Monday, August 30, 2010

Hip-Hop against Heresy

I am not a fan of hip-hop, however this captured my attention.

Forgiveness and Whoredom

Jesus comes to eat at the house of Simon, a Pharisee.  Only one sinner leaves forgiven (Luke 7:36-50).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glory!: The Holy Spirit's Work

This nine-minute video from Worldview Everlasting examines in a stimulating manner how the Holy Spirit works to glorify Christ.  The text is John 16:12-15.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Working for a Living: Can You Earn Your Keep?

The law was given after after the redemption from Egypt had been accomplished, and the people had already entered upon the enjoyment of many blessings of the berith.1  Particularly their taking possession of the promised land could not have been made dependent on previous observance of the law, for during their journey in the wilderness many of its prescripts could not be observed.  It is plain, then, that law-keeping did not figure at that juncture as the meritorious ground of life-inheritance.  The latter is based on grace alone, no less emphatically than Paul himself places salvation on that ground.  But while this is so, it might still be objected, that law-observance, if not the ground for receiving, is yet made the ground for retention of the privileges inherited.  Here it can not, of course, be denied that a real connection exists.  But the Judaizers went wrong in inferring that the connection must be meritorious, that, if Israel keeps the cherished gifts of Jehovah through observance of His law, this must be so, because in strict justice they had earned them.  The connection is of a totally different kind.  It belongs not to the legal sphere of merit, but to the symbolico-typical sphere of appropriateness of expression....Although the demands of the law were at various times imperfectly complied with, nevertheless for a long time Israel remained in possession of the favor of God.  And even when the people as a whole become apostate, and go into exile, Jehovah does not on that account suffer the berith to fail.  After due chastisement and repentance He takes Israel back into favor.  This is the most convincing  proof that law-observance is not the meritorious ground of blessedness.  God in such cases simply repeats what He did at the beginning, viz., receive Israel into favor on the principle of free grace.

Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, 142-144

1 "Covenant" here and following.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Modern Worship without a Praise Band?

One of the brothers at Fine Tuning (the blog for Liturgy Solutions) has posted the first portion of an interesting topic on shaping modern worship without a praise band.  The blog and post are distinctively Lutheran, however, I found that by substituting "Lutheran" with "doctrinally sound" in the text, I could agree almost 100%.  I am looking forward to the follow-up piece.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Free Resources on Biblical Interpretation and NT Theology

I would like to direct everyone's attention to a post at Boston Bible Geeks notifying all about two free resources (with appropriate links):

      1.  Pneuma Foundation has posted Craig Keener's notes on biblical interpretation as given for a class in Africa.
            Available as zip or PDF.

      2.  Biblical Training has posted I. Howard Marshall's book, Pocket Guide to New Testament Theology.

Both of these are worth the price.  (Was that a groan?)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God's Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship through Old Testament Songs, Douglas Sean O'Donnell - Book Review

Have you noticed that some biblical themes are largely absent from modern hymns and choruses?  Do you feel pumped yet somehow empty after singing praise and worship choruses?  There is a reason for both of these and other phenomena within the realm of worship music.  The evangelical church has lost its biblical moorings in hymnody.

Douglas O'Donnell has given the church a needful, scathing analysis of what is being sung and passed off as worship. He does this by analyzing six lesser-used songs in the OT canon in order to build the case that themes common to these are found throughout scripture—Genesis through Revelation.  Those songs are:1

     The Song of Moses: Te Deum of Triumph (Exod 15:1-18)
The Song of Yahweh: An Exodus from Israel's Apostasy [Deut 32:1-43]
The Song of Deborah: A Punctured Temple, a Pouring Out of Joy [Judges 5:1-31]
The Songs in Samuel: The Barren Woman and the Fertile King [1 Sam 2:1-10; 2 Sam 22:1-51]
The Song of Habbukkuk: A Time to Wait—for Wrath [Hab 3:1-19]

The author concludes with his four commonalities, each of which form a chapter in the second section of the book dealing with application. The common themes are:
1. The Lord is at the center; that is, our God is addressed, adored, and "enlarged."
2. His mighty acts in salvation history are recounted.
3. His acts of judgment are rejoiced in.
4. His ways of living (practical wisdom) are encouraged.2
Next, O'Donnell compares 25 classic hymns (CH) with 50 contemporary Christian choruses (CCC) with the idea of comparing them to the four themes above.  His song-selection criteria is somewhat subjective, which he freely admits, but the balance of those songs omitted bore no significant difference.

