The Battle For The Bible Continues

One day during my seminary training, I was sitting in a theology class at a school that just 15 years earlier had been influenced by liberal theology – a school where faculty members questioned biblical inerrancy and the exclusivity of the gospel. Thankfully, the SBC had fought “The Battle for the Bible” starting in 1979 and this school had returned to the faith of its founders. But, my theology prof said something on that particular day that I’ll never forget: “The Battle for the Bible didn’t start in 1979. It began in Eden’s garden, and it won’t end until Jesus returns.”

Wise leaders have told me repeatedly that our generation will have to fight for the Bible, and I’ve been reminded of those prophetic warnings in recent days by two key figures in the evangelical world.

First, Andy Stanley tweeted a link to an article where a young lady who has renounced Christianity talks about how much she misses being a Born-Again Christian. Along with the link, Stanley tweeted, “Why we must teach the next generation the FOUNDATION of our faith is an EVENT not a BOOK.”

Second, Christian singer Gungor is drifting from biblical orthodoxy. He doesn’t believe the early accounts in Genesis are historical, or that there was an Adam or an Eve or a global flood. Ken Ham pointed out that Jesus referenced Adam and Noah as historical people, to which Gungor replied that even if Jesus was wrong about the historicity of Adam and Noah that wouldn’t deny the divinity of Christ. Ken Ham responded again, and then he gives a screenshot of a Facebook comment where Gungor writes, “There is a trend in modern society, no more than a trend…a religion, an idolatry that elevates Scripture above Jesus.”

So, Stanley and Gungor seek to drive a wedge between the Bible and the person and work of Jesus. Stanley says the Bible is not the foundation of our faith, but rather an event. Gungor says that people elevate the Bible over Jesus and thereby worship it as an idol. The problem, though, is that we don’t know about the person or the saving event of the gospel except for the book! Any attempt to divorce Jesus’ person or work from the book is impossible because we wouldn’t know about these things without it! My dad tweeted Stanley after his tweet and said, “You do not know the event apart from The Book & the divinely inspired understanding of the event. You know this Andy.”

Honestly, none of this is new. Liberalism has sought to do that for hundreds of years. The impulse behind liberalism was never really to destroy Christianity; liberalism wanted to rescue Christianity from things that the modern mind couldn’t accept. It was in many ways well intentioned – as Stanley is well intentioned in his concern that this lady’s modern objections to the Bible caused her to walk away from Christianity and as Gungor is well intentioned to interpret the Bible through modern scientific analysis.

However, much would be gained if every “evangelical” Christian would sit down and read a book that was written nearly 100 years ago – J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. Machen was battling for the Bible a long time ago and what he wrote was prophetic in his day and is still prophetic in ours. In his book, Machen destroys any notion that Christianity can survive if one divorces the Bible from the person or work of Jesus. His basic premise is that any belief system that would do that ceases to be Christian and is instead something else entirely. He writes, “For Christianity depends, not on a complex of ideas, but upon the narration of an event” (70), and that narration is found in the Bible.

Here are some things in Machen that are instructive for our modern debates:

  • You can’t elevate Jesus and downplay the Bible because Jesus had a high view of the Bible

Machen wrote that the trouble with liberalism, which sought to elevate Jesus over the Bible, was “that our Lord Himself seems to have held the high view of the Bible which is here being rejected” (75). So, Machen points out that “the modern liberal does not hold fast even to the authority of Jesus. Certainly he does not accept the words of Jesus as they are recorded in the Gospels. For among the recorded words of Jesus are to be found just those things which are most abhorrent to the modern liberal church…Evidently, therefore, those words of Jesus which are to be regarded as authoritative by modern liberalism must first be selected from the mass of the recorded words by a critical process. The critical process is certainly very difficult, and the suspicion often arises that the critic is retaining as genuine words of the historical Jesus only those words which conform to his own preconceived ideas” (77).

Machen wrote these words nearly a hundred years ago, but it is still the case that some modern Christians jettison or re-interpret things in the Bible that don’t conform to their preconceived ideas. This is exactly what Gungor is doing by jettisoning the early accounts of Genesis. Machen writes, “It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men” (79).

  • You can’t separate the person and work of Jesus from the book that proclaims Him

Machen was clear that the events of the gospel were not enough to save; the re-telling of the events and the interpretation of that narration were necessary for saving faith. He writes, “The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried’ – that is history. ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me’ – that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church” (emphasis mine; 29).

