Cultural Hostility Toward God

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a  lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever! Amen…They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless…those who practice such things…not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:21-24, 29-32)

At the heart of people’s sinful rebellion is their failure to acknowledge God or honor him as God. This is evident today as American culture grows increasingly more hostile to the idea of God’s existence. Once commonly accepted as a social norm in America, Christianity is now on the fringe of unprecedented persecution. At the heart of this cultural shift is not merely a rejection of Christian values and morals, but rather it is a rejection and denial of God himself.The mere idea of God is a perceived threat to society. The existence of God is increasingly controversial in our culture as his existence and authority stand in direct opposition to the plans and desires of man. The more mankind desires to live unrestrained lives without guilt, the more violently they will oppose the existence of God and eventually the people of God. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us. Jesus says “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” – John 15:18.

This hostility toward God isn’t a new thing. In fact, it began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve failed to trust in the sufficiency and goodness of their creator. Their rebellion against the goodness of God was in essence a rejection of God himself, setting the stage for mankind’s recurring attempts to dethrone their creator. In the midst of the Garden of Eden we see the first man and woman revolt against God’s authority and take upon themselves the duty of determining right from wrong. The consequences were disastrous. God’s version of the world where he was the ultimate authority brought peace and security, whereas Adam and Eve’s version of the world where they became their own authority brought corruption, murder, envy, strife, and deceit. This is the historical precursor to the 21st Century giving us insight into why we live in a corrupt and broken world that hates the very notion of the existence of God. The world will exchange the Glory of God for a lie, denying God and at the same time worshiping God’s creation. Paul says they claim to be wise but are in fact fools, and the Psalmist reminds us “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Ps 14:1).

This world will continue to be hostile to God, its the nature of the corruption of sin. Paul reminds us not to be conformed to the world, but rather transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom 12:2). Yet our track record isn’t very good. Thirty years ago Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled The Great Evangelical Disaster, expressing his concern over the Christian response to the moral cultural crisis in his day:

“The last sixty years have given birth to a moral disaster, and what have we done? Sadly we must say that the evangelical world has been part of the disaster. More than this, the evangelical response itself has been a disaster. Where is the clear voice speaking to the crucial issues of the day with distinctively biblical, Christian answers? With tears we must say it is not there and that a large segment of the evangelical world has become seduced by the world spirit of this present age. And more than this, we can expect the future to be a further disaster if the evangelical world does not take a stand for biblical truth and morality in the full spectrum of life.”

Thirty years later we find ourselves living in the wake of the great evangelical disaster. While the Christian response should have been a steadfast and immovable zeal for the truth, history reveals the real response was quiet indignation and silent conformity. Our generation must not maintain the status quo.

May we be a generation who rises up with an unwavering zeal for the glory of God and a burning, passionate concern for others salvation. May we be a people who are zealous for good deeds, driven by the transforming work of Christ who gave Himself for us to redeem us and purify us. May we be a generation who makes the most of every opportunity, always abounding in the work of the Lord, doing all things for the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

 

Recovering Redemption

51BB36r4PuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I just finished reading the book Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer. This book sets forth an insightful, fundamental perspective on the Gospel, illustrating how it transforms the most complex areas of our lives. It is not a new earth shattering, mind blowing concept that promises to completely revolutionize your life. It wasn’t intended to be a self-help guide with 12 simple steps to get your best life now. Rather it is a simple presentation of the heart changing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with some thoughtful perspective on how the Gospel engages the realties of life itself. The message of Recovering Redemption is a needed reminder of a truth that so often gets lost in plain sight in the conglomeration that is American Christianity.

I particularly enjoyed the quick-witted humor of the authors because it grabbed my attention and kept me focused, making the book more enjoyable to read. I also love the way the book interrelated real life testimonies to give substance to the concepts the authors were trying to get across.

This book would be a great read for new believers or immature believers who are struggling with the particulars of the Gospel in action. I would also recommend it for mature believers as a reminder of the importance of the redemption story that transforms us and makes us more like Jesus. It may even be a good tool to give to an unbeliever to help them understand the basics of the Gospel message.

