Quotable: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Who?


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Can we trust that the Gospels we have in the New Testament accurately represent the earliest of Christians’ beliefs about Jesus? What about claims that there were other Gospels or alternate views of Jesus that—if discovered—would change everything we thought we knew about the story of Christianity?

In a section on historical criticism of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg gives his take:

It is particularly misleading, therefore, to speak of lost Gospels or lost Christianities in ways that suggest that orthodoxy somehow suppressed viable Christian traditions or to claim that history is simply written by the winners….The apostolic tradition prevailed in large part because later, competing options never commanded widespread credibility.

—Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group), 108.

 

Agree or disagree?

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C.S. Lewis on the Value of History


All cultures at all times have had central tenets or values they hold to be fundamentally true and that are so integral to the culture’s beliefs and systems that most people in said culture are not even aware that they are holding these “beliefs that seem to not be beliefs but unchallengable, self-evident common sense” (Keller, Preaching, 125).

Our culture is no different. One such example is our culture’s general acceptance that “we are products of an impersonal universe yet [must] be committed to human rights” (Ibid.). These are not two assumptions that naturally stand side-by-side, yet our Western society has lashed them together with the dual cords of “scientific” and “enlightened” thought.

How do we become aware of such patterns of thought in our own worldview and even begin to evaluate whether or not they are indeed true? The first step is to become aware of them, and an excellent place to begin here is to be an avid student of the past. As C.S. Lewis explains:

…we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in  many places in not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.

-C.S. Lewis, from “Learning in War-Time”

Study the past, then, because of its value in helping to illuminate the blind spots we have today in the present.

7 Quotes Worth Sharing from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis


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“Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” —1 Corinthians  11:1 (ESV)

Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ has a strong claim to be the most-read book ever written aside from the Bible. What The Pilgrim’s Progress is to works written in English, The Imitation of Christ is to everything ever written.

So what’s so special about it? Why have countless individuals over the centuries since its publication treasured it and read it again and again?

Here are seven quotes to give you a taste for yourself of Thomas à Kempis’ classic on the Christian life. I highly recommend it—it’s one I enjoyed,was challenged by, and know that I will reread in the future.

1. Learning Must be Accompanied by Grace and Love

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? …I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? (1)

2. Liberty and joy are incomplete without the fear of the Lord.

No liberty is true and no joy is genuine unless it is founded in the fear of the Lord and a good conscience (18).

3.Christ is the Only One who will never fail us.

He who clings to a creature will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened….Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death; trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help you when all others fail (34).

4. Following Christ entails suffering as well as consolation.

Jesus has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear his cross. he has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him (39).

5. No one (or no thing) is good except God alone.

He who considers anything great except the one, immense, eternal good will long be little and lie groveling on the earth. Whatever is not God is nothing and must be accounted as nothing (79).

6. The Disciple should glory in God alone.

Let Your name, not mine, be praised. Let Your work, not mine, be magnified, Let Your holy name be blessed, but let no human praise be given to me. You are my glory. You are the joy of my heart.

7. It is Grace alone that enables any goodness on our part.

What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?
Let your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Christ Jesus, Your Son.

Making Music with Strings Stretched Tight: Jon Foreman on Life, Death, and Rebirth


When asked today on a reddit thread about personal experiences that contributed to him writing on themes of death and rebirth, Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot, Fiction Family, and solo work fame) had this to say:

I constantly wrestle with the polarity of the human condition- stuck between birth and death. But not just that- we’re head tight in tension between faith and doubt, love and fear, etc… I picture these like guitar strings strung in tension across the guitar.foreman-thumb2

I think the tendency is to run towards one end or the other- or try to alleviate the tension. But maybe our role here is to make music with the tension. Just as a guitar can only play when the strings are stretched tight.

With that in mind, I feel like dying to myself is a daily task necessary for true abundant life.

A beautiful picture of life here and now.

Fellow-Workers in The Great Harvest: Baxter on Matthew 9:37-38


Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest
.”
—Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV)

The harvest is great, the labourers are few; the loiterers and hinderers are many, the souls of men are precious, the misery of sinners is great, and the everlasting misery to which they are near is greater, the joys of heaven are inconceivable, the comfort of a faithful minister is not small, the joy of extensive success will be a full reward. To be fellow-workers with God and his Spirit is no little honour; to subserve the blood-shedding of Christ for men’s salvation is not a light thing.

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—Richard Baxter, in The Reformed Pastor, p. 202.

Do we really believe this? And would we live differently, prioritize different things, and see different outcomes in our lives if so? Hard questions and much-needed exhortation from Baxter to us today.

Can Faith and Reason Truly Disagree?


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There can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who both reveals mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be opposed to truth. The appearance of this kind of inane contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained…or that mere opinions are mistaken for the conclusions of reason.

-The First Vatican Council on Faith and Reason, The Christian Theology Reader, 31.

