Don’t Turn Wisdom into Mantras

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We love to simplify complex ideas, to make big thing small and sum things up as neatly as possible. It is the easiest way to keep thoughts organized and make sense out of the complicated. We try to take entire ideologies or theologies and sum them up in tight paradigmic phrases. We especially do this with quotes pulled from deep thinkers. Rather than do the work of learning absorbing the entirety of their arguments we lift the one or two phrases that seem to sum up the ideas nicely and just run with those.

Martin Luther King Jr. ? ?Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.?

C.S. Lewis ? All sin stems from Pride.

Mother Teresa ? ?If you love until it hurts there can be no more hurt, only more love.?

Tim Keller ? ?All sin is idolatry.?

Gandhi ? ?An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.?

John Piper ? ?God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.?

Winston Churchill ? ?You have enemies? Good; that means you?ve stood up for something in your life.?

William Shakespeare ? ?Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.?

Truth is easily apparent in each of these quotes or ideas. So the problem isn?t finding the wrong paradigms, it is settling for too few and doing so too readily. When we adopt a single paradigm, or maybe two, as our inspiration and guidance they easily become mantras ? phrases repeated endlessly with little thought in the hopes it will transform. Mantras are meaningless. Christians can even do this with ?life verses.? Jeremiah 29:11 becomes the quick fix for all problems and Romans 8:28 is the comfort for all troubles, an band aid for our spiritual and emotional boo boos.

Three main problems present themselves when we settle for such simplistic, mantra-like wisdom.

First, is that we are settling for synthesized and compacted thought. The strength of these singular thoughts comes from the massive scaffold of other thoughts on which they are built. If all we take is the single mantra we know little of the true power of the thought process and deep truths.

The second problem is more one of human nature: anything repeated often enough, no matter how brilliant, becomes rote and fades into the background. In order for truth to maintain its radiance in our eyes it must remain varied in its expression (how it is expressed, who expresses is it, when we see or hear it expressed). Truths repeated endlessly become tired (though not less true).

The third problem is also a function of humanity ? that of human error and finitude. No one mantra sums all of life or truth perfectly. No one piece of wisdom answers all the questions or is clearly applied in every situation. So to claim one or two or three bits of wisdom as what you ?base your life on? is to leave yourself with a largely empty tool box while facing the complex project of life.

There is no simple way to find and learn wisdom for life. Simplicity functions to create easier opportunities to begin discovering. It is not to be the end of discovering. Even biblical truths cannot be isolated and claimed apart from the full canon. Our response to brilliant bites of wisdom should not be to treat them like the samples at Costco but rather as an appetizer for the seven course meal. Each bite should titillate the senses and create wonder as to what more there might be.

What Does It Mean To Be A Responsible Charismatic?

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Ah yes…the Holy Spirit. What are we to do with Him? On one extreme you’ve got Benny Hinn, stalking back and forth across the stage, wearing his spotless white suit, talking Holy Spirit nonsense and “slaying” people in the Spirit by pushing them backwards. On the other extreme, you’ve got John MacArthur creating a conference called “Strange Fire”. And then there are a whole bunch of people in the middle who don’t know exactly what they believe about the Holy Spirit.

I don’t want to be Benny Hinn (although his white suit is pretty awesome). As much as I like and respect John MacArthur, I don’t believe that his position regarding the cessation of the spiritual gifts is biblical either. Is there a middle ground? I think there is.

I like to call myself a “responsible charismatic”.

What is a responsible charismatic? Let me spell it out. A responsible charismatic…

…BELIEVES IN THE FINAL AUTHORITY AND SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

One of the assumptions people often make is that if you believe in spiritual gifts like prophecy or tongues or healing, you can’t believe in the final authority and sufficiency of Scripture. The assumption is that you either believe in prophecy or you believe in the final, ultimate authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It’s one or the other. Door one or door two. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Except that you can.

How do the spiritual gifts and the authority of Scripture work together? I’ll explain more about that in a future post. For now I simply want to make one thing clear: every part of my life, including my use of and understanding of the spiritual gifts, falls under the authority and guidance of Scripture. My belief in the gifts of the Holy Spirit does not in any way undermine or contradict my full confidence in the sufficiency and authority of God’s word. Scripture always has the final say.

