Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

On NOT Unhitching from the Old Testament, But RATHER Approaching It With Christ-Centered Confidence

October 29, 2018

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the sermon that Mitch Chase preached yesterday morning (10/28/18) at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. I’m posting this here because it is in opposition to the “strange fire” (which I fear may gain some traction in some Baptist circles) of unhitching the Christian faith from the Old Testament. (The rest of Mitch’s sermon, from Exodus 21:1-11, is an excellent example of how to faithfully think through what may be considered a difficult Old Testament passage; I highly recommend it, and it can be heard here: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1028182014355 .)

“In a recent book from a pastor in Georgia, he seeks to persuade readers that we’re probably paying far too much attention to the Old Testament. [According to this book,] we need to back off from dealing with it, preaching it: back off significantly, because it has so many hot points [of contention/potential confusion]… he lists things like arguments about creation, miracles in the Old Testament, certain commandments and laws, which seem ethically objectionable. This writer suggests, and I quote, ‘When it comes to stumbling blocks to the faith, the Old Testament is at the top of the list.’ Now, that might be true for some people; it’s not surprising that people have serious questions about the Old Testament: serious concerns. It’s nothing new, though. Consider that Jesus, who was NOT wrong, LOVED the Old Testament. He said He came to fulfill it, spoke of Scripture as the Word of God, which had been given by God. The Apostle Paul says that the Old Testament is inspired and profitable for teaching, and for reproof, and for correction, and for training in righteousness [2 Timothy 3:16]. The New Testament doesn’t reject the Old Testament, so we should follow the way of Christ and His apostles; we should uphold it, value it, use it, proclaim it: the apostles did to their new covenant believers!

….

“If people come to the Bible with hearts troubled by parts of the Old Testament, the answer is NOT to ignore the Old Testament. The proper response to confusion is NOT neglect. Rather, the answer is to engage the Old Testament: to pursue understanding of its texts with humility and trust. When that happens, I think we’ll see several things over and over again:

  1. Many objections to the Old Testament are based on misunderstandings, caricatures, false ideas, that we SHOULD reject. (When we engage the Old Testament as Christians, we actually have the opportunity to expose misunderstandings about the Old Testament and correct caricatures. After all, we’re dealing with 39 biblical books; we should not be quickly dismissive at all.)
  2. Some objections to the Old Testament are rooted in the interpreter’s personal moral rebellion. People might object to the very notion that God forbids something. Take the subject of sexual ethics in our culture: looking into the Bible, and seeing God’s words about human sexuality, an interpreter might object to what God’s Word says to something because they themselves strongly desire it! And so that objection to an Old Testament passage is rooted in their own moral rebellion.
  3. Other objections to the Old Testament are rooted in the interpreter’s rejection of the supernatural. An objector might reject that there’s even a God and [proclaim] that the universe instead is a closed system where everything that happens inside has explanations that are purely natural from beginning to end.
  4. There’s no new objection to the Old Testament that has not already been raised in church history and sufficiently, competently answered.
  5. [But NOTE:] the Old Testament, to the surprise of some initial readers, perhaps even, shows God’s holy character and redemptive plan. It displays His power, His goodness, His wisdom, His justice, His love, His patience, His mercy: I’m talking about the Old Testament! When we consider the laws, and the narratives, and the prophecies of these 39 books, and consider them in light of their original contexts, and in light of the overall plan of God’s Word: God’s holiness and redemptive plan is the uncompromising story; it is the unity of God’s Word heading somewhere—to Christ. So we need not shy away from any Old Testament passage; we should approach them unhesitatingly, with eager, humble confidence in God’s Word, which is inspired and profitable.
Advertisements

Andy Stanley and the Evidentialist Apologetic

August 14, 2018

In an interview with Dr. Michael Brown in which he attempted to explain and clarify quotes found in the article, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, A StanleySays Andy Stanley” from The Christian Post, Andy Stanley declared: “I’ve stepped away from saying, ‘The Bible says it; therefore, it’s true; the Bible says it; therefore, I believe it’…” And in other venues, Stanley has urged Christians to stop saying “the Bible says…”

Andy Stanley is a mega-church CEO who professes belief that the Bible is without error; why would he refrain (and urge others to refrain) from saying “the Bible says”?

