You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘justin taylor’ tag.

Here is my endorsement for an important new book:

controversy of the ages cabalIf I had the power to require every Christian parent, pastor, and professor to read two books on creation and evolution—ideally alongside their mature children, parishioners, and students—it would be 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution (by Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker) along with the book you are now holding in your hands, Controversy of the Ages: Why Christians Should Not Divide Over the Age of the Earth.

Neither book intends to answer all of the questions definitively, but together they are like maps for Christians in the complex and confusing intersection of the Bible and science.

We cannot bury our head in the sand, or outsource study of these issues to others. Ted Cabal and Peter Rasor help us sort through the issues and the options, modeling for us how to use proportion and perspective in our rhetoric and strategies of disagreement within the body of Christ.

We live in perplexing days, but clear and clarifying books like this are a tremendous gift to the church. If the arguments and tone of this book are taken to heart, we will all be sharper, wiser, and kinder. I pray it is widely read.

Kenneth Keathley, co-author of the other go-to book I mentioned above, had this to say about the Cabal/Rasor book:

When people ask for a good book to read about the age of the earth, I have a new favorite to recommend: Cabal and Rasor’s Controversy of the Ages. With remarkable clarity, this book provides historical and theological context to the young-earth/old-earth controversy. But Cabal and Rasor move beyond mere description and prescribe the way to move forward—the Galileo approach. This is an important book, and it needs to be read by pastors, college and seminary students, and all who care about science and faith issues.

Here are the rest of the endorsements for this book:

“The time is long past when we have needed a very careful, thoroughly documented analysis and response to the claims of young earth creationists. But with this book, I am delighted to say that that time has come. I am very enthusiastic about the scholarship, careful treatment and irenic tone of this book and highly recommend it.”

J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology

“In addition to a well-informed history of evangelical moves for relating Genesis to geology and then to Darwinism, the authors have given us much more. They have provided trenchant evaluation of the argumentative strategies―theological, scientific, and philosophical. They show that of the various groups known to us today―the young earth creationists, the (non-Darwinian) old earth creationists, and the evolutionary creationists―none can be exempted from critique, and none deserves the place of exclusive privilege. This book deserves a wide readership, for it is informative, fair, and incisive. I rejoice that God spared Dr. Cabal from a terminal cancer to help write this!

C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

For the rest of the post…

Advertisements
Frederick-Douglass

Since Frederick Douglass is in the news these days—with President Trump calling him “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice”—I thought I’d share a haunting paragraph from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, written in 1845, sixteen years before the Civil War began.

It is a beautiful expression of the horrific hypocrisy of some antebellum churches:

I . . . hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land. . . . I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. . . .

I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.

We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members.

The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . .

The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master.

Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time.

For the rest of the post…

Justin Taylor

Cliff Barrows (1923-2016)

November 15, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 4.07.41 PM

Cliff Barrows has gone to be with the Lord to whom he so often sang. A longtime associate of Billy Graham as his evangelistic choir director, Mr. Barrows was 93.

Here is a biographical overview from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

Mr. Barrows first met Mr. Graham while on his honeymoon with his first wife, Billie (deceased), near Asheville, N.C., in 1945. Music played a significant role in the programming of Billy Graham Crusades, for which Mr. Barrows was responsible since they formally began in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1947. Together, he and Mr. Graham shared the Gospel around the globe.

From the beginning of Mr. Graham’s Crusade ministry, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows were the nucleus of the Crusade musical team. They were joined in 1950 by pianist Tedd Smith, and through the years, organists Don Hustad and John Innes provided additional accompaniment.

“I’ve had no greater joy than encouraging people to sing,” said Mr. Barrows. “Every great moving of the Spirit of God has been accompanied by great singing. I believe it will always be so!”

Mr. Barrows remained active in his later years in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He served as host of the Hour of Decision radio program for more than 60 years and continued that position for a time through the Hour of Decision Online Internet radio program, which posts weekly on BillyGraham.org. He also served on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Board of Directors, beginning in 1950.

