Now Available in Summary: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE BIBLE AS TRUTH” by Francis Schaeffer

IMG_20170827_083008

In this second Volume 2_A Christian View of The Bible As Truth

Schaeffer continues to argue for absolute truth that’s based on the God Who is There.  He acknowledges that God has revealed himself not only in nature (i.e., general revelation), but also through scripture (special revelation).  He then argues for the historicity of the origins account in Genesis where God created out of nothing all that exists apart from himself.   He then hones in on the primacy of scripture as God’s final word to his creatures.

This word is both trans-cultural and trans-time.  He further touches on the flow of history in space and time through the book of Joshua and points out the idolatry of Israel and God’s dealings with them.  Lastly Schaeffer considers how one can view the Bible and art.

So click here Volume 2_A Christian View of The Bible As Truth    and read my friends.

 

 

Summary of “Two Contents, Two Realities” by Francis Schaeffer

IMG_20170911_104919

In Schaeffer’s Two Contents, Two Realities he holds to the view that for the church to encounter the mounting challenges of the culture and increasing pressures upon her four things are essential to be in place.  Without these, he doesn’t see how we can be truly light and salt.

First, we must have the content of sound doctrine.  There can’t be any compromise here, for where essential Christian doctrines are denied, true Christianity disappears.  And clarity of content to those making a profession of faith is indispensable.  Otherwise, what will result are many false conversions.  Moreover, relativism must be smashed with true truth, the cost of discipleship must be real and love must ground all the above.

Second, we must with content give honest answers to honest questionsBecause Christianity is true truth from God, the Scriptures have an answer to our deepest fundamental questions as human beings.  For Christ is Lord over all creation, and as its master, He has the solutions for our deepest concerns.  This will mean that Christians like Paul must love the culture enough to understand its functional gods/idols and show their inadequacy when compared to the Gospel.  Whether rich or poor, educated or working class the same questions concern us all.

Third, the reality of true spirituality demonstrates what it means to love God and neighbor as ourselves, however imperfectly.  We may have orthodox doctrine and know how to provide the answers our generation is asking or not asking, but if among believers there’s no true (though imperfect) love, than we have utterly failed!  The way we treat others is a massive indication of our understanding of what it means for them to be image bearers.  Without minimizing the first and second contents, if this third reality is not in place, the gig is up.

Fourth, the beauty of human relationships in Christian community is costly and smashes every racial and class barrier.  The rich and poor, rulers and servants are to understand that they are brothers and sisters in Christ. The church cannot just be a place where preaching and activities occur, where no community is really being experienced.  In the church of Antioch, the race issue was not an issue for the early Christians and while they had their problems the Gospel was able to destroy these barriers in a way that in America it hasn’t been a reality in too many of our churches.  If we are going to touch our generation with the Gospel, this must be remedied by Christ’s power in our lives.

It is when we begin to see these two contents, and two realities that a profound impact will be experienced by our generation.

Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 3: THE PREACHER ON TIME & ETERNITY

“There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven__” (3:1).  This chapter doesn’t feel as gloomy as the first two but he considers the issue of “time”.  What is time in this context?  According to the Preacher, time is a successive series of events which begin and end (e.g., a time to give birth, a time to die 3:2).  There are several aspects I want to consider.

First, there once was a “time” I did not exist, then came the time of my birth, and a day awaits when I will finally die.  One day, life as we experience it and know it will no longer be.  But will “I” or “we” cease to exist?  There are some who would concur that eventually we go out of existence.  However, according to the Scriptures and especially in the Gospel accounts (i.e., Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) you and I will either live forever in the blessed presence of Christ or in the eternal wrathful presence of God called hell.

Second, the Preacher acknowledges that God has made all things appropriate in their time (v.11) and He has also set eternity in the hearts of men (v.11b).  What’s interesting to me is that God, “in” time, which will never end, has placed eternity into men’s hearts.  I’m not altogether certain why that is but the purpose seems, “so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (v.11c).

