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Tag Archives: Authority of the Bible

“That Old Witch, Lady Reason!” Part 2

The quote in the headline is from that great and glad saint, Martin Luther, who knew that reason and philosophy (in particular, Aristotelian philosophy) had gotten the church into the predicament it was in at the time of the Reformation. Last week I wrote an article on the problem with reason inspired by the work of another Martyn, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones in his book, What is an Evangelical?

There is nothing wrong with man’s reason, of course, except when it is raised above God’s Reason, as the LORD Himself indicated…

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (ESV)

In all of his writings on this, though, it’s important to say that Lloyd Jones was not anti-intellectual…

Not Anti-intellectual

Of course, Jones himself was a medical doctor before becoming a pastor, and he himself was surely one of the brightest men of his generation, but he had seen foolish reasoning and philosophy turn many against Christ, and such was true, not only of philosophy, but also academia and scholasticism…

“…the evangelical is not only distrustful of reason, but he is also distrustful of scholarship. Here we are, belonging to IFES, students and members of universities, and I am saying that the evangelical is distrustful of scholarship, and I maintain that! What do I mean? Let me try to make it plain. The evangelical starts from the Scriptures. He also reads the history of the church, and there he finds that the history proves what has been emphasized in the Scripture, that when men trust to reason and to understanding they go astray. He also finds that the men whom God has had to raise up and to use to call back people to the faith have often been very simple men. Not always, of course – I mentioned Luther and others, and I could have mentioned Calvin – but so often this has happened, that the revival in the church and the calling back of the people to the true faith has been done through the medium of someone quite unknown.

“(This) does not mean he is anti-intellectual; it does not mean that he becomes obscurantist; but it does mean that he keeps reason and scholarship in their place. They are servants and not masters.”

Note: the “evangelical starts from the Scriptures”. We always start there! How then, does reason serve us? Like this…

The business of reason is to teach us how to believe. It is an instrument, and the trouble always arises when people allow reason to determine what they believe. In other words, instead of submitting themselves to the Scripture, they turn to science, to philosophy, or to one of a number of other disciplines, and their position is determined by these things.

“Not what you think, but how you think, that is the place of reason, and I would say exactly the same of scholarship.” Lloyd Jones says.

Nor is the good doctor asking us to stay away from University study of these matters…

I recall one well-known evangelical leader who always used to tell such men, ‘Whatever else you study at Oxford or Cambridge, don’t study theology or you’ll lose your faith.’ That is something which I do not commend…That is the spirit of fear, and it leads to an obscurantism where you bury your head in the sand, and you are not aware of what is happening…There is no need for us to be afraid of scholars if they are not Christians because they base their position on reason, and it is a simple matter to debate with them because they do not know the Scriptures. You can easily show them that what they have been saying they have spun out of their own minds.

In all this, the great question we must ask in all manners of study is this – What does the Bible say? The Scriptures are our authority. They are not reason – they are revelation, revelation from God. And here is the result…

Men who have felt called to ministry…have gone into the seminaries as evangelicals and true evangelists…have come out denying everything, and sometimes even departing from the faith altogether. If that has not happened, they have come out dead, trying to be scholars and having lost the edge of their zeal and their enthusiasm…Therefore, if an evangelical is not distrustful of reason and of scholarship; he is blind to this clear testimony of the history of the Christian church throughout the centuries.

How many times was the Apostle Paul called the “fool”? Yet today he is the wisest of all, for his attention and concern was not on the “debater of the age” but on the Lord of the Ages. May it be so with us as well.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Quick to Hear…What?

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19, 20 (ESV)

Often these verses are applied to personal relationships or marriage. You’ve heard this one…”God gave you two ears and one mouth so you should be twice as much a listener as a talker.” Not bad advice, really – the application of this wisdom could help all of us. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, it’s not the primary thing that the verse is referring to. So what is it about? In other words, exactly what source should we be quick to hear from? Context helps here. Consider the verse that comes immediately before:

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:18 (ESV)

And then consider the verse that comes immediately after:

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  James 1:21 (ESV)

Yes, we should be good listeners at the office. And yes, I should be quick to hear Diane’s viewpoint; and she, mine. Yes, to the wisdom of two ears and one mouth. But the primary thing we are called to be quick to listen to…is the Word of God. This interpretation is further confirmed when we read in verse 22 that we should “be doers of the word, and not hearers only”. Understanding verse 19 as referring to the Bible gives us more to chew on. In other words, not only should we be quick to listen, but we should also be slow to share our own opinions outside of the Book. And anger? Anger at the many ways God’s word “cramps our style” keeps us from having the meekness necessary to receive the implanted word.

