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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’


I’ve said it before, I’m glad Sinclair Ferguson retired.

I miss listening to his sermons, so I wish he hadn’t retired too. But his retirement has meant a steadier stream of great books. One of those books is From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading and Applying the Bible.

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4

This is not a new book such much as a revised and expanded version of Handle with Care! which was released in 1982. It was written to fulfill a commitment he’d made to provide a book on the Trinity. Unable to prepare that manuscript, they were willing to receive Handle with Care! Hopefully we will see that book on the Trinity some day.

In some ways, From the Mouth of God reminds me of Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God at His Word. They cover much of the same territory. Their styles are different due, in part, to differences in age and cultural background. Both are very good books and worth reading. Both are relatively short and accessible to lay people. I intend you use both in the teacher training, and officer training, that I am in the process creating and revising respectively.

As you might realize from the subtitle, the book is divided into three sections: trusting the Bible, reading the Bible and applying the Bible. The middle section is the longest. Unfortunately the section on application is the shortest. As one who can struggle with this aspect of sermon preparation, I would have liked this to be explored more thoroughly.

His opening chapter It Is Written covers the Bible as God’s self-revelation. He brings our depravity as expressed in a darkened understanding into the equation. Ferguson uses passages like Hebrews 1 to affirm that the Bible is historical, verbal, progressive and cumulative, and Christ-centered. He discusses the dual authorship of Scripture as an expression of the doctrine of concurrence. He also covers the doctrine of accommodation, that God speaks in such a way that we can understand. The second chapter, Getting It Together, focuses on questions of the canon. This includes the OT canon and Jesus’ view of that canon. He addresses inerrancy and infallibility, as well as finality. Inerrancy is often misunderstood. For instance, it includes the lies of men. It accurately reports those lies in some historical accounts. Faithfully communicating those falsehoods and errors does not mean the Bible itself errs.

He wraps up the first section with Is It God’s Word?, which evaluates the claims of Scripture to be God’s word. The Spirit who inspired the Scriptures also illumines the Scriptures for us. We see the depth of our dependence upon the work of the Spirit in knowing God.

Ferguson opens the section on reading the Bible with an example of how not to read it: allegory. Christians have struggled with how to read, and therefore understand, the Bible. The priest of my youth told us “Don’t read the Bible, you’ll get it wrong.” And many do. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t Do-It-Yourself. We have a responsibility, and need, to read the Bible for ourselves. We aren’t saved by implicit belief in what the priest or pastor knows & believes. We must explicitly believe saving truths, and we know them through the Scriptures.

Explaining Paul’s statements, Ferguson discusses rightly handling the Word of God, thinking in the hopes the God grants understanding (2 Tim. 2:7). He then turns to the Westminster Confession of Faith to explain some principles for interpretation. He contrasts this with the medieval church’s 5-fold interpretation.

In Keys, he notes the 5 keys to interpreting Scripture: context, Christ, the unfolding drama, and gospel grammar. These keys help us by helping us grasp the historical and literary context, the redemptive-historical context, its connection with Christ and reminding us that the indicatives (facts) of the gospel precede the imperatives (commands) so we live by grace. In Prose, Poetry, Wisdom, and Prophecy focuses on the different literary genres in the Old Testament. He briefly provides the basics needed to understand each of these genres. He includes brief examples of how to interpret each. Similarly in Gospels, Epistles, and Visions Ferguson looks at the genres in the New Testament. In For Example, he interprets the book of Ruth. He repeats one of the keys he noted earlier: “in reading Old Testament narrative we must always have in mind the way in which the promise of Genesis 3:15 unfolds in terms of God’s covenant promise working out through deep conflict to establish his kingdom in Christ.”

Ferguson moves to application with What’s the Use?. Here he returns to 2 Timothy 3 to help us understand the use of the Scriptures in making us wise for salvation. This chapter will find its way into my officer training.

In Seed Needs Soil he addresses the condition of hearts that hear the gospel. This is one of the few places I disagree with Ferguson. It is a minor disagreement. I believe the parable is told to explain the different reactions to the ministry of the Word for the disciples. I don’t think it is meant for us to be self-reflective as if we could prepare our hearts. Still, he does a good job explaining the nature of those hearts.

He concludes with Speaking Practically, which is about how to implement the material you have read. He discusses the role of discipline to develop a routine, and a method for reading the Bible. We have to actually read the Bible, consistently and repeatedly, to bear great fruit. Each of the first 5 years or so that I was a Christian (until I went to seminary) I read the Bible through once a year. I gained a good working knowledge of the Bible as a result. Unfortunately it was the NIV, and many key phrases in my head don’t match up with the ESV. Even after 20 years in ministry, while reading the Bible for my own devotion I continue to see new connections points (I just read Exodus 22:28, noting its connection to NT texts about honoring the king).

Though Ferguson is done, the book isn’t. He includes two brief appendices. The first is John Murray on The Guidance of the Holy Spirit, and John Newton’s letter on Divine Guidance.

This is a good book that leaves you wanting more. I recommend it for all those interested in teaching others, and people interested in why they should trust the Scriptures and how to read them.

