Archive for February, 2013

A bright and pure flame

Posted: February 28, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship, Reformed Theology

“How excellent is that inner goodness and true religion that comes from this sight of the beauty of Christ! Here you have the most wonderful experiences of saints and angels in heaven. Here you have the best experience of Jesus Christ Himself. Even though we are mere creatures, it is a sort of participation in God’s own beauty. ‘Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.’ (2 Pet 1:4) ‘God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.’ (Heb 12:10) Because of the power of this divine working, there is a mutual indwelling of God and His people. ‘God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.’ (1 John 4:16)

“This special relationship has to make the person involved as happy and as blessed as any creature in existence. This is a special gift of God, which he gives only to his special favorites. Gold, silver, diamonds, and earthly kingdoms are given by God to people who the Bible calls dogs and pigs. But this great gift of beholding Christ’s beauty, is the special blessing of God to His dearest children. Flesh and blood cannot give this gift: only God can bestow it. This was the special gift which Christ died to obtain for his elect. It is the highest token of his everlasting love, the best fruit of his labours, and the most precious purchase of his blood.

by this gift, more than anything else, the saints shine as lights in the world. This gift, more than anything else, is their comfort. It is impossible that the soul who possesses this gift should ever perish. This is the gift of eternal life. It is eternal life begun: those who have it can never die. It is the dawning of the light of glory. It comes from heaven, it has a heavenly quality, and it will take its bearer to heaven. Those who have this gift may wander in the wilderness or be tossed by waves on the ocean, but they will arrive in heaven at last. There the heavenly spark will be made perfect and increased. In heaven the souls of the saints will be transformed into a bright and pure flame, and they will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Amen.”

– Jonathan Edwards, “How to Know if You Are a Real Christian”

 

HT:JaredWilson

a section from an article by Kevin Vanhoozer:

The problem with this question is its incorrect (and typically unstated) assumption that ‘literal truth’ is always literalistic – a matter of referring to history or to the ‘facts’ of nature. It is just such a faulty assumption – that the Bible always states facts – that leads certain wellmeaning defenders of inerrancy desperately to harmonize what appear to be factual or chronological discrepancies in the Gospels. In the final analysis, what was new about the Princetonians’ view of Scripture was not their understanding of the Bible’s truthfulness but rather their particular view of language and interpretation, in which the meaning of the biblical text was the fact – historical or doctrinal – to which it referred. Their proof-texting was more a product of their view of language and interpretation than of their doctrine of Scripture.

What if the intent of the evangelists was not to narrate history with chronological precision? What if the evangelists sometimes intended to communicate only the content of Jesus’ teaching rather than his very words? Before extending the Bible’s truth to include history or astronomy, or restricting to matters of salvation for that matter, we must first ask, ‘What kind of literature is this?’ The question of meaning should precede the question of truth. We must first determine what kind of claim is being made before we can rule on its truthfulness. The point of biblical apocalyptic is quite distinct from the point of Jesus’ parables, from that of the Gospels themselves, or of Old Testament wisdom. We must, therefore, say that the literal sense of Scripture is its literary sense: the sense the author intended to convey in and through a particular literary form. Inerrancy means that every sentence, when interpreted correctly (i.e. in accordance with its literary genre and its literary sense), is wholly reliable.

The older term to express biblical authority – infallibility – remains useful. Infallibility means that Scripture never fails in its purpose. The Bible makes good on all its claims, including its truth claims. God’s Word never leads astray. It is important to recall that language may be used for many different purposes, and not to state facts only.

read the whole piece here

George Herbert

Posted: February 27, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Anglican Communion, Christianity

from the Desiring God blog:

The Anglican Church designates February 27 as the Feast Day in commemoration of the pastor and poet George Herbert. So I am glad to wave again my little flag of love for Herbert’s poetry.

For depth of biblical insight, penetration of the human psyche, candor with his own wrestling soul, plundering of human language, surprising turns of phrase, technically unique versification, and musical much-making of the gospel, his poetry is unsurpassed.

