Tuesday, September 30, 2008

psychosomatic unity, pt 2

I take 12mg of warfarin a day at 10pm. This is to make up for the lack of Protein S in my blood. Protein S is one of many proteins that regulates Vitamin K in the blood. Vitamin K causes the blood to clot (coagulate).

Due to my deficiency of Protein S my blood has a tendency to clot in a dangerous way leading to deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot) and/or pulmonary embolism (one of the symptoms of “pulmonary embolism” is “sudden death”). So, I take warfarin, an anti-coagulation drug (it is also used as rat poison), to prevent these things from happening.

Last week I wrote about how I had noticed that I was grinding my teeth as a result of getting “lost in my head.” I pointed to that as a reminder that I am a psychosomatic unity. My mind was affecting my body.

I believe I have another example to illustrate that I am a psychosomatic unity (as we all are).

Last Thursday night I ran out of my medicine. I have not taken my medicine in several days. I have repeatedly called my doctor and been assured that a new prescription would be called in right away. They have had three business days and repeated calls from me, yet it has not been called in. If it doesn’t happen in the morning I am going to drive to the clinic and walk right past the authorized access door to the office of my doctor and ask him where my prescription is.

Now, I cannot say that how I have been feeling is definitively connected to what is going on in my body as a result of not having my medicine, but there are a couple of things that I can say. One, I have had terrible headaches. Two, I have been extremely impatient and irritable. Three, it has been difficult to think – even about simple things like phone numbers and where I set my pen.

For instance today I snapped at one friend in anger and I lost control of my ability to hold back tears with another. I could hardly focus at work and found myself to be very irritated and frustrated as I went about my day. In class I argued with my professor about something that was not very important. Then, on the ride home I got really mad at God about the pain I am experiencing. I just want my medicine. Why has it felt like He has been working against me?

The point I am trying to make is that I find it fascinating the way my body can affect my mind, will, and emotions. If I am not feeling well it causes me to lash out at others (which is a lack of love and self-control = sin) and to fight with God.

The Cappadocians say, “That which He did not assume He cannot redeem.”

I thank God that He is redeeming the whole of who I am. He is not just saving my soul. He has promised to deliver my whole being. Until then, however, I am going to have to grow more and more in conformity to Christ. A part of that is going to be a control that does not allow physical pain to cause me to stumble in holiness and faith.

God-Man save me!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 6a (or The Smoldering Stump)

I think many people are familiar with Isaiah chapter 6. You know, it’s the one where Isaiah is in the Temple and he sees Jesus (John 12:41) and then yells “Woe is me!” Isaiah said he had unclean lips and so an angel touched his lips with a burning coal. Then the Trinity said “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (ESV) To which Isaiah replied, “Here am I! Send me!”
...I think Isaiah’s response has often been the theme of missionary commissioning services and the slogan of many evangelistic programs... Isaiah did give a good response to the Lord’s call – one worth emulating.
I think the familiarity with Isaiah 6 stops there. Which is unfortunate because the rest of the chapter gets quoted all over the place in the New Testament in relation to Jesus.
So Isaiah told God that he would go. Then God told Isaiah what he was to say to the people of Israel:
“Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing but do not perceive.”

Why did God tell Isaiah to preach this? The answer is that God wanted Isaiah to:
“Make the heart of this people dull,
and their eyes heavy,
and blind their eyes.”

Dull hearts? Heavy and blind eyes? Why did God want Isaiah to do this? Shockingly, God said Isaiah was to do this:
“Lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Did you catch that? It seems to me that what God was telling Isaiah to do was not very Christlike.
Maybe this is why Isaiah asked, “How long, O Lord?” A good and understandable question for Isaiah to ask. Especially if, or so it would have seemed to me, any amount of time seemed too long for anyone to have to proclaim such a terrible message. If Yahweh’s words weren’t disturbing enough already, look at what He answered to Isaiah’s question about when he could stop:
“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains when it is felled.”