The Road to Emmaus

Stanley’s explicit concern in how he refers to Scripture is driven by his view of apologetics (that is, how Christians are to give a reasoned defense for their faith). In part, Stanley explains the fact of Jesus and the apostles’ use of phrases like “Scripture says” by appealing to the differing context of the earliest church versus where most believers find ourselves today. In some cases, Stanley might be theoretically OK with a direct appeal to the authority of the Bible. Stanley said: “There’s an apologetic for when you’re approaching an orthodox Jew, and there’s an apologetic for those who think that the Bible is just a book of fairy tales.”

But Stanley is inconsistent on this point, because there are times when he indicates that even the earliest believers (those in a Jewish context, who would have been raised to revere the Scriptures) were compelled to faith through the (extra-biblical) evidence set before them, contrasted with the authority of Scripture. In the context of saying, “Years ago, I quit saying, ‘The Bible says’…” Stanley explained that (in his view): “Jewish men and women who had given up hope immediately regained hope not because of something they read, but because of something they saw.

Elsewhere in his interview with Dr. Brown, Stanley expressed frustration that people objecting to his statements about the Bible are always bringing Luke 24:25-32 to his attention. Stanley declared: “of COURSE I know the story of the two men on the Road to Emmaus.”

But Stanley seems to miss the point of WHY people refer to that passage. When the risen Christ encountered two people “who had given up hope,” they did NOT ‘immediately regain hope because of something they saw.’ In their case, God actually kept them from seeing Jesus for who He was (see Luke 24:16). Before allowing them to really perceive His resurrected presence, Jesus prepared their understanding by teaching them through the Old Testament Scriptures.

The Gospel of John

In the interview with Dr. Brown, Stanley defended his earlier statement: “the whole Old Testament house of cards could collapse, and you still have the resurrection of Jesus.” Stanley referenced people who only read the Gospel of John, coming to faith in Jesus just through reading that Gospel, not starting in the Old Testament. But notice the words from the very first chapter of John’s Gospel account; the Apostle John records:

1) John the Baptist quoting Old Testament Scripture in indicating the purpose of his ministry;

2) The religious leadership questioning whether John was Elijah;

3) Questions raised concerning Christ (the Messiah);

4) The identification of Jesus as the Son of God and Son of Man.

All of this makes no sense without the Old Testament. What we take for granted is that, in our culture, people in general do have a kind of residual notion—at least a vague idea—of the biblical categories/terms mentioned in the first chapter of John. Because of this, it may make it easier for people to come to faith in Christ through reading one of the Gospel accounts. For missionaries to truly unreached people groups, however, biblical definitions for who God is and who Christ is must be built upon the Old Testament foundation before a person can come to faith in God through Christ. Even in our context, an authoritative reference to the Old Testament to define our terms is necessary.

Evidentialist Apologetics Taken Too Far

Stanley has repeatedly stated that the Bible comes at the END of our apologetic, and that he is concerned with presenting the gospel to those who doubt the Bible’s authority. Stanley claims that he is engaging in “classical apologetics”. This is a misnomer: Stanley does not engage in presenting the classical proofs for the existence of God (in the sermons and interviews I’ve seen from him, he is not challenging his listeners to think through the ontological argument or the teleological argument, etc.); rather, he is engaging in evidentialist apologetics—pointing people to historical evidences for why we should believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that He made divine claims of Himself, etc.

Is there any place for this kind of apologetic reasoning?

I would say that there may very well be. Especially in some interactions when I was a student at Georgia State University (from which Stanley also holds a degree), I’ve argued in this mode before. (You can see a written-out example of my own use of evidentialist reasoning at the following blogpost: http://alindsey4.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-bible-jesus-view-and-our-view.html .) If a non-Christian is denying that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God or if an immature Christian is having doubts about whether all the books we have in our Bible should be considered the Word of God, then for the sake of the argument, an evidentialist apologetic may be helpful. The Christian witness could explicitly bracket the question of the exact nature concerning the Bible, and look at what the evidence still indicates even if the absolute divine authority is not presupposed.

But notice:

