He Loves Me, He Abhors Me Not

Psalm 5:

David’s prayer (Psalm 5) is the fruit of his deep knowledge of God and His ways. Here we learn much about God’s view of the sinner as well as his sin, and the contrast of His love and mercy poured out on all who can rightfully claim Him to be their God and King.

Engaging the Culture Regarding Sexuality

You Are Not Your Sexuality – Sam Allberry

You Are Not Your Sexuality from novels, articles, interviews, songs, TV shows, and real-life scenarios, the same broad outline has been reinforced time and again. People become aware of their sexuality; they embrace it as their true identity; they live it out; and, despite the presence of those still unable to affirm them, they flourish. The power of narratives has changed whole societies.

As Christians we need to respond, of course. But to respond to narrative with propositions (even biblical ones) misunderstands our culture’s discussion. It’s like bringing an excellent stir-fry to a bake-off.

We must respond to the secular narrative with a Christian one. This is the rationale behind LivingOut, and behind this video. The world needs to hear same-sex attracted Christians like me share their experiences of God’s goodness in this issue. The culture needs to know there is a different calculus for measuring human flourishing. There is another, better script available.

But the church needs to hear these stories too. We can so easily question whether God’s Word on this issue really is good. True? Sure. But good? That can be a harder question.

This talk is one attempt to outline some of the key lessons for the whole church that those of us with same-sex attraction are learning. Here are five:

Your identity is in Christ.
Discipleship is hard.
God’s Word is good.
The church is vital.
The future is glorious.

I hope it’s a blessing.

Sam Allberry

Categorizing Complaints in the Church

seeking4 Ways to Categorize Complaints in the Church – article by Jonathan Rourke, senior pastor of Tri-City Bible Church in Vista, California (original source I engage in a ritual sorting. At end of my driveway is a metal container holding items delivered by various messengers. Step one is to sort them into what is important or valuable, and what can be tossed away or ignored.

We should treat complaints from church members the same way. A mentor of mine said every pastor needs to have a blind eye and a deaf ear. He meant you need to learn how to ignore stuff. That’s been good advice.

But sometimes, you can’t ignore a problem. Hopefully this short post will help this pastoral conundrum. Think of this as a way to sort the complaints you hear into four different categories: preferences, opinions, convictions, and attitudes.

PREFERENCES

Preferences are subjective commitments that have no moral consequence. They can be exercised with little to no impact on the rest of the congregation. Interestingly, concrete examples are very had to find in Scripture. The closest would be what Paul calls “interests” in Philippians 2:4. It’s a general word you could probably even translate to “things.”

In short, we all have things that matter to us, and complaints can arise when church members insist on their things being more important than someone else’s things. There is no clear right or wrong here.

Dealing with Preferences

If preferences are the source of the problem, remind each side that different doesn’t mean bad. If we all sang the same notes in the same way we’d have no harmony. Unison is not unity.

Reminding someone of this should help give him or her a perspective of ministry as a whole. Show them how their thing fits into a big and wonderful collection of things that work together to accomplish the one thing we all should be about. In these situations, be careful about taking sides. Don’t be the champion of any one thing. Remember, no one expects you to do everything, just their things.

OPINIONS

These are reasoned conclusions that shape conscience. This informs your moral code of conduct. Believers experience the greatest degree of potential discord when it comes to opinions. Conflict most commonly occurs in a church when one side despises those who abstain or judges those who enjoy (Romans 14:3). Continue reading

Hermeneutics: New Testament Priority

Tom Hicks serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. At the Founders blog he writes:

newTestamentOne important aspect of biblical hermeneutics (the theory of biblical interpretation) is the principle of “New Testament priority.” At the beginning of the Middle Ages, Augustine of Hippo (354-430) expressed New Testament priority with the phrase, “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” Augustine meant that the Old Testament contains shadowy types and figures that are only clearly revealed in the New Testament. In other words, the New Testament explains the Old Testament. The Protestant Reformers and Puritans also looked to the New Testament to govern their interpretation of the Old. An early confessional Particular Baptist, Nehemiah Coxe, agreed with the Reformed interpretive principle when he wrote, “…the best interpreter of the Old Testament is the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the new.” [1]

