This and That

Every Christian Must Be a Theologian – But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone. Therefore, I remind my church that theology—coming from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (word)—simply means “the knowledge (or study) of God.” If you’re a Christian, you must by definition know God. Christians are disciples of Jesus; they are student-followers of Jesus. The longer we follow him, the more we learn about him and, consequently, the more deeply we come to know him. – Jared C. Wilson

6 Warnings Signs of  A Bad Pastor and Spiritual Abuse – Sadly, most bad pastors refuse to believe that anything is wrong with their leadership style or the way things are headed. They remain convinced that everything is great, up until the point that everything falls apart. – Stephen Altrogge

The Book of Revelation is Not about the Rapture – But Revelation, like the rest of Scripture, is about Christ, and any interpretation that ends up with something else as central has not only missed the entire message of the book but, to put it simply, is wrong. By, “about Christ”, I mean that it is about His person (He is both fully God and fully man), and His work (His life, death, and resurrection) on our behalf, and not merely about His second coming. – Richard Gilbert

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Podcast – Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible

The King James Version is a beloved translation of the Bible still used by many Christians despite the fact that it was originally updated over 400 years ago. Among these Christians are those who would label themselves King James Only meaning they believe the King James Version is the only valid translation of the Bible and that all major translations are at best inferior and at worst corrupt. It was with this in mind that Dr. Mark Ward wrote his latest book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Version. In this final segment with Dr. Ward, we talk specifically about his book and how to show respect to a translation clearly blessed by God and yet still be able to appreciation modern, more understandable translations.

Book Review – Bearded Gospel Men

51u0kkqydsl-_sx335_bo1204203200_Title: Bearded Gospel Men: The Epic Quest for Manliness and Godliness
Author: Jared Brock and Aaron Alford
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publishing Year: 2017
Pages: 304
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Bearded Gospel Men is a 31 day devotional written by Jared Brock and Aaron Alford. The book presents you with a Bible verse and quote for each day along with a short biographical sketch of an influential leader from church history. Of course all of these leaders are men, and men with beards. This is followed by a prayer and contemplative questions that help you carefully think through the material in an applicable way.

As someone with an appreciation of church history, I found this book both fascinating and hilarious. If you enjoy memes on social media, you will enjoy this book. The humor sprinkled throughout every page keeps you interested but the spiritual meat of the book keeps you engaged. While I was already familiar with most of the men featured, I still learned quite a bit I did not already know.

While I would recommend this book, it obviously has an intended, limited audience. There is quite a bit of truth we all can learn from, but the constant jokes about masculinity and beards would probably turn away most ladies. I would also caution that the book has more of a wide-spread Evangelical appeal and would not be as “reformed” as would like. Yet, the book is still worth the read.

Purchase the book for yourself here.

Basic Bible Podcast 016 – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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Happy New Year from the Basic Bible Podcast!  As many people reflect on their New Year’s resolutions today, we’re going to be focusing on the resolutions of perhaps the greatest theologian born in America, Jonathan Edwards.  When Edwards was just 19 years old, he sat out to write a list of guiding principles that would give direction to his life.  If you know anything about Edwards, you know he was passionate for God and resolutions show us just that.  To discuss this with us is Pastor Steven Dresen of Cedar Hill Baptist Church in East Brewton, AL.  A special thanks is due to Pastor Dresen as he was a last minute fill-in for a guest that had to cancel and then patiently put up with a few recording/internet troubles I was having.

Read all of the 70 Resolutions here.

Click-Here-to-Listen

Recommended Resources:

Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell by John H. Gerstner

Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper

Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain H. Murray

Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed  by Don Whitney

The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson

Basic Bible Podcast Episode 15 – The Incarnation

This is our special Christmas edition released on Christmas Eve!  In this podcast, Dr. Philip Allen and I chat about the Incarnation.  We’ll take a look at John 1, Philippians 2 and even the Garden-Temple in Genesis 1-3 comparing that with the great truths of Hebrews 4 and Revelation 21 in a very practical way.  Our conversation turns towards Christ’s great humility and see the drama of redemption unfolding before us.  There really is a reason to celebrate this season!

Recommended Resources

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ by Bruce A. Ware

Knowing Christ by Mark Jones

God Came Near by Max Lucado

The King’s Mission: A Daily Advent Devotional by J.A. White

Movie Review – The Star

As a conservative Evangelical I’m skeptical about anything coming out of Hollywood these days.  So, when I heard about a big-budget animated production about the birth of Christ featuring major celebrity voices, I had my doubts.  After having now seen the film, I can tell you I was pleasantly surprised.

The movie tells the story of the Nativity through the eyes of several animals including a donkey longing for importance, a wise-cracking bird and three camels looking to protect the new king about to be born.  Kids will enjoy the humor and action-packed journey while parents will enjoy seeing their children wrapped up in a Biblical account.

