Archives For The BIble

One of the 28 essays included in the excellent NIV Zondervan Study Bible, based on the most recent NIV translation (2011), is “The Bible and Theology” (2633-2636), written by D. A. Carson, the general editor. This was recently published as a stand-alone essay entitled How to Read the Bible and Do Theology Well

The essay begins as follows:

It’s been said that the Bible is like a body of water in which a child may wade and an elephant may swim. The youngest Christian can read the Bible with profit, for the Bible’s basic message is simple. But we can never exhaust its depth. After decades of intense study, the most senior Bible scholars find that they’ve barely scratched the surface. Although we cannot know anything with the perfection of God’s knowledge (his knowledge is absolutely exhaustive!), yet because God has disclosed things, we can know those things truly.

Trying to make sense of parts of the Bible and of the Bible as a whole can be challenging. What kind of study should be involved when any serious reader of the Bible tries to make sense of the Bible as a whole? Appropriate study involves several basic interdependent disciplines, of which five are mentioned here: careful reading, biblical theology (BT), historical theology (HT), systematic theology (ST), and pastoral theology (PT). What follows looks at each of these individually and shows how they interrelate—and how they are more than merely intellectual exercises. (emphasis mine)

From here, Carson further addresses the five interdependent disciplines associated with the study of the Bible. He explains them through the questions they answer. I include pertinent excerpts, not the complete explanation.

Careful Reading: “‘Exegesis’ is the word often used for careful reading. Exegesis answers the questions, What does this text actually say? and, What did the author mean by what he said? We discover this by applying sound principles of interpretation to the Bible.”

Biblical Theology: “BT answers the question, “How has God revealed his word historically and organically.”

Historical Theology: “HT answers the questions, How have people in the past understood the Bible? What have Christians thought about exegesis and theology? and, more specifically, How has Christian doctrine developed over the centuries, especially in response to false teachings. HT is concerned primarily with opinions in periods other than our own. But we may also include under this heading the importance of reading the Bible globally – that is, finding out how believers in some other parts of the world read the text.”

Systematic Theology: “ST answers the question, What does the whole Bible teach about certain topics? or put another way, What is true about God and his universe?”

Pastoral Theology: “PT answers the question, How should humans respond to God’s revelation. Sometimes that is spelled out by Scripture itself; other times it builds on inferences of what Scripture says. PT practically applies the other four disciplines – so much so that the other disciplines are in danger of being sterile and even dishonoring to God unless tied in some sense to the responses God rightly demands of us.”

Although each of these disciplines can be a stand-alone discipline, they must be integrated, so not only is it important to understand the foundation but also the interrelationship between them. Exegesis is the ground, which forms and shapes, influences, each of the other disciplines. As Carson notes, “The final authority is the Bible and the Bible alone.”

After explaining how exegesis relates to the disciplines of biblical, historical, and systematic theology, he then delineates how the various disciplines relate to one another.

Carson concludes this essay with a reminder that although the study of the Bible is something to which we diligently give ourselves, the goal is not to master it but rather to be mastered by it. That is a mark of growing maturity, and one who rightly understands his relationship to God through his Word.

Since God created the universe, we are accountable to him, and he has authoritatively spoken in the Bible. Even if we earnestly try to understand God’s gracious self-disclosure on its own terms, that is insufficient if we do not respond to God as he has disclosed himself. Interpreters are inseparable from the interpretive process, and our attitude toward the text is important. Desiring merely to master the text is not enough; we must desire to be mastered by it. For one day we will give an account to the one who says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isa. 66:2).

As you study the Scriptures, what is your posture? In what discipline(s) do you need to grow? Are you aware of the resources that will guide you in that growth? Turning from the individual to the corporate, as we engage in this further study, which is important, remember that the Bible and the Bible alone is our final authority, and our posture before it reflects our posture before God. Might we be humble, contrite and tremble at God’s Word, and in this way bring honor and glory to Him.

The Necessity of a New Battle for the Bible

Greg Strand – September 28, 2015 Leave a comment

Mark Galli is right: Why We Need the New Battle for the Bible

I agree with Galli that the original publication of the book by Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (1976), was probably the right debate but done in the wrong way. I also realize that it is easier for me to make that assessment from a distance than it is while one is in the heart of the debate.

I heartily agree that what is necessary and needed today is a “return to the Bible as the final authority.”

I will quibble with Galli in his assessment that what is needed today is not a “precise definition of biblical authority . . . but a simple return to the Bible as the final authority in matters of faith and practice – and especially Christian doctrine.” In a sense I want to respond, “yes, but.” The meaning of biblical authority is foundational for understanding its meaning and implications to being the final authority in faith and practice. Furthermore, determining its authority is not limited to faith and practice but includes history and science (even though it is not a scientific textbook, when it addresses scientific matters it does so authoritatively).

If we are to say “yes and amen” to the belief that the Bible is the final authority, we must affirm what we mean by authority, or it leaves one with a less-than-stable foundation. And if we are to say “yes and amen” to the belief that the Bible is the final authority, its authority must not be limited or we end up with an authority within an authority, making the interpreter the authority who determines that.

