24 October 2014

Some here, some there — October 24, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Well, another week! Got my beautiful wife back from helping with my beautiful granddaughter, Zoé Isabelle Allen... oh, what's that you say? Do I have another picture? Mm, let's see, I'm sure there's one here somewhere... Ah:

Ahem. Now to business. Remember to check back at day's end for updates.
  • Let me say at the outset: one of the sites that refers me to great posts and articles is The Aquila Report. I tend to use their links and read the articles at the sites, and when I use the articles, I link to that site. But I'm putting The Aquila Report in our blogroll prominently, and commend it to you.
  • You probably will have heard by now that Mark Driscoll's elders, who notably softballed the process as it was by excluding should-be issues, have shared that he resigned rather than submit to any process of restoration. No price too little to pay, evidently.
  • Joel J. Miller is not even evangelical, and he gets what many don't. Miller's apparently Eastern Orthodox and, to be as candid as you expect me to be, I'll say I think that's a bad thing. Yet Miller gets what some evangelicals don't as clearly seem to see: that there are points on the line between wishing Mark Driscoll hell and destruction on the one hand, and wanting to see him restored to pastoral ministry on the other. Restore him? Yes, says, Miller, who then asks, "...but to what?" For instance, "what’s wrong with Driscoll becoming a lawyer or waiter or what have you?" Further:
Since when does welcoming someone back to fellowship mean that you have to welcome him back to a post he abused? What’s wrong with a pew, even up front if he wants it? But just a pew? Laity, as the kids might say if the idea ever entered their heads, rocks!

...The truth is that Paul’s criteria for pastoral leadership are pretty stringent. I daresay few of us really qualify. Maybe Driscoll is simply not pastoral material.

That’s not bad or shameful. Some would say it’s just blisteringly obvious. I don’t know. I just don’t see any point in crucifying him—or giving him back the keys to the building. That’s a bogus choice.

Having said that, I’d be happy to sit with him anytime.
  • Miles Mullin draws an extended parallel between Driscoll and another living, breathing cautionary tale, the trainwreck that is Bill Clinton, and makes application to what we should (and shouldn't) look for in church leaders (h-t Aquila Report).
  • Now, I won't even bother to link to any of the posts saying "Stop gloating" and all that. Instead, let's observe the process.
  1. Some warn of the impending disaster.
  2. They are shushed, criticized, ignored, blacklisted.
  3. The disaster happens. Even enablers are forced to take some small note.
  4. Almost immediately, the former enablers say "Don't gloat! Maybe we were wrong, but you were wronger (because: tone)! Move on!"
  5. Any suggestions of preventative systemic change are thereby snuffed out a-borning.
  6. Nothing changes.
  7. Cue the next slow-mo train wreck.
  • Seemed like a simple enough question. But she never answered it. Snif! When I brought it up, she asked what I was talking about, so I linked her to my tweet with the question. She never responded. I mean, unless this is in the place of a response...
  • No, you're not missing a tweet where I myself called her a name or treated her like, um, bad stuff. I asked a question, then noted I wasn't answered. So, there you go. It's like...
  • In this edition of SHST, I discussed with you dear brother Doug Wilson's lamentable attempts to tone down the content-aspect of "saved by grace alone through faith alone." Well, God help him, he's trying again. I actually think he makes it worse by doubling down. 
  • Most of us gladly allow that there are saved people attending RC churches who don't yet get how opposed Rome is to that Gospel and Savior in which they savingly trust. But Doug now specifically indicates instructed, faithful-to-Rome Roman Catholics, and says they're saved if they believe the version of the Gospel he gives. He says it's the Gospel that matters, not so much our response, saith Doug.
  • However, Doug seems to be aware that Galatians tears that theory all to heck. Specifically Galatians 5:3. Can we really think that the apostle who said "if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you...you are severed from Christ...you have fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:2, 4), would not equally say "if you accept a sacramental, works-system of salvation, Christ will be of no advantage to you," and all the rest, including 1:8-10? Indeed, we are saved by grace, through faith — and not just any "faith."
  • Glass strength: check.
That's it for now. Be safe.