  • For the most thorough and helpful (and expensive) critical edition, see Helen Wilcox, The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Jim Scott Orrick gives us one poem a week with his helpful comments in A Year with George Herbert (Wipf & Stock, 2011).
  • The Complete Poems and the short book he wrote on the Country Parson are in the Penguin Classics Edition, George Herbert: The Complete Poems(Penguin Book, 1991).
  • And all his English poems are available free online.

Be encouraged today by Herbert that there is an Elixir — the devotion to do all for the glory of God — that turns all to gold, even the simplest daily task.

Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass, On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake;
Nothing can be so mean
Which with this tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.


Watch or listen to John Piper’s biographical message on George Herbert.

Does the Bible Teach Prevenient Grace?

Posted: February 27, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity

 

 

As the name suggests, prevenient grace is grace that “comes before” something. It is normally defined as a work that God does for everybody. He gives all people enough grace to respond to Jesus. That is, it is enough grace to make it possible for people to choose Christ. Those who cooperate with and assent to this grace are “elect.” Those who refuse to cooperate with this grace are lost. The strength of this view is that it recognizes that fallen man’s spiritual condition is severe enough that it requires God’s grace to save him. The weakness of the position may be seen in two ways. If this prevenient grace is merely external to man, then it fails in the same manner that the medicine and the life preserver analogies fail. What good is prevenient grace if offered outwardly to spiritually dead creatures?

On the other hand, if prevenient grace refers to something that God does within the heart of fallen man, then we must ask why it is not always effectual. Why is it that some fallen creatures choose to cooperate with prevenient grace and others choose not to? Doesn’t everyone get the same amount?

Think of it this way, in personal terms. If you are a Christian you are surely aware of other people who are not Christians. Why is it that you have chosen Christ and they have not? Why did you say yes to prevenient grace while they said no? Was it because you were more righteous than they were? If so, then indeed you have something in which to boast. Was that greater righteousness something you achieved on your own or was it the gift of God? If it was something you achieved, then at the bottom line your salvation depends on your own righteousness. If the righteousness was a gift, then why didn’t God give the same gift to everybody?

Perhaps it wasn’t because you were more righteous. Perhaps it was because you are more intelligent. Why are you more intelligent? Because you study more (which really means you are more righteous)? Or are you more intelligent because God gave you a gift of intelligence he withheld from others?

To be sure, most Christians who hold to the prevenient grace view would shrink from such answers. They see the implied arrogance in them. Rather they are more likely to say, “No, I chose Christ because I recognized my desperate need for him.” That certainly sounds more humble. But I must press the question. Why did you recognize your desperate need for Christ while your neighbor didn’t? Was it because you were more righteous than your neighbor, or more intelligent?

The question for advocates of prevenient grace is why some people cooperate with it and others don’t. How we answer that will reveal how gracious we believe our salvation really is. The $64,000 question is, “Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?”

We conclude that our salvation is of the Lord. He is the One who regenerates us. Those whom he regenerates come to Christ. Without regeneration no one will ever come to Christ. With regeneration no one will ever reject him. God’s saving grace effects what he intends to effect by it.

– R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God

 

HT:JohnSamson

Call of the Gospel

Posted: February 27, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity, Reformed Theology

“So, then, what is this effectual, internal call that we are speaking about? Well, the most we can say about it is — and this must of necessity be true in the light of these scriptures — that it is the exercise of the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul. It is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit within us. It is immediate, it is spiritual, it is supernatural, miraculous. And what it does is to make a new mode of spiritual activity possible within us. Without this operation we are incapable of any true spiritual activity but as the result of this operation of the Holy Spirit upon us, we are rendered capable, for the first time, of spiritual activity and that is how this call now becomes effectual, that is what enables us to receive it.