The interpretive principle of New Testament priority is derived from an examination of the Scriptures themselves. As we read the Bible, we notice that earlier texts never explicitly interpret later texts. Earlier texts provide the interpretive context for later texts, but earlier texts never cite later texts and explain them directly. Rather, what we find is that later texts make explicit reference to earlier texts and provide explanations of them. Moreover, the later portion of any book always makes clear the earlier portion. When you just begin to read a novel, for example, you’re still learning the characters, the setting, the context, etc., but later on, as the story progresses, things that happened earlier in the book make more sense and take on new meaning. Mysteries are resolved. Earlier conversations between characters gain new significance as the novel unfolds. Later parts of the story have primary explanatory power over the earlier parts.

The hermeneutical principle of New Testament priority simply recognizes these facts. Following the Bible’s own example, interpreters should allow later revelation in Bible to explain earlier revelation, rather than insisting on their own uninspired interpretations of earlier revelation without reference to the authoritative explanations of later revelation.

A Response to John MacArthur’s Opposition to New Testament Priority

Over and against New Testament priority, John MacArthur claims that to make “the New Testament the final authority on the Old Testament denies the perspicuity of the Old Testament as a perfect revelation in itself.” [2] Of course, MacArthur’s claim is easily reversed. One might argue that to suggest that the New Testament is not the final authority on the Old Testament denies the perspicuity (which means “clarity”) of the New Testament as perfect revelation in itself. Moreover, MacArthur doesn’t account for the fact that the Old Testament teaches that its own prophecies can be hard to understand because they are given in riddles (Numbers 12:6-8). The New Testament too acknowledges that the Old Testament is not always clear. It tells us of “mysteries” in the Old Testament yet to be revealed (Colossians 1:26). The meaning of the Old Testament “shadows” (Hebrews 10:1) and “types” (Galatians 4:24) only become clear after Christ comes. Historic Baptists understood this. The Second London Baptist Confession 1.7 accurately declares, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves.” That is, all of Scripture is not equally perspicuous, contrary to John MacArthur. Thus, MacArthur’s critique of New Testament priority is not consistent with what the Bible teaches about the Old Testament’s “shadowy” character. [3]

New Testament Priority: Dispensationalism and Paedobaptism

To illustrate how this principle of New Testament priority effects our theology, consider the example of Dispensationalists and Paedobaptists. Both Dispensationalists and Paedobaptists wrongly allow the Old Testament to have priority over the New Testament. Both systems of interpretation read the promise of a seed in Genesis 17:7 as a promise of physical offspring. In Genesis 17:7, God says, “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you.”

Dispensationalists think Genesis 17:7 establishes an everlasting promise to national Israel, and they read their interpretation into the New Testament, convinced that God has future plans for national Israel. Paedobaptists, on the other hand, think the promise in Genesis 17:7 is the covenant of grace with believers and their physical offspring, which leads to the baptism of infants in the New Testament and to churches intentionally mixed with believers and unbelievers. [4]

If, however, we allow the New Testament to interpret Genesis 17:7, then we will avoid the error committed by Dispensationalism and Paedobaptism. Galatians 3:16 says, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” Note well that Galatians 3:16 explicitly denies a plural offspring. The promise is to one Offspring only, not to many. “It does not say ‘And to offsprings’” (Galatians 3:16).