The first theme is common enough in Christian circles.  Almost every song gives praise to God, Jesus, or Trinity in some form.  The glaring lack is in the last three.  To be sure the themes are present in some small measure but are sorely lacking.  This is a travesty in view of the emphasis the Holy Spirit has taken to ensure they are present in holy writ.  Admittedly, the theme that took me most off guard was joy in judgment.  The author pointed out that this was clearly visible in the Psalms and Revelation but almost completely absent in our hymnbooks.  Christian sensibilities have become so skewed that the Lord's righteous acts have been systematically edited out, and CCC have almost no mention of wrath or judgment.

I have noticed that Christian music is going to the dogs and recommend this book highly as a resource to see the truth and right the course.

1 I use the actual chapter headings adding the appropriate reference.
2 Douglas Sean O'Donnell, God's Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship through Old Testament Songs, (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010), 113.

An interview with the author

Monday, August 23, 2010

Brethren or Building: Which Has Financial Priority?

Let's play a game of "What if?"  Assume your local church has in excess of $25,000 in savings.  What would you do in each true-life scenario?

Scenario 1 – The current building does not suit the current needs.  The facility does not accommodate physically disabled individuals and Sunday School area is tight.

Scenario 2 – The current building is bursting at the seams because of numerical growth.  Soon people may need to be turned away.  Nursery and Sunday School areas are tight.  Adding onto the current building is impossible because of local ordinances.

You are probably thinking to yourself that plans need to be started to move into a new facility in order to allow unfettered growth and ministry.  The main question now is whether to expand and upgrade, or simply build new.  Difficult decisions must be made.  And there is one bit of information common to both churches that may have a bearing on the final decision: they have individuals and families that are financially strapped because of job loss or reduction.  Does that bear weight on the outcome?  Should it?

Let me begin by saying that if you did not consider the financial state of the congregants, you are typical.  When faced with the dilemma of space issues, most would expand the facilities or build new without consideration of the poor among them.  That is simply the state of evangelicalism.  Is it proper?  I contend it is not.  Why does the church spend money on a building and not ease life for any who fellowship in their midst?  Why give money freely to full-time workers and ministries, yet build roadblocks for helping the needy?  Why is there a large budget for children and youth programs, yet a mere pittance for benevolence?  A survey of scripture yields multiple occurrences of commands, encouragements, and admonitions to care for those who deserve it because of their circumstances.  The treatment of widows and orphans especially was used by the Lord as justification for holy, righteous retribution.  My concern is for those who are currently under- or unemployed.  Should not the local church care for its own?  It was certainly true of Israel as Moses delivers the Lord's instructions.

The first command dealt with a triennial occurrence of the tithe (Deut 14:22-29). This tithe was maintained in the local city (rather than traveling to the tabernacle/temple) to assist "the Levite...and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow." While the Levites also received of the annual tithe, the others did not but relied on individuals for daily assistance (Lev 19:9-10).  All that came would be filled and blessed—both giver and recipient.

The second found culmination in the sabbath year (Deut 15:1-11).  Any loans between brethren were considered paid in full in the seventh year.  Americans might look at this of a prime way to use the system to advantage by obtaining a loan and deliberately defaulting. While that is possible, one must remember that Israel was not a credit-driven economy.  It was cash- or goods-driven.  The stigma of debt was great, because no Israelite should suffer as long as he or she was obedient to the Lord's commands (Deut 15:4-5).  Conversely, if the creditor sought to take advantage by not loaning because the sabbath year, Moses explains that such hardening of heart should not be, since the Lord has promised to bless abundantly.  The defaulted loan will be recouped.

The last deals with someone who has sold himself to a fellow Israelite (Deut 15:12-18).  Most likely this indentured servitude would be an arrangement to pay a large debt.  Again, at the end of the seventh year, he or she was not only released from the original debt, but was to be lavished upon by the master presumably to start afresh and not return to poverty or debt.  In the likelihood that the servant loves the master enough to stay permanently, a permanent mark of a pierced ear was given.  The point here being that the servant had necessary care and sustenance.

But what about the church building?
What about it?  Why have it in the first place?  Stop and think for a moment.  Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent building edifices in order to make a name for themselves, lest they be dispersed.1  Maintenance reaches into the thousands per year.  Why incur the expense?  The normal response is something like, "The church needs to meet somewhere.  And how do we accommodate Sunday School and other programs without the space?  Where do we put the praise band for worship?"  All of these questions address a problem, but not the one expected.  The real problem is that the church has moved away from scripture in its practice, to the point that real estate takes precedence over real people.