In addition to singing at Franklin Graham Festivals and Will Graham Celebrations, Mr. Barrows regularly hosted SeniorCelebrations and Christmas at The Cove, three-day events geared toward senior citizens at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C. He also helped with BGEA’s Schools of Evangelism ministry for more than 40 years.

For significant contributions to Gospel music, Mr. Barrows was inducted into the Nashville Gospel Music Hall of Fame in April 1988, and into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in February 1996. Mr. Barrows was also inducted, along with Billy Graham and soloist George Beverly Shea, into the inaugural class of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ “Hall of Faith” in 2008.

“His uncanny ability to lead a Crusade choir of thousands of voices or an audience of a hundred thousand voices in a great hymn or Gospel chorus is absolutely unparalleled,” writes Billy Graham in his autobiography, Just As I Am. “But all of that talent is not the secret of Cliff’s effectiveness,” he writes later. “It is his humility and his willingness to be a servant, which spring from his devotional life and his daily walk with Christ.”

Mr. Barrows was born and reared in Ceres, Calif. He was married to his first wife, Billie, for nearly 50 years. Then God brought Mr. Barrows and his second wife, Ann, together following the death of both of their spouses to cancer. He and Ann made their home together in Marvin, N.C.

Mr. Barrows, who passed away on Nov. 15, 2016, at the age of 93, had five children: Bonnie, 1948; Robert, 1950; Betty Ruth, 1953; Clifford (Bud), 1955; and William Burton, 1962.

For the rest of the post…

by Justin Taylor

March 9, 2016

Blanchard-Hall

If I walk up to my office window at Crossway Books and look across the railroad tracks to the west, I can see the campus of Wheaton College, including the distinctive white spire above the center named after its most famous alumnus, Billy Graham. Founded by evangelical abolitionists in 1860 “for Christ and his kingdom,” the school has garnered a reputation over the years as the Evangelical Harvard, seeking to show that a liberal arts college can combine rigorous academic training and faithful piety.

As many readers will know, Wheaton was embroiled in controversy from December 2015 to February 2016, centered around statements by political science professor Larycia Hawkins. Announcing on Facebook her plan to wear the hijab during Advent, she explained: “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

A firestorm of controversy ensued, fanned into flame by forces both inside and outside of the school. Though it was in the same town in which I work, I mainly followed the developments at a distance (that is to say, online), even offering my own modest proposal on the same-God debate.

We have not heard, however, from many faculty members inside Wheaton regarding their perspective on what happened or what we can learn from this difficult season for Wheaton. I am grateful, therefore, to share the following essay by Daniel J. Treier, Blanchard Professor of Theology at Wheaton College. Suggesting that this may be a ”‘teachable moment,’ not just for Wheaton specifically but more generally for Christians in higher education,” Dr. Treier calls the Christian community to consider how “four key features of biblical wisdom might help us to understand how Dr. Hawkins, Dr. Jones, parents, and professors could act in reasonably good faith yet reach a tragic outcome.”

More could be said here, but not less. For anyone who watched or commented on this tragedy—both from within and from outside—this is a wise essay worth carefully considering.

Justin Taylor


The Wheaton Tragedy

Daniel J. Treier
March 9, 2016

Wheaton College (IL), where I have taught theology for fifteen years, recently endured a two-month media firestorm. Generally reliable details of the narrative are available via that bastion of truth, the Internet. In miniature: A tenured political science professor, Larycia Hawkins, was placed on administrative leave after asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. This assertion appeared in a Facebook post explaining her decision to wear a hijab during Advent, expressing “embodied solidarity” with Muslim women prominently facing discrimination. As controversy ensued, Wheaton’s provost Stanton Jones believed that Dr. Hawkins did not provide adequate theological clarification of how her statements were consistent with the college’s evangelical statement of faith.