This beginning and end seems to refer to “everything under heaven or the creation”.  Eternity here can very well be the state in time where man will forever gaze into the works of God, eternally beholding the Master’s handiwork in order to marvel at the immensity and the intricacies of His glory.

Third, the preacher knows that rejoicing and, doing good in one’s lifetime is the ultimate goal for existence (v.12).  This after all is in the contexts of eating, drinking, and laboring.  The one who recognizes that these activities are good must then acknowledge that they come from God.  This is not luck, fate, karma, nor destiny.  Instead, it’s the kindness of the Creator toward the creature who too often does not give honor nor give thanks to Him.

It’s been my experience even as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, that I have not found any delight in work but rather loathed it.  I often have not been thankful nor appreciated the skills for earning wealth I possess.  Perhaps you can relate friend to this kind of experience.  We need to pray that these three activities are seen for what they are—good.

This is important because too often, we tend to miss the splendor of the mundane by longing for the splendor filled day.  According to the Preacher, (v.22) “…nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities because that is man’s lot….For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?” The three activities (of eating, drinking, and laboring,) apportioned to us (by God) are our lot.  Enjoying them now is all that we are assured.  For when we die these activities, like our lives will cease.

What a challenge to be in the moment and maximize our joy in these activities, rather than squander the opportunity “in the time” allotted to us.  These are all gifts from God.  Today LORD God, give us your people the wisdom to live in light of eternity in this present fleeting life.  Teach us LORD to be happy in the lot you have determined for us to experience by keeping us from forfeiting said delight through actions and thoughts that dishonor your name.

(SDG)

 

 

Reflections From 1&2 Chronicles: The Annals of Israel’s Kings

images

Available now in PDF format Reflections From 1&2 Chronicles: The Annals of Israel’s .

I’ve often glanced through my Bible and not really paid much attention to this portion of holy writ.  A seemingly endless bouquet of names, attached to each other, I’ve thought to be laborious at worst and not relevant at best.  I was wrong!

According to Gleason Archer, scholar of Old Testament Studies and languages, genealogies are space-time-history events that occurred in redemptive history.  That is, God is revealing a specific word through these people and we would do well to heed their message.  So take up and read friend, take up and read!

SDG

Summary of Chapter 3:  THE MIDDLE AGES Part 1_[PP.72-111]

 

images

The apostolic struggle during this period was not with old pagans or young barbarians, but with other races that had a rich cultural heritage.  Among these were Jewish and Moslems.

DISPUTES WITH SARACENS AND JEWS: 600-1000 [Pp.72-76]

JOHN DAMASCENE (d. c. 754) is often designated as the last Father of the East. He was born in Damascus.  Among his works the following obtain: In 727, he wrote his first apologetic piece defending the veneration of images contra the Iconoclastic emperor, Leo the Isaurian.  In The Source of Knowledge and The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (around 745), in the monastery of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem, he composed these masterpieces and from the latter argued that: All men naturally know God through creation; that the Biblical revelation is however the zenith of God’s self-disclosure; and he addresses the controversy between Christians and Jews over the Sabbath.  In his, Dialogue between a Saracen and a Christian, he considers the problem of evil and points to Christ as not avoiding it but rather experiencing its hardships.

THEODORE ABU QURRAH (c. 740 to c. 820) [Pp.73-74] a disciple of John Damascene, became the Bishop of Kara (Haran) in Mesopotamia.  He is best known for his Arabic treatise God and the True Religion, where he analyzes and confronts the problem of choosing among the various religions that claim to be revealed (E.g., Zoroastrianism, The Samaritan religion, Judaism, Christianity, Manicheism, Sects of Marcion, Bardesenes, and Mohammed.

After examining the similarities and differences, Abu Qurrah concludes that Christianity: first, presents the most plausible idea of God; second that it exhibits the fullest understanding of man’s actual religious needs; third that it prescribes the most appropriate remedy and that miracles and the expansion of Christianity point to its truthfulness.