That just isn't practical.  Every church needs a building.  You need to be out of the elements.  Besides, nobody will come if you don't.
I agree that people need to have some measure of comfort in order to gather together and worship.  What is not required is an extra building being used a small percentage of the week and draining finances.  And this is eminently practical.  Howard Snyder once asked the question, "What would a denomination do that really wanted to become a church with New Testament dynamic?"2  He answered his own question this way:
First, all church buildings are sold.  The money is given (literally) to the poor.  All congregations of more than two hundred members are divided in two.  Store fronts, garages, or small halls are rented as needed. Sunday School promotion and most publicity is dropped.…There is no attempt to attract unbelievers to church services; these are primarily for believers, and perhaps are held at some other time than Sunday morning.3
This quote involved more than was necessary to make the point, but it drives home the uncomfortable reality that 21st-century believers are too comfortable in their church life.  Somebody needs to rattle the cage we call "doing church" to see what pops out.  It might bite back, but some of us need to be bit.  The early church did not have their own buildings for the first 250-300 years of existence, yet they turned the world upside-down.  Today, churches have buildings and they are upside-down.

Let us pray that the local church once again gets its priorities in correct order.

1 If that picture seems familiar, you are correct.  Read Genesis 11:1-9 for a full account of what the Lord thought of those plans.
2 Howard A. Snyder, The Problem of Wineskins: Church Structure in a Technological Age, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1975), 23.
3 Ibid., 23-24.

Explanation, Found It!

This was passed along to me by a friend.  It is too good not to post.

I have often wondered why it is that the conservatives are called the “right” and the liberals are called the “left.”  By chance stumbled upon this verse in the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV)
The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.

Yep, that's it!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Critiquing Beth Moore's Teaching

Beth Moore is quite popular but has come under fire for her allegorization and scripture-misuse.  In the August 18th broadcast of Issues, Etc., Todd Wilken interviewed Ellie Corrow of Concordia Theological Seminary-Ft. Wayne, IN concerning this popular Bible teacher.  The segment runs approximately 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sports Sunday: The Big Show

There are Sundays when it feels just like this.

Living the Sanctified Life

Have you every wondered what it means to live a sanctified life?  Recently, I had been reading Deut 10:12-11:32 and all that God laid out as his will for the life of a typical Jew.  James E. Smith notes the following commands given through Moses:
1.  “Fear the Lord your God” (10:12, 20).
2.  “Walk in all his ways” (10:12; 11:22).
3.  “Love him” (11:1, 13, 22).
4.  “Serve the Lord your God” (10:20; 11:13).
5.  “Keep the commandments of the Lord” (11:1, 8, 13, 22).1
This unambiguous list gives clear direction for the individual.  Each of these is a by-product of the Holy Spirit's sanctifying and enabling work.  Each was within the grasp and ability of an Israelite walking by faith.  As well, the commands were not given without purpose.  The following table illustrates the reasoning and application for obedience:

Commandment Purpose Application
Fear the Lord your God God is sovereign. (10:14) Walk in daily attitude of worship (10:20-22).
Walk in all his ways God chose you. (10:15) Participate in the life of sanctification given to you (10:16).
Love him God is mighty. (11:2-7) Obedience provides strength, so act in that strength. (11:18-25)
Serve the Lord your God God supplies every need. (11:14-15) Enjoy the fruit of life, but do not become arrogant in it. (11:16-17)
Keep the commandments of the Lord God blesses abundantly. (11:10-12) Enter into the fullness of what the Lord has promised. (11:8-9)

At this point it is quite possible someone may be thinking, "But we're not under the Law."  Do you realize that every summary point in the above table is taught by Christ or one of the apostles as applying directly to Christians?  That surprises many, because the liberal and evangelical church groups have bought into the notion that everything before Christ is better left alone as if one might become infected with legalistic tendencies.  Certainly, the possibility exists, but the overriding theme being promoted here is that the God of Moses is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul, Peter, and you.  The difference is that the finished work of Christ has dealt with the issue of sin, and we can walk with freedom in Christ.