Dang! This sounds like a scene out of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road. What despair and desolation! The Promised Land (which was meant to reflect Eden and image the New Creation) was to become a desolate wasteland “without inhabitant.” Yahweh told Isaiah that he could quit preaching his message once that happened.

But then, at the end of the narrative, there is a strange and mysterious word from God. It is a statement that, in Isaiah’s day, must have pictures the anguish felt over what had occurred and been lost by the people of Israel. But it is a statement shrouded in hope:
“The holy seed is its stump.”
This declaration is about redemption. In Scripture the first mention of redemption comes in Genesis 3 when God told Adam and Eve that He would send a “seed” to save them. What a sense of horror that must have been expereinced by Isaiah when he heard that the seed would be reduced to a burning, smoldering stump. Yet, as the Lord continued to speak, He foretold that “there shall come forth a shoot from the stump” (11:1). He foretold of One who would spring up “like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground” (53:2). There is no drier ground than burned up ground and out of it came the holy seed. Yahweh spoke of the One who would bear “the sin of many” (53:12) and He said that in “that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place, shall be glorious” (11:10).

That seed, that root, is Jesus. Am I just guessing because it sounds like Jesus? No, check out Revelation 5:5-14. Isaiah was proclaiming a message about Jesus.

The third plot movement in the storyline of Scripture is Redemption. Redemption centers around Christ. If that is missed, then the storyline is misunderstood.
The texts for the first two parts (Creation and Fall) are primarily found in the first three chapters of the Bible. Nearly the whole rest of the Bible is about redemption. Thus, I think it will be helpful to first look at redemption as it is promised in the Old Testament and then turn to redemption in the New Testament.

“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,” not of philosophers and scholars
Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
“Thy shall be my God”
The world is forgotten, and everything except God. H
He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels...
Let me not be cut off from him forever! “And this is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ...
- These words were found inscribed on a piece of parchment sown into the jacket of Blaise Pascal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

grind 'em! (or Why I Know I'm a Psychosomatic Unity)

My teeth hurt.

They have been hurting. I figured out why .

I don’t pray enough. I think too much and, apparently, I grind my teeth when that happens.

Once a week I drive to Wake Forest for a night class. I like to drive, but the commute in my truck gives me too much uninterrupted time to think. And really, I have had a lot on my mind. If I’m honest, it’s not just the two hours on Tuesday that I am in my truck that this happens.
The trouble is that the thinking I am doing isn’t of the helpful sort. One of my friends tells me that I get lost in my head. That is kind of what it feels like: lostness. I know from experience that little good comes from it. It is beyond analyzing or thinking things through. It’s more sinister than that.

It’s rooted in a distrust. There are some things that I just don’t want to leave up to God alone. Too often I say that I will trust God to work, but I determine that it is through me that He is going to do it. Thus, I pretend to trust God but I try to take matters into my own hands. I want things to go my way. If they don’t, I want to fix it. If I can’t fix it, I want to figure out where I went wrong. I want to know what I could have done different. I want to know how I can prevent such a thing from ever happening again. And I get lost in my head...

One of my friends, Scott, has recently demonstrated yet again why he is such a dependable friend. It was a rare moment where I verbalized everything that was going through my mind. When I was finally quiet, as we stood in the cool night under the stars, he told me to pray. He told me of his efforts to replace the time that he spent daydreaming with prayer and he challenged me to do the same.

He’s right. I need to pray. My teeth hurt.

*concerning a “psychosomatic unity” – if you take a systematic theology class you will come to a point where you will talk about “man” (anthropology). it is probable that during that point of the class the professor will encourage you to determine if you are a trichotomist (“man” is body, soul, and spirit) or a dichotomist (“man” is body and soul). there is also a chance that this will be built up as a really big decision. well, I like the approach of Anthony Hoekema in Created in God’s Image. he just argued that we should say that man is a “psychosomatic unity.” “psychosomatic” comes from the two greek words for spirit and body. he made the point that we are both physical and spiritual and the two are connected. this is why when I am in mental and spiritual angst I grind my teeth.

the storyline of scripture, pt 5 (or Why I Find it Hard to Believe in a Good & Loving Father)

I think this is a good point to state one of the practical aspects of knowing the storyline of Scripture.

