Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SILENCING THE MARTYRS

“Lord, open the King of England’s eyes” was the last sermon preached by William Tyndale. The motivation for this particular blog can attributed to two sources: my wife Laura, who is reading through Fox’s Book of Martyrs and my dissertation research which is in the field of hermeneutics. One might ask what one has to do with the other. By the end of this blog it is my hope that you will experience an epiphany of sorts. I hope that some things, which may be acknowledged in your daily observations of church life but not quite digested, will become somewhat less foggy as a result of what you read here.

William Tyndale was a reformation ‘giant’ among giant reformers. He was an English reformer as well as a bible translator. Tyndale graduated from Oxford in 1515, having studied the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew. It was his lifelong goal to translate the Scripture into English. In a refutation with a clergyman who believed that only clergymen can rightly understand the Scriptures, Tyndale said, “If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” It is remarkably obvious to even the most casual reader of church history that churchmen like Tyndale had a burning passion for their cause. They believed in their mission with every fiber of their being. Tyndale fled to Germany where he successfully translated and smuggled fifteen thousand copies of his English translations from Germany into England between the years 1525 and 1530. In May of 1535, Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned near Brussels. On October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was strangled to death and burned at the stake. His final words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

For what did William Tyndale die? Was his death necessary? Did Tyndale’s death actually mean anything? Or was it a tragic waste of human life? Did Tyndale die for a cause in a state of extreme ignorance and naivety? Jacques Derrida, the most prominent scholar of the new “literary philosophers” believes that “the mind may be a ‘mirror of nature,’ but what it reflects is ultimately not nature but its own capacities.” Nietzsche held that, in the absence of a Creator, it was up to human being to impose meaning and order on the world.” Since all views of the world, according to these philosophers, involve self-projections, reality in any objective sense does not exist and if it does, these projections preclude any possibility of knowing it. There is no “other” because the “other” is always part and parcel the result of our own projection. Hence, metaphysics dies a slow agonizing death under the rubric of agnosticism. What does this mean for truth? What are the implications for Scripture? Moreover, what does this mean to the martyrs of years gone by who defended and died for truth, most especially, that truth divinely revealed to us in Scripture? According Rob Bell’s (leading pastor in the emergent church) wife, Kristin, agnosticism is a virtue to be embraced when it comes to understanding and knowing the biblical text: “Now I have no idea what most of it [the Bible] means. And yet I feel like life is big again – like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.” [DeYoung & Kluck: Why Were Not Emergent, pg. 70]

Imagine that! William Tyndale is strangled to death and burned at the stake so that non-clergy may have access to the content and teachings of sacred Scripture only to have Kristin Bell say, no thank you. We are better off without it! If you give us this bible and force us to understand it, we will be in bondage to a black and white, right and wrong world. That is a nice gesture, Rev. Tyndale, but we much more prefer our liberating agnosticism which gives our world a variety of color.

If it is true that the Author, along with God, has died, and meaning is whatever the reader wants it to be, then William Tyndale and a host of other martyrs died in vain. If it is true that truth is unobtainable and that deriving meaning from the biblical text is beyond our grasp, then the very notion of translating the biblical text into any language becomes a fruitless waste of time. Certainly such a project would not be worth dying for. Tyndale said, “I perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue.” Apparently for Tyndale, establishing people in the truth of Scripture was a burning passion. Hence, this cause was so great for him that he lived and died for it.



The best way of silencing martyrs of years past and of eliminating the possibility of martyrdom in the future is to remove any cause worthy of “death” from the picture. That is to say, make everything negotiable or flexible. Take away truth and you take away the rock upon which martyrs die. Deconstructionism, also known as postmodernism does this very thing. It has slowly crept into the evangelical church over the last decade or two. It has pounded its fist on the table arguing that relationships are all that matter, and that doctrine is not only “not important” but that it gets in the way of the very thing that is: relationships. It severs relationships, splits entire denominations, and has led to the useless death of many good Christians. This ideology has turned up the heat as of late in the form of the emergent church which seems to ravel in ignorance of the biblical text. Moreover, many in the emergent camp vilify and denigrate anyone or anything that implies there is a fixed meaning in the biblical text that is actually discoverable. That is to say that the emergent idea mocks the very notion that one can obtain a working knowledge and understanding of biblical truth because truth, in the first place does not actually exist, and in the second place, even if it did, the best anyone can do is project their own ideas of truth onto the text as they see fit.

Where does this leave men like William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other great truth reformers. The reformation was in fact, a hermeneutical revolution. The governing principle of the entire movement was Sola Scriptura! To these men, Scripture alone was the container and discloser of truth and that to disclose truth really mattered. It mattered to the biblical authors, it matter to Christ, it matter to the reformers, and it matters today. Without intending to do so, perhaps, the postmodern Christian (so-called), with one single sentence has brought to nothing the life and blood of thousands and millions of Christians the world over. Such a contention should be met with equal force, I submit, by those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and who have taken up the cause of biblical truth and hermeneutics in an age when the crisis of truth in hermeneutics threatens to collapse society as we know it. “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God..” (Rev. 20:4)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pressing Into the Kingdom of God - Jonathan Edwards

By pressing into the kingdom of God is denoted a breaking through
opposition and difficulties. There is in the expression a plain intimation of difficulty. If there were no opposition, but the way was all clear and open, there would be no need of pressing to get along. They therefore that are pressing into the kingdom of God, go on with such engagedness, that they break through the difficulties that are in their way. They are so set for salvation, that those things by which others are discouraged, and stopped,and turned back, do not stop them, but they press through them.

Persons ought to be so resolved for heaven, that if by any means they can obtain, they will obtain. Whether those means be difficult or easy, cross or agreeable, if they are requisite means of salvation, they should be complied with. When any thing is presented to be done, the question should not be, Is it easy or hard? is it agreeable to my carnal inclinations or interest, or against them? But is it a required means of my obtaining an interest in Jesus Christ, and eternal salvation? Thus the apostle, Php. 3:11. “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” He tells us there in the context what difficulties he broke through, that he suffered the loss of all things, and was willingly made conformable even to Christ’s death, though that was attended with such extreme torment and ignominy.

He that is pressing into the kingdom of God, commonly finds many things
in the way that are against the grain; but he is not stopped by the cross that lies before him, but takes it up, and carries it. Suppose there be something incumbent on him to do, that is cross to his natural temper, and irksome to him on that account; suppose something that he cannot do without
suffering in his estate, or that he apprehends will look odd and strange in
the eyes of others, and expose him to ridicule and reproach, or any thing
that will offend a neighbour, and get his ill-will, or something that will be very cross to his own carnal appetite — he will press through such
difficulties. Every thing that is found to be a weight that hinders him in
running this race he casts from him, though it be a weight of gold or pearls; yea, if it be a right hand or foot that offends him, he will cut them off, and will not stick at plucking out a right eye with his own hands. These things are insuperable difficulties to those who are not thoroughly engaged in seeking their salvation; they are stumbling-blocks that they never get over. But it is not so with him that presses into the kingdom of God. Those things (before he was thoroughly roused from his security) about which he was wont to have long parleyings and disputings with his own conscience — employing carnal reason to invent arguments and pleas of excuse — he now sticks at no longer; he has done with this endless disputing and reasoning, and presses violently through all difficulties. Let what will be in the way, heaven is what he must and will obtain, not if he can without difficulty, but if it be possible. He meets with temptation: the devil is often whispering in his ear, setting allurements before him, magnifying the difficulties of the work he is engaged in, telling him that they are insuperable, and that he can never conquer them, and trying all ways in the world to discourage him; but still he presses forward. God has given and maintains such an earnest spirit for heaven, that the devil cannot stop him in his course; he is not at leisure to lend an ear to what he has to say.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Remembering the Reformer - John Calvin

The Life of a Christian Man [Calvins Institutes: 3.6.5

5. I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected. What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God.


Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Are We There Yet? Part II

To continue with the list of vices that Paul warned Timothy would serve as an indication that we are living in the last days, I pick up where I left of:


Men will be without self-control. The Greek word is AKRATES and it means, without self-control, dissolute; unable to govern one’s appetites; without command over oneself. The idea suggests that a person is unable to possess of their appetite, their proclivities, and their own self. A famous golfer comes to mind that seemingly was not able to control his own appetite for women who were not his wife.

Men will be brutal. The Greek word is ANEMEROS and it means untamed. The comparison is with the wild beasts of the field who are vicious, without conscious or discernment or compassion. The false teachers have no fear of God whatsoever and no regard for the damage they do to men’s souls with their pernicious teachings. Are we there yet?

Men will be haters of good. The Greek word is APHILAGATHOS and it means a lack of generous interest in the public good, without interest in the public good. Here Paul seems to use a satirical sketch of persons who are actually the opposite of public expectations.

