Archive | April, 2011

Theology Unplugged: Invitation to Calvinism – Part 14

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss Calvinism.

Summary: During this broadcasts the hosts discuss issues surrounding misconceptions of Calvinism.

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Chart on Church History

As many of you know, I have been working on this concept for about a decade now. This is the first time that I have taken the opportunity to make a descriptive graphic. Please look it over here and let’s talk about it.

PLEASE NOTE: this is in no way attempting to be prophetic.

click on graphic to enlarge

My primary goal here is to show my developing perspective on the history of the church. Protestants believe in “development.” Unlike the Eastern Orthodox, we are not trying to get back to the beliefs and the practices of the first few hundred years of the church. While we, as the graph shows, believe that there are wonderful “states of being” in every life-stage, our desire is to learn from the past and mature.

Free Video – Session 1 from the Church History Boot Camp

DNA: DNA is the basic building blocks of life. Everything you are has been encoded on your unique DNA from your conception. In the church, the DNA never changes. Further life-stages are merely a working out, maturation, and development of this DNA. When God’s special revelation was finalized at the completion of the canon of Scripture, the DNA code was manifest and ready for development. While the church goes through maturation, the basic doctrinal components will always be recognizable and reflective of its DNA. The DNA determines the orthodoxy and catholicity (universality) of the church. Continue Reading →

Responding to an Objection About Sola Scriptura

Without the infallible declaration of the Church, there would be no way of knowing what books belong in the canon of Scripture. Since there is no inspired canon of Scripture, the “Scripture alone” is not even enough to establish what Scriptures are truly Scripture. Therefore, the doctrine of sola Scriptura is self-defeating.

This is true. I am looking on page 23 of my Bible and it has the list of books. The books all together number 66, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. This is often referred to as the “canon” of Scripture. “Canon” (Gk. kanon) means “rule” or “measuring rod.” The canon of Scripture is the collection or a “rule” of books that Christians believe belong in the Bible. There are some variations among Christian traditions concerning the number of books. The Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches all use different canons (as well, some eastern churches will vary still). The Catholic and Orthodox include a group of books in their Bibles referred to as the Deuterocanonical books (”second canon”) or, as Protestants would call it, the “Apocrypha” (although the Orthodox church is not quite as settled upon the status of the Apocrypha).

The question How do you know what books belong in the Bible? is a significant one indeed and presents, what I believe to be, the most persuasive argument against sola Scriptura that there is. The Catholics and Orthodox will normally refer to the establishment of these books as part of the canon by fourth century councils. Catholics would further refer to the teachings of the council of Trent (1545-1563) which dogmatically and infallibly declared the current Catholic canon (including the Apocrypha) as being authoritative.

I believe that the 66 books of the Protestant canon belong in the Bible, no more no less. I believe that all 66 books are inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Yet the list on page 23 of my Bible is not part of the canon. In other words, the list itself is not part of the inspired word of God. I am using the New American Standard Bible, but it is the same in any version of any language. Even the NET Bible does not have an inspired list—even in the footnotes! There is no early Greek or Hebrew manuscript that solves the problem either. Therefore I have a potential difficulty. Since do not believe in an infallible human authority that has determined what books belong in the Bible, how can I be certain what books belong in the Bible and still profess sola Scriptura?

It would seem that the Scripture alone is not sufficient to establish the Scripture alone! Do we have an fallible canon of infallible books?

It was R.C. Sproul who first made the claim (that I know of) that Protestants have a fallible canon of infallible books. A fallible canon of infallible books? What good is that? Catholics often jest about the seemingly ironic situation in which advocates of sola Scriptura find themselves. Catholics claim that they, due to their belief in a living infallible authority, have an infallible collection of infallible books, and that we are just borrowing from them! Continue Reading →