This past summer, on my way to the MU, Chip asked me a rather blunt question after spending a few minutes talking about some spiritual things. As he sat on the bench with Josh outside of Southern 12, he asked me, “So what do you struggle with? What is it for you?” While there is more than one answer to that question, the one that I gave that night was the freshest on my mind. When things do not go my way, it is not difficult for me to become very angry with God. I tend to become very cynical of God’s promise to cause all things to work together for good. I challenge Him asking, “What good is a good that doesn’t feel good? You say you love me, but what good is a love that doesn’t feel like love?” My problem, at times, with God is that His world is really messed up. His world hurts and I don’t like that.

This sort of thinking is familiar to most people. Perhaps it is experienced to varying degrees of intensity, but I think it is the common human experience that life does not always feel good. If God is sovereign, then it certainly seems easiest to blame Him for what happens to us. Why the evil and suffering? For a greater good? Was He not smart enough to figure out a way to accomplish the same good without all the pain?

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov (from The Brothers Karamazov – read it, it’s a Russian novel, so it is long, but it’s worth it) asked, “Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature – that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance – and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell me the truth.” Ivan is not the only one to ask this question. The presence of evil in the world is the one argument against God. If you pay attention to what atheists say, it is the one and only argument that they have against a good and all-powerful God. I think we fool ourselves if we don’t understand at least a little bit where they are coming from.

How will we answer the question for ourselves and for others?

What Scripture says about creation and the Fall is an important part of how one deals with the issue of God and evil. People have differing ways of saying why God allowed man to sin, but the key point of Scripture is that man sinned. Man was placed in a good world and he ate from the one tree that he was told to not eat from. Any answer to the question of evil that does not speak within the storyline of Scripture is going to be a deficient answer. The Christian answer to the question must include Scripture’s account of creation and the Fall. If it does, it will naturally lead into the next part of the Story: Redemption. When the answer leads into the part of the story about redemption then the Gospel is presented. This is how we need to deal with these sort of questions. We have to talk about the Gospel. It is the Spirit by the power of the Gospel that changes lives. Not arguments or answers to objections. Let us answer the objections, but may we do it in a way that leads to the Gospel.

People don’t reject God for intellectual reasons. They might hide behind intellectual objections, but the issue is an issue of the heart. I think this is the point of Psalm 14:1. Denial of God comes from a heart that is opposed to Him. It is a heart that is suppressing the truth that is clearly visible in the world around us (Romans 1:18-23). That heart is changed by the Gospel for it “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

This is a point that I tried to emphasize this summer. While I think there is a benefit to understanding objections raised to Christianity and the answers given to those objections, in the end, the most important thing you can do is share the Gospel. This is why I think a familiarity with the storyline of Scripture is crucial. The Gospel is best understood within the context of the Creation – Fall – Redemption – New Creation metanarrative.

If you can talk about the storyline of Scripture then you have a ready defense for those who question why you believe what you believe. I think it is the best way to think through and respond to challenges like that of Ivan Karamazov. It has proven to me to be helpful is wrestling with personal hurt and disappointment. Yeah, there is evil in the world. Man has a hand in that evil. If I God were to get rid of evil today then those who have not been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb would face His wrath. That day will come. There will not always be evil, but He tarries. He waits, that more may come in...

"'Well, my dear Pangloss,’ Candide said to them, ‘when you were hanged, dissected, whipped, and tugging at the oar, did you continue to think that everything in this world happens for the best?’”
Voltaire in Candide

Monday, September 22, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 4

The second plot movement in the storyline of Scripture is the Fall. The account of this occurs in Genesis 3.

The Fall of Man came as a result of the disobedience that took place in Eden when the man and woman ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In that moment man’s relationship to everything changed. He turned his back on the God who is perfect goodness, perfect holiness, perfect truth, and perfect life. That turn has resulted in all of the evil, pain, and sorrow that we find in the world today.