Subsequent conversations reached a stalemate while media coverage escalated. Dr. Jones initiated formal termination procedures that would commence with a review by the Faculty Personnel Committee. Already an overwhelming majority of the faculty opposed Dr. Hawkins’s termination, especially after she posted online a statement of theological clarification. Wheaton’s Faculty Council unanimously formalized a recommendation for Dr. Hawkins’s reinstatement, grounded in critique of administrative procedures. Supporters of Dr. Hawkins intensified various private and public campaigns. Additional faculty members, who previously shared some of the administration’s theological concerns or were undecided, came to support Dr. Hawkins’s immediate reinstatement, believing that her clarifying statement precluded any violation of a particular tenet of the statement of faith.

Advocacy on both sides reached a fever pitch of Facebook and Twitter salvos from professors, alumni, and pundits. Media stories proliferated internationally, partly because three Wheaton alumnae report on religion for national outlets. One of them publicized multiple confidential materials leaked by faculty members. Few cultural elites or Wheaton professors sympathized publicly with the administration’s concerns. Younger and more progressive alumni joined the administration’s critics in vocal support for Dr. Hawkins.

The Faculty Diversity Committee issued a private report that raised significant concerns about administrative procedures as well as racial and gender inequity affecting the case. Shortly thereafter Dr. Jones sent a detailed written apology to Dr. Hawkins. He revoked the termination proceedings and left the decision about reinstating Dr. Hawkins in the hands of Wheaton’s president, Philip Ryken. The Diversity Committee’s report leaked while Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Ryken were addressing the possibility of her reinstatement. Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Ryken reached a confidential agreement to end her employment at the college, at which point Dr. Jones’s apology was made public. A joint worship service and a joint press conference ensued.

Of course the controversy is not really over, regardless of whether media interest waxes or wanes. Months, even years, of rebuilding lie ahead. The college is left sifting through the rubble of its latest firestorm while grieving the loss of a treasured professor, and Dr. Hawkins was left to find a new place of service. (By the way, Dr. Hawkins is a valued colleague and family friend, but in this essay I use her academic title rather than operating on a first-name basis. She deserves every indication of the respect that chummy students sometimes deny to female professors in my conservative circles.) Rebuilding requires time for lament and space for grief, even expressions of anger. Early commentary requires restraint, recognizing the risk of damaging relationships we hope to heal.

Both Tragedy and Wisdom: A Neglected Perspective

Yet I offer this essay to commend a neglected perspective, worth considering before views harden so thoroughly that our rebuilding efforts cannot incorporate any alternatives. Thus far public commentary from my Wheaton colleagues has been overwhelmingly one-sided, for understandable reasons. If, however, those who grieve over Dr. Hawkins’s departure but sympathize with our administration’s theological concerns remain entirely silent, then rebuilding efforts will produce lopsided results.

Indeed, perhaps we face a “teachable moment,” not just for Wheaton specifically but more generally for Christians in higher education. Wheaton is far from the only school navigating the challenges of a social media age, the dramas of faculty advocacy, the limits of academic freedom, or perceived tensions between genuine diversity and confessional identity. Moreover, Wheaton’s treatment as an icon—by the media, the broader academy, and various stakeholders from both left and right—could mean that the recent controversy has larger consequences for the accreditation, finances, and politics of Christian higher education.

Most pundits have taken clear sides dominated by political, theological, or academic agendas—not to mention suspicion and sheer speculation. To state my alternative succinctly: What if the dominant categories for assessing this controversy should be the pair of “tragedy” and “wisdom”? What if we tried to imagine how each major stakeholder in the controversy could act in reasonably good faith yet contribute to a tragic outcome? And what if we tried to learn our lessons for the future from both the fragmentary wisdom and the limitations displayed by each?

I have been pondering how biblical wisdom addresses our communal life because of James 1:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (NIV). These verses confronted my own slowness to listen (to certain people anyway), my speed in speaking (without adequate information), and my fiery self-righteousness. As a Christian liberal arts professor, I find it painful to be so unwise.

