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Posts Tagged ‘Scripture’

From start to finish, Scripture claims to be the Word of God.  We see this in a number of places.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is “breathed out by God” and works in the life of the believer to make him “competent, equipped for every good work.”  2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us that Scripture is not the product of human opinion but the men who wrote it were “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Furthermore, this is the testimony of the Biblical authors themselves.  When we read the creation account in Genesis, we read one phrase over and over and over–“God said.”  The writer (Moses) is not reporting to us his theorys about creation–he is reporting what God has said–the Word of the LORD.  This same idea is repeated again and again throughout the rest of the Bible–what the Apostles and prophets report to us is what the Lord has said.  Over and over again we read the phrase “Thus says the LORD” because the Bible is not a collection of stories but a report of what God has graciously given us through the hands of his servants who wrote exactly what He intended.

This is why Paul could say, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8) because Paul knew that what he had delivered to the Galatians was not mere opinion but the infallible, eternal, unchanging Word of God.

So if this is true, that the Bible is God’s Word, then what do we do with it?

You have two options.  Either accept it as the Word of God and give your life to studying it, knowing it, and applying it diligently to every aspect of your life or reject as God’s Word and face the consequences.

Most people, even many who profess faith in Christ, want to pick a third option that really isn’t an option at all.  Most people want to regard the Bible warmly but spend little time or effort studying it, knowing it, and applying it.  This can be seen in the lives of many in the church who treat the Bible as a burden–something that takes away from their TV time.  Or perhaps another wearisome duty on your “Christian” to-do list.

Consider the Words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. -Jeremiah 15:16

Indifference is not an option in response to God’s Word.  If you treat the Bible as a burden you don’t rejoice in it, you don’t love God’s Word.  God’s Word lays forth for us who God is, therefore if you are indifferent toward God’s Word, you are indifferent toward God.

Consider John’s revelation from God concerning the Church at Laodicea:

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. -Revelation 3:15-16

To be indifferent toward the Bible, God’s Word, is to hate it.  To hate God’s Word is consummate with hating God himself.  This is a terrifying place to be–not because I have said so but because of what God promises in Revelation concerning those who are lukewarm or “indifferent.”  He will spit you out of His mouth!  But it is not to late.  If this is you, cry out to God for mercy and do it now!  Repent, turn from sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!

Maybe you love God’s Word but you know that your love for it needs to be kindled, you know it needs to grow.  Because we are talking about the perfect, inspired Word of God, your relationship to this Word must change.  It must grow.  God’s Word must become more and more of a delight.  What are you doing to treasure God’s Word more.  Maybe you don’t understand much of it–perhaps you need to seek out an older brother or sister in the Lord and ask for help.  There is nothing wrong with needing help, what is not an option is indifference.  God promises terrible things to those who do nothing.

Pour into God’s Word, ask a brother or sister for some accountability in doing so because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mat. 26:41).  Satan and your flesh are working feverishly to keep you out of God’s Word.  Every child of God needs help, we need help from each other and we need help from the Lord to make us like Jeremiah who delights in God’s Word.  We need the Word of God like a newborn baby needs milk (1 Peter 2:2).  The Word of God is not a helpful additive in the life of a believer, it is THE vital nutrient without which we will die.

If all this is true of God’s Word, the scariest thing you can do in response to this blog post is . . .  nothing.

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Over at Challies blog, you can read summaries of each of the sessions of the John 3:16 conference by guest blogger Andrew Lindsey.  So far summaries are available for Johnny Hunt’s opening message, Jerry Vine’s sermon on John 3:16, Paige Patterson’s message on Total Depravity, and an interesting post about the attendance and mood of the conference.