In judgment of man’s rebellion the Lord pronounced a curse. The curse has resulted in strained relationships, pain, and toil. In Romans 8 the Spirit reveals that the whole of creation was, at the Fall, subjected to futility and placed under a bondage of decay. As he observed this the prophet Jeremiah cried to the Lord saying “How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither?”

John Calvin in his Commentary on Romans wrote, “It is then indeed meet for us to consider what a dreadful curse we have deserved, since all created things in themselves blameless, both on earth and in the visible heaven, undergo punishment for our sins; for it has not happened through their own fault, that they are liable to corruption. Thus the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures.”

The Fall is significant because it explains everything that is wrong with the world. It explains guilt, shame, and death. It explains the origin of evil in this universe. It explains why there is physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. It explains tsunamis, hurricane, terrorism, AIDS, black widows, and roadkill. It is the reason why things are not the way they are supposed to be.

On account of the Fall there is strife in our relationships with others and man's relationship with God has been ruined.

Here’s a few lines from the poets:
“So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thickest slunk.”
“...With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat
Against his better knowledge, not deceived,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan;
Sky loured, and muttering thunder, some sad drops
Wept at completing of the mortal sin
Original; wile Adam took no thought...”
Milton in Paradise Lost: Book IX

“How tides control the sea, and what becomes of me
How little things can slip out of your hands
How often people change, not to remain the same
Why things don't always turn out as you plan

These are things that I don't understand
Yeah, these are things that I don't understand

I can't, and I can't decide
Wrong, oh my wrong from right
Day, oh my day from night
Dark, oh my dark from light
I live, but I love this life”
Coldplay in”Things I Don’t Understand”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

storyline of scripture, pt 3b (or Day to Day Pours Forth Speech)

There are two friends that I regard as the two best writers that I know. One of them, my friend Harrison, just wrote a post about the English countryside. In that post he creatively articulates and captures the good that results from experiencing the countryside. He points to good memories, pleasant smells, and beautiful scenes. Harrison also makes a point of spiritual application at the end of his post. I think it is a great post.

What Harrison has written helps demonstrate the importance of Creation to the Christian understanding of the world. The beginning of the story of the world starts with man surrounded by a good land in which there is rest, peace, and perfect harmony. Delight and pleasure marked life in Eden (and will one day define life yet again). This goodness has been marred by the Fall, but it has not been completely lost. Thus, even today, we can experience a sense of comfort and peace in the created order. The beauty and goodness of what we see and experience can pierce our souls with truth and reality in a way that words often cannot.

The experience of an English countryside is an apologetic tool. Scripture can explain the experience of the countryside in a way that I think naturalism comes up short. As a result, even Sunday drives through the country open up the opportunity to speak about the God who is the good, the true, and the beautiful.

“I looked at all this in great tranquility, with my soul and spirit quiet. For me landscape seems to be important for contemplation...”
Thomas Merton in When the Trees Say Nothing

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 3 (or Why Girls Like Roses)

