Saturday, December 31, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Conclusion

Well, the long journey has finally ended. I've attempted here to briefly (haha) define what exactly an evangelical is and to describe the definition as best as I can. Initially, I described an evangelical as: a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ's work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. I'd like to highlight those points in summary. The Gospel: the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims that before the hands of the watch began to move, before God placed the singularity that caused the Big Bang ("Let There Be Light!"), God knew us. According to His divine and sovereign will, He sent His Son as a ransom, a sacrifice, for our sins, an atonement by which we are made right with God for ever. By His grace we are able to accept the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves--it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)." Evangelism: evangelism involves (1)telling people (especially lost people) about Jesus with the express purpose of winning them to Christ; and (2)discipling new converts to Christian maturity, with the goal of equipping them to win and disciple new believers themselves. Scripture: the "sufficiency of Scripture" refers to the concept that all moral and spiritual truth is contained in the Bible; that the Bible is able to save us by the witness of the Gospel; and that the means of that salvation is our response to the truth contained within its witness by coming to Christ in faith. Christian Service: Christian service is the acting out of our faith in Christ by putting the needs of others before our own, and filling those needs as a sign of our love for them. I suppose we can call this the "Holocron's Notes" version of what an evangelical is. Each of these points embraces or heavily touches on several key doctrines such as atonement, resurrection, sovereignty, salvation, sufficiency of Scripture (in which I'm going to include inspiration and inerrancy), discipleship, missions, and ministry. Most importantly, as a whole these four characteristics of the evangelical shape and inform the doctrine of the church. By this I do not mean the beliefs of a particular church, though indeed that may be the case, but I mean how we structure our churches. Much as Rick Warren has structured his church around "The Purpose Driven Life," evangelical churches are structured around these four traits. If these four traits are indeed what makes an evangelical, then I am proud to identify myself as an evangelical. What do these traits mean for the modern evangelical movement? I begin to wonder if the culture war going on right now has taken away the focus from what James calls "true religion" (James 1:27) and reduced many evangelicals (those who are outspoken and well-known) to gossip-mongers. I do not level this charge lightly; more and more I see outspoken evangelicals talking loudly and negatively about what this or that person or group did or said and less about the Gospel and winning those people or groups to Jesus through their witness and service. Please do not misunderstand. I think the culture war is important. If we allow secularism to rule, the people will perish. This is because secularism has no vision, and Scripture says that where there is no vision, the people will perish (Proverbs 29:18). Secularism refuses to condemn immorality. This relativistic, pluralistic worldview will cause many to suffer torment in Hell forever. No vision, indeed. Jesus also said he came not to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). the culture war is the wielding of that sword. But a sword can be used in ways other than offensively. Look at Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels. He wielded his lightsaber almost purely defensively, and in Revenge of the Sith, now a master of his weapon, was nigh invincible. And the Force was his ally. Similarly, we have God on our side. The Gospel is the most potent weapon we have at our disposal, and we have been brandishing it about like a club instead of the elegant weapon it is. To quote Master Kenobi, how uncivilized. Instead, we as evangelicals should be trusting the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit to guide our witness and our service, much as it did when I spoke to the young marine at Red Lobster. If we truly believe God is sovereign, we must agree that God will put us in the right place at the right time to plant a seed, water it, or reap the harvest. We cannot just tramp through the fields like we've been doing publicly. The culture war, I feel, will be won at the grass roots level and not in the national spotlight. Notice what I'm saying here. I'm saying we have the most powerful weapon ever at our disposal, and and we should use it like water. Water is probably the most powerful and elegant weapon in nature. Bruce Lee encapsulated what I'm saying beautifully - "Be like water! It is the stuff of life. It surrounds, penetrates, takes on the shape of that which attempts to contain it. Be fluid!" The Gospel is that fluid power. It can surround sin, penetrate it, and take on its shape, making it new and pure and holy as it does so. I think this paragraph alone deserves its own blogpost, and I will make a note to draw one up as soon as possible. But I am excited about the implications this summary of evangelicalism holds for the future. Already I am seeing rumblings about a move towards the smaller church. Bivocational pastorates are increasingly coming into stark focus. Small local churches are no longer allowing themselves to be ignored. Seminary profs at Southern have for the past few years started to talk about and be about "the local church." Megachurches have ruined it for them, and it's time that stopped. True evangelicalism takes place at this level, where the people and their pastors are in such close proximity that the Gospel is lived out day by day, and day by day the Lord adds to His church. With that, I will close this series. There is much, much more that could be said; more, I fear, than this blog could contain and more than I could ever learn about or than would catch my interest. I am proud to call myself an "evangelical," and I am excited about what the future may hold for evangelicals and their churches. Wouldn't you be?

Signs of the Times

I preached a wedding today. I'll tell you about it later. But as we were leaving the church, we noticed this sign at the entrance: Tricia says that sign ought to help us remember why God called us to this work. If only every church had such a sign.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Magnifying A Marine