Men will be treacherous. The Greek word is PRODOTES and it means traitor, betrayer. What does it mean to betray someone? It means to violate a person’s trust and confidence. Our society does this all the time. Any time a person enters into a contract or covenant with another and then changes their mind, they are behaving treacherously with the other person. Some people do this intentionally from the outset. Their treachery is calculated and deliberate and even premeditated. Others simply don’t place the same value in covenant making and as soon as there is a good enough reason, the covenant is abandoned. This behavior litters American Politics. Self-interest supersedes all else. In fact, treachery is one of the most selfish acts humans engage in. Let us love as Christ loves. His love nailed Him to a cross in unspeakable suffering. The minute love costs us anything whatsoever, we find an alternative path that is more convenient and one that does not involve self-sacrifice in the slightest.

Men will be reckless. The Greek word is PROPETES. This word literally means falling down or forward. The idea is one of recklessness, rash, thoughtless. We should never rush to judgment, but always consider the facts before taking action. Paul is saying that men will not give the same weight to the discipline of thinking and that judgment will suffer. Men will behave recklessly.

Men will be conceited. The Greek word is TUPHOO and it means becloud, delude. The idea is that one will have a deluded understanding and estimation of their own self- importance or significance. It likely means mentally ill in 1 Tim. 6:4 which I think is kind of humerous in a way. Are we there yet?

Men will be lovers of pleasure. The Greek word is PHILEDONOS and it means a particular or specific love for pleasure. The idea is one who is given over to a fondness for pleasure. And in this sense they are said to love pleasure more than they love God. Whatever brings them pleasure becomes more important to them than God. In fact, loving God is no longer viewed as being an act that pleases or brings pleasure.

Finally, men will have a form of godliness. The Greek word for form is MORPHOSIS and it means that state of being formally structured, embodiment, formulation, form. Philo used this language to refer to a semblance of piety. There is, among these men, a real outward form of what appears to be true religion. The Greek word for godliness is EUSEBEIA and it means piety, reverence, loyalty exhibited toward parents or deity, fear of God. Here it means to be devout only in appearance. The idea is that one follows external routines that would typically be expected in those who actually are devoted to God, but indeed their heart is actually not seeking God at all. The glaring truth is that these people are not external to the Church. They are actually members of the visible body of Christ. By all appearances they look like they are a valid part of the Christian community. In fact, they are greater enemies of the faith than those who are clearly not participating in the body. For these possess deceptive powers that those outside the body do not typically have at their disposal. A wolf is not so dangerous as long as you can see his fangs. But nothing is quite as dangerous as the wolf that pants and whines as if he wants affection when what he is really after is blood.

One of the more fascinating features of this text of Scripture is the number of hapax legomena that appear. A hapax legomenon is a word that appears only once in the Greek NT.

Are we there yet? It seems clear that these behaviors in men have marked the last days since the time of Timothy. They are visible markers of false teachers and believers and serve as warning signs to those who are legitimate members of the body of Christ. We should react to them accordingly. Not only this, they also serve as a list of vices that we as Christians should always be aware of. These behaviors constantly war against our own souls, tempting us to behave autonomously, selfishly, in subtle or even open rebellion against our God. May God grant us His mercy and grace by providing us with the Spirit who will shape us and mold us with God’s word into the image of Christ He has called us to be.

People LIVE what they believe: EVERYTHING else is just noise!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Are We There Yet?

If you have children and you have had the unique experience of moving those children from point A to point B, the distance of which only need be slightly more than say 20-30 minutes, then you have no doubt had the pleasure of experiencing this question: "Are we there yet?" And once it begins, it seems to flow, as if scientifically timed, every 2 minutes until in fact, we are finally there.

As I read Paul's last instructions to the young pastor Timothy, I admit I find myself asking this very same question: "Are we there yet?" And I do believe we are clearly there. Beginning in Chapter three of his final written work, Paul issues a most ominous prediction to young Timothy. Paul warns Timothy that "difficult times will come." The Greek word diffcult is CHELPOS and it means that which causes hardship and trouble. Paul issues this warning and then he explains himself with the epexegetical "for" which connects this prediction to the foreseen condition which he is about to describe. The reason troubling and difficult times are coming is because the condition of men will reach the state which immediately follows.

First, men will be lovers of themselves. They will look out for numero uno. We know that people in our culture practice this all the time. People go out of their way, mostly because it is actually self-serving. They do not do it out of a pure love of others. There is mostly (not always) an angle to be worked. You be the judge, are we there yet?

Second, men will be lovers of money. Man cannot serve God and money for he will either love the one and hate the other. The same is true of loving self of course. We must die so that He can live through us.

Men will be boastful. And wow, are we! While I didn't verbalize it, I was proud of how patient I was while Christmas shopping. What is the difference? Being too impatent or being prideful? They are both sinful behaviors. But we have a way of making some sins worse than others and looking down on people who commit the ones we hold out as worse and think more highly of ourselves because we avoid the ones we deem to be unacceptable. I have news for you: God sees all sin equally as filth and it all smells the same to Him. If we are guilty of one, we are guilty of all. A boastful person is one who is pretentiously prideful and braggs about it. They are constantly bragging about their accomplishments and failing to notice anyone else's. If you get two boastful people together, you won't be able to get a word in edgewise because they will continually be trying to one-up each other on their accomplishments. Are we there yet?

Men will be arrogant. An arrogant person is one who thinks of himself or herself as being superior to others. They look down and talk down on others for a variety of reasons. It could be because the person doesn't have just the right job, the right education, the right family background, earn the right amount of money, etc. We attached significance to things that God does not. And then we aquire them and look down on those who don't.

Men will be revilers. The word revile is BLASPHEMOS and it means defaming, demeaing, and denigrating. It is blasphemy quite plain and simple. When you think of this behavior, it is the one behavior that dominates comedic entertainment today. We amuse ourselves by being blasphemous. And Christians fill their minds and spirits with this filth in the name of Christian liberty and think grace looks past it.

Men will be disobedient to parents. Do I really need to comment on this one?

Do you think we there yet?

Men will be ungrateful. Buy your child a car and they want a 30k BMW. Give a man a job and he is not satisfied with a paycheck. He wants power or more, or you name it. We are ungrateful! We cannot stand the slightest disappointment in our lives without having a nervous breakdown. This is a clear indication that we are ungrateful. Take a teenager's cell phone away for one day and you will see what I mean.

Men will be unholy. One of the most vilified doctrines in the church today is the doctrine of holiness. It is ipso facto dismissed as legalism. The effort in science around evolution is designed to get rid of the holy demand of a righteous God. The effort in hermeneutics around deconstructionism and post-modernism is to remove the oversight of a God who demands holiness from His subjects. Are we there yet?

Men will be unloving. And how! as Spanky from the little rascals would say.  The Greek word is ASTORGOS and it means of one who is lacking in good feeling for others, thereby jeopardizing the maintenance of relationships that are essential to a well-ordered society; hardhearted, unfeeling, without regard for others. Someone once said the Christian church is the only organism that kills its own wounded. And this appears to be true. An absence of love for one's brother indicates an absence of love for God. Sorry, you can't have your cake and eat it too. I cannot hate you and love God. Nor can you hate me and love God. And I cannot love you with my mouth only and hate you with my heart and love God at the same time. It simply doesn't work that way. Are we there yet?

Men will be irreconcilable. The Greek word is ASPONDOS. It means one who is unwilling to negotiate a solution to a problem involving a second party. This will be the disposition of sinful men in the last days. They will have a spirit so hard and determined that they are unwilling to work toward a resolution in order to solve problems. Problems are unavoidable. The question is how we respond to them. What causes us to stiffen our will and refuse to even work toward a solution? It is our sinful nature along with its extreme demands. We insist on having our way and refuse to consider a different perspective. I have lived this one personally. Christians are not ummune to these behaviors. At least this Christian is not immune to this sin. We would prefer to indulge our flesh rather than be sensitive to our spouse's worries about the potential conseqences of leading an unhealthy lifestyle. Are we there yet?

