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In Book I, chapter III of The Institutes of the Christian Religion Calvin begins to discuss the knowledge of God.  In this chapter he says that knowledge of God was naturally implanted in the minds of people.  This would be a result of our being made in the image of God.  Since we are made to reflect Him, we know He exists and something of His glory.  God put it there when He made us.

On an interesting note, Calvin uses many ancient philosphers to make some of his points- both positively and negatively.  He uses the philosophers, like Cicero, to show how people think.  This is no different from what Tim Keller does in The Reason for God.  No group of people is documented to be a society of atheists.  Is this because all cultures got a memo to socially construct a ‘god’, or because God has made us religious by nature and we must worship something?  Though some seek to flee from the notion of a God, they still show signs of His existence like guilt, shame, ethics etc.

In chapter IV Calvin asserts that this knowledge is smothered or corrupted.  This is essentially Romans 1, people choose the lie over the truth just as Adam and Eve did.  We suppress the true knowledge of God through our own unrighteousness whether we are trying to do that or not.

Some people consciously turn away from God.  Others inadvertintly do this because they fashion a god according to their own imagination.  They create idols according to their own whimsy instead of submitting their minds and hearts to God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus and Scripture.

Scripture does point us someplace beside itself to gain knowledge of God.  In chapter V Calvin discusses how knowledge of God is found in creation and providence.  Psalm 19 is one of the places pointing us to the heavens, which declare the glories of God.  Romans 1 tells us that creation reveals His invisible qualities.  The process, Calvin is in favor of scientific inquiry to understand God’s creation.  Christians should not be afraid of science or not engage in science.  Rather we should engage in science, though with different presuppositions than non-Christian scientists.  As we gain true knowledge of creation, we gain true knowledge of the Creator.

(more…)

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(this is the second in a series on Covenantal Worship by R. J. Gore, pulled from my past.)

Argument Against the Puritan Regulative Principle

 

Gore argues that Jesus, our model, violated the Puritan Regulative Principle!  His argument is summarized here.

 

  1. Jesus regularly worshiped in the synagogue.   The origin of the synagogue is speculative (during the Babylonian captivity).  There is no command by God to form synagogues.  There are no directions as to how to carry out synagogue worship.  As a result, synagogue worship itself would violate the norms of the Regulative Principle (it is neither explicitly commanded, nor is the result of good and necessary inference).  However, Jesus regularly participated in the synagogue.  If it was sinful, Jesus would not do it.
  2. Jesus celebrated Chanukah.  John 10 tells us that Jesus went to the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.  This was the feast of dedication of the temple celebrating the victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks.  There is no biblical command to celebrate this feast (unless we include the Apocrypha), nor any good and necessary inference since this is the result of extra-biblical history.  To celebrate this feast would violate the Regulative Principle.  Jesus did celebrate it.  Therefore, it cannot be sinful. 

 

In light of the weakness of the Puritan view of the Regulative Principle, we must articulate a better principle for regulating the worship of God’s people.  The last section of Gore’s book is to lay out what he calls Covenantal Worship.  Here is what he means.

 

Covenantal Worship “implies responsibility and certainly provides no room for any notion of simple, mechanical conformity.  Indeed, the obligation of the covenant requires faithful, responsible, and intentional obedience to covenant precepts and principles (pp. 138).”  Covenantal Worship is an attempt to honor the Biblical commands concerning worship while offering freedom for those areas in which Scripture is silent.  This would actually be in keeping with the WCF 1.6 which reads “that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, … which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” 

In other words, Scripture tells us what to do, but does not tell us how to do it.  We are to sing, and make music to the Lord.  Scripture does not regulate which instruments may or may not be used, or which styles may or may not be used (if it did, our hymns would not meet that criteria since they are products of 16th-19th century European culture).  We are commanded to pray, but there is freedom concerning how we pray (prepared prayers, spontaneous prayers, silent prayers etc.)  We find Jesus using culturally understandable illustrations when he preached.  It may be appropriate to use culturally understandable illustrations such as film clips in the worship service.  “The covenantal principle of worship says that whatever is consistent with the Scriptures is acceptable in worship.  Here is where the major difference with the Puritan formula appears (pp. 140).”

