Friday, December 18, 2009

'cliff notes on theology' continued: the discussion

The following discussion was generated after a posting called "Cliff Notes of Theology: Why are these books in the Bible and not others?"


Interestingly the "extra" books have been a part of the Septuigant from the beginning, and have been considered canonical since the before late 4th century, when the 27 books of the New Testament were canonized. References in Acts, and Jude are made to passages found in Books considered apochraphal by Protestants. As I have heard it explained, Luther wanted to match the Masoretic canon, which was only 39 books, so he threw out the "extras". Rome considered them Extra-canonical before Trent, but the Eastern Orthodox have always called them Canon.


I think, beyond traditional recognition, a great part of the determination of canonization, was how the writings in question bore consistency with the rest of Scripture, against which, they fell short.


I'm aware of the inclusion of the extra books in the Septuagint, but I guess that raises the question, Was the inclusion meant to indicate canonicity? Often helpful books were appended to translations in the way that notes are appended to study bibles or commentaries are to Bible software. I've heard of bibles distributed early in the church to which was attached the epistle of clement, the shepherd of hermes..without indicated the inspiration of these works. So, were the Alexandrians attempting to define or redefine the canon, or offer a helpful translation? It might be helpful to consider how the Jews as a larger religious community regarded these writings. I think the evidence is pretty strong that they considered their 22books (our 39) as the totality of OT canon (e.g. Jamnia). And so we can interpret their inclusion of these "extras" as helpful, but not necessarily inspired. This is also confirmed by early church fathers like Jerome, Cyril, Origen...


I thought the extra books were considered helpful, but not God breathed or God inspired. Please correct me if I am wrong Pastor Jake.


Not all of the earliest Church Fathers (Origen not being considered a "father" by the East in later centuries) agreed on the same Canon. It wasn't until nearly the end of the 4th century that we see a final consensus on the canon. I believe the East has, since that time, considered the extras of the OT Canon as canon.

The other thing to consider, in discussing the Eastern Orthodox, is the fact that Holy Tradition is considered an equal source of Apostolic Doctrine as the Scriptures. The Traditions of the Apostles were first passed down and preserved orally before the Epistles and Gospels (then referred to as memoirs by early Fathers) began to circulate. In other words, the Church itself is the "pillar and ground of truth", with Scripture and Tradition as a "one-two punch" of its authority, both have their authorship in the Holy Spirit.

I guess to get to my point, The Orthodox Church considers them canon, so for them, that ends the discussion. Not that they check their minds at the door, because they have good scholarship to back up their claims too.


Bonnie, I think you're right.

Jeremiah, I think I'm safe in saying that the vast majority of early fathers held to the canon held by the vast majority of Jews (which considered the apocryphal books apocryphal). I see your point about the view of authority subscribed to by the O.C. (cool abbreviation), but I think the question becomes, "Do they have a particular tradition on the content of the canon that can be traced back to apostolic origins?" If so, what? This is also a relevant question for our Roman Catholic brothers who affirm doctrine x to be true because it can be traced to tradition rather to Scripture. Unfortunately, when pressed, they often retreat from tradition to the Church Magisterium. If you're interested, I wrote an article sometime back defending sola scriptura given the backdrop of RC claims related to authority. I spend some time looking at their argument from tradition. Here's the link:


I read the blog. Jake, good stuff. I like the length of the argument. Very pithy and to the point. I wish I had some more time to evaluate the Church Fathers you mentioned. I'm still working through Shelly's Church History in Plain Language.


The traditions of the O.C. (I'll borrow your abbreviation) do in fact have their origins in the Apostles. The Epistle of Jude has accounts taken from the books in question. The history recounted by Stephen before his martyrdom in Acts is taken from Jewish tradition AND scripture. The fact is that we don't have obvious statements made by the Apostles about which books they deemed Scripture.

The other thing (and I pointed this out in my last statement) the Orthodox do not put Tradition and Scripture in opposition to one another. Scripture was born of the Traditions of the Church. They go hand in hand, and are both birthed of the Holy Spirit. You will not find a knowledge Orthodox who uses the terms Scripture and Tradition in an either/or context. They are always both/and. The question of authority lies in the Church itself, not in a magisterium.

Unfortunately for Rome, they separated themselves from the East nearly 1000 years ago. Having departed from Orthodoxy, they have added doctrine and tradition that are not Apostolic, which is why there was a Reformation.


I'm not sure I get how an apostle quoting from extra-canonical material should lead us to affirm that the traditions of the O.C. do in fact have their origins in the Apostles. Firstly, we still have to investigate whether there is good evidence that any particular tradition is in fact traced to an apostle (similar to the rigorous science of High Criticism for NT books). Secondly, even if we did discover some tradition, the question is whether this tradition authoritative. Just because an apostle said x, doesn't of necessity mean that x is inspired. He may have quoted from his grocery list or communicated compromise (Peter and the Judaizers). Properly speaking, the "writings" are always inspired, not the authors (2Tim 3:16-17). Thirdly, any tradition should be consistent with Scripture, otherwise Paul's call to Christians to test his message by Scripture would have been misdirected. Even Jude's citation of Enoch where the Lord is coming with is saints isn't a novelty. Fourthly, a inspired writer quoting from a source and including it in his writings does not mean that the source is inspired proper (as in, Titus 1:12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.").

I would argue that the church wields divine authority to the extent that it handles the word of God properly. Officers of the church have authority, but when its in opposition with the Vox Dei, they seize to wield divine authority. This tells me that church authority is derivative and therefore secondary to Scripture


The Apostles' quotations were just an example, although they do not prove conclusively in themselves the canonicity of a text. I have heard a Biblical scholar state that it is believed by some that the Canon of even the OT was not finalized until after the 1st century. This same scholar says the "extra canonical books" were not thrown out by the Jews until much later, and was in response to the Christian use of Scripture to prove Jesus is the Messiah. Her name is Eugenia Constantinou of the University of San Diego.

On the statement about authority, to say it is derivative creates a dichotomy that was never there in the early Church. The New Testament was written by the Church, and came from the Church (as it was established by the Apostles). Jesus, in sending the Holy Spirit, began a community called the Church. This same Holy Spirit guided the writing of the NT, and also guided the assembling of the NT by the Church. Remember, it was the Church which decided which books were in or out. Where was their authority? The guidance of the Holy Spirit through Tradition, prayer, conciliarity, the OT, Apostolic succession, among other things. This is all pre-Schism between East and West.

Authority, Tradition and Scripture work in unison in the life of the Church. Not wielded by one person as in the Roman Catholic Church. The Orthodox view of authority is in stark contrast to anything Protestants are willing to acknowledge, so we don't need to argue our points on that.

I enjoy discussing these issues, as they bring up very many good points.


I’m enjoying the discussion also. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at the history behind canonization. I would venture to say that books were often formally accepted far after they had been practically accepted. To illustrate, its like when my wife and I received certain legal documentation identifying the citizenship of our children sometime after they were born. They were citizens prior to this formalization, being recognized as such upon birth, and this was conveyed in a formal way through documentation (I’m sure there’s a better analogy – perhaps paying off a car and waiting to receive the title…)

I don’t think your observations about the relationship of church and scripture establish your offered confusion of the two (confusion of authority). The church was instrumental in the writing of Scripture, but so was the east wind in spitting the red sea, and Babylon in executing God’s judgment. An instrument of some effect should not be viewed as equally important as what it produces. For example, medicine is instrumental in health, but it’s not equal in importance to health. In fact the value of medicine is derivative from health. If no one could get healthy or sick, medicine ceases to be important. Note also that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:19-21 refer to both the human agents of inspiration and the product of inspiration. There is no hint in these passages of authority being conferred upon the human authors due to their role in inspiration. The conclusion of both passages is that Scripture is binding, not that the church (or a writer) is binding.

These remarks also apply to the process whereby the church discovered (not ‘decided’) which books were in and out. Did the church have authority? Yes. If the church formally recognizes canon by her authority, then does that make her authority on par with Scripture? No. If a man is commissioned by a king to discover a new land (let’s say America) and finds it, he is still no king of this land, nor any greater in authority after the discovery. So it is with the church and scripture. I affirm that the Holy Spirit providentially guided a fallible church to recognize infallible scripture, to which she must constantly subject all her enterprises.