Men will be malicious gosssips. The Greek word is DIABOLOS. It pertains to one who is engaged in slander. Never, ever speak ill of your brother or sister in Christ. If you have an issue with someone, you are supposed to go to that person in love and be reconciled to them. It is the only way to handle matters of dispute and offense. But before you go to the alleged offender, you should ask yourself this question: "should I have an issue with this person?" Make sure you are justified in approaching your brother or sister over the matter at hand. Examine your motives and be sure you are not going to them because they bruised your blown up ego or violated something that is on your personal sin-list and not God's. Do not speak evil of another person behind their back. And certainly do not pretend to know someone's motives and then speak evil of them. This is not loving, Christ-like behavior. We have become far too comfortable and too complacent in our slanderous remarks of fellow believers in the Christian community. I am not saying that you should never name names because that, too, is unbiblical. There is a time and a place for sharp rebuke. But it is one of the highest offenses to God for a brother or sister in Christ to engage in the personal assassination of another brother or sister's character behind their back. If you believe someone is in sin, you have a responsbility to go to them in love and help them see their sin and help them out of their error. If you don't have enough love for Christ and for His body to do that, then you should keep you mouth shut for you are absolutely not the least bit better than the one caught up in the sin. Moreover, your actions may be worse than your brothers actions. He may be acting in blindness, not realizing what he is doing. God placed you in a position to help him see his sin, and instead, you watch him drown, criticizing him for not being able to swim all the while standing on the life jacket he needs to be saved.  Here is the bottom line: those who choose to talk about people behind their back rather than go to them in love, as Christ commanded, showing them their error, are cowards of the worse sort. These are the same cowards who criticize people who do confront and help others out of their sin, accusing them of being overly crticial and unloving. There is hardly anything less loving than knowing your brother or sister is in trouble, and refusing to lift a finger to help. What is worse; withholding physical needs or withholding spiritual needs? You decide; are we there yet?
These are not so much general sins as they are specific sins visible every day in Ephesus as Timothy deals with the false teachers who wear a veneer of piety but by their sin show that there is no substance, no power, to their religiosity. [William Mounce: The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 551]
As it was the design of Paul to brand false prophets with such marks, that they might be seen and known by all; it is our duty to open our eyes, that we may see those who are pointed out with the finger. [John Calvin: Commentary on 2 Timothy, pg. 239]
To be sure this passage describes false teachers who would come to Ephesus teaching and preaching damnable heresies and exhibiting behavior that is in every way inconsistent with the Christian worldview. We must recognize these behaviors in those sorts of teachers and respond accordingly. Secondly, we should also recognize that our own sin nature, as obstinate as it is, has its own proclivity toward some of these behaviors. Let us be on guard to keep ourselves unsoiled from the love of this world and the service of sinful flesh.
 
Part II to follow within the week.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Proud of my Patience

Christmas shopping is one of my most favorite things to hate. I loathe having to take time out of my schedule to go to the mall, (which is one of my most favorite places to hate) in order to stand in line for hours just to buy gifts that will be forgotten in less time than in took me to make it through the check-out process at the store. I know what your thinking: Ed sure is selfish. If I were more like Christ I would gladily endure the brutal torture of the "Christmas shopping experience" to bring a smile to the faces of those I love. To be sure there is undoubedtly a hint of selfishness in my complaint. I will work that out with my Heaven Father later today. But I fear that when next Christmas arrives, should God still have me on this planet and have blessed me so that I am able to live this annual "experience" once more, that my attitude toward this experience is likely to remain unchanged. However, I admit that God could bring about circumstances in my life in a way that my attitude toward Christmas shopping could change forever. Speaking of changing attitudes, as providence would have it, God has me working with not one, but two behaviorial scientists presently. The scientific data regarding change indicates that people do change. But that it takes consequences in order to help them to change. If a person really doesn't like the consequences of an action, they are not likely to repeat it. But they have to really dislike the consequences more than they like the actions that produced them. As far as my attitude changing toward Christmas shopping, God's will be done. Now on to the point of my post.

I drove to the mall yesterday to finalize my shopping. My first objective was a book from Books-A-Million. But the line was longer than I would have anticipated. I decided pateince was the order of the day. So I relaxed and waited and waited and waited and then paid for my book. I felt good about not allowing my blood pressure to increase.

Then I went to buy a gift card at the customer service desk. There was one person in front of me. But she was purchasing eight cards. Twenty minutes later, I purchased my one card in about 90 seconds and was on my way. Again, I did not allow my blood pressure to increase. Once again I felt good about the patience I had exhibited.

Finally I went to the Dollar Store to purchase some wrapping paper. I discovered I was behind a group of mentally challenged adults and obviously it would take some time to go through the check-out process. Once again, the Spirit was gracious and God helped me to move through the process with patience. And once again, I was proud of my patience.

As I moved through the mall, heading back to my car, I felt good about myself. My first sin was that I took credit for what the Spirit had produced in me as if I had produced it myself. And then I realized that while the sin of impatience was avoided, the sin of pride was glaringly pronounced in my attitude of accomplishment. On the one hand I could not help but feel somewhat helpless. Yet on the other hand I realized that utter dependence on the Spirit is essential if I am to maintain a right perspective on my nature and my actions as a sinner. The sin nature is such that it continually struggles to have its way. There is no such thing as rest against resisting sin for the believer in this life. That day comes when we are no longer living in this fleshly body. My experience at the Mall demonstrated to me that I must always be on my guard, not just against a particular sin, but against all my sinful tendencies.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Passions from Puritans

I have posted an except from John Owen's work on "Mortification of Sin in Believers." The puritans understood that Scripture was not something simply to be mined for all the treasure of knowledge and wisdom it contains, but that this knowledge and wisdom is intended to be understood which for the puritan is indelibly connected to appplication. Pay Particular attention to the Owen's very last thought, which I have highlighted. Enjoy!

Mortification of Sin in Believers:
The Necessity, Nature, and Means of it:

"For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live."
In the words peculiarly designed for the foundation of the ensuing
discourse, there is, —

First, A duty prescribed: “Mortify the deeds of the body.”

Secondly, The persons are denoted to whom it is prescribed: “Ye,” —
“if ye mortify.”18

Thirdly, There is in them a promise annexed to that duty: “Ye shall
live.”

Fourthly, The cause or means of the performance of this duty, — the
Spirit: “If ye through the Spirit.”

Fifthly, The conditionality of the whole proposition, wherein duty,
means, and promise are contained: “If ye,” etc.

1. The first thing occurring in the words as they lie in the entire
proposition is the conditional note, Eij de<; “But if.” Conditionals in such propositions may denote two things — (1.) The uncertainty of the event or thing promised, in respect of them to whom the duty is prescribed. And this takes place where the condition is absolutely necessary unto the issue, and depends not itself on any determinate cause known to him to whom it is prescribed. So we say, “If we live, we will do such a thing.” This cannot be the intendment of the conditional expression in this place. Of the persons to whom these words are spoken, it is said, verse 1 of the same chapter, “There is no condemnation to them.” (2.) The certainty of the coherence and connection that is between the things spoken of; as we say to a sick man, “If you will take such a potion, or use such a remedy, you will be well.” The thing we solely intend to express is the certainty of the connection that is between the potion or remedy and health. And this is the use of it here. The certain connection that is between the mortifying of the deeds of the body and living is intimated in this conditional particle. Now, the connection and coherence of things being manifold, as of cause and effect, of way and means and the end, this between mortification and life is not of cause and effect properly and strictly, for “eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ,” <450623>Romans 6:23, — but of means and end. God hath appointed this means for the attaining that end, which he
hath freely promised. Means, though necessary, have a fair subordination to an end of free promise. A gift, and procuring cause in him to whom it is given, are inconsistent. The intendment, then, of this proposition as
conditional is, that there is a certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live. And herein lies the main
motive unto and enforcement of the duty prescribed.

2. The next thing we meet withal in the words is the persons to whom this duty is prescribed, and that is expressed in the word “Ye,” in the original included in the verb, qanatou~te “if ye mortify;” — that is, ye believers; ye to whom “there is no condemnation,” verse 1; ye that are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,” verse 9; who are “quickened by the Spirit of Christ,” verses 10, 11; to you is this duty prescribed. The pressing of this duty immediately on any other is a notable fruit of that superstition and self-righteousness that the world is full of, — the great work and design of devout men ignorant of the gospel, it; 451003 > Romans 10:3, 4; <431505>John 15:5. Now, this description of the persons, in conjunction with the prescription of the duty, is the main foundation of the ensuing discourse, as it lies in this thesis or proposition: — The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.

3. The principal efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit: Eij de< Pneu>mati — “If by the Spirit.” The Spirit here is the Spirit mentioned verse 11, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, that “dwells in us,” verse 9, that “quickens us,” verse 11; “the Holy Ghost,” verse 14; f2 the “Spirit of adoption,” verse 15; the Spirit “that maketh intercession for us,” verse 26. All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates, <450930>Romans 9:30-32, may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done, and do: but, saith he, “This is the work of the Spirit; by him alone is it to
be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about.” Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false
religion in the world. And this is a second principle of my ensuing discourse.

4. The duty itself, “Mortify the deeds of the body,” is nextly to be
remarked.
Three things are here to be inquired into: —
(1.) What is meant by the body;
(2.) What by the deeds of the body;
(3.) What by mortifying of them.

(1.) The body in the close of the verse is the same with the flesh in the beginning: “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye.... mortify the deeds of the body,” — that is, of the flesh. It is that which the apostle
hath all along discoursed of under the name of the flesh; which is evident from the prosecution of the antithesis between the Spirit and the flesh, before and after. The body, then, here is taken for that corruption and depravity of our natures whereof the body, in a great part, is the seat and instrument, the very members of the body being made servants unto unrighteousness thereby, <450619>Romans 6:19. It is indwelling sin, the corrupted flesh or lust, that is intended. Many reasons might be given of this metonymical expression, that I shall not now insist on. The “body” here is the same with palaioav, the “old man,” and the “body of sin,” <450606>Romans 6:6; or it may synecdochically express the whole person considered as corrupted, and the seat of lusts and distempered affections.

