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, June 28, 2011

Faith Seeking Understanding: Deuteronomy 22:28-29

If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days. (Deut 22:28-29 NASB)
The Critics' View

The above verses are often cited by critics of Christianity (or those with a low view of the Old Testament) to argue that the Bible teaches that God approves of rape or that the Old Testament Law requires an unengaged woman who is raped to marry her rapist.

A Counter-Argument

But in his article "The Old Testament and Rape," Sam Shamoun rather compellingly argues that it is not "rape" that is addressed by these commandments. Shamoun's argument is based on:

1. a careful study of the original Hebrew words used in this verse, which are translated "seizes her and lies with her;"

2. a consideration of the phrase "they are discovered," which, in contradistinction to the surrounding verses, seems to indicate consent on the part of the woman;

3. a study of Exodus 22:16-17, a parallel passage in which the language is clear that what has occurred is "seduction."

Conclusion: Statutory, Rather Than Forcible, Rape

If Shamoun is correct, then what is in view in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is not forcible rape, but what we may understand as statutory rape, in which both parties are consenting, yet a crime is considered to have occurred because a proper legal relationship has not been established between the individuals.

A Concession

Unlike Shamoun, I will concede that the law expressed in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 may have been applied to some cases of forcible rape. The reason for this is expressed in The Reformation Study Bible notes:

Women depended on their marriage relationship for protection and status in ancient Near Eastern society, and the law provides important protections for women. The penalty for forcible rape of a married woman was the death of the offending man (vv. 25-27). The man who violated the honor of a virgin was compelled to marry her, and could not later divorce her (v. 29). (275)
In ancient Israel, as seen in the laws under consideration, virginity before marriage was highly valued. A rape, whether statutory or forcible, may, rightly or wrongly, call a girl's character into question, and make it very difficult for her to find refuge in the stability of marriage, as mentioned in the quote above. And so, under the Mosaic Law, the man who takes advantage of the unengaged virgin (in whatever way) was charged with thereafter providing for the woman's well-being for the remainder of his life. This law is in no way meant to penalize women, but to provide a warning to men who would take advantage of women; this law forces the man who does give in to animal passion to assume a proper, manly responsibility toward the woman.

Not 'Forced to Marry'

Some women, however, reading Deuteronomy 22:28-29 are (somewhat understandably) alarmed at the idea that the verses seem to imply that women may have been forced to marry their rapists. This concern may be addressed in three ways:

1. If statutory rape is mainly in view (as argued above), then it must be conceded that the picture is a bit different; the woman would not be required by this law to marry a man who had brutalized her, but to marry her "boyfriend" with whom she had engaged in an immoral relationship. (These verses certainly point to the fact that the sexual relationship is to be reserved for marriage, and that sex outside of marriage is an illicit act.)

2. It should be noted that this law places a responsibility upon the man, not the woman; the intention of the law is not to force the woman to do anything.

3. This law should not be taken in isolation, out of context; when compared to its parallel in Exodus 22:16-17, it becomes clear that the woman's father can refuse the proposal of marriage (though the man must still pay the "bride-price" in any case). Certainly, this assumes a type of patriarchy, but a loving father would surely not disregard the pleas of his daughter if a man had brutalized her and marriage to that man would cause lifelong trauma.

A Final Word About the Law

In what way could a law such as the one mentioned above point forward to the gospel?
How should the Church understand such a law today?
The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology gives some suggestions as to how to answer the questions above:

Because the Mosaic law, considered as old covenant, regulates the people of God only during their years of immaturity (Gal 4:1-11), its social arrangements, although just, are not intended in every respect to be permanently binding. The historical perspective assumed in the law is one that looks back regretfully to the fall, around realistically at the present, and forward in anticipation of greater gifts from God. When applying the law to the NT church, therefore, one must take into account the law's context in the history of redemption. (652)

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Faith Seeking Understanding: Genesis 3:8

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Gen 3:8 NASB)
The Difficulty in Understanding the Text: The Spirituality of God

In teaching my son the children's catechism, I ask him, "What is God?" To which he replies, "God is a spirit, and does not have a body like men." This question and answer emphasize the spirituality of God: not just "that he possesses a spiritual nature, but that his nature is exclusively spiritual" (Boyce, Abstract of Theology, 62). This assertion is in contradistinction to Mormonism (as well as various other heresies that have arisen from time to time), which asserts that God the Father is an embodied being.

The assertion that "God is a spirit," and that (especially prior to the Incarnation) He has no body is based on a systematic reading of Scripture. J.L. Dagg notes that, "The texts of Scripture which directly teach the spirituality of God, are few" (Dagg, Manual of Theology, 57). Dagg does cite a few key passages: John 4:24, Isaiah 31:3, and Hebrews 12:9. Dagg also argues for the spirituality of God based on the second commandment of the Decalogue (Exo 20:4-5), especially due to how this commandment is explained in the second giving of the Law (Deut 4:12-18).

J.P. Boyce takes a different approach than Dagg in demonstrating the spirituality of God. While Boyce, like Dagg, cites John 4:24 and Hebrews 12:9 (along with Acts 17:24-25), Boyce's main proof for the spirituality of God comes through a consideration of God's attributes that necessitate essential spirituality: attributes such as infinity, independence, immutability, and absolute perfection.

Challenges to the Spirituality of God: Anthropomorphisms and Theophanies

Obviously, anthropomorphisms are no proof against the essential spirituality of God. In 2 Chronicles 16:9a it is written, "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him" (ESV). Taken in a wooden literal fashion, the idea of "eyes" running "to and fro throughout the whole earth" is quite grotesque: this is, instead, a metaphor, not describing God's anatomy, but His perception. Similarly, when the LORD's "nostrils" are mentioned in a poetic passage (Psa 18:15), it is no more proof that the divine nature has nostrils than the description of trees clapping their hands in another poetic passage (Isa 55:12) proves that we should look for cedars to have pinky fingers.

More difficult than anthropomorphisms are theophanies. Theophanies occur in the narrative portions of the biblical text. In a theophany, God appears to have some physical form. It should be noted, however, that in theophanies, God's appearance is not consistent: He seems to take whatever form best suits His purpose on the occasion, according to His wisdom; in fact, theophanies are so widely varied that if one were to take them as giving a description of what God in His nature looks like, it would lead to a great deal of confusion regarding whether the divine essence should be pictured as a person, some kind of angelic being, a cloud, or a fire, etc.

Theophany in Genesis 3:8

Genesis 3:8 obviously records a theophany. The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology refers to Genesis 3:8 as "[t]he first biblical reference to a theophany" (816) [though I would suggest that the locality that may be implied in Genesis 1:2-- in which the Spirit of God is said to have been "hovering over the face of the waters"-- may be considered a theophany as well].

