to what first century Greek speaking readers would have heard in the phrase when they read it in Acts or 1 Corinthians. (Systematic Theology, 1069).

But what are we to think about the gift of languages?

If we consider the history of the church, we find that the gift of languages was universally considered to be the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not learned.

In the early church, the writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Hegemonius, Gregory of Nazianzen, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Augustine, Leo the Great, and others all support this claim. Here are just a few examples:

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–390): “They spoke with foreign tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learned it. And the sign is to them that believe not, and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, ‘“With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me” says the Lord’” (The Oration on Pentecost, 15–17).

John Chrysostom (c. 344–407), commenting on 1 Cor. 14:1–2Open in Logos Bible Software (if available): “And as in the time of building the tower [of Babel] the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages” (Homilies on First Corinthians, 35.1).

Augustine (354–430): “In the earliest times, ‘the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues,” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These were signs adapted to the time. For it was necessary for there to be that sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth” (Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10).

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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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