I feel pretty confident (from these considerations and numerous passages) in affirming that there is a distinction between church and scripture, and that the authority of the church is derivative from God’s word.


Wow... right on. I couldn't agree more with @Jake.


Go Maccabees!


Such a good discussion. I've been enjoying the read. When I first brought this question about cannon to you Jake I was mostly drawn by not understanding why some of the histories of Gods peoples were called divine but others for no other reason I can understand are omitted. (Maccabees for instance.) Also I remember reading in one of the epistles Paul makes reference to another letter he wrote to another church that is not found in the scripture. (I'm drawing a blank on referencing this one, it's after 3 AM.) I'm often finding myself craving more of the stories of how the apostles lived, led and taught Christs ways.

As for what I know, it bears more questions. I know that you don't need the whole thing for salvation. I haven't been redeemed by my reading of the scripture. I still haven't read the whole thing yet I'm still saved. Also the Ethiopian ruler who was reading from Isaiah had a seemingly brief exposure to much scripture. It seems likely also that some of the early church had other teachings that were divinely inspired and obviously beneficial to their edification being that they were directly under the leadership to those authoritative ones, the apostles. Ask most Christians to name all 12 and they won't be able to. Most of the apostles seem to have nearly no effect on the church because if they did write, then it obviously wasn't inspired enough to last to where it matters to me.

I just get this impression that what we have is enough even though there could be (and maybe was) more that lack nothing in legitimacy. But I wonder all the more about the staunch "these 66, no more, no less" stance.


Josh, great observations. I was reminded as I read your statements of John's statement at the end of his gospel where he said that If all of what Jesus said and did were recorded, the libraries of the world could not contain them (21:25). Of course this is hyperbole, but the point is that writings are not nearly exhaustive, which may clue us in as to why God limited what was inspired (the human limitation to handle large amounts of data in a responsible and edifying way). Maybe.

I think the "no more no less" stance should refer to the topic of authority. So I would say that the 66 books are the highest authority in the church, no more and no less. Yet I would also insist that there are derivative forms of authority (church government; teachers, both ancient and contemporary) that should be consulted, and our incredibly helpful in understanding doctrine and practice. But when the two conflict, as if when a portion of the Apocrypha contains some doctrine that is at odds with the 66 (or your pastor for that matter), Scripture must carry the day. This was what was referred to by Luke's commendation of Bereans about his own oral and written teaching:

Acts 17:10-11 "10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."

Luke states that the Bereans were praiseworthy in that they eagerly checked the oral teachings of Paul and Silas to see whether or not they spoke truth. Notice that if Scriptures did not contain concepts communicated by Paul and Silas, the Bereans would have concluded that the concepts themselves were dispensable (although not necessarily untrue).

Consider how this might relate to Roman Catholicism. If a Catholic claims that tradition differs in substance from the Holy Writ, and Paul and Silas were communicating these traditions, then the Bereans would have been lauded by Luke for dispensing with these traditions. Or, if Luke had believed that there are oral traditions which are on par with, but not necessarily equivalent in substance to Scripture, Luke would have withheld his praise from the Bereans for their actions. Or, if Paul and Silas believed the Catholic concept of authority, then they should have chastened the Bereans for not recognizing that outside of the written text, there is an oral tradition which is equal in authority and different in substance. In this case, Paul might have responded to their efforts by saying, “you may or may not find what we are talking about in the text. But that’s irrelevant because Scripture is not the only authority.” But we find no such things.


Jake, your comparison of the Church with the east wind, or Babylon as instruments underscores a problem with modern Protestant Theology, and that is the gnostic notion that all things material are unimportant at best, and/or evil at worst. The creation may be an instrument, but we His Church are a temple unto God, the pillar and ground of truth, the Body of Him who filleth all in all.

Another fact that is not acknowledged in this discussion is the fact that Scripture must be interpreted. Let me take that back, it is acknowledged indirectly when you stated that the Bible is not exhaustive. Who has the authority to interpret it aright? Anyone who claims the Holy Spirit and is a Christian? Nearly 30,000 denominations and countless cults prove that's not the case. A Church that holds to the Traditions and Doctrines of the Apostles, and has a succession of Apostolic authority has the correct interpretation. Now, this does not say all others are therefore patently false. They have varying degrees of "fullness", so to speak. The reason your friend Josh wonders about "these 66 and no more" is because the modern churches have almost no continuity with history and tradition of the historic Church. Heck even modern "Reformed" Churches have a vastly different theology than the reformers. Just one example is the teaching on Mary. The reformes regarded her as the Mother of God, Ever-Virgin. No modern Protestants believe that, let alone early Church writings.

I think we would do well to examine our modern theology in the light of the earliest teachings of the Church on the Scriptures. That's not to say that just because it's old it's gold. But if it's true, it's not new. I know I am making some broad statements, but I don't have room to get into too much detail.


Jeremiah, comparing the protestant doctrine of inspiration to Gnosticism is like calling someone who recycles a left-wing tree-hugger: a gross mischaracterization. The protestant tradition has been recognized by scholarship as possessing a robust connection of sacred and secular. A part of the wild impact of Luther among the masses was the elevation of the blacksmith to priest in his trade, wielding the tools of his daily trade by God’s power for his glory. That seized the hearts of the peasant and pauper who, up to that time, viewed pope, pastor, and prince as the real instruments through which God really works. It certainly is no secret that most historians attribute sciences like higher criticism to a reformational view of general revelation as it relates to special revelation. It was from Germany and Geneva that the clergy began to take seriously the instrument of inspiration (by applying humanistic principles of literary analysis to the text and authors), not Rome or Constantinople.

Further, I think you missed my overall point. You contend that if the church is used by God to write scripture and to recognize it, it must wield an authority equal to it. My examples show that this is unwarranted move, not that the church is completely unimportant in the process (which I also was clear on). Reason and Scripture seem to move us to assert the primacy of Scripture in authority over against a church entrusted to steward this Scripture.

I don’t think your argument from division works. Both the RCC and EOC claim to have a pedigree of tradition which corrects conflicting interpretations, and yet…

(1) a person must interpret these traditions in order to figure out how they answer debatable doctrines. Rome says that in order to have a set body of doctrines, you must have an infallible interpreter. Of course this is terribly na├»ve and circular, for we all have to interpret the pope (more accurately, the church’s pronouncements) when they tell us what Scripture means. Do we then have to be infallible?

(2) we must have good reason to believe that any proffered tradition comes from an apostle (which most often boils down to, “It comes from Peter because we say so). Again, circular.

(3) one often finds the same debates brewing in the RCC and EOC that you find in Protestantism (e.g., those who will have a strong view of God’s sovereignty in salvation, and others who will emphasize human agency debating in back rooms).

(4) one finds the same disunity at the time of the apostles. I would assume that you believed that all of the elements necessary for unity existed in the early church (otherwise why would the apostles chide the churches for factions). And yet we see significant disunity then. For example, the Corinthian Church had Scripture, tradition, and the apostles present in their assembly. However, when Paul addressed the church in 55 A.D., it was fractured by factions (1:10). Various groups in the congregation formed in isolation to others, each one claiming to be closer to the truth. Some claimed to be of the Pauline school, others the Apollosian school, others of the Petrine persuasion, and still others claimed to be allied with Christ himself (1:12). In short, disparaging disunity. This factiousness continued up to and beyond the dawn of the second century, recorded for us by Clement who takes the Corinthians back to Paul’s writings, reminding them that nothing had changed on their part.

Given these observations, if a RC or EO wants to maintain that their view of authority is the kind that is necessary and sufficient for everything in Christian living, including unity, and yet the Corinthian church displays a seditious disunity in the midst of this tripartite authority, should we conclude that RC and OC are wrong in their doctrine of authority? We must if we follow the line of reasoning offered here. Now if RC or EO can maintain their view of authority in the midst of the seditious disunity in the Corinthian church (and beyond), then why can’t the Protestant maintain Sola Scriptura even though all of Christendom seems to be a macrocosm of Corinth? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

You say, “The reason your friend Josh wonders about "these 66 and no more" is because the modern churches have almost no continuity with history and tradition of the historic Church.” Certainly reformers both pre and post Protestantism knew all about history and tradition, in fact they were steeped in it. It was precisely the unhealthy elevation of these that they so vigorously responded to. Their argument was that there wasn't the degree of continuity with the New Testament and the existing churches that should exist. Their reforms where born out of discontinuity that existed between church and ancient church history, particularly the New Testament. Their conviction (which I agree with) was that to the extent that you let up on the authority of the Word of God in your life and church, to that extent you’ll stray from it. And so any healthy church will always be in reformation, constantly being challenged and checked by Scripture.