“Now this is very important and I want to emphasise the immediacy, the direct action. You see, what happens when the call comes to men and women effectually is not simply that the moral influence of the truth is exercised upon them. Some people have thought that; they have said that the gospel is preached and that the truth has a kind of general moral effect upon people. For instance, to take a human theme, a capable orator, a man wanting to persuade men and women to vote at an election for a given party, can put the case so well that he can exercise a moral influence upon his listeners. But it is not that. It is an operation of the Spirit upon the men and women themselves, in the depths. It is not merely that the Holy Spirit heightens our natural faculties and powers, it is more than that. It is the Spirit acting upon the soul from within and producing within us a new principle of spiritual action.

“Now it must be that; it cannot be less than that. Because these things, says Paul, are all spiritual. And that is why the natural man does not understand them; and that is why, as I have often reminded you, we should never be surprised, or to the slightest extent disappointed or put out, when somebody brings us the argument that ‘Christianity cannot be right because look at this great man and he doesn’t believe it!’ How often have you heard that argument! Someone says, ‘You know, I cannot believe this, because if Christianity were true, it could not be possible that all these philosophers and scientists and all these great statesmen and other men do not believe it.’

“In the light of these things, it is very natural and we can understand it perfectly well. The greatest natural intellect cannot receive this, he is ‘a natural man’. And you need a spiritual faculty to receive the wonderful truth about the two natures in the one Person; the outstanding doctrine about the Trinity; the whole doctrine of the incarnation and the atonement, and so on. This is spiritual truth and to the natural person it is utter folly, it is foolishness, as Paul says. So when the Holy Spirit does enable us to believe it, it must be something beyond the heightening of our natural faculties. It is not simply that He brings the truth of His great moral suasion to us. No, no. We need some new faculty, some new principle, and that is the very work that He does. He implants within us this new spiritual principle, this principle of spiritual vitality and activity, and it is as the result of this that the general call of the gospel comes to us in an effectual manner.”

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Effectual Calling and Regeneration”

HT:JaredWilson

“The text says, ‘From the beginning God chose you to be saved;’ but our opponents say, that God chooses people because they are good; that He chooses them on account of the many works which they have done. Now, we ask, in reply to this, what works are those that the ‘chosen’ did that caused God to elect His people? Are they what we commonly call ‘works of law’–works of obedience which the creature can do? If so, we reply to you, if men cannot be justified by the works of the law, it seems to us pretty clear that they cannot be elected by the works of the law; if they cannot be justified by their good works, they cannot be saved by them. Then the teaching of election could not have been formed on good works.

“‘But,’ others say, ‘God elected them on the foresight of their faith.’ Now, God gives faith therefore He could not have elected them on account of faith, which He foresaw. If there were twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a dollar, will anyone say that I determined to give that one a dollar, that I elected him to have the dollar, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense. Likewise, to say that God elected men because He foresaw they would have faith, would be too absurd for us to listen to for a moment. Faith is the gift of God. Every virtue comes from Him. Therefore it cannot have caused Him to elect men, because it is His gift. Election, we are sure, is unconditional, and altogether apart from the virtues which the saints acquire after salvation. What, though a saint should be as holy and devout as Paul, what though he should be as bold as Peter, or as loving as John, yet he would claim nothing from his Maker.

“I never knew a saint from any denomination who thought that God saved him because he foresaw that he would have these virtues and merits. Now, my brethren, the best jewels that the saint ever wears, if they be jewels of his own fashioning, are not pure. There is something of earth mixed with them. The highest grace we ever possess has something of earthliness about it. We feel this when we are most refined, when we are most holy; and our language must always be like Paul’s:

I am the chief of sinners; Jesus died for me.

“Our only hope, our only plea, still hangs on grace, as exhibited in the person of Jesus Christ. And I am sure we must utterly reject and disregard all thought that our graces which are gifts of our Lord, which are planted by His right-hand, could have ever caused His love. And we must forever sing:

What was there in us that could merit esteem, Or give the Creator delight? Nothing was found Father, so we must forever sing, Because it seemed good in your sight.”

