BetterThanSacrifice.org offers a meditation on the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience. Based in Gen. 2:25–3:24, a surprising number of Biblical themes are woven together. Sounds dry? Not at all – it’s not only the postmoderns who are allowed to tell a story. Here’s an extract:
Having eaten, the eyes of the man and his wife are opened. And what they see is their own nakedness.
By God’s benevolent grace, the very instrument of their Fall is the means by which they recognize their fallen state. Innocent, they ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Guilty, their open eyes now know their own evil and lack of good: they are sinners against the Lord God and breakers of His holy Law.
As are we. For all Adam’s children born of the will of the flesh are born dead as slaves to sin. From pride or desperation, we array ourselves with the filthy rags of our best good works. And thereby we only add to the guilty debt we owe to the holy, clean and righteous God.
BetterThanSacrifice.org concludes a series responding to a sermon given by a local Purpose Driven pastor with some final thoughts and a review of that same sermon by Chris Rosebrough of the Fighting for the Faith programme on Pirate Christian Radio:
When listening to sermons like these, one has to place oneself in the shoes of someone who has no meaningful knowledge of sound Christian doctrine (clearly the intended audience) and who is therefore going to take away an understanding solely based on the particular message as it is delivered. It is very easy for us to interpret what we think is being meant when we listen to a sermon, hearing everything filtered through our own understanding of what the Bible teaches. But, of course, that is not how someone new to Christianity or without a knowledge of good doctrine hears a sermon. And, all too often, the intended meaning is not the orthodox interpretation that we think we hear, but exactly what has been stated. We must endeavour not to let our orthodoxy and charitable disposition colour our evaluation of what is being taught.
Responding to a poor sermon by a Purpose Driven pastor, BetterThanSacrifice.org discovers the Genesis 4 account of Cain and Abel to be a wonderful passage from which to teach Law and Gospel, faith and works. We see contrasted the futility of works-righteousness and the glory of God’s grace to those who believe His promise.
Along the way, comment is passed upon the propensity of seeker-driven pastors to emphasise the necessity of financial giving:
The seeker-sensitive mute the Law and veil the Gospel for fear of giving offence, yet they are nevertheless proud to solicit money through the most guileful of means. Those who cite the widow who gave all she had would do well also to recall Jesus’ immediately preceding words concerning those who devour widows’ houses.
Prompted by having heard a poor sermon, BetterThanSacrifice.org shows the true object of justifying faith: ‘none other than Christ Himself and the promise of God to us for His sake’. The post beings:
It is not, I think, entirely unreasonable to be alarmed by a sermon that teaches justification by tithing, no matter how affable the preacher:
But Abel offered the first fruits. He gave the best of what he had to God. And it was credited to him as righteousness. You see, tithing is not about impressing your friends. It’s not about satisfying some form of guilt. Tithing is about giving the best of what you have to a God who sees that as righteous.
The primary claim in this allusion to Hebrews 11:4 is that Abel’s offering of his best to God was credited to him as righteousness. In other words, this is an assertion that Abel was justified (that is, declared righteous) by his works.
My previous post, Justified by Faith, Apart from Works, demonstrated the biblical impossibility of such an interpretation, and emphasized the necessity of distinguishing between faith and works. I plan for my next post to look more closely at the Genesis 4 account of Cain and Abel. First though, we must understand Hebrews 11:4.
BetterThanSacrifice.org uses a poor sermon as an occasion to explain the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, highlighting the necessity of distinguishing between faith and its fruit. The post beings:
I recently listened to a train wreck of a sermon by a local Purpose Driven pastor. In his 44 minutes on the subject of faith, he achieved the remarkable feat of avoiding any mention of the proper object of Christian faith: Christ, and His life, death and resurrection for sinners.
The pastor defined faith by a number of its purported attributes. The fourth was this:
Faith is giving when I don’t have it.
Let’s leave aside the aspect of ‘giving when I don’t have it’, problematic though that is. There is a more fundamental error lurking in this statement.
In the light of a new research service endorsed by the likes of Mark Driscoll and Craig Groeschel, Carl Trueman wonders whether it is acceptable for preachers to outsource an integral part of their sermon preparation. View article →
On 8 March 2012, 21 year old Matthew Vines gave an emotionally charged presentation entitled The Bible and Homosexuality. He attempted to argue the case that ‘loving’ homosexual relationships were compatible with biblical Christianity. Many found it persuasive.
Over several recent episodes of his webcast, The Dividing Line, Dr. James White, director of Alpha & Omega Ministries and author of The Same Sex Controversy, has responded systematically to Vines’ entire presentation. Now available as a single five-hour long programme, White’s rebuttal is essential listening for anyone wishing to understand the true biblical position on homosexuality. Download it for free from the Alpha & Omega Ministries website.