Tricia, her mom, and I went to Red Lobster for dinner last night. Towards the end of our evening there I noticed a young man, likely late teens or early twenties (but definitely college age), sitting with his family. He was all decked out in his Marine dress uniform. Louisville, a quite liberal town, has been pretty vocal in the media and among local activists in their opposition (I should say unreasonable antagonism, but that would still be too nice) to the military action of the past four years. My heart, for some unknown reason, went out to this young man for being bold enough to go out in public in full dress. Likely he was on holiday leave, and more likely had not yet served overseas. But in that moment, I clearly felt led to do something. As we left, I sauntered over to his table, and said, "Excuse me. Are you in the military?" He nodded his head and said yes, not quite sure what I was doing. I admit I wasn't quite sure what I was doing either. But I continued. "I want to thank you for serving. Your folks must be extremely proud of you. You are right where God wants you to be, and don't you let anyone tell you different!" I shook his hand, thanked his parents, and excused myself and left. The smile that blossomed on this young man's face just plain made my day. You should have seen his parents and the young girl sitting next to him, they were just beside themselves. I didn't stick around to see how much they reacted, that would have been crass and rude. That was their moment to be proud of their Marine. Think about what I just did. I did something very unpopular. I praised our military by thanking that young man. Our media and liberal activists do the exact opposite. They do everything they can to degrade our military, cloaking it all the while in the word "patriotism." Hogwash. And that's being polite. It's not even worthy of a cuss word, so I won't ask certain friends to provide one. What it is, plain and simple, is hatred. Would you really want to send this young man off to war with anything less than a heart full of gratitude and purpose in that we have thanked him for serving? That he is right where God wants? I shudder to think that some idiot might tell him otherwise and demoralize him just as he's facing enemy fire. He could die because that idiot has caused him to doubt. Think about this. If you are that idiot, and this kid dies, you have just deprived two parents and a beautiful young lady of an honorable young man with his whole life ahead of him. That's right, I am holding YOU personally responsible. The adjectives I could use to describe you at that point would not be very nice. So let's take a moment to thank God for all the young men and women like the young man I met at Red Lobster. And maybe, the next time you see a soldier in uniform, walk up to him or her and thank them and praise God for them. Give them a sense of pride and purpose. Amen.

What Is An Evangelical? Part 5: Christian Service.

Finally, we have arrived at the final point in this series! Let's recap: an "evangelical" is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ's work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. The last point is that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. I want to focus on primarily on James 2:14-25.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"-- and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
There is a single driving principle here in this passage. Faith is active. Let me write that again. Faith is active. Faith is not real faith unless it is responsive. James uses a chilling illustration: even the demons believe there is one God. The demon that possessed the man in the Gospels even believed Jesus was the Son of God. But there is a glaring difference--the demons did not act on that belief in the way faith demands. I would argue that faith in God--true faith in God--requires glorifying Him. For us, that begins with our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and continues in serving others. This is James' "works" as he discusses here. An example by way of illustration is his statement "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" If we are truly people of faith, we will act on that faith. Not only is this the principle, but it is a command from Jesus himself. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commands, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." This follows his illustration of the light hidden under a bushel. And again in John 13:34-35 - "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." And once more in Luke 22:25-27 - "Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." So we see Jesus has clearly commanded us to serve others as the ultimate expression of our faith in Him. It is further seen in 1 Peter 4:8-11 that we are to serve using whatever abilities we have, because that is the expression of our love for each other as believers and for the lost sinners in need of a Savior. By doing so, God is glorified through us. I could go on and on by listing examples of service but I think a good short way to explain service is putting others' needs before one's own. To sum up, Christian service is the acting out of our faith in Christ by putting the needs of others before our own, and filling those needs as a sign of our love for them. Next time, I will wrap up the series with a brief conclusion. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 4.2: Inerrancy

All right, here we go with the next sub-point of part 4 -- inerrancy. What is inerrancy? defines this word as "freedom from error or untruths; infallibility." Infallibility is further defined as "incapable of erring" or "the quality of never making an error." Further, under infallibility, it says that in the context of the Roman Catholic Church, infallibility means "incapable of error in expounding doctrine on faith or morals." I think that the majority of us are concerned with the last definition, the one posited of the RCC. I also think it is this definition that the majority of evangelicals hold. The Bible is inerrant in "expounding doctrine on faith or morals." Notice this is very different from a fundamentalist perspective on Scripture. A fundamentalist--who very likely holds to the dictation theory--would disagree with this perspective completely. A fundamentalist would likely say that every last word of Scripture (indeed the "jots and tittles" of my last post on the subject) is "100% correct, and if something out there contradicts it, then that something is just plain wrong!" Perhaps this is a good moment to expound on that verse. When I say that God has inspired even the smallest marks of the Bible, I mean to say that He has used even these to get his message across without any error. I believe this is what evangelicals mean when they interpret a verse such as this in the plenary view (or plenary-verbal for those of you sticklers). Now let's take a look at what inerrancy does not mean. Inerrancy does not mean the very text of Scripture is inerrant. That can only apply to the original manuscripts. What we have are copies of copies, but those copies have had the living daylights researched out of them. The result of all this research is that we have a text today that we are certain is at least 99% faithful to the original manuscripts. In fact, if you were to attempt a reconstruction of Scripture from the sayings of the early church fathers, you would get so clear a picture of the Bible that you'd see our modern versions differ to the degree of (if I remember the number correctly) 11 words or phrases, all of which vary in terms of spelling an the like, minor variances. And none of these variants affect a single doctrine of Scripture. What I (and evangelicals as well, I believe) am after is an inerrant message. The text as we have it today cannot give a 100% inerrant text due to the variants that exist. But since none of the variants affect our doctrine, the message is in effect inerrant since it contains no doctrinal error. Now, let's look at my statement in my previous post:
Let's start with this statement: If God is unchanging, then His revelation never changes. If God is perfect, then His revelation is perfect. In addition, if God is divinely in control of His revelation and the means by which that revelation is dispensed, then the Scriptures that result are unchanging and perfect. In other words, the Bible is inerrant.
"Sugar" Shane has much more to say in his comments. If we understand this statement to apply to the original manuscripts, then I believe my statement is correct. Shane notes that I engage in a non-sequitur by ascribing to Scripture divine attributes. This is not my intention. My intention was to assert that God's revelation to us, His words to us contain no error; not that Scripture itself is divine. Shane and I discussed this briefly at work one evening, and we concluded that I had worded this statement incorrectly. At this time I am not sure how I would reword this. Suffice it to say that I am not after idolizing the text, or "bibliolatry." Shane also has more to say about bibliolatry and inerrancy in his comments that I think are worthy of reflection. Shane, again, has something good to say about these last few paragraphs in his comments. Perhaps I should take a moment to address the objection of "historical error." Scripture has never been shown to be historically inaccurate. Every argument for the inaccuracy of Scripture that I have seen or heard of rests on an argument from evidence, that is, there is a lack of evidence for some of the things the Bible claims. This argument ignores that archaeology has never once contradicted Biblical claims; rather it has supported the Bible directly or indirectly. Just because some things have not been discovered yet does not mean that it does not or did not exist. I believe a similar argument can be made against "scientific" error. Oftentimes the Bible will speak of "the sun rising and setting;" of "the four corners of the earth;" or some such thing. Critics love to use this language as "proof" of the inaccuracy of the Bible. This is a horrible argument. Suppose I described you in similar terms. "She's just glowing. He is radiant. You're an open book." Does that mean you don't exist? Does that mean I am wrong in the way I describe you? Humans do not glow, nor do they radiate, and they are not books. Yet I can accurately describe you by the use of these terms. It is a perspectival issue, not a question of literalness. Think about it; from a human perspective the sun actually does rise and set, and from the development of a compass we perceive the earth as having four corners: north, south, east, and west. Never mind that such a phrase "the four corners of the earth" can be seen as a metaphor for "the whole world" or something similar. We need to be careful in ascribing error to something before we have thoroughly understood the perspective behind it. A rule all of us, including me, regularly break. To sum up, the doctrine of inerrancy holds that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is inerrant, and that we possess a message in our modern Scriptures that for all intents and purposes is also inerrant. It is because Scripture is inerrant in this way that we can say Scripture is sufficient for the things noted in Part 4: Sufficiency. Whew, that was a journey! I look forward to taking this journey a bit deeper in January. But for now come back tomorrow for Part 5 in this series: Christian Service!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Inspiration and Inerrancy Dialogue

