I just realized it has been over 1.5 years since I last updated this site. While I keep having good intentions of writing again on this blog, my church, family and work obligations continue to make this impractical. So, rather than leaving it to appear that I have simply disappeared, I thought I should post this update. Everything is fine other than I need 30 hours in each day. I will leave this site up as it still gets a lot of traffic for my reviews of Beth More and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Both of which continue to be insanely popular and insidiously dangerous.
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Can you imagine rejoicing in the destruction of someone’s home? Probably not. Can you imagine making a chair out of the beams so that every time you sit down you will be able to rejoice and be reminded that this person is no longer teaching and preaching their particular doctrine? Well, maybe if the doctrine was particularly heinous. In Iain Murray’s wonderful biography of Jonathan Edwards, there is a record of just such an occurrence:
When it (Edwards’ old home) was demolished to make way for a ‘modern residence’ in 1900, a local author, R. DeWitt Mallary, obtained a chair made out of its oaken beams. ‘As oft as I sit in it,’ says Mallary, ‘I congratulate the world that it has escaped the tyranny of Edwards’s theology.’
Jonathan Edwards was one of the great Christian preachers and theologians of the 1700’s. He was a key figure in one of the greatest revivals that North America has ever seen, the First Great Awakening. He is widely acclaimed as one of the United States greatest intellectuals, and one of his books, The Life of David Brainerd, inspire thousands of Christian missionaries. Yet Mallary rejoiced that Edwards was no longer preaching God’s word and fulfilling the great commission! What was that tyrannical theology that Edwards taught? The doctrines of grace. Gasp!
Now, I clearly believe in vehement debate between true Christians regarding various views that can be considered within the orthodox faith (the nature and use of the sacraments, the understanding of election, the views of the end times). But, heaven forbid that we should rejoice when God’s word and the true Gospel stops being proclaimed. As Jesus himself said, “for he who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50).
This week’s Monday morning prayer comes from Cyprian of Carthage (Northern Africa) who lived and was martyred in the 3rd century:
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Cyprian boldness to Confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Some time ago, I went door-to-door in our neighborhood to advertise a Bible study we were starting in our home. One thing I learned as I knocked on doors was that a large percentage of the people could not even open their doors to talk with me. Why? Because they typically had multiple barking dogs that prevented them from opening the door more than a couple of inches. Conversation was out of the question. Many people never even opened the doors even though I could hear them along with the racket caused by the dogs.
We, as a nation, have become obsessed with our pets. To the point that we cannot talk to people because our animals dominate our households. We have chosen pets over people. To me the statistics are sobering and perhaps even disturbing:
- In 1970 in the US there were 203M people and 67M pets. 33 percent as many pets as people.
- In 2010 in the US there were 309M people and a staggering 164M pets. 53 percent as many pets as people.
- In 40 years, the human population had increased 52% while the pet population had increased 145%!
- The average cost per year for a dog or cat is $600-$900 meaning we spent about $100-$150M on pets in 2010. That is 1/3 to 1/2 of our total charitable contributions for a year.
Imagine for a second that we, as a nation, still owned only 33% as many pets as people (i.e. returned to 1970 levels). This would mean 62M fewer pets and a total savings of $37-55B. That’s billion with a B! Through Compassion International or World Vision you can sponsor a needy child for about $40 a month or $480 a year. That means that we could provide food, clothing and medical care for 78-122M children every year if we in the US just returned to 1970 levels of pet ownership! Let’s write out 122M:
We have chosen pets over people.
That’s right. Knowing your Bible could save you millions of dollars. A trial started in Florida last week in which a supposed psychic is being sued for being a fraud. Allegedly, this psychic has defrauded one wealthy author of $20M. The article states:
“Rose Mark…represented herself as a psychic and clairvoyant, gifted by God to communicate with spirit guides to assist her clients through personal difficulties.” Her services included “Tarot card readings, palm readings, astrology readings, numerology readings, and spiritual readings for her clients.”
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).
Tarot card readings, astrology, fortune-telling and contacting the dead are all an abomination in the sight of God. They cannot be gifts from God. The article goes on to say:
The client “would need to make ‘sacrifices’, usually consisting of large amounts of money (but also at times including jewelry, gold coins and other property) because ‘money was the root of all evil’,” the indictment states.
This covers what is likely the most-often misquoted passage of the Bible. The Bible actually says:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:10).
Money is not inherently evil. Cash, stocks, bonds, houses, jewelry, cars, etc. are just things. They are not inherently good or evil. It is our excessive love of money that is at the root of all kinds of evil.
So, read, study and know your Bibles! It may save you:
Last night on the television at the gym I could see an advertisement for the latest Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes. The large print banner for the ad said:
Win $5,000 A Week “Forever”
Did you notice those quotes around the word “forever”? Why are they there? Because the Publisher’s Clearinghouse folks really do not mean “forever”, but rather “awhile”. Naturally, there were also several tiny lines of legal text across the bottom of the screen that probably spelled out this distinction in detail, but I could not read them.
I am so glad that our promises from God do not come with quotes and legal disclaimers. Can you imagine if 1 John 2:17 was recast in this manner?
…whoever does the will of God abides “forever”.
Putting quotes around “forever” would severally dampen our enthusiasm for God’s promises. Imagine also if the Bible also included very small fine print in the footnotes:
This offer subject to change at any time. “Forever” means a period of time not greater than 120 years or until God decides to change his mind, whichever comes first. Not valid to residents of Rhode Island or Puerto Rico. Non-transferable. All benefits received under this offer will be reported to the IRS and are taxable.