So, whatever other voices are in our lives, we must be quick to listen to one main voice – the Word of God. What a great truth this is. So often we are tempted to look for wisdom in other places besides the Word. We latch on to the opinions of men. We sail on the prevailing winds of the culture.

But above all, we must be quick to hear from God…in His word.

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. Psalm 119:99 (ESV)

 

For Wednesday, November 4th: James 2

 

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

In a very brief letter of the New Testament, Paul urges his friend Philemon to release the slave Onesimus. Paul had met Onesimus in prison and led him to Christ, but once the young man was released, Paul sent him back to Philemon with this instruction:

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. Philemon 1:12-14 (ESV)

Many people have rejected the Bible because they say it condones modern day slavery, but in an instructive portion of his excellent sermon, “Literalism: Isn’t the Bible Historically Unreliable and Regressive?”, Tim Keller shows how this is far from the case. In the process, he urges us to consider that the way we are understanding and (sometimes) rejecting the Bible’s teaching may just mean that we are misunderstanding what it is saying:

“It is very easy to read a passage of the Bible, read it through your cultural blinders, and therefore, misunderstand what it’s actually teaching. My example is slavery…Many, many times people say, ‘The Bible condones slavery, and that was wrong. Therefore, it’s wrong on this as well.’ Very often people start with that as the premise, and they go off in various directions to undermine biblical authority. I want to ask a question. Does the Bible actually condone slavery? You say, ‘Well, of course! Look at these passages where Paul says, ‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters …’ There it is. He condones slavery.’

“You know, if you actually go into one book of the New Testament where Paul actually talks to a master/servant relationship … He talks both to Onesimus, who is a servant, and Philemon, the master. If you actually read that book and you see how Paul talks and you see how that relationship works between Onesimus and Philemon, you begin to realize this is more like something you might called indentured servanthood. It’s not what we think of as slavery. That’s the point. When you and I see the word slave in the Bible, you immediately think of seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century New World slavery, race based, African slavery. That’s immediately what you and I think of. When you do that, when you read what the Bible says, when you see the Bible’s slave and you read it through those blinders, you actually aren’t quite understanding what the Bible is teaching.

“Murray Harris was a historian who wrote a book about what slavery was like in the first century Greco-Roman world (the slaves Paul was talking to)…Interestingly enough, he says in Greco-Roman times,

  • First, slaves were not distinguishable from anyone else by race, speech, or clothing. They looked and lived like everyone else and were never segregated off from the rest of society in any way.
  • Second, slaves were more educated than their owners in many cases and many times held high managerial positions.
  • Third, from a financial standpoint, slaves made the same wages as free laborers and, therefore, were not themselves usually poor and often accrued enough personal capital to buy themselves out.
  • Fourth, very few people were slaves for life in the first century. Most expected to be manumitted after about 10 years or by their late thirties at the latest. In contrast, New World slavery (seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century slavery) was race based, and its default mode was slavery for life. Also, the African slave trade was begun and resourced through kidnapping, which the Bible unconditionally condemns in 1 Timothy 1:9–11 and Deuteronomy 24:7.

“Therefore, while the early Christians, like Saint Paul, facing first-century slavery discouraged it (like Paul was always saying to slaves, ‘Get free if you can’) but didn’t go on a campaign to end it, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Christians, when faced with New World-style slavery did work for its complete abolition because it could not be squared in any way with biblical teaching. The point is, when you hear somebody say, ‘The Bible condones slavery,’ you say, ‘No, it didn’t. Not the way you and I define slavery. It’s not talking about that. Maybe we ought to use a different word there when we translate it.’ You say (rightly so), ‘Oh, didn’t people in the South use those biblical passages (‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters …’) in order to try to subjugate the African slaves?’ Yes, but they were reading it through their cultural blinders too. It was an absolutely illegitimate twisting and perversion of what the Scripture taught. Therefore, please consider the possibility…that when you read something in the Scripture and it seems very offensive, you’re reading it through your cultural blinders.”

For tomorrow, Wednesday, September 16th: Hebrews 1

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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