I was not comparing Protestant view of inspiration gnostic, but the view of the material creation. It is not an explicit comparison, but implicit. But that really wasn't my point.
Comparing the RC and the EO only goes as far as a surface comparison of what appears to be the same ritual and sacrament. There is, as a result of the Great Schism, a huge difference in the theology of the two. The West became rationalistic, forensic and juridical in it's understanding of Scripture, Tradition and Sacrament. History shows that when Rome broke from the East, her theology changed as well. Not completely, but there were novel inovations to the Apostolic Traditions. An objective look at the early Church Fathers in comparison to RC (Especially after the Middle Ages) will show a vast difference. But Compare the same to EO and you will not find significant differences.

Also, you stated one finds the same debates in RC and EO. Actually, the Dogmas of the EO are non-negotiable and have not changed. One has to look no further than Vatican I to see dogmas added to the RC that were not there in previous centuries. There are a lot of doctrinal differences in the RC and Protestantism. While there are many areas where the EO differ, doctrine is not one of them. That's not a "we're better than you," statement. Just an objective fact.
I don't see how the disunity in Corinth = EO being wrong about authority. Nothing in your argument necessitates that conclusion. A look at the history of the 7 Ecumenical Counsels shows that there was great debate, but eventual unity. Even RC and EO were one Church for over 1000 years.

But again, you come at this discussion with the idea that Rome = totally wrong, so therefore East must = wrong too. I generalize in an exaggerated fashion, but you know what I mean. I will give you that the Reformers responded to the excesses of Rome in the best way they knew. But the EO contends they threw the baby out with the bath water. Tradition and Scripture are not at odds with one another. Rome's excesses were a result of adding to and defiling Holy Tradition, which led to bogus interpretation of Scripture to back up their claims. The EO doesn't have to do that.

A look at the Church Fathers shows a Church that looks nothing like modern Protestantism. Nor, for that matter, modern Roman Catholicism. What it does look like is the Eastern Orthodox Church. I don't say that presumptuously. This is just from what I have been studying myself. Peter Gillquist and several others of Campus Crusade for Christ did the same study, and came up with the same conclusion. It's pretty fascinating.

Again, I don't paint Protestants and RC's as wrong outright. I just see that the EO have a more complete understanding of Scripture, Tradition, Sacrament and the Church. The Church does not need constant reformation, as we tend to think of it. She does need reminders, as did Israel before her.


Jeremiah, the context of comparing Protestantism to Gnosticism was related to my assertion that just as there is concurrence in history, there is concurrence in inspiration. Concurrence forces us to look at God work and human instrumentality. Regardless, I also think it is a gross mischaracterization that they were Gnostic about creation.

As to the comparison of the RC and EO, I’m definitely aware of the differences and wouldn’t want to confuse the two. The similarity is, however, the conviction that the church possesses an authority on par with Scripture because it was given through her apostles and prophets and collected by church officers. I think that this is an unwarranted step, as I have argued; most of the points being relevant for the RC and OC.

But let’s take the issue of uniformity of doctrine. For all the issues that divide the RC and PC (Protestant Churches), (1) In what way does the OC maintain uniformity? a) By having official positions on most contentious matters – A Robust Uniformity. b) By emphasizing essential and cardinal doctrines, while remaining silent or flexible on tertiary matters – A Mild Uniformity.

If it’s the former, then I’d be really interested to see how the OC works to ground their exhaustive official stances on all the particular minutia that Christians debate over. I have a suspicion that such justification would be less than convincing and would lapse back on claims of authority (because we say so).

If it’s the later, then it appears that there is a tolerance of difference because the OC is more interested in affiliation to the organizational side of the church. At this point, it would seem that the charge of rampant division is not as forceful as it was thought to be. As long as you affiliate with the organization, participate in its liturgies, confess the universal creeds and subscribe to a few doctrines that are deemed important, you’re OC. That sounds like my church, and a bunch of others as well.

This leads to a broader point. In my estimation, the OC is just another denomination like others. Instead of being the exception to the norm, they’re just another example of it (division). Unlike other denominations, they claim to be THE denomination, the purest expression of Christian faith and practice. This big claim deserves big justification. I don’t think there is.

My argument about Corinth was designed to show that if a person claims that division in the church is a sign of inadequate authority (as in the case of, “protestants are hopelessly divided because they don’t recognize the role of the church, church fathers… in interpreting Scripture”), they must assert something was inadequate the Paul/Corinth saga. But of course we don’t want to say that. Everything needed to maintain unity was present there, and yet there was no unity. Come to find out, this type of disunity existed not just in Corinth, but all over. The early church was a microcosm of the modern church. The church of Jerusalem adopted different liturgy, diet, expression, and had a different value for the role of OT in NT life. The Gentile churches were less stringent, viewed by some as libertines. The leaders of Jerusalem were tempted to say that their denomination was the purest denomination and had to be corrected, with some concessions. The examples abound.

The bigger point. My argument isn’t that the OC is necessarily wrong in their claim to authority from these observations, but that the presence of division doesn’t mean that they are right in their claim to authority; over and against protestants who don’t possess their particular formula for authority. Division doesn’t necessitate the inadequacy of Scripture being the primary and fundamental source of authority in the church. There was division then, there is division now.

I understand the OC feeling that the Reformers went too far in their evaluation of tradition, but of course the reformers would argue that they handled them well. They were quick to esteem church fathers and labored at understanding them, but also recognized that they too were teachers, fallible and ultimately subject to the scrutiny of Scripture.

The comparison of church fathers and modern expressions of church may be significant; it may not be. Having been to a few Orthodox Services, much of the liturgy appeares completely foreign to descriptions of church life in the NT (1Cor.14). I don’t discount the OC expression, but cringe at their conviction that somehow they have captured the model. Further, what church father at what age? One observes significant changes from 2nd century (in ecclesial and doctrinal expressions) from 6th century expressions.

I do agree that the church father exercised unity at the 7 councils, but remember that the topic was extremely narrow, and conclusion universally apply to the diversity of all churches today (with exception to Nicea pt. 2): the person of Christ. If they would have expanded their scope to address all issues dealt with in all churches, we would not find this same kind of unity. On essentials unity. But on non-essentials, can there be both charity and “division” like we see between the Jerusalem and Gentile churches. I think so. Unity, “yes.” I’m not so sure about the OC pursuit of uniformity.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cliff Notes on Theology: Why are these Books in the Bible and not others?

by JM

A bigger Bible has to be a better Bible right; more books, a better Book? Just as we may desire our neighbor’s Escalade or our spouses generous helping at Chili’s, we might be tempted to covet a Roman Catholic’s Bible or the Jesus’ Seminar’s canon with there inclusion of Gnostic texts alleged to truly represent historic Christianity. In a moment of weakness, you may be tempted to protest out of covetousness, “that’s not fair, why do the Catholics get sixteen or so more books than we do!?!” “Why don’t we get the Gospel of Thomas!?!” May I submit that a bigger Bible isn’t a better Bible, but a worse Bible. Here are some Cliff Notes on the topic.

Why the 39 books of the Old Testament?

Both ancient Jews and modern Orthodox Jews have always affirmed the inspiration of the 39 books of the OT. As to the Apocrypha, many of these books are regarded the way in which we today view good books written by Christian authors: beneficial, but never inspired. It wasn’t until the Council of Trent (1546) that the Roman Catholic Church christened these books “inspired.” This was arguably born out of a desperate attempt to counter the Reformers whose critique was grounded by the set content of the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New rather than tradition and the church magisterium.