The exact nature of the theophany in Genesis 3:8 is disputed by scholars. The controversy is focused on two terms: the word translated "walking" and the phrase translated "in the cool of the day."

"Walking" is translated from the Hebrew Hithpael participle of the verb halakh: "to walk, to go." The NET Bible translates the word "moving about," noting, "While a translation of 'walking about' is possible, it assumes a theophany, the presence of the LORD God in human form. This is more than the text asserts." [While it may be true that the text does not necessarily assert "the presence of the LORD God in human form," it must be conceded that some kind of theophany takes place in this text, as "moving about" certainly indicates some kind of appearance of locality and the man and wife "heard the sound of the LORD God" "moving about:" i.e., God was interacting with His creation in such a way as to make a noise as if He was a physical body.]

Interestingly, G.K. Beale notes that, "The same Hebrew verbal form... used for God's 'walking back and forth' in the Garden (Gen 3:8), also describes God's presence in the tabernacle (Lev 26:12; Deut 23:14 [15]; 2 Sam 7:6-7)" (Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission, 66); and again, "The verb form used in Lev. 26:12 is hithpael, the same form used for God 'walking back and forth' in the Eden sanctuary (Gen 3:8)" (Beale, 111 n. 68). Beale compellingly argues that Eden was a type of sanctuary, tabernacle, or temple, meant to expand and fill the earth (based on Gen 1:28), and that since the fall of humankind into sin, God has been reestablishing this purpose-- ultimately through the redemption in Christ Jesus-- which shall be fulfilled in the new heavens and new earth.

"In the cool of the day" is translated from the Hebrew phrase l'ruakh hayom. Ruakh is the Hebrew word for "wind, breath, or spirit," (l' is a preposition), ha represents the definite article attached to yom, the word for "day." Many scholars have been intrigued by J.J. Niehaus' proposal that yom in this case should be associated with the Akkadian cognate umu, meaning "storm." If Nieuhaus is correct, then (as the NET Bible notes), the picture in Genesis 3:8 is of God "coming in a powerful windstorm to confront the man and woman with their rebellion." This translation is attractive, especially due to the fact that it would seem to connect the text with other biblical texts in which the LORD speaks from out of a storm (Job 38:1; 40:6) or in which the voice of the LORD itself is depicted as having the destructive force of a storm (Psalm 29). However, without compelling evidence to the contrary, it seems unwise to disregard the history of interpretation on Genesis 3:8; l'ruakh hayom seems most naturally understood as "the breezy time of the day," i.e., the evening [the LXX simply translates the phrase with the more general to deilinon: "the afternoon"].

Though the exact nature of the theophany in Genesis 3:8 is controversial, the basic meaning of Genesis 3:8 is clear; when the man and his wife hear the sound of the LORD God, they hide: their fellowship with God has been broken due to their sin, and they are ashamed. This is soon followed by God cursing the serpent who tempted the first people (though promising a serpent-crushing offspring from the woman), punishing the woman and the man, and cursing the earth, expelling the man and woman from the Garden. The main story in the rest of the Bible involves God restoring this original relationship (and even bringing about something more than was originally present), ultimately through the last Adam, the predicted seed of the woman, Christ Jesus.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reactions to the RELEVANT magazine article, "What Does 'Biblical' Really Mean?"

In the article mentioned in the title of this post [found HERE], the author, Rachel Held Evans, seeks to explore the question, "What does it mean to say something is 'biblical'?" While there may be much to be commended in this article, I have at least two major concerns, one concerning what the Bible IS and one concerning how we should read the Bible:

1. In emphasizing that the Bible is "a collection of ancient texts, written by multiple authors and in multiple genres, spanning thousands of years and countless cultural contexts," Evans may miss the parallel truth that the Bible is also a single work with a single divine author, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:21 ESV), and, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16 NIV). For this reason Evans should not be so quick to scoff at the idea that Scripture provides "a single, uniform prescription for how to live." Because God is eternal and unchangeable (Jas 1:17), being a man after God's own heart is not a radically different thing in King David's time than in our own day.

2. Evans fails to differentiate between kinds of texts and between differences in how texts apply in the New Covenant era. Evans writes, "technically speaking, it is biblical for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt, biblical for her to be forced to marry her rapist, biblical for her to remain silent in church, biblical for her to cover her head in prayer and biblical for her to be one of many wives." This is the kind of sentence commonly found in atheist literature, in which someone seeks to show that the basis of the Christian faith is nonsense through randomly picking texts without any kind of hermeneutic sensibility (in other words, Evans is, in this sentence, doing the very thing that she claims to be writing against). The solution is not simply to "pick and choose" other verses (as she seems to suggest), leaving those she mentions above on the cutting room floor, but to:

a. Take verses seriously in their context, paying careful attention to what kind of literature is being discussed, and what is actually said (as well as what is NOT said) in the verses. For example:

i. Polygamy in a narrative text cannot properly be taken as any kind of prescription, especially when God establishes monogamy in the opening (pre-fall) chapters of the Bible, and expressly forbids the multiplying of wives on the part of kings (Deut 17:17), later commands monogamy for elders in the church (Titus 1:6), and inspires Paul to declare that marriage as originally instituted is a mystery pointing to Christ's relationship to the Church (Eph 5:31-32) [both the original institution and the fact that the Church is One-- Christ is no polygamist!-- point to the fact the monogamy is the "biblical" standard for the Christian, regardless of "biblical" characters acting contrary to this standard];

ii. The Bible does NOT say that a woman who is raped is forced to marry her rapist. A careful reading of the relevant text (Deut 22:28-29) shows that the responsibility is placed upon the man who forced himself on a girl that is not pledged to marry, that (in a society in which a girl may face stigma in such a situation) the man must make sure that the girl is taken care of for her entire life, under the pain of his own death; there is no requirement in the text that she accept the conditions.

b. Take into account the radical difference brought about by the New Covenant. Once Christ accomplished His great high priestly work, bringing about the New Covenant era (as described in Hebrews, and other places in the New Testament), a person cannot just throw out several examples based on civil and ceremonial laws in the Old Testament, and then say, 'Well, because we don't keep these, we can't know with any degree of certainty which things are biblically prescribed.' There is an abiding, unchanging moral law, reflective of God's character, and prescriptive for the follower of Christ. We have not been left without a sure guide.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Notes from Chapter 4 of Machen's "Christianity & Liberalism"

Tim Challies is currently leading an on-line reading group, which is discussing J. Gresham Machen's Christianity & Liberalism. Below are some notes that I've taken from the fourth chapter.

The Bible

According to the Christian view, the Bible contains an account of a revelation from God to man, which is found nowhere else... the Bible also contains a confirmation and a wonderful enrichment of the revelations which are given also by the things that God has made and by the conscience of man.

