Wednesday, March 27, 2013

All Things Are Yours!

Let's see, today is Wednesday, (a day named after the Norse god 'Odin',) March, (a month named after the Roman god of war 'Mars',) 27th. And this Sunday, (a day named after the sun, an object of worship for many ancient pagans,) is Easter. Which is no more a celebration of Ishtar than today is a holy day for Odin or that tomorrow is a holy day for Thor. It is a fallacy to claim that the name itself renders Easter observances pagan. BTW, the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, the Syro-Phoenecian Astarte, the Canaanite goddess Athtart and god Athtar, and the Hebrew Ashtoreth all derive their names from an altogether different root than Easter. Also this is A.D. (Anno Domini, Year of Our LORD) 2013, which declares He owns and governs all things, including what meaning the days hold. Having a service on Easter morning that celebrates the resurrection is not pagan at all, for such paschal services were held all throughout Christian lands since the second century AD at least, and which have nothing at all to do with these pagan traditions.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Another Reason to Learn the Bible’s Overarching Story

It’s a common scenario. Someone objects to the Bible’s teaching on a point of ethics or morality (often homosexuality, promiscuity, or divorce), so he cites a couple of Old Testament commandments and says something like, “Well, the Bible also says not to wear a garment made of wool and linen mixed together (Deuteronomy 22:11) and not to eat pork products or shrimp (Leviticus 11:7-12).” The implication is either that the person upholding biblical standards of sexuality is a hypocrite because he’s wearing a linen/wool blend sport coat and ate a hotdog for lunch, or that the Bible’s commandments are inconsistent and therefore not credible. And it’s not just a hypothetical scenario. A recent New York Times op-ed article argued against a biblical position on homosexuality by suggesting that the Bible shouldn’t be taken literally because it also says to “refrain from planting multiple kinds of seed in one field” and not to charge “interest to the poor.”

Such arguments seem convincing at first. But their problem is a failure to recognize the Bible’s overarching storyline. They assume that Scripture is largely a list of doctrines and rules. Since some of the rules seem outdated or impractical, the critics reason, all of them should be taken with a grain of salt. The problem with such reasoning is that the Bible isn’t merely a list of rules and doctrines. It’s a story about how God relates to the world He created. And with a little study it becomes obvious that God gives slightly different instructions to His people in different parts of the story.

In the Old Testament the Jews were God’s chosen people. He gave certain ritual and judicial laws to set them apart from the pagan, Gentile nations around them. The commands mentioned in the Times op-ed are perfect examples. Leviticus 19:19 told the Israelites not to sow a field with two different kinds of seed. The idea was to set Israelite fields apart from Gentile fields, marking the Jews as God’s set-apart people. Similarly, Deuteronomy 23:19-20 forbade Jews from charging interest on loans to their countrymen, particularly the poor, though they were free to charge interest on loans to foreigners. Again, the command was intended to set Israelites apart from all other nations as God’s chosen people—with whom He had made a covenant and on whom He had set His love. Similar explanations apply to the commandments not to mix wool and linen and to refrain from eating certain types of meat.

After the coming of Christ, however, there was no longer a spiritual divide between Jews and Gentiles. All who placed their faith in Jesus could become God’s people, regardless of their nationality (Ephesians 2:11-22). Accordingly, God abolished the ritual and judicial laws that set Jews apart from non-Jews (Acts 10:9-48; Hebrews 8:13-9:28)—laws like those about sowing seed and charging interest. At the same time, God kept in force moral standards that promote holiness and general well-being, as in the Sermon on the Mount and Paul’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. That’s why Christians are neither hypocritical nor inconsistent when, for example, they insist on keeping sex within monogamous, heterosexual marriage but do not keep Old Testament ceremonial laws.

When believers understand this storyline, they gain a powerful weapon in the battle to uphold biblical morality. Most importantly, of course, knowing the overarching story of Scripture helps us to know Christ and see a hint of the gospel in every passage. That alone is reason enough to study the narrative of Scripture. But in addition, knowledge of biblical theology makes us less vulnerable in those all-too-common circumstances when a critic begins, “Well, the Bible also says . . .”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

5 Theses on Anti-Intellectualism

by Justin Taylor

1. Anti-Intellectualism is less about aptitude than  attitude.
“Anti-intellectualism is a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind.”
—Os Guinness

2. Anti-Intellectualism is a problem in the Western world.
“We live in what may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization.”
—R. C. Sproul
“. . . Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world.”
—Neil Postman

3. Anti-Intellectualism is a problem within evangelicalism.
“I must be frank with you: the greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind in its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough.”
—Charles Malik
“The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”
—Mark Noll
“. . . the Christian Mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness unmatched in Christian History.”
—Harry Blamires
“The contemporary Christian mind is starved, and as a result we have small, impoverished souls.”
—J. P. Moreland
“Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith.”
—William Lane Craig

4. Anti-Intellectualism is not virtuous.
“God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers.”
—C. S. Lewis
“Intellectual slothfulness is but a quack remedy for unbelief. . . .”
—J. Gresham Machen
“At root, evangelical anti-intellectualism is both a scandal and a sin. It is a scandal in the sense of being an offense and a stumbling block that needlessly hinders serious people from considering the Christian faith and coming to Christ. It is a sin because it is a refusal, contrary to Jesus’ two great commandments, to love the Lord our God with our minds. Anti-intellectualism is quite simply a sin. Evangelicals must address it as such, beyond all excuses, evasions, or rationalizations of false piety.”
—Os Guinness

5. Anti-Intellectualism should be resisted with Godward passion and intellectual consecration to the Lord.

“We must have passion—indeed hearts on fire for the things of God. But that passion must resist with intensity the anti-intellectual spirit of the world.”
—R. C. Sproul
“The Christian religion flourishes not in the darkness but in the light. . . .  [T]he true remedy [of unbelief] is consecration of intellectual power to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
—J. Gresham Machen
“What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combated; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassioned debate. So as Christians we should try to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity. . . . What more pressing duty than for those who have received the mighty experience of regeneration, who, therefore, do not, like the world, neglect that whole series of vitally relevant facts which is embraced in Christian experience — what more pressing duty than for these men to make themselves masters of the thought of the world in order to make it an instrument of truth instead of error?”
—J. Gresham Machen
Some books to consider reading:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

YOU are a theologian!

The belief that theology is impractical for Christian living IS a theological belief. You are a theologian, whether you like it or not. The question is, can you give sufficient warrant for your beliefs? No one can live rightly without believing rightly. --Michael Patton