The first plot movement in the storyline of Scripture is that of Creation. The main account of Creation is found in Genesis 1-2. From that passage I think there are a couple of ideas that should be noted. Already, in one of the posts on the importance of Scripture, I pointed out how the story found in Genesis 1-3 can help explain the world we see. So, I am not going to spend much time on the things I already wrote about, but I do think that there are certain aspects of the story that should not be missed:
God is Lord over all (Genesis 1:1-2). Right from the beginning of Scripture we see that all that we know is known on account of the Lord. He has created and He is sovereign.
The world was created good (Genesis 1:31). This is important as it explains why we have a concept of good things and why we find goodness, pleasure, and joy in this world. The reason why people stop in the middle of the CWR field and take pictures of the setting sun is because the world was created good. The reason a boy will pick flowers for a girl is because the world is good. The reason why it is relaxing to sit under the stars while feeling the gentle rock of the boat as it is nudged by the waves is because God created the world good. While some pose the problem of evil as a challenge to the existence of a good God, I think it should be more often noted that without God it is difficult to explain the presence of so much good in this world.
God made man and woman (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:4-25). Not only did God create man and woman, but He also made them in His image. There are all sorts of implications from this. There is an intrinsic value to being human. The life of a person is worth something. It is also seen that people were made for community, companionship, and love as a reflection of the God who exists in perfect fellowship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” People were made to be together. There is a fellowship to be had with other people and a relationship to be known with God.
Man is to be fruitful and multiply and exercise dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). In the account of Creation we see God placing man in a good and fruitful land. And He set people up to take care of things. The world was meant for people to live their lives on. We were meant to rule as the regent kings and queens of the Emperor-King (as we one day will). In the Garden of Eden we see a harmony and peace in the created order. God placed man at the top of that order. As one continues through the storyline of Scripture it is interesting to see just how often the work of the Lord is connected to how He promises to bless or curse or redeem man’s relationship to the land.
There was a command to be obedient (Genesis 2:16-17). From the beginning there is a demand to live a good life. Obedience meant a life of goodness. Disobedience meant a life that has a knowledge of both good and evil. So, as will continue to be the case throughout Scripture, there are promised blessings for obedience and promised cursings for disobedience.

That’s a look at Creation, next, the Fall...

recommending death by love

Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears have a new book out. I appreciated their book Vintage Jesus and am excited to read this new one.

Check out the website (http://relit.org/deathbylove/) and definitely take the time to watch the video.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 2b (book recommendation)

If you haven’t read G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, then you should try to pick it up. If you know that you will never read the whole thing, then go to a bookstore or a library and read the “conclusion.” I do not believe that you will find it to be a waste of your time. Chesterton skillfully laid out why he saw all of history culminating in Christ. He was a wordsmith...

An excerpt to inspire you to pick it up:

“They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of a gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 2

In summary: the story is all about Christ and, by extension, His kingdom.

How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

The NT says that the OT is about Christ (Luke 24:44-45; John 1:43-51; 1 Pet. 1:10-12).
The Gospels say that they are about Christ.
The Acts speak about the expansion of His kingdom.
The epistles are about the life of those in the Kingdom.
And, finally, Revelation is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1).

So, the Bible is about Christ. The storyline of Scripture is about Christ. If you understand it apart from Christ, then you misunderstand it.

To take it a step further...

The story of all of history is about Christ. He is the center of all things. He is the reason that everything exists and He is the point of all history. All things find their meaning in Christ. I do not believe that there is anything in the world that can be rightly understood apart from how it is related to Christ. There is not anything, whether in Scripture or in the world, that does not either testify to Christ or testify to the need for Christ. Even our own individual end is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

It is all about Him. Apparently the plan has always been “to unite all things in Him” (Eph. 1:10). Everything is made through Him and made for Him (Col. 1:16-17).

And I’ll be daggum if it doesn’t excite me to be adopted as a son and made co-heir with the heir of all things...

Dr. Russell Moore made the statement that “Every text of Scripture – Old or New Testaments – is thus about Jesus, precisely because, at the end of the day, everything in reality is about Jesus. Why is there something instead of nothing? Why are human beings religious? Why do people want food and water and sex and community? Why are there galaxies and quasars and blue whales and local churches? God is creating all that is for His heir, for the glory of Jesus Christ. When you see through Jesus, you see the interpretive grid through which all of reality makes sense.”

I think that’s a good statement.

Friday, September 5, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 1

I plan to next work through the topic of the Storyline of Scripture (Creation – Fall – Redemption – New Creation). This past summer in GSBS we covered this early because I think it is foundational to shaping how one thinks through things biblically. I remember that there was an apprehensive air as we began the study. It was at night and we didn’t start until late in the evening. I told the guys that we were going to cover the whole Bible. We prayed and I told them to open their Bibles. Anywhere was fine, because we would be covering it. There were some nervous laughs (thanks guys) and we jumped in. All summer I kicked myself for not starting the way I had intended. I had meant to direct everyone to the tattoos on Chip’s left arm as we began our study of the Storyline of Scripture...