(2.) The deeds of the body. The word is pra>xiv, which, indeed, denoteth the outward actions chiefly, “the works of the flesh,” as they are called, ta< e]rga th~v sako>v, <480519>Galatians 5:19; which are there said to be “manifest,” and are enumerated. Now, though the outward deeds are here only
expressed, yet the inward and next causes are chiefly intended; the “axe is to be laid to the root of the tree,” — the deeds of the flesh are to be mortified in their causes, from whence they spring. The apostle calls them
deeds, as that which every lust tends unto; though it do but conceive and prove abortive, it aims to bring forth a perfect sin. Having, both in the seventh and the beginning of this chapter, treated of indwelling lust and sin as the fountain and principle of all sinful actions, he here mentions its destruction under the name of the effects which it doth produce. Pra>xeiv tou~ sw>matov are, as much as fro>nhma th~v sarko>v,
<450806>Romans 8:6, the “wisdom of the flesh,” by a metonymy of the same nature with the former; or as the paqh>mata and ejpiqumi>ai, the “passions and lusts of the flesh,” <480524>Galatians 5:24, whence the deeds and fruits of it do arise; and in this sense is the body used, <450810>Romans 8:10: “The body is dead because of sin.”

(3.) To mortify. Eij qanatou~te, — “If ye put to death;” a metaphorical expression, taken from the putting of any living thing to death. To kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all his
strength, vigor, and power, so that he cannot act or exert, or put forth any proper actings of his own; so it is in this case. Indwelling sin is compared to a person, a living person, called “the old man,” with his faculties, and properties, his wisdom, craft, subtlety, strength; this, says the apostle, must be killed, put to death, mortified, — that is, have its power, life, vigor, and strength, to produce its effects, taken away by the Spirit. It is, indeed, meritoriously, and by way of example, utterly mortified and slain by the cross of Christ; and the “old man” is thence said to be “crucified with Christ,” <450606>Romans 6:6, and ourselves to be “dead” with him, verse 8, and really initially in regeneration, <450603>Romans 6:3-5, when a principle
contrary to it, and destructive of it, <480517>Galatians 5:17, is planted in our hearts; but the whole work is by degrees to be carried on towards perfection all our days. Of this more in the process of our discourse. The intendment of the apostle in this prescription of the duty mentioned is, — that the mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers.

5. The promise unto this duty is life: “Ye shall live.” The life promised is opposed to the death threatened in the clause foregoing, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die;” which the same apostle expresseth, “Ye shall of the flesh reap corruption,” <480608>Galatians 6:8, or destruction from God. Now, perhaps the word may not only intend eternal life, but also the spiritual life in Christ, which here we have; not as to the essence and being of it, which is already enjoyed by believers, but as to the joy, comfort, and vigor of it: as the apostle says in another case, “Now I live, if ye stand fast,” <520308>1 Thessalonians 3:8; — “Now my life will do me good; I shall have joy and comfort with my life;” — “Ye shall live, lead a good, vigorous,
comfortable, spiritual life whilst you are here, and obtain eternal life hereafter.” Supposing what was said before of the connection between mortification and eternal life, as of means and end, I shall add only, as a second motive to the duty prescribed, that, —
The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the
mortification of the deeds of the flesh.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The High Cost of Loving God

"I love God, I really do. I can feel it down deep in my soul. I love God so much sometimes I cry when I think of Him when certain songs are playing. How do I know I love God? I know I love God because I feel it so strong in my heart and in my soul! I know what love feels like and that is what I feel toward God."
So goes the typical response of the western church-goer. The typical western Christian really isn't much, if any different than the typical western unbeliever. In a society conditioned on a predominately hedonistic worldview, it is to be expected that appeals to the senses would underpin reality and truth. Yes, appeals to emotions are primiarly appeals to the senses. The foundational problem is that appeals to truth and to "what is" should validate emotion rather than appeals to emotion validating truth and reality. The typical westerner orders their life by an ethical system that feels good.
Think about how we make decisions. Think about the entire idea of political correctness. We don't raise our hand to challenge a viewpoint because we don't want to offend anyone. We want them to feel good at all costs, even if feeling good leads to destruction. I read an article in the WSJ about the current economic crisis we are in and he blamed much of the crisis on political correctness in corporate board rooms. Strategies were posited and although several people in the room realized the risk involved, political correctness kept them from disagreeing with Senior Management. As a result we face the greatest economic challenge since the depression. Furthermore, one has to wonder how much of this political correctness being practiced currently is hindering or slowing our recovery. One thing seems sure: we have not learned our lesson.
Is it any different in the visible church of western culture? Are we not a product of the culture more than we are the product of the power of God's Spirit working in us to transform us into the image of Christ? When we have an opportunity to speak up about error, do we? Or would we rather avoid hurting someone's feeling and allow them to continue in error. And when someone does speak up about error, what are your immediate thoughts about that person? Do you step back and give the content of their conversation a fair hearing and assessment or do you immediate, in knee-jerk fashion, judge the person to be difficult, overly-critical, and just unattractive? Each of us must examine why we speak up and why we don't. But more than that, we must also examine why we adopt a certain attitude toward others who do speak up. What does the Scripture teach regarding these issues? Should not God's word be our standard? If not, what then is the standard? Moreover, we seem to have adopted the hyper-inidividuality of our hedonistic culture? We no longer think what other believers are doing in their personal lives (to include their doctrine) is any of our business. We think we have no right and certainly no obligation to correct those who are walking in moral failure or holding to outright doctrinal error. Biblically speaking, nothing could be futher from the truth. The situation is even worse than that. There are some people do state their opinion and love others enough to engage in the uncomfortable activity of confronting them in love. This takes real courage in our culture, but much more than that it takes genuine love. It takes biblical love to confront. Satan has played us for fools. He has convinced us that the activity of leaving others to themselves to tend to their own business is actual loving when the truth is that we are all to practice the Christian discipline of submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord. (Eph. 5:21)
The one quality, however, that should beautify every believer and every church, regardless of giftedness or personality, is love. [Strauch, Love or Die, pg. 11]
In Matthew 22:35-40, a lawyer tested Jesus with the question of which commandment is the greatest of all. Jesus answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Wow! Jesus was communicating the high cost of loving God. Actually, Jesus was exegeting the greatest of all the commandments. This commandment leaves no room for autonomy. Moreover, hedonistic philosophy cannot stand up under the pressure of such a radical love for God. The Greek word for all as it is translated here is HOLOS. It's basic meaning is pertaining to the whole, complete, or entire, with the focus on unity.
D.A. Carson says, "From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, "heart," "soul," and "mind" (v.37) are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity." [Matthew, Expositors' Bible Commentary, pg. 464]
Jesus demands not that we partially work God into our lives, loving Him with some of our being. Jesus does not demand part of us. He does not demand that we set up a hard trichotomy between church, family, and work, relagating God to only the area of church. Jesus does not demand some external religious appearance from us where we simply go through the motions of church attendance, adopt bits and pieces of the Christian ethic where it suits us, and talk about Him from time to time under just the right circumstances. Jesus has acknowledged that the greatest commandment of all is for us to love God with the entirety of our very being and essence. God is to become everything to us. We are to meditate on him when we get up, when we go along during our day, when we eat, when we relate to others, and when we lay down to sleep. God is to be our all in all. His word is to become to us all that matters in this life. Pleasing Him is become the single greatest desire of our heart. All our actions and decisions center around the singluar unified purpose of glorifying God in everything we do, everything we say, and everything we are. Anything short of this is not loving God with our entire being.
John MacArthur comments, We can't know Jesus as the Messiah until we surrender to Him. I couldn't know Him as my Savior until I gave up my life to Him. Then I knew. Parading an infinite number of miracles in front of me wouldn't have proved anything. Miracles are beside the point. You will never know whether Jesus can save your soul from hell, give you new life, re-create your soul, plant His Holy Spirit there, forgive your sin, and send you to heaven until you give your life totally to Him. That is self-denial, cross bearing, and following Him in obedience.

Monday, November 30, 2009

More Autonomy: Yes it is that Bad

I have been writing about human autonomy for the last few weeks. I have focused most of my attention on how autonomy emerges in certain movements within the visible church. More specifically I have looked at how autonomy has impacted the emergent church movement. Autonomy shows up in every sin to one degree or another. It is the mother of all sin. Autonomy is the desire to act independently of God’s prescribed will. In other words, autonomy is any behavior that ignores God’s word as the authority for our lives in every area. In movements like the emergent church, this autonomy is demonstrated in a hermeneutic that integrates ungodly philosophies with partially biblical theology creating a new approach to how the Bible is to be understood. This new approach is designed with a pragmatic end in mind.


The idea is that the traditional model of preaching, teaching, discipleship, etc. no longer works in modern culture to attract people to the gospel, and to keep them in the church. A new way of doing church is necessary if the church is to survive. In fact, the EC movement, in many instances, argue that the church has been wrong about the gospel and the Bible all along. For 2000 years the church has misunderstood the gospel of Jesus Christ. The irony of this claim is that it is accompanied by men who assert that anyone who claims to have a sufficient understanding of God and the Bible amounts to assertions of extreme arrogance. So let me make sure I understand this correctly. For 2000 years, churchmen, pastors, and theologians have ALL misunderstood the gospel. Hundreds of tousands of them have been wrong about the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. And that claim is somehow not arrogant, but my claim to understand the gospel, along with millions of other Christians is actually a claim filled with extreme arrogance. Why would anyone claim that the church has had the gospel wrong all along?