II. "We know that the gospel story is true... because":
  • "[T]he early date of the documents in which it appears,"
  • "[T]he evidence as to their authorship,"
  • "[T]he internal evidence of their truth,"
  • "[T]he impossibility of explaining them as being based upon deception or upon myth"
  • "[P]resent experience."

III. "What is the liberal view as to the seat of authority in religion?"

A. Many liberals claim to reject "the perverse moral teaching of the Old Testament or the sophisticated arguments of Paul," but to depend on "Jesus alone."

1. But the liberal theologian does not depend on Jesus as his authority in the sense of Jesus' teachings:
a. The "divine method" was that the "full explanation" regarding "the meaning of Jesus' work" should "be given only after the work was done;" therefore, limiting oneself to "Jesus[' words] alone" impoverishes a person's understanding concerning the way of salvation.
b. The liberal scholar does not accept all of Jesus' words recorded in the New Testament, instead he sifts through these words using a critical process (which process seems designed to make Jesus' words "conform to his own preconceived ideas"); after the critical process is complete, it is obvious that even the "'historical' Jesus as reconstructed by modern historians" must have said some things that were objectionable to liberal sensibilities, and so liberal theologians must assert that Jesus "said some things that are untrue."

2. Nor does the liberal theologian depend on Jesus in the sense of Jesus' life-purpose:
a. Jesus defined His own life-purpose in terms of ministering to others, particularly by giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), but since this includes the idea of "vicarious death," it is unacceptable to, and thus rejected by, the liberal theologian.
b. "The truth is that the life-purpose of Jesus discovered by modern liberalism is not the life-purpose of the real Jesus, but merely represents those elements in the teaching of Jesus-- isolated and misinterpreted-- which happen to agree with the modern program."

B. The real authority for the liberal theologian is not "Jesus alone," but "Christian experience."

1. But "Christian experience" cannot form an authority:
a. "[N]ot by a majority vote of the organized Church," for "[s]uch a method would obviously do away with all liberty of conscience."
b. Not by "individual experience," "for individual experience is endlessly diverse, and when once truth is regarded only as that which works at any particular time, it ceases to be truth" (and thus cannot be called an "authority").

2. Therefore, the liberal appeal to "Christian experience" results in "an abysmal skepticism."


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Notes on 1 Corinthians 15:4

[These notes are continued from last Saturday's post.]

and that He was buried: Someone reading this blog may know a person who has physically "died" in one sense or another, and who has yet been resuscitated by means of CPR, shock paddles, etc. Nobody reading this blog knows a person that died, was buried in a tomb (for three days, as the next phrase makes clear), and was then brought back to life. Jesus' death was no "swoon"-- it was no "near-death experience." Jesus' burial shows that he truly physically died in the fullest sense.

and that He was raised: Not only did Jesus die, but He "was raised" from the dead.
1. Q: Who raised Jesus from the dead? A: God (Acts 2:24).
a. God the Father (Rom 10:9).
b. God the Son (John 10:17-18).
c. God the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11).
2. The significance of "raised:"
a. Romans 4:25 says that, "[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. "
b. By Jesus' death, our sins ("trespasses" or "transgressions" against God) were paid for (He gave up His life as a ransom for many, Mark 10:45). Jesus, who knew no sin was made sin on behalf of sinners; this is why Jesus called out to God from the Cross, "My God, My God! Why have You forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34), but if we only had our sins paid for, those who trusted in Jesus would simply be back at 'square 1,' and thus again be responsible for perfect obedience to God for our salvation.
c. In His resurrection, Jesus was demonstrated to have conquered sin and death and Hell once and for all. By believing in the living, victorious Jesus, by casting ourselves upon Him, trusting not in our own works, but in what He has done on our behalf, we are justified: God considers us upright, acceptable in His sight.

on the third day: Besides confirming that He had truly died, as mentioned above, the detail concerning "the third day" further points to the fact that the gospel is news; the resurrection is considered such an important event that the timing of that event will never be forgotten. Just as many Americans have vowed to never forget the tragedy that took place on September 11th (the date of this all-too-real event is etched into our collective memory), the Church of Christ will never forget the joy that took place on the third day (again, the timing of this real, historical event is etched into our collective memory). The indication of "third day" is also mentioned because Jesus had prophesied concerning His resurrection on the third day, as mentioned in Mark 9:30-32 and Matthew 20:17-19.

according to the Scriptures: By "Scriptures," the Apostle Paul does not mean to indicate the Gospel accounts (i.e., Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), which likely had not yet been written (or at least not widely disseminated) as Paul penned his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul meant the "Scriptures" that we commonly call the Old Testament. Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection were foretold through types and prophesies in the Old Testament, which people should have recognized: this is why the resurrected Jesus reprimanded His followers for not seeing Him in the Old Testament , and then instructed them about Himself from the Old Testament, as recorded in Luke 22:25-27, and this is why Peter could preach Christ from a number of Old Testament passages in Acts 2. Of course, the title "Scriptures" also become applicable to the New Testament documents when they are produced (see, for example 2 Peter 3:15-16), and so we must preach Christ and His gospel from all the Scriptures.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Outline of "Pilgrim's Progress," Chapter 2

This fall, the 5th and 6th grade boys Writing & Literature class I am tutoring will be reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In preparation for this class, I am re-re-reading the book and constructing a detailed outline for each chapter as I read. The following outline is for Chapter 2 (in the 1991 Tyndale House Edition).

I. Christian Meets Mr. Worldly-wiseman
A. Christian encounters Mr. Worldly-wiseman.

1. Worldly-wiseman was from a town called Carnal-polity (a neighboring town to the City of Destruction, where Christian was from).
2. Worldly-wiseman had heard rumors of Christian.
B. Christian and Worldly-wiseman converse about Christian's burden and the Wicket-gate.
Worldly-wiseman asks Christian about where he is going in his burdened state.
2. Christian replies that he is going to the Wicket-gate to become free of his burden.
3. Worldly-wiseman asks about who told Christian to go to the Wicket-gate.
4. When Christian speaks of Evangelist, Worldly-wiseman becomes indignant and speaks of the dangers and death that face Christian if he continues in the way that Evangelist indicated.
5. Christian replies that he is willing to face any danger to be rid of his burden.
C. Christian and Worldly-wiseman converse about the Book.
Worldly-wiseman accuses Christian of meddling with things beyond his understanding.
2. Worldly-wiseman charges Christian with "mental confusion and obsessive behavior."
D. Worldly-wiseman offers Christian a way to be free of his burden without facing hardships.
At the end of the preceding paragraph, Worldly-wiseman charged Christian with not knowing what he was seeking.
2. Christian responds that he knows what he is seeking: freedom from his heavy burden.
3. Worldly-wiseman tells Christian that he knows a way to be free of his burden that will not involve hardship, but will rather be accompanied by "abundant safety, friendship, and contentment."
4. Christian begs for Worldly-wiseman to tell him about the way he mentions.
5. Worldly-wiseman directs Christian to a Village called Morality, wherein live a man named Legality and his son Civility, and they can help Christian.
6. Worldly-wiseman tells Christian that Morality is located over a high hill.
E. The high hill:
When Christian comes to the high hill, he fears he cannot climb it, especially with the burden on his back.
2. Christian also sees flashes of fire coming out of the hill, which make him afraid.