There is a benefit to understanding the big picture when trying to rightly interpret and apply any given part of Scripture. It adds depth to meaning. In the same way that I understand old episodes of Lost better after having seen the most recent episodes, so also I can pick up on things in Scripture when I go back through it as I grow in my understanding of the overall plot.

I have also found that knowing God’s overall plan helps me trust Him with what He is doing with my life. To be certain, I fail to trust Him often, but there are times when I am reminded that there is something bigger going on here than just what I want.

While I would maybe like to claim that my thinking on this is purely the result of the illumination of the Spirit as I have studied the Word extensively apart from any other outside help... I can’t truthfully make that claim. My professors Greg Harris and Stephen J. Wellum both had a tremendous impact on my thinking here. So, thanks to them. Also, According to Plan and Part III of The Gospel-Centered Hermeneutic, both by Graeme Goldsworthy were two helpful resources. I don’t think they are books that you would regret reading...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

you didn't get to heaven, but you made it close...

If you aren't going to be able to make it to a Coldplay concert this year, let me direct your attention to a pretty cool recording from the BBC Radio Theatre.

It's here.

It may not be there after Saturday, so eat it up while you can...

If you are wondering how I could think that this post would point anyone to Christ, well, then you probably don't know me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

closing thoughts on the importance of scripture

There is a song by David Lee Murphy called “Dust on the Bottle.” For a while I thought the song was “Dust on the Bible.” Which, once I realized what the song was actually about, was really funny to consider how I could have substituted “Bible” for “bottle” in the song...

Creole Williams lived down a dirt road
Made homemade wine like nobody I know
Dropped by one Friday night and said can you help me Creole
Got a little girl waitin' on me and I wanna treat her right

I got what you need son, it's sittin down in the cellar
He reached through the cobwebs as he turned on the light and said

There might be a little dust on the Bible
But don't let it fool ya about what's inside
There might be a little dust on the Bible
It's one of those things that gets sweeter with time

She was sittin in the porch swing as I pulled up the driveway
My ole heart was racing as she climbed inside
She slid over real close and drove down to the lake road
Watched the sun fade in that big red sky

I reached under the front seat and said, now here's something special
It's just been waiting for a night like tonight


You're still with me, and we've made some memories
After all these years there’s one thing I've found
Some say good love, well it's like a fine wine
It keeps getting better as the days go by


But, let me say this; don’t let a little dust on the Bible fool you about what is inside. As people who have been redeemed by a bloodied Savior we would be fools to ignore His Word to us.

During my very first class at Southern last August, my professor, Dr. Russell D. Moore, made a statement that stuck with me. He was talking about all the academic challenges we would face in seminary. He stated that it would be difficult and there would be a lot of tedious work. Then he made the remark, “But if you leave here knowing your English Bible you are going to be just fine.” That statement has been a constant reminder to me to not lose the Word in theological studies. If I lose the Word then I have lost life and vitality.

I do not believe it is possible for me to have too much Scripture in my life. It is possible and likely that I might have too little love, passion, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. But I think it is an un-Christlike assumption that is would be possible to have too much of the Bible in my life.

Rather, I think the problem is more often that I have too little Scripture, coupled with love, passion, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, in my life. Certainly it is cause for repentance and a joining with David as he cried to the Father, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, ESV).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

importance of scripture, pt. 3

Here are some questions that were raised:

What would you say to someone who did not believe that the Bible is necessary for the Christian life?
I would want to know how it is that the Lord grows them and speaks to them. What is their foundation for truth? How do they discern what is right and wrong? Who is their ultimate authority? Scripture is necessary to determine truth. God is the ultimate authority and He has determined to speak through His word. If you deny that the whole of His word is authoritative you have set yourself up as the ultimate authority. The Christian life is about life in Christ. That life and experience cannot be had apart from a relationship with Christ. Christ is known through Scripture; thus, it is absolutely essential to the Christian life.