The answer can be traced to a desire for autonomy. The desire for autonomy in what we believe and teach and most importantly, the desire for autonomy in how we live is the single greatest motivator for making such a claim. After all, EC leaders have come out endorsing the homosexual lifestyle, denying a literal hell, debunking the penal substitution of Christ, and doing all they can to degrade any and all high views of Scripture. If they can free themselves of this obligation to live according to Scripture, then they are free, just like God, to live their lives as they see fit. This is the same motivation that all godless philosophies have at their core. It is the driving force behind Darwinism. Prove God doesn’t exist and we are autonomous. The EC movement as well as liberalism seek to reinterpret God and Scripture in a way that gets them to the same autonomous status. They become free to order their lives, their business, and their church in whatever way they please. No submission to the authority of Scripture is required. This is because Scripture is not the final authority. Human reason has once again displaced Scripture and now serves as the absolute final authority. The EC might be a number of things; new isn't one of them.

This desire for autonomy and falling into it's traps can happen much closer to home if we are not diligent in our own prayers and studies. We must always remain open and teachable. This requires humility and the crucifixion of pride on a daily basis. I have learned that the only way to avoid the sin of autonomy is to acknowledge my sinful pride and to foster a constant awareness that my sinful nature stands ready at all times to reach for autonomy. This shows up in intellectual sin, and it appears in my daily life anytime I forget to examine my motives for how I am living. Part of my daily prayer is now for God to show me my pride, help me be aware of my autonomous desires, and help me every day to crucify this flesh.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

God is Able

Unto Him
That is able to do
All that we ask or think
Above all that we ask or think
Abundantly above all that we ask or think
Exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think
According to the power that worketh in us
[Paxson's Pyramid - Eph. 3:20]

First of all, God is able. Nothing is impossible with God (Dan. 4:35; Matt. 19:26) There is nothing too hard for the Lord (Jer. 32:17; Gen. 18:14). The Greek word for "the one who is able" is DUNAMENO and it simply means "able or capable." Clearly, without doubt or hesitancy whatsoever, we must affirm in full faith and confidence that GOD IS ABLE! But this does beg the question. What is God able to do?

Second, God is able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever you can ask, God is able to do it. Ask and it will be given to you (Matt. 7:7) Ask for good gifts and God will given them to you (Matt. 7:11). Whatever you ask for Jesus' name God will give it to you (John 14:13). Ask for wisdom and God will give you more wisdom (James 1:5). Do not ask to consume it upon your own sinful, selfish desires. Evil requests will not be answered and requests that are soundly outside the will of God will not be answered. If we pray for God to help us to grow spiritually, He has promised to do this already and He will answer this request. God is able to do abundantly above all that we ask or even think! This word abundantly is translated from the Greek "HUPEREKPERISSOU" and it is the highest form of comparison imaginable, meaning quite beyond all measure! What ever you can think, or imagine God being able to do, He can do more still.

Third, God can do EXCEEDINGLY abundantly above, more than, all that we could ever ask or think! He is that kind of God. Believe it! Because that is the God we serve. He can and He does work in behalf of His people to accomplish His will. When they cry out for help, He saves them! He saves them from sin. He saves them from darkness. He saves them from despair! He saves them even from themselves! Believe it! Not only CAN God do more than we think or ask, He DOES do more than we can think or ask. Believe it!

Fourth, God does these things ACCORDING TO THE POWER THAT WORKS IN US. What power? This hearkens back to Eph. 3:7 where Paul says he was made a minister according to the gift of God according to the working of His power. God's power is at work in us. The very same power that created the universe ex nihilo is present is us, working in us. What is this power doing in us? It is transforming us daily to be conformed to the image of Christ so that we show forth the radiance of His glory to a lost and dying world. The word is a present tense participle, "that which is working in us," speaking of God's power. The present tense indicates this work is continuous. As long as we are here, in this flesh, God's power will be present in us, working in us, transforming, changing us every day into the image of His Son until one final day, we will be changed permanently, forever, given a new body and glorified to walk before Him in a way that is unimaginable! Believe it!

Practically speaking, this is the word of God.  Our role is to accept it as it is, bless the word of the Lord, receive it for the truth that it is, embrace it, and when faced with the temptation to think otherwise, rebuke the adversary for the doubt he seeks to plant. Satan loves it when we doubt God's word. He loves to plant seeds of doubt in our mind and torment us with unbelief. True peace comes only from believing God's word, embracing it for the truth that it is, and resting in it in complete abandon knowing our Father loves us and cares for us.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Autonomy: The MOTHER of All Sin

Introduction
When the Colonies voted to end British rule, leading to the Revolutionary War, what they were actually voting for was autonomy. They were tired of being under British rule without fair and just representation mediating between them and the ruling power. They decided they would dissociate from Britain and pursue a new and better way. No longer would British law rule over their affairs. This is what it means for a government to be autonomous. In addition to this, it means that an autonomous government is sovereign over itself to do with itself as it pleases. It serves no other nation and owes no particular allegiance to any other nation, except through voluntary treaties which it may freely enter into at its discretion.

Webster defines autonomy as, “the fact or condition or being autonomous; self-government; independence; any state that governs itself.” Autonomy then, as the Christian worldview would understand it, is the sinful desire on the part of man to act, think, and behave in a way that is self-governing. We decide how we will conduct our lives, not Scripture. Do we do this directly? Sometimes we do, but most often it takes a much more subtle form as will be explained in the next section. How does this apply to the individual? When God made man (making them male and female), he made them completely and entirely dependent upon Himself. In fact, every created thing is absolutely dependent on God to sustain it. He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). The only being that is not dependent on anything outside of itself is the Triune God. God is absolutely independent. God depends on no one for anything whatever. Any view of God that requires God to rely on anything or anyone outside of Himself is not a biblical view of God. The confusion around the nature of God’s being could easily be cleared up if we preached and taught more systematically through the Bible and took the time to explain the implications of holding to false views of the nature and being of God. These false views can often be traced to sinful thinking connected to our desire for autonomy. This subject will be covered a little later in this article.

The Subtly of Autonomy
Christians, even non-devoted Christians so-called, rarely state overtly that they refuse to obey Scripture. Autonomy often takes a much more subtle form. True, it begins with our desire for autonomy in the first place. But this desire must confront and grapple with the revelation of Scripture. For purposes of this article, I will only deal with those who hold that the Bible is indeed God’s revealed word, perfect and pure and accurate in all that it teaches. How does our desire for autonomy emerge in these circumstances? After all, we all claim to be submissive to Scripture and we believe this is the distinguishing mark of those who truly have placed their faith in Christ. This being the case, the intellect of every believer is affected by the sin nature. As we approach Scripture, our sinful nature (intellect included) will desperately search for methods to interpret the Bible in a way that accommodates our autonomous desires. At this point, perhaps an example is in order.

The homosexual community recognizes the numerous passages of Scripture which address their lifestyle in a very negative light. They react in one of two ways: first, they discount the Bible, arguing that the authors were speaking from cultural bias. However, the more subtle form argues that the Bible isn’t really condemning homosexuality as we know it. What the Bible is talking about is pedophilia. By interpreting the Bible differently, they have now paved the way to have their cake and eat it too. They claim to be submissive to Christ, while at the same time rejecting His commands prohibiting their lifestyle. Thus they approach God not as the only absolute independent being, but they seek to share in that absolute independence for themselves. This is how autonomy subtly creeps into the lives of Christians and damages their spiritual condition. (Note: homosexuals are not true believers). If you think you are exempt from such behavior, perhaps you should reconsider. Without actually thinking I was exempt from this sin, in reality I acted as if I were. And I have since learned that my own sinful desires for autonomy were real, deep, and hurtful to those around me. But were it not for God’s grace and His loving correction, I would be left to condemnation. But this is true of all of us. The desire for autonomy is at the root of all sin. In fact, what makes sin, sin, is that it is the practice of an activity that is independent from God’s will. The very nature of sin is creaturely autonomy.

The War for Autonomy
This can be seen in Isaiah 14:13-14 where Isaiah records, “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Of course this is the record of the great satanic revolt where Satan led fully one-third of the angelic beings in an autonomous revolution against God. Unlike the American Revolution used to introduce this concept, the Autonomous Revolution failed miserably and brought with it eternal, divine wrath for all its participants. The autonomous desires of Satan were manifested in pride. (I am more familiar with the sin of pride than I wish to be). Think about the power and allure of autonomy here. One-third of the angels succumbed to it’s seductiveness. It is that alluring. We must take every measure possible to arm ourselves against it. It intrudes into every part of our lives, seeking to separate us from our God. It manifests itself through various sin of all types and forms. It shows up in pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, false wisdom, sexual desires, anger, bitterness, compromise, false doctrine, unforgiveness, and impurity of all sorts. I could go on and on but you get the point.