Dan Phillips's signature

23 October 2014

Fear and Comfort are complements, not antonyms

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in October 2011. Dan explained why fear and comfort are both necessary parts of the Christian's walk.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Wouldn't you think that "fear" and "comfort" are antonyms, like "love" and "hate," or "darkness" and "light"?

In a Biblical context, we might most quickly associate the word "fear" with "of the LORD," or "of Yahweh." That topic — "the fear of Yahweh" — is a major Biblical theme. Clearly, in Proverbs, it is a literally foundational thought (cf. 1:7; 9:10; 31:30). In the Proverbs book, a chapter of 40+ pages traces the concept through its older Old Testament appearances, just so we can begin to understand Solomon's use of it throughout the book of Proverbs. One discovery is that the concept itself frames and must color our understanding of each individual verse within the entire book.

When we develop the concept Biblically, we feel the burden to show that the fear of Yahweh is not (as some might think) an Old Testament concept as opposed to a New Testament concept. Indeed, it is quite literally a pan-Biblical concept.

This stood out to me in a recent daily Bible reading. Acts 9:31 leapt out at me in this context:
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
There's that same phrase we find in the OT; in fact, the Septuagint of Proverbs 9:10 has φόβος κυρίου ("fear of the Lord"), as the beginning of wisdom. The post-Pentecost Christian church proceeded in that same fear. They lived their life from that motivation, the very same motivation found throughout the OT, and identified by Solomon as the necessary starting-place of knowledge (1:7) and of wisdom (9:10).

That in itself is instructive and thought-provoking. Though they'd been saved by the shed blood of Christ, though the Spirit had been outpoured, though non-Jews were beginning to be brought in, yet one thing that united them all is that they moved on in their Christian lives with the motivation of fear of the Lord.

It poses the question: how dominant of an element is this in the modern Christian's life? How does it affect the way he thinks, the way he forms views, the way he talks and lives and chooses and writes? How much is a lack of this quality a factor in the situations that vex us here at this virtual gathering? How many bloggers, writers, pastors are limp and passionless because they are less motivated by fear of the Lord than by fear of man, which is a snare (Prov. 29:25)? How many doctrinal errors, or errors of ministry or practice, can be traced to the want of that fear (cf. 3:7; 14:2; 15:33; 23:17; 28:14)? There's fertile ground for self-analysis, and re-examination of the genesis of wandering, in that topic.

Clearly, the jarring disconnect we feel between fear and comfort was not a problem to Luke. It was fear that gave the heart and mind the right stance before God; it was comfort given by the Spirit that assured and encouraged him in the life he was moved to live.

I conclude that either, to the exclusion of the other, is an unhealthy imbalance. Conversely each, coupled with the other, is a spiritually healthy blend.

What God has joined, we shouldn't sunder.

22 October 2014

The Wrong Kind of Ice Cream

by The late Frank Turk

On principle, let me say this before I say the other thing, below: we're fans of Todd Friel. He's pretty much in our neighborhood, our orbit on a lot of things. When he's good, he's clever and clear and winsome.

And then there are videos like this one:

Which, let's face it ... I mean: I like Potato Soup, and I like Ice Cream, but I would be very hesitant to try Potato Soup Ice Cream because maybe not everything that is good is good when you mix it together like that.  And to be fair to Todd, my twitter feed has noted that this 2 minutes is actually out of context of a larger segment on the show, and maybe that causes it to lack nuance.

I don't have any adult children yet, so please take my advice about how to raise children theologically with a large warning label on it which says, "this man receives sinners and eats with them," yes?  But it seems to me that what happens in this video is that Todd has forgotten how a few categories overlap without the whole thing becoming the wrong kind of soup or the wrong kind of ice cream.

Imagine with me my son and I driving along someplace, and we're discussing our mutual inclination to sin.  That is: he lives with me.  He sees me every day and he knows that his Dad, while awesome, is still a sinner.  And because I live with him, I know that he is also a sinner.  He's just like his Dad after all.  So my son tells me, "Dad, I know it's a sin, but sometimes I'm just so angry I could pop, and sometimes I do.  What am I going to do?"