II. Evangelist Delivers Christian from Error
A. Evangelist asks Christian about what he is doing, and Christian recounts the episode with Mr. Worldly-wiseman.
B. Evangelist warns Christian by quoting Hebrews 12:25; 10:38 and applying these passages to Christian's situation.
C. Christian falls at Evangelist's feet and cries, "Woe is me, for I am ruined!"
D. Evangelist encourages Christian with words from Matthew 12:31 and John 20:27.
E. Evangelist tells Christian about Mr. Worldly-wiseman, and preaches to him about "three things in this man's counsel that you must utterly abhor:"

1. Worldly-wiseman would turn Christian out of the way of Life.
2. Worldly-wiseman would make the Cross seem repulsive to Christian.
3. Worldly-wiseman would set Christian's feet on the path to death.

III. Legality and Civility Also Are Condemned
A. Legality:
Legality is the son of a slave-woman, and is in bondage with his mother and siblings (Gal 4:21-27).
2. Legality is unable to set Christian free from his burden; he has never (nor will he ever) set anyone free from their burden.
3. "You cannot be justified by the works of the law, for by the deeds of the law no person alive will be able to find relief from his burden."
B. Civility is nothing more than a hypocrite and cannot help Christian.
C. Confirmation from heaven:

1. Evangelist calls aloud to Heaven for confirmation of what he has said.
2. Fire comes out of the mountain under which Christian and Evangelist are standing, and a voice speaks the words of Galatians 3:10.

IV. Christian Is Forgiven
A. Christian is ashamed and expects his own death.
B. Christian asks if he may resume his journey to the Wicket-gate, saying, "can I be forgiven?"
C. Evangelist stresses the seriousness of Christian's sin, but tells him that the man at the Gate will receive him.
D. Evangelist tells Christian not to stray again, or he may face destruction.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Notes from Chapter 3 of Machen's "Christianity & Liberalism"

Tim Challies is currently leading an on-line reading group, which is discussing J. Gresham Machen's Christianity & Liberalism. Below are some notes that I've taken from the third chapter.

THESIS: Liberalism is diametrically opposed to Christianity in both its conception of GOD and its conception of MAN;

OBJECTION 1: One does not need a "conception of God," but only to feel a relationship to God.
REPLY 1: Even human friendships are based upon a knowledge of one another, if someone asserts something about a friend contrary to our friend's character, are we not offended?
REPLY 2: Jesus clearly taught that we know God through nature, conscience, and Scripture, if we contradict Jesus' teachings on these points, we cannot claim to follow Him (thus confirming the THESIS).
REPLY 3: As Christianity ascribes deity to Jesus, we must be able to make statements about what proper meaning the word "God" should have attached to it.
REPLY 4: "The relation of Jesus to His heavenly Father was not a relation to a vague and impersonal goodness... it was a relation to a real Person" about whom meaningful statements can be made (statements that can be discovered to be either factual or contrary to fact). "At the very root of Christianity is the belief in the real existence of a personal God."

OBJECTION 2: One does not need a "conception of God" beyond God as "Father" (an affirmation that many liberals claim to share with orthodox Christianity).
REPLY 1: Jesus' teaching on the fatherfood of God is diametrically oppposed to the liberal conception of God's fatherhood.
REPLY 2: The teaching of the entire New Testament on the fatherhood of God is diametrically opposed to the liberal conception of God's fatherhood.
REPLY 3: We may speak of God being the father of all in the sense that He created everyone (see Acts 17:28), but when this teaching "is regarded as a reassuring, all-sufficient thing, it comes into direct opposition to the New Testament... the really distinctive New Testament teaching about the fatherhood of God concerns only those who have been brought into the household of faith.
REPLY 4: More fundamental, in the biblical presentation of God, than God's fatherhood, is God's transcendence, which liberalism breaks down with a "pantheizing" tendency.

[In the rest of the chapter, Machen explores "the consciousness of sin," which liberalism seeks to ignore.]

A final noteworthy quote by Machen:

"There is nothing narrow about such teaching; for the door of the household of faith is open wide to all. The door is the 'new and living way' which Jesus opned by His blood. And if we really love our fellowmen, we shall not go about the world, with the liberal preacher, trying to make men satisfied with the coldness of a vague natural religion. But by the preaching of the gospel we shall invite them into the warmth and joy of the house of God. Christianity offers men all that is offred by the modern liberal teaching about the universal fatherhood of God; but it is Christianity only because it offers also infinitely more."


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Death Penalty

[The issue of the death penalty came up again in a recent conversation that I had, so I thought I'd post some reflections on this topic here.]

As mentioned on this blog before, in discussing the biblical basis for an assertion that human governments are required by God to execute the death penalty against murderers, the primary passage to which Christian thinkers turn is Genesis 9:5-6:

5 “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” (NKJV)

[Read a more in-depth discussion of these verses HERE.]

If these were the only verses in which it seemed that God required a death penalty for murder, and if it seemed that God were consistently opposed to any death penalty in the rest of Scripture, then we may seek for some counter-intuitive interpretation of these verses, but we see that under the Mosaic Covenant there were many crimes for which the death penalty was required. While the Mosaic laws are no longer in force (especially we see in the New Testament that the civil and ceremonial aspects of the laws given to Moses have been superseded by the work of Christ), we must recognize the fact that the God who gave those laws regarding the death penalty is the same God we worship and adore, therefore we should not think that the idea of a death penalty in itself is contradictory to God's character. And so both God's words to Noah (which came before the Mosaic Covenant) and the Apostle Paul's teaching concerning government's use of the "sword" in Romans 13 (the "sword" obviously referring to capital punishment: no one merely slaps a person on the hand with a sword) should certainly inform our thinking on the death penalty.

A major concern that I have in this area is that if we think of God as too nice to allow for a death penalty in any circumstance, we may fail to affirm the truth that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23a), i.e., that we are all, by nature, under the death penalty from Him due to our transgressions, which is the bad news that is the necessary background for the good news of what Jesus did on the Cross on behalf of sinners.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Beautiful Day at the Death Mill

The following video, from my friend John Heuglin, describes some of the [even] weird[er than usual] goings-on outside the abortion clinic in Louisville this past Saturday morning. In this video, two men berate those standing on the sidewalk who are seeking to preach the gospel, pray, and persuade women to make a choice for life. As I was present that morning, three things strike me about John's video:

1. For the sake of not publishing a video just full of blasphemy and obscenity, the scenes that he shows of the two men are at some of their least animated moments, when they weren't cursing people out to the extent that actually occurred.