Some of you have been asking about the mini-discussion going on in the comments section. Keep commenting! For the time being (while I get the final posts in this series on evangelicalism finished) I will hold off full-fleged discussion. I'll save that for the week after New Year's. In the meantime I have something here to keep the fires stoked on this issue. My friend, "Sugar" Shane Morgan (I'm probably going to get hurt for calling him that) wrote a response to both me and Mr. Hearne in the interest of providing reflection, correction and encouragement to us. I have posted his comments, with his permission, online here.* Mr. Hearne's commentary on the blogpost in question can be found here. He does a good job answering my request to explain the dynamic theory of inspiration. Following in the footsteps of the abrasive Mr. Frank "Centurion" Turk, I now call for any of us who actually read this Holocron to band together to shame Shane Morgan into starting his own blog finally. Even if it's just to get it online and nothing else. Commentary of this depth on what initially was just a superficial rendering of the issue by me deserves its own webspace. As is so often said in the archaeology profession, Shane: Publish or perish! I close this by thanking both Shane and Mr. Hearne for joining into this discussion at a formative moment in my upbringing. I'll elaborate more on that in the post I will have up no later than Friday reflecting on the past year. *EDIT: "Sugar" Shane has asked me to hold off on his response so he can edit it for spelling, grammar, and additions. That link will be restored at a later date. Sorry folks! EDIT EDIT: "Sugar" Shane has finally finished his corrections and additions. The post is now back up and you can click the link above.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Newlywed Study

The University of Rochester is going to study 800 newlyweds to find out just what makes couples work. For the article, click here. Here's my favorite quote from the article:
Rogge said he already has a general idea of what he'll find because of a doctoral dissertation he did on the same topic. "It boils down to what you learned in kindergarten: You need to be nice to each other," Rogge said. "It turns out it's not as important what the topic of the problems are. What's more important is how you handle those problems. Do you negotiate those things with your partner, or do they turn into major battles?" Rogge said too many married people act like singles, thinking only about what they want and need instead of being considerate of their partners. "America has been drifting toward a culture of entitlement, 'What can you give me? What can you do for me?'" Rogge said. "Good relationships, even the best relationships, take work, take selflessness."
Now, I've only been saying this in a slightly different form for at least 4 years. It looks something like this: "The reason couples living together before marriage is a bad idea is simple. When you are simply 'boyfriend/girlfriend' you solve problems as if you were a dating couple. That means if it gets too hard you can or will break up. If you live together, you continue to behave as a dating couple, and never learn to solve things like a husband and wife do. If you get married after living together, you have never learned to solve problems as husband and wife, and that makes divorce a high risk in your relationship. If you get married after living separately, then your attitude is different. You learn to approach problems as a husband and wife, not as a dating couple. You realize that there really is no other way out of this problem but to resolve it." Now, there are couples who do move on from the "single" attitude and perspective to have good marriages. I personally know a few of them. But the majority of couples I know or have read about who lived together first went almost immediately to divorce. I know this study isn't about living together before marriage, but I'm positive that many of these couples will discuss such a situation. The researchers would be remiss to overlook this issue. As an engaged man, I will be watching for the results of this study with interest. Anything that can equip me to be a better husband after God's own heart is worth the time spent reading and learning to apply.

