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Fuller Seminary Professor Exalts Jesus by Denying Inerrancy

In explicitly disposing of the full truthfulness of the Bible, Fuller Seminary professor Daniel Kirk marshals the frequent, and if I may say so, tiresome and worn-out, argument that the Bible must be read Christologically. G. C. Berkouwer and many others have made this argument long ago, but repetition of assertion is not equivalent to validity of argument. Dr. Kirk notes that 2 Tim. 3 asserts that all Scripture is God-breathed for the purpose of making us wise to salvation, and even though Paul teaches error about the historical Adam, he’s really making a theological point and isn’t especially concerned about the Bible’s “historical, scientific, or critical meaning.”

Aside from the fact that Dr. Kirk doesn’t seem to consider that the historicity of Adam may in fact impinge inescapably on the Bible’s Christological purpose, he doesn’t show why throwing inerrancy in the garbage exalts that Christological purpose. Indeed, one might want to argue that if we deny that the God-breathed Bible is truthful, we are assaulting Jesus Christ, not honoring him. After all, it was Jesus who verified the Old Testament dictum that man must live by every word that issues from God’s mouth (Mt. 4:4). To deny God’s Word isn’t to exalt Jesus but to degrade him.

Of course, Dr. Kirk also seems to hint that not all of the Bible is God-breathed, only those parts that fit his definition of Christocentricity.  If so, he’s revived the liberal canard of a canon-within-a-canon, and the Bible becomes nothing more than a wax nose for him to twist into whatever he wants to make of it.

We’ve seen this film before, and we all know where it ends.

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Our Propositional Bible

carlfhhenry

The question over Scripture is not in the final analysis a question concerning the Bible, but rather concerning God. If one believes in a sovereign divine mind and will, in God who personally speaks and conveys information and instruction, then the presuppositions of scriptural inspiration lie near at hand.[1]

No writer in the 20th century — perhaps in any century — has written so much and so well in defense of propositional revelation than Carl F. H. Henry, arguably the most important evangelical North American theologian in the last 100 years. By “propositional” I mean revelation in intelligible words and sentences that make a statement. Henry was a sworn foe of the rising irrationalism in culture and church, of reducing revelation to non-propositional encounters, of so expelling God to the mists of eternity and the perplexities of the paradoxical that man cannot hope to know any objective truth. In short, Henry believed the Bible is God’s truth. Henry’s critics forever remind us that not all biblical revelation is propositional (poem, imperative, etc); Henry in turn reminds them that every genre is designed to be interpreted in the mind as proposition: “Do not steal” = “Stealing is wrong”; “I praise You, O God” = “God deserves worship.” You don’t get rid of propositional revelation by appealing to non-propositional genres.

More importantly, in an age deeply resistant to authority, notably binding, written authority (as in multigenerational constitutions), the truth of the Bible as propositional revelation warrants the most vigorous defense. In the Bible we read the very words of God mediated in human language.  The words of the Bible were also written by men, but their uniqueness rests in the fact that they are the very words of God. The Bible is oracular revelation.

Henry noted that it is the nature of persons to communicate, and the highest form of that communication is propositional language — even for mutes, the mentally disabled, and those who can communicate only with their eyelids. Images and music are lovely, and great gifts from God, but they are no substitute for language. God is the absolute Person, and as a Person he communicates personally, by language, to the creatures made in his image.

To discard and devalue his language in the Bible is to discard and devalue his character — his being.  Not to consume his words, not to obey them, not to cherish them, is egregiously to disrespect him.

God talks to us in the Bible.  Our job is to listen and love and obey.


[1] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Waco, Texas, Word, 1979), 3:428.

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The Right Not to be Offended

tantrums_t607My wife Sharon drew my attention to this article by a single Christian woman who was traumatized in church on Mother’s Day when her pastor had all the mothers present stand to be honored and she didn’t because she wasn’t a mother and, therefore, “felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman.” “Here’s the thing,” she opined, “I believe we can honor mothers without alienating others.”

No doubt, but it’s not clear why non-mothers should feel alienated, and, as Sharon pointed out, honoring mothers also includes honoring one’s own mother, even among single women. Are we not deeply self-centered to deny that honoring of mothers one day of the year by having them stand in church?

This is simply the latest episode of the growing propensity of the belief in the right not be offended. This trend likely started with political correctness on college campuses in the 90’s, and it persists — in the past week at Northwestern University, “as Mexican students voiced disagreement with a campuswide letter [from university administrators] that advised students not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by engaging in racially-offensive activities, such as eating tacos and drinking tequila.” This attempt at sensitivity security to Mexican culture was so silly and clumsy that even some Hispanic students — especially Hispanic students — thought it insensitive to them: “What right have you Gringos to tell us that eating tacos is insensitive to Mexican culture and history?”