But, Machen anticipated the objection that we can free ourselves from this and appeal to Jesus Himself. Let’s go “Back to Christ” (29-30). In that day there were those who wanted to drive a wedge between Jesus and the Bible. He gives their objection, “Should not our trust be in a Person rather than in a message?” (39). But, he responds with the problem in that view, “The plain fact is that Jesus of Nazareth died these nineteen hundred years ago. It was possible for the men of Galilee in the first century to trust Him…But we are separated by nineteen centuries from the One who alone could give us aid. How can we bridge the gulf of time that separates us from Jesus?” His answer is the New Testament (39-45). He says that Jesus and the Bible are under attack, but we cannot know the Savior apart from the Bible!

Again, Machen writes, “From the beginning, the Christian gospel…consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning of the happening was set forth then there was Christian doctrine. ‘Christ died’ – that is history; ‘Christ died for our sins’ – that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity” (27). If we divorce the person and work of Jesus from the book that tells us about who He is and what He did, then we no longer have Christianity.

Saying the foundation of our faith is an event – the cross and empty tomb – not a book can sound right, but we have to think a little more deeply and say to ourselves, “I wouldn’t know about that glorious cross and that empty grave without The Book!” Saying let’s elevate Jesus above our Bibles is true enough, but the only Jesus we know is the one to whom all the Scriptures point! So, don’t give up your Bibles because without them you don’t have Jesus, and if you don’t have Jesus, that’s Hell. Christianity is based on a book and Machen challenged us nearly 100 years ago, “Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing…Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s word is life” (78).

 

Original article found here.

Round Up

Four Modern Version Of The Bible That Are Ruining The Bible – This is a very thought provoking article on the proliferation of the Bible.

Why Was Judas Carrying The Moneybag? – Have you ever wondered why Jesus, who knew that Judas was a ‘devil’, put him in charge of the finances?

God’s Sovereignty Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – So far Marco Gonzalez has released 3 parts to this series.  Dwelling on the fact that God is sovereign is what brought me to the Reformed faith.

Complete Sovereignty in One Verse – Well, you judge for yourself.

Quote – John Murray writes:

Faith stands in antithesis to works; there can be no amalgam of these two (cf. Gal. 5:4). That we are justified by faith is what engenders hope in a convicted sinner’s heart. He knows he has nothing to offer. And this truth assures him that he needs nothing to offer, yea, it assures him that it is an abomination to God to presume to offer. We are justified by faith and therefore simply by entrustment of ourselves, in all our dismal hopelessness, to the Saviour whose righteousness is undefiled and undefilable. Justification by faith alone lies at the heart of the gospel and it is the article that makes the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing. Justification is that by which grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life; it is for the believer alone and it is for the believer by faith alone. It is the righteousness of God from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17; cf. 3:22).

It is an old and time-worn objection that this doctrine ministers to licence and looseness. Only those who know not the power of the gospel will plead such misconception. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Justification is not all that is embraced in the gospel of redeeming grace. Christ is a complete Saviour and it is not justification alone that the believing sinner possesses in him. And faith is not the only response in the heart of him who has entrusted himself to Christ for salvation. Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (cf. Gal. 5:6). And faith without works is dead (cf. James 2:17-20). It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1, 2).

taken from: Redemption: Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955. pp. 130,131 [used with permission from publisher]

 

 

Spurgeon’s View On Inerrancy

There are two things I want to say before I sit down. The first is, let us hold fast, tenaciously, doggedly, with a death grip, the truth of the inspiration of God’s Word. If it is not inspired and infallible, it cannot be of use in warning us.  I see little use in being warned when the warning may be like the idle cry of “Wolf!” when there is no wolf. Everything in the railway service depends upon the accuracy of the signals: when these are wrong, life will be sacrificed. On the road to heaven we need unerring signals, or the catastrophes will be far more terrible. It is difficult enough to set myself right and carefully drive the train of conduct; but if, in addition to this, I am to set the Bible right, and thus manage the signals along the permanent way, I am in an evil plight indeed. If the red light or the green light may deceive me, I am as well without signals as to trust to such faulty guides. We must have something fixed and certain or where is the foundation?  Where is the fulcrum for our lever if nothing is certain? If I may not implicitly trust my Bible, you may burn it, for it is of no more use to me. If it is not inspired, it ceases to be a power either to warn or to command obedience.  Beloved, others may say what they will, but here I stand bearing this witness: “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”