If you haven’t heard, here is what the John 3:16 Conference is all about:

Sponsored by Jerry Vines Ministries, the conference allows some of the Southern Baptists Convention’s foremost pastors to respond to the growing presence of Calvinistic theology in the Convention. “Did Jesus die on the cross for every person? Are believers eternally secure? Can grace be resisted? These and many other questions will be addressed. This conference is not going to be a ‘Let’s bash the Calvinists’ conference. This conference is going to be a biblical and theological assessment of and response to 5-point Calvinism. It will be helpful for lay people as well as preachers.”

Calvinism is certainly growing in the SBC today.  Read these posts to get a feel for what is going on right now in the convention–to see what people are concerned about theologically. I would caution you to read these summaries, as you would anything else, with discernment.

I particularly encourage you to read the summary of Dr. Vines’ sermon with discernment because he discusses a number of Greek words and if you do not know Greek, you might think that some of his arguments deal substantial blows to Calvinism. I feel I can address Vines’ message because he preached essentially the same message at SBTS Chapel which I have listened to.  For instance, Vines makes some very important points for his case based on some very common Greek words like pas (which means “each, every, or all”).  But then he only cites two uses of the word pas to show how it must always mean “all” without qualification.  That is sloppy Greek because pas is one of the most common words in the Greek New Testament.  So to make such an argument convincingly, you would have to show me more than just two instances in the NT.

Vines did not make any attempt to address the more common Calvinistic understanding of John 3:16–that the reference to the “world” refers to God’s purpose for the nations–that God will gather to himself a people from every tribe tongue and nation (c.f. John 10:49-52; Rev. 5:9-10–also by the apostle John).  Instead he apparently just pointed out that some “extreme Calvinists” believe that “world” refers only to the “world of the elect.”  Also I find it interesting that Vines seems to indicate that it is up to man’s will as to whether he believes and is saved and yet he never deals with the preceding context of John 3 in which Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to enter the kingdom, one must be born again–born of the spirit and not of flesh (John 3:1-9).  Let’s ask some very Vines-like questions–does this new birth precede our entering into the Kingdom?  You see the new birth comes then one is granted entrance into the kingdom!

Vines said at one point that he builds his systematic theology off of exegesis of the text.  I have heard Vines say things like this before and he says them to criticize Calvinists who supposedly start with systematics and then throw in some exegesis.  Interestingly enough, I have never met these Calvinists who build their Systematic theology before doing any exegesis.  Someone who builds their systematic theology apart from biblical exegesis is not necessarily a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist, someone who does that is just a bad theologian.  Vines said that when he is preaching from one place in Scripture that people will say, “Vines is a Calvinist,” and when preaching from another passage of Scripture, people will say “Vines is an Arminian.”  There is something wrong with this kind of thinking. What if Vines text was Ephesians 1:1-10?  Or Romans 9?  Or Matthew 11:25-27?  Or John 10:11-30? Or Acts 13:48? Or 2 Timothy 1:8-12?

You get the point.  Calvinism and Arminianism are not compatible at significant points.  You can’t be a “Calvinist” while in Ephesians 1 and an “Arminian” while in John 3:16 unless Scripture is contradictory or beyond our comprehension.  I don’t believe either.  I believe all Scripture is inspired by God for our good (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and its essential meaning is plain.  I think the reason that we often have a hard time with Scripture is not because it is unclear but we are all sinful by nature and our sin has corrupted our understanding.

So here is my point: a Calvinist could preach a sermon on Ephesians 1:1-10 or John 10:11-30 defending unconditional election and limited atonement and Vines sermon on John 3:16 would provide no grounds for objecting to the Calvinists sermon other than potentially serving to cause people to question whether the Bible is contradictory! (As a side note–I don’t get all riled up about defending limited atonement by the way–I would gladly and honestly tell any and every lost person that Christ paid the penalty of their sin if they will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ).

That was more than I should have said.  I just wanted to point out what I feel is an unfair criticism leveled at Calvinists and what could lead to unhelpful understanding of the Bible as a whole.  I greatly respect all the men involved in the John 3:16 conference, from what I know about them, I believe them to be men of God who love Jesus and want to make Him known!  I rejoice that we are of like mind and heart in that endeavor.