2. In telling of such an emotional situation, it is easy to exaggerate the events that transpire. John resists this temptation to the point of making the actions of the men in the video seem a bit less outrageous than they actually were. (Both men certainly threatened the street-preachers and sidewalk counselors with violence.)

3. This video once again helps expose the lie, consistently propagated by supporters of the abortion clinic, that those who are pro-life are the angry, violent people.

"An average of 70 children are murdered each *week* at the Abortion Clinic in Louisville, KY."


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sermon Notes from Galatians 5:26-6:5, "How to be a Friend," by Mark Redfern.

[The following notes were taken at the morning service today at Heritage Baptist Church. The sermon is available to hear on-line HERE. I think that this sermon is a great example of how to preach an "application" portion from one of Paul's epistles, giving crystal clear practical advise while consciously grounding every point in the gospel.]

True Spiritual Friendship

Galatians 5:26-6:5

I. Introduction
A. Paul's Spiritual Autobiography (Galatians 1-2)
B. Paul's Explanation of the Gospel (Galatians 3-4)
C. A purpose of the gospel is to make us loving toward others (Gal 5:1-15).
D. The Conflict Between the Flesh and Spirit (Gal 5:16-25)

II. What does it mean to be a friend? (Gal 6:1-2)
A. We are to confront others in their sin.
1. Anyone: No one should think they are above this warning.
2. Is caught in any transgression: not just an occasional sin (which we may graciously overlook) but a pattern of sin from which a brother must be rescued [illustration: an overwhelmed boxer getting pummeled in the corner until he is unable to offer any defense and the referee must step in].
3. You who are spiritual: in contrast to the one who is caught in a trespass, but not necessarily a pastor.
4. Restore: set the one caught in a trespass back in place.
5. In a spirit of gentleness... so that you will not be tempted: humbly recognizing we could fall into the same sin.
B. We are to carry others' burdens.
1. Burden: anything weighing someone down.
2. Bearing burdens requires self-sacrifice.

III. What keeps us from being friends? (Gal 5:26)
A. Provoking one another: a result of feeling superior and looking down on others.
B. Envying one another: a result of feeling inferior and covetously looking up to others.
C. Both of the above are forms of self-centeredness and are results of conceit.
D. Jesus Christ inconvenienced Himself for the sake of others.

IV. Where do we get the spiritual resources to be a friend?
A. You get them from the gospel.
1. It meets our need for approval.
2. The gospel makes us both humble and bold.
3. We can bear burdens because Jesus bore our greatest burden, and God only gives burdens that will be for our good and His glory.
B. Understanding Ourselves (Gal 6:3)
1. The truth that in and of ourselves we are nothing strips us of self-importance and frees us to bear burdens.
2. "Nothing will be beneath you if you are nothing."
3. Thinking that you are something does not change the fact that, in yourself, you are nothing.
C. Understanding Our Responsibility (Gal 6:4-5)
1. These verses actually give the believer a good reason to feel good about himself.
2. Bear his own load: responsibilities cannot be neglected on the basis of these verses.

V. Applications [the following applications were pure gold, but, to mix metaphors, they were so meaty that the reader really needs to hear the sermon to understand what was said]:
A. Constant Intimacy
B. Self-Conscious Identity
C. Individual Responsibility
D. Genuine Community
E. Authentic Spirituality

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Notes on 1 Corinthians 15:3

[Some initial notes taken in preparation to hopefully preach on 1 Corinthians 15:3-7:]

I delivered to you: Historically, Paul had delivered this message to the Corinthians. God could have spoken this message directly to the Corinthians, but He had sent His apostle to them. God delights in using His servants to deliver His message, and we should delight in joining in with God's gospel work, delivering His message to the whole humanity that He has created.

as of first importance: Nothing is more important than the gospel message Paul is about to explain. This is a first-order teaching, and a teaching by which all other teachings are to be understood. The gospel message should be "of first importance" for every Christian, and should be "of first importance" especially for every preacher.

what I also received: Paul received the gospel message; it was not something he invented on his own. There is a continuity down through the ages of those who have been faithful to preach the gospel and those who have heard the gospel being faithful to preach to the next generation. We should humbly honor those from who we have received the gospel, and we should continue this chain of revelation by faithfully passing on the gospel to the next generation.

that Christ: The gospel message is a message about Christ, the anointed one of God, the chief of God's servants, who was known by His disciples as the Son of God and Son of Man.

died: The Christian message is first a historical message about Christ. Gospel means "good news" and this is the "news" part of that phrase. Christ sacrificed His very life.

for: This word "for" can also be translated "on behalf of." When explaining this foundational teaching of the good news, the Apostle uses this word to transition from the "news" to the explanation of why this news is "good." The Christian message is, at its heart, a historical assertion with a theological explanation. We cannot ONLY proclaim that Christ died on the cross or that He is risen, we must say WHY these events matter.

our sins: Christ died because WE sinned. He did not die for His own sins, but on behalf of our sins. "Sin" is a word that indicates rebellion against God's sovereignty, a breaking of God's Law. The Bible is clear that we are all sinners (Rom 3:23). The Bible is also clear that all sin earns the death penalty from God (Rom 6:23b). Christ took this penalty in our place.

according to the Scriptures: The "Scriptures" to which Paul refers do not refer to the New Testament (at least not primarily), as it was still in production. The Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) had probably not yet been written when Paul penned this letter to the Corinthians (it is clear from the following verses that Paul knows of the Lord's resurrection primarily through his own encounter and verbal eyewitness testimony). These "Scriptures" are the Old Testament, which prophesied of the coming Messiah, and which Christ fulfilled.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Outline of "Pilgrim's Progress," Chapter 1

This fall, the 5th and 6th grade boys Writing & Literature class I am tutoring will be reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In preparation for this class, I am re-re-reading the book and constructing a detailed outline for each chapter as I read. The following outline is for Chapter 1 (in the 1991 Tyndale House Edition).

I. The Jail
A. The Beginning of the Tale:
1. The author falls asleep in a den and begins to dream.
2. In the dream, the author sees a man who is reading a book and who is in anguish, asking, "What shall I do?"
B. The man in the dream begins baring his soul to his family.
1. At first, the man in the dream sees to hide his anguish from his family.
2. Then, the man in the dream begins relating the cause of his anguish to his family:
a. He was under a heavy burden.
b. He had become aware that his city would be destroyed by fire from Heaven.
C. The family in the dream rejects the man's message.
1. They think the man is going crazy.
2. They harden their hearts to his warnings.
3. They begin abusing the man.
4. Therefore, the man begins isolating himself, reading and praying.