Some might object that it is logically impossible to believe in something like prophecy and to also believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. If that’s your position, you’re gonna need to take that up with the Bible itself.

The biblical authors did not see any tension between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was writing as a divinely commissioned apostle. He was aware that his words carried divine authority. He knew that his words were authoritative in the same way the rest of Holy Scripture was authoritative. And yet Paul didn’t seem to have any problem in telling the Corinthians to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1). Paul didn’t have any hesitation when he told the Christians at Rome to use their spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (Romans 12:3-8). He told the Thessalonians to test every prophecy, and to hold fast to what was good (1 Thessalonians 5:16). How were they to test prophecy? Presumably against the teaching of the apostles and the Old Testament scriptures. Scripture does not create a conflict between the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the ongoing use of the spiritual gifts.

So, a responsible charismatic believes that the spiritual gifts are for today and also believes that Scripture is sufficient and has the final authority.

A responsible charismatic also…

…EMBRACES THE BROAD WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Unfortunately, when people hear the term “charismatic”, they immediately think of extremists?like Benny Hinn or Todd Bentley. They think of people laying on the ground, “slain” by the power of the Holy Spirit. A responsible charismatic, however, doesn’t limit his understanding of the Holy Spirit to just the spectactular spiritual gifts. Rather, the responsible charismatic embraces the broad work of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit works in a massive number of ways. The Spirit convicts us of sin. He inspires us to give generously. He creates true fellowship between believers. He comforts us in our distress. He empowers us to share the gospel boldly. He strengthens our marriages. He gives us the ability to be content in weakness. The Holy Spirit is at work all the time in his people. To only pursue the flashy spiritual gifts, like prophecy or tongues, is to miss out on so many other things the Spirit does.

At church this past Sunday, I asked a guy if he would be willing to help out with running our lighting system. He immediately responded by saying that he wanted to serve in any way possible. That response is just as much the work of the Holy Spirit as someone speaking in tongues. The Spirit works in many, diverse ways, and a responsible charismatic pursues and embraces the broad work of the Holy Spirit.

I want to be a responsible charismatic. I want to hold fast to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. I want to embrace the broad work of the Holy Spirit. And I also want to actively pursue the presence and gifts of the Spirit.

How do I pursue the gifts of the Spirit while still submitting to the authority of Scripture. More on that to come…

Your Systematic Theology is Showing

photo credit: hillary the mammal via photopin cc

Math is a remarkable gift from God. Prior to adulthood I thought of it as some combination of befuddling, boring, and cumbersome ? at best a necessary evil. I?ve come to recognize its significance, though, as a set of organizing principles for the entire universe. Math helps the limited human mind make sense of the created expanse, or at least some of it. It divides and combines and sorts the world while allowing for logic and predictive abilities.

In spite of all that, only a certain kind of mind really sees beauty in math. It is necessary, imminently useful, and occasionally almost interesting. But not beautiful to most.

Mammals have skeletons to give us strength and shape. Without them we would be immobile, gelatinous lumps of flexing, twitching, grunting goo. Skeletons are crucial to the human body, the human existence. But when we look at another person we don?t think ?Whoa, nice bone structure! She must drink her milk.? It is the rest of the human figure that attracts us ? the symmetrical features and curves and smiles and hair color. We find beauty in the sense of humor, the personality, and the wit. We would recognize none of this without a skeleton to hold it all up, but it isn?t the skeleton we find lovely.

Systematic Theology is math, a skeleton. It is a system of organizing thoughts so that finite minds can begin to understand an infinite God (in a distinctly western way, mind you). Systematic theology is a support system for the reality of relationship with God. Too often, though, it is put forth as the face of faith instead of being the framework of it. All the ?ologies? (soteriology, eschatology, pneumatology, Christology, etc.) you know are not your relationship with God. They are not the true story of God. They support those things for you. They need muscles and veins and organs and skin to make them alive, to adorn them in beauty.