How do we know that the 39 books that presently make up our Old Testament are the right books and all the books? The process of collection and codification is more detailed than I care to get into here, so I’ll just refer you to works that answer this in a way deserving the space they dedicate to it. Let me offer a quick and easy answer so that you can get on with your day. Jesus is authoritative, and he seems to have affirmed the particular set of Old Testament books we have in our Protestant Bibles. The argument goes like this: 1) The Jews in Jesus time clearly regarded the 39 books of the OT as inspired and the Apocrypha as uninspired (cf., Flavius Josephus, Against Apion 1:8). 2) Jesus consistently uses catch phrases that were popular for this particular compilation of books, phrases like “Law and Prophets” (Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 22:40) and “Law, Prophets, and Writings.” When Jesus uses these phrases, he does so in ways that implies and confirms that they represented the entirety of the Old Testament canon. 3) Jesus refers to nearly all the Old Testament books and to no Apocryphal work. 4) Therefore, since Jesus affirms the canon accepted in his day (known as the “The Palestinian Canon” and consisted in the same books that Protestants have), so should we.

Why the 27 books of The New Testament?

I would follow a similar train of thought with the New Testament. (1) Jesus seems to predict and affirm the inclusion of more books into the Bible to be written by or under the influence of His apostles. (2) Jesus is authoritative and endorses the authority of these books prior to their production. (3) Therefore we should affirm the authority of these books after their production.

Jesus seems to have affirmed that there were a particular group of people who would serve as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20), partly because they would deliver God-inspired truths by the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:5; John 14:25; 16:13) in the line and authority of Old Testament prophets (Matthew 23:29-36). For this reason, the apostles knew that they themselves wrote Scripture (1 Thess. 2:13), spoke of each other’s writings as Holy Scripture (2 Peter 3:16), and were regarded by the New Testament community as worthy of a devotion fit only for Scripture (Acts 2:42). Consequently, one important criteria used by early Christians for regarding a book as Scripture was apostolicity, that it (1) was written by an apostle (e.g. The gospel according to John), or (2) written by someone who knew and was endorsed by an apostle (e.g. Luke and Mark), (3) or displays overwhelming internal earmarks of apostolic connection regardless of questionable authorship (e.g. Hebrews). The rule of thumb established by Christ himself was, “If it’s apostolic, its authoritative because Christ vested the apostles with such authority.”

This is indirectly confirmed by the attempts of Gnostic writers of the 2nd and 3rd century who attempted to garner recognition for their writings by attributing them to apostles (such as “The Gospel of Thomas” and The Gospel of Philip”), which were and are recognized by those who are sane as forgeries penned well after the lives of the men alleged to be their authors.

In parting, keep in mind that the process by which both the Old and New Testament Church came to possess the canon was one in which they discovered it, not determined it. This process of discovery was itself overseen by the Holy Spirit, ensuring that the church would discover and recognize God’s divinely inspired Scriptures. No more and no less.

For greater depth, consider the articles hosted at the following page: HERE

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Mystery of Providence

Here are six reasons, from Puritan John Flavel, why we shouldn't dismiss providence as being the mere outworking of natural causes.

1. Naturalism cannot explain why so many of the mercies given to the saints are clearly above the power of and against the course of natural causes.

2. Naturalism cannot explain how so many natural causes can unite and associate themselves in such strange ways for the relief and benefit of God's people.

3. Naturalism cannot explain how the most powerful means directed to destroy God's people are rendered ineffectual, while the weakest means employed for their defence and comfort are crowned with success.

4. Naturalism cannot explain how the good and evil directed towards God's people are often temporaly rewarded and punished accordingly.

5. Naturalism cannot explain the sensitive timing of the deliverences experienced by God's people.

6. Naturalism cannot explain the concommitence of prayer and such deliverences.

Flavel offers numerous examples to support each proposition. Definitely worth the read - "The Mystery of Providence" by John Flavel

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Recent Messages

I've been busy preaching and teaching...

The Gospel According to Mark

The Passion, Mark 15 - HERE November 29, 2009
Parable of the Landowner, Mark 12 - HERE November 8, 2009
Bad Religion -HERE September 6, 2009
Don't Waste Your Obscurity- HERE August 9, 2009

Faith Essentials

Week 1: God Is – The Nature of God- HERE - Sept. 15,2009
Week 2: God Speaks – The Word of God - HERE - Sept. 22,2009
Week 3: God Makes – The Works of God- HERE - Sept. 29, 2009
Week 4: God Loves – The Creation of Man -HERE - Oct. 6, 2009
Week 5: God Judges – The Fall of Man - HERE - Oct. 13, 2009
Week 6: God Incarnates – The Person of Jesus - HERE -Oct, 20, 2009
Week 7: God Saves – The Work of Jesus - HERE - Oct, 27, 2009
Week 8: God Transforms –The Person & Work of the Holy Spirit - HERE - Nov. 3, 2009
Week 9:God Restores – The Coming of Jesus - HERE - Nov. 10, 2009

Handouts - HERE

Leadership Boot Camp

Leadership and Your Heart - NA - Oct. 25,2009
Leadership and The Church - HERE - Nov. 1, 2009
Leadership and Your Church - HERENov. 8, 2009
Leadership and Small Groups - HERENov. 15, 2009

Handouts - HERE

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tim Keller Resources

To celebrate 20 years of ministry, Redeemer Presb. offers 150 free sermons/lecture - HERE.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Helpful Charts on Eschatology

Helpful Charts on End Times - HERE

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Discussion on Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Though I'd share another facebook discussion. This one is related to penal substitutionary atonement. Here was the phrase I posted that was in contention: The Gospel: Saved by God, From God, and For God.

Here's the Dialogue

Jeremiah: Actually, the "from God" is indicative of the penal substitution model of salvation developed in the middle ages by the Roman Catholic Church. As may seem counter-intuitive, this legal view of salvation as a transaction made its way into the doctrine of the reformers, and eventually modern evangelicaism. Hence doctrines such as Calvinism (which are also based on Roman Catholic views of Original Sin in conjunction with penal substitution )This model was never a part of the early church as a whole (I know there were a few who held to this). The Eastern Orthodox hold to a view that does not have such a view of God. THAT is good news.

Jake: Jeremiah. The development of doctrine is certainly important for consideration. Clearly the Eastern fathers had a far more sophisticated view of the triunity of God than someone like Clement of Rome, and even Scripture. But we affirm that such sophistication is grounded in Biblical exegesis (with a few exception). Similarly, I would contend that the penal substitionary "model" is thoroughly Biblical, especially Pauline, and therefore a part of the early church. The fact that there is development (e.g. Augustine articulates it more clearly than Polycarp) doesn't negate that it is rooted in Canon, affirmed by early church fathers, articulated more clearly by later thinkers, and revived in the reformation.

Sorry, didn't get that last point. "The Eastern orthodox hold to a view that does not have such a view of God. THAT is good news." So, its good news that the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn't hold to penal substitutionary atonement. Is it good news because you feel that God is misrepresented by the doctrine? If so, how so?

Jeremiah:I don't deny that some language of the Pauline Epistles lend themselves to a formulation of a penal substitutionary model, but that does not necessarily mean that is what is intended by Paul. If I am not mistaken, the earliest Church Fathers and the majority them, did not hold to the penal substitutionary model. I don't have the space here to fully articulate the Eastern Orthodox model of salvation. But I can say that what I meant by "THAT is good news" is that the Orthodox view does not view God as needing to be saved "from" in the sense meant by the penal understanding.
I believe God is misrepresented by the penal model, because His mercy is overshadowed by a kind of peranoid fear of punishment, or makes God look bi-polar to an unsaved world. The Orthodox understanding recognizes that while God is a consuming fire, He is love. The two are inseperable. While we experience His love as a refining fire (those being saved), the unsaved experience His love as a tormenting fire. While this doesn't answer every verse or refernce to a God who punishes, has vengeance, is full of wrath, etc (so don't quote a bunch to me), the Orthodox take God Mercy and Grace into consideration first. That is what I meant by good news.

Jake:I don't get what you mean when you say that the penal substitutionary atonement position (PSA) overshadows the mercy of God by a kind of paranoid fear of punishment or makes God look bi-polar... Please elaborate.

I'm not sure the distinction between refining fire and tormenting fire escapes the same dichotomy that you ascribe to the reformed position. You say "tormenting love," we say "wrath and vengeance." They both equate to hell being hot and long (unless you don't affirm that hell hurts and is eternal). I too, though reformed, believe that hell is probably the most loving thing God can do for someone who continues to be an enemy of the cross. I see no inconsistency between affirming this and PSA.