What if we listen—really listen, seeking the peaceable and teachable wisdom of James 3:17-18—to the perspectives of all the relevant stakeholders? Despite our differences, and the other relevant questions this essay brackets out, these stakeholders claim a shared commitment to Scripture’s authority. Thus four key features of biblical wisdom might help us to understand how Dr. Hawkins, Dr. Jones, parents, and professors could act in reasonably good faith yet reach a tragic outcome.

1. Listening and Speaking

Wisdom’s emphasis on the character of our listening and speaking especially helps us to examine Dr. Hawkins’s perspective. How many critics listened carefully to understand sympathetically what she sought to do? James, the New Testament’s Wisdom literature, prohibits self-righteous slander (4:11-12). Catechesis from the Ninth Commandment enjoins thinking and speaking as well of others as possible, even refraining from expressing justifiable criticism if we can. Dr. Hawkins’s critics frequently failed to honor God’s law in this way.

James 2 and 5 also apply, for they demonstrate that enduring wisdom and prophetic action are not automatically opposed. Hoping to demonstrate solidarity with a verbally, politically, and sometimes physically abused group, Dr. Hawkins championed marginalized persons that James prophetically defends. Unfortunately that solidarity resulted in verbal abuse of Dr. Hawkins, as some critics violated James 3 with particularly vile responses. If some of the concern was primarily political, then James 4:1-10 further applies: Were such critics really concerned for evangelical truth, or instead committing spiritual adultery with a cultural agenda?

Of course Dr. Hawkins was making a public statement in the first place, and she responded to the critics’ and administration’s publicity with more of her own. As the controversy ensued, some of her rhetoric about “Wheaton College,” while commendably avoiding personal attack by name, risked going beyond prophetic confrontation into casting many of the institution’s stakeholders in the worst possible light. Yet neither side backed down, each blaming the other for turning up the temperature. And it is important for those who cannot imagine responding as Dr. Hawkins did to attempt—however inadequately—to put ourselves in her shoes: a single, black female living in downtown Chicago, teaching at a white male-dominated suburban evangelical institution, confronting a post-Ferguson world. Before dismissing the rhetoric of “prophetic” response—about which I will express concerns below—we first should listen to the cries of the side James takes. Among reactions to Dr. Hawkins the partisan anger of worldly wisdom frequently trumped the listening ears, teachable heart, and peaceable spirit of Christian wisdom.

2. Prudence and Courage

Biblical wisdom prioritizes not only listening and speaking but also prudence and courage, helping us to examine the perspective of Wheaton’s administration. How many critics listened carefully to their concerns and imagined alternatives to their course of action? The challenges they faced highlight the necessity and limitations of prudence as well as its complex relation to courage.

For the rest of the post…

Justin Taylor

December 4, 2015

565fbbef1b0000150129f11eChristianity Today executive editor Andy Crouch has a pitch-perfect response to the critique that “God isn’t fixing this” and that politicians and people of faith should stop saying our “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims of the San Bernardino shooting and that action is needed rather than prayer.

Crouch writes, “We can say with some confidence that all the following are true.”

[The bold headings are my summations. What follows are excerpts from each of Crouch’s points.]

[1. Almost all of us naturally express empathy in our familiar terms.]

1.a. When news of a tragedy reaches us, almost all of us find our thoughts overwhelmed for minutes, hours, or days, depending on the scope, severity, and vividness of the loss. This is called empathy—our ability to put ourselves in the place of others and imagine their suffering and fear, as well as heroism and courage, and to wonder how we would react in their place.

1.b. Almost all human beings, whatever their formal religious affiliation, find themselves caught up in a further reaction to tragedy: reaching out to a personal reality beyond themselves, with grief, groaning, and petition for relief. . . .

1.c. Unless the tragedy is literally at our door, this empathic response—call it “thoughts and prayers”—is all that is available to us in the moments after terrible news reaches us. . . .