As with any book of this nature it does leave you with a sense of wanting more application, or at least more instruction on how to apply these principles to life. While Chandler and Snetzer did an excellent job at weaving real life examples in with the message, it still feels like it’s heavy on principles and light on practicality. Having reflected on this for awhile I have come to the conclusion that the reason I feel this way has less to do with how much practical advice is in the book and more to do with how much is being applied to my life. The authors admit in the Epilogue, “There’s no guidebook that tells you exactly what this needs to look like or what it needs to involve.” Once again, this isn’t the 12 steps to a better life book, rather it is a “gospel-saturated” perspective on the transforming power of Christ as we move from being broken, lost, helpless enemies of God to being redeemed, justified, and adopted children of God. The practical advice Recovering Redemption offers is a better understanding of the Gospel and more discernment when it comes to searching ourselves and identifying the things that get us off track in the process of sanctification (being freed from sin and becoming more like Christ); whether it be our attempts at trying to redeem ourselves, guilt and shame, fear and anxiety, or just the struggles of everyday life as a recovering sinner.

Overall I thought the message was excellent and I appreciated the reminder of the redemption story that is continually transforming my life.

“Men Work Wickedness Under The Notion Of God Service, And So Sin Without Restraint”

For the second time I’ve picked up Jonathan Edwards “The Religious Affections” and started reading it.  I’ll admit that reading the puritans can be a difficult thing and there are times it’s hard to get through certain parts.  “The Religious Affections is a book that focuses on distinguishing the difference between true and false religion.  Even though it can be a rather difficult read, I think there is a valuable message contained within the words of Edwards that would be valuable to every Christian.  In fact, this might be one book you should put on your reading list.  I’m always in awe of how much the church in our day and age relates to the status of Christianity back in the 1700’s when Edwards penned this.  It reminds me that God’s Word is timeless,  and the deception of the enemy remains virtually the same over the years.  The following is an excerpt from the book that talks about the devil’s master plan of deceiving people through the lens of advancing religion.

“And so it is ever likely to be in the church, whenever religion revives remarkably, till we have learned well to distinguish between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences, and those manifold fair shows and glistering appearances by which they are conterfeited; the consequences of which, when they are not distinguished, are often inexpressibly dreadful.  By this means the devil gratifies himself, by bringing it to pass that that should be offered to God by multitudes, under a notion of a pleasing acceptable service to him, that is indeed above all things abominable to him.  By this means he deceives great multitudes about the state of their souls, making them think they are something when they are nothing; and so eternally undoes them; and not only so, but establishes many in a strong confidence of their eminent holiness, who are in God’s sight some of the vilest of hypocrites.  By this means he many ways damps and wounds religion in the hearts of the saints, obscures and deforms it by corrupt mixtures, causes their religious affections woefully to degenerate, and sometimes for a considerable time to be like the manna that bred worms and stank; and dreadfully ensnares and confounds the minds of others of the saints, and brings them into great difficulties and temptations, and entangles them in a wilderness out of which they can by no means extricate themselves.  By this means Satan mightily encourages the hearts of open enemies of religion, and strengthens their hands, and fills them with weapons, and makes strong their fortresses: when, at the same time, religion and the church of God lie exposed to them, as a city without walls.  By this means he brings it to pass, that men work wickedness under a notion of doing God service, and so sin without restraint, yea with earnest forwardness and zeal, and with all their might.  By this means he brings in even the friends of religion, insensibly to themselves, to do the work of enemies, by destroying religion in a far more effectual manner than open enemies can do, under the notion of advancing it.”

Archaeology and the Bible

Today I read a book called Archaeology and the Bible written by John C. H. Laughlin.  I have decided that Laughlin should change the name of his Book from Archaeology and the Bible to Archaeology that changes the Bible.  That is really what he is proposing in this book.  It is obvious that he is a huge supporter of some of the biggest Biblical critics when it comes to Archaeology, such as Dever.  It seems he also supports the idea that Archaeology and Biblical Studies should be seperate disciplines that simply talk together.  People should be trained in both disciplines to reach a wider group of people, in Laughlin’s opinion.

He believes that anyone who is entering into professional ministry of the church should be trained in Archaeology, as do I, but the reasons for his belief is staunchly different than mine. Laughlin thinks students of the Bible should be trained in Archaeology because of the “latest evaluation of the history and culture out of which the Bible came” (2000:12). This new evaluation that he speaks of is the idea that recent Archaeological discoveries have essentially proved that the Bible does not contain inerrant history and that sometimes the claims of the Bible must be rejected in view of Archaeological evidence. He is making the claim that if true Biblical students studied Archaeology, and if they are “honest thinkers” (2000:15), they will reject many of the biblical accounts of history.