Back from the Holidays

I am back from Christmas! Sorry I haven't been around, been out of town visiting the fam. I know some of you have been waiting for me to continue my series on evangelicalism. I promise to try and finish it by Friday. In the meantime, I'm going to post about something I've felt strongly about for a long time. See the following post!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Intelligent Design: "The New Dogmatists"

Now, I haven't weighed in on intelligent design because, quite honestly, I'm not intelligently designed enough (pun intended). Okay, that was horrible. But seriously, I am not well-versed in this theory to adequately discuss it. I understand the rudiments, but I have not and do not keep up with the discussion, books, and articles surrounding it. I do think intelligent design is compelling, and in the near future (probably next summer) I will devote some time to studying it and reading up. Maybe then we'll have some real blogposts about it. Many of you might have heard about the Pennsylvania judge striking down ID from being mentioned in science classes. USA Today has an interesting editorial about this that can be found here. If Darwinists continue to act like schoolyard bullies, pretty soon one of two things will happen. Either the public will wise up and tell them to start doing real science instead of wasting our time setting up ID as a straw man and knocking it down; or our kids will believe they evolved from dog poop.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 4.1.1: Inspiration, Continued

Okay, I lied (not really). I'm going to do one more post on inspiration before moving on to inerrancy. I really want to expound on plenary inspiration a bit. So bear with me! What is plenary inspiration? The word "plenary" means full and complete in every respect. A synonym to this word is absolute. So by the term "plenary inspiration" is meant the affirmation that every part of Scripture is inspired by God. No part of Scripture has been inspired by man. For biblical support, we look to the aformentioned 2 Timothy 3 text, especially verse 16. We also look to Jesus' words in Matthew 15:18--"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." This verse is in the context of destroying the Law, which Jesus expressly states He is not here to do. If Scripture is not inspired by God, why would it not be destroyed? Furthermore, the jot and the tittle are the smallest marks in written Hebrew. They would be the equivalent of the modern comma and period. Are not even these marks divinely inspired? How can a position that governs even the smallest marks in Scripture be held biblically? For starters, let's look at 2 Peter 1:20-21. I think that the Contemporary English Version makes it glaringly clear what this Scripture is saying:
But you need to realize that no one alone can understand any of the prophecies in the Scriptures. The prophets did not think these things up on their own, but they were guided by the Spirit of God. (emphasis added)
Indeed, not a single word of Scripture is of human origin. Even the parts of Paul's letters where he makes clear he is giving his own suggestion and not a divine command (the "I, not the Lord" statements) were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Further underscoring this notion is the pattern of Scripture itself. From Genesis to Revelation, the underlying procedure for describing divine revelation is to give the credit to God. "Thus saith the Lord" statements, retellings of what God has told people groups and individuals, accounts of visions, and so on are very clear that they are not human in origin but divine. Human speech then becomes merely the means by which God's revelation is dispensed to creation. This fits very seamlessly with the concept of God's sovereignty. If God is absolutely in control of every aspect of cosmic existence, then why is it wrong to assert that He is in control of the message and words, and even the smallest marks, of Scripture? I think this is a good place to stop and move into a discussion of inerrancy. Let's start with this statement: If God is unchanging, then His revelation never changes. If God is perfect, then His revelation is perfect. In addition, if God is divinely in control of His revelation and the means by which that revelation is dispensed, then the Scriptures that result are unchanging and perfect. In other words, the Bible is inerrant. Now, in Part 4.2 I'll discuss this last paragraph a little more in-depth. You can expect to see it no later than tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 4.1: Inspiration

First, a shout out to J Hearne for doing what I hoped might happen among the more serious readers--interact! Raise questions! Dialogue! The biggest point of this particular series (which I'm probably at fault for not making clear at the outset) was to flesh out what exactly an "evangelical" is as well as what evangelical "distinctives" are. This is all being done for both generous and selfish reasons: generously, to inform and educate others, and selfishly, to educate myself and form a theological perspective consistent with Scripture and what I believe. Hopefully what I believe is consistent with Scripture! To see Mr. Hearne's comment on Part 4, mosey over to the sidebar and click on "Part 4: Scripture." It's at the end of the post. Mr. Hearne correctly implies to me by the depth of his comment that this particular post is pretty superficial. Yeah, it is. It's not meant to be indepth but superficial, expressly because I want this to be basic and explanatory. But he is correct in making me feel as if I could have explained it better. So let's take a post here to work on that from his remarks. For this installment, let's start with different views of inspiration. Plenary View. This view, I understand it, is what is held by the majority of evangelicals today, especially Southern Baptists. What this view means is that the influence of the Holy Spirit over the writers of Scripture extended beyond the thoughts to the selection of the very words which the authors chose. Yet this influence of the Holy Spirit did not amount to a verbal dictation. The term often adopted is that of "concursus," or confluent authorship, i.e. That every word is both fully divine and fully human. This is likely where Southern Baptists in particular glean the concept of inerrancy. I would venture to guess this is also a Calvinistic view of inspiration as well, as it holds to the absolute sovereignty of God. If I am understanding Mr. Hearne correctly, the dynamic view to which he alludes holds that inspiration is not simply a natural but a supernatural fact, and it is the immediate work of a personal God in the soul of man. It is an attempt to balance the role of God and humans in the writing of Scripture. It holds that inspiration belongs, not only to the men who wrote the Scriptures, but to the Scriptures they wrote, so that these Scriptures, when taken together, constitute a sufficient record of divine revelation. The Scriptures contain a human as well as a divine element, so that while they present a body of divinely revealed truth, this truth is shaped into human molds and adapted to human intelligence. In short it is neither natural, partial, nor mechanical, but supernatural, plenary and dynamic. The mechanical view, unless I miss my guess, is the belief that the writers of Scripture were nothing more than secretaries, taking down Scripture as the Holy Spirit (or as is said by many, God) dictated it to them. Thus is is also more commonly called the dictation theory of inspiration. What this view seeks to safeguard is the absolute divinity of the Scriptures. Proponents deny that the biblical authors engaged in historical research, utilized documents or oral tradition. All Scripture is seen as having come directly from God to the human writers. This view is commonly held by fundamentalists. Now, the dictation (or mechanical) view is easily dismissed by a look at the introduction to Luke/Acts found in Luke 1:1-4:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
As a friend of mine and I have been discussing, one verse or text does not establish a doctrine, but this text by itself demolishes the mechanical view. So I do not think evangelicals subscribe to a mechanical view of inspiration. Granted, there are places where Scripture is in fact dictated (the letters to the seven churches of Revelation comes to mind), but this is not true for Scripture as a whole, as Luke makes clear. Paul also passes on what might be an early Christian creed (see Part 2: The Gospel), further illustrating that a mechanical view is not how Scripture was inspired. So that leaves us with the dynamic and plenary views. I will be the first to confess that I know very little about the dynamic view of inspiration, and I invite readers (especially Mr. Hearne) to post on their own blogs an explanation to which I will link or to send me an email explaining it which I will post here. I would say that at this time I hold to a plenary view of inspiration, since I am a believer in the full sovereignty of God. God through the working of the Holy Spirit moved the writers of Scripture to write the things they did, to accomplish His purposes in revelation. That these things are revealed in human terms illustrates nothing more than the means by which God has revealed Himself. While He does not dictate (letters to the seven churches aside, of course), He does move humans as He wills to accomplish His purposes, and this is seen throughout Scripture. Next time (part 4.2) we'll discuss how this view interacts with the concept of inerrancy.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Which Lightsaber Form Would You Use?