1.d. It is unrealistic, and arguably cruel, to ask for fresh words in the moment that we are confronted with suffering and loss, let alone horror and evil. Every human being, in these moments, falls back on liturgies—patterns of language and behavior learned long before that get us through the worst moments in our lives. . . .

1.e. Politicians and public figures are fundamentally like all other human beings and have the same basic responses to tragedy. This is true no matter their position on controversial issues of policy (say, gun control). So it is no surprise that they respond immediately, like the rest of us do, with familiar words and phrases that express their human solidarity with those who suffer. . . .

[2. Prayerful lament is right and does not ask God to “fix” things.]

2.a. To offer prayer in the wake of tragedy is not, except in the most flattened and extreme versions of populist Christianity, to ask God to “fix” anything. . . .

2.b. An equally valid and instinctive form of prayer in the face of tragedy is lament, which calls out in anguish to God, asking why the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. . . .

2.c. No honest accounting of history can deny that God, if there is a God, is terrifyingly patient with evil. And yet, over and over, astonishing goodness, holiness, and reconciliation have emerged from even the most heinous acts of violence. . . .

[3. Prayer and action should not be played against each other.]

3.a. To suggest that we should act (though usually without specifying how those of us not physically present could act in the immediate wake of tragedy or terror), instead of pray, therefore, is to ask us to deny our capacity for empathy.

3.b. At the same time, the Bible makes it clear that God despises acts of outward piety or sentimentality that are not matched with action on behalf of justice. . . .

3.c. Therefore we must never settle for a false dichotomy between prayer and action, as if it were impossible to pray while acting or act while praying. . . .

3.d. To insist that people should act instead of pray, or that we should act without praying, is idolatry, substituting the creature for the Creator. . . .

[4. The victims are in our thoughts and prayers.]

4. Therefore the victims of the shootings in San Bernardino, and all those who were caught up in the violence and live this very moment in its awful continuing reality and consequences, and also those who perpetrated the violence, are in our thoughts and prayers.

For the rest of the post…

by Justin Taylor

John Piper’s August 2002 paper on “Tolerance, Truth-Telling, Violence, and Law: Principles for How Christians Should Relate to Those of Other Faiths” did not get a great deal of attention at the time (so far as I recall), but it remains just as relevant now as it did in the months following 9/11.

It was originally prompted by the question of how Christians and Muslims should relate to each other. “This question,” Piper explains, “is part of the larger issue of how Christians are called to live in a pluralistic world. More specifically, how shall we as American Christians think and act with regard to freedom of religion in a pluralistic context defined by the ideals of representative democracy? In particular, how shall we bear witness to the supremacy of Christ in a world where powerful cultures and religions do not share the love of freedom or the ideals of democracy?”

I’ve reproduced the principles below.


1. Whether approved or disapproved by others, we should thankfully and joyfully hold firmly to the true biblical understanding of God and the way of salvation he has provided and the life of love and purity and justice Christ has modeled and taught.

(1 Corinthians 15:2; Hebrews 3:6;4:14; 6:18; 10:23; Revelation 2:13, 25; 3:11)

2. Both in the church and the world we should make clear and explicit the whole counsel of God revealed in his inspired word, the Bible—both the parts that non-Christians approve and the parts that they don’t. We should not conceal aspects of our faith in order to avoid criticism or disapproval.

(Matthew 10:27-28; Ephesians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Galatians 1:10)

3. It is loving to point out the error and harm of Christ-denying faiths. The harm consists not only in some temporal effects, but especially in the eternal pain caused by refusing the truth of Christ. This warning should be given with earnestness and longing for the good of those who are in danger of the consequences of not trusting Christ.

(Luke 6:31-32; Romans 13:10; 1 Timothy 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:20)

4. We Christians should acknowledge our sin and desperate need of salvation by a crucified and risen Savior, so that we do not posture ourselves as worthy of salvation as if we had superior intellect or wisdom or goodness. We are beggars who have, by grace, found the life-giving bread of truth, forgiveness, and joy. We desire to offer it to all, so that they join us in admiring and enjoying the greatness of Christ forever.