– Charles Spurgeon, Election

HT:JaredWilson

Does He do so freely

Posted: February 26, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity

The doctrine of “irresistible grace” is easily understood. It is simply the belief that when God chooses to move in the lives of His elect and bring them from spiritual death to spiritual life, no power in heaven or on earth can stop Him from so doing. It is really nothing more than saying that it is God who regenerates sinners, and that freely. The doctrine has nothing to do with the fact that sinners “resist” the common grace of God and the Holy Spirit (they do) or that Christians do not live perfectly in the light of God’s grace. It is simply the confession that when God chooses to raise His people to spiritual life, He does so without the fulfillment of any conditions on the part of the sinner. Just as Christ had the power and authority to raise Lazarus to life without obtaining his “permission” to do so, He is able to raise His elect to spiritual life with just as certain a result.

Objections to irresistible grace are, by and large, actually objections to the previously established truths of the doctrines of grace. Obviously, if God is sovereign and freely and unconditionally elects a people unto salvation, and if man is dead in sin and enslaved to its power, God must be able to free those elect people in time and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ, and that by a grace that does not falter or depend upon human cooperation. Those who disbelieve God’s right to kingship over His creation or the deadness of man in sin and put forward the tradition of man’s autonomous will can hardly confess that God’s grace actually saves without the freewill cooperation of man. From their perspective, the autonomous act of human faith must determine God’s actions. That act of faith becomes the “foreseen” act that controls God’s very decree of predestination, and, of course, that act of faith becomes the “trigger” that results in one being born again.

Neither side in the debate will deny that God is the one who raises men to spiritual life. The question is: Does He do so because men fulfill certain conditions, or does He do so freely, at His own time, and in the lives of those He chooses to bring into relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ? This question is normally framed in the context of the relationship of faith and regeneration. Do we believe to become born again, or must we first be born again before we can exercise true, saving faith? Can the natural man do what is pleasing to God? Can the dead choose to allow themselves to be raised to life? This is the issue at hand.

– Dr. James White, Debating Calvinism

 

HT:JohnSamson

Is it that important to believe in unconditional election – God’s sovereign pre-creation choice to save specific people, irrespective of anything they would do or be? Can’t we just agree with other Christians who say that election simply means that God foresaw which people would believe and therefore chose them?

In his chapter on Unconditional Election, in Whomever He Wills, Andrew Davis lists 13 damaging consequences that follow from understanding election as merely foreseen faith (pages 58-74).

 

read the list here 

That blessed doctrine

Posted: February 25, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity, Discipleship, Uncategorized

“The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God—the grace of God which depends not one whit upon anything that is in man, but is absolutely undeserved, resistless and sovereign.  The theologians of the Church can be placed in an ascending scale according as they have grasped that one great central doctrine, that doctrine that gives consistency to all the rest; and Christian experience also depends for its depth and for its power upon the way in which that blessed doctrine is cherished in the depths of the heart.  The center of the Bible, and the center of Christianity, is found in the grace of God; and the necessary corollary of the grace of God is salvation through faith alone.”

J. Gresham Machen, quoted in Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir (Grand Rapids, 1955), page 396.

 

HT:RayOrtlund

Matthew 25 –D. A. Carson

Posted: February 21, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity

THE PARABLE OF THE sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46) focuses attention on the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and those in prison. It speaks volumes to us in a culture where the poor, the wretched, and the unfortunate can easily be ignored or swept aside to the periphery of our vision. Here Jesus, the Son of Man and the King, declares, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (25:40; cf. v. 45). Doesn’t this mean that somehow when we serve the wretched we serve Christ? Doesn’t this then become a distinguishing mark — perhaps even the distinguishing mark — of true followers of Jesus Christ?

That, at least, is how this parable is usually interpreted. At one level I am loath to challenge it, because it is always important for those who know and follow the living God to show their life in God in the realms of compassion, service, and self-abnegation. Certainly elsewhere the Bible has a great deal to say about caring for the poor.