Man’s Pursuit for Autonomy
This story begins in Genesis 3. When Satan tempted Eve, he enticed her with the words, “you will be like God.” And this is, after all, the point. Satan wanted to be like God when he led his revolution. And now he is passing off his delusion to God’s creatures. He tells Eve that you can determine right and wrong on your own, apart from God. You can know things, on your own, apart from God. In essence he is telling Eve that she can think and act autonomously, independently from God. This, of course, is easy to see when we examine the morality of society. Moreover, it is not too difficult to see when we examine the philosophies which our culture holds near and dear to its heart. They contradict God and His word at nearly every turn. But once we step into the church, into theology, into hermeneutics (interpreting Scripture), this autonomy becomes much more subtle. It is not as easy to detect. For instance, the Arminian desire for the absolute freedom of the will is borne out of a desire for autonomy. The openness of God view, and the teachings of process theology are the result of autonomous desires. These views do not like the idea that God is absolutely sovereign over all things to include the affairs of man and as a result, they change the nature of God, the nature of sin, the nature of the curse and the nature of man all in an attempt to achieve a degree of autonomy. In the process, Scripture is interpreted in a way that accommodates their views which are borne out of autonomous desires. This, of course, is an ever present threat in our Bible studies. We must be aware of our own evil desire for autonomy at all times. Continuous awareness of autonomous desires is the first step in taking such thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-6).

An Anti-Autonomous Attitude
In hand to hand combat, one of the first lessons you learn is never, ever underestimate your opponent. In terms of autonomy, I have to confess that I have been guilty of doing just that in the past. The result of such a mistake can be devastating to say the least. As I have looked at this fascinating, yet sinful trait of fallen humans, I have been forced to prepare my heart and mind for this battle in a much more deliberate and focused way. For this I am thankful because God’s grace will serve to keep me from repeating this mistake again. What is the best defense then against autonomous thinking? The opposite of autonomy is dependence. We must create an attitude of complete dependence on God. We must rely on Him and His help for all things. When we are making a decision about what we should or should not do, we must depend on God for His guidance. Joshua 1:8 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” This reflects a complete dependence on and reliance in God’s power to lead and sustain us.

We rely on God to keep us from sin. “Your word I have treasured in my heart so that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11) According to BDB (the standard Hebrew lexicon) this word actually means “to keep: a teaching close to oneself, to keep in one’s heart”. When we think of this verse, we have been conditioned to think of Scriptural memorization. But memorizing Scripture does not ipso facto cause us to avoid sin. This teaching specifically impacts our behavior and therefore there must be more to it than rote memorization. It has to do with how we view the teachings of Scripture. If we value or treasure the teachings of Scripture, they will in fact keep us from sinning. This is because we will take the time to study them, understand what is expected of us, and then apply them to our lives. That is to say we will live what we believe the Bible is saying to us. In Romans 12:2, Paul instructs us to “be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Greek word for renewal ‘anakainosis’ appears only twice in the NT. Here and in Titus 3:5. What is Paul actually saying in Romans 12:2? Paul is arguing that the reason we renew our minds is so that we may ‘prove’ what God’s will is. The word ‘prove’ is the Greek word, ‘dokimadzo’ and it means “to make critical examination of something to determine genuineness, to draw a conclusion about worth on the basis of testing, prove, approve, here the focus is on the result of a procedure or examination.” We can only do this through the study of Scripture and the regeneration and illumination of the Holy Spirit. Without the work of the Spirit in our lives and especially in our minds, we cannot possibly renew our minds in the word. If we are renewing our minds, we can then properly understand God’s revelation and as a result, we can apply it to our lives. This will help us avoid the sin of autonomy. But we must take this discipline very seriously. We must be aware of how evil autonomy is. We must understand that we are not exempt from its seductive allure. And we must constantly submit our minds and lives to Christ as we humbly approach His word in an attempt to understand just exactly how it is we are to please Him in this life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Emergent Church and Autonomy - Part II

The Antithesis of Autonomy


In his book, The Drama of Doctrine, Kevin Vanhoozer writes, “
To be or not to be is not the question, nor our choice. We are “thrown into existence,” says Martin Heidegger. We simply find ourselves in a world. We are here, onstage, with many others. Unaided reason cannot tell us why we are here or what we are to do. For existentialist philosophers such as Heidegger, the challenge is to achieve authenticity, which in his view means constantly preparing to play one’s own death scene.” [The Drama of Doctrine, pg. 1]
 The observation is indeed an irresistible one. We are here after all. And someone has some explaining to do. In taking up this explanation, there are basically two very fundamental approaches which may be adopted. The first is called the anthropocentric view. This view is man-centered. It focuses on us. The second is called the Theo centric view. This latter approach is centered on God. It focuses on God as Creator and Sustainer of all that has come to be. Rather than begin and end with man, it begins and ends with God.

Vanhoozer continues,
“Sound doctrine – authoritative teaching – is vital for the life of the church, and hence for the life of the world. Yet in many quarters doctrine is thought to be the problem…The Fault lies less with sound doctrine, however, than with its mishandling, and with a misunderstanding of its nature and purpose.” [The Drama of Doctrine, pg. 3]
 It is too sacred scripture that we must turn to have any hope of understanding the drama of life we all find ourselves in. But this understanding requires outside help. We cannot get there through unaided human reason. We need more information and we need divine intervention in our faculties. We need a new heart and mind if we are to understand the stage upon which we have been thrust. In an article entitled, “Recent Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture” which serves as chapter one in the book, Hermeneutics, Authority, and Scripture, D.A. Carson remarks,
“To some extent we are all part of the problem; and perhaps we can do most salvage something of value from the growing fragmentation by pledging ourselves in repentance and faith to learning and obeying God’s most holy Word. Then we shall also be reminded that the challenge to preserve and articulate a fully self-consistent and orthodox doctrine of Scripture cannot be met by intellectual powers along, but only on our knees and by the power of God.” [Hermeneutics, Canon, and Authority, pg. 48]
At the end of the analysis of any movement lies the age-old question, “what is its opinion on the Word of God?” This always reveals the underpinning of autonomy or the lack thereof. Suffice it to say, this is no less true for the Emergent Church than it is for any other movement under evaluation. I know, conducting evaluations is just another manifestation of arrogance. It is making yet another judgment about someone’s view on a given subject or even their entire worldview. The most ridiculous thing about this statement is not the statement itself (even though it is quite absurd); it is the fact that educated men who have been educated in some of the finest educational institutions (by secular standards of course) in the world are the ones making these kinds of statement. But it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads Scripture. The unregenerate mind has been darkened by the sinful nature (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:18; 2 Cor. 4:4).

The Emergent Church and the Bible

Donald Miller wrote,
“The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not…The mystery is the truth.” [Miller, Blue Like Jazz (from DeYoung and Kluck)]
 Miller asserts language is not sufficient to communicate accurately about God. Christianity is about things which cannot be put into words. Yet Miller continues to write things about God and Christianity demonstrating that, as I like to say, People LIVE what they believe, EVERYTHING else is just noise. John says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained him.” (John 1:18) If Miller is correct and language fails to convey truth about God, then Christ’s work of revealing the Father to us fails. Miller may retort that Jesus revealed the Father to us in His actions. And I would answer that these actions are conveyed to us in the form of language.

Rob Bell writes,
“It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says. We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people. [Bell: Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith]
 It appears Bell desires to replace the authoritative Word of God delivered by Christ with an updated, revised understanding based on the idea of contextualization. We have to decide what the Bible means at this time as if the meaning of Scripture ever changes. In fact Bell implies that time, distance, and culture can all change the meaning of Scripture. And who is it that is making this asserting? It is a man. Bell is the same man who wrote,
“The Bible is a human product…rather than divine fiat.”
 In fact, he writes,
“I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners.”
 It seems that the real objective of the Emergent Church is to remove the Bible as our sole authority for truth and praxis and to replace it with a new system, a new philosophy. This is again the same temptation to behave autonomously.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 clearly tells us that all Scripture is the result of divine activity and therefore is profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Of course it would seem that Bell and Miller would argue otherwise.

2 Peter 3:16 explicitly tells us that people mishandle Scripture to their own destruction. But if Bell and Miller are correct, we should all stay far away from Scripture for fear that we will condemn ourselves. The Emergent Church accuses those who state biblical truth with certain of arrogance. But I cannot think of a more arrogant attitude than to take the autonomous position of making certain pronouncements against understanding God’s revelation.

We are all susceptible to autonomy. It is at the root of the sinful nature. We must face it down every single day. May God grant us grace as we face this daily struggle. But God is faithful (1 Cor. 10:13) not to leave us without help.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Emergent Church and Autonomy - Part I

Introduction
Some people will read the title to this blog and wonder what is meant by the term “autonomy.” Others will not doubt read it and wonder if I am inferring that autonomy is exclusive to the EC movement. It seems best to begin with some basic understandings around this term, “autonomy.” First, Webster defines autonomy as, “the fact or condition or being autonomous; self-government; independence; any state that governs itself.” When the Colonies voted to end British rule, leading to the Revolutionary War, what they were actually voting for was autonomy. They were tired of being under British rule without fair and just representation mediating between them and the ruling power. They decided they would divorce Britain and pursue a new and better way. No longer would British law rule over their affairs. This is what it means for a government to be autonomous. In addition to this, it means that this government is now sovereign over itself to do with itself as it pleases. It serves no other nation and owes no particular allegiance to any other nation, except through voluntary treaties which it may freely enter into.