Now imagine that what I say to him about his anger is this:
You have to try to not be angry, but if you do get angry, you can go to the cross and seek forgiveness.  Think about this, son: of course I don’t want you to run out into the snow and get frostbite, but if you do, I want you to go ahead and dial 9-1-1 for help.  Because that’s the Gospel – angry people get forgiveness from Jesus.  Jesus makes angry people happy in God’s eyes.
That's simply not it -- that's simply not how Paul talks about the problem of sin, the solution in the Gospel, and the battle for sanctification.  Now, if I had less time this week, I would simply point you to this post from me from a while ago (2012) and be done with it.  But I want to approach this topic in the context Todd has laid out here (such as it is) as there are important differences from that previous situation which I think you personally will benefit from.

The one thing Todd gets right in this video, if there is anything, is that the Gospel is actually the solution to the problem he is pointing at.  The Gospel is actually the solution to lust and fornication.  For those who are in adultery and fornication right now, the Gospel is the solution to them because let's face it: Jesus did die for sinners.  But Jesus didn't just die for us because of the things we do: Jesus died for us because of who we really are.  Think about this: we aren't sinners because we have fornicated.  We fornicated because we have yet been sinners with no hope; we have sinned out the the overflow of our hearts. That act is simply what seems or seemed right in our own eyes in spite of God's law telling us the truth.

But those of us who have more than God's law -- that is, those of us who have the fulfillment of the Law in the Gospel, fulfilled for us because we were yet sinners -- have the means to do something other than what seems right in our own eyes.

First, we have the ability to see that Christ died to highlight the great value of the things which God has set forth as holy through the great price which Holiness demands.  This should give us a measuring stick which upsets the apple cart of what seems good in our own eyes at least long enough to reset our thinking caps.  Second, we have the ability to see that we are changed by the death of Christ from those who were no people at all to being God's holy people. born again with a new ability to want what God wants.  That's New Covenant language, I'll grant you, but what it means is that we are no longer dragged around by the cares of this world, but willing to do what God wants us to do.  It's funny that here when it matters most Todd misses this when in other places he has been so adamant that an unwillingness to do what God wants is a sign that one might actually not be saved at all.  Third, the reason handing a child a condom and saying, "well, best of luck; don't use that unless you have to," seems to look a lot like Todd's version of how to handle this is because it really is a lot the same.  That is, it is offering the wrong solution to the problem by looking only at the consequences and not at the causes.

You know: one cause of finding yourself working out the necessary consequences of unbridled lust is that you have already given away all the bridles on your lust -- for example, thinking primarily of the safety and honor of the other person; keeping a relationship under the accountability of others; staying on the right side of the right doors.  The condom is a solution to a problem which one ought not to create for one's self.  Thinking before it happens that Jesus will love you anyway is, in fact, the same thing: trying to find a solution for something you can absolutely picture yourself doing.

The right solution here (and there are more, which I suggest are best discussed between a child and a parent rather than on a blog) is not to find the way to resolve the worst possible moral failure before it happens.  It is to use the solution God gave us in order to see the problem for what it is and see his solution for what it is really doing for us in order to defeat the problem, not to merely hope that we don't have to trust Jesus to forgive us for that.

21 October 2014

The real problem with Pat Robertson

by Dan Phillips

I'll just admit it up front: from their articles, I have a hard time understanding what the RAANetwork is about. They have a statement of purpose, but, as I say, I'm focusing on the articles. Where are we going, I wonder, when I see pieces like this, and this, and this? Does that all bring us together in an Ephesians 2 and 4 way, lifting up what unites us in Christ through His work on the Cross?

But I follow them in Twitter, in part because I dearly want to see Biblical truths spread all over, including those areas where historically it has not been well-presented and well-known. For that reason, Monday my eye was caught by their tweets about Pat Robertson.
Well, yeah, yes he has. Absolutely. Welcome aboard. And:
Really? Now, that's not what I would have said. I don't think it really gets to the heart of it. But I went to read the article by Cornell Ngare, to see how he developed his thought. The more Christians who put the Bible to Robertson, the better. So I read.

For one thing, I — are you sitting down? — was a bit taken aback at how bare-knuckled it was. Deserved, appropriate... but just a bit surprising to me.