  1. The evidentialist apologetic is (at best) limited and negative in its function. Examination of the evidence can clear away the film of supposedly reasonable-sounding doubts concerning the gospel message. It may be wise to use this on a case-by-case basis. However, to make it the regular apologetic preached from the pulpit, and to teach the children of the church to refrain from singing “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” (as Stanley has recommended) will undermine, rather than bolster, trust in the authority of God’s Word.
  2. The evidentialist apologetic should never lead to a division between the authority of Jesus and the authority of the Bible. As the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy (which Stanley claims to believe) rightly declares, “the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one.” When using evidentialist apologetics, the faithful witness should make it clear that he is only doing so for the sake of the argument, and NOT because we believe that the Bible is a secondary or lesser authority. As people rightly say in church circles: “What you win people with is what you win them to.” In other words: people will continue to live in a manner consistent with the teaching and methods that brought them into the church. If they were brought into the church believing that the Bible is of secondary importance (at best), then they will likely continue to view it in that manner (at least practically). If they were brought into church believing that the Bible is God’s revelation to us, then they will likely come to love and cherish Scripture in a manner that is consistent with Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, etc.
  3. Finally: the evidentialist apologist must realize that no amount of evidence can place faith into a sinner’s heart. Faith comes through an authoritative proclamation of God’s Word (see Romans 10:17). If a person remains obstinate against hearing the Bible as God’s Word, then that person will not be brought to true faith, no matter how much evidence they see. I make this assertion not on my own authority, but on the authority of Christ, who taught us: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

Andy Stanley: “Cues from Jesus”

August 10, 2018

A StanleyIn an interview with Dr. Michael Brown in which he attempted to explain and clarify quotes found in the article, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley” from The Christian Post, Andy Stanley declared: “I want you to take your cues from the Apostle Paul is terms of how we interact and how we value the Old Testament, and I want you to take your cues from Jesus.” He said that he gives his congregation this admonishment all the time. But elsewhere in the interview, Stanley said: “Years ago, I quit saying, ‘The Bible says’… I’ve stepped away from saying, ‘The Bible says it; therefore, it’s true; the Bible says it; therefore, I believe it’…” And in other venues, Stanley has urged Christians to stop saying “the Bible says…”

How did Jesus and the Apostle Paul interact with and value the Old Testament? Would the example of Christ and His Apostle lead us to conclude that we should refrain from saying, “The Bible says…”?

Searching through the Gospel accounts for the word “Scripture” (not even counting the times when the Bible is quoted without the word “Scripture” being used), we see that Jesus made many references to what the Bible says:

-Jesus charges His opponents with misunderstanding Scripture (examples: Matthew 21:42 and 22:29).

-Jesus presents Himself and His work as the fulfillment of Scripture (examples: Luke 4:21 and 22:37).

-Jesus cites Scripture as authoritative, using the phrase “the Scripture has said” (see: John 7:38; note that in his account of Christ, John as a narrator also uses the phrase, “Scripture says,” as in John 19:24 and John 19:37).

In his epistles, the Apostle Paul frequently uses the term “the Scripture says,” as seen in passages like Romans 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; Galatians 4:30; 1 Timothy 5:18. Paul so identifies Scripture with the speech of God that he even writes of the Scripture preaching the gospel to Abraham in Galatians 3:8.

Christians can follow Stanley’s advice to take our cues from Jesus and the Apostle Paul OR we can follow Stanley’s advice to stop saying “the Bible says”. We cannot do both. I would urge anyone reading this blog to take the former course and follow Jesus rather than Andy Stanley when the two clearly diverge.

Andy Stanley and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

August 3, 2018

Following an article from The Christian Post on May 9, 2018 titled, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley,” Dr. Michael Brown conducted an interview with Stanley, allowing Stanley to further explain his views, while Dr. Brown questioned him concerning his beliefs in Scripture. (You can view the entire interview at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Jcu03lJso&feature=share .)

In this interview, Stanley once again affirmed his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. In particular, Stanley has time and again declared that he affirms the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. But is Stanley’s teaching consistent with what is taught in the Chicago Statement concerning the authority of Scripture?

Consider the following statements from Andy Stanley in the Michael Brown interview:

A Stanley

  • “We don’t believe [Jesus] rose from the dead because the Bible tells us so… Our apologetic as Christians does not rise or fall on a text; it rises or falls on an event… I have been very, very, very focused for years, because of my desire to reach people who have left the church, to think more sequentially and historically than theologically, and that’s a really important point.”
  • “Years ago, I quit saying, ‘The Bible says’… “
  • “I’ve stepped away from saying, ‘The Bible says it; therefore, it’s true; the Bible says it; therefore, I believe it’… ‘The Bible says’ is great for people who take the Bible seriously. That’s not my audience.”
  • “Even if you don’t believe that stuff [the worldwide Flood, the Exodus, etc.], I’ve got good news: it’s secondary.”
  • Stanley defends his earlier statement: “the whole Old Testament house of cards could collapse, and you still have the resurrection of Jesus.”
  • In direct response to a question about whether the Bible is authoritative for Christians today, Stanley says: “when it is properly understood, when it is properly applied, it is obviously an asset, and [the Bible] enhances Christian experience.”