Therefore, in light of the clear teaching of the New Testament, we must conclude that both Dispensationalists and Paedobaptists misinterpret the Old Testament because they fail to allow the New Testament to have priority of interpretation. Both systems conclude that the promise to Abraham’s seed is a promise to physical descendants, rather than to Christ. This error leads Paedobaptists to over-emphasize a visible church propagated by natural generation in their reading of Scripture, and it leads Dispensationalists to over-emphasize Israel, when the New Testament clearly teaches us to emphasize Christ. The promise to “seed” is a promise to Christ, not to men. [5] This is not a denial of any collective aspect to seed; rather, it recognizes that the seed is Christ and that by saving union with Him, the elect are also seed in Him (Galatians 3:7, 14, 29). Thus, all the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 17:7 were made to Christ and to all who are savingly united to Him, Jew and Gentile alike. The promise is, therefore, Christ-centered, not man-centered, which is what historic Baptists have always taught.

__________

1 Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen, Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ, ed. Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, and Fransisco Orozco (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005), 36.

2 John MacArthur, “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist,” a sermon delivered at the Shepherd’s Conference in 2007.

3 For an extensive treatment of John MacArthur’s dispensationalism, see Samuel E. Waldron, MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response (Owensboro, KY: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2008). For a short critique of Dispensationalism’s hermeneutic in general, see Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 33-40.

4 For an excellent critique of Reformed paedobaptism, see Fred A. Malone, The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism Versus Paedobaptism (Cape Coral, FL: Founders, 2003, revised and expanded, 2007).

5 To see this argument worked out more thoroughly, see Fred A. Malone, “Biblical Hermeneutics & Covenant Theology” in Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, ed. Earl M. Blackburn (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2013), 63-87.

How Can the Chinese Dynasties Extend Back Many Thousands of Years?

How Can the Chinese Dynasties Extend Back Many Thousands of Years? by John D. Morris, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20)

I was lecturing on the Biblical and scientific evidence for recent creation to a university audience in Hong Kong, China, when a scholar raised the objection: “The Chinese have a documented history going back many thousands of years, much earlier than your dates for creation and the Flood. We have known dynasties and named rulers. The Bible must be wrong.”

The solution lies in an examination of the earliest Chinese dynasties. Actually, precisely documented dynasties go back only to about 2000 B.C. The first true dynasty was founded about 4000 years ago by a leader remembered for having “sweetened the waters,” making the land habitable after wide-spread flooding. The ten listed dynasties before that, however, were of a different sort, with very long lives and questionable details attributed to them. From a Biblical viewpoint, as did all of humanity, the Chinese descended from Adam, then Noah through the Tower of Babel incident. The amazing “Table of Nations” in Genesis 10, which chronicles the language groups and their destinations, mentions the “Sinite people” in verse 17, which probably became the Asian groups.The Asian people descended from language groups migrating away from the Tower of Babel after God confounded their languages. In all likelihood, the well-documented dynasties date to that event, while the prior ones were faded memories of pre-Flood patriarchs, preserved as legends.

Doesn’t this “Back to Genesis” history have the ring of truth about it? Biblical chronologies place the Babel incident at 4200 or so years ago. Many of the expelled groups took with them technological knowledge which they put to use in their new homelands. History documents the fact that several major cultures sprang into existence seemingly from nowhere at about the same time—the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Phoenicians, the Indians, as well as the Chinese—and each possessed a curious mixture of truth and pagan thought, as would be expected from peoples only briefly separated from Noah and his teachings as well as the star worshipping/pyramid building heresy of Nimrod at Babel.

Interestingly, each group mentioned above lists 10 patriarchs in their pre-history, just as does Genesis. Individual leaders would guide their growing language groups to a new land, bringing both technology and a history with them. Each had personal knowledge of the Flood and pre-Flood days, having learned from Noah, his sons, or their early descendants. The Asian leader evidently gained prominence when he engineered the draining of swampy land left saturated by leftover flood waters. His following dynasty commenced about the time of Abraham, about 2000 B.C., and the memories of long-lived patriarchs of pre-Flood days became early dynasties.

Details in ancient history are necessarily scarce, and proposed origins must be considered tentative. But the fact is, Biblical history is correct. All peoples descended from Adam, then Noah through the Tower of Babel incident. We shouldn’t be surprised when we find cultural and historical memories of the “Back to Genesis” truth.

Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2001. How Can the Chinese Dynasties Extend Back Many Thousands of Years?. Acts & Facts. 30 (2).

The Meaning of “Gospel”

The following excerpt is taken from R.C. Sproul’s commentary on Romans, published by Crossway.

Sproul_blog2The gospel is the possession of Jesus, but, even more, Jesus is the heart of the content of the gospel.

We use it so glibly in the church today. Preachers say they preach the gospel, but if we listen to them preach Sunday after Sunday, we hear very little gospel in what they are preaching. The term gospel has become a nickname for preaching anything rather than something with definitive content. The word for “gospel” is the word euangelion. It has that prefix eu-, which comes into English in a variety of words. We talk about euphonics or euphonious music, which refers to something that sounds good. We talk about a eulogy, which is a good word pronounced about someone at his funeral service. The prefix eu- refers to something good or pleasant. The word angelos or angelion is the word for “message.” Angels are messengers, and an angelos is one who delivers a message.

This word euangelion, which means “good message” or “good news,” has a rich background in the Old Testament. There, the basic meaning of the term gospel was simply an announcement of a good message. If a doctor came to examine a sick person and afterward declared that the problem was nothing serious, that was gospel or good news. In ancient days when soldiers went out to battle, people waited breathlessly for a report from the battlefield about the outcome. Once the outcome was known, marathon runners dashed back to give the report. That is why Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” (Isa. 52:7). The watchman in the watchtower would look as far as the eye could see into the distance. Finally, he would see the dust moving as the runner sped back to the city to give the report of the battle. The watchmen were trained to tell by the way the runner’s legs were churning whether the news was good or bad. If the runner was doing the survival shuffle, it indicated a grim report, but if his legs were flying and the dust was kicking up, that meant good news. That is the concept of gospel in its most rudimentary sense.

When we come to the New Testament, we find three distinct ways in which the term gospel is used. First, we have four books in the New Testament that we call Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books are biographical portraits of Jesus. Gospel in this sense describes a particular form of literature. During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the term gospel was linked not particularly with the person of Jesus but with the kingdom of God. John the Baptist is introduced as one who comes preaching the gospel, and his message is “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2).

Jesus did the same in his parables, proclaiming, “the kingdom of God is like . . .” On the lips of Jesus, the gospel was about the dramatic moment in history when, through the long-awaited Messiah, the kingdom of God had broken through in time and space. The good news was the good news of the kingdom. By the time the epistles were written, particularly the Pauline epistles, the term gospel had taken on a new shade of understanding. It had become the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel had a clear content to it. At the heart of this gospel was the announcement of who Jesus was and what he had accomplished in his lifetime.

If we give our testimony to our neighbors, saying, “I became a Christian last year. I gave my heart to Jesus,” we are bearing witness about Jesus, but we are not telling them the gospel, because the gospel is not about us. The gospel is about Jesus—what he did, his life of perfect obedience, his atoning death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven, and his outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church. We call those crucial elements the objective aspects of the New Testament gospel of Christ.

In addition to the person and work of Jesus, there is also in the New Testament use of the term gospel the question of how the benefits accomplished by the objective work of Jesus are subjectively appropriated to the believer. First, there is the question of who Jesus was and what he did. Second is the question of how that benefits you and me. That is why Paul conjoins the objective account of the person and work of Jesus (particularly to the Galatians) with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which is essential to the gospel. In preaching the gospel we preach about Jesus, and we preach about how we are brought into a saving relationship with him.

The gospel is under attack in the church today. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the gospel right and to understand both the objective aspect of the person and work of Jesus and the subjective dimension of how we benefit from that by faith alone.

Recently, a Protestant seminary professor, supposedly evangelical, was quoted to me as having said that the doctrine of imputation—by which our sins are transferred to Christ on the cross and his righteousness is transferred to us by faith—is of human invention and has nothing to do with the gospel. I wanted to weep when I heard that. It just underscored how delicate the preservation of the gospel is in our day and how careful the church has to be in every age to guard that precious good news that comes to us from God.