"Pat Robertson has been making ridiculous statements on global television for decades." OK, well yes; again, amen. Ngare points at Robertson's "record and reputation for being flippant, bigoted, and all other words that describe a serious lack of wisdom or discretion," and asks whether we really should "be wasting our breath and time reacting to his latest episode of verbal diarrhea?"

"Latest episode of verbal diarrhea"? Ouch; absolutely true, and needs to be said. You go, bro!

Then Ngare (again truly) observes that one would hope a 84-year old would be mellowing and maturing — more "nuanced"! — and yet Robertson "only seems to be getting worse." Indeed.

Then Ngare goes on about Robertson's regular practice of popping off answers and rants and musings on an array of topics without even an attempt at deriving them from Scripture.

So: true, true, true... but what does Pat Robertson's follies in this regard have to do with Reformed folks, or the RAANetwork's statement of purpose? Robertson isn't Reformed, makes no claim to being Reformed. I'm still puzzling that out.

However, that said, I must quickly add once again that I'm always glad to see a Christian brother warning about Robertson. I myself have a long, long record of doing just that, and far less gently than Cornell Ngare (to his credit, no doubt). Just see this, and this, and this, and this, for starters.

In the first of those, I get at what I am suggesting Ngare is missing, and where I think he's just a bit wide of the mark.

I think Pat Robertson would categorically reject Ngare's accusation. Robertson would say that he seeks God's wisdom constantly—and he gets it, directly, by God's personal revelations to him.

You see, Pat Robertson is a Charismatic. He is a man who has written generously that "Probably 95 per cent of all the guidance we need as Christians is found in the clearly understood principles of the Holy Bible." The other 5 per cent? Well, that's where you need Pat and the other Charismatic leaders who have a hot line to God.

Paul's question in Romans 4:3a seldom seems to be Robertson's first question, 2 Timothy 3:15-17 doesn't inform him much, and Deuteronomy 18:20 doesn't seem to sober him up to any measurable degree. The hard fact of a completed Canon is just a "and-then-that-happened" thing in the landscape of his thinking.

So why is Robertson's ranting reported? Why does he have an audience? Why is he a problem?

It's this progression which is as unpopular as it is irrefutable: without (A) Pentecostalism, (B) Charismaticism (however you shade those two), and most crucially (C) the Open-But-Clueless crowd of Reformed-and-other enablers, Robertson would be without a platform. He'd have no one to listen to him. Once he started popping off and saying things that can't be warranted by Scripture, Christians would turn away en masse, and he'd be talking to the mirror.

This is the consequence of not truly affirming and embracing and heralding a robust doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. This is the consequence of winking at the Charismatic movement. This is the consequence of Reformed folks like Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress and the others coming up with rationales to save face for Charismaticism's 100 years of straying and of failure-to-deliver.

Just take one example, only one: Robertson's internationally-famous record for false prophecies. Just take this one: here we see Pat Robertson and Michael Brown's BFF Benny Hinn, where Robertson says in so many words that God told him that Mitt Romney would win the Presidency.

Don't rush past that. There's no way to soften this. Sniggering, giggling Pat claims a word from God. Michael Brown's good buddy Hinn says "I trust God's voice." So both equate Pat's private revelation with the august voice of God, that voice which brought the universe into existence out of nothing.

Yet note again, Hinn says "I trust God's voice," and Robertson chuckles "Well, we'll see."

Words fail me. Almost.

Now, this clearly was a false prophecy. Can't we agree on that?  That, or (I speak as a fool) God was wrong. So, remind me: what are the consequences for delivering a false prophecy?
  1. In Israel, it would be death (Deuteronomy 18:20).
  2. In the church, surely it would be excommunication.
  3. In this day of Grudem and Poythress and other enablers of modern pop-offecy... nothing. No consequences.
I totally agree with Cornell Ngare that Robertson's a huge problem. But I don't think his wording of his analysis hits the ten-ring. Robertson's problem is the reason why he even has a platform: failure to give God's Word the place God gives it.

What Christ's church really needs is a revival-level, massive embrace, and living and systematic proclamation of the sufficiency of Scripture.