ABD AL-MASIH AL-KINDI (10th century) allegedly wrote an Arabic apology titled The Epistle of Abdallah ibn-Ismail al-Hashimi to Abd-al-Misah ibn-Ishac al-Kindi, inviting him to embrace Islam; and the Reply of Abd-al-Masih, refuting the same, and inviting the Hashimiteto to embrace the Christian Faith.  In this work he considers the prophecies and miracles of Jesus as reasons that testify in favor of Christ, not Mohammed; he contrasts the methods of spreading the message of Christianity and Muslims, where the former by the apostles won people through miracles, their example, and preaching, as opposed to Mohammed’s message was spread through the sword.

ISIDORE OF SEVILLE [P.74] composed a work titled Against the Jews: On the Catholic Faith from the Old and New Testament.  The aim of the treatise was to educate believers on how to converse with Jews, rather than on how to convert them.

CARDINAL PETER DAMIAN [Pp.75-76] (1007-72) composed two polemical opuscules (i.e., a small or minor literary or musical work) against the Jews.

In his, A Reply to the Jews, Peter contends with his monks that it is better to war with the flesh than with the Jews who are but extinct.  Moreover to protect the faithful, it is admonished that vain disputes be shunned and with the Jews to show the most evident prophetic texts concerning the Christian faith.  In the book, Peter also deals with: The Trinity, The Incarnation, and The Sufferings of Christ.

In Peter’s, A Dialogue between a Jew Asking Questions and a Christian Responding, he addresses the non-observance of the laws such as: Circumcision, the Sabbath, the Dietary laws, and Animal Sacrifices.  Unfortunately, in concluding this treatise, he impatiently scolds the Jews for their incredulity.

            ANSELM (A.D. 1033-1109) [Pp.76-81], known as the great Benedictine Abbot who became the Arch Bishop of Canterbury in (A.D. 1093).  Very important to the apologetic enterprise is the thought Anselm disclosed concerning the relationship between faith and reason, which impacted greatly the High Middle Ages.  In his classic, Cur Deus Homo, (started around A.D. 1094 and completed around 1098), Anselm stands in the tradition of the Jewish-Christian polemical dialogues of the Middle-Ages.  This treatise deals with the reasons for the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and the theology of Redemption tied to it.

            In Anselm’s Proslogian (A.D. 1077-78) and the Monologion (1076) he deals both with the existence and attributes of God.  There’s a similarity with the three works:  First, Anselm begins in faith in order that he may ground his understanding in both the Scriptures and in the creeds.  Second, Anselm is far removed from the rationalism of the Enlightenment, for although he uses reason to discover and understand the depths of God, there remains our faith in redemption that keeps us persevering.

Third, for Anselm, to understand is the grasping of objective reasons that underlie and illumine the data of faith.  Fourth, Anselm sees man’s image as effaced, not erased through the fall and as such, man is not fully rational. [P.78]

Theology for Anselm must therefore be conducted prayerfully and with divine aid.  But it must necessarily be conducted sola ratione.  He understands that circular reasoning must be avoided when doing exegesis (Monologion).

Fifth, He does his apologetic partly for the benefit of believers (1 Pet.3:15) thus doing his theological reasoning to equip believers to deal with non-Christians.  Anselm sees theological knowledge as a single science, which operates by reason under the leading of faith, but arguments, as long as they were cogent reasons, could be understood from those who have no faith.  Anselm has a high view of reason.

Concluding Thoughts: Anselm’s ominous contribution to the history of apologetics is seen in his raising so clearly the question of the intrinsic demonstrability of the Christian faith.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? “Why Black Lives Can’t Matter…If…” PART 1

stooges-fix

We humans share many things in common; we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are not what we can do; we long for happiness and fulfillment; we don’t like it when people mistreat us; we dislike it when people lie to us; we all try to make sense out of reality as we know it.  These dearly held notions are mainly communicated through words.