I, for one, am not upset that this conference is taking place–if they are really setting out to do what they claim to be doing, then I commend them for it.  I am glad that our convention is attempting to take theology seriously.  Other denominations are discussing whether or not they will have gay pastors or whether or not they believe in penal substitutionary atonement–I am glad that my denomination is discussing the things of God, even if its in a way that I might find suspect at points.

***UPDATE*** Wade Burleson has also posted a worthwhile summary of the first three sessions of the John 3:16 Conference.  Thank you Pastor Burleson for making this important point:

If there is one thing I felt Dr. Vines sought to emphasize, it was that the word “whosoever” in the Greek is the Greek word ‘pas’ which is used 1228 times in the New Testament, and it means “anyone, anywhere, anytime.” It includes “the whole and every part of” the world. Again, I have never met a Calvinist who would disagree [emphasis mine]. The “whosoever” of John 3:16 is modified by “believes,” and “anyone, anywhere, anytime” who believes in Christ has eternal life. The million dollar question is “what causes a man to believe?” The third and final speaker of the night sought to answer that question.

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22 “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23 And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. 24 And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man and man still live. 25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27 Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ 28 “And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! -Deuteronomy 5

There is nothing more important for you to do today than to hear from the Word of the Lord. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Lord, in Jeremiah 23:29 says, “Is not my word like fire . . . and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.” The Apostle James compares the Word of God to a mirror in which we look and who we really are. You cannot truly look into God’s Word and forget who you are (James 1:23-25). Thus when we truly look into God’s Word, we are not only interpreting the Bible, but the Bible is in many ways interpreting us.  God’s Word shows us who were are called to be in Christ. Peter spoke of the Word of God as “pure spiritual milk” and he commands believers to “long for pure spiritual milk like new born babies, so that by it we might grow up to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Thus God’s Word is to be our authority, our spiritul food by which we grow, and the means by which we judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. There is nothing more important for you and I do than to hear from God’s Word.

There is a problem though. Ever since man received God’s Word in the Garden of Eden, man has been doubting and questioning it. Do you remember what the serpent said to Even in the garden? “Has God actually said you shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin, we have been responding to God’s Word with “has God actually said?” In James chapter 4, the apostle James asks the question, “Why are there fights and quarrels among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” You see, ever since the fall our desires and our passions are all messed up. Our greatest desire and passion should be for the glory of God and secondarily for the good of our neighbor, but ever since the fall, when God’s Word comes, we are tempted to say, “has God actually said?” So the apostle James commands us to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and recieve with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). If we are to receive God’s Word, we must do so humbly.

The Israelites were shocked that they had heard the Word of the Lord spoken and lived. They knew from experience and from Moses’ teaching that God was holy and would not allow sinners like them into his presence. They were amazed that they might hear God’s Word and live. The good news of the gospel is essentially this–that you might hear the Word of almighty God and live!  It is impossible to hear this Word and respond in pride. You know why? Because this Word became flesh and dwelt among us and through Him, through the Lord Jesus Christ, we might hear God’s Word and live!

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I was recently asked to be a part of a group blogging project at Said at Southern on David Wells’ new book The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. I volunteered to write a summary and analysis of chapter 2 of the book called “Christianity for Sale.”

The chapter is a critical assessment of the the market-driven direction of many evangelical churches today. Since some of our readers do not read Said at Southern, I thought I would post the article here as well. If you want to comment feel free to do so, but I would prefer that you comment over at S@S so that all the comments are in the same place! Let me know what you think.

Overview

Christianity for SaleI remember the first time I heard the word “evangelical.” I was in high school and had only been a Christian for about a month. I thought the word meant that a church preached the gospel–I was completely naïve to how loaded the term was.

