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Another Protestant Converts to Catholicism – Why?

News broke in early March that well-known and highly influential Christian leader Ulf Ekman had converted to Roman Catholicism (hereafter RC). Ekman had served for many years as pastor of the charismatic church, Word of Life, in Uppsala, Sweden. My interest was stirred not only because of the impact Ekman’s “conversion” will have on others but also because he cites his son’s “conversion” to Catholicism as exerting an influence on his own thinking. Benjamin Ekman was a student of mine when I taught at Wheaton College, an exceptionally bright one at that.

But all of this raises yet again the question of why certain Protestants turn to Rome. Ekman himself cites his deep yearning for unity in the body of Christ as one of the principal factors. Some time ago I posted a blog article that addresses this issue, and I want to revisit it again today.

It’s important to understand why most Protestants remain suspicious of Roman Catholicism. The following are merely observations. I make no attempt to determine whether or not these evangelical fears are justified or misguided.

(1) Many Protestant evangelicals are energized by the Protestant martyrs of the reformation and post-reformation period: Hus, Cranmer, Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Ridley, etc. They fear that dialogue with the RCC is a disservice and dishonor to those who gave their lives for their convictions. They were tortured and died for their refusal to embrace the RC Mass or bow to papal authority. Attempts such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) represent for many evangelicals a tacit dismissal of such heroes of the faith: “Are we selling out those who sacrificed so much? Why are we willing to compromise so easily on matters that were to them a question of life and death?”

(2) Evangelicals also fear the loss of theological integrity. They believe that the only way to enter a dialogue with Rome is by compromising on several key theological issues. Most evangelicals believe that unity is theologically based. Cooperative efforts must be grounded in theological consensus. Is this biblical? Is it feasible? Continue Reading →

Basic Hermeneutical Principles

It is both the privilege and responsibility of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself/herself. This principle of private interpretation, based on the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, was articulated by Martin Luther in the 16th century. The response of the Roman Catholic Church was as follows:

“To check unbridled spirits it [the Council of Trent] decrees that no one, relying on his own judgment shall in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which Holy Mother Church to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation has held or holds or even contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published.”

According to the RCC, it is neither the right nor the responsibility of any individual Christian to interpret the Bible and declare its meaning. That right ultimately rests with the teaching office (the Magisterium) of the RCC.

The above quotation, however, reflects several misconceptions concerning the Protestant principle of private interpretation:

  1. Private interpretation does not mean that we should rely solely on our own judgments, ignoring the insights and research of others;
  2. Private interpretation does not mean that we have the right to “distort” the Bible in accordance with our own conceptions;
  3. Private interpretation does not mean that we can ignore the history of interpretation in the church.

At the same time as we exercise our God-given responsibility to interpret the Scriptures, we must be aware of the element of subjectivity that influences all interpretation. Interpreting the Bible is not to be compared to a man looking into a fishbowl, but to a fish in his own fishbowl looking at another fish in his! Some of the factors that affect our objectivity in studying the Bible are:

a. personal prejudice

b. hidden agendas (personal and theological)

c. cultural conditioning

d. historical circumstances

e. socio-economic factors

f. unconscious expectations

g. educational background (the “wet cement” syndrome)

h. personality distinctives

i. occupational pressures

j. pride

k. interpersonal relational background

As we seek to interpret the Scriptures, we must also keep in mind the contributions of the past. Fee and Stuart remind us that,

“Interpretation that aims at, or thrives on, uniqueness, can usually be attributed to pride (an attempt to ‘out clever’ the rest of the world), a false understanding of spirituality (wherein the Bible is full of deep truths waiting to be mined by the spiritually sensitive person with special insight), or vested interests (the need to support a theological bias, especially in dealing with texts that seem to go against that bias). Unique interpretations are usually wrong. This is not to say that the correct understanding of a text may not often seem unique to someone who hears it for the first time. But it is to say that uniqueness is not the aim of our task.”