For many people, yea most people, systematic theology is not any more beautiful than algebra. It is intimidating or cumbersome or boring or argumentative. It can even be a deterrent from connecting with God when misused. ?Misused? in this instance means thrust in people?s faces, worn as a badge of honor, broadcast as the defining characteristic of faith. People don?t need a systematic, organized understanding of God to be saved. They don?t need to have their beliefs divided and subdivided. They need a relationship, a deep, personal, intimate relationship.

Systematic theology can be present and right in a person?s life without ever being noticed or labeled as such. People can have it and use it and not know it just like they do with numerous math principles every day; just like they depend on their bone structure. And that?s ok. They don?t need the theological labels and all their associated camps any more than we need to begin dividing up people based on the length of their femurs or ability to determine the area of an equilateral triangle.

None of this is to undermine the value of accurate and rigorous theology. It is to put said theology in its proper place: foundation and underpinning, organization and understanding. It would be better if our systematic theology served its purpose and showed up less.

photo credit:?hillary the mammal?via?photopin?cc?

Happy Birthday To A Misunderstood Theologian

Tomorrow is the 31oth?anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Edwards. (I?m sure you were counting down the days.) Edwards, the New England pastor, theologian, and philosopher, is probably best-known for his sermon ?Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.?

In my community college English class we read portions of this sermon to the mocking disdain of students and professor alike. Many of you have probably experienced something similar. The sermon itself, while certainly vivid in its descriptions of Hell, is no more vivid than Jesus? own teachings about eternal judgment (see Matt 10:28; Mark 9:43, 47-48; Luke 16:19-31). But it?s a shame that to many people Edwards is known exclusively by this one sermon and thus characterized as a demented preacher obsessed with spewing venomous proclamations of hellfire and brimstone. That?s a distorted caricature of a man from whom we could learn much. So, in honor of his (almost) 310th?birthday, let?s take a closer look at Jonathan Edwards? life and thought.

Edwards was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, the only son in a family of eleven children. When he entered Yale University in 1716, he was a month short of his 13th?birthday. He was valedictorian at age 17, and had a Master?s three years later. (I find all of this mildly depressing.) He took all that brilliance and book-learning to the ministry in 1727 when he was ordained and became pastor of a church in Northampton, Connecticut.

He remained there for 23 years, during which time he would see several revivals, including the nation-shaping event of the Great Awakening. Despite what most would regard as a very successful pastoral ministry in Northampton, Edwards was dismissed by the congregation in 1750. He spent the remainder of his life as a missionary to the Indians and pastor to a small frontier congregation in the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He died on March 22nd, 1758, from a failed smallpox vaccination.

In the interest of brevity, let me introduce you to just counter-example to our popular image of Edwards as merely a ?hellfire and brimstone? preacher. Would it surprise you to know one of his lengthy sermon series was on love? Charity and Its Fruits is now a 16 chapter, 300+ page meditation on 1 Cor. 13. The final sermon, entitled ?Heaven is a World of Love? is a beautiful picture of the joys of Heaven. Here are some of the sections: ?Love in heaven is always mutual?The joy of heavenly love shall never be interrupted or damped by jealousy?There shall be nothing within themselves to clog or hinder the saints in heaven in the exercises and expressions of love?Love will be expressed with perfect decency and wisdom?There shall be nothing external in heaven to keep its inhabitants at a distance from each other, or to hinder their most perfect enjoyment of each other?s love?In heaven all shall be united together in very near and dear relations?In heaven [the saints] shall enjoy each other?s love in perfect and uninterrupted prosperity.? His conclusion? ?If you would be on the way to the world of love, see that you live a life of love ? of love to God, and love to men.?

There you have it. The life and thought of Jonathan Edwards in two paragraphs. (I left out a few details.) But here?s the last thing I think we should gain from celebrating a dead guy?s birthday: God isn?t dependent on any one genius, ?super-pastor,? or ?super-theologian? to carry on his mission. Edwards is dead ? and the gospel still goes forward. As the inscription on John Wesley?s tomb says, ?God buries his workmen but carries on his work.? Even titanic geniuses like Edwards aren?t necessary to God?s plan. The sovereign Lord is pleased to use us ? but he doesn?t need us.

So happy birthday, Jonathan Edwards. We?re grateful to God for you, and we?re grateful that God didn?t need you.

Image from Wikipedia.