As you view this word autonomy in relationship to governments, think about how this could also apply to individual human beings. In our country, the one thing we value and prize, above all else, is our autonomy (which we call independence). We are free to pursue the American dream! Now before you get too worried, I am 100% American and I am a full-blooded patriot. I love my country and I value the freedoms we enjoy and I try diligently not to take them for granted. I appreciate those men and women who have died to provide me with this freedom as well as those who regularly leave the comfort of our home to travel to far and distant (not mention dangerous and deadly) places in order to continue to provide us with the freedom we all enjoy. So please do not think I am criticizing my country of the American idea. I may take issue with certain elements of the prevailing philosophies, but such issues are not the subject of this particular post.


The War for Autonomy
First of all, going back to the origin of the very first sin it should be realized that it lies in the desire for autonomy. Think about the nature of autonomy and man’s fascination and obsession with it. Isaiah wrote of Satan’s desires for autonomy in Isaiah 14:13–14 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Of course there was pride involved in Satan’s desire and this too is undeniable. But that pride was anchored in Satan’s desire to no longer serve God but to operate his life and govern himself apart from God. He sought independence from God. And as such he started a revolutionary war in heaven. He was so talented and gifted that he convinced fully one-third of the other angelic beings to join his cause. But these beings also had a problem with autonomy. Can you imagine that? Of all the heavenly hosts, serving in the very presence of God, one-third of them were so desirous of autonomy that they deceived themselves (with the father of liars’ help of course) into thinking they could actually achieve autonomy. Now here this: no creature of God is ever autonomous. Absolute independence only exists in the Triune God.

Herman Bavinck writes, “Thus, being all-sufficient in himself and not receiving anything from outside of himself, he is, by contrast, the only source of all existence and life, of all light and love, the overflowing fountain of all good (Ps. 36:10; Acts 17:25). But this is precisely what fallen humans want. We want to act according to our will, not God’s will. This desire is a cloaked desire for autonomy. Richard A. Muller writes, “Thus, first, God is utterly independent in his being. God is also independent in his power, having received it from no other being and having the capacity to exercise it apart from the will of any other being – no creature, therefore, can alter or set aside his will and power.” God requires nothing from anyone. He is the self-existent, self-sustaining Creator of all that has come to exist. It was this attribute of God that Satan was so tantalized with. He beheld something grand and glorious and wanted it for himself. And the consequences of his pursuit were and are and forever will be devastating.

Man’s Attempt at Autonomy
When God created the universe, the earth, along with all its creatures and man and woman, he said it was very good. But man would soon end this wonderful period of innocence with his own desire for autonomy. Satan’s desire to be like God ended with devastating consequences! Man’s desire for autonomy would end no more successful than Satan’s attempt. Satan told Eve, “You shall be like God, knowing good and evil.” God knows good and evil differently than we do. God determines what is good by His nature. Moreover, anything that opposes God’s will is evil. Man’s desire was and is to be his own independent determiner of what is good and evil, apart from anything in God. Man desires to set up his own standards of right and wrong. The result of this effort was the thrust of mankind headlong into sin. For billions of humans it will mean eternal damnation in an eternal lake of fire separated from God. But it also reveals an incomprehensible grace and a limitless love on the part of God. For it was mankind that God determined to redeem from this state of sin and condemnation.

All sin is the result of an evil desire for autonomy. This naturally leads to idolatry and separation from God. The sin of autonomy, which manifests itself repeatedly in the form of idolatry, is seen in all sin. Idolatry is excessive devotion to or reverence for some person or thing. Ultimately we seek to show excessive devotion to self. We seek to please our own materialistic, intellectual, sexual, hedonistic desires. In so doing, we pursue autonomy and self worship. This shows up in the church in a variety of forms and for all kinds of different reasons. In my next post, I will discuss the EC movement and relate its views and practices to the desire for autonomy. When placed under the magnifying glass of Scripture, will the EC prove that it is nothing more than another cleverly disguised desire for sinful autonomy? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Emergent Church and Authentic Christianity

When the Emergent Church (EC) says it is interested in creating a community of people who are the church as opposed to the idea that the church is a place you go, I think they are on to something. Moreover, when the EC says it seeks to be a community of dialogue where ideas are expressed, shared, and examined, again, I believe they are on to something. When the EC says they seek to create a community of believers that is analogous to our own individual families, where love is expressed and lives are shared, where people have things in common and they know each other more intimately, again, I believe they are on to something.

The Greek word for church is ekklesia. This word appears 114 times in the NT. Of those 114 times, it is translated church or churches 109 times, assembly 3 times, and congregation twice. According to BDAG, the meaning ranges from, a regularly summoned legislative body, assembly, a casual gathering of people, and people with shared belief, community, or congregation. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness His marvelous light.” Peter is not describing a mundane, stuck in a rut group of people here. He is describing something that is new, fresh, exciting, and filled with meaning. This is indeed a wonder to behold. He is not describing a building. He is describing a group of people who have been called and appointed by God to love each other, share with each other, interact with each other, to be the model family for all the families of the earth. Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. (John 13:35) So when the EC says that church is what we are, not a place we go, they are on to something. Where are we when we need each other? We see one another on Sundays, shake hands, extend a few polite greetings, settle in for a few songs, a prayer, a sermon, and perhaps a Sunday school lesson. And then we are back in our own little world, isolated from the rest of the body of Christ for a few more days, or maybe even a week. Each day comes and goes, along with our personal struggles, as we battle our demons and struggle with the everyday, mundane affairs a life. We experience ups and downs. We sin, and we avoid sin. We hurt and we fill joy. But we do it alone, isolated from the rest of the family of God. Maybe we have one person we can call or two, or maybe there is no one. Maybe no one ever calls us. Is this really what God had in mind when He bought us out of this world and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son? It seems to me there is much work to do in the area of building up church families.

Often times a false movement comes along and appeals to the one thing that seems to be missing in the life of the Christian community. And the EC movement isn’t any different from any other movement in that regard. The movement makes a serious attempt to draw on the emptiness that many church attendees feel because of a lack of real, genuine connection with the rest of the believing community. The doctrine in the local church may be sound, even though it may not be taking root because of this lack of community. The preaching may be up to par as far as it goes. The music may be perfectly fine as far as church music goes. But that is just about as far as it does go. And this is where the EC movement picks up where the traditional church leaves off. They offer the sense of family, of community, or vulnerability and so-called genuineness that seems to be missing from the traditional church scene. But this is a dangerous trend. The problem is that people are so hungry for something, for anything that makes them feel like they are connecting, like they are not alone, they will give up much of this doctrinal stuff if only they can have the sense of community and belonging they are so desperate to have. A desperately thirty person will drink anything that resembles water if he/she is thirsty enough.

Authentic Christianity does not ignore doctrine and truth for the sake of community and family. It does not abandon the truth of the gospel, replacing it with an appeal to the desires of the individual, even if those desires are not necessarily sinful per se. Nor does authentic Christianity leave its wounded unattended. A family does not send its members off into the wild blue, never to check on them again. A family does not willfully, knowingly, ignore one of its members when it knows that the member is in pain. The family finds a way to love, to support, and to reach out. But more than this, a family is there to help reduce the chances that one of us may actually find ourselves in the proverbial Lion’s Den in the first place. The church community should know itself inside and out. We should take deliberate steps to know and understand each other. But we don’t. Instead, we leave the parking lot with a critical spirit, judging each other without even knowing each other. We don’t like the way one looks, or dresses, or their education level or lack thereof. One person is not well-spoken and we dismiss them thinking they have nothing to offer. Another person is well-spoken and they are arrogant. We don’t stop to think for a minute that both bring experiences and wisdom that God will use to help balance out the rest of the body. Why don’t we think like that? We also fail to consider that both of these human beings also have their own struggles they must face each and every day. They have victories and pain each and every week. And we have no idea what these pains and victories may be. And sometimes I wonder if we really care. God give us the strength to be authentic in our faith. Let us love truth with passion and be committed to it with every ounce of strength we have. And let us love one another like God loves us. He sent His only Son to redeem us from the evils of sin and darkness and has translated us into His light and love so that now we should walk in truth and love. May God help each of us to re-examine our attitudes and actions and beg God to forgive us for our complacency in these things and give us the strength we need to repent and do something about it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Emergent Church Theology - Where Does One Begin?

One of the most challenging aspects to providing an analysis of the theology that reflects the beliefs of the EC is that a single theological system does not exist within the movement. Theology within the EC is very liquid. The more you try to grasp it, the more is simply passes through your hands. This makes an analysis of such a system extremely difficult. For this reason, I must disclose at the outset, that not every EC proponent agrees with the theological views presented in this discussion. However, I will attempt to treat those theologies that find more widespread adherence among EC proponents than not.