II. Evangelist Appears
A. The Man's Cry for Salvation:
1. (The man in the dream, at the end of the first paragraph in the book, had asked in anguish, "What shall I do?")
2. Now, at the end of this paragraph (after reading and praying), the man asks, "What shall I do TO BE SAVED?" [EMPHASIS ADDED].
B. The man meets Evangelist.
1. The man does not know which way to go.
2. Evangelist approaches the man.
C. Evangelist speaks with the man.
1. Evangelist asks what troubles the man.
2. The man understands from "the Book" that he faces death and judgment, and that he is unwilling to die and unable to face judgment.
3. Evangelist asks the man why he is not willing to die, as he is so miserable.
4. The man says he is not willing to die because he is afraid the burden on his back will drag him into Hell.
5. Evangelist asks the man why he is standing still.
6. The man replies that he does not know where to go.
7. Evangelist gives the man a Parchment Scroll inscribed with the words, "Flee from the wrath to come."
8. The man asks Evangelist where he should flee.
9. Evangelist points the man to a shining light; Evangelist tells the man that by following the light, he will come to a wicket gate.
10. Evangelist tells the man that by knocking on the gate he will gain instructions concerning what to do.

III. Pursued by Obstinate and Pliable
A. The man flees toward the light.
1. The man begins to run.
2. His family cries out for him to return.
3. The man puts his fingers in his ears and keeps running, crying out, "Life! Life! Eternal life!"
4. His neighbors also cry out for him to return.
5. Two neighbors in particular-- Obstinate and Pliable-- follow the man to get him to return.
B. Obstinate:
1. Obstinate objects to leaving comforts behind in the City of Destruction.
2. "Christian" (as the man's name is revealed to be) replies that the blessings he pursues far outweigh the comforts left behind.
3. Obstinate asks about the blessings Christian mentions.
4. Christian says he is seeking an incorruptible inheritance.
5. Obstinate's last address to Christian:
a. Obstinate ridicules Christian.
b. Obstinate asks Christian whether he will go back.
6. Christian says he will not go back.
7. Obstinate tell Pliable they should return home.
C. Pliable:
1. Pliable rebukes Obstinate for insulting Christian and says he is inclined to go with Christian.
2. Obstinate calls Pliable a fool and tells him to return with him.
3. Christian seeks to persuade Pliable to go with him, telling Pliable about the "glorious things to be gained."
4. Pliable decides to go with Christian.
5. Obstinate goes back scoffing.

IV. Christian and Pliable Discuss Heavenly Things
A. Christian seeks to get to know Pliable.
B. Pliable asks Christian about heavenly things.
C. Christian seeks to answer Pliable from the Book, affirming absolute trust in the Book, as the Book was written by Him who cannot lie.
D. Christian tells Pliable about a number of good things written in the Book:
1. An endless kingdom;
2. Eternal life;
3. A cessation of sorrow;
4. Fellowship with angelic beings and holy ones who have gone before.
E. Pliable asks Christian how they can come to share in the good things just mentioned.
F. Christian replies that the Lord of the heavenly country has given the answer in the Book, and that: "if we are truly willing to receive it [i.e., the answer concerning how to gain all the blessings just mentioned], He will freely give it to us."

V. The Slough of Despond
A. Both Christian and Pliable fall into the Slough of Despond.
B. Pliable is angry, extricates himself from the Slough on his homeward side, and returns home.

VI. Help Comes to the Rescue
A. Christian in the Slough of Despond:
1. When Pliable leaves, Christian is left alone in the Slough.
2. Christian continues trying to get to the side toward the wicket gate.
3. Christian is unable to get out of the Slough due to the burden on his back.
B. Help comes to Christian.
1. Help asks Christian what he is doing in the Slough.
2. Christian explains his story thus far.
3. Help asks Christian why he did not seek the steps in the Slough.
4. Christian replies that fear had pursued him so hard that he fallen in.
5. Help takes him by the hand and sets him on solid ground.
C. The Explanation of the Slough:
1. The author asks Help why the Slough is not fenced off.
2. Help responds that the Slough cannot be fenced.
3. Help explains:
a. That the Slough is composed of the scum and filth of the conviction of sin;
b. For two thousand years the King's laborers have been seeking to fence the Slough and to fill it in with "cartloads of profitable instruction" to no avail;
c. "[G]ood and substantial steps have been placed evenly throughout this Slough by command of the Lawgiver," but the amount of filth makes it hard to see the steps in bad weather.

VII. Pliable Returns Home and is Confronted by His Neighbors:
A. Some neighbors say Pliable is wise for returning.
B. Some say he is a fool for having endangered himself with Christian.
C. Some mock his cowardice for failing in his venture.
D. At first, Pliable sat cowering among his neighbors.
E. Finally, Pliable raises an objection.
F. The neighbors go back to mocking Christian.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Notes from Chapter 2 of Machen's "Christianity & Liberalism"

Tim Challies is currently leading an on-line reading group, which is discussing J. Gresham Machen's Christianity & Liberalism. Below are some notes that I've taken from the second chapter.


I. Liberalism in the Pews
A. Liberalism is now found not only in the seminaries, but in the pulpits, Sunday school "helps," and denominational newspapers.
B. Therefore, the cure for liberalism is not found in closing the seminaries, but in a greater love for Truth.

II. The Dishonesty of Liberalism in the Churches
A. Those at seminaries are often more frank than those teaching in churches.
B. Under the guise of not giving offense, liberal teachers in the churches carefully avoid speaking their whole mind.

III. "What... are the teachings of modern liberalism as over against the teachings of Christianity?"
A. Liberal theologians/preachers make a show of objecting to "doctrine" (though they really only substitute their doctrines for Christian doctrines).
B. Liberal theologians/preachers assert that "Christianity is a life, not a doctrine" (but an examination of the historical evidence left by the first generation of Christians makes it clear that Christianity is a way of life founded upon a message, or doctrine).
C. Some liberal theologians/preachers seek to distinguish Paul's religion from primitive Christianity in order to reject Paul's emphasis on doctrine (but "[t]he Pauline Epistles themselves attest a fundamental unity of principle between Paul and the original companions of Jesus, and the whole early history of the Church becomes unintelligible except on the basis of such unity").
D. Liberal theologians/preachers assert "the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man" as the core of Christianity (but Christianity is based on an entirely different message, as seen in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, a passage which explains the gospel message as focused on history and doctrine).