Today the word “evangelical” carries with it a ton of baggage, much of which has very little to do with the gospel. I wish my naïvete had been correct because in today’s market-driven evangelical churches, it seems that the gospel has shifted from the foundation to the periphery. It may or may not be time to throw out the word “evangelical” but evangelical churches certainly cannot hope to bring glory to God if the methods of the market continue to trump those of Scripture.

David Wells calls attention in this chapter to this trajectory and rebukes such evangelical churches for letting the market take precedent over Scripture. What drives the marketers is the idea that “things are stagnating in the evangelical world and the ways of ‘doing’ church in the past won’t work with the newer generation.” Thus, evangelical churches, it is thought, must “change their way of doing business or face extinction.”

Many evangelical churches have turned to the marketing world for answers; it would seem that traditional or liturgical churches have ignored their customers as the way they “do church” has not changed over the years. Marketers, on the other hand, realize that in the business world, the customer is supreme. Indeed, as Wells says, “Customers, after all, are sovereign.” This is why today there are entire conferences for pastors on how to make one’s church more relevant that make almost no mention of doctrine, truth, Scripture, or expositional preaching. Apparently the market is not ripe for truth! Wells’ basic argument is that the “form” of these marketing churches “is actually affecting the content” and when the customer is sovereign, he determines the agenda over and against any other potential sovereign.

Several factors have added to the market-driven climate that much evangelicalism finds itself in. Modernization, the rearrangement of our societies around cities, has contributed along with the rise of the information age in which consumers are confronted with an over-abundance of information. Consumers are buying new products at ever increasing rates and the church has learned to speak the language of the market by offering consumers exactly what they want.

There are so many choices in the market place today that the customer must be treated very delicately–one false move and the customer will take his business elsewhere. This same mindset is taking place in many churches today who are struggling to keep up with the market in fear of losing those who they have marketed the church to. In pandering to the consumer, churches inevitably sacrifice the truth. When churches begin to sweep the hard truths of Scripture under the rug for the sake of getting people into the church doors, these hard truths run the risk of being lost altogether. What use is a seeker-sensitive church that never offers anything of substance for seekers to find?

Wells compares this delicate balance between consumer and customer to parents with disaffected children. These children feel their parents have been cruelly unjust towards them and the parents response is “to back off and take the path that inflicts the least pain.” What these parents fail to see, Wells notes, is that “they are about to be robbed . . . out of their good intentions, space is enlarged around the child, latitude allowed, rules are rescinded, rebukes are stifled except in rare cases, and expectations are lifted.” Despite the parent’s best efforts to give their children space to grow out of such onerous attitudes, the result of such abdication is children who are more onerous and intolerable than ever before.

This is a powerful metaphor because I think Wells is correct–this is exactly what is happening in many churches today. In garnering themselves to the market, churches have actually driven a wedge between the average church member and theology, between doctrine and practice. Wells cites a Barna poll which reports that “in America 45 percent say they are born again but only 9 percent, and maybe only 7 percent, give any evidence of Christian seriousness by way of minimal biblical knowledge for making life’s decisions.” The result of this delicate dance is church members who do not know their Bibles and do not live by them. This is because the world has set the agenda for church over and against the Bible.

Analysis

Although the emergent church movement represents a significant shift in the evangelical church today, I think that the influence of the market-driven churches are much more widely felt. This can be seen in the vast number of mega churches present today-in America in 2005, there were 1,210 mega churches (churches with more than 2,000 members) as opposed to 16 in 1960. This can be seen in Barnes and Noble and Borders when Your Best Life Now competes for position on the best-sellers shelf with the latest Oprah Book Club title.

This can be seen in the disturbing statistics on how many “Christians” in the evangelical world today actually read their Bibles and apply them to their day-to-day lives. This can be seen in churches that have the most up-to-date facilities, all the best technology, and multiple services based on every genre of music but are clueless about what it means to be a member of a local church.