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I’ve tried to become less reactionary in my blogging. I might have made some progress, or perhaps I’ve just been busier and don’t think about it very much. Sometimes there is an article or blog post that comes to my attention that is so annoying that I feel compelled to consider it for blog fodder. This morning I read one of them called 16 Ways Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible. I suppose I am tempted to read too much into his Patheos post, but aware of this and will try my best to interpret his words well.

He is Roger Wolsey, a “progressive” United Methodist pastor. What he does is helpful because he does lay out his assumptions when he interprets the Bible. He doesn’t defend those assumptions, he just assumes they are superior to the assumptions held by “Fundamentalists”. By the way he articulates his argument you’d think there were only “Fundamentalists”, “Atheists” and “Progressives.” I am part of the great unknown (perhaps not to him but at least “Sir Not-Mentioned-in-this-Article”) that would fall under the category of Conservative and Confessional.

“All Christians pick and choose which portions of the Bible (to interpret) literally, progressive Christians simply admit this and share how we discern.”

Not sure I’d agree with that statement. Most people I know admit this and talk about how they discern the difference. Progressives are not superior to anyone in this matter. They don’t have “interpretative righteousness” as a result. I am bringing my men’s study through the book Bible Study that addresses many of these issues and I often verbalize these things as I preach or teach SS (the Revelation series was not an exception). I suggest he doesn’t give those pesky Fundamentalists enough credit. So much for the love (or charity) he talks about later. He seems to always paint them in a most negative light.

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Today I was working on Romans 3:21-26.  It is a fascinating text with all kinds of “glorious grammar.”  If I remember correctly, we did translate this in seminary, but that was some time ago.  So I was in awe of what Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, put down there.  Lots of parallelism, and many of my questions about key genitives were answered in the text.  But there are some difficult phrases. There is alot on the line, so to speak, as this passage is central to many a theological controversy.

The specifics are not important at the moment.  What is I want to focus on is my response to these difficult questions about the meaning of the text while I weigh legitimate options.  I took a walk to pray about it.  And there I wrestled with both humility and confidence.

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A recent theology exam included questions about the teolology and methodology of the Apostles’ use of the Old Testament in the New Testament.  The candidate agreed with their Christological  goal, but had some criticisms for their methodology.  This issue is part of the controversy over Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation.  His srgument in the book created quite the stir, resulting in his leaving Westminster Theological Seminary.  Enns and Bruce Waltke state their respective cases on the matter in the lastest issue of WTJ.

Good for us, Dr. Roger Nicole’s 1958 article New Testament Use of the Old Testament is now available online.  He addresses the range, authority and accuracy of the New Testament usage of the Old Testament. Dr. Nicole helps us to understand that we should not hold the New Testament authors to the standards of a doctrinal thesis.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with criticism of how the Apostles used the Old Testament.  That is because I affirm the dual authorship of Scripture.  It is divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), and God used real people in a way that they wrote in accordance with their personality, culture and circumstances.    This means that one cannot criticize the human authors without also criticizing the Spirit of Christ who inspired them.  That same Spirit inspired the original OT Scriptures which had an original meaning and a greater fulfillment in Christ.  The OT, in addition to having an original meaning, often has a typological function.  This explains why some verses seem to be taken out of context.

But who cares what the Cavman thinks- read Dr. Nicole!

HT: Between Two Worlds

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Here are my answers to the study notes as I prepare for my oral exam next week.  I thought some people might be interested in the types of things I must know.  Since there are over 300 questions, I’ll go chapter by chapter through the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Please …. I’m not putting them up to debate issues.  I recognize that not all Christians will agree on these matters.  It may not represent your doctrinal standards, but it is mine.  If you think I misunderstood the Confession of Faith, I’m open to correction as long as you keep in mind that perhaps you have misunderstood the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter I: Of The Holy Scriptures

1. Distinguish between “general” and “special” revelation.  “General” revelation is available to all men everywhere.  The creation declares God’s invisible attributes (Ps. 19, Rom. 1).  “Special” revelation is the Scriptures.

2. Is general revelation clear? Is it authoritative? Is it sufficient? To what end?  “General” revelation is clear, and it is authoritative.  It is sufficient only that we may know that God exists.  Our sinful nature distorts and twists “general” revelation such that people either deny there is a God or they worship a false god.  It is insufficient for us to know how we may be saved.  As a result, it is sufficient to condemn us.

3. According to the Confession, why are the Scriptures necessary? They are necessary that we might know what we are to believe concerning God and what duty He requires of us.  They are necessary due to the lies and attacks of the flesh, Satan and the world against God and truth.

4. What are the four attributes of Scripture and what is meant by them?  Authority, sufficiency, infallible, & clarity.  The Scriptures have authority on all matters to which they speak because they are God’s Word to us. They are sufficient in that they tell us all we need to know for our salvation and life of godliness.  They are infallible meaning they are fully reliable and not deceived or deceiving.  Clarity means that all that we need to know is clearly expressed.  Non-essential matters are less clear.

5. What is meant by the Scripture’s self attestation?   Scripture itself teaches that God is its author.

6. Describe for us your understanding of inerrancy?  The original manuscripts contain no errors or falsehoods, therefore Scripture is reliable.

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