Dan Phillips's signature

19 October 2014

Killing and healing

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Teachings of Nature in the Kingdom of Grace, pages 223-224, Pilgrim Publications.

Jesus Christ had spoken certain truths which were highly objectionable to the Pharisees. Some of His loving disciples were in great fright, and they came to Him and said, “Knowest Thou not that the Pharisees are offended?”

Now our Saviour, instead of making any apology for having offended the Pharisees, took it as a matter of course, and replied in a sentence which is well worthy to be called a proverb,—“Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”

Now we have oftentimes, as Matthew Henry very tritely remarks, a number of good and affectionate but very weak hearers. They are always afraid that we shall offend other hearers. Hence, if the truth be spoken in a plain and pointed manner, and seems to come close home to the conscience, they think that surely it ought not to have been spoken, because So-and-so, and So-and-so, and So-and-so took offence at it.

If we never offended, it would be proof positive that we did not preach the Gospel. They who can please man will find it quite another thing to have pleased God.

Do you suppose that men will love those who faithfully rebuke them? If you make the sinner's heart to groan, and waken his conscience, do you think he will pay you court and thank you for it? Nay, not so; in fact, this ought to be one aim of our ministry, not to offend, but to test men and make them offended with themselves, so that their hearts may be exposed to their own inspection. Their being offended will discover of what sort they are.

A ministry that never uproots will never water; a ministry that does not pull down will never build up. He who knoweth not how to pluck up the plants which God hath not planted, scarcely understandeth how to be a worker of God in His vineyard.

Our ministry ought always to be a killing as well as a healing one,—a ministry which kills all false hopes, blights all wrong confidences, and weeds out all foolish trusts, while at the same time it trains up the feeblest shoot of real hope, and tenders comfort and encouragement even to the weakest of the sincere followers of Christ.

17 October 2014

Some here, some there — October 17, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Howdy amigos and amigas.
  • We'll start out on a happy personal note. Wednesday (September 45, Phillips calendar), just a bit more than an hour after our church had prayed for her, my beautiful daughter Rachael and dashing husband Kermit welcomed my beautiful granddaughter, Zoé Isabelle Allen, into the world. Zoé weighed in at 6 lb 15.8 oz, and was born at home. Here's pictures I have at post-time; will add more if I get more!