When God Goes Dark

I am somewhat envious of people who experience God differently than I do. I hear about all kinds of experiences that are once or twice removed from me and say a silent prayer in the back of my head, “Why not me Lord?” Whether it be through worship, through quiet fellowship filled with God’s felt presence, or the dramatic conversion experiences, I don’t know what they are like except through the testimony of others.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I am not even expressing a spiritual vitamin shortage. At least I don’t think I am. But the fact is that I have been a Christian all my life and when people tell me the dramatic stories of their subjective encounters with God, I don’t know how to relate. I just have not had them. I have never heard God’s voice, never had a dramatic life changing dream, never “felt” the presence of God in my room (even during prayer), never spoken in tongues, never gotten a “word from the Lord” (not even for this blog), and never had a sin dramatically taken from me. In fact, most of my spiritual life does not come easy. It involves wrestling with the Lord through prayer. I find it very difficult to stop sin, change bad attitudes, keep from forming bad habits, and to stop from hiding from obligations. In fact (though this may come across as blasphemous to some), the “peace that passes understanding” is something that is more often than not quit far from me. Sure, I do have peace in the ultimate things. Salvation, truth, the Lord’s love, and the truths of Scripture bring me “meta peace.” But as far as the day-to-day battle, the peace that I experience is very understandable, being absent most of the time.

I don’t like any of this stuff. I don’t like to wrestle. I don’t like that I don’t have any dramatic stories of change and deliverance. But these are the facts of my life as they stand today. Continue Reading →

Who Killed Jesus? A Good Friday Meditation (Sam Storms)

Who was responsible for the death of Jesus? Who was responsible for the nails that tore into his flesh and for the crown of thorns that pierced his brow? Who was responsible for the humiliation and ridicule to which he was subjected? Who killed Jesus?

One way to answer this question is by pointing the finger at either the historical or the heavenly cause of his death. Looking at his death from a purely historical perspective one might conclude that the Jewish religious leaders, in cahoots with Herod and Pontius Pilate, killed Jesus. There is certainly support for this in such texts as 1 Thess. 2:13-16; Acts 2:23; 4:27; Mt. 21:33-46; 1 Cor. 2:8.

Looking at his death from a heavenly perspective, one might conclude that God the Father killed Jesus. Although that sounds strange to some, carefully read Isaiah 53. There we are told that the Messiah would be “smitten of God” (v. 4). It is “the Lord” who “has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (v. 6). Perhaps the most startling statement of all is found in v. 10 where we read: “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.”

But there is yet another answer to the question, “Who killed Jesus?” Charles Spurgeon explains:

“There was a day, as I took my walks abroad, when I came hard-by a spot forever engraven upon my memory, for there I saw this Friend, my best, my only Friend, murdered. I stooped down in sad affright, and looked at him. I saw that his hands had been pierced with rough nails, and his feet had been rent in the same way. There was misery in his dead countenance so terrible that I scarcely dared to look upon it. His body was emaciated with hunger, his back was red with bloody scourges, and his brow had a circle of wounds about it: clearly could one see that these had been pierced by thorns.

I shuddered, for I had known this friend full well. He never had a fault; he was the purest of pure, the holiest of the holy. Who could have injured him? For he never injured any man; all his life long he ‘went about doing good;’ he had healed the sick, he had fed the hungry, he had raised the dead. For which of these works did they kill him? He had never breathed out anything else but love; and as I looked into the poor sorrowful face, so full of agony, and yet so full of love, I wondered who could have been a wretch so vile as to pierce hands like his. I said within myself, ‘Where can these traitors live? Who are these that could have smitten such a One as this?’ Had they murdered an oppressor, we might have forgiven them. Had they slain one who had indulged in vice or villainy, it might have been his desert. Had it been a murderer and a rebel, or one who had committed sedition, we would have said, ‘Bury his corpse; justice has at last given him his due.’ But when thou wast slain, my best, my only beloved, where lodged the traitors? Let me seize them, and they shall be put to death. If there be torments that I can devise, surely they shall endure them all. Oh! What jealousy, what revenge I felt! If I might but find these murderers, what would I not do with them!