Now as a Bible teacher that tends to be hyper-critical about everything, I certainly noticed a few discrepancies between the movie and the actual Biblical account.  For example, they make the common mistake of placing the wise men at the manger (the Bible has the magi arriving about two years later). But outside of that, there really is nothing glaringly wrong.  In fact, the characters speak openly about Mary being overcome by the Holy Spirit, the child is the Son of God and the long-awaited for Messiah.  Even God’s sovereignty plays a major role in the plot as both Mary and Joseph learn to trust in God to lead them as they cannot understand His will.

While this is far from an in-depth Bible study, this movie can be used as a great conversation starter with your children.   It can be something your entire family can enjoy and then discuss together as you celebrate the advent of our Lord.

See it now while it’s still in theaters.

 

Theologians and the Church

What relationship should the theologian have with the church?  There are those who would contend that in order to be objective in one’s study, one must separate oneself from the traditions and teachings of the church.  Neutrality is a must in academic study they would claim.  Others separate themselves not necessarily from the traditions of the church but from attendance to any local church.  They see their study of the Word as superior to that which they would receive in the average local assembly.  Must one chose between theology and the church?

Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us of certain gifts Christ has given to the church.  These gifts consist of men enabled by God to teach and reveal God’s message (apostles, prophets, shepherds, and teachers).  The purpose of these gifts is to equip saints for ministry and maturity until one day we obtain the “unity of the faith”.  God’s gifts were given for the benefit of His people (I Corinthians 12:7).  Theology serves a purpose – to draw men and women into a deeper knowledge of God which leads to a better relationship with Him and others.

One simply does not have to choose between theological study and Christ’s church.  The two ought to go hand-in-hand.  The church needs teachers and theologians in order to be built up in the faith.  However, theologians also need the church.  First, for the purpose of fulfilling the gifts God has given them.  Those who are apt to teach ought to teach.

Second, the theologian needs the accountability the church provides.  This comes through two channels. The first channel is the historic body of orthodoxy the church has built up in the past two thousand years.  We must not simply ignore what God has done through His people in the past.  The church provides us with a basic framework of essential truths that have withstood the tests of time.  The second channel of accountability is through the local congregation.  Though a particular pastor may not be as educated as others, if he is preaching from the Word the Holy Spirit will still work.  It is the height of arrogance to think you have nothing to learn from one of God’s servants.  This would also include the average member in the pew.  They have wisdom and guidance that would be both foolish and dangerous to ignore.  Proverbs 11:14 reminds us that without guidance there is failure but within the counsel of many others there is safety.

A personal example of this hits close to home.  My best friend from childhood, Steve, went off to Bible college with a curious mind.  He would constantly send e-mails and call with excitement about all the new concepts he was learning.  Yet, while his knowledge was growing, his church attendance was slipping till it eventually disappeared.  He was clearly accountable to no one but himself.  This only led to arrogance and a slip into what could be charitably labeled liberalism.

Yet on the other hand, my church was recently blessed to send out one of our own, Brian, to Scotland where he is working on a doctorate in the field of church history.  However, even as he has joined a local church while he is there, he still desired to have some form of accountability to his home church.  A committee was formed that meets through Skype every six weeks.

In his book, A Little Book for New Theologians, Kelly Kapic addresses this false dichotomy.  He correctly opines, “Theology grows best in community.” (chapter 9, location 875, Kindle)  Expanding on this idea, Kapic reminds us that we are often blind to our own baggage and tradition when approaching theology.  Both the historic and the local church help us identify these blind spots.

“One of the best ways to become aware of our culture prejudices and reduce our blind spots is to spend time in the presence of the saints, especially the saints who lived in times different than our own.  Effective self-criticism requires that we increase – in number and breadth – our dialogue partners to expose our preconceptions and to help us avoid pitfalls.  The most important conversation partners for the theologian come from the church, both historically and locally.” (chapter 9, location 902, Kindle)

The church ought to be the natural home of the theologian.  It is in this home he receives both guidance and support for his endeavor.  Here he also learns to serve his family and to love his brothers and sisters.

____________________________

Kapic, Kelly M.  A Little Book for New Theologians.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2012.  Kindle.

Free E-Book Alert – Go and Sin No More: A Call to Holiness

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Michael Brown is by far my favorite Charismatic and non-Reformed theologian.  Today only one of his books is available free on Amazon:

“Dr. Bill Bright called this book, “Magnificent. . . . One of those rare, life-changing books.” The sad truth is that holiness is one of the most misunderstood topics in the Church today, with one side preaching legalistic bondage and the other side preaching false grace. In Go And Sin No More, Dr. Michael L. Brown strikes a biblical balance and points the way to a grace-filled, Spirit-e empowered holiness, revealing how you can overcome temptation and live a passionate life of holiness that will fill God’s heart with joy. Drawing on years of Scripture study and and personal experience, Brown’s book is filled with practical steps, biblical guidance, and inspirational quotes that will give you strength to boldly and aggressively overcome sin and walk in the liberty and freedom that Jesus purchased for you by His blood. Begin living a life that is pleasing in God’s eyes and experience a deeper level of spiritual strength, hunger and effectiveness. It’s time to experience the beauty of holiness today!”