The good news, as Romans 3:19-26 describes it, is that God's loved moved him to propitiate our sins on the cross by Jesus (absorbing wrath deserved to us) so that God could simultaneous be "just" (maintain his holiness) and "the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus," that is, so that God can treat us as if we were righteous though we are not. (thus, expressing his love for a lost humanity). This is forensic and penal in nature.

Mercy and Grace are terms that are logically dependent on notions of justice and righteousness. Justice is when God maintains what is right. Mercy and Grace refers to how God treats us when we are not right. Considering Grace and Mercy first is a false move. Just as truancy (as in "your child was truant today") presupposes and depends on the idea of attendance, so grace presupposes and depends on justice. Propitiation "allows" God to treat us graciously without sacrificing justice in the process. That, my friend, is gospel.

Scott: It seems that there is clear language of a judicial nature in the doctrine of the atonement, but it doesn't seem to be the only language. If one seeks to negate the judicial language, I believe he would have to argue against the empirical evidence of Scripture. However, as John Stott would point out, there are other ways of describing the atonement, as well, which contribute to a fuller sense of the sacrifice that Christ made. J.I. Packer would even caution not to view the atonement solely on human models of retributive justice and suggests that it be seen not as a mechanical explanation (how it works) but rather kerygmatically (what it means to us). There is definitely a spiritually valuable application from the PSA model, one that should not be despised.

Jake:Good points Scott. The PSA model doesn't exclude other facets of the atonement (e.g. Christus Victor), but likewise those other facets don't exclude PSA. I would add that "substitution" grounds almost every way we view atonement. I would even argue that penal substitution actually grounds many of the other facets of the atonement, and so is foundational in understanding the rich language describing the atonement. So when we say Christus Victor, Jesus saves humanity from the powers of evil and sin, why are sin and the powers of evil a problem? The power of sin is in the law. The accusation of Satan is grounded in the law. And the law is just an extension of God's nature. So, the reason why sin and Satan are issues, is because God is at issue.

Scott: Agreed. If the law is perfect, reflecting the character and holiness of God, it shouldn't be seen as an offense when it's transgressed by humanity, nor, especially, should the satisfaction made for it by Jesus, our Advocate, Ransom-payer and Bearer of God's judgment on us.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Was it possible for Jesus to sin?

Was it possible for Jesus to sin?

by John Piper

It depends on how you define "possible."

If "possible" means, "Did he have the brain and the natural capacities to discern a temptation and choose it," then yes. He had a brain and he had a will. If he didn't, he would not have been a human being.

He's discerning, he's thinking, he's feeling. He knows what hunger is. He knows what sexual arousal is, and so on. He knows these things! He's a human being. If he didn't have those then he wouldn't be a human being.

But historically, the word "possible" has another meaning, a very important meaning—namely, a moral ability. There's a natural ability, which he must have in order to be accountable and human, and a moral ability, which he did not have.

A moral ability is when you are bad enough to choose sin. There's enough badness in you that you can choose sin. Jesus didn't have it. There was no badness in Jesus.

Therefore he did not ever, in his willing and feeling and in his perception of temptation, he didn't ever rise to the point of going there. Because that's evil in us!

Evil is not just acting. Evil is wanting to act in a certain way. Craving money is as bad as having money that you stole. "I want the praise of man, I want that money, I want that lustful object"—and those wants are evil.

Jesus never had any of those. He was perfect. And if you don't have those, you can't do it!

You can't choose to sin if there is no desire to sin. And Jesus never had any desire to sin. Therefore he couldn't sin.

And so, in those two ways, it was possible and it wasn't possible for Jesus to sin.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Christless Christianity

There are a dozen diagnoses for the decline of Christianity in America: church models, church polity, musical style, position on end times, use of technology, whether your minister wears boxers or briefs...

How about this one: Much of what passes for Christianity in the West is Christ-less. Michael Horton's book is a compelling expose on the topic. If you're going to read a book before then end of this year, read this one: Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Hardcover)

Dialogue on faith, rationality, and the exclusivity of Jesus

Interesting conversation I had on facebook with a very bright guy named Pawel. Thought I'd share it. It was incited by the following video - HERE.

Pawel: The existance of the creator is far more complex than our mere attempt of understanding this force through personification and our finite abilities of understanding it by attempting to make it humanlike. It is, the creating force we like to call God, a vibrational energy responsible as the prime mover of systems as simple as a molecular recombination to create what we render as the double helix - hence our ability to be the mere fabric of perception- to gravity and attraction of mass and objects at given distances creating systems which move in a whirlpool of expansion and contraction. It is this energy which is responsible for what we consider good. Lack of this creational energy is the void and absence of, what we call evil or vacuum- dark matter. Personification is dangerous - in our short history- the source of extremism, conviction, and world conflicts leading to void or absence of high vibrational energy - or what we like to call God. Just a thought.

Me: Pawel, Very thoughtful. I would go the other direction however. The true danger is impersonification. Scripture declares God not merely to be personal, but supra-personal, tri-personal; a communal being who marks mankind with these personal communal attributes which define what good and evil are in relational contexts. To depersonalize the prime-mover is to undermine the very ontological basis of things like ethics, love, etc, reducing them to meaningless by-products of an impersonal system. Consequently, extremism, conviction, world conflicts, evil... are relatives, ultimately meaningless and perhaps even distracting.

Pawel: Hence the circular argument of who wrote scripture and with what motive in mind. As recently as zoroastrian formulation into our renditions of monotheism Christianity has become one vehicle for control- hence Nietzsche's argument that we killed God. I see your point but it is so easy to put a face - personify in the meaning of the term regarding to theology- as an attempt to understand something omnipresent omnicient and omnibenevolant. This is something we cannot explain by writing a book a few thousand years ago claiming it was the hand of God responsible for it. The absurdity of the thought that the creator would use a tool such as the hand of man- one of it's manifestations- to write rules and conduct for the mere hand pressing the ink into the page initself is proof that personification leads away from God suggesting weaknes through sin and the inability for the moral man to strive for the good him self- that high vibration we call God. This is the pivotal error man makes - the belief in being controlled by a force which he cannot be a moral man without. The jester. The hypocracy lyes within the man who by trying to believe has lost all faith. Kierkegaard would side with this notion as well. Blessings to you.


1. Such an argument can be circular. But I suggested that without a metaphysical and personal foundation for categories like good and evil, those terms are devoid of significance. That is arguing transcendentally from phenomena to what must be true to make sense of that phenomena. What is the "good" man is to strive for when we've removed the metaphysical underpinnings?

2. Further, I don't see how depersonalizing the the creator (e.g. vibration, prime-mover, first cause...) is in better keeping with the infinite nature the creator. I guess I would have to hear why personality and the infinite are truly mutually exclusive.

3. Although I see the foolishness of man reaching out and explaining deity, but I see no absurdity in deity explaining his nature and attributes to us. God, stooping down and "lisping" (as parents do to toddlers). By use of analogy, communicating meaningful information about himself. Our notions of power, causation, intelligence, are shady at best, but certainly sufficient to think of things like omni-this and omni-that; infinity here and there. Scripture is God revealing himself to us by analogy.

4. I'm not sure what Kierkegaard would be agreeing with in your statement. As a Christian existentialist, he was quick to posit a personal God to make sense out of his existential quest.