CRN research articles give a concise overview of a specific topic and provide links to resources for further study. The inaugural CRN research article examines Mormonism, comparing several of its core doctrines with those of historic orthodox Christianity. View article →
What exactly is the nature of the New Perspectives on Paul? So asks Dr. J.V. Fesko, Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary, California. He presents a lengthy – but very worthwhile – survey of N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul, contrasting it with the Reformation understanding of justification and works of the law as expressed by Calvin. He concludes:
What makes the new perspective most harmful to the church is its use of terminology. Advocates of the new perspective use terms such as Scripture, sin, justification, works, faith, and gospel, but have given them entirely different meanings.
The advocates of the new perspective on Paul give us no reason to abandon the old perspective. Their case lacks evidence from primary sources and has fundamental presuppositions that conflict with Scripture itself. Those who drink at the fountain of the new perspective must drink with great discernment because hiding behind orthodox nomenclature lies liberalism, and the heart of liberalism is unbelief. In the end, it looks like Qohelet was right after all—there is nothing new under the sun.
Nathan Busenitz, Instructor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, outlines seven lessons we can learn from the German liberal theologians and higher critics:
1. The way to reach skeptics with the gospel is not by watering down the gospel. Many of the liberal theologians thought they could make Christianity more appealing to Enlightenment rationalists if they abandoned the historical authenticity of the text; and if they redefined the gospel as something other than salvation from sin through Christ (thereby making it less offensive to modern minds). But, in so doing, they actually undid the very gospel they thought they were helping to preserve.
A minister once wrote to John Newton (author of the hymn Amazing Grace) of his intention to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy. The wise counsel that Newton gave is of startling relevance to all those engaged in the controversies of this present age:
It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.
And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?
Read Newton’s full response on the Ligonier Ministries blog. View article →
Barrister John Warwick Montgomery, Distinguished Professor at Patrick Henry College and author of more than 50 books, gives a brief survey of the increasing hostility of the British judiciary to ‘Christian manifestations of belief and practice’. He argues that believers should see the European Court of Human Rights, which rules on alleged violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, ‘as a friend, not an enemy, particularly at a time when nation states seem to be moving in the direction of secularism and political correctness’. View article →
Issues, Etc. explores the historical figure of Pontius Pilate in a fascinating hour-long audio interview with historian Dr. Paul Maier. Maier is the author of the superb historical novel, Pontius Pilate, and an undoubted authority on Pilate. View article →
Tennessee’s own Darwin Lobby is working hard to pressure Governor Haslam into vetoing an academic freedom bill that has passed both houses in that state. One of their main talking points holds that there is no controversy over Darwinian evolution, so of course there’s nothing to teach…Notwithstanding [what the lobbyists claim] to the contrary, scientists have not demonstrated that life could form on earth by natural chemical means, and neo-Darwinian evolution is under more intense scientific scrutiny today than ever before.
The article cites several evolutionary scientists to support its assertion that the science concerning the origins of life is very far from settled. View article →
About 60 participants came by special invitation, with the proviso that their names would not be publicized without permission. This was intended to encourage open conversation on sensitive topics. Attending were such luminaries as N. T. Wright, Alister McGrath, John Ortberg, Tim Keller, Scot McKnight, Os Guinness, Joel Hunter, and Andy Crouch. Prominent scientists included Ian Hutchinson of MIT and Jennifer Wiseman, senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope. Forty-one pastors and parachurch leaders participated.
We agree that the methods of the natural sciences provide the most reliable guide to understanding the material world, and the current evidence from science indicates that the diversity of life is best explained as a result of an evolutionary process. Thus BioLogos affirms that evolution is a means by which God providentially achieves God’s purposes.
Based on our discussions, we affirm that there are several options that can achieve this synthesis, including some which involve a historical couple, Adam and Eve, and that embrace the compelling conclusions that the earth is more than four billion years old and that all species on this planet are historically related through the process of evolution. We commit ourselves to spreading the word about such harmonious accounts of truth that God has revealed in the Bible and through science.
CRN contributor Sarah H. Leslie will be speaking at the upcoming conference, Quantum Mysticism: 2012 and Beyond. Subtitled ‘Understanding the Deception’, the conference is sponsored by Discernment Ministries. It is scheduled for 21–23 June in Niles, Michigan, within driving distance of the greater Chicago area. Other featured speakers include Dr. Martin Erdmann, Warren B. Smith, Pastor Larry DeBruyn, Gaylene Goodroad, Jewel Grewe, and pastor Jeff Whittaker. View article →
In a recent blog post, C. Michael Patton of Credo House Ministries asked, ‘Are Roman Catholics Saved?’ He argued that the most important question was the one Jesus asked of His disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’, and that the Church of Rome answers this correctly.