Laughlin approaches this subject with the idea that in regards to Archaeology and the Bible, sometimes you have to either modify your belief or reject things all together when new evidence arises. He understands that Archaeology is not an exact science and that there are many limitations to it’s usefulness and yet at the same time he tends to always choose the Archaeological evidence over the Biblical account. He claims that Archaeology does not prove or disprove the Bible and on the same page he says that Archaeology makes it “crystal clear” that the bible is not a book of inerrant history or science (2000:15). Apparently Archaeology has something to prove after all!

Archaeology is not an inerrant science. In fact, time and time again Archaeologist have drawn conclusions that have later been proven false. Assumptions are made from little evidence and Archaeology happens to be a human process which is practiced by fallible humans who are bound to mess something up. Laughlin takes this fallible evidence and uses it as if it is exact science to prove (though he wouldn’t use that term) that what the Bible says is incorrect. He warns Christians to not rewrite the history of the Near East to fit their preconceptions of the bible, when he is actually using inconclusive evidence of the past to rewrite the bible to fit his own preconceptions. Isn’t it ironic that he uses this quote from Joseph Callaway “we need to be careful lest we make up in imagination what we lack in knowledge.”

While I disagree with Laughlin on many theological levels, one of my biggest problem with his book is his over-generalized statements of supposed fact that he brings out of no where without proof or any substantial evidence whatsoever. He claims that “it is now known that human beings lived in Palestine over a million years ago in what is called the ‘paleolithic’ period” (2000:33). He doesn’t give any proof or any clue as to where the statement comes from, he simply declares it as fact.

Archaeology and the Bible is a book written for beginners. The history of Archaeology, the description of fieldwork, and the explanation of the different ages of civilization are detailed and helpful to anyone with the desire to learn more about Archaeology. Unfortunately this book is filled with more than a simple overview of the history, methods, and implications of Archaeological discoveries. It comes complete with an agenda set forth by the author to disconnect Biblical truth from Archaeology.

The Stones Cry Out

Today I read the book The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible by Randall Price. This is actually an excellent book that I would recommend for any Christian, not just those interested in Archaeology. Even Price admits at the beginning of the book that he is writing to the “nonspecialists”.

Price does an excellent job opening up the mind of the believer to the historical world of Christianity and to the rich beauty of Archaeology within the Christian world. There are several things that have shaped my own view of the Bible simply by reading the book and hearing about several of the Archaeological sites and artifacts that have been found. It’s also increased my desire to learn more.

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If you’ve every wondered about discoveries that have been made such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hittites, the discoveries on the Temple Mound, and so many others then this is a good introductory book to turn to. Price does an excellent job at making Archaeology and the Bible come alive. He relates the discoveries and the material findings in life to so many of the Biblical accounts that it gives a whole new perspective on many of the Biblical stories.

I borrowed this book from someone just to read it for the critical book review that I have to do, but now I will be purchasing a copy of this book for myself. It’s that good, and there are numerous references, maps, and other guides that are also helpful for a greater understanding of the Scripture and for a better knowledge of where we are in Archaeology today.

I do think it is important to note that while most readers will agree with Price and believe that there is much we can learn from Archaeology to fill in the history that we do not know, his lack of detail about Archaeology itself leaves the reader disappointed and lacking. After reading the book the reader is left with some knowledge of specific Archaeological finds and very little knowledge of Archaeology itself, the fieldwork involved, how it is done, the big names involved, the ages of civilization, the history of it, and the details about Archaeology itself. While prices does claim that he is writing to non-specials, it becomes obvious that this was an understatement. This book does not make a good introduction to Archaeology. However, for those who know some introductory information about the field, the book does make an interesting read for those whose interests lie with Biblical Archaeology.

Through the Storm

I’ve just finished reading a book called Through the Storm by Dr. Dan Gerdes. The book is not one that I was familiar with, but it was only 70 pages long and thus I made it through fairly quickly. I am taking a class called pastoral care & counceling which required me to get the book and come up with 5 lesson plans from it. It wasn’t that easy to get a hold of and the seminary had to have Gerdes drop off some of the books himself just so the class would have them. While I am not sure how easy it would be for you to get a copy, this is a book that I think you should read if you have a chance.