Pawel: Kierkegaard did more than posit a personal God to make sense out of his existential quest- but this is a topic all on its own. Sure all may be devoid of significance as we need the metaphysical to even have this discussion. Our senses, the area of the brain mapped in having a spiritual experience in the front corner through sodium and potassium exchanges, the electricity generated in doing so, hence the vibrational energy in creating secretions of hormones responsible for our mere senses and emotions, sight smell touch love hunger fear. The metaphysical is the only vehicle for our human experience. Some of the best scientists will not deny the force which may be responsible for theses processes. As we try to explain science, mathematics, and all quantifiable experiences, we do so with God. We also try to explain, as you did, that God explains himself through us meaningful information. Without us God would have no vehicle to do this hence he would no longer exist- just like the color you see on this screen would not exist if you did not come equipped with cones and rods in the back of your eyes sensing refractions and lengths of both waves and particles transforming into electricity in your occipital lobe, neither would the notion of God as he exists only through yours and mine contemplation. Faith? let it be so strong as to have no wonder if this is true, by merely trying to explain this- we doubt. One cannot argue the faith of an old woman living on a farm believing all her 80 years of her life with full conviction that Jesus Christ is the holy son of her God, yet we do this every time we slap a bumper sticker on the back of our SUV, the trademarking of faith such as Not Of This World TM. Just a modern take on the killing of God and the faith which exists independent of any notion of itself. True faith needs no explanation nor quantity yet we try to out do ourselves through proof to others of our faith and preaching to others what we may thing is righteous. Analogy is the only way we can try to make sense out of the literal as literal has no meaning for us without comparison to analogous situations. This is our mistake, the fact that literal cannot be explained is just that. God cannot be explained and yet we try to describe that he is doing this through us further proving the point that the notion of his existence would seize the moment we all turn to ash. It is our ego which allows for Gods existence as well as it is our ego that simultaneously nullifies him. Once we are egoless, only then can we experience the creator through love and devotion. This is the only way we will experience unity- without there will exist a perpetual race toward whose God is the righteous one- Allah, God, Jashuah...all the oooo and aaa sounds generated as our throats vibrate the sound as we utter this wavelength of sound constant in all faiths on our tiny planet. As soon as we argue for or against- we argue against ourselves, and the 80 year old devoted Christian woman with blind faith not needing proof of anything. Keep the faith!

Me: I’m completely on board in positing the metaphysical as the basis of the physical. I don’t think it’s a reciprocal relationship as you suggested, as in “without us… he would no longer exist.” Although it sounded like you were being more poetic than making a claim about God’s ontological status, elsewhere you suggest otherwise. The illustration of light as applied to God would make sense only if you conflated the primary and secondary qualities of something like light. First of all, I think there are good reason to hold to metaphysical realism when it comes to qualities like color, sounds, etc..., the first being the solipsistic reductionism that we want to avoid, namely, that we must reduce all of the physical world to subjectivity, because we are unable to interact with the world apart from perception. Secondly, the perception of light presumes and depends on the presence wavecycles; there’s an objective grounding our peceptions. In a similar way, though I knowledge of God is mediated through x, y, and z, it is faulty to reduce God to x,y,z. In the Christian doctrine of Revelation, God selects those mediums that best communicate himself to creature (imago dei, incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, inspiration of Scripture). God is uber capable of communicating truths about himself to beings who are less than infinite.

Faith? Faith presumes both objective and subjective components. Faith is in x. Faith in faith is absurd, like an eye looking at it self. Faith in faith can often be a ruse for egoism: I have faith in self (sounds like a Whitney Houston song). Kierkegaard argued that faith is a living, vivacious, active trusting in the Word of God. He resisted cold, stale, and lifeless orthodoxy, but never jettisoned orthodoxy proper.

I can see how ego can lead to a reductionism of God to this or that (creating God in our image). I find it instructive, however, that Scripture posits the first and enduring sin as the refusal of people to submit to God’s revelation of himself to them. The issue in human nature isn’t so much the we like putting God in our little boxes, but rather we refuse to accept the particular revelation of God to people, a revelation that communicates truths about him, the world, and you and I. Sola Fide!

Pawel: In order for faith to work it cannot be both objective and subjective. Kierkegaard argued for the subjective Christian- Thus faith is not the belief that someday someone will be able to prove the objective existance of God, as you are hinting at by posting videos such as the one above, faith is rather a commitment of oneself, with infinate passion, to something that is not based on objective fact or needs proving or spreading. By its very nature faith involves risk- and I am hopeful that you can agree with this without a poetic accusation or a metaphysical hair splitting of the nature of photons and our tools to perceive it- maybe I miscommunicated through interjecting one of the three other languages I speak- merely using English as the platform for the sake of this discussion. so I'll give you the benefit of. plus it was late and I just got out of the recording studio after my session :) . The absurdity that eternal truth has entered time as in the creating of scriptures themselves initself did not stand with Kierkagaard- Many Christians will deny that faith requires that the individuals relationship to the eternal truth be a paradox, what is true for the individual may be objectively false- hence my example of the elderly woman who I met in Croatia last Septemer, and the absurdity of a friend of mine who was with me at the time, making the mistake of trying to argue her subjective faith- him being the symbolic objective truth that god does not exist.

In a nutshell - if God is an objective truth- for the sake of you arguing for his existance with another spin on circular arguing that it is god trying to communicate with us not us manifesting his existence- if roles would change and now that woman is an 80 your old atheist and you were to argue to her that her belief, or there lack of, is false and her subjectivity will result in hell and eteranal damnation, I would have to side with her as to the fact that you should not have reasons to uphold or justify you being a Christian. If you do really believe in god, for the sake of simplicity, then you would dismiss the absurd that eternal truth has enetered time- as is the problem with Christianity itself through the perpetual recycling of words at bible studies and sunday sermons. That god has entered existence, has been born, has taken up human characteristcs (personification)- quite indistinguishable from other humans. As our friend Kierk would have it- the absurd is precisely by objective repultion the measure of the inwardnes of faith- I hope I am remembering this correctly- its been 15 years since I read him. And maybe you will agree that the danger of subjectivity in its extreme is madness. I sure would not argue with a mad 80 year old woman though-

When, if I was to believe that god exists, I understand that what I belive cannot be rationally understood or justified- since it is objectively a paradox. Yet if, in spite of the lack of external support, I still believe, then it must be because I consciously decide, with all the passion of the infinate, to choose to bring this commitment into existence. If the professor believes there is cold and dark- there is cold and dark and the little child arguing proved absolutely nothing- add a little emptional music and cinematography and you have yourself a religious campaign as inaffective as standing and protesting in front of an abortion clinic, and why you might ask? In a multicultural society such as ours the opposition of the detail of other faiths is far too strong to make prayer at school plausible. Cute video though I must admit- and it will attrack all those who frequently mentally masturbate the area of their cortex most active during a religious experience devoid of reason and logic- but lets not forget the danger of madness as a result of subjectivity. Zycze Ci prawdziwej wiary bez potrzeby udowodnienia ze Gog istnieje- Hwala!!!

ME: Enjoying the discussion. I don’t quite get the point that for faith to be operation, it must be act of pure subjectivity. Your mention of perceiving color and waves and particles was meant to illustrate your point that God only exists in our contemplation, without which he ceases to exist. My point is that this illustration in fact demonstrates both an objective/subjective dimension of reality, not the collapse of the objective into the subjective. I see nothing absurd or counterintuitive about the same subjective/objective dimensions existing in faith. Rather, I think this distinction protects us from ontological and moral relativism, or solipsism.

Understand about the late night. I have kids screaming in my ears, so I may end up typing in tongues before this is over.;o). I also am fluent in many languages…

I don’t see absurdity in eternal anything entering time and space. Plato’s whole philosophical motif was that there are these things called universals (timeless, perfect, infinite) that are constantly occasioned in time and space. Take numbers for an example. One might argue that numbers are an infinity. But this fact doesn’t prevent us from saying 1 2 3… adding, subtracting, dividing, etc. Of course it would be foolish for us to think that since we’ve grasped multiplication, therefore we understand everything there is to know about numbers. Equally foolish is to say that we can’t know anything about numbers; or to posit them requires leaps of faith and the abandonment of rationality. For plato, numbers are just one of many things that are eternal and yet instance themselves in time and space (e.g., logic, relations, the good…). The notion of the divine being incarnated in flesh is no novelty of Christianity.

It might be good to define what we mean by “objective” and “subjective.” By “objective” I mean that God existence and attributes are independent of me, the relator. Given that definition, I don’t think its good to call someone who thinks something to be true when its not true a “paradox.” I call that error. A paradox in my mind is when there are two qualities that seem to be in opposition of each other, and yet we affirm they are both true about some thing. Now I say “seem,” because a paradox by definition comes short of a contradiction, as in “God exists and doesn’t exist.” There’s no way this statement could be true in the same way and relationship.

Now the admission that one may be wrong, and yet affirms that the item believed to be true, is true of almost all of human knowledge (maybe with exception to self-knowledge). But with this common experience, we also see that it is epistemically responsible to proportion the subjective level of faith to objective markers; otherwise we have to argue that positing electrons (no one has seen one) is no more grounded than positing unicorns.