In keeping with the Star Wars-themed name of this blog, here's another interesting survey I found that gave these results:
You scored as Form II: Makashi. After Form I's proliferation as a saber combat technique, Form II or "Way of the Ysalamiri," came about as a means of lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat. It is described as being very elegant, powerful, and requiring extreme precision. The blade manipulation required for this form is very refined and requires much focus, but the results are extremely powerful. Count Dooku, from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, has mastered Form II to the highest degree, fighting with the precision built into the ancient technique.

Form III: Soresu


Form II: Makashi


Form VI: Niman


Form VII: Juyo/ Vaapaad


Form IV: Ataru


Form V: Shien

Which Lightsaber form would you use? created with
Even more interesting is that I only got this after a tiebreaker question, which would have yielded this result:
You scored as Form III: Soresu. Form III, the "Way of the Mynock," was inspired by the need to deflect Blaster bolts. It is very defensive; it has no aggressive qualities. Form III utilises motions occurring very close to the body to achieve a nearly total protection, efficiently expending as little energy as possible to execute those moves. This technique exposes as little body target zone open areas as is possible, making a well-trained practitioner nearly invincible. Testimony to this is the fact that Ben Kenobi, a Form III master, only falls when he chooses to let Darth Vader kill him.

Form III: Soresu


Form II: Makashi


Form VI: Niman


Form VII: Juyo/ Vaapaad


Form IV: Ataru


Form V: Shien

Which Lightsaber form would you use? created with
So I could have gone either way--a duelist or a defender. What's interesting is that I just missed out on Vapaad, a style that channels the Dark Side. Mace Windu rocks. Anytime you have Shaft kicking Sith behind, it's a great movie.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 4: The Sufficiency of Scripture

Now, I believe it is a good time to expound upon the next section of my series, "What Is An Evangelical?" For previous entries in the series, check the sidebar under the heading "Evangelicalism." To recap: an "evangelical" is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ's work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. Thus far we've discussed the meaning of "evangelical," the Gospel, and evangelism. Today we will discuss the sufficiency of Scripture. What do we mean by sufficiency? gives a good definition: the quality of being sufficient for the end in view, with "sufficient" being understood to mean enough to meet the needs under the law of a situation or a proposed end. So understood in this way, we can understand "the sufficiency of Scripture" to mean that Scripture is enough; it is all that we need to guide our moral and spiritual lives. I'd like to take a moment to point out I am not saying other religions or philosophies do not contain truth. Many of them do contain valid and helpful truisms. I would submit to you that this is nothing more than the "law of God written on human hearts" that Paul talks about, that instinctive knowledge that all humans possess. Also interesting is that usually any helpful truisms we find elsewhere are already biblically affirmed. How do we get this doctrine biblically? There is a prominent text that gives us sound reasons. Let's see 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
And to elaborate, let's look at Hebrews 4:12.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Notice, if you will, that these verses establish three doctrines simultaneously: sufficiency, inspiration, and inerrancy. Why inerrancy? Because if something is inspired by God, does it not follow that it cannot be wrong, since God Himself cannot be wrong? What is errant is human interpretation of Scripture, not Scripture itself. Now, if Scripture is good enough to teach us, correct us when we have erred, and train us in how to obey God (righteousness), and is never wrong; then we now can say that Scripture is sufficient for all of our moral and spiritual needs. This is why we say that Scripture contains "all moral and spiritual truth." Furthermore, Scripture becomes sufficient for salvation. Why? Because in Scripture contains the knowledge we need to understand who Jesus is and to come to faith in Him. I am not saying that simply knowing the Bible is enough to get saved. Many people today think all they have to do to get to heaven is read their Bibles. Let's look at Jesus' words in John 5:39-40:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (emphasis added)
So it is clear here that Scripture is sufficient for salvation in that it contains the witness to Christ--the Gospel. Jesus expounds on this witness by making it clear that the way to salvation is to respond to the witness of the Gospel. "You refuse to come to me that you may have life." What a sad commentary on spiritualism--spiritualists seek to glean moral truth from the Bible, yet refuse to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. So, in conclusion, the "sufficiency of Scripture" refers to the concept that all moral and spiritual truth is contained in the Bible; that the Bible is able to save us by the witness of the Gospel; and that the means of that salvation is our response to the truth contained within its witness by coming to Christ in faith. I close this installment of the series with a favorite and timeless children's song: The B-I-B-L-E, Yes, that's the book for me I'm standing firm on the Word of God! The B-I-B-L-E, BIBLE!!!!!! Join me next time for the last characteristic of an evangelical (but not the final post in the series): Christian service!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Which Theologian Are You?