Now consider the following from the Chicago Statement:

  • The first statement in the Preface of the Chicago Statement is: “The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age.”
  • The first Article of the Chicago Statement is: “We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.”
  • From the Exposition section in the Chicago Statement: “the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one.”

[Readers can view the entire Chicago Statement at the following link: http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf .]

If asked, “Do you affirm what the Chicago Statement says about the Bible’s authority?” I have little doubt that Andy Stanley would immediately say, “Yes.” But when we examine Stanley’s statements, it becomes hard (or impossible) to find consistency in how he would speak of Scripture (or not speak of Scripture) and how the Chicago Statement speaks of Scripture. In fact, if an interviewer were to ask Stanley whether he affirms the quotes I’ve cited (and others) from the Chicago Statement, and the interviewer did not mention where the quotes came from, I’m NOT sure that Stanley would say, “Yes.”

An authority is not an authority if it is consistently not cited. An authority is not an authority if it is considered “secondary” or supplemental. An authority does not just enhance experience. A proper authority is not just an “asset.” A just authority “binds the conscience” (as the Chicago Statement affirms concerning Scripture) concerning the areas to which it speaks, it is not a “house of cards” that can collapse without grave harm.

There are matters that the authors of the Chicago Statement kept together, which Stanley pulls asunder. Specifically:

  • It is clear from the Chicago Statement that its authors wanted to keep historical and theological [and scientific!] matters joined together (see Articles XII and XIII in particular), whereas Stanley desires “to think more sequentially and historically than theologically” (although he also expresses a desire to save many historical questions, like those concerning the Great Flood or the Exodus, for later consideration).
  • The authors of the Chicago Statement declared that “the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one,” whereas Stanley clearly views the authority of Scripture as second to the authority of Christ.

If someone pays attention to what Stanley says, then they will hear him affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I’m thankful for that, because I believe that the Chicago Statement is an accurate summary of how God would have us to understand the inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of His written Word. However, I would also encourage everyone to read the Chicago Statement itself. Anyone who has been influenced by Stanley’s teachings should ask: is what he says (or doesn’t say) concerning the Bible consistent with how the Chicago Statement (which he claims to believe) speaks concerning the Bible?

High Holy Days

September 18, 2009

 

This evening at sundown begins the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of Trumpets. It is traditionally a time of celebration and prayers for the coming year, and a time of repentance through the next ten days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The realizations of God’s judgment and of atonement are strong through these days. As believers in Christ, we are thankful for God’s provision of His Son and His forgiveness of all the sins of His people. 

One tradition many Jews hold to on Rosh Hashanah is casting pieces of bread, or pebbles, etc., into naturally flowing water. This is symbolic of the casting off of sin, and originally based on the concept of God graciously taking our sins away such that they are gone forever. The use of water is based on the passage from Micah 7,

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

These days are yet another great opportunity to reflect on our spiritual status, to consider where we have failed in sin and to repent, and also to praise Him for the blessings and victories He has given us.

Though the waters ahead are as yet uncharted by us, we press on with sober resolve to walk closer to the Lord, who knows all and holds all things in His sovereign, mighty, blessed hands.

Happy New Year.  Grace and peace to you.

the second most views = the most recommended post

June 10, 2009

For quite a while now, WordPress has recorded 499 views for a post I wrote titled, “A Must-Hear Sermon on the Doctrine of Election” (the number of views for this post have only been surpassed by “Jerry Vines Preaches John 3:16 Sermon at SBTS,” mentioned yesterday).

“A Must-Hear Sermon on the Doctrine of Election” is the post from Strange BaptistFire that I would most recommend to readers of this site, not because of anything that I wrote in that post, but because of the sermon linked at the end of the post: a sermon on Romans 8:26-9:6a by Dr. Russell Moore. I hope that anyone who has not yet done so will follow the link above and will benefit from Dr. Moore’s teaching.

Why the most views?

June 9, 2009

The post on this site that has had the most views is “Jerry Vines Preaches John 3:16 Sermon at SBTS.” This has been the case for a while now, and more views are recorded for this post all the time.

I can’t figure out why this should be the case; as far as I can tell, no high-trafficking blog has linked this post, and the post does not rate high on Google searches for “Jerry Vines,” “John 3:16,” “SBTS,” etc. Furthermore, there is nothing controversial in this post and no lengthy comment thread under the post.

Anyone have any ideas why this particular post should get so many views?
Please leave your thoughts below.