Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Grace To You on Scripture

I had really intended to post this earlier, but things have been too busy lately. Grace to You did a series last week on Scripture, and it was one of the original catalysts for Bible Month, so even though I'm late, I'm putting up the archived material.

I'm not sure there is another topic (save perhaps preaching) that John MacArthur is so passionate about than the Bible--he has been an inspiration to me, and I hope these messages will be to you as well.

The Doctrine of Scripture Transcript and MP3 Download
Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1 Transcript and MP3 Download (Pt 1 & Pt 2)
Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 2 Transcript and MP3 Download (Pt 1 & Pt 2)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Favorite Book--Handbook of Basic Bible Texts

Back in college when we took Bible Doctrines, one of the required texts was a the Handbook of Basic Bible Texts, by John Jefferson Davis. It's rather immodest subtitle is "Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine & Theology." Despite this overly audacious claim, this thin paperback (a mere 158 pages) is a very useful book. If you were to take Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, and boiled it down to Scripture references and cross-references in other systematic theologies, you've got some idea of what it's like.

What makes this book so special is that it is primarily Bible verses (with a few comments here and there), arranged by appropriate doctrine. Any time I need a quick overview of some of the most relevant texts in a particular area, it is very handy. It's also useful when trying to deal with prooftexts; again, you can look at multiple texts on the subject to provide a wider view. It doesn't suffer from the problem I've seen with other books--that texts aren't relevant to a particular topic. Finally, it organizes certain texts as supporting specific views in certain areas (including sanctification, perseverence, forms of church government, sacraments, and eschatology). I think it is helpful to have texts identified for you as providing support for a specific view, so that you can look at them and weigh their relevance to your own view.

It may still be in print, but used copies are abundant (and cheap). Here is the Amazon listing, and Addall (new and used).

One last thing--the book uses the NIV for its verse citations. So Crossway folks, if you are looking for ideas, look no further. I'd buy the ESV version of this in a heartbeat, and it would be a wonderful way to have people sample the text.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Can We Make the Bible an Idol?

Over at Carla's blog awhile back, there was a question posed about loving the Scriptures too much--and putting them in the place of loving Christ. I didn't care for the wording of that question, because I think it obscured the real issue.

If we use a biblical definition of love, I don't think you can say that folks love the Scriptures too much. If you really love the Scriptures, you'll love Christ, too.

But if we ask "can we make the Bible an idol," then we've got a question worth consdering.

The answer is "yes," and here are some ways people do it.

1) When we elevate any one translation to be true Scripture, and decry all others as false. This is exactly what the King James Only folks have done.

A correct understanding of Scripture recognizes that all translations are just that, translations, and are good to the extent they are faithful to the Hebrew & Greek originals. That's not to say there isn't a place to debate methods of translation, but just to recognize that no translation is completely perfect and no faithful translation (even if we disagree with how it was done) is completely bad, either. (There are some bad translations, but that is a separate issue).

To be sure, I have strong opinions about what type of translation to use; but I am concerned that the current debate over the TNIV may be on its way to crossing this line.

2) Relating to the Word in a mystical or superstitious way. Here, I have in mind making the Bible an object of veneration. It is the Word of God, but that does not make it a sacred object. (Interestingly, my pastor suggested that I might be doing this very thing when I ask folks in church to "please stand for the reading of God's Word.")

3) Focusing on the letter vs. the spirit. It's this last one I'd like to spend a minute on.

This is the heart of the issue between Jesus and the Pharisees. They thought they knew the Scripture so well, but Christ pointed out over and over that they didn't know it at all, because at the heart of Scripture is the heart of God. And if we don't have that heart, Scripture is a closed book to us. It is truly worth nothing more than an idol.

It's one thing if I point out to a brother that he is in error; it's another thing altogether to assert that I am more righteous than he based on that fact. Any time we come away from the Scripture feeling self-righteous instead of humble, I think we have mishandled Scripture, and we may be making it an idol.

But while I agree that a legalistic approach to the Scriptures will eventually lead to this error, I disagree with those who go a step further and assert that someone who advocates orthodox belief is automatically legalistic. To be dogmatic about one's beliefs is not the same thing as being a Pharisee--there's also the matter of the heart. And at center of every Pharisee's heart there exists, not a love of God, but a love of self.

That's why I don't think we can love the Scriptures too much--we can't love the Scriptures unless we love God. I don't think those who were zealous for the letter of the law (along with their own rules), while ignoring the "weightier matters," can be rightly characterized as "loving the Scriptures," any more than it can be rightly said that a martyr for Islam truly loved God.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Free World Cup Audio in English

Took me about two hours this morning, but I found this link from the UK's Sun tabloid paper that has free streaming audio in English.