(1 Corinthians 1:26-30; 4:7; 1 Peter 5:6;James 4:8-10; Luke 18:13-14; Matthew 10:8b)

5. We should present Christ not as the triumph of an argument among religions but as the most trustworthy, beautiful, important, and precious person in history, and as our desperately needed and loved substitute in two senses: (1) He absorbed, by his suffering and death, the wrath of God in our place; and (2) he became our righteousness before the all-holy God by living a sinless life which was imputed as righteousness to us when we believed on Jesus.

(1 Corinthians 2:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Peter 2:6-7; Romans 3:24-26; 5:18-19; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

6. We should make clear that Christian faith, which unites us to Christ and all his saving benefits, is a childlike, self-despairing trust in the worth and work of Christ, not a meritorious work of our own. Our call for others to be Christians is not a call to work for God or to earn his approval by doing deeds of righteousness or love. We are calling for people to renounce all self-reliance and rely entirely on the saving life and death of Jesus Christ.

(Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5;Romans 4:4-5; Romans 10:1-4; Philippians 3:9)

7. We believe it is a just and loving thing to publicly point out the errors of other faiths…

For the rest of the post…

Justin Taylor

From Garth Rosell’s excellent insider-history on the rebirth of evangelicalism in mid-twentieth century America, entitled The Surprising Work of God:

At the center is the cross . . .

Around the cross, and flowing out from the historical teachings associated with it, are four additional convictions that more any others have characterized the evangelical movement throughout its history:

(1) a shared authority (the Bible);

(2) a shared experience (conversion);

(3) a shared mission (worldwide evangelization); and

(4) a shared vision (the spiritual renewal of church and society).

Taken together, these five distinguishing marks have provided the theological and practical glue that has held the constantly shifting coalition called evangelicalism together for nearly three centuries through many toils and snares and across many social, geographical, and political boundaries. . . .

Rosell goes on to enumerate some key movements that influenced American evangelicalism’s self understanding:

Although American Evangelicalism, as an identifiable historical movement, was born in the revivals of the Great Awakening, its core values were a legacy from many centuries of Christian history.

From Continental Pietism, the powerful seventeenth- and eighteenth-century renewal movement led by Philip Jacob Spener and August Francke, evangelicals drew

  • a passion for missionary outreach,
  • a new emphasis on holy living, and
  • an active concern for one’s neighbor.

From Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians they learned

  • the centrality of Christian community,
  • the importance of missions, and
  • a passion for Christian unity.

From Protestant reformers, including Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingi, John Calvin, and Menno Simons, they inherited

  • a love for the Bible,
  • a renewed understanding of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith,
  • a new boldness in reforming the church and preaching the Word, and
  • a fresh understanding of God’s majesty and sovereign power.

From the great martyr tradition of the Christian church they drew

  • an understanding of the enormous cost of discipleship and
  • the confidence that, by God’s grace, it was possible to endure suffering.

From contemporaries in the British Isles such as John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and Howel Harris, America’s eighteenth-century evangelicals drew…

For the rest of the post…

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 7.32.19 AM

Guest Post by Thomas R. Schreiner

Most of us have read the story of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya. An ISIS video showed about 12 of them being beheaded, and it is quite certain that all of them were murdered.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 7.59.17 AMWe Are Not Surprised

Jesus told us to expect persecution, teaching his disciples that unbelievers would hate us just as they hated him (John 15:18-20).

Jesus predicted that some of those who kill us “will think” they are “offering service to God” (John 16:2).