The “Black Lives Matter” notion is a case in point.  The desire to communicate that “we matter” can be put “our lives have meaning” and we should thus be treated a certain way.  But whether or not that’s actually true depends on the worldview held.

For example, if naturalism is true (a la Atheism), and humans are merely material entities without an immaterial soul, an accident of macro-evolution where there’s no design, purpose or meaning, then “Black Lives” actually don’t matter.  This is true for at least two reasons; first, “meaning” is not something physical—it can’t be tasted, seen, smelled, heard, or touched, but its’ effects (which are immaterial) are constantly seen in the physical world.  Secondly, the basis of naturalism is that there is no “mind”, no “design”, no “better”, no “progress” but “eternal matter that just is”.

According to the this worldview, humans are simply born, live out their meaningless lives, and then die, never to be remembered, cherished or loved again.  It’s a cold reality.  Thus if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Another example comes from nihilism (naturalism’s child) which reduces all of life to chance plus matter plus time.  This means that human decisions are matter in motion and are thus determined.  This means that human choices are not significant, but a mere illusion.  The reason is because what seems to be “our decisions” is actually, impersonal, mechanistic matter in motion.  According to this worldview, those in favor of or against “Black lives matter” have no choice in the matter, but are simply determined to one “view” or another.  Thus if this position is true, then really “Black lives can’t matter”.

Still another example is pantheistic monism (a la Buddhism and certain branches of Hinduism), which among other things teaches that the individual is part of the oneness of the universe, that life is illusory and thus “individuality” is not real, but a fantasy.  Trying to get meaning from this position is an exercise in futility.  Ironically, many Westerners have looked to the East for its wisdom and insight on reality, except that at its core, there’s a denial of reality.  According to this worldview, there’s no real “Black lives that matter” because that whole notion too is an illusion.  Thus, if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Yet another example is moral relativism (a la the University), which among other things is the self-refuting position that there’s no such thing as absolute truth (i.e. correspondence view of truth) and “we know this to be absolutely true”.  That is, the basis for reality is not any higher power, God, etc., but the individual who creates what is true and right for herself/himself.

If this worldview is true, then “Black Lives can’t matter” for it means that we can’t tell anyone that they are wrong because the individual decides; we can’t complain about the problem of evil because the individual decides; we can’t blame or praise anyone for deeds they’ve performed because the individual decides; we can’t object to injustice because the individual decides; we can’t improve on our morality because the individual decides; we can’t have meaningful moral discussions nor demand tolerance from the opposition because the individual decides.

The “Black Lives Matter” position under this worldview is incoherent at best and diabolical at worst.  Under this self-refuting worldview, “Black lives can’t matter”.

In contradistinction to the aforesaid, theism (a la Judaism or Christianity) holds that the universe—contra naturalism—is not a closed system but one that is open.  This means that both divine and human decisions significantly shape the present and the future.  Moreover, in a theistic world human beings are not chance accidents or illusory entities—contra nihilism and pantheistic monism—but created in God’s image and likeness with the purpose to reflect the wonder of the Creator unlike any other creature.  And in opposition to moral relativism, theism grounds all truth and morality in the Creator not the fading whims of the creature.

Only in a theistic worldview can one coherently and rationally argue that “Black lives matter”.  For if the God of Scripture (I.e., The Law, Prophets, & Writings, and the New Testament) actually exists, not only do Black lives matter, but every life matters.  The reason is because human meaning under this worldview comes from the Self-existent, Eternal, All-wise, All-powerful, All-knowing God who came near to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And I would further say that only from this theistic worldview can emotions rightly and compassionately be expressed, because they are rationally based on the God who is there, the One to whom all humanity will give account for their lives—which indeed matter.

(SDG)

Summaries Now Available!

