The Bible: A Perfect Treasure of Heavenly Instruction


We believe the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;[1] that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,[2] and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter;[3] that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;[4] and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union[5] and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions should be tried.[6]

New Hampshire Confession of Faith

The New Hampshire Confession of Faith, a Baptist confession of faith from the 19th Century, begins with this beautiful article on the Scriptures.

I love the phrase “God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter.” A perfect treasure indeed.

Also of interest is the last phrase: the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.

Do we try our opinion, conduct, and creeds by the Bible, or do we try the Scriptures by the standard of our opinions, our conduct, and our creeds?


[1] 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke 16:29-31; Psa. 119:11; Rom. 3:1-2

[2] 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:16; John 5:38-39

[3] Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18-19; Rom. 3:4

[4] Rom. 2:12; John 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 4:3-4; Luke 10:10-16; 12:47-48

[5] Phil. 3:16; Eph. 4:3-6; Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11

[6] 1 John 4:1; Isa. 8:20; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Cor. 8:5; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3:5; Eph. 6:17; Psa. 119:59-60; Phil. 1:9-11

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What Some Conscientiously-Dissenting Christians Think About the SCOTUS Ruling and Why


A great collection of relevant articles on the Court’s landmark decision today from Moore, Piper, and Mohler.

A blog by Adam W. Christman

This morning the Supreme Court handed down their decision ruling on the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage. Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances celebrate this, and quite a few of my friends and acquaintances do not. In my reading today, I have come across a variety of responses within those two streams. There are some Christians who are angry, even vitriolic, over the decision. On the other hand, there are LGBTQ folks and their supporters who do not understand why anyone might be a conscientious dissenter to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

What you will find below is a curated list of articles and a video that demonstrate what I consider good responses from biblical thinkers. I provide short introductions on who each person is and the subject they discuss in their article or video. I will update this list in the days and weeks ahead as more…

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Book Review: A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight


A Fellowship of Differents

The church is increasingly being understood from a global perspective. Looking backwards and summing up his two volumes on church history, Justo González says:

A twenty-first [century] history of Christianity must be global.
…The new narrative must be global both in its horizontal, geographic dimension—covering all lands and peoples—and in a vertical, sociological dimension—acknowledging the faith, the lives, and the struggles of those whose story is too often excluded.
The Story of Christianity Vol. 2, p. 528-29

What González and others such as Philip Jenkins are doing for the history of the church, Scot McKnight attempts to do for the future of the church. In A Fellowship of Differents, McKnight casts a Biblical vision for the church as God intended. So how does he fare?

While his authority on New Testament interpretation, background, and context shines through admirably at times, A Fellowship of Differents is an uneven offering that does not live up to McKnight’s ambition for it. 

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10 Books Every College Christian Absolutely Needs to Read


If someone were to ask me for a book recommendation, there are several factors that I would take into consideration. But if that person was a college student (or college-aged even if they weren’t currently attending a specific school), there would be an even more specific set of criteria that I would apply. You see, college is an incredibly important and formative time in any person’s life. The decisions that you make during this time have the potential to impact the rest of your life and shape your future in very tangible ways. And what you read influences-at least to some extent-how you go about making those decisions.

the ten

So I’ve complied a list of ten books that I would immediately recommend to any and all college students. Wait a second, you might say. TEN books? Isn’t that a bit much? My answer is no: if you just read one book a semester and one during your summer breaks you’d still have to come back for more recommendations from me before you finished your degree! But I’ll limit myself to ten here for now. Before actually getting to the list, a disclaimer and then the set of criteria I applied to this particular listing.

The DISCLAIMER is that I personally did not read most of these books until after completing my four years as a student at CSULB. But I wish I had! So if you are reading this and have already graduated, keep reading! Although the list is aimed at college-age students, it’s still a great list no matter who you are if there are some you haven’t read.

The set of QUALIFICATIONS that I used in selecting the books were as follows. The books had to be:

  • Short/Accessible. No overly technical or academic volumes here. Why recommend something that people might read 10 pages of and lose interest in just because of the form or style of the book and not the content?
  • Comprehensive as a group. The ten books couldn’t all be on one subject. Instead, I tried to compile a list that included fiction, personal finance, theology, and a whole host of other subjects/focuses.
  • Rereadable. A test of how valuable I consider a book’s contents to be is whether or not I would spend time rereading it. There are books that are just worth reading once and there are books worth reading a half dozen or more times. Each of these books on the list I have already reread or plan to reread.
  • Sharable. If you came over to my home and I found out you hadn’t read any one of these books, it’s almost certain that you’d leave with my personal copy in your hand to borrow OR to keep! These are books to buy multiple copies of so you can give them away and bless others with!