It might also be good to define “justify,” as in “what I believe cannot be rationally understood or justified- since it is objectively a paradox.” Empirically, light exhibits paradoxal qualities. We are “justified” in believing that light has these qualities, though we can’t comprehend how these two things are true. This is a great example of how rationality works. Reason takes us so far, but by itself is insufficient for infallible and exhaustive certitude. But this doesn’t negate the very reason that pointed to its own limitation.

I’m not sure what you mean by circular argumentation. Not its not that I don’t know what circular arguments are, but I don’t see how this applies to this discussion (i.e., God’s existence). Please explain to me where there is circularity.

It’s clear you’re not fond of the video. That’s fine. But the notion of communicated has a rich heritage in western philosophy, be it Plato, Plotinus and “the way of negation,” Augustine, Aquinas. Evil as the absence of what is right is also at the very heart of Scriptures definition of evil (e.g. god-lessness, un righteousness). Let’s be careful not to through out the baby with the bathwater.

You say, “and it will attrack all those who frequently mentally masturbate the area of their cortex most active during a religious experience devoid of reason and logic.” Ironic, given you’re presentation up to this point – religious faith is an irrational leap, devoid of reason and logic.” Define for me what role reason and logic plays in discussing matters of religious faith? If it doesn’t, I don’t get the critique. If it does, how have the great thinkers of the faith abused these tools. Sola Dei Gloria!

Pawel: Thank you Solomon for clarifying my point of what I was trying to say. I too am enjoying this conversation even though I had no ideal I was talking with a preacher. I'm honored- and a philosophy majour at that-super-honored. I think Solomon hit it right on the head. Love and god are synonamous. And he experiences this first hand with two beautiful children. There is a godliness about having that experience and as I would not argue with his experience of divinity as with the 80 year old woman for I sense his faith is genuine and subjective in the sense that it is his own inwardness through love without the need for further justification. Jake - I'm enjoying the discourse and now since I know you have a love for knowledge - hence your majour- I suggest you revisit Kierkegaards fear and trembling. I think this is where you might be a bit confused as far as me throwing around the context pertaining to definitions of subjectivism objectivism time and his three movements to faith. Unscientific postscript is another. Like I said it's been years for me but de Beauvoir, Camus, nietzche, Heideger, Sartre, Dostoevsky, Ayn Rhand, pre socratics such as Amos Hosea Isaiah Micah. Zepheniah babakkuk jerremiah anaxogoras gorgias archelaus philalous melissus are probably worth have been on my list to go back to so maybe you should consider it yourself as well- could be fun. Especially Kierkegaard since there seems to be a bit of misunderstand of his definitions. As far as the video goes- maybe if it was in a different language it would be a bit more appealing and warming. Guess the sombre feeling and mood just puts the wrong face on god. We are so condition to fear god even if it's through subconscious psychology- just another history of our Christian faith resurfacing inapt to fit the times and our spiritual evolution. Speaking of evolution how about that new discovery of the fossil. So much for the Lucy theory huh? But I'm sure scriptures were already written so that's ok. If not here then somewhere in the universe. SatNam!

ME: Pawel, good speaking with you. I've read fear and trembling three times (as well as other works of his); took two classes on Capt. Keirk. I'm no expert, but I think I get a sense of his thinking. The tension is of course with God's promise of Isaac (God's prior Word), God's command (kill Isaac), and the existential crisis of obeying the former despite the later. But even in this account, we have the Vox Dei (the Word of God), Abraham's past experience with God, and the conviction that God could somehow reconcile the apparent paradox (Heb.). It was a leap, but a leap off of something.

Understand about the video. It might be likened to Sheryl Crow redoing GNR's "Sweet Child of Mine." Unnecessary and not nearly as good as the original.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Defining a Church

A church is a (1) group of baptized believers who join together under (2) qualified leadership (Jesus as senior pastor & qualified pastors under Him) (3) in regular gatherings for (4) the hearing and application of the Word of God preached (the gospel exposited from the 66 books of the Bible), (5) the administration of the sacraments (baptism and communion), (6) in deep community within and (7) serious mission without.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coins with Joseph’s name found in Egypt

Coins with Joseph’s name found in Egypt :

Archeologists have discovered ancient Egyptian coins bearing the name and image of the biblical Joseph, Cairo’s Al Ahram newspaper recently reported. Excerpts provided by MEMRI show that the coins were discovered among a multitude of unsorted artifacts stored at the Museum of Egypt.

According to the report, the significance of the find is that archeologists have found scientific evidence countering the claim held by some historians that coins were not used for trade in ancient Egypt, and that this was done through barter instead.

The period in which Joseph was regarded to have lived in Egypt matches the minting of the coins in the cache, researchers said.

“A thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait,” said the report.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The man who saved a billion lives

from Cranach: The Blog of Veith

The man who solved the world’s food problem, Norman Borlaug, died at 95. His applications of agricultural science launched the so-called “green revolution,” not in the sense of environmentalism but in growing an abundance of green, productive plant life.

Scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug rose from his childhood on an Iowa farm to develop a type of wheat that helped feed the world, fostering a movement that is credited with saving up to 1 billion people from starvation.

Borlaug, 95, died Saturday from complications of cancer at his Dallas home, said Kathleen Phillips, a spokesman for Texas A&M University where Borlaug was a distinguished professor.
“Norman E. Borlaug saved more lives than any man in human history,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. “His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world.”

He was known as the father of the “green revolution,” which transformed agriculture through high-yield crop varieties and other innovations, helping to more than double world food production between 1960 and 1990. Many experts credit the green revolution with averting global famine during the second half of the 20th century and saving perhaps 1 billion lives.

Now there is a life that made a difference. Food shortages continue, of course, but the causes are nearly always political and economic, not because of limited food production. Lars Walker notes a Lutheran connection.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Baptism 08/09

It is such a thrill to watch God work in the lives of people!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Some Unoriginal Thoughts on the Problem of Evil

I received an email today from an old Bible college buddy who is wrestling with the Problem of Evil in one of his classes and wanted to know my thoughts on the topic. For those of you who don't know what the "problem of evil" is, it goes something like this:

The God of the Bible is all powerful, all knowing, and all good.

1. If God is all powerful, he could stop evil.
2. If God is all knowing, he would know how to stop evil in the most efficient way.
3. If God is all good, he would stop evil.
4. Evil exists.
5. Therefore, the God of the Bible doesn't exist.

Here's the brief response I sent to my friend:

"1) Admittedly, evil can make belief in God tough. But ultimately, evil can only do so provided that it is in fact truly meaningful to talk about evil and good. And if that is a meaningful dialogue (which i contend is an undeniable dialogue), these categories presuppose something like belief in God. God makes the existence of evil possible. Evil can no more disprove God's existence then shadows disprove the existence of light. Shadows presuppose light. Evil presupposes God.

2) Some shift their argument from deductive to inductive. Instead of attempting to show that God and evil are logically impossible, they offer a less rigorous argument that "the amount of evil makes it likely that God doesn't exist." Here are some problems:

(a) I don't think shifting from a deductive to inductive argument removes challenge of how to make sense out of the amount of real evil in the world unless there is some transcendent standard that aids us in weighing degrees of immorality. Its seems to me that if one shadow doesn't disprove the existence of light (and in fact presupposes light), then a whole bunch of shadows don't either.

(b) It's been awhile since I've read the best possible worlds argument, so I'm writing off of some faded impressions. I'm not comfortable arguing that God must always pick the best possible everything. I'm not sure that 's necessary, and I'm not sure that helps with the argument. It seems that a good God has the prerogative to choose good worlds (that may go bad), without having to pick the very best world. Can I imagine a world where eleven fingers would be better than ten? Probably. Was God constrained to allow some obscure murderer to come into existence and commit his crime because it would contribute to the greatest good? This feels fatalistic. It says "take the sum total of all people, events, actions that have and will happen in the universe, and they could not have been different without making the world less than the best possible world. And God could not have done different." That's more philosophy than Bible. I can think of a number of activities in Scripture (prayer, our co-operation with God in sanctification) that may add more good, less good, or even evil in the world.