Even though most of us won’t lose our lives for Christ’s sake, we should not be surprised if we do. All of us need to be ready to surrender our lives for Christ. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

We Are More Than Conquerers

Jesus calls us “to be faithful unto death” to receive “the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Jesus also calls us to rejoice when persecuted, for it is a great honor to die for our Lord and Savior, and our reward will far exceed our suffering (Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 5:41). Naturally, we may be frightened and scared at such a prospect, worried that we don’t have the strength to suffer. And we don’t have the strength in ourselves, but God promises to be with us in the fire and the flood (Isa. 43:2), and he promises to give us grace to endure the hardest things. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

In dying for Christ’s sake, in not loving our “lives even unto death,” we are not losers but winners; we are not overcome by evil. Instead, we are “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37; Rev. 12:11). Those who are slain for Christ’s sake come to life and reign with Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:4).

We Grieve with Those Who Grieve

Paul says that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Still, the matter is not simplistic, and life is not easy. We “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Paul said that if Epaphroditus had died he would experience “sorrow upon sorrow” (Phil. 2:27). Grief floods the hearts of those left behind.

We Pray for Both Our Enemies and Our Suffering Brothers and Sisters

We need a special grace to pray for the salvation of those who have done such a great evil.

We also pray for our brothers and sisters suffering around the world; we plead that God would grant them his joy and strength and perseverance to endure until the end.

We pray that God would protect them and sustain his church.

For the rest of the post…

by Justin Taylor  January 14, 2015

Bock

The following is a guest post by Dr. Darrell L. Bock. Dr. Bock serves as the Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, and is the author of a two-volume commentary on Luke, a commentary on the book of Acts, along with books on The Da Vinci Code, challenges to the historical Jesus, and the claims of Bart Ehrman.

I let a week pass before deciding to write about Newsweek‘s latest take on the Bible, an article called “The Bible So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” by Kurt Eichenwald, a former investigative reporter for the New York Times. I have been asked about it by email. I have decided to go one section at a time through the article, so this will start a series of responses with four parts.

Now one thing not to do is be angry about it, treat it as a screed (since it clearly has a bias as it makes its “case”), and miss the fact that what is written here is how many are told the Bible works and what many who engage with the Bible today think about it. Since this is a national news magazine, a calm response of substance is needed.

Having said this, I do have to note that of my many experiences with national media, it has been consistently the case that Newsweek has been among the least responsible in handling issues tied to the Christian faith. The one exception to this was Jon Meachum, the former editor, whose articles did seek to raise issues with some sense of balance and respect for the complexities of doing work in ancient sources. My own Breaking the Da Vinci Code was written because of my frustration with a multiple-hour interview with the magazine’s reporters (two of them on separate occasions) where I pointed out well-known flaws with the novel’s alleged historical background claims that never got even a sentence’s mention. My story in this case was not isolated. They also interviewed my Catholic friend, Francis Moloney, Dean of the Catholic University at the time, who made the same points I did in interviews that ran an equal length. They did not print a word of what he said either. A series of witnesses to an opposite point of view apparently is not worth reporting.

Part of what we are seeing is not only the annual Christmas and Easter articles saying what Christianity has taught is not what “scholarly” history shows nor is it in the least bit credible, but it is done with a kind of tribalism in reporting that engages in complete silence about any counter perspective. In noting this, I am pointing to a trend that exists on all sides of these kinds of debates. The tribalism approach on all sides is part of what contributes to the historical and biblical illiteracy the article complains about in its opening. This problem runs across the idealogical spectrum of discussion on these issues. Unfortunately the article’s approach to this discussion is no antidote to that problem. In fact, it reinforces it.

PART 1:
ABOUT THE BIBLE’S TEXT

1.1. On Manuscripts

NSWKSo let’s go through this piece one issue at a time. Let’s start with what is said about the actual text we have. For this I could just cite the response of my colleague, Dan Wallace, who has spent his life investigating and photographing the very manuscript evidence this article raises as so untrustworthy. Dan correctly opens up saying the issue is not the fact that Eichenwald asks hard questions. The Bible makes such important claims, so such questions should be asked. It is the way he answers them that is the problem. Dan also shows how the nature of the issues Eichenwald makes about our manuscripts does not lead to Eichenwald’s conclusions. I leave the Textual Criticism side of the argument to Dan’s piece.