It’s Not About Religion. It’s About A Relationship. Really?

On the sign of a local church: It’s not about religion. ?It’s about a relationship with Jesus.

When I first saw the sign I thought, that’s great, they’re trying to reach people ? and I know what they’re saying. Christianity isn’t drudgery; it’s not a bunch of tedious rules and regulations we slog through; it’s a joy-filled relationship with God through Jesus. ?I commend that church for reaching out to our community.

But the more I thought about it the more it bothered me. Bear with with me here ? remember, I’m an old guy and I’m entitled to these kinds of musings. ?If you want you can blast me afterwards but hear me out for a second.

The sign bothered me because being a Christian IS about religion. ?Religion and relationship with Jesus aren’t mutually exclusive. ?Being a Christian is about religion AND a relationship.

Religion is a specific set of beliefs about God and the practices those beliefs require. If we don’t believe Jesus is God, who became a man, lived a life of perfect obedience to his Father, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead, we won’t be saved and can have no relationship with the Father or Jesus Christ. Without religion there is no relationship.

James certainly saw religion as important:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. ?Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:26-27

If one can think he is religious yet not be, then it must be possible to actually be. If there is a religion that is worthless, then there is a religion that is true and worth having. ?James says true religion will lead us to bridle our tongues, visit afflicted orphans and widows ?and live holy, unstained lives.

In other words, it IS about religion – which affects how we live. It affects our speech. It makes us loving and holy.

The problem with the statement “It’s not about religion. ?It’s about a relationship with Jesus” is that it’s vague. ?It’s undefined, warm and fuzzy. ?But it can say the wrong thing.

If taken the wrong way people might think they don’t need to believe specific truths or be a committed member of a church. That they need not gather with others to hear the word preached or learn sound doctrine or serve others or speak the truth in love, confront sin or repent. It’s just me and Jesus; I don’t need all that religion stuff.

Yes, it is about relationship with Jesus which we receive as a free gift of God. But we cultivate that relationship by abiding in his word, prayer, worship, exercising faith, obedience and loving others – by our religion.

So what would I put on our sign? Maybe something like ? It’s not about religion ? if you think religion means boring drudgery and meaningless rules. It’s about a religion that leads to and fuels a satisfying saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Of course that’s too much for a sign you have 1.2 seconds to read as you drive by. But you know what I mean. ?Ok, old man’s musings are done. ?Fire away.

What?s With All This Doctrine Stuff?

Let?s be honest. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who asked for the three volume set of Elenctic Theology in their stockings this year, and the other 6,999,999,998 of us on the planet.

Ok, perhaps that?s not an entirely fair polarization of humanity. But maybe you?ve wondered sometimes, what?s with all this talk of doctrine and theology and academic stuff? Shouldn?t Christians just love Jesus and love people? In this post I want to give you one particular reason why it might be worth your time to crack open a challenging doctrinal book over the holidays (though your stocking still might be better off without Elenctic Theology). But first a story.

When I was a kid, I loved all things western. I wore a cowboy hat in my preschool pictures; through my mom, I personally dictated a letter to the local TV station that had the audacity to remove Bonanza from the daily programming (oddly enough, an irate letter from a 5 year old did nothing to alter their decision). Around the time I was old enough to have my own room, I discovered the author Louis L?Amour who, despite having about four basic plot ideas, managed to write over one hundred western novels. I read them all. But there was a problem.

The heroes in all the L?Amour novels were tough mountain men, and I soon discovered that they shunned sleeping in beds as too ?softening.? Real men slept on the hard ground, wrapped in their one blanket, six-shooter in hand, steely eyes piercing the gloomy dark for bandits and desperadoes. I on the other hand had a box spring, a mattress AND a goose-down pillow. My manliness was in serious jeopardy. So I asked my parents for permission to remove my bed. And (I have very flexible parents) they agreed. For about three years I slept on the floor (though my parents drew the line at a six-shooter and campfire). Why? Because when I learned about Louis L?Amour characters, I loved them ? and so I wanted deeply to be like them. What we know and love, we imitate.