  • And here's my beautiful wife and my beautiful granddaughter.
  • Ahh.
  • Now, from the sublime to... well, Mark Driscoll. You'll know by now that he has resigned as pastor. Here is Mark's letter, which I would characterize as defiant, unhumbled, and resentful. He makes sure everyone knows he's still qualified to be pastor and has a clean bill of health; any unspecified "imperfect" aspects have been all taken care of. His accusers are the real problem; nobody but Mark comes off very well, in his telling.
  • Here's the letter from the Mars Hill overseers. They agree with Mark that, though he's got his problems, he's really a great guy.
  • Of many articles I've seen, I think the crispest insight is from Michael Newnhamwho says "In the corporate world, you cut your losses, protect your resume, and move on to the next opportunity." Does that not pretty well capture the Driscoll situation?
  • Now surely the most surreal note comes in a post in, of all places, The Gospel Coalition, written by Trevin Wax. If you hadn't read it, and I summarized his third point for you, you'd say I had to be making it up. So here it is, verbatim. The point is "Character Matters as Much
    as Doctrine," and part of what Trevin says is (bold added):
Every tribe has its blind spots. It’s human nature to assume the best of your friends and worst of your enemies. I have seen this club mentality when well-known evangelicals with good reputations and solid character are dismissed simply because their biblical exegesis differs from ours. And I think some Christian leaders were slow to see the problems with Driscoll because he ”believes the right things.”
If anything, evangelicals gifted with discernment and biblical doctrine of sin and grace should have been the first to expose these problems. I know some of this critique happened behind the scenes, inside and outside Mars Hill. But more could have been done sooner to warn and protect the flock.
  • So...
  • Prompting:
  • And perhaps:
  • And of course:
  • Some commenters asked Trevin to be more specific, but as of this posting, it hasn't happened.
  • I don't know of anyone blocked or blacklisted by the TGC who's been contact by them, or "followed" by them in Twitter (to signal that they're opening up their echo chamber). But those were really nice words Trevin wrote.
  • Not all comments passed moderation. Like Tom Chantry's.
  • Carl Trueman has now weighed in. Some "money-quotes" [bolding added]:
It is interesting that the crisis finally came only when the aesthetics flipped the other way, when Driscoll and his antics became more distasteful than the words of his critics. It is important to notice that it was not the embrace of a Unitarian prosperity teacher and that decision's obvious doctrinal significance [on which see here, among many others by all three of us] which brought things to a head. Rather, it was the numerous allegations of bullying and loutish behaviour which finished him off -- things that are aesthetically displeasing in the current climate. The whistleblowers, however, are still not regarded as vindicated, despite having spoken the truth. I suspect they can -- pardon the pun -- whistle for an apology from the Top Men or for rehabilitation by the mainstream of YRR evangelicalism. For they can even now still be dismissed as smug (an aesthetic word if ever there was one) or simply forgotten because, whatever the truth they spoke, they were nonetheless engaged in the activity at a point in time when the aesthetics of the marketplace made their criticisms easy to characterize as unloving and thus distasteful.
When it comes to an instinct for staying ahead, the Top Men and their camp followers are masters of the taste-driven dynamics of the evangelical stock exchange: winsome and loving when the market's aesthetics demand such, then wise and discerning when tastes change. Like the secret of great comedy, the secret of being a respected leader in the world of Big Eva is really very, very simple: it's all a question of timing.
  • Christmas is coming.
  • I think that if something like this had been attempted when I was a student at Talbot, there would have been a very vigorous response. It reminds me of the classmate who said, back in the 80s, "I'm afraid that one day I'm going to have to explain my degree, like guys who went to Fuller have to do now."
  • More news from the dominant, ever-broadening "fringe." One reads these revelations and accusations about 93yo Charismatic "prophet" Ernest Angley — who admits requesting to view mens' privates — with horror, but not particularly with surprise. See, here's the thing: in a healthy church, one would have watched Angley for about 5 minutes, to be generous, and dismissed him. He would never have been able to earn a living, let alone such a lavish lifestyle, from Christians.
  • Except that Charismaticism gives him cover. And Christians who ought to know better (the "open but clueless" set) give Charismaticism cover. It is just as simple as that.
  • Which BTW is a drum that John MacArthur has banged yet again and again. God bless him for his stand. I have no doubt as to what sort of ministry — enabling, or discerning — will stand better in that Day, in terms of how it dealt with the Charismatic movement.
  • Too cool to miss: a Lego telling of The Hobbit in 72 seconds.
  • Fred Butler hates Christmas, but loves "impact" as a verb.
  • Wait, that's not quite right. The first part isn't, anyway. Fred Butler hates it when people read into Christmas trappings things that were never intended by their originators, even with the highest motives. There.
  • Hm. How do I get my cats to do this?
  • (...or, for that matter, my sons?)
  • Ahhh, contextualizing...
  • Contextual street evangelism. Watch this evangelist reaching out to a Michael Jackson impersonator, contextualized-style:
  • (Actually, that's not it at all. The note says it's a Mormon missionary. Emergo-Morms?)
  • City officials subpoenaing sermons by pastors not even involved in a lawsuit, to see if they criticized city policy allowing sexually perverted individuals into bathrooms of the opposite sex. Sure, you say: in Sweden. But no. San Francisco? Not this story. England, France, Seattle? Nope. Try Texas. Try Houston, TexasNo lie.
  • People think of Texas as conservative, and largely we are. But Austin and Houston teem with liberal, totalitarian, anti-Christian officials fighting their own war with God.
  • Doug Wilson comments on the Houston situation. So does Carl Trueman. (Both men actually know a Houston pastor personally.)
  • David Allen brings a good word about real men, touching on Driscoll and related matters.
  • "How do I know if I'm elect?" Here's a pretty wonderful answer from Joseph Alleine.