Here's the results of a survey I took before work today.
You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'



John Calvin


Jonathan Edwards


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Karl Barth


Martin Luther


Charles Finney




Paul Tillich


Jurgen Moltmann

Which theologian are you? created with
Isn't that funny? It's interesting that I got 80% on John Calvin. I guess being a 4-pointer does that to ya. EDIT: The picture of Anselm that came with the quiz results messed up the page, so I tweaked it this way. Hopefully this works better. Those of you who are more knowledgeable about HTML may have better results.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Effectual Worrying"

Tim Challies has just massively blessed me with his post on worry, found here. Growing up with ladies in the family who are chronic worriers (come on, you all know you're in denial) and getting ready to marry into a family with this same trait, I found it quite revealing that Tim and I share this quality--we both prefer to be laid back but life tends not to allow it. It has been a lifelong process of taking my worry captive to Christ that's allowed me to seem so laid back--at least on the outside! I hope he posts more on this, I really enjoyed it and have been reflective on it since.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Condiments of the Christian Religion

Condiments? Well, it all started when Tricia and I went to O'Charley's for dinner Sunday night. I was in a reflective frame of mind, and I was explaining the doctrine of predestination. Actually, I was trying to explain the doctrine of reprobation, but realized I wasn't getting anywhere because she didn't understand predestination. Anyway, I was getting nowhere fast because this is too wordy a discussion for her, I couldn't keep giving her verbal examples because she was gettting lost quickly. And when she gets lost, she gets frustrated. I looked around the table, and in a flash of inspiration, I grabbed all the condiments I could: butter cups (or pats of butter, if you prefer), ketchup, salt, shrimp sauce, and my sweet tea. Yes, I was a smidgen desperate. But I successfully explained total depravity, irresistible grace, and predestination to her in one fell swoop, using the condiments as examples. The ketchup, butter, and salt represented humans; the shrimp sauce represented the Holy Spirit, my sweet tea represented Jesus; and I played the role of the Father. Can you imagine how this conversation went? Stephen: "Okay, Tricia, now see this stuff? I the high and mighty Balderdash do in my godly power choose the pats of butter, out of all the condiments, to be my people for ever. I send my Son, the Sweet Tea, to die for them that all who believe in me may be saved. I sent the Holy Shrimp Sauce to those whom I have chosen to remove the sin that blocks them from obeying me and doing my will, so that they are now free to choose my Sweet Tea. I send another of my pats of butter who are already saved to witness to them, and because they have been made free because of the sacrifice of the Sweet Tea by the power of the Holy Shrimp Sauce, they can willingly choose to accept the Sweet Tea as their savior and obey and follow me. See that ketchup over there? Because I did not choose him, I am sending him to the unholy garbage pit, where he will rot in a landfill for all eternity. Got it?" Tricia: "I think so. You chose the butter because butter makes everything better, and you didn't choose the ketchup because ketchup and butter don't mix well." Okay, this wasn't the real conversation, honest. But I did basically say what I said here. You know you've done well when you can boil Christian theology down to the skillful manipulation of the condiments at an O'Charley's dinner table. EDIT: I've just learned this is my 100th post on The Silent Holocron. It's been a long ride, but I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of this blogging thing!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Returning to Spare Oom

Well, I have just gotten off work, and as promised here is my review of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. In a word, this movie was fantastic. I am not the type to cry at movies (okay, movies other than Star Wars and The Passion of the Christ), but I had to put padlocks on the dams often during this movie. I don't think there was ever such a sense of God's presence in any movie I've ever seen other than "Passion." When Aslan appeared I just wanted to curl up and hide, it was like Jesus himself had walked into the room. And that's not just a metaphor--the entire theater suddenly took a metaphorical step back at the appearance of the Lion. There were gasps of wonder from the children and ooos of impressment from the adults. Myself, I was acutely aware of my own condition before a holy God. I identified heavily with Peter Pevensie--there must be a mistake! I'm just a regular guy! You can't have chosen me! Okay, I'll hold off the insane sermonizing for a bit. This movie was spectacular. The graphics were impressive. They were not, unfortunately, as seamless as Revenge of the Sith--it was obvious many times when CG was present. No, I'm not talking about the CG characters--those were pretty obvious. I mean the scenery and stuff. But they made you believe they were really there. It was very well cast. You could see that each actor fit the role they were playing. It was also very faithful to the book. Of course, as with all movie adaptations of novels, there are things that get left out, but none were major. I might make an exception for the part where Edmund and Aslan converse about the Deep Magic after the battle. I think that was important to the story. But it worked okay without it. I was warned beforehand that the character of Lucy really stole the show, and that is the plain truth. This movie really drives around Lucy Pevensie. Without her none of this would have come to pass. Without her none of them would have gotten home in the end. Her character draws the emotion out of you at the appropriate times. She genuinely causes the audience to feel the emotions she feels when Aslan appears, when Aslan dies, and when Aslan comes back to life. That's probably why I say I had to lock up the dams. I will admit they did overflow when Aslan died. *wink* As I'm tired and in need of sleep, I will publish a detailed analysis of points I feel this movie did well and points on which it needed work later. But I will leave you with this: after seeing it the first time, I really, really wanted to go back in for the 8 PM show. But the fact that I had to work really prevented that possibility!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Entering the Wardrobe