There is a consistent recurring theme in the Deuteronomy passage that deserves observation—know God intimately and act accordingly, or as Augustine put it, "Love God and do as you please."  The trick is being filled with the true knowledge of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as revealed in the fullness of the scriptures.  The more we are in God's word and acting on it by faith (i.e. abiding in it), the more we grow in Christ and exemplify the sanctified life.

One might ask, "How much work is involved?"  Actually, there is none.  The Lord promised a life of abundance for those who believed on him.  We are simply abiding in the realm of that promise.  For certain, effort is involved.  Spiritual battles are to be fought.  We are to toil in prayer and the study of scripture.  The Lord does not simply hand us our daily needs.  He has created us for good works that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10), thus working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).

How does one live the sanctified life?  Know the giver of life better through his revealed word, and just live it out.

1  James E. Smith, The Pentateuch, 2nd ed.  (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1993).  Dt 10:12-11:32.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Unity of the Church

I think people forget that to love Jesus is also to love his church, because Jesus himself is described by Paul as being the church, you know.  It's the body of Christ.  And that's because we have an embodied faith.  Our faith is always enfleshed.  And so to say that Jesus is the foundation of the church simply means to say that Jesus is what the church lives out.  It lives out his life.  It lives out his mercy, his forgiveness.  And it is where he is found in the world today.  It is where, if you're looking for Jesus, you find him in his body the church where he is enfleshed in preaching.   He's enfleshed in the sacraments: in holy baptism, in the celebration of the Lord's Supper.   And he's enfleshed in the community where he dwells in the saints and they in him.1

Those are the words of Dr. Arthur Just, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN during the August 10, 2010 broadcast of Issues, Etc.  He highlights a unique bond believers have by virtue of their position in Christ, yet too easily dismiss—Christians must work to live in peace because each is connected to another in an organic union.

Christians have attempted: a) unity in organizations whether denominations, associations, ecumenicism, etc. being based on man-made structures rather than Holy Spirit-inspired structures; and b) unity in doctrine which does more to build up walls of sectarianism than spiritual lives.  The church has a structure.  It is the body of Christ.  It has doctrine.  It is the apostolic doctrine of scripture passed to the church.  So what is missing?  Frank Viola correctly states
The Bible…knows organic unity.  The crucial issue regarding fellowship and oneness is that of inward life.  The core question that ought to govern our fellowship is simply this: Has God received this person?  Does the life of Christ reside in him? (Rom 8:9; 2 Cor 13:5).2
The logical conclusion is that I am to love the brother or sister with whom I have great and serious disagreements.  A great deal of tension is built up in the local body by individuals or families who will not fellowship with other certain people.

How should this situation be addressed when it arises?  Some assemblies have tried to resolve this by telling the more vocal party to leave.  This simply maintains the serenity but not unity.  The body remains splintered.  The better approach is to realign thinking based on the word of God.  Inquire into the grievance.  Determine if it is a biblical error in the church or an error in judgment by a individual/family.  Most likely, it will be the latter and should be handled by the elders.  If the former, it will most likely be buried in the elder meeting.  That is how things usually turn out.  The correct elder response would be to face the issue and move toward change.

What kind of organization does your local church have?  Be honest.  To whom is it tied?  Is it Christ or something less?

1 Arthur Just, "The Church's One Foundation," interview with Todd Wilken, Issues, Etc., 10 August 2010.
2 Frank Viola, Rethinking the Wineskin: the Practice of the New Testament Church (n.d.: Present Testimony Ministry, 2001), 131.

How to Engage in Intentional and Prayerful Theological Study

Over at Cyberbrethren, Paul McCain has posted a Bible study plan that is somewhat unique in that it advocates simultaneous cursory and accurate readings each day.  Most of the steps are common in other study programs, but the total package struck me.  I may try something like this in the future, maybe even adding the apocryphal works as mentioned.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How Are You Principled?

You might think the title is misstated: that it should read "How Principled Are You?"  Such is not the case.  Each person is principled with varying degrees of commitment.  This is asking what those principles are.