IV. The Teaching of the First Christian Missionaries
A. Differences from what "modern man" might expect:
1. The disciples did NOT say to themselves that "'Our Father which art in heaven' was a good way of addressing God even though the One who had taught them that prayer was dead."
2. The disciples did NOT cling "to the ethical principles of Jesus [nor cherish] the vague hope that the One who enunciated such principles had some personal existence beyond the grave."
B. "The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was an historical message, an account of something that had recently happened, it was the message, 'He is risen.'"
C. Jesus Himself was not a mere sage spouting moral principles like Confucius (as the liberals seem to imagine) even according to the most critical liberal scholarship, Jesus is known to have said words such as "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

V. May we not simply follow Jesus as the disciples did, simply going after Him with no thought of doctrine or His work?
A. NO, for Jesus walked the earth over nineteen hundred years ago; we cannot literally follow Him as the disciples did, we need a "bridge" (spiritually speaking).
B. We need a post-Pentecost experience of the living Jesus; this experience comes through acceptance of the message of what He has done for us on the Cross.

VI. In attacking "doctrine," may critics not really (and properly) mean to attack theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries, returning the church to New Testament simplicity?
A. Certainly this is what many churchgoers understand when they hear an attack on "doctrine;" they are not thinking of the subtleties of liberal theologians, for they have never considered such subtleties.
B. But attacks on how the gospel was presented in the 16th and 17th centuries are often veiled attacks on the gospel itself.

VII. What the assertion that Christianity has a doctrinal basis does NOT mean:
A. "[I]f doctrine is sound, it makes no difference about life" (faith in Christ IS accompanied by "an immediate moral change").
B. "[A]ll points of doctrine are equally important" (there IS great room for difference of opinion among Christians IF the fundamental gospel truths are affirmed).

"Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith."


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Is "Our Father" the Gospel?

"'Hail Mary' is not the gospel."

The above quote is from my friend Eric Paulson, as a Roman Catholic man beside him questioned him due to us street-preaching over the chants of a throng of Mariolaters last Saturday.

"Is the 'our Father' the gospel?" the Roman Catholic man challenged, referring to the fact that the throng was switching back and forth between these two prayers [i.e. the "Hail Mary" and the "our Father," which I refer to as the "Lord's Prayer" below].

"No," said Eric.

"It's not?" the man said, incredulously.

"No, it's not," said Eric [I'm paraphrasing this next part], "it's in books called 'Gospels,' but it's not the gospel." Eric emphasized that what people need to hear is the gospel itself.

A moment later the Roman Catholic man had walked off, and Eric asked me what I thought about the conversation. I replied that maybe the Lord's Prayer is part of the gospel.

"But it's not the gospel," Eric replied.

"Right," I said.

When this conversation took place, I felt a bit uncomfortable asserting that the Lord's Prayer is not the gospel. This is due to the fact that I realized the Prayer is a direct quote of Jesus' words, and I didn't want to say anything that sounded like it was denigrating the teaching of my Lord and Savior. But thinking back on the conversation, I must say that Eric was RIGHT, and I should have no discomfort in boldly asserting (as he did) that the Lord's Prayer is not the gospel.

I believe that further consideration of this issue may be helpful because there are all kind of good biblical teachings that are related to the gospel, but that are not themselves the gospel. Christians who are dedicated to proclaiming the gospel must be able to articulate what the gospel is NOT as well as what the gospel IS, and examining the Lord's Prayer in light of this fact may provide a model for how other Bible truths (which some people may assert are part of the gospel) should be addressed as well.

The Lord's Prayer is NOT the gospel for the following reasons:

1. The gospel is a message with a definite historical content concerning who Jesus is and what He has done on behalf of sinners. This message (also called the "message of the Cross") is summarized in New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Because the Lord's Prayer does not contain the message concerning the historical facts of the gospel, it cannot be properly called the gospel message. (These historical facts are contained at the end of the books in which the Lord's Prayer is quoted, as the climax of the Gospel narratives.) The Lord's Prayer definitely springs from a doctrinal standpoint that cannot be denied if the gospel is to be truly understood (i.e., one cannot deny that our Father's name is/should be "hallowed," and one must understand that we must seek forgiveness of trespasses, if Christ's death for sins is to mean anything), but the fact that there is some relationship between the Lord's Prayer and the gospel doesn't mean that the Lord's Prayer is the gospel itself (by comparison: Genesis 1:1 is vital for an understanding of the biblical worldview/theology that is the necessary framework without which the gospel cannot be understood, but that does not mean that Genesis 1:1 is the gospel itself).

2. The gospel is a message that calls for a definite response involving confession of sin, repentance from sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior from sin. This response may be referred to as a gospel call as distinguished from the gospel message, mentioned above. The relationship between the gospel call and the gospel message is clearly seen in passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, in which the Apostle Paul refers to the gospel as "the message of reconciliation," and pleads with the Corinthians to "be reconciled with God," or Acts 2:14-41 in which the Apostle Peter immediately follows his gospel proclamation with the call to repent. When a person accepts the gospel, repents, is reconciled to God through faith in Christ Jesus, that person becomes a disciple of Jesus. But the Lord's Prayer contains no gospel call because those who Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer were already His disciples. As recorded in Matthew [6:5-15], the Lord's Prayer was given as part of the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus preached primarily to His disciples, though with a view to the larger crowd as well [as demonstrated through a comparison of the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-2, with the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:24-29]; as recorded in Luke [11:2-4], Jesus reiterated the Lord's Prayer to His disciples in response to one disciple asking Him to teach them how to pray [see Luke 11:1]. The Lord's Prayer is NOT the gospel call because it is meant for those who are ALREADY following Jesus.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Here I Blog

Though I've only met him once or twice and have only communicated with him on the Internet a handful of times, I consider Mark Lamprecht a friend. And so, when I realized that I hadn't linked his blog from this site (I've been reading his posts from Facebook), I wanted to correct my forgetful error.

Everybody reading this should check out Mark's blog, called "Here I Blog," HERE. Mark's posts are regularly gospel-centered and thought-provoking.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sermon Notes from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Sermon by Tray Earnhart.

[The following notes were taken at the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The sermon should soon be available to hear on-line HERE.]

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

Introduction. The best defense against confusion is an accurate presentation of the details.
Q: Why does Paul need a defense?
A: There is a smear campaign against Paul.
Paul's Defense of His Ministry: Four reminders Paul brings to the Thessalonians in defense of his ministry:

I. How We Came to You
A. In Courage
B. In God's Power

II. How We Preached
A. Not from Error
B. From Truth

III. Our Motive for Preaching
A. Not Flattering; Not Motivated by Greed; Not Using His Authority
B. Out of Innocence; Motivated by Care/Love

IV. Our Goal in Preaching
A. Not to be a Burden
B. To Present You Mature in Christ (x ref. Col 1:28-29)

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Discipline of Discernment, Chapter 10 (Study Notes)

[The following are my teaching notes for Chapter 10 of Tim Challies’ The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, which I am teaching through in a Sunday school class at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.]