Our approach to interpretation is called the Grammatical-Historical method. According to the G-H method, the student seeks to ascertain the meaning of a text by an analysis of the simple, direct, ordinary sense of grammatical constructions, with special attention paid to the facts of history, cultural milieu, and literary context.
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The Best Books of 2012 (Sam Storms)

It’s that time of year again . . . time for top ten lists of every sort. The only lists I care about are those of the top ten books of the year. As with every year, so too in 2012, it’s hard to keep it to ten. So I didn’t. My list this year, as in the past, is a hodgepodge of differing genres. I’ll start with number ten and work toward the top.

(10) It all begins with a tie! I simply couldn’t bring myself to exclude either of these books, so I expanded my list from ten to eleven. Oddly enough, these two volumes both address the state of “religion” in America, but from differing perspectives.

In his book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (New York: Free Press, 2012), 337 pp., New York Times columnist Ross Douthat makes a compelling case that our problem in the U.S. is neither too much religion nor intolerant secularism but rather bad religion, “the slow-motion collapse of traditional faith and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities that stroke our egos, indulge our follies, and encourage our worst impulses. . . . Christianity’s place in American life has increasingly been taken over, not by atheism, Douthat argues, but by heresy: debased versions of Christian faith that breed hubris, greed, and self-absorption” (from the dustcover). The only bad thing about this book is that Douthat is right.

The other “tenth-best” book of the year is T. M. Luhrmann’s, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 434 pp. There is a bit of a misnomer in the title, insofar as this massive and meticulous investigation into the dynamics of prayer and biblical spirituality focuses largely on the way it has come to expression in churches affiliated with the Vineyard. Other, non-charismatic, evangelicals will take umbrage at being identified with those whom she analyzes.

Tanya Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist who teaches at Stanford. In order to write this book she attended two different Vineyard congregations (one in Chicago, the other in San Francisco), each for two years, and was deeply involved in the small group life at both churches. This isn’t a book review, but something needs to be said about what she does in its pages. Luhrmann seeks to account for the spiritual life, emotions, attitudes, and actions of charismatic Christians from a strictly psychological and social-scientific point of view. Her analysis of the claim of these believers to having heard the voice of God (hence the title) is based on hundreds of interviews and can be, at times, quite cynical. She critically parses out every word, belief, and cliché in the Vineyard world (although she also examines mainstream evangelicals such as Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven Life). Many will find her approach and conclusions offensive, but I was fascinated by this “confession” on the final page:

“I have said that I do not presume to know ultimate reality. But it is also true that through the process of this journey, in my own way I have come to know God. I do not know what to make of this knowing. I would not call myself a Christian, but I find myself defending Christianity” (325).

(9) Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love, edited by Kyle Strobel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 348 pp.

Wait a minute! Isn’t this supposed to be about books written in 2012, not in the 18th century? Well, yes, but this volume is more than merely what Edwards wrote. Kyle Strobel has provided us with a running commentary on Edwards’ famous exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 that makes this volume worth re-visiting time and time again. Although I chafe when I read Edwards’ failed attempt to defend cessationism, this is one of his best yet most neglected works. If for no other reason, get it to immerse yourself in the incomparable chapter, “Heaven is a World of Love.” Here is what I wrote as an endorsement for the book:

“As best I can tell, this is a first in Edwardsean studies. No one has done with Charity and Its Fruits what Kyle Strobel accomplishes here – providing us with an enlightening commentary and a readable text of one of Edwards’s most important, though highly neglected, treatises. All who love Edwards (and everyone should) will profit immensely from this exceptional volume.”

(8) Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism, edited by Robert L. Plummer (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 256 pp.