The core doctrines of Christian orthodoxy will be used as the model by which we measure the corresponding views of the EC community. Naturally, the Bible will serve as the sole authority and final standard for determining the truthfulness of the respective theological position. I realize that many EC proponents will reject this approach ‘out of hand’ because it merely pits one interpretation against another in their view. However, it should be pointed out that such reasoning ends in pure agnosticism. If it is true that the best that any of us can ever do is simply arrive at our own subjective truth without having any hope at getting to objective, absolute truth, we are forever lost in a sea of relativism. Objective truth becomes an illusion at which we will never arrive, even if it is does exist. This method for arriving at the truth has never been recognized as Christian, either from the beginning of the church or at any point in the history of the church. If the EC proponents desire to take us back to arguments anchored in Kantian philosophy, the burden to overturn centuries of deeply held religious convictions is squarely on their shoulders. Vern Poythress writes,

“We Submit to God not only our persons but our thoughts. We test our thoughts by submitting them to the standard of who God is and what he thinks. Moreover, we do not find out what God thinks in an arbitrary, willful way that we might choose, by trying to operate autonomously or independently of God. We know God through his revelation of himself in his word.”

It is certainly the case that if a doctrine fails the test of Scripture, obviously it should be abandoned. I know of no one who would argue otherwise outside of those who do not hold to a high view of Scripture. Oddly enough, one of the views that demands analysis is the very view of Scripture endorsed, or not endorsed as the case may be, by the proponents of the EC. The point Dr. Poythress is making is that our knowledge of God comes through revelation. Specifically, it comes through the revelation of Scripture.

Outside of an understanding of the biblical text, our understanding of God is derived from our own individual, personal experiences and rational speculations which are in turn, affected by a sinful nature, and which have no objective basis in reality to draw upon. We are again swimming in a sea of relativism. John Calvin writes,

“OUR wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
Calvin is asserting that our understanding of God and our understanding of man (which is dependent of our understanding of God) are primarily responsible for the integrity and truthfulness of our entire worldview or philosophy of life. Undoubtedly this is true of our theological system as well. Our understanding and knowledge of God is derived through revelation. Therefore, our theological system is also the product of understanding God’s revelation. Frame acknowledges,

“Some people have argued that because our knowledge of God comes through revelation and then through our senses, reason, and imagination, it cannot be a knowledge of God as He really is but only of how He appears to us. In Scripture, reality (God in particular) is known, and our senses, reason, and imagination are not barriers to this knowledge; they do not necessarily distort it. Rather, our senses, reason, and imagination are themselves revelations of God – means that God uses to drive His truth home to us. God is Lord; He will not be shut out of His world.”
All our knowledge of God is the result of revelation. We know God through His revelation in nature or through His revelation in Scripture. The knowledge of God through nature of course is terribly affected by the sin nature. Man knows God, but because he is hostile to God, he suppresses this knowledge of God he has through nature. To arrive at an reliable, trustworthy knowledge of God, two things are required: 1. God must disclose Himself specifically. This He did through the divine revelation in His word. 2. The illumination of the Holy Spirit. Without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, the unregenerate human mind will explicitly suppress God’s revelation in nature as well as twist His revelation in Holy Writ.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hermeneutics to the Glory of God

The Chief End of Man
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the chief end of man is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 11:36) and to enjoy Him forever. (Ps. 73:25-28) Man, as God's creature, owes everything in his world to God. Adam and Eve were created by God, for God. Ps. 150:6 says, Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Robert Duncan Culver writes,
Therefore, since the Scriptures plainly say repeatedly and in various ways that the created order of this planet was designed to bring glory to God and to enhance His reputation, and since mankind was told to populate it, subdue it and rule it as God's vicegerent, each person is not merely personally responsible to express heartfelt acknowledgement of God's glory. [Systematic Theology, pg. 299]
In everything that we do and everything that we are, we are to seek out ways to honor and glorify God. How do we do this? We do this by applying the truth of Scripture to our thinking, our speaking, and our living. Here I want to talk about one aspect of how we apply the truth of Scripture to our thinking. As a reformed Christian, I embrace the biblical doctrine of total depravity. That man's nature has been touched extensively in all parts by sin is taught everywhere in Scripture. How does this fact affect man's intellect? Moreover, how does the fact of depravity affect man's approach to interpreting Scripture? Some would pass over this subject without giving it a second thought. We have been guilty of this in evangelicalism. In the name of scholarship, we allow unregenerate men who did not actually believe the gospel a seat at the table and treat their hermeneutic methodology as if it is just a different approach that we may or may not disagree with. We do this even when the method leads to a wholesale denial of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. This I believe is not only bad scholarship, but is immoral and represents a fundamental failure on the part of scholars and theologians to hold unbelievers accountable for the basics of possessing a genuine faith. If it is determined that a scholar in fact does not possess genuine faith (because he refuses to believe the gospel), then that scholar must be placed on notice along with the rest of the theological community. To treat an unbelieving scholar as if they are a genuine believer allows deception to take root and grow. Moreover, to allow such persons to enjoy a prominent place in academia or the church is a dereliction of duty.

The Fact of Depravity
Vern Poythress points out our need for a redemptive hermeneutic,
Spiritual sickness infects both scholars and ordinary readers. We need a radical remedy: we need to meet God and know him, as Isaiah did. We need to repent as Isaiah did. [Poythress - The Supremacy of God in Interpretation, pg. 2]
Isaiah required cleansing to receive and give the word of God (Isaiah 6:1-13). How could we be any different? The Bible is a supernatural book containing revelation about God which requires the special illumination of the Spirit in order to be understood. A person who does not exhibit the fruit of genuine faith in the gospel should not be given special standing as one who is qualified to participate in a discussion on the matter of biblical hermeneutics. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:12, "Now we have received, not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God." One reason we have the Spirit of God is so that we may be able to understand God's revelation. In fact, Paul goes on to say, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Cor. 2:14) The impact of sin on man's intellect is devastating in terms of understanding God. Man's desire is to pervert the truth about God everywhere he finds it. He cannot understand God's revelation and he is in fact, hostile to it. How could such a man be trusted with a biblical passage? Unregenerate man has a mind that is naturally hostile to God. (Rom. 8:6-8) His mind has been and remains blinded by Satan, the god of this world. (2 Cor. 4:4)

The Impact to Biblical Interpretation
So how does this depravity manifest itself in biblical interpretation? Lets take a look at a very specific example regarding the anti-supernatural bias found in most liberal, rational approaches to hermeneutics. It is presumed by scholars who take this approach that the text of Scripture contains stories about miraculous events that could not possibly have taken place on the ground that they do not take place in our day. Therefore we must deconstruct the text, and contextualize it so that it does not offend the senses of modern, rational humans whose intellects are just too sensitive to believe that such outstanding stories could have literally taken place. What are the consequences to this method and how should we react to those who employ it? Moreover, what should our relationship with these people be? First, such a view destroys the gospel of Christ and leaves Christianity in the ash-heap of superstitions that should have long been abandoned. Paul describes the basics of the gospel in 1 Cor. 15:1-3. Those basics are as follows: 1. That Christ dies for our sins, according to the Scriptures; 2. That He was buried; and 3. That He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. These three accounts of the life of Christ are the gospel of Jesus Christ. To deny any one of them is an explicit denial of the gospel. If you deny the possibility of miracles, you must deny the miracle of the resurrection. Such a denial amounts to simple unbelief. A person who denies the resurrection of Christ is simply not saved. I know what you're thinking. You are thinking that I am guilty of judging. And you would be absolutely correct. I am guilty of judging. But according to 1 Cor. 2:15, there is nothing wrong with judging because Paul says, "He that is spiritual judges all things." What I am not guilty of is the hypocritical judging condemned by Christ in Matt. 7:1. Before you say it isn't your place to judge, perhaps you should look again at 1 Cor. 2:15.  Vern Poythress asks the question,
What basic requirement do we need to meet in order to study the Bible rightly? One thing is needed. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." (Prov. 1:7)
No scholar, regardless of his education, can begin to understand the Scripture correctly without the indwelling Holy Spirit. And this can only take place where there is the presence of genuine faith for it is the Spirit who brings faith to the unregenerate sinner in the first place. So what should we do? We should correct the error when we see it. We should confront unbelief for what it is and not simply treat it as differences in methodology between Christians or scholars. Finally, the Christian or scholar who exhibits this unbelief cannot be treated as if they possess genuine faith once it is determined that they do not. They must understand that you do not personally accept their testimony of Christ because they in essence deny Christ by denying His word. This is not a comfortable thing to do. But Christ never pulled any punches with the religious of His day, nor did His apostles. Why should we be any different? I would be remiss if I did not say that this process must absolutely be bathed in love and humility throughout. We must be loving, humble, but firm and immoveable. It should be kept in mind that I am talking about hermeneutical methodology that leads to the denial of the Christian faith in essence. Great caution and humility must be the order of the day in this area.

The Bully Pulpit and a Culture of Intimidation

On the one side, we have the Christian community, and on the other side, we have the pagan community. The Christian community is made...