310D727a2fL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Now available in summary form is Politics for Christians.  This is an election year and the candidates for both the Democrats and the Republican parties are less than stellar according to many.  Moreover many people while having opinions on their preferred candidates have no grid from which they clearly decide on a particular person for office.  As Christians, we divide on many things and our preferred political party is certainly one of them.  Whatever party lines believers find themselves coming under, a fundamental question needs to be answered: “what policies come closest to our worldview as ambassadors for Christ?”

Answering that question takes careful thought and humility.  It’s my hope that the summaries of this book will help the Christian in particular be salt and light as they engage to the glory of God, the political process.  Moreover, it’s my desire to see the citizens of heaven consider their temporary earthly citizenship as a means to rule and reign that honors Christ and their fellow man, rather than shaming his name.  Take up and read friends.

On Death and Dying

114307

Death is not ultimate!  God is!  I used these words to open my eulogy to honor the life and mourn the death of Specialist Koran Pulido Contreras, born on December 15, 1989, in Redondo Beach California and died on September 8, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  This man’s grief stricken family sadly experienced what awaits everyone one of us and belted out wails I had never before heard.  This last week, both the Lamay Family and Sovereign Grace Fellowship Church suffered the death of our Matriarch Pat Lamay, or Grandma Pat as many of us called her.

Too often the fact of death and the loss of loved ones are unbearable, even for Christians.  The loss of a father, a mother, a spouse, a child, even our pets can be utterly debilitating. Click here ON DEATH AND DYING_1 for pdf file.

 

Reflections From ROMANS 6:1-23 “JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH RESULTS IN SANCTIFICATION BECAUSE BELIEVERS ARE SLAVES TO GOD”

romanaureusaeliusobv240

            Whose slave are you?  In the last chapter Paul argued that the believers’ justification is truly certain because God acted in Christ before we came to be.  The last Adams’ obedience (Christ Jesus) secures our standing before God because it’s the gift of life which is unlike the first Adams’ rebellion which secured our death.  But now that grace has come in Christ, Paul asks a question:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”  (Vv.1-2)

             Certainly Paul encountered religious Jews who argued that if one is justified by faith through grace then people can go on sinning; living the same rebellious life as before their conversion.  That is, “since these people are eternally secure in Christ in their salvation, who cares how they live!”  But such a position completely misses the point.  The reason is because when believers belong to Christ, his death and resurrection are applied to them so that as Christ presently lives a new resurrected life, we too might walk in that life (Vv.3-4).  Paul continues:

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.(Vv.5-7)

                It seems Paul is pointing to our mystical spiritual union with Christ such that in his crucifixion we actually died to sin and in His resurrection we actually have come to eternal life.  Spiritual unions in the Bible, among other things, concern sexual intercourse between two people whether married or not.  As the Bride of Christ, this union is real not imagined, it’s spiritual not physical.

The “old-self” is the pre-regeneration self that was dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1-4) which has been killed so that we believers would no longer be slaves to sin.  Thus, the purpose of Christ’s crucifixion in which believers are identified, was to release them from the chains of sin.  Thus to think that sin increases and thus makes grace more glorious is to totally miss the point (V.1), for the fruit produced by Christ in believers is a new life.

Paul resumes with his argument pointing to Christ’s victory over the grave which signifies that death is no longer master over Him and He says a profound truth here:

10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

             Christ is the example believers are to follow here.  They are to consider themselves as dead to sin, that is, they are to live in the reality that sin is no longer their master, God is, for Christ has vanquished the grave.  Here, Paul is exhorting and encouraging believers to live in the reality of new birth which brings new life.  And where new life exists, the “old-self” which was already killed is to be rebelled against.  This metaphor points to the reality of what being in Christ produces.  Too often we listen to “old tapes” believing lies about ourselves.  Make no mistake about it believer: you are no longer a slave to sin.  So don’t obey its’ commands.

