9/09/2016

Andy Stanley: The Bible Told Me So

Andy Stanley has inspired the rearranging of many electrons across internet pathways in the last few days.  He said some truly troubling things in a sermon designed to encourage young people to remain in or return to the Christian faith, a noble and necessary effort.  He stated that the Christian Faith was not based on what the Bible says, but on the fact that Christ was raised from the dead.  He flatly stated that the Bible does not have to be completely true in all that it says in order for Christianity to be accepted.  According to Stanley, the Christian faith is based primarily on the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles and Disciples and their interaction with Jesus Christ. 

In an effort to be charitable, Stanley is trying to reach skeptics on the basis of the historical reliability of the New Testament writings.  He points out that these documents are based on very carefully recorded eyewitness testimony, and they are basically reliable accounts of historical events like Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  All of this is true, but Stanley stops too quickly in his argument. 

Stanley follows a basic argument that I have been exposed to ever since I first read Josh McDowell, J. Gresham Machen, and R. C. Sproul.  The linear argument goes like this:

1.       The Bible is good history.  (Stanley is right with us here.)
2.       We can trust what the Bible says about Jesus because it is based on eyewitness testimony. These eyewitnesses were willing to die for their faith. (Stanley stays with us.)
3.       Jesus claimed to be God. He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Thomas said, “My Lord and my God,” and Jesus did not correct him (John 20:26-31).  (Stanley hangs on.)
4.       Jesus worked miracles and proved Himself to be God.  (Stanley is still there.)
5.       Jesus affirmed the truth of God’s Word. He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He said, in prayer to God, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).  Christ affirmed the truthfulness of the Old Testament.  (Stanley does not mention this.)
6.       Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to help the apostles remember and truthfully relate the events in the Bible (John 16:13-15).  Christ affirmed the truth of the New Testament.  (Stanley doesn’t bring this up either.)
7.       We have a Bible we can believe to be completely true based on Christ’s authority and teaching.  We can trust what the Bible says. It gives us God’s truth and equips us for faith and service (2 Tim. 3:15-17).  (Here’s where Stanley ‘gets off the bus’ on this trip.)
To be repetitive, the conclusion that the Bible is true in all it says comes from the authority and teachings of Jesus Himself.  We can’t ‘wiggle out’ of that.  We can’t ‘side step’ it.  We can’t ignore it.  If what Stanley affirms to be true is in fact true, and we take a close look at the implications of those affirmations, then we have a Bible which is true in all it says by the force of logic.

But what of the skeptic who would embrace the core facts that Christianity is based on without accepting a Bible that contains no error?  I admit the theoretical possibility of a person being a Christian who does not accept the Bible to be true in all it says in the original manuscripts, to fail to do so would excludeC. S. Lewis from The Kingdom of God.  However, the greatest gathering of reformed theologians ever to get together said in The Westminster Confession of Faith:
By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.  (WCF 14.2)


Believing the Bible to be true in all it says certainly is a reasonable and logical conviction, one that should be embraced by all.  To fail to do so is problematic, and may indicate a heart not yet converted to Christ. 

We should pray for Stanley, but we must be both charitable and firm in our reactions.  He is on dangerous ground.


[It is beyond the scope of this post to address all of the issues Stanley brings up in the sermon.  Please see the posts under the search label “The Argument from Scripture” at the right for the answers to many of them.]

6/07/2016

To My Classmates


“(Thirty) years now, Where’d they go.
(Thirty) years … I don’t know.
I sit and I wonder sometimes, where they’ve gone.”
-          With apologies to Bob Seger’s song “Like a Rock”


I write this the night I attended my thirty-year class reunion.  It was good to see so many of my friends; to hear of their joys and pains; and to know they care about me after so long.

Many spoke of the good things that have transpired after thirty years: marriages that have lasted, educations that have paid off, businesses bought and sold, the pride of military service, the honor in completing ‘a good day’s work’ for year after year, and the overwhelming joys of children and grand-children.  But, O, the bad things: the aches and pains of growing older, divorce, the rigors of military service for ourselves and our children;  friends, parents, and family separated by death; cancer and illness, car wrecks, and the overwhelming sorrow felt for wayward or sick children.  A few of these things I have experienced myself.

The pain can be overwhelming at times, it can all seem so meaningless; the suffering we experience because others sin against us and, oftentimes even worse, the shame we experience because we know our sins have made others suffer.  Well did the writer of The Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes say of life “under the sun” that it is “Vanity of vanities…vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

But my outlook is brightened, and anyone else’s can be too.  You see, I am a Christian.  I am a Christian for many reasons, many of which are written about on this blog

One of them is that I know Christianity to be true.  Christianity explains the world I find myself in better than any other way of seeing things that I have found, and I have searched many different views in the books I have read and the conversations I have had.   Christianity is true, and, as Steve Brown says, “Once you’ve seen truth, you can’t un-see it.”