Thankfully, when God says “forever” he really means it. So, we who are in Christ Jesus through faith (alone!) can have assurance of our eternal resting place. We can have assurance that all of our sins are forgiven, not “all” of our sins. We can know that we have peace with God, not “peace” with God.
Today I am again continuing my evaluation of the idea that we can hold up the Bible as being authoritative while rejecting its inerrancy. My review uses an article written by Dr. James Ayers for Presbyterians Today magazine which addressed some Beliefs about the Bible: Yes to Authority, No to Inerrancy. In case you missed my opening, I am not trying to pick on Dr. Ayers specifically, but using his article merely as a foil for my arguments. For previous sections, you can read Parts 1 and 2.
2. Believing in the inerrancy of Scripture commits us to the factual accuracy of individual texts, while believing in the authority of Scripture presses us to know the message of Scripture as a whole (Ayers).
To the first half of that sentence, I would definitely agree. By definition, if the Scripture is inerrant as a whole then the individual texts are also without error. Without error means without error. Now, if the individual texts are not factually accurate, why believe in them? Why believe in something that is not true, but is false? In fact, if you know something is false, it is impossible to believe in it. Think about that for a moment.
Further, if we really do not know what are the true, inerrant individuals letters of Scripture, we then cannot know the words. If the words are in error, then so are the sentences. If the sentences are in error, then so are the paragraphs. If the paragraphs are in error, then so are the books. How then do we determine the message as a whole?
In order to be inerrant, the factuality of a statement has to be able to stand on its own: “The Battle of Gettysburg took place in 1863” is true or false on its own merits (Ayers).
Actually no. There are several underlying assumptions even in this simple statement. First, there is an assumption about the meaning of each of the individual words. The author and the reader must share a common language for the statement to even make sense. And, this is important, it is the author’s definition of the words and the grammar that are important; not the readers. Secondly, there is an assumption that there was only one battle at Gettysburg. Depending upon the level of historical precision and the definition of “battle”, one could argue that there were multiple battles over the course of 3 days. Finally, the year 1863 assumes the Gregorian calendar. There is always, ALWAYS a context to any statement.
Contrast this with Psalm 103:3 telling us that the Lord “heals all of your diseases.” Or Jesus declaring that he “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Or the description of final judgment that tells us “all liars” will end up in the lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 21:8). If the term inerrancy can be applied to these statements, then they can stand on their own, and we can believe with confidence that they are the truth (Ayers).
Ayers arguments here sound suspiciously like the serpent in the Garden of Eden when he said to Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?…You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:1). Did God actually say, that he “heals all of your diseases”? Surely God does not heal all of your diseases, does he? Actually, yes, God does heal all of my diseases. All of them! The timing of that healing may be in question, but God is the ultimate source of all healing I experience in this earthly existence. And, I have his sure promises that this broken body will one day be raised again to life everlasting and free of all disease and pain:
He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence (2 Corinthians 4:14).
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power (1 Cor 15:42-43).
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4).
So, Ayers and Satan both want to cast doubt on the sure word of God. I emphatically respond, “Yes, God did say!” So, although Ayers wants to take the snippet from Psalm 103:3 out of its context and make it stand alone, let’s review Psalm 103:3 in more detail and in its immediate context:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy (Psalm 103:2-4).
If Ayers wants to argue that God does not heal all our diseases, does he also want to argue that God does not forgive all our iniquities, does not redeem our lives from the pit, and does not crown us with his steadfast love and mercy? I doubt it. So, again, we must ask – what is his final authority? It is his own reason and his own ideas about what God must be like. He is the ultimate authority on what Scripture can be believed and what can be rejected; what must be read in context and what must be read out of context. Continuing in his article:
Was Jesus sent only to the lost sheep of Israel? Will all liars be cast into the lake of fire? We may want to quibble at this point and say, “Well, you have to view those statements in their context in order to see what they really mean.” If we say that, we have given up on the doctrine of inerrancy: we have conceded that these verses cannot stand on their own, with their plain meaning to be accepted as the truth (Ayers).
This part made me laugh. Consider Ayers use of Matthew 15:24 which reads:
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).
Is the plain reading of this text that Jesus was only sent to sheep? You know, the soft, wooly four-legged creatures. That is obviously the plain meaning of this text, right? Jesus came to save the lost, wooly four-legged creatures. That sentence could not be more clear. You see, Ayers does not follow his own prescription for interpreting Scripture, because he understands FROM THE CONTEXT of Matthew 15 and the whole Bible that Jesus was really sent to redeem people and “sheep” is just a figure of speech.
We do not, in the least bit, give up the doctrine of inerrancy by evaluating the context. Just the opposite. We need the context to understand the author’s intent and even determine if there was an error in what they wrote. Take the following statement as an example: “The Cowboys were defeated by the Seminoles.”
We cannot know if that statement is inerrant without knowing the context. Is this referring to a military battle or a college sporting event? If it is University of Wyoming Cowboys versus Florida State University Seminoles, then which sport? Football. What game are we talking about? The 1966 Sun Bowl. Without all of this context we cannot even begin to know if the statement is accurate or in error. For the record, it is in error. The Cowboys defeated the Seminoles 28-20 in the 1966 Sun Bowl.
Hopefully today you have become convinced that arguing for factual accuracy of statements outside of their context is a fool’s errand. This is true not only of the Bible, but of all literature including articles written by Dr. Ayers. Also, hopefully you realize that you cannot understand the message communicated by an author without knowing if the statements are true.
Part 4 tomorrow.