This is a fascinating book that I highly recommend. If you want to know what these faiths entail, and especially why an individual who is committed to one makes the monumental decision to “convert” to another, this is the book for you. I enjoyed this book for another reason: I’m personally acquainted with several of the contributors. Wilbur Ellsworth, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Wheaton, Illinois, became an acquaintance of mine when I taught at Wheaton College. I had the privilege of preaching in his church (after he had left FBC) before he embraced Eastern Orthodoxy. Gregg Allison, who writes in response to Francis Beckwith (who returned to the Roman Catholic Church after many years as an evangelical Protestant), is a close personal friend. And I’m especially close to Lyle Dorsett who describes his journey into Anglicanism. I attended for four years the church where Lyle was senior pastor. Yes, I used to attend a charismatic Anglican church, and loved it (even though I was then, and remain to this day, a credo-baptist).

The contributors are all fair and balanced in their treatment of the others. I especially recommend this book to any Protestant who is being lured by Catholicism. Please get it and read Allison’s chapter.

(7) The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ, by Bruce A. Ware (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 156 pp.

Although short, this book is long on fascinating insights into the humanity of Jesus. As evangelicals who rightfully defend the deity of Christ, we have at times acted as though any focus on his humanity was tantamount to yielding ground to theological liberals who believe he is nothing more than man. Ware’s book will go a long way in reversing this obvious gap in evangelical thinking about the person of Christ.

I should also mention that this book is not without controversy. Ware tackles the thorny question of whether or not Jesus could sin, which is to say, was he impeccable or peccable? All Bible-believing folk acknowledge that Jesus didn’t sin, but was it possible that he might have? Ware says no. I’m not so sure. Yet another volatile issue is the matter of Jesus being male. Could our Savior have been female? What role, if any, did the gender of Jesus play in our salvation? And the best part of this book is Ware’s defense of the thesis that Jesus lived and ministered not in the strength of his divine nature as God but through the Holy Spirit with whom he was filled, on whom he depended, and by whom he was empowered. You’ll love reading this book, even if you end up on the other side of such questions.
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Thinking about the Election from a Biblical Point of View (Sam Storms)

This past week I came across a statement by Marvin Olasky concerning the national election on Tuesday:

“Sinful humans with all our quirks will decide who controls the White House and Congress.

But under a sovereign God, the election is no crapshoot.”

You may not find comfort in the truth of that statement, but I certainly do. Yes, I am offended and fed up with the hostility in the current campaign. The lies and spin and distortions and underhanded things that people will do to get elected make me sick. Yes, in my weaker moments I get somewhat anxious, and occasionally terrified, about what “sinful humans” with all their “quirks” might decide two days from now. And my guess is that most of you feel the same way, regardless of which political party you support.

But Marvin Olasky is right: “under a sovereign God, the election is no crapshoot.” Who ultimately ends up in Congress and the White House is not, in the final analysis, subject to the whims and moods of the American people. From a purely human point of view, it may appear to be a “crapshoot”, but I assure you that God is in complete control.

So what I propose to do in this article is set before you eight biblical principles that I hope and pray will both inform you about how you and I ought to think of government and politics as well as inspire you with unshakable confidence in the supremacy and sovereignty of God over all things.

And rest assured, I have no intention of endorsing a particular candidate or political party. I do intend to articulate some truths from God’s Word that ought to give direction to how you should vote. But in the final analysis, when you step into that booth on Tuesday, you are bound by your conscience, not mine. I’ve got enough “quirks” of my own to worry about!

Eight Theses on God and Government

(1) Human government is not inherently evil. The structures of authority in any particular political system are not per se wicked. All human governmental authority comes ultimately from the hand of God. Government is used for evil because people are sinful, not because the authority of the ruling party is wicked or should be abolished.

I don’t know how to say it with greater clarity than Paul did in Romans 13:1 – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God never sanctions anarchy.