Today I will go and see The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. The deLux 16 in the South End is showing it with rear-window captions. Yay! I am excited, almost as excited as I was to see Revenge of the Sith. While Narnia doesn't hold a candle to Star Wars in my hierarchy of fantasy, it is a good solid second. Third if you want to force me to compete with Lord of the Rings. I'm toying with the idea of sleeping the morning through, then catching the lunch show and getting tickets for me and Tricia for the late afternoon or evening showings. It might be better, though, if I catch this on a full day's sleep. We will see. I promise to post a review tomorrow after I've seen it and discussed it with Tricia!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?

Talking with my sister today, I came up with a nice paraphrase of Romans 8:31-34. What will we say about this, then? If God is for us, who can be against us? God didn't hold back, but gave up his own son Jesus for all of us; how can he not give us everything we need also? Who will bring any charges against us whom God has saved? It is Jesus who makes us right! Who can condemn us? Jesus died for us, and not only that, he was raised from the dead, and is now sitting at God's right hand praying for us! I didn't catch that I inserted "Jesus" in the place of "God" in the phrase "It is Jesus who makes us right!" Chalk it up to being tired and having the words "God" and "Christ" sitting right on top of each other in the version I paraphrased from (English Standard Version). Thankfully the statement is still true theologically. I'm also not too sure about substituting "praying" for "interceding" in the last sentence, but oh well. When I think of intercession, I think of prayer, so until I have a chance to look it up for sure that's what I'm going with. I rather like this paraphrase. It was powerful and timely in this particular discussion. More proof that God has a purpose for everything under the sun.

Christian Nudism?

I had a very difficult time swallowing this one: Christian nudists to build village in Florida Okay, I didn't even come close to swallowing, I spit it out. Hurled that sucker across the room. Covered the bottom of the bucket. Spewed it clear. I'm still trying to figure out how nudism, or "naturism" as they prefer to call it, doesn't violate Biblical standards. Maybe they can write me a concise, footnoted article explaining their view, with Biblical support (or in this case, lack of). Let's just hope that it won't be, uh, bare of evidence. I would hate to clothe the issue with sarcasm. So let's skip the preliminaries and get down to the skin of the matter. I just want the naked truth.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Seven Sevens

I've seen this phenomenon around the blogosphere for a while now, so I decided to tag myself, since I don't know anyone who reads my blog that would tag me. Basically, there are 7 categories, and I must list 7 things in each category. Here goes... Seven Things To Do Before I Die 1. Get a Ph.D. 2. Learn a foreign language and be able to speak it fluently 3. Master the guitar 4. Visit all the famous places in the Bible 5. Construct a lightsaber 6. Teach a class on the college or seminary level 7. Write a novel or theological work (or both) Seven Things I Cannot Do 1. Skating preceded by the adjectives roller- or ice- 2. Clearly understand most non-American accents 3. Read Latin 4. Sing worth a lick (though I could learn if I wanted) 5. Hear without a hearing aid 6. Understand women 7. Understand why people are stupid enough to be fanatic liberals or fundamentalists Seven things that attract me to Tricia 1. Her smile. 2. Her laughter 3. Her sexy legs. 4. Her straightforwardness. 5. Her blondeness. 6. How comfortable she feels when I hug her. 7. Her love and loyalty. Seven things I say most often 1. Dang. 2. Y'all 3. Ain't 4. Patience! 5. Arf. 6. Yeah, baby! 7. Try not. Do. Or Do not. There is no try. Seven books I love (I'm adding authors where I can't think of a book) 1. Star Wars movie novels 2. Lord of the Rings trilogy 3. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal 4. John Piper (author) 5. Harry Potter novels 6. Alexandre Dumas (author) 7. Arturo Perez-Reverte (author) Seven movies you watch over and over again 1. Star Wars movies 2. Lord of the Rings trilogy 3. Harry Potter movies 4. Moulin Rouge (I confess! I loved it!) 5. Chasing Amy 6. The Godfather trilogy 7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Seven people I want to join in, too 1. Ryan the Anglican 2. Nick 3. Shane 4. Sandy 5. Tricia 6. Amanda 7. Charley Ahh, that was fun. I'll probably think of better listings after I've slept, though. :-p