  • Doug Wilson seems to argue, not for the first time, that believing in justification by faith should prevent us from being too critical of Roman Catholics and others who claim to be Christian despite many and grave doctrinal and practical errors. After all, are they justified by faith, or by correctness and precision?
  • Doug expresses admiration for a somewhat similar "magnificent" post by Mark Jones at, of all places, Reformation21. Jones, who has recently been defending the practice of "baptizing" people who have no faith at all, makes a more nuanced case than Wilson.
  • What of it, then? For one thing, it seems to rest on a definition of faith that tears it from the realm of truth and doctrine. It seems to me to reverse what believers have argued since Schleiermacher, that saving faith must have content, and not just any content. For another, it makes Paul's attitude towards the Galatian errorists incomprehensible (I don't find Wilson's dismissal persuasive). For yet another, it leaves me wondering how we can criticize Zane Hodges and the rest of what chapter 10 of TWTG calls "gutless gracers." And isn't that an odd turn of events, when the nuanced and deep thinking of some Reformed brother leads them to stand pretty darned close to dispensational antinomians who are rejected by dispensationalists who affirm the Biblical Gospel of God's sovereign grace?
  • I asked that question over at Doug's place, btw; no answer. He wrote more about it yesterday in an attempt to explain, but didn't allude to or answer my question.
As usual, check in later. This post usually grows through the day.

Dan Phillips's signature

16 October 2014

How to read the Bible

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in May 2007. The Bible isn't just 66 books that happen to be bound together.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Yes: this is another post on how to read your Bible. And as a brief exposition on why I'm not letting this topic go, it's because I am frankly tired of people tossing off the glib objection, "But how do you know? All those denominations out there – which one of them has the right reading?"

We have about 5000 readers a day at TeamPyro, and when any of us post here, that means 5000 different people read the post. And let's face it: we have a problem with people failing to engage what we write here all the time. It's frustrating. People see their pet peeves in one sentence, and suddenly the post is not about what it's about, but about what this person has made his life's work to confute.

As another example, we were sitting in church in the last couple of weeks, and my son was sitting next to me as my pastor was preaching on the doctrine of salvation. Well, my pastor was on about why salvation implies a need for being saved, and he was completely on about Romans 3:21-26.

And my son whispered to me as my pastor read that passage, "Daddy, I know that verse."

Listen: it is important to memorize Scripture, and it is important for children to memorize Scripture because they must have a foothold in God's word which is the foundation of the way they perceive the whole world. But when my son said that, I was certain that he wasn't the only one in the service who was thinking that – because that's how many adults perceive Scripture: as maxims of wisdom which are not connected except that they are all bound together with cotton stitches in their Bible.

I mention that because unless we understand the real, literary connections of the 66 books of the Bible, we don't really understand the Bible – and almost every single error one can make in interpreting or paraphrasing the Bible is founded in misconstruing how one passage fits into the book it appears in, and then in the whole canon of Scripture together.

So how do you find these connections? Is there a way to do that?

Well, of course there is. Let's look at Romans 3 to flesh that out. Paul has made the clear affirmation that we're all sinners, and that Christ redeems sinners – but so what? How do we know what Paul meant by that?

Let me suggest something: Paul makes a vivid point in Romans 3 by referencing Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Isaiah 59:7,8 and Psalm 36:1.

He cites Psa 14 – but why? Is it because there's a kernel of wisdom there and, like some motivational speaker, he can find some snippet of God's nice turns of phrase to underscore his point? Or is it because Paul's point here is that there is nothing new about the plight of man, and in that there is nothing new about God's plan of salvation. See: the point in Psa 14 is that certainly all the people God sees are sinful, but that psalm closes by affirming that God saves in spite of men's sinful foolishness.

And again, Paul cites Psa 140 to underscore the wickedness of men's mouths – but he also cites Psa 140 because it says that God delivers men from that kind of wickedness. His point in connecting his theological statement in a letter to the Romans to the book of Psalms is that the Bible is telling one particular story about God's work through all of time.

This view of Scripture shuts the mouth of any man-centeredness. It is in this way we can see the systematic and unified aspect of Scripture which drives us away from our errors if we are willing to receive what is there.

It is in this way that Scripture explains itself – but this view of what is happening in Scripture requires that one connect all the dots. It requires one to have a larger picture of each book, and all the books, of Scripture than one can get buy reading a verse a day.