But it is rather unlikely that that is the focus of this parable. Another ancient stream of interpretation has much more plausibility. Two elements in the text clarify matters.

First, Jesus insists that what was done by the “sheep,” or not done by the “goats,” was done “for one of the least of these brothers of mine” (25:40; cf. v. 45). There is overwhelming evidence that this expression does not refer to everyone who is suffering, but to Jesus’ followers who are suffering.  The emphasis is not on generic compassion (as important as that is elsewhere), but on who has shown compassion to the followers of Jesus who are hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, or in prison.

Second, both the sheep and the goats (25:37, 41, 44) are surprised when Jesus pronounces his verdict in terms of the way they have treated “the least of these brothers of mine.” If what Jesus is referring to was compassion of a generic sort, it is hard to see how anyone would be all that surprised. The point is that it is Jesus’ identification with these people who have (or have not) been helped that is critical — and that is a constant feature of biblical religion. For example, when Saul (Paul) persecutes Christians, he is persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:4). Real followers of Jesus will go out of their way to help other followers of Jesus, not least the weakest and most despised of them; others will have no special inclination along these lines. That is what separates sheep and goats (25:32-33).

So how do you treat other Christians, even the least of Jesus’ brothers?

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

Acceptable Prayer

Posted: February 21, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship, The Christian Life

“What thing is that that maketh our prayer acceptable to God? Is it our babbling? No, no; it is not our babbling, nor our long prayer; there is another thing than it. The dignity and worthiness of our words is of no such virtue.

For whosoever resorteth unto God, not in the confidence of his own merits, but in the sure trust of the deserving of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and in his passion; whosoever doth invocate the Father of heaven in the trust of Christ’s merits, which offering is the most comfortable and acceptable offering to the Father; whosoever, I say, offereth up Christ, which is a perfect offering, he cannot be denied the thing he desireth, so that it be expedient for him to have it.

It is not the babbling of our lips, nor dignity of our words, but the prayer of the heart is the offering that pleaseth, through the only means of his Son. For our prayer profiteth us, because we offer Christ to his Father. Whosoever resorteth to God without Christ, he resorteth in vain. Our prayer pleaseth because of Jesus Christ, whom we offer. So that it is faith, faith, faith is the matter. It is no prayer that is without faith, it is but a lip-labouring and mockery, without faith; it is but a little babbling.”

— Hugh Latimer
Sermons Preached Before King Edward the SixthSermon #7

HT:Reasonable Christian

I ran into an old friend from my college days at a conference several years ago.  When I asked him how his new campus ministry was going, this was his response.  “Iain, pray for us.  We’re dealing with a real enemy of the Gospel on our campus.”  Who was he talking about?  He was talking about Bart Ehrman, the distinguished professor of religion at UNC Chapel Hill.  At the time I thought, “is it really fair to call an academic honestly teaching what he believes to be true an enemy of the Gospel?”  However, after reading up on it a bit more over the years, I’m not so sure Ehrman is simply an academic honestly putting forth his views.  Rather, as I read Ehrman I experience someone with a very strongly held agenda who puts that agenda forth as if it were the only possible conclusion a rational human being could make.  Ehrman consistently concludes that orthodox Christianity is an invention of the later church.  However, in putting this view forth, Ehrman is habitually misleading in his depiction of the scholarly world.

In many of his books, Jesus Interrupted, Misquoting Jesus, etc, Ehrman makes many claims that undermine the historical understanding of Christianity.  He claims that the bible is fraught with contradictions that destroy its credibility for any type of orthodox Christian faith.  According to Ehrman, the doctrine of Jesus divinity was created by the later church, but is absent from Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospel accounts.  He asserts that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion are woefully irreconcilable, such that all we can really be certain of is that Jesus was crucified.  He holds forth the idea that New Testament authors were liars masquerading as apostolic writers.  Morover, Ehrman claims that there are dozens of other texts that never made it into the corpus of Scripture, because they didn’t pass one party’s view of early Christianity.  Rather, according to Bart, early Christianity held to an irreconcilable diversity in its claims about who Jesus was.  Of great certainty, according to Bart, is that neither Jesus nor his first followers claimed that he was divine, but rather this doctrine was invented by the church a generation after anyone had ever heard the voice of Jesus of Nazareth in person.  More than that, Ehrman makes the assertion that all real biblical scholars have known all of this for some time.