Some appeal to Luke 4:6 to prove that all government is demonic. There Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and said: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.” But there is no reason to trust what Satan says. As Jesus says in John 8:44, “there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
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Forgiving God? (Sam Storms)

I’m hearing more and more these days about the purported therapeutic value in “forgiving God.” For those who have suffered greatly, healing comes, at least in part, when we are enabled by God’s grace to forgive those who have sinned against us. On occasion we also hear of the importance of forgiving “ourselves” (which, I must confess, strikes me as lacking biblical sanction; but that is for another time). What concerns me most is when people are urged to “forgive God.”

This was again recently brought to my attention with the news that R. T. Kendall, successor to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and former pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, has published a new book with the intriguing title, Totally Forgiving God: When It Seems He Has Betrayed You (Charisma House, 2012). There is a measure of ambiguity in the title. Are we to understand by this that God is the one who totally forgives us, or is God the one whom we are totally to forgive? The sub-title suggests the latter, and an accompanying tag line in the advertisement supports this conclusion. It reads: “Discover the Freedom and Peace that come when we forgive God, others, and ourselves.”

Let me be clear about one thing from the start. I haven’t read Kendall’s book. For all I know he repudiates the notion of “forgiving God” in the way that people typically understand it. So please do not indict Kendall with what I say until you (or I) have read the book. One thing in the sub-title is encouraging, and that is the use of the word “seems.” Kendall evidently wants us to understand that God, in point of fact, never betrays us but only “seems” to do so. Nevertheless, if in fact he argues against the notion of our “forgiving God,” the title and accompanying tag line are terribly misleading and need to be corrected. People who fail to read the book are likely to conclude from these elements alone that he is encouraging us, in some sense, to “forgive God” as part of our sanctification.

My primary concern, however, is with the idea of humans forgiving God. What are we to make of this?

First of all, let me say that I understand where this sort of question comes from. I understand how people quite often are confused by what God does or doesn’t do. They are frustrated when prayers go unanswered or people are permitted to wound them unjustly. I have dealt with many over the years who are angry with God, feel abandoned by God, or simply feel nothing at all when it comes to the presence of God in their lives. They don’t sense his love and they struggle to find anything redemptive in the way he has led them and orchestrated their lives.

We find most of these experiences or sentiments described in the Psalms. The psalmists often vented their frustration, wondering if God had forgotten them or was even on the side of their enemies. I love the way one person described the so-called psalms of lament. They consist of three parts: “I’m hurting. They’re winning. And you don’t care!” Needless to say, when those sorts of things happen in life people need the grace and power of the Spirit.

All of us need to learn the lesson of forgiving others. There is incredible power in it and few things are as crippling and spiritually paralyzing as the bitterness and bondage of unforgiveness.

But my struggle is with the language of “forgiving God.” For one thing, I don’t find it ever used in Scripture. That alone ought to give us pause before we incorporate such language into our Christian vocabulary or allow it to shape our theology or our understanding of spiritual formation.

Also, a person can only be truly forgiven if that person has truly committed a sin or some wrong. Forgiveness assumes guilt on the part of the person being forgiven. If there is no sin, there is no guilt, and if there is no guilt, there is no need to be forgiven. Typically we say, “I forgive ______ for having gossiped about me,” or “I forgive ______ for having broken a confidence,” etc.

But God never has, cannot, and never will sin against us. Nothing he does is wrong or misguided or ill-informed or unwise or unloving. That doesn’t mean we will always see it that way! Far from it. We often think that God has missed a step or failed us in some way, but he hasn’t. If he had, he wouldn’t be God!
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Why I Am/Not Charistmatic: History of the Gifts Response – Sam Storms


Thanks for your careful approach to this question. I appreciate your desire to properly honor our common heroes of the faith throughout these past 2,000 years of church history. But I have to say that I remain utterly unmoved and altogether unconvinced by your appeal to this argument from the life of the church these past two millennia. I can’t address all your points, and on several occasions I will simply encourage the reader to go back and examine my article and the evidence I cited one more time. But I do have a few important points to make.