What would you say to someone who argued that rooting the Christian walk in Scripture is dry?
I would want to know what the alternative is. If Christ has stated that His word is life, and if we are told that it is through the Word that our joy is made complete (1 John 1:4), then how can someone rightly claim that to live one’s life rooted in Scripture is dry?

How would you answer the charge that this is Bible idolatry?
To affirm that the Bible is true and authoritative is not to elevate it to God-status. Rather, we affirm that it is true and authoritative because God Himself (whom we respect as the ultimate authority) has said it is so.
Those who charge us with making the Bible an idol do it because we state that the Bible is true. But is it not the case that everyone believes that at least some parts of the Bible are true? If someone affirms a part of Scripture (or even the phonebook) as true are they then equating that with God? No. It is a ridiculous charge, yet it is one that shows up from time to time.

There have also been a number of questions raised about inerrancy. Does Scripture have errors in it? This is a question that I plan to spend some more time on in later posts (maybe after covering the storyline of Scripture).

Monday, September 1, 2008

the importance of scripture, pt. 2

If Scripture is the source of truth by which all reality is rightly comprehended, how do we know that it is true?

When this question comes up I like to give a 3-fold answer. Here it is:

First, I know Scripture is true because it says so. Go on ahead and tell that to the Academy. They’ll love it. But let me say this, if Scripture is true, then it is absolutely authoritative on the basis that its authority is derived from the supreme authority of God Himself. If this were not the case then we would run into a theological problem if the decision of whether or not Scripture is true is left up to an authority other than the ultimate authority of God. If we allow something else to determine the truth of the words that God has declared to be true then we are setting something else up as an authority and judge of the words of the being which we claim has absolute authority. If God is the final authority then His words cannot be subjected to any other authority.
Obviously, this idea is based upon the presupposition that God is the ultimate authority. Some may charge that such a presupposition is illegitimate, but it should be noted that they have zero basis for their presupposition that God is not the ultimate authority. To deny that the Bible is authoritative is to make a judgment on the basis of something other than Scripture. Whatever that “something other than Scripture” might be, it cannot be proven that it ought to be the final authority on the matter. One can only presuppose that it ought to be the final authority. So, in the end the argument that Scripture is true because it says it is true (the argument of self-attestation) is no more or less circular than any other argument about whether or not Scripture is true.

Second, I can see that Scripture is true because its claims correspond to the reality of the world in which I live and experience daily. If truth is that which corresponds to reality then we ought to be able to know at least some things as true on the basis of experience. The test of whether or not something corresponds to reality is a simple test that we intuitively apply to everything. Every time I leave camp I pass a little yellow sign that says “Speed Bump Ahead.” That sign is not true. I know this because the claim that it makes does not correspond to the reality I experience as I take my truck up the drive. I believe this same simple test can be applied to Scripture and that when Scripture is subjected to the test it is found to be true and dependable. I have not heard or seen a better explanation than the one found in the Bible for what I see in the world.
To illustrate this consider just the first three chapters of Genesis. These chapters, probably more than any other, have been ridiculed and too readily rejected by many. But consider how much of what these chapters explain about our world. In it we see the storyline of history as it is explained in the rest of Scripture. There is the Creation, the Fall, the promise of Redemption, and a picture of the New Creation.
Here I find an explanation of why I can see and experience good things in this world. It is because God has made the world good.
I also find an explanation of all the bad that I see and feel. Sin entered the world through man’s rebellion.
I see an explanation of the universal desire for companionship. God said that it is not good for man to be alone. We were made for companionship as a reflection (or to use the biblical phrase “image”) of the perfect community, love and fellowship that is found among the three persons of the Godhead. This is why there are Lion’s clubs, fraternities, bars, and church fellowships. This is also why people feel bad for orphans and widows. It is the reason why solitary confinement is punishment. We were made to live life with others (see also Coldplay’s “Life is for Living”).
In Genesis 1-3 I also see an explanation of why there is a sense of estrangement in the world. If you don’t believe that people feel that way just listen to some music of almost any genre for a little while. We were meant to have good relationships with God and with other people. We get a glimpse of the pleasure of right relationships at times, but we also ache when that is missing.
I also see an explanation of why there is a sense of discontentment in the world. Scripture explains why people just want to get ahead. It explains why a person can be so unhappy with his life that he would take it. It explains why what some call the American dream is a dream that doesn’t bring fulfillment even when it becomes reality. The life that we live is not the ideal that we were created for.
It explains why time seems to slip away. Time flies when we have fun and drags on when we are in misery. We were made for an eternity of good. So, when we experience good we are aware that it is not currently experienced eternally. When we experience bad, it feels like a miserable eternity because it does not resemble that for which we were made.
In the first three chapters of Genesis we have a basis for valuing life. We also see that there is no basis for racism, but we also see an explanation of why it exists. We were made in the image of God, called sons of God, but we have fallen and now our experience is marked by strife and enmity.
There is an explanation of why there is a universal awareness of the divine. It explains why, in spite of their best efforts, atheists have failed to sell people on atheism even as they have sold many on a naturalistic explanation of the origin of man. Man was made to be in relationship to God. When the relationship is not there it is missed. On the basis of Genesis 1-3 it is no surprise that people universally believe in the divine.
There is an explanation of why work is hard, why childbirth is painful, and why there are no perfect families.
There is an explanation of why universally man likes redemption in his stories. If there is no offer of redemption we take note and often find that it irks us. I think Flannery O’Connor (“A Good Man is Hard to Find”) and Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) are two authors who provide excellent examples of this truth. There is a longing within us for at least the offer of redemption. There is an implicit recognition of being fallen in our love of redemptive stories.
In Genesis we see God’s grace and His promise of redemption. Thus, we have an explanation for why hope can exist in such a world as the one we see.