Ehrman’s views, of course, are fairly commonly held today by scholars and lay people alike.  Furthermore, many of the issues Ehrman takes up in the New Testament need to be dealt with, rather than being simply brushed away as many believers do.  However, Ehrman habitually talks about these issues as if his position is the only conclusion intellectually honest and rational people can come to.

For example, Ehrman calls the authors of the New Testament ‘liars.’  According to Ehrman, “Most scholars will tell you that whereas seven of the 13 letters that go under Paul’s name are his, the other six are not. Their authors merely claimed to be Paul.”  These writings are called pseudipigraphic, a term that Ehrman defines as “writing that is inscribed with a lie.”

At it’s best these claims are mere sensationalism.  As Ehrman well knows, the term pseudipigrapha refers to texts that are attributed to an author who didn’t actually write them.  For example, the most ancient documents of the book of Hebrews have no signature.  Older manuscripts attribute the work to Paul.  As Ehrman well knows, pseudipigraphic writing was common in the ancient world.  Authors often attributed their works to famous people to lend credence to their message.  Ehrman claims, however, that the motivation for these pseudipgiraphic writers was to deceive their audience.  (Ironically, this is indisputably the case for many of those works Ehrman claims were unfairly excluded from the New Testament Canon such as the Gospel of Thomas, The Acts of Peter, etc.).

Moreover, Ehrman’s claim that “most scholars” reject six of Paul’s thirteen letters is misleading.  It would be more accurate to say that there are six Pauline letters whose authenticity is questioned in the scholarly community.  This does not mean that most scholars question each of those six.  For example, the scholarly community is fairly equally divided over whether 2 Thessalonians is genuine or not.  In every case, there are well-respected scholars who uphold the authenticity of each of the Pauline Epistles.  The picture that Ehrman paints of a unified scholarly consensus is overly simplistic to the point of being disingenuous.

You see, it is not necessarily Ehrman’s claim that is misleading, but how he articulates it.  From reading Ehrman, you get the picture that only the most knuckle dragging of Neanderthals could possibly disagree with him.  “But scholars everywhere,” he writes, “except for our friends among the fundamentalists — will tell you that there is no way on God’s green earth that Peter wrote the book.”[1]  Elsewhere, he says, “Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors.”(emphasis added)  What Ehrman fails to acknowledge in these ad hominem attacks is the amount of credible scholarship there is that disagrees with his own radical views.  In fact, Ehrman is a distinct minority in his own academic field of textual criticism, the study that seeks to recreate original ancient documents based on the surviving documents.  The vast majority of textual critics do not uphold Ehrman’s conspiracy theories that the New Testament was fabricated by the early church, but rather tend to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence in favor of the New Testament’s veracity.(For example, see Ehrman’s own mentor, Bruce Metzger.)

Is Ehrman, then, “an enemy of the Gospel?”  I don’t know.  What does seem clear is that Ehrman has an agenda to undermine biblical faith that he feels passionate enough about not to present the full story for critical minds to examine.  This agenda pops its head up consistently in his popular writings, teaching, and speaking engagements.  Of course, orthodox believers who uphold the truth of the Scriptures aren’t completely innocent of the same faults.  We often present only those facts that uphold our side of the story.  In more extreme camps of fundamentalism, the valid issues Ehrman brings up are dismissed as fringe elements rather than being respectfully discussed and debated.  The irony is that in his efforts to combat fundamentalism, Ehrman uses the exact same tactics dismissing valid scholarship that questions his own position.

For further reading, Ben Witherington has provided a more scholarly review of one of Ehrman’s books here.