(1) First, I don’t think you honestly believe what I’m about to say (at least I hope you don’t), but much of what you wrote in your article, together with several comments in previous entries, suggests that it may be hiding just beneath the surface and I want our readers to reckon with it.

In all your talk of how experience or the lack thereof shapes your beliefs and practices, you’ve made several good points. But a danger lurks when one question is pressed: “What should I do when my experience does not line up with Scripture?” I put it this way because you have conceded on several occasions that the NT does not teach hard cessationism. You have even conceded that the exegetical case for continuationism is stronger than the one for cessationism. Your response has been to rely on the argument of what you call de facto cessation (“How do we know the gifts ceased? We know they have ceased because they in fact ceased”).

You do not argue that they have ceased because Scripture teaches they have. You concede that Scripture appears to teach otherwise. So, in my opinion, we have one of two available responses: either (1) marginalize Scripture on the subject of our responsibility with regard to spiritual gifts, or (2) do what we can, with God’s help, to alter our experience and repent of what we have believed or done that has led us to fall short of what Scripture truly says and commands. It strikes me that the only legitimate response to the alleged de facto cessation of gifts (which I’m only conceding for the sake of argument; as you can see from my article, I don’t believe they ever altogether ceased) is to admit that this must mean the problem is with us, the people of God, and not the Word of God.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: I struggle to understand how your view can be made consistent with a high view of biblical authority. If you concede that the NT makes a stronger case for continuationism than cessationism, then embrace the former and do everything within your power (as empowered by God) to pursue and facilitate and practice the gifts, regardless of what anyone else in any age of church history may believe or do. Otherwise, I don’t know how the Bible functions authoritatively in your life. Now, as I said above, I don’t believe you deny the functional authority of Scripture (I know you too well for that), but I fear that your arguments betray the subtle and perhaps unconscious influence of a tendency to invest more authority in your and others’ experience than in that of Paul and his precepts.

(2) Second, you write that “the cumulative experience of the historic body of Christ, at this point, is one of the things that keeps me from being charismatic.” In keeping with the previous point, I’m very sad to hear you say that. I would have hoped you had said, “the cumulative evidence from God’s inspired Word, at this point, is the primary thing that prompts me to be a charismatic, the experience or lack thereof in other believers notwithstanding.”

(3) Third, you insist that, subsequent to the first two centuries of church life, spiritual gifts were in decline and were at best infrequent and on the fringe for the next 1,800 years or so. I’m not going to continue to argue that point, but would ask only one question: “Why were they purportedly in decline and infrequent?” I would simply ask that you and our readers consider the several possible explanations for this found in my article. One explanation that you will not find, because Scripture won’t allow it, is that it was God’s design that the gifts only operate during the initial stages of the church’s existence. The Bible simply nowhere says that.

(4) Fourth, I will not respond to your quotations from church history but choose to stand by the evidence cited in my article. I would simply encourage the reader to go back and carefully read the statements from prominent figures and ask if what they believed and saw and experienced is consistent with de facto cessationism. In my opinion, it most certainly isn’t.

(5) Fifth, you argue that “the loss of the [truth] of the Gospel was a loss of an understanding of a doctrine (sola fide), not a loss of the effectiveness of this doctrine,” and thus can’t be compared with the decline or relative loss of the exercise of spiritual gifts in the church. You go on to say with regard to tongues that “you never have as a prerequisite a belief in the truthfulness of a doctrine of continuationism before Christians experience their effectiveness.”

I honestly can’t believe you believe this. Are you actually saying that one’s theological convictions about the validity or cessation of tongues and other gifts has no effect on whether or not a person eventually experiences them? I would insist that our beliefs control and shape our zeal, our expectations, our prayer life, and especially how we respond to and interpret claims people make regarding their experience of supernatural phenomena. Let me develop this point at greater length, because I think it is of crucial importance.