Wells is absolutely correct when he points out that the needs consumers identify for themselves are not their true needs. The true needs of every man, woman, and child are the needs God identifies for them. Indeed, we suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) and “are incapable of being obedient to it (Rom. 8:7).” In other words we need the Lord to change us-we need a revival of Biblical Christianity because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Furthermore, Wells cites a study by Thom Rainer on the unchurched in America that indicates that the people are leaving these market-driven churches because they came to church to hear preaching and to learn doctrine! The death knell of market driven churches is the ever-changing nature of the market.

What good are churches doing if they succeed in getting people into the church but fail to give them anything of substance to which they can commit to? I am all for getting seekers to come to church, but not at the expense of minimizing or eliminating doctrine and the commitment implied in Biblical church membership. If we continue to let the market drive our Christianity, it will inevitably cease to be distinctively and historically “Christian.” You know there is a problem in the evangelical church in America when the preacher of the largest church can tell Larry King that he believes Mormons are Christians and yet there is not a mass exodus of people leaving his church!

The stakes are high, if our churches continue to pander to the market they may for some time continue to draw a crowd, but if in doing so they are sacrificing the truth of the Bible then they have utterly failed at their primary objective. The church’s primary objective is to display the glory of God in Christ Jesus. When the preaching of the cross is no longer the church’s firm foundation, the church will inevitably fail-not by the world’s standards but by the Lord’s. I don’t mean to communicate that we cannot learn anything from the marketing world, but when the market drives our Christianity over and against the Word of God, our evangelical Christianity has ceased to be truly Christian or evangelical. I have not decided whether I am ready to search for a new term to replace evangelical, but I am determined more than ever, to join Wells in preaching Christ and him crucified and letting God’s perfect Word set the agenda for my church. Wells makes a compelling case:

It is time to reach back into the Word of God, as we have not done in a generation, and find again a serious faith for undoubtedly serious times. It is now time to close the door on this disastrous experiment in retailing faith, to do so politely but nevertheless firmly. It is time to move on. It is time to become Protestant once again.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How has the market-driven model affected Churches you have been a part of? (Please don’t name names, share stories but don’t slander anyone)
  2. Can we salvage the term evangelical and still distinguish ourselves from the marketers who have essentially made the gospel secondary?
  3. Am I being too critical? What can we learn from these marketers?
  4. Wells doesn’t lump all mega churches into the category of marketers, how does a mega church (or any growing church for that matter) avoid the inevitable temptation to pander themselves to the consumer?
  5. How ought we to seek to grow our churches biblically?

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I wrote over the weekend about the dialogue on Christianity Today’s website between Tony Jones and Collin Hansen. The dialogue has continued and it’s been alright, though most of the questions being asked are going unanswered in what increasingly looks like nothing more than a good example of charity in conversation between “emergents” and “non-emergents” (if you’ll excuse my categorization). I wanted further clarity on Jones’ view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, which has been a murky phrase in theological circles, especially in the past two centuries.

So on Wednesday, Jones had the following to say:

I’ve been reading some of the young, Reformed bloggers write about our conversation, and one sentiment has stood out. Several have written that my affirmation of God’s sovereignty, the inspiration of Scripture, and the Atonement is not good enough. “What does he really mean?” they ask. “I don’t think he really means what I mean!” So, I ask you, do you think that any affirmation of the historic, creedal beliefs of Christianity by an Emergent will be good enough for the young, restless Reformeds?

I’m not concerned with being appeased. I don’t harbor ill will against Jones and I appreciate his call for epistemic humility to a certain extent. Far too often, both the Reformed and the non-Reformed will attack one another’s positions viciously and it becomes a caricature of what brotherly Christian dialogue should look like. You really see this a lot with the language used in the polemics between Calvinists and Arminians (“they don’t believe in the sovereignty of God,” or “they don’t believe in prayer and evangelism,” etc.).

But simple definition of terms is never too much to ask, especially when you make it a point to be so ambiguous about a great many things and associate with people like Brian McLaren who have some ‘different’ takes on the gospel.