Through the Storm is a true story about the life of the author who went through some rough storms in life when him and his wife lost a child. The first chapter begins with the loss of their little boy (Ryan) and then the rest of the book deals with how they felt, what they did, and how God lead them through it all. I didn’t realize what this book was about until I read the first chapter and then when I noticed that the book came with a bookmark that was dedicated to Ryan with his picture on it, my heart was broken and I have to admit I took some time to cry for this family. The power of this book comes not in the story of loss, but in the suprizing story of gain. God was there for Dr. Gerdes and his wife, he lead them through this storm in their life and God used it to bring them closer to Him as they relied on Him fully.

“There are three kinds of people: Those who are in the middle of a storm, those who are emerging from a storm, and those who will soon be in one.”

The truth is, everyone will experience storms in their life. Times of great loss and pain will come to us all and there is no one that is immune to this. If anything, how God worked in the life of this family is a great encouragment to all of us. They experienced the same questions, doubts, pain and sorrow that all of us will experience when we go through struggles in life and this book is a powerful testimony of their reliance on God and evidence of Him guiding them through it all. “He transforms the darkness into morning in our lives, and others will see it and be amazed… Considering what we’ve been through, what’s not to love about God?” – Dan Gerdes

Lord thank you that you carry us through the storms of life! This book also reminds me of what I talked to our teenagers about during our youth service last Wednesday. We discussed Matthew 7:24-27:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”Matthew 7:24-27 – ESV

There are several interesting things brought out in this passage. The first thing that I found significant is that both houses, regardless of the foundation, experienced storms that brought rain, floods, and winds that beat against them. Jesus never promised that Christians would have a “suffer free” life, he never said it would be easy. Whether your foundation is in Christ or not, you will experience the storms of life. The other thing I found to be significant in this passage is that both men listened, but only one of them took the advise to heart.

The man who hears God’s words and puts them into practice builds a strong foundation and when the storms of life come that man will be able to stand up under it, because he is rooted strongly in Christ. The Bible doesn’t say that the house wasn’t damaged, it just says it didn’t fall. We will experience pain, and hurt and we will be damaged, but in Christ we will not crumble and fall. However, the man who hears God’s words and does not put them into practice has a foundation as weak as sinking sand and when the storms of life come that man will not be able to stand up. He is not only damaged; the Bible says that he will fall and not just any fall, it will be a great fall.

A powerful message that is revealed to us in Scripture and given as evidence in the life of Dr. Gerdes and his family. Scripture always proves true when it comes to real life. Which house will you be when the storms of life come your way?

Biblical Authority – Critical Book Review

Biblical Authority is a book written by James T. Draper and Kenneth Keathley in 2001 about the authority of the Bible in the Body of Christ. The main content of the book is summed up in eight chapters equaling one hundred and forty four pages, starting with a forward from Herschel Hobbs. It also begins with a four page preface, giving the reader a brief overview of what he or she is about to read in detail. For further understanding and research you will find end notes and a brief description of each of the authors located in the back of the book.

The purpose of this book is to cast some understanding on a controversy that revolves around the issue of authority. The main argument is the idea that a critical issue among all Christian people today is the matter of authority. If this is true, then it is essential for the Christian to sufficiently understand Biblical authority and the dangers we face in our interpretation of Scripture, which is exactly what this book attempts to provide for its reader. The church today faces many issues, but according to Draper and Keathley it faces none more critical than where it receives genuine authority and who the source of that authority is.

This book looks at the key problems that face the church relating to the Word of God and evaluates many of the simple steps people take that slowly and sometimes unknowingly draws them away from Biblical authority. It deals with how we perceive truth and how we know that the Bible is the true. Draper and Keathley discuss modern critical thought, reader response criticism, and postmodern hermeneutics as pertaining to the scripture to help the reader further understand how we have come to this point and why we need to have a strong Biblical foundation. The book also observes three different thoughts on the idea of Biblical authority; reason or rationalism, ecclesiastical authority, and divine revelation.

In order to help the reader understand that divine revelation is not a new issue the Book also delves into the history of Biblical authority among the church leaders through the centuries past. Not only does it broach the heritage of Christians in general, but it also looks specifically at the history of the Southern Baptist Convention and its founder’s belief in regards to Scripture.
Finally, this book looks to the Bible to see what it says about itself. Draper and Keathley discuss the key passages dealing with Scripture and its own claim to be the final authority of believers. It wraps up the last chapter by taking a look towards the future and discussing where Christians should go from here.