And as I looked upon that corpse, I heard a footstep, and wondered where it was. I listened, and I clearly perceived that the murderer was close at hand. It was dark, and I groped about to find him. I found that, somehow or other, wherever I put out my hand, I could not meet with him, for he was nearer to me than my hand would go. At last I put my hand upon my breast. ‘I have thee now,’ said I; for lo! he was in my own heart! The murderer was hiding within my own bosom, dwelling in the recesses of my inmost soul. Ah! Then I wept indeed, that I, in the very presence of my murdered Master, should be harbouring the murderer, and I felt myself most guilty while I bowed over His corpse, and sang that plaintive hymn:

“‘Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.”

My sins were the scourges which lacerated those blessed shoulders, and crowned with thorns those bleeding brows. My sins cried, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ and laid the cross upon his gracious shoulders. His being led forth to die is sorrow enough for one eternity; but my having been his murderer is more, infinitely more grief, than one poor fountain of tears can express.”

Who killed Jesus? I did. You did. We all did.

Theology Unplugged: Invitation to Calvinism – Part 13

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss the Calvinism.

Summary: During this broadcasts the hosts discuss issues surrounding the fifth point of the TULIP: Perseverance of the Saints.

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Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ in a Nutshell

Just as we test the historicity of any event, not through emotional conviction, but with historical evidence, I would like to devote some time to laying out a brief historical case for the Resurrection of Christ, the central issue of the Christian faith. If Christ rose from the grave, it is all true and we just have to work out the details. If Christ did not raise from the grave, Christians are to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:13-19).

Here is what we need:

1. Internal Evidence: Evidence coming from within the primary witness documents.

In this case, the primary witness documents are the twenty-seven works that make up the corpus that Christianity has traditionally called the New Testament. These works stand or fall individually from an historical standpoint. Therefore, they provide twenty-seven sources of documentation, not one.

2. External Evidence: Collaborative evidence coming from outside the primary witness documents.

Some may include the non-Gospel works of the New Testament in this category. However, since most of the works suppose to come from eye-witnesses of the event in question, it is proper to keep them primary.

Internal Evidence:

  • Honesty
  • Irrelevant Details
  • Harmony
  • Public Extraordinary Claims
  • Lack of Motivation for Fabrication

Honesty:

A hallmark of embellishments and fabrications is that they display people in a positive light, normally only bringing to light their successes and triumphs. True history, on the other hand, will contain accounts that might cause some embarrassment.

The entire Bible records both successes and failures of the heroes. I have always been impressed by this. It never paints the glorious picture that you would expect from legendary material, but shows them in all their worst moments. The Israelites whined, David murdered, Peter denied, the apostles abandoned Christ in fear, Moses became angry, Jacob deceived, Noah got drunk, Adam and Eve disobeyed, Paul persecuted, Solomon worshiped idols, Abraham was a bigamist, Lot committed incest, John the Baptist doubted, Abraham doubted, Sarah doubted, Nicodemus doubted, Thomas doubted, Jonah ran, Samson self-served, and John, at the very end of the story, when he should have had it all figured out, worshiped an angel (Rev 22:8). I love it!

And these are the Jews who wrote the Bible!

In addition, the most faithful are seen as suffering the most (Joseph, Job, and Lazarus), while the wicked are seen as prospering (the rich man). In the case of the Gospels, the disciples who recorded it claimed to have abandoned Christ and did not believe in His resurrection when told. Even after the resurrection, they still present themselves as completely ignorant of God’s plan (Acts 1:6-7). Women are the first to witness the resurrection which has an element of self-incrimination since a woman’s testimony was not worth anything in the first century. If someone were making this up, why include such an incriminating detail? (I am glad they did—what an Easter message this is for us today!)

(The primary departure from this, although in the OT, is 1 and 2 Chronicles which does hide some of King David’s failures. But, even then, the accounts are not promising for Israel as a whole). 