Nor is it too much to ask for clarification if he intends to use that phrase, “the inspiration and authority of Scripture.” The history of the doctrine of inerrancy in the 19th and 20th centuries illustrates this point well.

Many sought to do away with inerrancy, claiming that it was nothing but an overreaction to biblical criticism by American theologians like B.B. Warfield and A.A. Hodge. The late-nineteenth century trial of Charles Briggs by the General Assembly of the PCUSA and the outlandish Rogers/McKim proposal are two cases of this history. What was recognized as ridiculous in the 19th century became established liberal Protestantism’s creed in the late 20th century. They would (and many do today) espouse the “inspiration and authority of Scripture” but they held to bastardized views of inspiration and authority.

As Charles Hodge said in response to Darwinism, “When a drama is introduced in a theatre and universally condemned, and a little while afterward, with little change . . . it is received with rapturous applause, the natural conclusion is, that the change is in the audience and not in the drama.”

Such is the case with modern views against inerrancy and the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. This is important to remember today as the emergent crowd consistently promotes “new” ideas. In reality, many of these views are often re-painted 19th and 20th century liberalism.

So no, Tony Jones. I’m not asking you to affirm any creeds (nor should anyone else for that matter). You can affirm creeds all day long and reserve different interpretations of those creeds. All I’m asking is that you define your terms like any good theologian should. I’m not waiting here to denounce you as a heretic and pounce on any point I see as aberrant. You can hold to whatever view of Scripture you please, just be forthcoming. That’s all.

Epistemic humility? Certainly, but with a dose of conviction please. Clarity must characterize these interactions if there is to any genuine dialogue occurring. I’d like to see genuine dialogue.

For more information on the subjects discussed in this post, read this (where the quotes come from), this, and this. Or you can read a little bit about some of these things here.

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Collin Hansen, editor at large for Christianity Today and author of Young, Restless, and Reformed, is having a conversation with Tony Jones, national coordinator for Emergent Village and author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. I believe Drew is cooking up a review sometime in the future of

Hansen’s book, which I have not read. From the little bit of Jones’ book that I have read, I can say it is very useful for understanding what Emergents believe, though I take issue with the tone of some of his comments towards some great men of the faith (and his caricatures thereof).

The following quote of Hansen is from Day 2 of their dialogue (see Day 1 here), and I found it particularly interesting:

I was encouraged to read that you are committed to the inspiration and authority of Scripture. I was also surprised, because in The New Christians you write that evangelicals are “destined to a life of establishing the veracity of the Bible in the face of contravening evidence and opinion.” You then deconstruct a conservative argument for the veracity of the Bible as an example of “infinite regression,” the futile exercise of foundationalism. How do you evade foundationalism and still affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture?

Even more interesting is the fact that Tony Jones did not answer the question (and successfully dodges another question about the atonement in his reply). I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if the coming days’ dialogue provides us with one. But so what if Jones is committed to the “inspiration and authority” of Scripture? I liked Hansen’s question (and would have liked Jones to answer), but I probably would have taken a step back and asked Jones to tell us what he means by “inspiration” and “authority.” Inspired like Shakespeare was “inspired” or inspired like 2 Peter 1:21 would define inspired?

There Peter describes the “prophetic word” (v. 19) as not being produced by the will of man, “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Paul himself says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 2:16). It should be mentioned that while Paul was referring to the OT in this passage, Peter equates Paul’s writings with Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). Indeed, a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 7 will yield the fact that Paul saw his own judgment to be on par with a command from the Lord (7:12, 25, 40)!! When you hold all that evidence together, along with passages such as Matt 1:22; 19:5, Mark 7:9-13, and Acts 2:16-17 that attribute writings of the OT to the speech of God, then Peter’s assertion that the apostles had the right to author Scripture (2 Peter 3:2) is a profound statement equating their writings with the speech of God.

Suffice to say, the authors of the Bible certainly had a very high view of their writings. I think we should too.