Paul is not denying that sin remains and must be battled, but he’s exhorting believers not to be enslaved to sin which Christ conquered, instead:

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The righteous can and do sin, but not because they are under its’ mastery (Christ fixed that problem), but because the battle(s) remain to be fought.  They however must be fought from the truth that as freed men and women from sin our enemy is relentless and thus we must also be unyielding in battle.  Moreover, because believers are under grace, not under the Law (which only increased sin, never was it to produce new birth) this means we have a new master—Christ the Lord of Life.  Believer, how much more vibrant would our lives and witness be if we constantly lived in light of this truth.

Paul has thus answered the first objection which was based on the faulty premise that grace would produce increasing sin in believers.  No!  Grace actually produces new birth, new life and a new master which says, “You shall be holy for I am holy”.  This new life has been secured by Christs’ work of redemption and having said that; Paul does not deny that sin has vanished.  For when believers sin and repent grace does shine.  What Paul wants to accentuate however is that grace does not produce a sinful lifestyle, but one of sanctification.  Paul now asks a second question connected to the first one:

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” 

Here he continues explaining that whoever is obeyed (sin or righteousness) to that one we are slaves.  The former produces death, the latter generates life (V-16).  But as believers once obeyed sin and were thus slaves to death, now in Christ after new birth, they have become slaves of righteousness resulting in sanctification (Vv.17-21).  One master produces death, the other master produces life.  Note that everyone, according to Paul, is serving something other than themselves.  He continues:

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

             Paul is concluding with what brings benefit and what brings destruction.  Sin while pleasurable for a time eventually yields death, but grace and new birth yield a life of grace and sanctification toward God which produces life.  Sin’s pay-off is death; graces’ pay-off is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is, if the Law (as described by Paul) is in what we trust to be right with God, then our end is death.  But if we trust as Abraham did in the free gift of God’s word of promise fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, then life is our end.  This smashes human pride on the one hand but on the other hand it calls for believers to walk humbly before our gracious God and the observant world.  (SDG)        

Summary CHAPTER 8: QUESTIONS ABOUT FAITH—Developing Approaches (Pgs. 157-179)

51O3B1fQj-L

McGrath argues that the times in which we live must and will dictate the questions we are asked and the requisite answers we give.  A critical key is to never answer a question that’s not being asked.  This is a pit many have fallen into and must be avoided if we desire to effectively connect with skeptics or seekers.

Whether in an Islamic, rationalist, or postmodern context, the apologist must welcome challenging questions and not see them as threats but as part of the journey the questioner is on.  In other ways, these are doors to “faith” that require a person relative response, rather than a “cookie-cutter” approach.  It is one way we help people on their journey a step at a time.

McGrath thus encourages each apologist to develop their own responses to questions asked.  Under the heading Concerns and Questions he offers the following suggestions when interacting with skeptics or seekers: First, be gracious with people even though they may not be.  How powerful and foundational this is.  People don’t care about what we know, as the saying goes, unless they know how much we care.

Second, get to the real question being asked.  Often the introductory question has a motive or purpose for why it’s being asked.  Get clear on that and you’ll be more of a sniper with your responses instead of a greenhorn.

Third, be humble to learn from others.  You don’t know everything and it’s always easier to interact with one who’s not a “know-it-all”, than one who’s a peer on the learning journey.  This does not mean that what you do know is denied, but what you don’t know is admitted.

Fourth, don’t give ready-made answers.  It’s robotic, sterile, and does not humanly connect.  Instead, be a good listener where clarification of terms and ideas are reiterated to the questioner.

McGrath follows this section by providing a model of questions and answers that can be offered to the skeptics’ challenges (E.g., God’s goodness and suffering, God as a crutch, etc.) by pointing out the origins, presuppositions and problems that obtain with the objection and offers a solution.  With the “crutch” view he explains that the real issue here is truth and the nature of reality, rather than how it makes one look or feel.

He finally ends the chapter by posing several questions and offering the requisite homework for the apologist to form and re-write her own responses.  The goal here is to tighten and shorten responses so that we get to the point without losing the audience.