Within Christendom there are two competing principles of worship.1  The first is the Regulative Principle.  This is articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith which states:
The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.  But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. (WCF 21.1)
John Frame simplifies and explains the statement well when he refers to it as
the Reformed view of how God regulates our worship and provides that worship is by divine appointment.  Everything we do in worship must be divinely warranted.  And since Scripture is the sufficient Word of God, everything we do in worship must be "prescribed in the Holy Scripture."…In biblical worship, we seek God’s glory, not our own pleasure.  And we have no sure way of determining what pleases God in worship except God’s own revelation of Himself in Scripture.  So Scripture is sufficient to tell us God’s will for worship.  We dare not add to, or subtract from, God’s own Word (Deut 4:2; 12:32; Rev 22:18-19).2
The other principle is known as the Normative Principle.  There is no creedal definition.  It is generally presented as the opposite view practiced in Anglican, Lutheran, etc. churches and stated as in these examples:
Worship can include elements that are not prohibited by the Scriptures.3
"You're allowed to do this thing in church so long as Scripture doesn't forbid it"4
Payne goes onto explain how a great division arose between the extremes.
The dispute arose at the time of the Reformation, and was classically argued out between Richard Hooker (for the Normatives) and the more radical puritans (Thomas Cartright et al., for the Regulatives). The issue at the time was how far one should go in reforming the accumulated Roman Catholic dross of centuries. Given that some things definitely had to go (the Mass, the mediatorial priests, the supreme authority of the Pope, and so on), how far should the razor be permitted to cut? Putting it simply (and I hope not simplistically), Hooker argued that if something was ancient, and approved of by reasonable men, then unless Scripture forbade it, the practice should remain. Cartwright and others argued that this approach did not give Scripture 'enough say', and that practices and forms should only survive the axe if Scripture gave them clear warrant.4
So this begs the question, "With all the feuding going on over the centuries, who is correct?"  The answer appears to be, "Neither one."  Both holding to their positions regularly bring in extra-biblical practice.  Frank Viola points this out when he writes:
Many modern evangelicals have embraced the benighted idea that only those things that are "explicitly commanded" in Scripture are binding.  Everything else can be safely ignored.  Ironically, most who espouse this idea deny it in their practice.

They rigorously defend the importance of having the Lord's Supper on a regular basis, the necessity of baptizing new converts, and the importance of assembling together on a weekly basis.  Yet none of these practices is explicitly commanded in Scripture!5
At this point the reader is reaching for blood pressure medication, scoffing in derision, or pondering quizzically.  Let's face the truth.  Much of what is done in the local church has no biblical warrant.  Two examples are in order.

Order of worship – Every local church has a liturgy whether formal or not.  Everybody who has been part of the group for any length of time understands what is happening and can articulate its meaning and purpose to some degree.  What is the biblical order of worship?  Break bread (1 Cor 11:17-34), and exercise individual priesthood (1 Cor 14:26-33).  How many churches do that today in a scriptural manner (i.e. as outlined in the chapters just cited and those between)?  I can say that, though part of the Plymouth Brethren who come as close as any group, I have neither experienced nor seen it.  Let's face reality: who reading this has ever been in a meeting where "each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation?"  There might be one or two.  In any typical church only the song/band leader has a hymn, only the speaker has a lesson, only during an infrequent testimony time might there be any "lay" worship.

Church discipline – Who is ultimately responsible for administering church discipline and excommunication?  Most people will say the pastor, the elders, or some combination of those groups.  What does scripture say?  Jesus says in Matt 8:15-20 that I am to go, then bring witnesses if necessary, then "tell it to the church."  Paul gives instructions concerning one in grievous sin that "when you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan" (1 Cor 5:4-5).  Who disciplines?  The assembled church does, not just the church leadership.  Are the spiritual leaders involved?  Of course!  There's is the ministry of restoration (Gal 6:1).

It is quite a bit to consider.  We hang onto our ecclesiastical traditions out of fear that releasing the grip of authority will thrust the assembly of God's people into utter chaos.  That attitude speaks volumes for the lack of trust in the Holy Spirit, and correct teaching/training will fix the problems.

So where are your principles?  Are they regulative, normative, or biblical?

1 As used here, worship refers to all that happens at or pertains to a regular, main meeting of a local church.
2 John M. Frame, "The Regulative Principle: a Broader View," n.p.  Online:
3 Aleksander Katanovic, "The Spiritual Law of Worship," n.p.  Online:
4 Tony Payne, "Regulative or Normative?," n.p.  Online:
5 Frank Viola, Rethinking the Wineskin: the Practice of the New Testament Church (n.d.: Present Testimony Ministry, 2001), 60.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What One Thing Would You Change about Seminary?

