Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Doctrine of Scripture in the Teaching of Luther and Calvin

[The following is a section of an assignment I completed for my class on the Reformation.]

The Doctrine of Scripture

Calvin taught a "twofold knowledge of God:" "[t]he knowledge of God as Creator, manifested in the fashioning of the universe, and the knowledge of God as Redeemer, seen only in the face of Christ" (190),[1] which is found through the preaching of the message of Christ found in Scripture. This "twofold knowledge of God" is roughly parallel to the two "lights" explained by Luther: "the light of nature [and] the light of grace" (78).[2]

Though Scripture is a “light,” giving true “knowledge” of God, comprehensive knowledge of an infinite Creator by His finite creation is impossible. Luther stressed the incomprehensibility of God in this present age (78). Likewise, Calvin wrote of God speaking as a nurse-maid speaks to a baby, adapting His speech to our limited capacities.

Against Catholic interpretation, which was characterized by a large degree of allegory, both Luther and Calvin interpreted Scripture according to its "grammatical-historical sense" (83). They believed that God revealed Scripture with particular words and through particular historical situations and that if Scripture is to be understood rightly these words and situations must be understood.

Both Luther and Calvin agreed, against their understanding of Catholic teaching, that Scripture, and not the church, has final authority in matters of doctrine and practice. Luther taught that "[t]he church, far from having priority over Scripture, is really the creation of Scripture, born in the womb of Scripture" (81); "Calvin, like Luther, affirmed that the Scripture was the womb from which the church was born, and not vice versa" (197)

[1]In the body of the text, all numbers in parentheses refer to Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1988).

[2]Luther also taught of a "light of glory" by which believers would have face-to-face access to God in the life to come (78).


Monday, August 23, 2010

A hilarious skit with an important link:

In the above skit, Newhart spoofs the cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) methods of the likes of Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura.

An important article by David Powlison playing off the above video to contrast proper Biblical Counseling and CBT is found at Justin Taylor's blog HERE.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Listen to Jason Foust sing "Holy" on Youtube

Jason, whom I've only spoken to a handful of times but consider a friend, wrote this song with Jon Stanley, who is also a friend and greatly respected brother in Christ.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

10 Key Reformation Events

[After reading this post, if you can think of an event that should be added, feel free to post about it in the comments.

On a final for a class on the Reformation yesterday, I was instructed to list what 10 events I felt were most important during the Protestant Reformation, and to give an explanation of why I chose each of these events. The following are my answers, though somewhat edited, since now I can use notes, etc.]

1. A critical edition of the Greek New Testament, published by Erasmus [1516; 2nd edition 1519]: This allowed easier access to the New Testament in the Greek, and led to many exegetical insights that drove the early Protestants to seek reformation of the Church.

2. The posting of the 95 Theses [1517]: This became a catalyst for the Reformation, as the Theses were reprinted, translated, disseminated, and used to prompt discussion about recognized abuses of power within the Church.

3. Luther's conversion [date uncertain]: This event, especially as it was related to Luther's insight into justification, became a driving force in the gospel preaching of the Reformation.

4. Zwingli begins preaching in Zurich [1519]: Zwingli preached from Matthew 1 and continued to preach through the text passage-by-passage, rather than using the lectionary, thus demonstrating his commitment to the authority of Scripture in a way easily understandable to his congregation.

5. Leipzig Disputation [1519]: This debate between Luther and Eck helped to solidify Luther's understanding of sola Scriptura and revealed agreement between Luther and the proto-reformer Jan Hus.

6. The Affair of the Sausages [1522]: The breaking of Lent in Zwingli's presence and the resultant discussion of Christian liberty helped push Zurich toward reformation.

7. Zwingli argues against confessor baptism [1525]: After initially seeming to agree with the group later known as the Anabaptists, Zwingli argues that infant baptism should be imposed, causing the Magisterial Reformation and Radical Reformation to remain separate.

8. Marburg Colloquy [1529]: This failure of Luther and Zwingli to reach agreement led to the Lutheran and Reformed wings of the Reformation remaining separate.

9. Calvin's "sudden conversion" [date uncertain]: Referenced by Calvin in his Commentary on the Psalms, his conversion seemed to take him by surprise and led to further reflection on the doctrine of predestination.

10. The publication of the Institutes [1536]: The first edition of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion filled the need for a clear and concise explanation of Reformed theology and was easily distributed, as the first edition was pocket-sized.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slavery and the Bible

[About three weeks ago, my friend Xavier asked me the following question on Facebook:
"Do you believe that AMERICAN slavery is morally wrong? If so, how do you ground that moral position in the bible consistently?"
Below is my answer.]

Overview of slavery in the Bible

Though slaves are mentioned in Genesis, the theme of slavery is first emphasized in Exodus as the children of Israel are placed into a condition of forced labor by Pharaoh and then freed from this slavery through divine intervention. It is important to note the purpose for which the LORD redeems His people: that they may SERVE Him (c.f. Exodus 7:16); the Israelites are not given liberty from Pharaoh because they have some absolute right to autonomous freedom, but because they properly belong to God as His slaves rather than to Pharaoh. The redemption of Israel from Egypt becomes the basis for how slaves are to be treated within Israel (see, for example, Deut 15:15). The theme of slavery is renewed as Israel [specifically, “Judah”] is punished for rebellion against God through being taken captive by Babylon. After Israel’s repeated failures, it becomes clear that the need is not only for external release from slavery, but from a spiritual release from the bondage to sin. This is how the idea of freedom from slavery is developed in the ministry of Christ and His apostles. Set free from sin, we are yet slaves of righteousness, bound to follow the teaching of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, who taught, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12). Following this command would keep Christians from placing others on the auction block, splitting up families, etc. Though American slaveholders refused to see this, it wasn’t because Jesus’ words were unclear.