And I just have to say, Argentina looked awesome yesterday.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Christ's Righteousness & the Law

I'm hoping to get back to the question of "what is our relationship to the law?" soon. In the meantime, read this intriguing post from Daniel about whether the Law made Christ righteous.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Discovering the True Sense of Scripture--Thomas Boston

The following is taken from the Fall 2005 issue of Teaching Resources. Jim Ehrhard (who also happens to be my pastor) edits these booklets, distilling some of the best writing from ages past on various topics. Back issues are available for download on the site, and all material is "for the edification of the Body of Christ and may be used freely for such purposes."

Discovering the True Sense of Scripture

Thomas Boston

The sense of the scripture is but one, and not many. There may be several parts of that one sense subordinate one to another; as some prophecies have a respect to the deliverance from Babylon, the spiritual by Christ, and the eternal in heaven; and some passages have one thing that is typical of another: yet these are but one full sense, only that may be of two sorts; one is simple, and another compound.

Some scriptures have only a simple sense, containing a declaration of one thing only; and that is either proper or figurative. A proper sense is that which arises from the words taken properly, and the figurative from the words taken figuratively. Some have a simple proper sense, as, ‘God is a Spirit,’ ‘God created the heavens and the earth;’ which are to be understood according to the propriety of the words. Some have a simple figurative sense, as, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away,’ and etc. These have but one simple sense; but then it is the figurative, and is not to be understood according to the literal meaning of the words, as if Christ were a tree, and etc. Thus you see what the simple sense is.

The compound or mixed sense is found wherein one thing is held forth as a type of the other; and so it consists of two parts, the one respecting the type, the other the antitype; which are not two senses, but two parts of that one and entire sense intended by the Holy Ghost: e.g. Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that those who were stung by the fiery serpents might look to it and be healed. The full sense of which is, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.’ Here is a literal and mystical sense, which make up one full sense betwixt them. Those scriptures that have this compound sense, are sometimes fulfilled properly (or literally, as it is taken in opposition to figuratively) in the type and antitype both; as Hos. 11:1, ‘I have called my Son out of Egypt,’ which was literally true both of Israel and Christ. Sometimes figuratively in the type, and properly in the antitype, as Psa. 69:21, ‘They gave me vinegar to drink.’ Sometimes properly in the type, and figuratively in the antitype, as Psa. 2:9, ‘Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.’ Compare 2 Sam. 12:31. Sometimes figuratively in both, as Psa. 41:9, ‘Yea, mine own familiar friend hath lifted up his heel against me; which is meant of Ahithophel and Judas. Now the sense of the scripture must be but one, and not manifold, that is, quite different and nowise subordinate one to another, because of the unity of truth, and because of the perspicuity of the scripture.

Where there is a question about the true sense of scripture, it must be found out what it is by searching other places that speak more clearly, the scripture itself being the infallible rule of interpreting of scripture. Now that it is so, appears from the following arguments.

(1) The Holy Spirit gives this as a rule, 2 Pet. 1:20, 21. After the apostle had called the Christians to take heed to the scripture, he gives them this rule for understanding it, ‘Knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation of our own exposition. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’ As it came, so is it to be expounded: but it came not by the will of man; therefore we are not to rest on men for the sense of it, but holy men speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and so never erring; therefore we are to look to the dictates of the same Spirit in other places.

(2) There are several approved examples of this, comparing one scripture with another, to find out the meaning of the Holy Ghost, as Acts 15:15. And to this agree the words of the prophet,’ and etc. The Bereans are commended for this in Acts 17:11. Yea, Christ himself makes use of this to show the true sense of the scripture against the devil, Matt. 4:6, ‘Cast thyself down,’ said that wicked spirit; ‘for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee,’ ‘It is written again,’ says Christ, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ And thus our Lord makes out the true sense of that scripture, that it is to be understood only with respect to them who do not cast themselves on a tempting of God.

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 1.9), “The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and, therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture which is not manifold but one, it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly (2 Pet. 1:20, 21; Acts 15:16).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Download A Piece Of History--The Geneva Bible

In the entryway to my home, a five hundred-year-old Bible sits on a little pedestal. It's an original English version of the Geneva Bible printed in Scotland in 1576. It is a precious reminder of the time-tested veracity and power of God's truth.