I found a link to The Gospel Coalition with the title, What One Thing Would You Change about Seminary?  The responses from four current and former seminary professors—two well-known, two not—are interesting and telling.  D. A. Carson, and Jeff Louie give input which maintains the status quo of academic training with some adjustments.  Albert Mohler addresses the attitude of the seminarian.  Richard Pratt gives the most provocative response by noting how seminaries are largely impractical training institutes by dwelling on academics and sacrificing practical application.  Christian ministry training should have the former and but dwell on the latter in a hands-on format.

I like it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Yin and Yang of Shepherding

This was posted from Wretched with Todd Friel.  Both men in the video are pastors.  Matthew Harrison is the newly elected president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, having served previously in the LCMS organization and in local churches.  Ed Young is pastor at Fellowship Church (Southern Baptist Convention) and founder of Ed Young Ministries.

If I was SBC before watching this, I'd probably switch to LCMS.  Just sayin'.

Gracious God, You Send Great Blessings

I have admitted to being harshly critical of contemporary music being produced from Christian songwriters, so to be entirely fair, I offer this song found at Time Out which was penned in 2004 by Gregory Wismar.  I realize that was before the invention of the iPhone, so younger readers of this post will consider the words irrelevant, but the rest of you read, listen, and enjoy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Atheist Fundamentalism

During the August 3rd broadcast of Issues, Etc., Todd Wilken interviewed Alister McGrath on the subject of
Atheist Fundamentalism.  I recommend listening to this analysis of the current popular wave of atheism promoted by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In Whom Do You Ultimately Trust?

Do you think that you have what it takes to get to heaven?  Arnobius of Sicca did not think so.  Here he makes the case that there is nothing upon which we might rest and hazard the attempt at self-righteousness with an expectation of heaven.  Moreover, it is only right to honor Christ for  what he has promised and is alone able to deliver—eternal life.

Seeing that the fear of death, that is, the ruin of our souls, menaces us, in what are we not acting…from a sense of what will be to our advantage, in that we hold Him fast who assures us that He will be our deliverer from such danger, embrace Him, and entrust our souls to His care?…You rest the salvation of your souls on yourselves, and are assured that by your own exertions alone you become gods; but we, on the contrary hold out no hope to ourselves from our own weakness, for we see that our nature has no strength, and is overcome by its own passions in every strife for anything.  You think that, as soon as you pass away, freed from the bonds of your fleshly members, you will find wings with which you may rise to heaven and soar to the stars.  We shun such presumption. and do not think that it is in our power to reach the abodes above, since we have no certainty as to this even, whether we deserve to receive life and be freed from the law of death.  You suppose that without the aid of others you will return to the master’s palace as if to your own home, no one hindering you; but we, on the contrary, neither have any expectation that this can be unless by the will of the Lord of all, nor think that so much power and license are given to any man.

Since this is the case, what, pray, is so unfair as that we should be looked on by you as silly in that readiness of belief at which you scoff, while we see that you both have like beliefs, and entertain the same hopes?  If we are thought deserving of ridicule because we hold out to ourselves such a hope, the same ridicule awaits you too, who claim for yourselves the hope of immortality.  If you hold and follow a rational course, grant to us also a share in it.  If Plato in the Phædrus, or another of this band of philosophers, had promised these joys to us—that is, a way to escape death, or were able to provide it and bring us to the end which he had promised, it would have been fitting that we should seek to honor him from whom we look for so great a gift and favor.  Now, since Christ has not only promised it, but also shown by His virtues, which were so great, that it can be made good, what strange thing do we do, and on what grounds are we charged with folly, if we bow down and worship His name and majesty from whom we expect to receive both these blessings, that we may at once escape a death of suffering, and be enriched with eternal life?

The Case against the Pagans, Book II, cap. 33-34

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Insights on John, Charles Swindoll - Book Review

Well-known Bible teacher and chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, Charles Swindoll, has begun a series entitled Swindoll's New Testament Insights based on his observations from decades of study—here with the gospel of John.

The book is formatted well with chapter divisions at logical turning points in the Lord's life.  Swindoll begins with an introduction of the gospel contrasting it to the synoptic accounts then moves into the biblical text with straight-forward commentary at each paragraph and application ideas at the section ends.  Each section has key terms, graphs, tables, sidebars, and diagrams to help the reader understand the portion being examined.  In his typical homey style, the author shares thoughts from the text itself along with the background of the event.  Finally, interspersed throughout are personal reflections entitled, From My Journal, relating personal experiences related to a passage.

This easy-to-read book will be a good addition to a library in an effort to help less mature believers understand this gospel.  Mature believers will probably find rare nuggets as well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."