It’s vital that we understand the distinction between:

A) Paul having been inspired to write a general message that contained the overall idea of the gospel.

and B) Paul having written, under the authority and guidance of the Holy Spirit, a work that was both human and divine, in no way compromising the role of either Paul or the Holy Spirit, so that the end product was exactly what God wanted it to be: an inerrant, inspired, and authoritative word.

It’s necessary to demand clarity and erudition in these matters because of the topic at hand. What’s more, how are we supposed to effectively live without meaning in our words? Show me one person who denies meaning in words and I’ll gladly agree that they have nothing meaningful to say.

Now when we say “inerrant,” what do we mean? Paul Feinberg explains it plainly for us:

Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.

I don’t know what Tony Jones means by “inspired” or “authoritative” but I’d like to know, without any fudging of words, what he believes about inerrancy. What you believe about inerrancy dictates what you believe about authority. Is the Bible authoritative for everything or just for faith and practice? If you haven’t thought about this in a while, perhaps it’s time you did. What do you believe about Scripture? Is it a collection of writings that are a good moral guide or is it the “living and active” word of God, “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)?

Voltaire once said, “One great use of words is to hide our thoughts.” Just because two men call something the same thing doesn’t mean that they perceive it as the same thing.

Perhaps we’ll get clarification from Jones, but it’s unlikely. Such issues are often too black and white for emergents of his stripe, but I could be wrong. In this case, I’d love to be wrong.

(HT: JT)

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There’s a new blog in town that posts a new theological word every day to help people keep up with those sometimes confusing words found in textbooks and sometimes on this site. Words and phrases like ‘panentheism’ and ‘open theism.’ I commend it to you all, check it out here.

Not wanting to leave all the fun to those guys, I have to give you all my own theological word of the day. And just to prepare you, this is an original. Yes, that’s correct. I’ve cooked up my own theological term. I’d like to introduce you to ICE-egesis. Now I know it sounds like eisegesis (reading things into the text rather than out of the text, i.e. exegesis), but it’s different. It’s also much more edifying. Let’s face it, eisegesis “ain’t my type of hype” . . . any heresy you can cook up has already been done before. Open theism? “Please!,” say the Socinians. Jehovah’s Witnesses? Arius is turning over in his grave.

So what is ICE-egesis? Let me explain briefly:

The first step of ICE-egesis is that you STOP: Slow down when reading the text. Too often we breeze through the Bible just to get through our daily Bible reading. We don’t slow down and treat the Bible like every word is truly breathed out by God (2 Peter 1:21). So stop, slow down and take it all in. Maybe try and paraphrase each section and focus on getting at what the author is emphasizing.

The second step of ICE-egesis is that you COLLABORATE: Work with the voices of the past in your interpretation of a text. Giants of preaching, exegesis, and theologizing have come before you, believe it or not. Grab a chair and pull up to history’s table to see what others have said. Grab a good commentary or two. Look to see what Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Owen, etc. thought when they read the text. See who the experts today are on the particular text or topic you’re looking at and see what they have to say.

The third and final step follows from the previous two. You have to LISTEN: Whenever reading a text, don’t simply try to figure out what it’s saying about the atonement or justification or God’s sovereignty, etc. Listen to what the text says and let it speak to you. The word of God is living and active (Heb 4:12-13). If it can discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart, then wait for it to do such things to you. Reading Scripture and doing the work of exegesis is quite pointless if you don’t let it speak to you. Too many people wait around for God to give them a “sign” when they really just need to read their Bibles a bit more thoroughly. God speaks through his word, make no mistake about it. Scripture is His enduring revelation to us and we need to pay careful attention to what it is saying to us today.

So when you think about it, interpreting Scripture isn’t as perilously futile as the PoMo obituaries of the author might have you believe.

ICE-egesis: Stop, collaborate, and listen . . . . that’s a sure-fire way to turn a house church into a house party!

Word!!! Ok, I’m done.

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