We hear about “hurtful” speech, but what many people really want, it seems, is the right not be offended. They believe they ought never to hear comments that cast them or their religion or politics or church or race or sex or vocation in a negative light.

But this isn’t a right the Constitution guarantees, and if it were, it would lead to Draconian political tyranny and, moreover, squash one of the most important, if often difficult, means of personal growth. Even the most offensive comments can contribute to our character, and for Christians, to our personal sanctification. This fact in no way absolves perpetrators of such offenses from their unbridled tongue, but God employs even sinful words to instill character and make us better people. We rarely develop character in situations of personal ease; it’s the hardships that forge character.

We suffer from a generation of sensitivity whiners who cry foul when they are not flattered to their satisfaction, or if someone makes a snide comment about a class to which they belong. But just as Christians should bear up under the epithet “nuts and kooks” without murmuring, so men shouldn’t think they have a right not to be offended when they’re deemed “brutes” by women, or women when they’re called “babes” by men, or conservatives when they’re labeled “Neanderthals” by liberals, or liberals when tagged “pinkos” by conservatives, or rural people when called “rednecks,” or gays when called “queer,” or Afro-Americans when called “blacks,” or whites when called “honkies,” or executives when called “suits,” or manual workers when called “grunts,” or overweight people when called “fatsos,” or underweight people when called “concentration camp survivors.”

Or single women, or women who have miscarried, when mothers are honored.

Or university administrators whose white — and Hispanic — students eat tacos and drink tequila on Cinco de Mayo.

It is ironic that the age that is likely the most coarse in human history — with liberal use of the f-word and scatological language in even ordinary conversation and flaming accusations on TV and in social media forums — is also the most thin-skinned in history.

You have a right to be treated fairly under the law.

But you don’t have a right not to be offended.

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The Tranzies

ANoUPCv2.tifIn his The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life, Kenneth Minogue refers to “transnational progressives,” or “tranzies” for short. These are political Leftists who hold in contempt ordinary patriotism and patriots and local and national laws and customs and instead champion “global” justice and jurisprudence, which always, just coincidentally, seem to fill out the progressive agenda: population control, abortion rights, same-sex marriage, socialism, radical feminism, children’s rights, and so forth. Tranzies often claim to embrace democracy, but they are avid foes of any localized democracy that doesn’t conform to their Leftist ideology. Indeed, the entire agenda of the tranzies is shaped by a contempt for any non-progressive worldview.  For this reason, they are madly in love with any form of jurisdiction that overrides local and national jurisdictions: international tribunals and criminal courts, United Nations, international peacekeeping forces, and global governments. Tranzies, like Robespierre, Stalin and Pol Pot, find the checks and balances of the Anglo-American (and Christian) political tradition stifling: why rely on checks and balances when you know the truth and can enact it immediately? Tranzies have a robust confidence in their own wisdom, rivaled only by their contempt of the common people, who need the wise and virtuous and disinterested— people like them, of course — to lead the world.

The success of tranzies spells the defeat of true democracy (Constitutional government bounded by a bill of rights), and to the extent that tranzies win, the United States as we have known it will vanish.

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Boy Scout Religion

The New York Timesopenly homosexual columnist Frank Bruni is scandalized that the Boy Scouts would consider maintaining on grounds favorable to “the religious right” their long-held policy that scout leaders be heterosexual only, though the Scouts do intend, it seems, to change their policy of prohibiting homosexual scouts.

Bruni writes:

But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the same dignity as anyone else? There are many Americans in this camp, and their opposition to the Scouts’ ban is as faith-based as the stance of those who want it maintained….

But there’s a religious center. A religious left. There are Christian moderates and Christian liberals: less alliterative and less dogmatic, but perhaps no less concerned with acting in ways that reflect moral ideals. We should better acknowledge that and them….

There are Christian Leftists who support homosexual behavior (and now marriage). Why enlist the Christian God only on the side of some Christians? Why not accommodate the morality of all professing Christians?

This would be a potent argument if it could be shown that the Christian Faith is compatible with all conflicting moralities that all professed Christians champion. But it can’t. Christianity is a Faith founded not just on a relationship with the Triune God but also on his Word, the Bible — and, in fact, by it to him. Christians believe the Bible is God’s authoritative Word. To deny that Word is to deny Christ and Christianity.