While you hold fast its inspiration, pray God to prove its inspiration to you. Its gentle but effectual warning will prove its inspiration. This precious Book has pulled me up many times, and put me to a pause, when else I had gone on to sin. At another time I should have sat still had it not made me leap to my feet to flee from evil or seek good. To me it is a monitor, whose voice I prize. There is a power about his Book which is not in any other. I do not care whether it be the highest poetry, or the freshest science; each must yield to the power of the Word of God. Nothing ever plays on the cords of a man’s soul like the finger of God’s Spirit. This Book can touch the deep springs of my being, and make the life-floods to flow forth. The Word of God is the great power of God; and it is well that you should know it to be so by its power over you. One said, “ I cannot believe the Bible.” Another answered, “I cannot disbelieve it.” When this question was raised: “Why cannot you disbelieve?” the believer answered, “I know the Author, and I am sure of his truthfulness.”  There is the point; if we know the Author, we know that his witness is true, and knowing it to be true, we take his warnings, and follow his commands. May the Lord work in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure; then shall the Book be more and more precious in our eyes; and this sense of its preciousness will be one of the rewards which come to us in keeping the statutes of the Lord. So be it unto you through Christ Jesus! Amen.

Taken from the sermon “The Warnings and the Rewards of the Word of God” preached March 16th 1890

Round Up

Say It Isn’t So – Tactical Bacon?  While not a bad idea, I prefer mine right out of the skillet.

2014 National Geographic Traveler Contest – Images taken from all over the world.

Don’t Be A Wedding Crasher – A wedding involving a king and his son, some ornery invitees, cold-blooded murder, the destruction of cities, and a ragtag group of afterthought guests.

How To Memorize Entire Books Of The Bible – Not only is this good, but has practical benefits and applications in our Christian walk.

Quote:

Holiness is not an experience you have; holiness is keeping the law of God. – Martyn Lloyd-Jones

 

Loosing Site of Sin

What follows is an article from The Banner of Truth Website and the original post can be found here.

I was reading recently some words of George Swinnock (a mid seventeenth century Puritan) that seemed (at least to me) to describe twenty-first century evangelical Christianity: “We take the size of sin too low, and short, and wrong, when we measure it by the wrong it doth to ourselves, or our families, or our neighbours, or the nation wherein we live; indeed, herein somewhat of its evil and mischief doth appear; but to take its full length and proportion, we must consider the wrong it doth to this great, this glorious, this incomparable God. Sin is incomparably malignant, because the God principally injured by it is incomparably excellent” (Works Vol.4.456, Banner of Truth). Swinnock, of course, is saying no more than the Bible itself says. The ultimate tragedy of sin is not that it spoils my life, disrupts my relationships, scars my world, but that it dishonours, defies, and disgraces my God!

This is a truth, a most basic and elementary truth, that our present generation has all but lost sight of. Sin, if it is mentioned at all, is conceived of almost wholly in self-referential terms. It is described in terms of its “psychological pains and its relational disruptions.” And truly sin does produce deep psychological pains and relational disruptions. The heart and horror of sin, however, is not its effect on me, but its effect on God, “the incomparably excellent” God. This is remarkably highlighted in Psalm 51:4: King David had been deeply convicted of his sin by conspiring to have Uriah murdered. And yet, when he comes to cry to God for mercy, David prays, “Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” David is not denying his sin against Bathsheba, Uriah, his own family, God’s Church. He is, however, telling himself, and us, that the true horror of sin is that it is against God. Sin’s ultimate tragedy can only be defined theologically, not psychologically nor relationally.

This is a truth the evangelical church needs to be reacquainted with in our day. We live in a self-referential culture. The Church, rightly, wants to minister the gospel of God’s grace and love into this culture. The ever present danger facing us is that we contour the Bible’s teaching on sin to suit the felt needs of this culture. This is what “Alpha” seeks to do. The initial concern of Alpha was laudable: How can we best reach the unchurched pagans in our society with the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ? I, for one, deeply admire that desire, and am rebuked by it. But when you look carefully at Alpha, it basically seeks to present sin almost solely as a psychological, personal and social disrupter. And sin is such a disrupter. It is the root of all the evils in this world, personal and global. But until men and women are helped to see that the horror of sin is that it is against God, and makes you his enemy (Romans 5:10), Jesus Christ will never be seen for what he most essentially is, the One sent from God and by God to reconcile us to God, deliver us from the coming wrath, and fit us for eternal fellowship with God. The root of all our ills is our sin-ruptured relationship with the living God.

Many of the great theologians of the Christian Church have called sin “Deicidium,” literally “God murder!” Is that how you and I think of sin? We can so easily lose the felt sense, if not the theological fact, of the sinfulness of sin. If we do, we end up talking about sin in ways that sit easily with our culture. And, when we speak of sin only in self-referential and therapeutic terms, moral responsibility diminishes proportionately. Is there not an obvious connection between the loss of the theological dimension of sin and the moral collapse at the heart of professing evangelicalism?