But there is another reason I am a Christian.  All of this “vanity and vexation of spirit,” all of these “toils after the wind,” have meaning when you are a Christian.  “In all things God works for the good ofthose who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  He turns pain and suffering into something meaningful, something that has a purpose because it is a part of his plan.

Even sinners like us, forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross, are perfectly loved and accepted by God.  That same writer of Ecclesiastes wrote of this when he said, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merryheart, for God has already approved what you do.” 

My high school friends should have the best.  I want them to know that God truly does love them, and that he offers a wonderful plan for their lives. 

We can see who Jesus is and trust what he did to pay the penalty for our sins.  We can turn to Jesus from, not just our sins, but from trying to do better or to do more so that God will accept us. 

We turn for our efforts because we know that the good things we do are from impure motives, and, besides, how could what we do now possibly make up for what we have done in the past?  If we do what is good now, aren’t we just doing what we should have done anyway?  How can what was required earn extra favor to make up for what we have done before? 


When we know and do these things, often called faith and repentance, we can rest assured that God loves and accepts us.  That is my desire for my classmates.  I pray that God will grant me my desire.

5/05/2016

On the National Day of Prayer

Almighty and ever-living God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for your church and the United States of America.  Forgive us of our many and grievous sins that this prayer might be heard.  Thank you that we can be forgiven because of what Jesus Christ did in his perfect life in this world and in his sacrificial death on the cross.

By your word you created all we see and know.  By your word, you made us in your image.  By your word, Christ is raised from the tomb, death is overcome, and we are given new life by the power of your Spirit.  Help us to boldly proclaim this good news, rejoicing always in your powerful presence.  Let us go forward without fear of poverty, derision, or even death in order to glorify your great name.

Thank you for life, health, food, and opportunity.  Thank you for work to do and for strength to do that work.  Thank you for our homes, our families, our churches, and our friends.

For our country, grant our President and all leaders at the local, state, and national levels wisdom and courage to govern according to your moral law as described in the Bible.  Grant wisdom for our judges.  Protect our freedoms, especially our freedom of religion, and give us the courage to use those freedoms for the advance of your kingdom. 

Let our police protect us with strength and justice; and guard their lives as they fulfill their duties. Give firefighters and all other public servants safety and strength.

For our military we ask safety and success as they defend our country.  We pray that our enemies would turn to you as the salvation of their souls so that peace might reign. 

Grant that we as a nation would turn to you from our many sins, especially the scourge of abortion, that your glory might be displayed for the entire world to see.  Let our sexuality no longer be a source of sinful departure from your perfect will for us.  Let the rest of the world glorify your name because of what they see in our marriages and in our chaste, single brothers and sisters.

For all Christians who are enduring persecution for their faith in this world; especially those who are being persecuted by ISIS; grant health, safety, dignity, and; if necessary; strength to endure to the very end.  Give them a vision of your glory to sustain them in the midst of the suffering to which you have called them.  Grant their persecutors true faith and genuine repentance or, if not, intervene in your justice on behalf of your people, so that their suffering might end.

Strengthen those who stand firm in the faith, encourage the fainthearted, and help those who fall to rise and try again.  Restrain the attacks of Satan and his demons that we might triumph in this world for the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Loving God, you want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing you, and to lay all our cares on you, knowing that you care for us. Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that nothing in this mortal life may cause us to doubt your great love that Christ has bought for us.   

Be with your servants who make art and music, that with joy we on earth may glimpse great beauty.  Let the heart of this nation sing praise to your name once again as it has in the past.

Give us an accurate and healthy regard for our history, and help us to be thankful for the many things that our nation has done right.  Let us hold up the form of government that has served us so well for so long.  Do not let this grand form of government, this great experiment in representative democracy, perish from this earth.  Do not let it change into something that our founding fathers would not recognize.

Heal those who are sick in body or mind, and give skill and compassion to all who care for them.  Strengthen and preserve all women who are in childbirth, and all young children. 

Come to the help of all who are in danger; protect all who travel by land, air, or water; and show your pity on all prisoners and captives.  Comfort the aged, the bereaved, and the lonely.  Defend and provide for the widowed and the orphaned, the refugee, the homeless, and the unemployed.


Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as is best for us; for we pray these things in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

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