One last thing that I think belongs in this category: None of the Gospel writers give their names. In other words, the reason why we believe Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (two disciples and two colleagues of the disciples) wrote the Gospels is due to early tradition. Even John simply refers to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved.” Initial reaction is one of skepticism (even though the traditions are very early). Why didn’t they include their names? However, from another historical perspective, this is a significant mark of genuineness. The MO of the day was to write pseudopigrapha. Pseudopigrapha are writings that seek to gain credibility by falsely attributing their work to another of more prominent stature. It would be like me writing a book and saying it was by Chuck Swindoll in order for it to sell more copies. Pseudopigrapha normally came late (hundreds of years) after the death of the supposed author. However, since the Gospel writers did not include their name, it demonstrates that they were not following this model of fabrication. This actually adds another mark of historical credibility. Why would they leave their names out if it was a fabrication? If these works were not really by them, they would have no hope of acceptance.

Irrelevant Details:
The Gospel writers (especially John) include many elements to their story that are really irrelevant to the big picture. Normally, when someone is making up a story, they include only the details that contribute to the fabrication. Irrelevant details are a mark of genuineness in all situations.

Notice this small segment of the Gospel of John 20:1-8 (adapted from Gregory Boyd):

“Early on the first day of the week (when? does it matter?), while it was still dark (who cares?), Mary Magdalene (an incriminating detail) went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one who Jesus loved (John’s modest way of referring to himself—another mark of genuineness) and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have taken him!” (note her self-incriminating lack of faith here). So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. They were running, but the other disciple out ran Peter and reached the tomb first (who cares who won the race? a completely irrelevant detail). He bent over (irrelevant, but the tomb entrance was low—a detail which is historically accurate of wealthy people of the time—the kind we know Jesus was buried in) and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in (why not? irrelevant detail). Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb (Peter’s boldness stands out in all the Gospel accounts). He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head (irrelevant and unexpected detail—what was Jesus wearing?). The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen (somewhat irrelevant and unusual. Jesus folded one part of his wrapping before he left!). Finally the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went inside (who cares about what exact order they went in?)

The best example I can think of is the polar bear. What? Okay, only those of you who watched the television series Lost will get this. In the first season, there was a polar bear in the show. We all wondered why it was there on the island. How did it get there? What is the meaning of the polar bear? How is it going to fit into the big picture of the story? These are all legitimate questions that many of us sat on the edge of our seat for five seasons waiting to get the answers to. However, the polar bear (along with so many other incidentals) were never explained. There was a great outcry because there were so many questions left unanswered. So many irrelevant details that remained irrelevant. The reason why the outcry was legitimate was because in fictional (or fabricated) stories, details are never irrelevant. They are written into the script and have a purpose that supports the whole of the fictional story. However, if the show Lost were not fictional but historical, the irrelevant details would be expected. True history does not have to work itself out into a paradigm of the story arch. When irrelevant details are present, while not conclusive, it does speak to the historicity of the story.

Harmony:
The four Gospel writers claim to have witnessed the resurrected Christ. The same is the case for most of the other writers of the NT. The four Gospel writers all write of the same event from differing perspectives. Although they differ in details, they are completely harmonious to the main events surrounding the resurrection, and all claim that it is an historical event.

Many people are disturbed by the seeming disharmony among the Gospels since the Gospel writers do not include all the same details. However, this is actually a mark of historicity since if they all said exactly the same thing, it would be a sign that they made it up and collaborated together. However, the Gospel writers contain just enough disharmony to give it a mark of genuine historicity.

Public Extraordinary Claims:
The Bible records that the resurrection of Christ happened and gives the time, place, people involved, and it names many of the witnesses. In other words, the extraordinary claims were not done in secret as would be the case if it were fabricated. Look to all the ancient myths and you will see how obscure the mythology has to be in order to claim historicity. Why? Because if you give too many details of times, people, and places it can be easily disproven. If it was a fabrication, the author should have said only one person knew about it. He should have said it happened in a cave or a place no one has ever heard of. We have those type of stories that start religions.

I made this graphic last month that caused quite a bit of a stir. It is appropriate to post it here:

 

As Paul says to King Agrippa, “For the king knows about these matters [concerning the resurrection of Christ], and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. (Act 26:26) Continue Reading →