Slavery in the Old Testament laws

Because the Old Testament has laws regulating slavery, some see an implicit endorsement for slavery in the Bible. But this is an illegitimate use of Old Testament law, as we see in a parallel example from Jesus’ teaching on adultery in Matthew 19:3-9. In this passage, the proponents of divorce point to the law of Moses regarding “a certificate of divorce,“ imagining that due to this law God approves of divorce. Jesus says that this law was given due to hardness of heart; the civil laws of the Old Testament deal with maintaining order within a community of radically corrupt individuals. Jesus corrects their misunderstanding, not by gleaning wisdom from the current more evolved culture around Him, but by going back to the state of Man and Woman before the Fall: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning,” etc. How should the Christian look to the situation of humanity before the Fall in order to gain insight about how we should think concerning the issue of slavery? One line of biblical reasoning in regards to this topic was suggested by Dr. Russell Moore (who was my professor for Christian Ethics) in the following statement from
a recent article:

In the Scriptures, humanity is given dominion over created things but he is not given dominion over his fellow image-bearing beings (Gen 1:7-30)

Writing about slavery in the American South, Moore goes on to point out:

The southern system of chattel slavery was built off things the Scripture condemns as wicked: ‘man stealing’ (1 Tim 1:10), the theft of another’s labor, the destroying of family ties, and on and on and on.
In order to prop up this system, a system that benefited the Mammonism mostly of wealthy planters, Southern religion had to carefully weave a counter-biblical theology that could justify it (with the spurious “curse of Ham” concept, for instance.) The abolitionists were right.
Slavery in the New Testament commands

In the New Testament, the practice of slavery, as found in its 1st century context, would have been radically transformed for those following the teaching of the apostles; in addition to the Golden Rule, which was applicable to every member of the believing community, those who owned slaves and came to faith in Christ were forbidden from threatening their slaves (Eph 6:9) and they were to regard their Christian slaves as brothers in Christ (Philemon 16). But why were slaveholders not commanded to immediately release their slaves? Part of the answer to this question lies in the great differences between Roman slavery and American slavery, as recently indicated on Justin Taylor’s blog:

In the first century, slaves were not distinguishable from free persons by race, by speech or by clothing; they were sometimes more highly educated than their owners and held responsible professional positions; some persons sold themselves into slavery for economic or social advantage; they could reasonably hope to be emancipated after ten to twenty years of service or by their thirties at the latest; they were not denied the right of public assembly and were not socially segregated (at least in the cities); they could accumulate savings to buy their freedom; their natural inferiority was not assumed.
The Great Commission as the solution to unjust slavery

For the Christian, the solution to unjust slavery is the Great Commission. The good news of freedom from slavery to sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is proclaimed; those who believe in the risen Lord are then discipled to follow His commandments, such as, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "do unto others as you would have them do to you." And as we challenge one another to love and obey Christ the world is changed.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Augustine, Confessions, teaching outline

[Yesterday my friend Tim Scott began teaching Augustine’s Confessions in our Sunday school class. In order to prepare for studying this work, I drew up the following outline based on R.S. Pine-Coffin’s introduction and material in Peter Brown’s biography of Augustine.]

Introduction to the Confessions

I. Influences on Augustine in writing Confessions:
A. Christian biographies; examples:
1. Life of Anthony
2. Martyrdom of Perpetua
B. Pagan religious autobiography

II. Augustine wrote the Confessions because:
A. He needed to explain his complicated conversion
B. He needed to re-evaluate his life at middle-age
C. He needed to grapple with death and disillusionment in his life

III. Outline of the Confessions:
A. Coming to faith and baptism; the death of Monica (Books I-IX)
B. Examination of current ability to deal with temptation (Book X)
C. Exposition of Genesis 1 (Books XI-XIII)

IV. Augustine believed the following were at the root of all sins he confessed:
A. Spiritual pride (self-reliance)
B. Lack of simple faith

V. Manichaeism
A. Augustine was primarily attracted to Manichaeism because it was seemingly able to solve the problem of evil.
B. Mani [Manes] combined Christianity with other religions and his own philosophy.
C. Manichaeism was founded on the idea that in the beginning were two independent principles: Good and Evil [Light and Darkness]

VI. Doubts concerning Manichaeism led Augustine to:
A. Neo-Platonism, which gave Augustine a theory of the dynamics of the soul by which eventually to interpret his experiences in the Confessions
B. The idea “that evil results from man’s misuse of free will” [Pine-Coffin]
C. The sermons of Ambrose
D. The Pauline Epistles
1. The idea of God’s mercy and grace
2. The idea of Christ as Redeemer, not just a gifted teacher

VII. The Confessions and the Scriptures:
A. “[Augustine] had come to believe that the understanding and exposition of the Scriptures was the heart of a bishop’s life.” [Brown]
B. “[Augustine’s] relations with the Scriptures… come to form a constant theme throughout the Confessions.” [Brown]
C. In the Confessions, Augustine diagnoses his conversion to the Manichees as a failure to accept the Bible.
D. In Augustine’s meditations on Genesis, he wants to carry his readers with him in his thoughts concerning the Scriptures.

VIII. The Confessions as prayer:
A. The Confessions are similar, in some respects, to the practices of Neo-Platonic philosophers, who felt they must commit themselves fully to the unknown God
B. Augustine began his first philosophical work, Soliloquia, with a prayer
C. Augustine ended his theological masterpiece, De Trinitate, with a prayer
D. Prayer had never been used in literature to “strike up a lively conversation” with God, continuing for a whole work [Brown]