I often look through the pages of that old Bible and reflect on the diligent work and sacrifice it took to produce just one copy of God's Word in those days. There have been times throughout history when owning a copy of Scripture could cost you more than money--it could cost your life. In an act of courage and authentic devotion to Christ, people chose to give up their lives rather than their Bibles.


These were the opening lines of a recent letter from Grace To You.

There's something mesmerizing about that time in history; God had put it on the hearts of certain men people that Scripture was something that wasn't for the privileged few who knew Latin, but for everyone. And people were willing to give up what we would term "normal lives" in order to make this dream a reality. William Tyndale, for instance, lived on the run most of his life.

It's hard to imagine living in a place where the Bible is outlawed. Yes, I know at times there is opposition to Biblical teaching, but nothing like what was seen in those days, where even the established church thought it was a bad idea for regular people to have the word of God in their hands.

You can go here to look at or download a scanned copy of the 1560 Geneva Bible. It's an amazing piece of history.

If you aren't familiar with the Geneva Bible, read this article.

And if you still haven't had enough translation for one day, see this modern day story about how the Bible came to be translated into the Inuktitut language (thanks for the correction, Buggy).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Recent Bible Poll

This poll seems a good place to start Bible Month. Here's a brief snippet.

According to the survey, about 3 out of 10 Americans continue to profess belief in a literal Bible today, which accounts a 10% drop over the past three decades. More than 1,000 adults were asked to describe their view about the Bible with 28% responding that the Bible is the "actual Word of God and is to be taken literally."

Poll results see a 45% to 49% increase among those who say the Bible is the inspired Word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally. However, the survey also records a larger increase of Americans who say the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man (13% to 19%).

Gallup breaks down the surveyed sample to subgroups and finds that younger people are less likely to profess belief in the Bible, word for word. Results show 23% of Americans aged between 18 and 29 years believe in the actual Word of God compared to 36% of the more elderly bunch aged 65 and older. The unlikelihood of believing in the Bible literally also parallels with education. Only 10% of postgraduates say the Bible is the actual Word of God while 39% of people with a high school or less education have the same affirmation. Belief in the literal Bible is also highest among those living in the South and lowest in the West.

The young and highly educated are highest with 58% in the belief that the Bible is inspired and that not everything is to be taken literally.

Now, depending how the questions was worded, I'm willing to grant that even someone like myself, who takes the Bible literally, might still have responded that not everything should be taken literally (God is neither a rock nor a bird, for instance). Still, it's likely that those who responded don't think that everything in the Bible that is literal is really literal, and it's not hard to see how someone who believes in a non-literal Bible can explain away things they don't like or agree with, whether it be God's restrictions on sex, the existence of Hell, or even man as a sinner. And isn't this exactly what's happened with mainline denominations?

But I also wonder if it's starting to creep into all churches. It makes the following question from this post by James Spurgeon at Pyromaniacs interesting: Why don't pastors preach about the reality of Hell anymore? Perhaps some just don't believe in that reality anymore. And, if I can get a bit personal for a moment, I might just ask myself (as well as you readers), what difference does my strong belief in the horror of the reality of Hell have on my evangelistic efforts? I'll leave you to ponder that on your own.

It's probably not news to anyone that more education seems to go hand-in-hand with less belief in the Bible. What may suprise you, however, is that this is not just a modern problem. Here's a quote from William Tyndale, writing in the 16th Century, on the effects of an Oxford education:
[They] ordained that no man shall look in the Scripture until he be nooselled in heathen learning eight or nine years and armed with false principles with which he is clean shut out of the understanding of Scripture.

Some maintain that education provides a release from the shackles of belief in supernatural saviors and other such nonesense. Many others take a more moderate approach, trying to fuse the best of the Bible with the wisdom of the world (see this, for instance). Believers, though, much always treat the Bible as the true measure of wisdom, rather than trying to use their wisdom to measure Scripture.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bible Month

June is Bible Month here at Still Reforming. The plan is to post some different articles about the Bible and its translation throughout the month, culminating with my long overdue explanation of why I've chosen my current Bible translation.

Here are links to some previous posts about the Bible (frankly, every month could be Bible month here, that's how passionate I am about it).

On Reading the Bible--John Newton
More thoughts on Scripture--from Steve Camp (with bonus link to the Bible Researcher's quotes on Scripture)
The critically acclaimed post The Bible--without Grace and Propitiation
The 100 Minute Bible--Decent Premise, Poor Execution
Terrible Translation (with a link to the original World magazine article of the same name)
What Kind of Bible for My Children?
Book Review: How to Choose a Bible Version