Now here?s the point: if you want to be like God, you need to know and love God. And conversely, if you grow in your knowledge of who God is (which is what good theology is all about) you will begin both to love him more and to imitate what you love in Him. There?s no better way to grow more patient towards you spouse than to study God?s patience towards you; there?s no better way to grow more compassionate to the people around you than to study Jesus? compassion to hurting people.

So why tackle a book like Wayne Grudem?s Systematic Theology or Richard Sibbes? The Bruised Reed or John Piper?s The Pleasures of God? Because the more you and know and love God, the more we?ll imitate him and strive to be like him.

And (thankfully) God won?t make you give up your mattress.

Please Don’t Call Me Outdated!

There’s nothing worse than being called “outdated”. Actually, I can think of a lot of things that are worse, such as having to get a tetanus shot, or needing to have dental work of any sort done. But in our fast, modern, connected culture, it’s a pretty bad thing to be called “outdated”. The Walkman is outdated. Sleeveless denim shirts are outdated. America thrives on progress, and over the past 300 years we’ve made major progress in many areas, such as women’s rights, civil rights, technology, healthy living, and medicine. Progress is good. Most of the time.

I think we need to be very careful however, when we start jabbering about progress in our ideas of God. A few months back Rob Bell released a book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Many people embraced the book, saying that it was time we moved past our old, tribal, outdated ideas about a fiery God who pours out wrath on sin and sends people to Hell. This argument of “moving past” old ideas has been repeated in regards to many other ideas about God and the Bible, such as sexuality, marriage, and the creation debate.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reexamining our commonly held beliefs and making sure that they really are from the Bible. But I think we need to do slowly and very, very carefully. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, do we really think that we are somehow spiritually superior to those who went before us? Do we really think that all the Christian men and women who went before us and held to a particular idea were spiritual morons who didn’t know what God was really like? That spiritual giants like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Lloyd-Jones somehow missed it when it came to their ideas about Hell, or sexuality, or the church, or the family, or creation? It’s not like God has changed since the times of these men. He’s still the same, and the men and women who went before us wrestled with the same Bible that we do. So let’s not be arrogant punks and think that somehow we’ve moved past the ideas of those before us.

Second, we’re just as much products of our culture as those who came before us. The argument usually goes something like this: Augustine (or Calvin, Luther, Edwards, etc.) was deeply embedded in a patriarchal (or misogynistic, medieval, Enlightenment, rationalistic, etc.), and therefore all his ideas were shaped by that culture. We are part of a superior culture that has moved past all those old ideas, and therefore our ideas are better. But that’s just a boatload of bologna. Our ideas are shaped by our post-modern culture just as much, if not more than those who went before us. Our ideas aren’t inherently better than earlier ideas.

Finally, the Bible talks about guarding the truth of Jesus Christ and not letting it be changed. For example, in 2 Timothy 1:13-14, it says, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” We are primarily called to guard the faith entrusted to us. Not mess with it or change it or improve it. In light of this, we should be hesitant to dismiss ideas that have traditionally been held within the church.

We should always evaluate what we believe and what has traditionally been believed in light of scripture. The Reformation was built on the idea that everything must filter through scripture. My concern, however, is that in our modern culture we will be too quick to abandon ideas that have traditionally been held. That can be just as dangerous as holding on to “outdated” ideas. Maybe more dangerous.

Stuff Calvinists Like

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m (mostly) reformed. That means I believe in things like unconditional election, total depravity, etc. I believe that those are biblical doctrines.

One of the main complaints I’ve heard against reformed Christians is that they’re arrogant and like to bash people over the head with truth. And to be honest, there’s probably some truth in that. But I don’t want to be an arrogant Calvinist. I have a lot to be humble about, including my little reformed quirks. So to help us stay humble, I’ve compiled a “Stuff Calvinists Like” list.

Calvinists Like…

Using Air Quotes When We Say “Free Will”

If you say the words “free will” without putting air quotes around it, we’ll stop you in your tracks and begin a five point interrogation. To be safe, put air quotes around anything that sounds like “free will”, such as “free willy”.

Making Resolutions

Jonathan Edwards, who is the Calvinist equivalent of Spiderman, made over seventy resolutions. We Calvinists like to make resolutions, post them on our blogs, and then not do them. We mainly just like to say the word “Resolved”. And the word “Institutes”.