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 3 - Evangelism

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we return to the most anticipated (haha) post of the past few months - Part 3 of my series, "What Is An Evangelical?" This entry we will be discussing the third mark of an evangelical: evangelism! To recap: an "evangelical" is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ's work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. We have discussed thus far the meaning of "evangelical" (see above paragraph) and the Gospel. Now let us turn to evangelism. To begin, what exactly does the word evangelism mean? It comes from the Greek word euangelion, which means "good news." I think we covered that in our first foray into the meaning of "evangelical." In practice, evangelism involves spreading the Good News about Jesus to people who do not know Him. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Evangelism is very simply telling people about Jesus. There are several ways we accomplish this basic act: preaching the Word and intentional conversational discussion with people. This discussion can be flat out telling people "you need Jesus" (which is what preaching does much more than conversation) or it can be something that comes about as part of every day conversation with those around us who are non-Christians. There are several methods of sharing the Gospel that have been identified but I will not discuss them here. This is in direct obedience to the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20:
Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Or again in Mark 16:15:
Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Now, let's discuss some practical details about evangelism. Evangelism involves winning a person to Christ and helping them to mature as a born-again believer. At my church, my pastor invented an easy way to teach the Deaf this term: a BAB (born-again believer). There are two implications of this practical definition. First, we must understand that the primary goal of evangelism is winning a person to Christ. If all we do is simply tell about Jesus and no one ever believes, then we may as well shut up and go home. We're just peeing into the wind. Our words and actions must have a definite purpose, and if our purpose is not the salvation of lost individuals, of lost souls, then we have no business telling people about Jesus, period. Further underscoring this point is that God's word does not return to Him (and by implication, to us) empty-handed as Isaiah 55:11 tells us. It does what God has purposed for it to do. The good news about Jesus, the Evangel, will never be told by us without doing what it is intended to do. Thus our attitude must be the same as the Father's--our evangelism must have the express purpose of winning lost souls to Christ. We must pray that every time we share Jesus with someone that the Holy Spirit will be working to secure that person's eternal security. Second, we must understand that evangelism does not stop with the salvation of the lost soul. We now have a commitment to the brand new BAB to nurture them in Christian growth. They are spiritual babies, and babies must be cared for, nurtured. If all we do is win them to Christ and they never grow and become mature believers, we have seriously failed. This nurturing of new Christians is what we call discipleship. An example of this principle is the current push for church planting. Each church in the SBC is being encouraged to reproduce itself in one or more church plants. That church must be at a point in its growth where it is mature enough to "birth" and "raise" a church to maturity. That new church must then do the same, reproducing itself and raising a new church to maturity. Just so, we must be willing to not only "birth" the new Christian, but to take up the task of raising that new BAB in the way he or she must go. The goal is for that new BAB to reproduce him/herself. Indeed, that must be the goal of every Christian! I want to make a couple of remarks about something I've been noticing as part of my own personal study into the theological system of the doctrines of grace. Historical Calvinism was heavily evangelistic in its practice. Modern Calvinism has largely lost this focus, from what I have seen. There is a movement now to correct this loss of purpose, and I believe this is a great thing. It would be extremely educational and practical to see Calvinistic evangelism in action. There is much, much more that could be said here about evangelism, but that would require turning this blog into a Personal Evangelism class, and that's beyond the scope of this series. Let's suffice it to say that evangelism involves (1)telling people (especially lost people) about Jesus with the express purpose of winning them to Christ; and (2)discipling new converts to Christian maturity, with the goal of equipping them to win and disciple new believers themselves. Well, that is it for part 3 of this series. Join us next time as I explore the third characteristic of the evangelical in part 4: the commitment to Scripture!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Rock and Roll Baptist Theological Seminary

*Cheering, screaming crowds chanting "Jedi! Jedi! Jedi! Jedi!* Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, Baptists of all ages, we at Alumni Memorial Chapel are proud to present, for the first time ever in concert, The Deaf Jedi and the Calminian Sithlords! *Crowd now works itself into a frenzy* Deaf Jedi: Hey hey hey, time for us to play! Good to see y'all tonight! We'll open the show with our #1 hit from our debut album The Funny Book, "I Wanna Be Al Mohler!" *Crowd erupts into a deafening roar. Thankfully the Deaf Jedi is already deaf.* Lead guitarist erupts into a spectacular riff on a custom Gibson Les Paul classic. The crowd quiets down and begins to clap along with the drumbeat. The Deaf Jedi walks up to the microphone, strikes a rock star pose, and belts out: "I wanna be Al Mohler, baby With the jocks left back and the chessboard shinin' Al Mohler, baby Riverfront chillin' with sweet tea o' mine I wanna be Al Mohler, baby Writin' at night cause I sleep all day Al Mohler, baby I can smell a pomo from a theology away" *Crowd explodes into a moshing frenzy* Okay, that was great. Even the lame Fat Albert line was cheesy enough to make me laugh. I might actually write that song later! What's the occasion of this post? Ex Quo has introduced me to yet another interesting tidbit: Southern Seminary is guilty of Rock and Roll Christianity! Click on the two links to see the hubbub. "Ex Quo" links to his post, "Rock and Roll Christianity" links to the article in question. This is one of the better humor articles I've read lately. And the funny thing is, it is a serious article written by an independent fundamental Baptist minister. It is high-larious. There are lots of errors, inconsistencies, and out and out misrepresentations all throughout this article. Not to mention a lot of things taken entirely out of context. Basically, it's like this. My college was what I'd describe as a moderate Baptist institution, and they felt and taught (or at least told or implied to) their students that places like Southern were places where we were not taught to think, or not allowed to think. This guy's article is claiming that students at Southern are, essentially, taught to think too much! I feel like I've finally come full circle. I've gone from being "too open minded" to being "too closed minded" back to being "too open minded." And all this time I thought I was supposed to be "Scripture minded" or "Jesus minded." Yes, indeed, I've come full circle.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Same-Sex Marriage: Not A Civil Right!

This just in: gay marriage is not a civil right! For more information, look at this story. You gotta hand it to 'em--whodathunkit? New Hampshire--a state stuck in one of the most liberal corners of America--came up with this. This is a stark blow to gay-rights advocates. Hopefully, it's back to square one for these folks.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Religious Democrats?

I did a double take when I read this article this morning. It is officially a sign of the Apocalypse. We should head to the nearest Dick's Sporting Goods, Galyans, Bass Pro Shop, or other outdoor outfitter of choice and stock up on wildnerness gear. Jesus is coming soon--the Democrats have endorsed a public-school Bible curriculum! But wait--maybe that's premature. This happened in Alabama.