Some teachings in the Bible are not so unambiguously clear such that there may be no reasonable doubt about them — not, at least, among those who affirm Biblical authority. These teachings include the sign gifts, millennialism, church polity, the sacraments (or ordinances), the age of the earth, and Bible translations. About these teachings, Bible-affirming Christians may — and do — disagree. They disagree because the Bible is not unambiguously clear in its teaching. The Bible’s teachings on all vital issues are unambiguous, but God does not promise that it will be clear to us on every conceivable issue we wish that it were. In addition, because we are both finite and sinful creatures, we cannot expect to grasp God’s written will with unambiguous clarity on every topic it addresses. In short, with some topics we must live and grapple with ambiguities in the Biblical text.

Homosexuality is not one of those topics. As Robert Gagnon has painstakingly shown, the Bible under no condition can be reasonably interpreted to suggest that homosexual behavior is acceptable — or, in fact, anything but sinful: like pride, racism, adultery, abortion, kidnapping, covetousness, hatred, and so on. To be a Christian is to believe the Bible, and to believe the Bible is to believe what it says about homosexuality. One cannot hold to a Christian Biblical authority while holding homosexuality to be acceptable behavior.

The category of “Christian liberal,” in the sense Bruni uses it, is oxymoronic. Many years ago J. Gresham Machen exhibited in Christianity and Liberalism that theological liberalism (and this is what Bruni has in mind, not political liberalism) is not a species of Christianity; it’s a different religion altogether. Machen showed that if Jesus and the apostles would have found certain beliefs (and dis-beliefs) of modern liberals at war with their own faith, we make a mockery today of Christianity to say that this liberalism can be Christian (and this can be and is true of certain conservative beliefs and practices, too).

The Bible teaches explicitly that homosexuals (as well as the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers) can be converted. But they won’t “inherit the kingdom of God” if they persist in their unrepentant sin (1 Cor. 6:9–11). The Bible doesn’t single out persistent unrepentant homosexual practice as a sin that will exclude one from the kingdom — lots of other sins can do that, too. But homosexual practice is certainly one of them, and to pretend as though it is acceptable is no less egregious than claiming covetousness and idolatry are acceptable.

No doubt the Boy Scouts appeal to many true Christians, and no doubt many of the religious left do support homosexual practice and want the Boy Scouts to be tolerant of their beliefs and practice. They might, moreover, wish to be known as Christian.

But homosexual practice is not compatible with Christianity. You can be a Christian or you can be a persistent, practicing homosexual.

You cannot be both.

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Called to be Holy (Part 2)

called-to-be-holyIn an earlier post I hailed John N. Oswalt’s riveting Called to be Holy: A Biblical Perspective. Here are my takeaways from the final half of his book, which has forced me to rethink a number of theological issues:

God’s stamps his image on us; he doesn’t simply justify us (107)

Romans 6–8 is a progression of Paul’s experience (113)

The notion that Romans 7 is normative Christian experience is “a travesty” of Paul’s teaching (114)

The frustration highlighted in Romans 7 is the attempt to keep the law without the Holy Spirit, Paul’s pre-conversion dilemma (115–119)

Jesus died so that the law would be fulfilled is us (118)

Jesus taught more about living in the kingdom than in how to enter it (116)

God’s defeat of Satan is most seen in the lives of God’s holy people (131)

The Holy Spirit globalizes Jesus’ earthly ministry (132)

When God and the Bible call us to be holy, they call us to be all that can be expected of us (136)

When recent Bible translations refuse to translate Greek words that in earlier translations are (rightly) translated “perfect” with respect to expected Christian conduct, it is our modern expectations that have changed, not the Bible (141f.)

Colossians 1:22 — Jesus died to make us holy (144)

The Cross makes perfection normative (146)

Sanctification is not accomplished by “trying harder” but by getting more of the Spirit’s power by faith (153)

The idea that self-mastery leads to liberty is utterly false; self-mastery leads to slavery — surrender to the Spirit leads to liberty (156)

1 John 3:4–9 —You cannot separate being righteous from doing righteousness (167)

The Devil seeks to foment sins for which there is no atonement (171)

There can be no victory over sin apart from victory over our sinful dispositions (178)

“[W]e are made holy just as we are converted: by grace through faith” (193)

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Books That Have Most Influenced Me

9780875526447Single volumes:

Christopher Dawson, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture

Gerhard Ebeling: The Problem of Historicity

Daniel P. Fuller: Gospel And Law: Contrast or Continuum?

Peter Gay: Modernism: The Lure of Heresy

Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross

Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions 

Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind

A. W. Tozer, The Best of A. W. Tozer

Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith 

65c7e10e22a01d9942ea0210_l__sl500_aa300_Multivolume works by a single author:

E. M. Bounds, The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer 

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition

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