Where does all this leave us? Not simply parroting what the Puritans preached four centuries ago. They were men of their times; they understood the times they lived in – and so must we. We must labour to speak relevantly into this culture. Paul’s address in Athens (Acts 17) is perhaps a model for us in many ways. We need to speak to people where they are, not where we would like them to be. We need to be less concerned with “success” and more concerned with “faithfulness.” We need to cultivate Paul’s confidence: “…we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” One of our great challenges is to commend the gospel relevantly without becoming gimmicky. This is easier said than done, but do it we must.

Where then do we start? With Sin? No. With God! Let me end, as I began, with some words from George Swinnock: “should this God of glory appear to thee…and show thee a glimpse of his excellent glory…should he discover to thee but a little of that greatness which the heavens and heaven of heavens cannot contain…of those perfections that know no bounds…what wouldst thou then think of Sin?” If we are to see sin for what it truly is, we must first come to see God as he truly is. And so Thomas Goodwin wrote, “if thou wouldst see what sin is, go to mount Calvary” – because there, we see God as he most truly is. The cross of Christ is the glory and the measure of everything.

Ian Hamilton

On 12th December at Westminster Chapel Ian Hamilton is speaking on “The Puritan Doctrine of Sin and the Wrath of God.”

Round Up

John Piper Infographic – Here is another infographic from Tim Challies on John Piper.

Bible Translations and Bible Reading – Many translations are extremely helpful, but none of them capture exactly what the original language depicts in the text. That is why it is so important for Christians and especially pastors to learn the original languages of Scripture (Greek and Hebrew).

Preach the Word – You wouldn’t expect to hear a pastor tell his church, “I know better than God.” And yet that’s what many preachers and leaders today communicate when they focus their ministry strategies on market research and consumer response.

Forged In Forgiveness – Erik Fitzgerald was a youth pastor in Georgia when he awoke one day to the terrible news that his wife and son had been killed in a car accident.  See the healing power of forgiveness in action.

Quote:

“We may ask, no doubt, why God does not extend his saving grace to all; and why, if he sends it to some only, he sends it to just those some to whom he sends it rather than to others. These are not wise questions to ask. We might ask why Christ raised Lazarus only of all that lay dead that day in Palestine, or in the world. No doubt reasons may suggest themselves why he raised Lazarus. But why Lazarus only? If we threw the reins on the neck of imagination, we might possibly discover reasons enough why he might well have raised others, too, with Lazarus, perhaps many others, perhaps all the dead throughout the whole world. Doubtless he had his reasons for doing on that great day precisely what he did. No doubt God has his reasons, too, for doing just what he does with his electing grace. Perhaps we may divine some of them. No doubt there are others which we do not divine. Better leave it to him, and content ourselves. facing, in the depths of our ignorance and our sin-bred lack of comprehension, these tremendous realities, with the O altitudo of Paul: ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!’ Or may we not even rise to the great consenting ‘Yea!’ which Christ has taught us: ‘Yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight!’ After all, men are sinners and grace is wonderful. The marvel of marvels is not that God, in his infinite love, has not elected all of this guilty race to be saved, but that he has elected any. What really needs accounting for — though to account for it passes the powers of our extremest flights of imagination — is how the holy God could get the consent of his nature to save a single sinner.” – B. B. Warfield

Round Up

The Doctrine of Hell – If you were to give me a Bible, a divine eraser, and ten minutes, I would take hell out of the Bible.

The Key To The Christian Life Comes Not From Trying Harder But From Enjoying More – Can fascination with God and delight in Jesus really help me overcome my failures? Can my life genuinely be changed? Can this truth really make a difference down in the gutter of lust and greed and pride and envy and shame where I live?

The Beauty of the Impassible God – Critics often contend that the doctrine of impassibility depicts God as an emotionless rock. But to teach that God is impassible is not to deny that God has an emotional life with cares, joys, loves, and so forth.

MP3 Version of the ESV Bible For Free – Download the ESV Bible in MP3 format until the end of January.

Quote:
I remember lecturing at Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in this country. I was minutes away from beginning my lecture, and my host was driving me past a new building called the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts.

He said, “This is America’s first postmodern building.”

I was startled for a moment and I said, “What is a postmodern building?”

He said, “Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, ‘Why?’ he said, ‘If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?’ So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it.”

I said, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”

He said, “That is correct.”

I said, “Did he do the same with the foundation?”

All of a sudden there was silence.

You see, you and I can fool with the infrastructure as much as we would like, but we dare not fool with the foundation because it will call our bluff in a hurry.

– Ravi Zacharias