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“But quoting Scripture texts is different than shaping a worldview around them.  If the church today truly took seriously the significance of ‘all things,’ wouldn’t we witness a steady stream of provocative sermons and books on the theme of “How to Have Sex to the Glory of God”?”  Justin Taylor in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

Justin provides a good intro to the book, quickly summarizing the main points of each chapter.  But I really got to thinking on the first sentence of this quote.

This book is an attempt to “shape a worldview” around Scripture texts.  Too often pastors don’t teach their people to do this.  They use Scripture to back up their point.  We learn a cut & paste method of understanding the Bible.  But it really out to be shaping our worldview.  As we come to Scripture, we don’t come just to learn some information.  We come to Scripture, or should, to learn about reality.  Scripture is where God tells us the way things really are.  It is His world, and we are His creatures.

Many people have worldview baggage from their families, education etc.  We have a faulty worldview just by virtue of the fact that we are sinners.  As we come to God’s Word, we should submit to our minds to His revelation.

And this book calls us to submit our minds to His will concerning sex.  If ever there was a topic in need of that, this would be one.  So I shall read on….

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A review of this book by Sarah Sumner is long overdue.  I have hesitated in doing this even now.  But with all the talk of the complementarian-egalitarian conflict resulting from the Together For the Gospel conference and statement, this seems like a good time.

At first glace one might think “This must be a well-written and well-argued position”.  Afterall, it has a forward by Phillip Johnson, and blurbs by Dallas Willard, Harold O.J. Brown and such an evangelical legend as Carl Henry for Pete’s sake. 

I was given my copy by a person who wanted to justify her theological shift and practice.  I guess sometimes we see what we want to see, because I don’t think this book delivered the goods.  My copy has tons of red ink.  I am tempted to say that she benefitted from evangelical affirmative action because the scholarship found in this book is questionable to say the least.  I could not disagree more with the blurbs on the back or the content within the binding.

What’s wrong?  It is not (just) that I disagree with her.  Her exegetical work is weak.  Very weak.  She seems ignorant of basic things: using the historical-grammatical method to develop the original meaning to the original audience and then make the adjustments for changes in time, circumstance and audience.  She blanketly applies instructions to a young pastor to all Christians.  She is focused more on the ‘meaning of a word’ than the grammer and how it is used in the context.  For instance, “head’ is used earlier in Ephesians in the context of authority, not source.  She must provide a solid reason for the meaning to change in a similar context (since submission is a matter of authority, not source).  She does not offer a compelling rationale.

She also seems ignorant of the basic Reformational principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, using the clear texts to interpret the unclear texts.  And just as frustrating is her refusal to apply “good and necessary inference”.  Actually, that is quite convenient to her case because she can write that a man is never commanded to lead his wife.  That would be a good and necessary inference of both the command to the wife to submit to her husband, and more importantly, the husband imaging Jesus who surely leads His bride, the Church.

She also relies heavily on strawpeople (I’ll be gender neutral for a moment).  She does not paint complementarians fairly, but they come off sounding like ignorant, controlling beasts.  She uses extreme arguments: “unless we believe that all women are subject to the authority of all men.”  The text flatly denies such a contention, and all complementarians I know (including me) deny such a contention.  A woman/wife is to be subject to her own man/husband.

All in all, I found this to be a poorly researched, poorly reasoned and poorly argued book that somehow tries to be neither complementarian nor feminist.  In fact, it misrepresents the teaching of Scripture.  I don’t know her heart, but I do know the human tendency to argue in such a way as to justify our own practice.  This is a book to justify the Willowcreek Association’s position on women in pastoral ministry, from which she benefitted.  But Men and Women in the Church does the Body a disservice.

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