Draper and Keathley identify the problem as being “Christians who slowly move away from the historic position on the nature of the Bible.” They go into great detail describing human reasoning, church authority, and divine revelation, identifying peoples shift in their Biblical worldview by way of their own reasoning and traditions. This is somewhat of a slippery slope. Once people begin to deviate from the truth, however small it may be, they begin a process that will soon be out of hand. I agree with this assessment, as I have seen it too many times. While things start out small and people reason away only a few things, in the end it simply gets bigger and bigger until they are far from the truth.

This book also goes into exceptional detail in describing the Historical-Critical Approach to the Bible and the dangers of taking it too far. While I do not believe that the Historical-Critical Approach is bad, within itself, I do find that it can be a dangerous tool if used in the wrong way. I believe this is the point that Draper and Keathly were trying to make in their explanation. The main problem with using the Critical approach happens when our understanding of the Bible is that it is a human book and not divine. If we see the Bible as man made and not divine revelation then we can decide what the Bible means in our own interpretation of it using the tools of the critical approach to further our own delusions. However, the Bible’s meaning was determined by God who inspired men to write it. The Historical-Critical approach can be a handy tool, but not if it is used as the sole interpretation process and only if you come into the interpretation process with the right predispositions. When using any method of interpretation we must begin with the idea that the Bible is divine revelation. To trust the methods of interpretation over the authority of Scripture will lead directly to a lesser view of the Bible.

Another danger in Scripture interpretation mentioned in this book is existential and postmodern philosophies. Postmodernism seems to be a vast ocean of thought that I have difficulty grasping and yet it is said to be so prominent in our society. It was appropriate to mention postmodernism and its effect on interpretation, however it left me disappointed because I expected more. I believe postmodernism could have been explained with a little more detail and with a greater understanding of how it relates to the critical issue of authority. After all, Draper and Keathley take fourteen pages to describe the historical-critical approach to interpretation and roughly two pages to talk about postmodernism and its effect.

Having a faulty view of scripture, slowly deviating from the truth of Scripture, moving from divine revelation to human reasoning, misusing interpretation approaches, and buying into imperfect worldviews or philosophies are just some of the things that will slowly lead the Christian to a flawed view of Biblical authority. One more example of things that lead us astray mentioned in this book is that of comparative religions and pluralism. To believe that different religions simply borrowed stories from each other and all religions basically get you to God is to deny the authority of Scripture and to accept the authority of mans own inclinations.

This book not only explains the many things that damage our view of Scripture it also provides proof that Biblical authority is not a new concept. Draper and Keathly start out by listing several quotes from early church fathers to reveal the Church’s historical position on Biblical authority. They spend a chapter on Baptists’ historical position on Biblical authority to further emphasis the fact that from our earliest beginnings the integrity and accuracy of Scripture was an integral part of the church. Instead of simply making reference to people, the authors use actual quotes from people and confessions to provide further evidence. Some may claim that the “people who are intent on maintaining the church’s dedication to the full authority of Scripture” are creating divisiveness and confusion among Christians and moving away from what Christianity is supposed to be, when in fact it is the other way around. Those who weaken the authority of Scripture are the ones moving away from our heritage and creating confusion among believers. They are the ones leading God’s people astray.

Another important element in understanding the issues of authority is discussing what the Bible says about itself, dealing with what is really meant by the expression, Biblical authority, and arguing for the sufficiency of Scripture. This book offers several strong arguments for Biblical inerrancy and sufficiency. If the bible is inerrant, then it is also the ultimate authority in our lives. Draper and Keathley take several opinions against Biblical inerrancy and then argue a case for inerrancy with each one. Not only do they make several strong arguments, they also take time to explain what they really mean by Biblical authority. I think the three chapters that deal with inerrancy, sufficiency and the real meaning of Biblical authority are by far the strongest parts of this book. While the liberal thinkers use verbal tools to discredit the thought of Biblical authority, this book shows the flaw in each argument and deals with what Biblical authority actually is and why it is the truth that should captivate our hearts.

As Southern Baptists, what do we do now? That question is the premise of the final chapter. The future of our convention and our churches depends on the choices we make today regarding the authority of Scripture. While the authors admit that this book may not have the final answers to the question, they believe that it is at least a stepping stone on the way to finding the solution.
I believe that the issue of Biblical authority is a critical issue and I agree with Draper and Keathley’s conclusions. This book is an excellent aid to help others understand the issues involving Biblical authority. It’s an important asset to the Christian because this subject is so critical to our future and the future of Christianity in general.