Quoting John Piper

We try to maintain a 2:1 Bible to Piper ratio. We quote two Bible verses and then a sentence out of Don’t Waste Your Life. When we see someone collecting sea shells, we say, “What’s he going to do with that shell collection when he gets to heaven?”

Moleskine Journals

Apparently there is something spiritual about Moleskine journals because every Calvinist owns at least four. One for devotional notes, one for sermons notes, one for prayer lists, and one for fantasy football stats. For some reason we also use fountain pens, even though using a fountain pen is like trying to write with an octopus.

Correcting Someone When They Say “Lucky”

Please don’t say the word “lucky” around me. It was providence, not luck. And that breakfast cereal you’re eating? Providence Charms.

Loving On C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is basically the Bono of the reformed world. He was definitely not a Calvinist, but we still go absolutely crazy for the guy. Yes he held some unbiblical doctrines, but you still have to love him. Only a cold-hearted machine would get angry at a guy who wrote about centaurs and fawns.

Showing That We’re Culturally Relevant

People often associate reformed doctrine with stuffy, old, out-of-touch churches. We don’t like that, and do all we can to prove our relevance. So we’ll make references to the show Full House and talk about how much we love Creed (even though they’re probably not Christian, but we’re not sure).

Okay, that’s a start. We reformed people can be pretty ridiculous at times, and have a lot to be humble about. If you’re not reformed, that’s okay. What matters most is the gospel.

What else would you add to the list?

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Theology: The Clarity of Scripture

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Can the Bible be understood and applied by all believers, or only those with specialized training?

Do you need a Masters of Theology to really understand the Bible, or can any believer read it and understand it? The doctrine of the clarity of scripture will help us answer that question.

The clarity of scripture can be defined as follows:

The Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it. (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine)

Psalm 119:130 says, ?The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.? These are sweet words. The words of scripture give us light, and they impart understanding even to the simple (someone lacking wisdom). They are clear and show us how to live rightly in the world.

It’s important to realize, however, that understanding God’s word is more of a spiritual ability than an intellectual ability. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul says:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

In other words, only those who are born again by the Holy Spirit are able to truly understand and apply the Word of God. Those who aren’t willing to believe or obey they teachings of scripture cannot rightly understand it. The Holy Spirit must help us understand the Word of God.

Does the clarity of scripture mean that all believers will agree on the meaning of all the scriptures? No. There were many times that, due to unbelief or hardness of heart, Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood the teaching of scripture. Until we get to heaven and are freed from sin, there will always be some measure of disagreement over the scriptures. However, we can know that the problem always lies with us, and not scripture.

This doctrine should encourage us. God wants us to know Him and follow Him and has given us words that can be understood. When you sit down to read your Bible, you can know that God wants you to understand it and benefit from it. This truth should cause us to love, treasure, and study God’s word.

Adapted from Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem and Jeff Purswell

+photo by annia316

Theology: The Authority of the Bible

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What does it mean that the Bible is our authority?

In the words of Wayne Grudem:

All the words in the Bible are God’s words. Therefore, to disbelieve or disobey them is to disbelieve or disobey God. (Christian Beliefs, pg. 13)

The words in the Bible are from God himself. We aren’t allowed to decide if they’re true or to pick and choose which words we will obey. God decides what is true and right. Not us.

In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…

Scripture is breathed out by God himself, and is our final authority for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. The words of scripture don’t conform to some external standard of truth. They are the definition of truth. Those things which conform to scripture are true, and those that don’t are false. In John 17:17, Jesus said:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

The truthfulness of the scriptures doesn’t mean that the Bible reports all events with precision, scientific detail. It often uses round numbers (e.g. “There were 6,000 men”) or makes general statements (e.g. “He traveled a far distance”), but the general nature of these statements doesn’t make them any less true.

The truthfulness of the Bible does mean that it never affirms something that is false. If it did affirm something false, we couldn’t trust the Bible, and ultimately, we couldn’t trust God. That’s why it’s so crucial for us to affirm that absolute truth and authority of the Bible.

Because the Bible is true, we can place our full trust in it and wholeheartedly obey it.

Adapted from Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know

+photo by le vent le cri