(c) Remember God's challenge to Job. Essentially the Lord told Job that the reason why he couldn't make sense of suffering was that Job was terribly limited in his understanding. God marshals evidence of his power, wisdom, and goodness in creation. God essentially says, 'You're powerless to do what i've done and clueless on how it got done. Do you think that the same may be true with the problem of evil." Put differently, "if I've have been wise, powerful, and good in the creation of and sustenance of the world in some many undeniable ways, doesn't it follow that I exercise that control over evil." I would probably go in some direction that "it is likely that God has a good reason....".
3) That raises another issue. You can't divorce the problem of evil from other considerations for God's existence. Its one thing to have only one acceptable argument for God's existence and then the counter-evidence of the evil. Its another thing to have dozens of compelling arguments for God and one counter-example.

4) Here's my last point. In 1981 Rabbi Kushner wrote a book called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” Biblically, are there truly “good” people to whom bad things happen (cf. Romans 3:10; Job 25:4; Jer. 13:23)? The answer is no. Biblically, the question looks like these: “Why do bad things happen to bad people?” Or, “Why don’t worse things happen to bad people.” Or, “Why do good things happen at all to bad people?” Phillosophically, I think one can make an argument that evil seems to be gratuitous on our end because of a broken moral compass in which we view the slightest movement towards good to be the highest virtue, and anything that falls short of murder, rape, genocide.... to be excusable.

I would highly recommend a book by C.S. Lewis called The Problem of Pain. Its one of my all time favorites. With exception to the first argument he makes (the standard free will argument), the rest of the book is life changing.

I hope this helps."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pray for the Persecuted Church

4 Christian Orphanage Workers Beheaded in Somalia

By Aaron J. Leichman
Christian Post Reporter
Wed, Aug. 12 2009 11:56 PM EDT

Somali Islamic extremists beheaded four Christians recently after kidnapping them last month, according to eyewitness accounts reported to International Christian Concern (ICC).

Members of the Islamic extremist organization Al-Shabaab had kidnapped Fatima Sultan, Ali Ma'ow, Sheik Mohammed Abdi, and Maaddey Diil on July 27 from their coastal town of Merca, 56 miles from Mogadishu, and eventually beheaded the Christians after they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.

The four Christians had been working for a local NGO that helps orphans in southern Somalia.

According to one eye witness account, all four of the “apostates” were given an opportunity to return to Islam and to be released “but they all declined the generous offer."

When they refused, all four were beheaded for apostasy and news of their deaths was passed along to their families on Aug. 4 by a junior Al-Shabaab militant who called himself "Seiful Islam" ("the Sword of Islam").


"I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also."

Revelation 6:9-11

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

In 1981 Rabbi Kushner wrote a book called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”

Here are some questions that came to mind as I read this title:

1. Are there truly “good” people to whom bad things happen (cf. Romans 3:10; Job 25:4; Jer. 13:23)?
2. If not, could we rename the book, “Why do bad things happen to bad people?”
3. Or better yet, “Why don’t worse things happen to bad people.”
4. Or, “Why do good things happen at all to bad people?”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


by ~ c michael patton ~

Does my title give me away? So much for being coy with my proposition. Let me say that this post is going to get me in trouble with some dear friends who preach God’s word every week. My message to them: Bear with my critique. I pray that my thoughts will be considered as “wounds from a friend”—a very fallible friend.

Here, let’s start this way. Have you ever heard someone (probably a preacher or teacher in the church) say something like this:

“I had prepared all week to teach on __________, but the Holy Spirit changed my lesson at the last minute.”

I have. Dozens of times. The idea it conveys is that the particular message that was prepared was not of God (at least at that time) and this new message was most certainly of God. In fact, the new message is miraculously of God! Why? Because I did not really prepare for it. It must have been God who prepared it. “I just step back when that happens and let God do his thing. Who am I to interrupt God?”

Can I say something? (Wait, let me hide behind something first . . .There.) That is a stupid statement!

My basic thesis is this: The type of assumptions required to adopt the occurrence of such homiletic detours is irresponsible both to yourself and to your audience and misunderstands the way God works in the life of the church.

Let me give you some characteristics that I see in such statements. They can:

Neglect the Holy Spirit. The idea that is conveyed is that the Holy Spirit is not present in the sermon/lesson preparation process. Without God’s presence and guidance in the study, does he somehow show up at the pulpit? There is no justification for such thinking. In fact, I would argue that we are in more need of the Spirit’s guidance in the study than we are when we deliver. If the Spirit is not present when you are in preparation, how can he be there when you deliver? The delivery is simply the product of your life, study, preparation, and daily walk with God. If this is true, why would God miraculously change what he has been preparing you to present? Can he not make up his mind? Did some new unforeseen circumstance arise that caused him to adjust, shift, or compensate for? Be careful.

Blame the Holy Spirit. The idea that God changes the sermon or lesson can be an attempt to discount your involvement and responsibility in what is being presented. Maybe you did not prepare and you are seeking someone to blame? Maybe you want to say something that you don’t think will gain people’s favor? Maybe you are just trying to blame the Holy Spirit?

Be manipulative. The third commandment, in principle, has nothing to do with swearing, but everything to do with protecting God’s reputation. When we claim that God miraculously changed the lesson or sermon, we may be manipulating the audience. In other words, it may be another way of saying, “This sermon is really from God.” In doing this, you are using his reputation by way of putting a “hands-off” authentication on your teaching. After all, if God changed your mind at the last minute, whatever criticism that someone might have must concede its fury; otherwise, the critics might find themselves at enmity with God himself. That type of approach is manipulative. The best we can do is prayfully hope that God has guided our lives, thoughts, and studies to qualify us to represent him when the time comes.

Arise from a gnostic bent. I think that people assume that this is a norm in the pulpit because we have the tendency to separate the mundane from the sacred. We often believe that if it is from the Lord, it will have a halo around it. Halos don’t seem to appear in studies that are filled with struggle, doubt, and, often, timidity in our conclusions. We seek the halos to rise above the mundane to sanctify us in a different way. However, we must live thoroughly converted lives, recognizing that the wall between the sacred and the “secular” is not really present, and it never was. It is no more spiritual to study than to preach.

But . . . What about . . .

I can hear it coming. What about Jude in the New Testament? I am just following in his footsteps.

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jud. 1:3)

Doesn’t Jude here demonstrate that he was going to write about something but the Holy Spirit led him somewhere else? Yes, but this cannot be applied to what I am speaking about. Jude is not saying that he was just about to write on the subject of salvation, but the Lord miraculously changed his lesson. He is saying that he purposed to write about salvation, but he was convicted of a greater priority instead. To put this in our current situation, it would be like me saying that I have been intending to preach on marriage, but I feel it is more important at this time for me to start a series on dealing with false doctrine due to its current influence in our culture. The reason for the change is not some last minute anointing of the Holy Spirit, but because of the expediency of the subject for the current situation. It says nothing about preparation and study. It is assumed that Jude is prepared to speak to the issue of his conviction precicely because of the presence of his conviction.

In the end, we need to be careful. From conception, preparation, to presentation, we can only hope that God is guiding it all. Can God change our sermon or lesson while we are in the pulpit? Of course. The question that you have to ask yourself is whether or not this is a model that we should expect. Your message can be further shaped, nuanced, and impassioned while you are teaching, but this is not really God changing your sermon. Preach what you prepare for and prepare for what you preach.

The Secret of Significance

Preached at Oasis Church

Infrastructure for Souls: Tracing the parallel histories of the American megachurch and the corporate-organizational complex.

Slideshow by Joseph Clarke

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chuck Norris Bible

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Walking By The Spirit

"Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16)

Here are some necessary conditions for Walking In the Spirit:

1. Right Goal - Obedience to the Glory of God
2. Right Theological Foundation - Obedience founded on Justification
3. Right Means - Obedience Fueled and Reinforced with the Instruments of Grace (Word of God...)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sin: worse than hell. Christ: better than heaven

Anselm used to say, "that if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand, and the pains of hell on the other, and must of necessity choose one, he would rather be thrust into hell without sin, then go into heaven with sin."

Luther: I'd "rather be in hell with Christ, than in heaven without him."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Old Women in Pulpits

Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was asked publicly why the churches of his day had so few young men in the pews. He instantly shot back, "Because there are so many old women in the pulpits."