I. Verify

A. Prepare: “Consider why you feel this is a teaching or decision that requires discernment.”

B. Ask What Is Being Said: “An important prerequisite for discernment is to ensure that you fully understand what is being said.”

II. Clarify

A. Consider both your understanding of the issue and opposing understandings.

B. Ask What Is At Stake: “Determine what possible truths from Scripture could be violated by the idea you are considering…” (and to what level of importance for the gospel or church unity these truths reach).

III. Assess the Issues

A. Assess Importance: “Is this a first-order doctrine?” (i.e., is this doctrine essential to the gospel?)

B. Test: “[D]istinguish between what is good and evil, separating truth from error and seeking points of departure” judging the doctrine under consideration by the standard of Scripture.

C. Pray: “[A]cknowledge your dependence upon God… the source and power of discernment,”

IV. Pray

A. Admit your dependence upon God in all matters of discernment and in understanding the truth of Scripture.”

B. Examine You Instinct: “Note whether your mind and heart immediately reacted with acceptance or with hesitation” (though this in not determinative, it can still play an important role, especially if you have been immersing yourself in Scripture).

V. Assess Your Instinct

A. Again, note your first instinct and “why you feel this way”.

B. Listen to Conscience: “Scripture warns against violating the conscience, because acts taken against conscience cannot arise from faith.”

VI. Assess Your Conscience

A. Ask: “[D]oes [a teaching] nag your conscience and make you uncomfortable?”

B. Test with Scripture: “We test a doctrine or teaching not by immediately embracing it, but by comparing it to the unchanging standard of Scripture.”

VII. Search the Scriptures

A. Observe [the Scriptures] singularly: Pay careful attention to God’s Word itself before moving to interpretation.

B. Observe [the Scriptures] carefully: “Do not rush”.

C. Observe [the Scriptures] thoroughly: Pay close attention to context.

D. Observe [the Scriptures] systematically: “Begin with verses that discuss the subject in the broadest terms and from there move to verses that discuss it in greater detail.”

E. Observe [the Scriptures] intimately: “Read with the mindset that you are receiving a message from your heavenly Father to you, his child.”

VIII. Observe the Scriptures

A. Observe each passage prayerfully”.

B. Be able to summarize what each passage teaches.

C. [C]ompare several sound Bible translations”.

IX. Compare and Contrast

A. Compare passages that seem unclear with other passages of Scripture from sound Bible translations.

B. Investigate: Turn to resources such as Bible dictionaries, commentaries, sermons, study Bibles, or pastors.

X. Research

A. Be able to summarize relevant information gleaned from the resources mentioned above.

B. Interpret: “Look to the whole of Scripture to ensure that the interpretation you draw from one passage is consistent with the rest of the Bible.”

XI. Summarize

A. For each passage examined, be able to express the thought of that passage in a sentence or two.

B. Seek consensus: “We search for teaching from discerning Christian leaders to learn what conclusions they have reached on a particular topic and, as importantly, the Scripture passages upon which they based their conclusions.”

XII. Expand Your Research

XIII. Conclude

A. Be able to summarize your conclusion about the teaching under consideration.

B. What Are the Points of Agreement? “Return to the issue and look first for areas in which the Bible agrees with what has been said or done.”

XIV. Make a List

A. Be able to articulate points of agreement.

B. Are There Points of Departure? “[L]ook for ways in which [a particular teaching or practice] departs from God’s Word.”

XV. Judge

A. Once a doctrine or practice has been judged in light of God’s Word, our only choices are whether we must abstain or hold fast.

B. Abtain: “We are to understand that evil assumes many different forms, and we are to ensure that we avoid whatever forms evil may take.”

XVI. Hold Fast: “That which is good is that which honors God.”

XVII. Apply

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Notes on the Story of the Good Samaritan

[I'm hoping for the opportunity to preach through this passage soon.]

Luke 10:25-37

I. Introduction: The Lawyer's Test of Jesus (vv. 25-29)
A. And a lawyer: An expert in the Mosaic Law; a Bible scholar.
B. stood up and put Him to the test: The lawyer's question was not a genuine search for wisdom, but an attempt to make Jesus look foolish, if possible.
C. saying, "Teacher:" The lawyer does not call Jesus "Master" or "Lord," which would have indicated the lawyer was willing to become a follower of Jesus; the lawyer does not call Jesus "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (as Peter later does), which would have indicated that the lawyer had been given a spiritual sense of who Jesus was from God; rather, the lawyer merely calls Him "Teacher," the mildest title of respect possible.
D. "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" A fine question, what can be done in this life to gain eternal life, but notice the lawyer's emphasis on doing, rather than belief or dependence on mercy.
E. And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” Jesus points the lawyer back to Scripture to answer this most important of questions.
F. and he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF:” The lawyer gives an accurate summary of the Law; Jesus and Paul give identical summaries of the Law elsewhere in the New Testament.
G. And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE:” Obedience to the Law (perfect obedience) carries the promise of life.
H. But wishing to justify himself: The requirement of obedience would condemn the lawyer, but he sought to justify himself; the lawyer turned his attention to what may be considered the easier part of the Law (love of neighbor rather than love of God) and sought to restrict the definition of "neighbor."

II. Body: The Story of the Good Samaritan (vv. 30-35)
A. The Traveler Was Abused By Enemies (v. 30)
B. The Traveler Was Forsaken By His Countrymen (vv. 31-32)
1. A Priest and A Levite: Those with religious office, who would have been expected to be the most moral; in our culture, this would be similar to saying a preacher and a deacon.
2. passed by on the other side: To avoid ceremonial impurity, and as if to have some pretense of not having seen the traveler.
C. The Traveler Was Helped By A Stranger (vv. 33-35)
1. A Samaritan: The Samaritans were a race fiercely hated by the Jewish nation in Jesus' day, due to the Samaritans' religious syncretism and due to recent military conflicts with the Samaritans.
2. and when he saw him, he felt compassion: The Samaritan was not searching the highways and byways for wounded travelers, he simply came upon a person in need and did what he could to help him; by extension, we would feel no moral outrage against the priest and Levite had they been genuinely ignorant of the traveler's plight, but because they saw yet ignored him, they are subject to righteous indignation.
3. "Take care of him; and... I will repay you:" The Samaritan went to extraordinary lengths of self-sacrifice to care for the abused traveler.

III. Conclusion: Jesus' Challenge to the Lawyer (vv. 36-37)
A. Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” Jesus reverses the lawyer's question; the Christian man does not seek to limit his neighbors, but to act as a neighbor to those in need.
B. And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
The point of Jesus' parable is crystal clear.
C. Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” Jesus sends this lawyer back to school and calls him to repentance. As Matthew Henry notes: "Let thy charity be thus extensive, before thou boastest of having conformed thyself to that great commandment of loving thy neighbour."