Download the book here.

Jesus the Missionary

John 1:14 boldly declares, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The Word was made flesh.  Heaven had come down to earth.  The Word made flesh was the light of the world, a light shining forth in the midst of darkness (vs. 9).  He would make the Father known (vs. 18).  John the Baptist would declare that this man was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (vs 29)  He was light shining in darkness, making the Father known, and taking away the sins of the world.  This is the mission of Jesus.

This mission was the design of the Father himself.  In one of the most well-known portions of Scripture, John informs us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)  Jesus came into the world, sent by the Father, to bring eternal life to all who would believe.

It was this mission that sent Jesus to the cross.  Jesus himself declared that he would be lifted up for the purpose of drawing all people to himself (John 12:32).   Yet, this mission would not be completed on Calvary.  Even before his death, Jesus prayer to his Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”  The mission the Father gave to the Son has now been passed to those that bear his name.  This mission will take them into the uttermost parts of the earth in fulfillment of his global vision of salvation.

God’s global vision is seen in that he reaches into all of the world to call a people for himself who in turn are sent out back into all the world to draw more men to worship Christ.

Presuppositions and Preunderstandings

In order to interpret the Scriptures properly, one must come to the text with some foundational beliefs.  These foundational beliefs, or presuppositions, can be defined as “a set of underlying assumptions.”[1]  These assumptions are the lens through which you see the Bible and necessarily shade your understanding and influence how you interpret everything seen under the lens.
Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard list six foundational beliefs that they deem necessary for a proper understanding of Scripture to be possible.[2]  First, the Scriptures must be seen as a divine revelation from God Himself.  Second, this inspired revelation must therefore deemed to be authoritative and true.  Third, the Bible is a spiritual document meaning it is the avenue through which the Holy Spirit works.  Fourth, both unity and diversity must be seen throughout its pages.  While there is a unity that holds these books together, the fact that there are 66 individual books that differ in size, genre and style must be taken into account.  Fifth, this book is understandable and therefore ought to be understood.  Finally, it is these 66 canonical books recognized by the Church Fathers and down through time that we accept as the Word of God, not any others.
There also “preunderstandings” of the Bible that must also be taken into consideration.  Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard quote D.S. Ferguson’s definition of a preunderstanding, “Preunderstanding may be defined as a body of assumptions and attitudes which a person brings to the perception and interpretation of reality or any aspect of it.”[3]  In other words, this is the assumptions the interpreter has about reality through which he sees all of life.
We can test our own preunderstandings by using the truths of God’s world to evaluate our beliefs or presumptions based on reality.  When it come to our faith, “We must evaluate the evidence for the Christian claims in light of all the alternative truth claims.”[4]  So we must judge even the claims we hold dear to the truths of reality and not fear the consequences.  What best fits the evidence around us?  In terms of Biblical interpretations, we must submit our thoughts and ideas to the truth of God’s Word.
The first step in changing or challenging preunderstandings is to recognize that we all have them and then put them to the test.  In my own life, I have been taught since childhood, from both my Dad and my church, that the Bible is indeed the Word of God and therefore correct in everything it says.  So, when I come to passage that may seem to contradict themselves, I tend to immediately harmonize them assuming the contradiction is only in my mind.  While I do believe this assumption is Biblical, this presunderstanding does prevent me from appreciating any tension the two text might indeed have and therefore leads to superficial understandings based on my need to see harmony where there might not be.
What one has been taught shapes their reality of the world and therefore cannot help but shape their view of Scripture.  The type of church one attends, denomination and quality of the preaching and teaching ministries all influence how we come to the Word of God.  There are those from legalistic churches that view Scripture as a rule book to be obeyed constantly and there those from superficial churches that only dig through Scripture to find inspiration and encouragement.  Each are missing crucial elements of the Bible.
How can this be overcome?  To some level, we will not be able to come to the text free of all our baggage, but we can take steps to overcome it.  First and first most one ought to pray for spiritual illumination before approaching any text.  Second, one would be wise to seek the author’s intent of a text through grammatical and historical methods.  Finally, we should challenge ourselves to branch out and read the thoughts of others outside our ecclesiastical circles.  Let them challenge you and then examine each view in light of what we know about the Bible.  This ought to inspire was to work hard and not to throw up our hands in despair.  Fee and Stewart remind us, “The antidote to bad interpretation is not no interpretation but good interpretation, based on commonsense guidelines.”[5]
[1] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert I. Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Revised Edition, Revised ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 143.

[2] Ibid, 143-150.

[3] Ibid, 154
.
[4] Ibid, 163.
[5] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition, 3 ed. (MI: Zondervan, 2014), 21.