Those are just a few of the things that can be learned from reading the first three chapters of Scripture. The more I read the more I see that the Bible explains human existence better than anything else I have found.

Third, I know Scripture is true by faith. Most people hate this answer, but I think it is the best of the three. It would seem that most people in the world who accept Scripture as true do so on the basis that they believe it is true. Now, I realize that this argument does not settle in most people’s minds that Scripture is true. In fact take any other religious book that claims authority (Koran, Book of Mormon...) and I will reject it as authoritative. Why? Because I do not believe it is true. I believe that the Spirit testifies to the truth of Scripture and it is the Spirit who must bring about a heart of faith for one to believe the truth of Scripture.

Here’s the thing, we all approach things with certain presuppositions and beliefs. The idea of a perfectly objective and neutral person is an Enlightenment myth. I do not believe any amount of proofs or arguments ultimately will convince someone who is, as Romans 1:18 states, suppressing the truth. However, I do think that arguments and proofs can be useful for demonstrating both the rationality of belief, and more importantly, the irrationality of disbelief. This irrational and adamant disbelief should not surprise us. People are not just ignorant or unaware. Rather, Scripture tells us that apart from Christ we were the enemies of God. “Enemy” denotes hostility and opposition. We live as a part of a race of man that is fallen and in rebellion. If men can hear the voice of the Father and write it off as thunder (John 12:23-29), and if men can get up off their feet to arrest the man who knocked them over when He uttered the ancient name of God claiming it as His own (John 18:3-14), and if the soldiers who were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ can perpetuate the lie that His disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-15), it should not surprise us that people today can hear the very word of God read and spoken to them and casually walk away from it.

Thus, I think it would be na├»ve for me to believe that I could win someone over to the belief that Scripture is true through arguments. Rather, I must believe the words of the Scripture that I esteem to be true. I must proclaim the Gospel and see it change lives. Arguments and proofs don’t change lives, but the word of God does. That is why Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:18). So, when I hear someone ask how I know that the Scripture is true I’ll share my three-fold answer. But, I’ll have to realize that the deeper issue is that the one asking needs the Gospel and it is my responsibility to proclaim it. It is Christ through His Word by the working of the Spirit who changes lives. I, and we, must proclaim the Word

That is the good Word. That is the importance of Scripture.