 

In your experience, have you encountered (both personally and with others) more misunderstanding of dogma or more opinions taken for reason?

Jesus: a Greater Savior


The unsearchable riches of Christ. —Ephesians 3:8

My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words. They are “unsearchable”! You may look, study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Savior than you think He is when your thoughts are at their greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are to sin, more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your needs than you are to acknowledge them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus…Lord, teach us more and more of Jesus, and we will tell the good news to others.

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—Charles Spurgeon, in Evening by Evening, p. 243.

What is Involved in Being a Christian


He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of Redemption, to a view of the purpose of God in creation and history, to a view of human destiny found only in Christianity.

-James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World, 4 as quoted in Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 6.

5 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee


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In Go Set a Watchman, we return along with Jean Louise “Scout” Finch to Maycomb, Alabama. But we, like Scout, discover all is not as we left it when we last were there.

Mini-review:

Time has changed Maycomb, and Scout isn’t so sure she likes what she finds. The reader, too, will be challenged by the change and forced to wrestle with uncomfortable realities. To Kill A Mockingbird has become our culture’s parable of the evils of systemic racism and the honor, nobility, and goodness of one man’s quixotic stand against that system in the name of justice. But can we and can Scout still love the man who steps out of that parable and into our real, flawed, and broken world?

A heavy, heartbreaking, and raw read that asks us to take a look at ourselves and honestly assess what we see.

4 stars out of 5.

Here are five quotes to give you a taste of Scout’s return to Maycomb.

1. Scout wrestles with doubt

…How can they devoutly believe everything they hear in church and then say the things they do and listen to the things they hear without throwing up? I thought I was a Christian but I’m not. I’m something else and I don’t know what (167).

2. Blindness as a major theme for Scout.

Blind, that’s what I am. I never opened my eyes. I never thought to look into people’s hearts, I looked only in their faces (181).

3. Scout’s esoteric uncle on the perils of big government.

The only thing I’m afraid of about this country is that its government will someday become so monstrous that the smallest person in it will be trampled underfoot, and then it wouldn’t be worth living in (198).

4. Atticus and Jean Louise at odds.

JL: Don’t you give me any more double-talk! You’re a nice, sweet, old gentleman, and I’ll never believe a word you say to me again. I despise you and everything you stand for.
A: Well, I love you (253).

5. A man’s conscience is his watchman.

Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience (264-5).

 

10 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Preaching” by Tim Keller


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Tim Keller’s Preaching is another home-run. While perhaps not as life-changing or spectacular as Prayer, this volume is filled with insights and wisdom from cover to cover. The chapter on “Preaching and the (Late) Modern Mind” and the bibliography of the best other books on preaching are each worth the price of the book alone! 

And you don’t need to be a preacher to read it. “This book,” says Keller in the introduction, “aims to be a resource for all those who communicate their Christian faith in any way” (p. 4).

Here are ten quotes to give you a taste of Keller’s manifesto on preaching.

1. The Holy Spirit is critical in preaching

…while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher (11).

2. True and effective preaching must center on Christ.

To preach the text truly and the gospel every time, to engage the culture and reach the heart, to cooperate with the Spirit’s mission in the world—we must preach Christ from all of Scripture (23).

3. To leave Christ out of a sermon is to not finish the task of preaching.

Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can (48).

4. You cannot preach the gospel without preaching Christ.

To preach the gospel every time is to preach Christ every time, from every passage (57).

(sensing a theme, here?)

5. Culture shapes us more than we would care to admit.

It is a mistake to think that faithful believers in our time are not profoundly shaped by the narratives of modernity. We certainly are, and so when you unveil these narratives and interact with them in the ordinary course of preaching the Word, you help them see where they themselves may be more influenced by their society than by the Scripture, and you give them important ways of communicating their faith to others (118).

6. We find our true selves in Christ.

The process of sanctification, of growth into the likeness of Christ, is also, then, the process of becoming the true self God created us to be (139).

7. The gospel is “the right side of history.”

Such will always be the case. The philosophies of the world will come and go, rise and fall, but the wisdom we preach—The Word of God—will still be here (156).

8. Preaching must reach and capture the heart.

What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God….People, therefore, change not by merely changing their thinking but by changing what they love most (159-emphasis added).

9. Preaching can do so much more than just convey information.

A sermon that just informs the mind can give people things to do after they go home, but a sermon that moves the heart from loving career or acclaim or one’s own independence to loving God and his Son changes listeners on the spot (165).

10. End every sermon pointing the listeners to worship Christ

Resist ending your sermon with “live like this,” and rather end with some form of “You can’t live like this. Oh, but there’s one who did! And through faith with him you can begin to live like this too.” The change in the room will be palpable as the sermon moves from primarily being about them to being about Jesus. They will have shifted from learning to worship (179).