Apologist James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries says that Patton has asked the wrong question. Speaking on his Dividing Line show, White dissects Patton’s post and states that what really matters is whether God’s grace to us in Christ is wholly sufficient to save – are we saved by grace alone? Here, White asserts, Rome commits the same error as the Galatians, adding our works to the grace of God as a requirement for justification. Because the Apostle Paul said that the Galatians who had done likewise were ‘severed from Christ’, the very Gospel itself – and our salvation – hangs on the answer to that question. White concludes, ‘The fundamental issue is the fact that the Roman Catholic Church does not possess – and, in fact, anathematizes – the Gospel of Jesus Christ’. ‘If a Roman Catholic is saved, they are saved in spite of the Roman Catholic Church, not because of it.’
Here is the video of James White responding to Patton’s article (MP3 is also available from the Alpha & Omega Ministries blog):
Jesus prayed for Christians to be united. But is it harmful to Christian unity to rebuke false doctrine and separate from those who wilfully assist in its propagation? BetterThanSacrifice.org takes a brief look at some relevant Scriptures and asserts:
Sound doctrine gives life. False doctrine, though, is the enemy of true Christian unity, the enemy of the Faith, and the enemy of our souls. Unity of faith cannot arise where false doctrine is tolerated.
Current affairs website, The Commentator, asks ‘Did you read about Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and his call this month to “destroy all the churches of the region?”’
Hyperbole? Apparently not. The article also cites a number of recent incidents of Muslim persecution of Christians, drawn from a monthly compilation by Raymond Ibrahim of the think tank, Middle East Forum:
“Half of Iraq’s indigenous Christians are gone due to the unleashed forces of jihad,” [Ibrahim] wrote. Many fled to Syria where, alas, “Christians are experiencing a level of persecution unprecedented in the nation’s modern history.”
Meanwhile, 100,000 Christian Copts have fled Egypt since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall unleashed Islamic forces, while 95 percent of Christians have left northern Nigeria where the Islamist group Boko Haram has been slaughtering them. The group announced recently that it’s planning a “war on Christians” in the coming weeks to, a spokesman said, “end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state.”
Elsewhere of late, a dozen armed Muslim men stormed a church in Pakistan, seriously wounding several Christians; armed men ransacked a church in Algeria after threatening and attacking the pastor and his wife repeatedly since 2007; and 50 Palestinian Muslims stoned Christian tourists on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Muslims attacked one pastor with acid and shot another in Uganda; Al-Shababb Muslims beheaded a Muslim convert to Christianity in Somalia (marking the third such beheading there in recent months); and Iran sentenced a Christian convert to two years in prison, arrested as many as 10 others while they met to worship at a home, and is preparing to execute a pastor for refusing to renounce Christianity.
The practice of tailoring Bible translations to Muslim sensibilities by replacing phrases such as ‘the Son of God’ and ‘God the Father’ has been the source of much controversy. In a comment posted on the blog of Dr. Gene Veith (Provost at Patrick Henry College and Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary), David Harriman writes:
For 18 years I served as director of development/director of advancement for Frontiers, the ministry which produced this Turkish translation of Matthew. While I believe the workers behind this project have good motivations, I also believe they effectively rendered the text compliant with Islam. While the volume in question thankfully included a properly-translated Greek to Turkish Interlinear, the purpose of the contextualized translation–and the related footnotes–is to cast a specific “Muslim friendly” meaning upon the text itself.
“One example will illustrate the problems with the Turkish translation. At the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:17, “Son” is translated as “representative” in the text. In the footnote to this verse, “Son of God” is defined in several ways, such as “God’s representative,” “the king, Messiah,” and “God’s beloved monarch.” The note incorrectly says the term “is synonymous with the title of Messiah.” Jesus is portrayed only in kingly terms, with no recognition of his divinity or actual Sonship. Needless to say, such explanations have the effect of obscuring the full and true meaning of “Son” and “Son of God,” even if the terms are translated correctly in the footnotes.”
In subsequent correspondence with Dr. Veith, Harriman went on to say:
I work with a lot of former Muslims and they are outraged by this approach to translation. What you have, actually, is the spectacle of Western translators (actually, only a couple of highly-committed advocates, but who are acting with the support of senior WBT/SIL leadership) attempting to tell native speakers of Arabic, Turkish, and other languages what their languages actually mean.
An audio “Stories of the Apostles” volume is in fact far worse than this — Son of God is translated “Caliph of God” — Caliph of course referring to religious/political rulers of Islam who defended and promoted Islam by force; “saints” is replaced with “umma”; Islamic honorifics like “upon him be peace” are used after the mention of Christ’s name (an Islamic prayer for the dead). This audio “Bible” produced by WBT/SIL is still online, BTW.
Harriman’s insightful thoughts are well worth reading in their entirety. View article →
The Telegraph reports that Dr. Williams, 61, will leave at the end of December to take up a new role as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge next January. The Queen, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, has been informed. View article →