Eichenwald’s way in is to cite Bart Ehrman, whom he calls a ground-breaking New Testament scholar. Now Bart himself has said that what he writes is a reflection of current discussion that has been around a long time. He and I have debated over the radiom where he made this statement to me as something I was well aware of, something I also affirmed at the time. The views presented (including the appeal to the telephone game as Erhman’s illustration for how poorly copies were passed on) are but one take on these issues that are argued pro and con in the public scholarly square. This hardly makes him a ground-breaking source. Ehrman is a spokesperson, a very competent one, for one take on all of this. But the article even uses his material extremely selectively. Here is another quotation Ehrman makes on this topic: “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” What this means is that people on all sides recognize that what we have in the Bible, in terms of the core things it teaches, is a reflection of what made up these books originally. The caricature by Eichenwald that what we have in our hands has no resemblance to what was originally produced is misleading in the extreme, even considering the source the journalist uses to make his point.

1.2. On Supposed Problematic Texts: Luke 3:16

But there is more. This section of the article got my attention by an example it raised from Luke 3:16, a book in which I have spent my entire academic life. Eichenwald complains that the text has a literary problem in that John answers a question that the text never raises. He argues that the effort by later copyists in the fifth century to fix this conceptual problem in the text led some to attribute to John the Baptist an ability to read his audience’s mind that was not in the original. This example betrays two problems.

(1) If we cannot know what the original was, then how can we complain about the variant? How do we even know it is a variant? I say this somewhat facetiously, but it does raise an issue inherent in the discussion. Unless we have some sense of what the original is likely to have been (something all textual critics believe is something that can be pursued), we cannot even raise questions of assessment.

(2) Even more problematic is the literary insensitivity the objection has. In Luke 3:15 the crowd is speculating as a group that John the Baptist might be the Christ. There is a public-square question on the table. When the text says succinctly, John “answered,” it is not a specific question he is responding to (which is what Eichenwald thinks is required) but to the general and expressed speculation: a publicly raised question that opens the door for a reply. There is nothing at all problematic about the text as it stands.

1.3. On the Issues Tied to Orality: Is It the Telephone Game?

The area of discussion this section also raises has to do with how accounts were passed on in the ancient world when manuscript writing was rare and orality was the norm, in part because when it came to events, the accounts were rooted in those who were alive and could testify to what took place was valued in ancient culture, something Papias tells us in the second century.

The telephone game analogy (where such reports can go anywhere) has been countered by two other models: one rabbinic and the other community based. The rabbinic model shows that when a community cares about the content, it can pass it on and recall it with a high degree of accuracy. This passing on is overseen in a way that protects its core content from deviation. Although this is the main model put forward by some, it also has a problem in that the parallel accounts of what we have in Scripture when the same story is being told has enough variation in it that the exact standards this model implies are placed under some pressure.

This leads us to the second approach: the community model. The argument here is that accounts people care about are passed on in such a way that the core or gist is passed on but allowance is given for some variation of detail. The most revealing illustration of this is how Luke retells Jesus’ appearing to Saul on the Damascus Road in Acts 9, 22 and 26. We know this is the same author, yet he retells the same story with a touch of variation that keeps the story somewhat fresh and not merely a repeated, boring, retell. This shows, culturally and at a literary level, how such passing on of accounts works. Now either of these other examples point to the fact that the telephone game example is flawed in terms of ancient culture when discussing accounts about which ancients have an interest in passing something on.

For the rest of the post…

Below is a profile of Louis Zamperini, who lived an amazing life and was rescued (in more than one sense) by the grace of God. He has now gone to be with the Lord.

The story is told in Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (see reviews by Collin Hansen andTim Challies).

To read more about Zamperini’s Christian testimony, see his autobiography Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II.

Angelina Jolie’s film version of Zamperini’s story (trailer following the profile below) arrives in theaters on Christmas Day 2014.

For the rest of the post…

December 2017
S M T W T F S
« Nov    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.