So what books made the list? Here they are (ordered alphabetically by author):

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5 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Home” by Marilynne Robinson


home

First with Gilead and now with Home, Marilynne Robinson has cemented her place as one of my favorite authors. I might say a bit more about the book in a future upcoming post, so for now I’ll limit myself to blatantly copying an idea for a blog post I’ve seen elsewhere: sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book.

  1. “There is a saying that to understand is to forgive, but that is an error, so Papa used to say. You must forgive in order to understand….If you forgive, he would say, you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace.” p. 45
  2. “It expresses the will of God to sustain us in this flesh, in this life. Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.” p. 102
  3. “Prayer, you know, you open up your thoughts, and then you can get a clear look at them. No point trying to hide anything. There is a great benefit in anything the Lord asks of us, especially in prayer.” p. 132
  4. “I suspect Scottishness is another name for predestination. It explains everything, more or less.” p. 135
  5. “It is in family that we most often feel the grace of God, His faithfulness. Yes.” p. 183

Who is one of your favorite authors that you’ve been (re?)reading recently? Or a recent discovery you’ve made?

Book Review: Spotlight on “The Scripture Cannot be Broken”


If there’s one thing that’s true about John MacArthur, it’s that he is a man that evokes strong feelings (both positive and negative, depending on who you are and what your experience with him or his followers has been). As a result, you might assume you already know what you’re getting when you pick up a book emblazoned with his name. This is both true and not true of The Scripture Cannot Be Broken.

Scripture

The Scripture Cannot Be Broken is a collection of 20th Century writings on Biblical Inerrancy selected by MacArthur as significant or important enough to be republished together. Correspondingly, the only portion of the book authored by MacArthur is the short introduction.

The essays comprising the rest of the book are divided into sections on:

  1. Historical Perspective
  2. Scripture
  3. Inspiration
  4. Inerrancy
  5. Infallibility

The authors of the various essays include John Murray, J.I. Packer, John Frame, and B.B. Warfield, and the date of the composition of the different essays ranges from 1946 to 1995. The essays vary in accessibility from easily accessible (some are short and/or relatively straightforward) to bordering on opaque (others are quite lengthy and some are so technical they are practically unintelligible to most, the present author included).

A strength of this wide range of the contents is that almost everyone who is even the least bit interested in the topic of inerrancy is bound to find something for them in this book. However, the flip side of this anthology is that few will find every essay contained in the book to be equally relevant, interesting, or even comprehendible. Still, the anthology succeeds in its aim to illustrate that while the questions about the Bible’s reliability are not new, neither are the answers. There is something for everyone in this volume, though not everything is for everyone. 

Five stars for quality and historical importance of the contents, but three stars for the high bar of technical proficiency needed to properly understand and appreciate the contents averages out to a rating of:

4 stars out of 5


John MacArthur ed., The Scripture Cannot Be Broken: Twentieth Century Writings on the Doctrine of InerrancyWheaton: Crossway, 2015. 336 pp. Paperback.

Buy it: Amazon

Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!

Monday Morning Music: “It Is Well With My Soul” by Matt Redman


Matt Redman is easily one of my favorite songwriters. “Blessed be Your Name,” “Our God” (which he wrote but Chris Tomlin arranged), and “10,000 Reasons” are just a small sampling of the many many many songs of his that have significantly impacted me and ministered to me through the truth they contain and the poetic way that truth is expressed.

The most recent song of his that I’ve enjoyed is called “It is Well.” Redman took the chorus from the famous hymn by Horatio Spafford and added new verses and lyrics. I’ve had it on repeat the past couple days and thought I’d share. Enjoy!

“Weeping may come / remain for a night
But joy will paint the morning sky”

Keller’s Excellent Article on the Bible and Same-Sex Relationships


[Update 06/06 2:15 pm: A friend pointed me to Matthew Vines’ response to Keller’s review that I linked to in this post. It’s important to read this too as it seems that Keller has incorrectly ascribed the presence or absence of several arguments/topics to Vines. Both articles make great points and I commend their gracious tone. We’ll see if Keller has any sort of clarifying response.]