[1] Of course, the questions surrounding Petrine authorship of 2 Peter are much more universal than with the questioned Pauline letters.  However, what Ehrman doesn’t relate is that the first epistle bearing Peter’s name itself contains the signature of the scribe Silvanus, leading some scholars to conclude that Peter dictated the letter to an amanuensis.

Free & Finished

Posted: February 20, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship

“There is no inconsistency or incoherence in the teaching of the New Testament about, on the one hand, the offer of Christ in the gospel, which Christians are told to make known everywhere, and, on the other hand, the fact that Christ achieved a totally efficacious redemption for God’s elect on the cross.

It is a certain truth that all who come to Christ in faith will find mercy (John 6:35, 47–51, 54–57Rom. 1:16; 10:8–13). The elect hear Christ’s offer, and through hearing it are effectually called by the Holy Spirit. Both the invitation and the effectual calling flow from Christ’s sin-bearing death. Those who reject the offer of Christ do so of their own free will (i.e., because they choose to, Mat 22:1–7John 3:18), so that their final perishing is their own fault. Those who receive Christ learn to thank him for the cross as the centerpiece of God’s plan of sovereign saving grace.”

— J. I. Packer
Concise Theology
(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 138-39

 

HT:OFI

How Luther found comfort

Posted: February 20, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship, Uncategorized

Years after Luther stayed at the Castle Coburg during the Diet of Augsburg, a friend visited the room he had used as a study and found that Luther had written on the walls the thoughts that stabilized him day by day.  They included:

“There are times when, for the sake of God’s word, we must endure the hardship, anguish and persecution which the holy cross brings upon us.  In such times we can rightfully bestir and strengthen ourselves with God’s help in such a way that we can be bold, alert and cheerful, committing our cause to God’s gracious and fatherly will.”

“It would neither be good nor prudent to take matters into our own hands, because we could and would easily be defeated.”

“If we perish, then Christ the Almighty Ruler of the world himself must suffer with us.  Even if this cause [the Reformation] were to collapse, I would much rather be ruined with Christ than rule with Caesar.”

“If this cause, this doctrine, be a mistaken one, why do we not recant?  But if it be a righteous cause – and as true as God lives and will remain in eternity, it is such – why do we make lies out of God’s many comforting, unchanging and eternal promises?”

“Even though we worry and fret so much, such needless anxiety will avail us nothing.  We only plague and trouble ourselves and make matters all the worse.  God wants us to look on him as our God and Father in Christ, to call upon him in every time of need and to be confident that he will provide for us.”

“Though, if God so ordains, we ourselves might be destroyed for the sake of his word, the Almighty and Merciful God who in Christ has become our Father, will then be a kind and gracious father and guardian, defender and protector for our wives and children, our widows and orphans, and he will manage matters a thousand times better than we could if we were living.”

“Thus we are ever firmly assured by God’s word that after this wretched and fleeting existence, in which we are never safe for even one moment, there shall be an eternal and blessed life and kingdom.”

“Let us be calmly confident in this cause which has to do with God’s word.  Christ, whose cause it is, will staunchly defend and uphold it against the cunning of the vile devil and the tyranny of the wicked and deceitful world.  For those who confess him before this evil and adulterous generation and must suffer much thereby, Christ in turn will confess them before his heavenly Father and requite them for their suffering with the delights of eternity.”

Gustav K. Wiencke, editor, Luther’s Works, Volume 43: Devotional Writings II(Philadelphia, 1968), pages 171-177.

 

HT:RayOrtlund

A good read with helpful links to some other posts on the bible. Here is the ending:

In the end, the New Testament canon exists because of an early Christian belief that the apostles spoke for Christ.  That belief led Christians to value apostolic books.  And those apostolic books eventually formed the New Testament that we know today.

http://michaeljkruger.com/ten-basic-facts-about-the-nt-canon-that-every-christian-should-memorize-3-the-new-testament-books-are-unique-because-they-are-apostolic-books/