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but your understanding of when and why spiritual gifts either are or are not present in the life of the church appears to be influenced by what strikes me as hyper-Calvinism, or at least a somewhat fatalistic approach to the Christian life that undermines both prayer and human responsibility. Can you believe that a committed 5-point Calvinist just wrote that? Well, yes, he (I) did.

You point to the gift of tongues in Acts and argue that in all three instances where it appears it came “sovereignly,” so to speak, without regard to the prayer or spiritual posture of those who received it. I think this is misleading for a couple of reasons.

For one, those present on the Day of Pentecost were there in obedience to the command of Jesus: “But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49: cf. Acts 1:5,8). The reason all received the gift of tongues on that Day is due to at least two factors. First, they were obedient in responding to Jesus’ command. There is no reason to believe, at least in my opinion, that if some had disbelieved Jesus’ promise, disobeyed his command, and had refused to wait with the others in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit that they would have received tongues anyway, irrespective of their response to him. Continue Reading →

My Top Ten (!) Books of the Year

The exclamation mark after the number Ten should be noted. As you will shortly see, I failed miserably in my attempt to restrict the list to precisely ten books. Perhaps I should have titled this article, My Top Ten Categories of Books of the Year, insofar as I’ve included several volumes that tend to fall into the same genre. In any case, there are simply too many excellent works to exclude them because of the supposed sanctity of the number Ten. I’ll start with number ten and move to number one.

(10) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine, by Gregg R. Allison (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 778pp. My good friend Gregg Allison has written a companion volume to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology that traces the main themes of Christian theology through the centuries of church history. It is both deep and wide and will prove to be the standard evangelical contribution to this area of study for quite some time to come.

(9) G. K. Chesterton: A Biography, by Ian Ker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 747pp., and Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy, by Paul C. Gutjahr (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 477pp. There’s a tie for number nine. These two excellent biographies are both published by Oxford and therefore are both incredibly expensive. But they’re worth it, especially the one on Hodge. This is in fact the first extensive biography of the great 19th century Princeton theologian, and was followed late this year by yet another written by Andrew Hoffecker (which I haven’t seen yet). When I attended Dallas Seminary in the 70’s, I read Hodge’s 3-volume Systematic Theology with a relish. I will always be indebted to his work.

(8) No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington, by Condoleezza Rice (New York City: Crown Publishers, 2011), 766pp. I’ve only started to dip into this massive volume, but I’ve come to greatly appreciate Condi Rice and only wish that she had entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

(7) God’s Grand Design: The Theological Vision of Jonathan Edwards, by Sean Michael Lucas (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 224pp. This is one of the most readable and enjoyable introductions to Edwards and his theology that you’ll find. However, I almost didn’t include it on my list, not for what it says but for what it omits. Lucas concedes “that there is a major gap in this book; there is not a significant direct reference to Edwards’s Freedom of the Will” (199). His reasons are two: First, he says “it is difficult to understand” (199), which it is. Second, he believes that it is not “very relevant to the Christian life” (199). “I know that others would disagree with me,” writes Lucas, ‘but there it is” (199). Yes, I profoundly disagree, as Freedom of the Will in many ways provides the foundation for our need of grace, explains the nature of conversion, and magnifies the sovereignty of God in our salvation. He also admits not including anything about The Life of David Brainerd. “Brainerd,” he says, “strikes me as overly morose and inward” (200). Yes, I agree, but it is still a powerful and important work. Read Lucas, but only after you’ve first read Freedom of the Will and The Life of David Brainerd!

Since I’m on Edwards, I’ll also include two more that I hope prove worthy of inclusion in a list like this. Jonathan Edwards’s Apologetic for the Great Awakening (with particular attention to Charles Chauncy’s Criticisms), by Robert Davis Smart (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 366pp., looks to be a winner, but I’ve only just started it. I’ve also only briefly glanced at John J. Bombaro’s Jonathan Edwards’s Vision of Reality: The Relationship of God to the World, Redemption History, and the Reprobate (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2012), 327pp.
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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.