Tim Keller recently reviewed Matthew Vines’s God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same Sex Relationships (Convergent Books, 2014) and Ken Wilson’s A Letter to My Congregation (David Crum Media, 2014) on both his website and the gospel coalition website.

books

Keller identifies five main arguments that come from both books and from the larger cultural discussion about homosexuality and the church. These arguments are:

  1. Knowing gay people personally.
  2. Consulting historical scholarship.
  3. Re-categorizing same sex relations.
  4. Revising biblical authority.
  5. Being on the wrong side of history.

In his typical erudite, graceful, and piercingly insightful fashion, Keller deconstructs each argument and shows why they just don’t hold water. Especially astute are his arguments that those who would eisegetically seek to use the Bible to defend homosexuality actually have more in common with those who read the Bible as sanctioning slavery than they might like (neither are supportable by the Scripture and both were universally rejected save for a highly controversial historical moment that never had anything close to consensus) and that the Western narratives of individual human worth and complete freedom of self expression that undergird our culture’s rapidly shifting sexual values are “not self-evident to most societies and they carry no more empirical proof than any other religious beliefs”-that is, they are just as much beliefs as any other system of beliefs.

But don’t take my word for it: it’s worth a slow and careful read. It’s the best article I’ve read all week, and I read a lot of articles (maybe too many…just ask my wife!). Head over to his church’s website to check it out.

Do you find his counterarguments compelling? What about his tone: is it respectful? Does this make you respect him more or less? Sound off in the comments!

Christian: Are You Ready For Exile Stage Two?


Exile Stage Two is coming for Christians. Are you and I ready?

Stephen McAlpine

The Western church is about to enter stage two of its exile from the mainstream culture and the public square. And it will not be an easy time.

In case you missed it, Exile Stage One began a few decades or so ago, budding in the sexual revolution of the sixties before building up a head of steam some 20 years ago. Finally some Christians sat down to talk about it 15 or so years ago, and that set the ball, and the publishing companies rolling.

For those of us in ministry who were culture watchers, Exile Stage One was a heady time.  Only we never called it Exile Stage One. We simply called it “Exile”, and poured over biblical texts such as the exilic book of Daniel and its New Testament counterpart 1Peter.  After all no one ever called World War One “World War One” before World War Two came along…

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Collin Hansen Helps You See “Blind Spots” You Didn’t Know You Have


blind spots

What is the biggest problem facing the Church today? And how should we as Christians respond to that challenge? While we all have different answers to that question, odds are that your answers place you roughly within several streams of Christians: the courageous, the compassionate, or the commissioned. As Hansen says on page 18, “You and I have been conditioned by our various cultures and experiences to hear certain aspects of the gospel more clearly than others.”

Hansen sees these differing emphases as a good thing: the body is made up of many members with different roles and gifts, after all, and these three groups roughly correspond to Christ’s heart (compassion), head (courageous), and hands (commissioned). But they stop being a good thing when we isolate ourselves from each other. That’s where the blind spots come in. Every group has a tendency to ignore or not see as clearly certain aspects of the gospel without help and encouragement from others.

The compassionate struggle to empathize with their critics.
The courageous don’t like truth that makes them look bad.
And commissioned Christians don’t always enjoy the mission when it jeopardizes their lifestyle and preconceived notions about the way of the world. (p. 35)

blind spots
The three groups, their strengths (in yellow), and blind spots (in green).

Blind Spots is a short but powerful reminder that the important thing is not focusing on how other Christians are getting it “wrong” but on focusing on how we can better follow Jesus together. It is not overly academic or technical and is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive look at the issues. Rather, it is a short appeal to examine ourselves instead of tearing apart or ignoring others. “I wrote this book,” Hansen explains, “so you might learn to compare yourself more to Christ than to other Christians. When you and I compare ourselves to Christ, we get unity because we see our sin and forgive one another as God forgave us…[and] your differences will primarily help me test whether I’m missing anything about the character of Jesus.”

I was encouraged and challenged by this book and thankful for the reminder that, as Tim Keller says in his foreword to the book, “it becomes clear that these [courage, compassion, and commission] should be strands in a single cord. Each group goes bad to the degree it distances itself from the others.” Amen. May we bind ourselves closer together and help each other avoid our blind spots instead of distancing ourselves and struggling alone.


Collin Hansen, Blind Spots: Becoming A Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned ChurchWheaton: Crossway, April 2015. 128 pp. Paperback, $12.99.

Read a FREE excerpt

Buy it: Amazon

Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!