4/14/2014

He Has Spoken, Part 4

This is part four of a multi-part series on “He Has Spoken,” a study published by the Colson Center.  This post discusses the third presentation and discussion in the five lesson DVD curriculum.  This lecture is titled “The Big Picture: Grasping the Purposes of Scripture.” 

Any lecture which opens with a T. S. Elliot quote gets my attention, and this one is no exception.  Elliot said there were two questions we ask when we find something new: what can I do with it, and what is it for?  Of course, what is it for (what is its purpose) is the most important question.    This reminds me of Captain James T. Kirk’s comment in The Wrath of Kahn: “You have to know why things work on a starship.” 

To me, the Bible answers the “what is it for” question for itself in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  The Bible is for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. 

John Stonestreet’s answer is that the Bible is a unique interpretation of historical events that shows history is about God, not us.  All of reality is about God. 

According to Stonestreet, the big picture of the Bible is contained in three great truths: God Exists, Humans answer to God, and  Jesus Christ is King

His discussion emphasizes that we are responsible to God for our behavior, we have sinned against God, and Christ has made a way for us to be forgiven. 

Stonestreet’s discussion with T. M. Moore centers on the Christian life as a war, and Scripture as a chief weapon in that war.  The Word of God is “the Sword of the Spirit.”  It helps us to “make progress” in the cultural war we find ourselves in.  This is a spiritual war.

The purpose of this curriculum is not to defend the propositions, just to explain them.  We already saw in an earlier article that they referred us to www.str.org (Stand to Reason) for that defense.  STR is a great resource for Christians.   I find that I spend much of my time presenting arguments for the veracity of Scripture. 

This is important because our culture increasingly does not treat the Bible as any kind of authority.  We must learn to present the clear, careful arguments that demonstrate Scripture to be true (I have presented some here.)  We cannot ‘lose the war’ by allowing our chief weapon to be disabled in the eyes of our culture. 

Of course, the Bible is never really disabled.  The Holy Spirit can always use the words of Scripture to melt the most hardened heart.  But we cannot neglect our responsibility to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 15-16). 

Stonestreet notes that our culture also sees the statement of truth that is true for all people as a “violent” activity.  He is right about our culture.  Moore says we are simply stating what the Bible says, not imposing our values or forcing them down other’s troughs.    We stand in a powerful tradition that sees the Bible as true.  Of course, we should expect those around use to use other ‘weapons’ against us in this war of words. 

We should expect to be maligned, even persecuted, as we affirm the truths of Scripture.  We can prepare for this by getting some good Christian friends around us.  We “need the strength of our communities.”  We must always show love to those we confront with the truth of Scripture.


The next post in this series will follow soon.  We will look at the next lecture and discussion in this curriculum.

4/11/2014

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

I have taken several months off from blogging.  I have used the time to prepare a series of Sunday School Lessons on J. I. Packer’s wonderful little book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.  I will lead a discussion of this book at my little church in Troy, TN.  I want to put in a plug for this book.

One of the things that put me off of Calvinism when I was first introduced to the doctrines of grace was the idea that Calvinism destroyed the motive for evangelism and missions.  It took a long time for me to come around.  There are many others who reject Calvinism for the same reasons.

Packer is clear in his book that the “antinomy” between God’s sovereignty (God’s control of all things) and man’s free will (man’s freedom of choice) is a mystery that will not be completely sorted out in this life.  Along with others, (see John Piper’s short article here, and a discussion by R. C. Sproul in Chosen by God), I am somewhat troubled with the use of the word antinomy because it implies a contradiction in the ordinary use of the word on this ‘side of the pond.’  

It is comforting that Packer says there is no contradiction between the two when he states:
What should one do, then, with an antinomy? Accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it.  Refuse to regard the apparent inconsistency as real; put down the semblance of contradiction to the deficiency of your own understanding; think of the two principles as not rival alternatives but, in some way that at the present you do not grasp, complementary to each other…It follows that they must be held together, and not played off against each other.   (P. 26, 28)
That seems clear enough.

Along with John Piper in the reference above, I am not entirely sure there is even the appearance of contradiction between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.  I can see how they would both be true at the same time.  John Gerstner was also helpful to me on this issue in his little book A Primer on Free Will.  Both Piper and Gerstner depend on Jonathan Edwards for their views in this area.

Packer’s detailed analysis of the proper motives for evangelism is much appreciated.  The motive that has kept me going in the twin tasks of evangelism and missions is the thought that I can be successful because God can change anyone’s heart.  Many of my attempts have seemed to fall on deaf ears, and this has been very discouraging to me.  This truth is comforting. 

I will not attempt a detailed summary of the book because there is such a good one available here.  I just want to recommend this modern-day classic to anyone, Calvinist or not, who has the same type of questions I did.


I reserve the right to post on this book in the future as we move through the Sunday School series.

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