Having said that, it is also true that, stated negatively, there is no generation in which the age-old lie will not be used and a constant temptation to question the character of God and the Word of God. It was at the center of the initial temptation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3), and it is the foundation of the initial rebellion against God, what we refer to as the Fall. It is reflective of humanity since that time. Stated positively, every generation must own and articulate the truth of God’s Word, not attempt to live on the previous generation’s defense of the Word of God, and to be committed to do so in in both doctrine and practice and in light of the contemporary questions or denials.

Here is Galli’s conclusion which calls us back to the Bible by acknowledging and living under its authority, to which I say “yes and amen” without hesitation:

To emphasize theology will entail a battle, as any pastor will sense. It will be a battle against those who have fed too long on the milk of therapeutic Christianity, and who will demand immediate application. It will be a battle against false teachers, who will react defensively. It will be a battle against our own sloth, as this type of teaching requires more intellectual labor than “10 ways to improve your marriage.”

But it is a battle well worth fighting. It will no doubt create scars, but God will also give us many a victory. Some false teachers may be saved from their pernicious ideas, and the church will have an ever-clearer picture of the beautiful God whose nature it is to save the world.

Which, really, is about the most practical thing we can offer it.

This is the battle that many encounter and to which they succumb – thinking this sort of teaching is unnecessary, impractical, etc. And to the contrary, these Words, this Book, is our life because these words inscripturated reveal the Word incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our life.

Toward the end of his life Moses writes, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Dt. 32:46-47). And in an Eden revisited encounter, when the temptation comes, in contrast to Adam and Eve who succumbed (Gen. ), Jesus overcomes. He not only states the truth of the necessity of the Word of God but also he fulfills it obediently and perfectly: “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4). (emphasis mine)

This is the historical position of the church. It is also the historical genesis and ground of the EFCA. It is also the heartbeat of the EFCA! Our last year’s Theology Conference theme was The Doctrine of the Scriptures. This is also true of our EFCA school, Trinity International University, and its divinity school, TEDS. In fact, the Lord has used our school to lead the way on this vital and important truth through research, writing, articulating and defending the Word of God. And, importantly and thankfully, it is the heart of many of the young millennials who are serving (or desire to serve) in the EFCA.

At last year’s Theology Conference we addressed the important theme of the The Doctrine of the Scriptures.

We focused on this vital doctrine for two reasons. First, God’s Word is perpetually being questioned, undermined and denied, and it has been so since the fall (Gen. 3:1). This means every generation must affirm and reaffirm the truth of the inerrancy, sufficiency and authority of God’s Word. We desired to learn and relearn these truths and corporately affirm them. Second, in addition to reaffirming these truths, we also needed to hear the specific ways these truths are being questioned so that we can respond to them and equip God’s people to do so as well. Giving twenty-five year old answers to contemporary questions is not sufficient. The answers may be the same, but the manner in which you move from the question to the answer may not be.

One of the key objectors to the inerrancy of the Scriptures is Peter Enns. He taught at Westminster Theological Seminary for many years. Enns no longer affirms inerrancy and no longer teaches at Westminster. He has also become a vocal critic of Evangelicalism and its view of the inerrancy of the Bible. He works tirelessly to criticize and condemn this truth he once embraced and taught. Often former adherents of a view become some of the strongest proponents against the view. This is largely true, I believe, of Enns.

One of the ways Enns has done this is through his writing. Last year he wrote a series on the inerrancy of the Bible in which he and others wrote about their “aha” moments when they realized the Scriptures presented such a problem that they simply could no longer affirm its inerrancy. Enns began the series with this post: “I was always taught the Bible says X, but I just don’t see it

I have known many people, and heard of many others, who have come from conservative or moderately conservative backgrounds and whose earlier paradigms have been seriously challenged by the simply process of paying attention to scripture in context–whether the immediate literary context or the historical context. This is especially true of those who have done higher level academic work outside of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, but is by no means restricted to this group.

Why does this happen?

I think it’s because scripture doesn’t line up very well with the conservative paradigm of scripture (some form of inerrancy). That’s why the paradigm needs constant tending and vigilant defending in order to survive.

I mean, there’s a reason why Carey’s phenomenon keeps rearing its head generation after generation. It’s not (as I hear far too often) that the offenders are intellectually naive (or dimwitted) and have been duped or are too spiritually weak kneed to “hold on to the truth.”

The recurring unrest with conservative readings of scripture from within conservative circles suggests that the paradigm is flawed.

My plan over the coming weeks is to invite some biblical scholars from evangelical backgrounds to write about the issue(s) that brought them to reconsider the older paradigms they were taught, to let us in on their own “aha” moments that brought them to the brink of having to make a decision between staying put and moving on–and why they chose to move on.

Enns followed this by writing of his story/experience, “‘aha’ moments: biblical scholars tell their stories.” 17 others have shared their shift away from belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures: John Byron, Daniel Kirk, Michael Pahl, Charles Halton, Christopher W. Skinner, Christopher M. Hays, Michael Ruffin, Anthony Le Donne, Chris Tilling, Chris Keith, Megan DeFranza, Carlos Bovell, Lindsey Trozzo, anonymous, Jeannine Brown, Michael Halcomb, Rob Dalrymple

I include the links not because I agree with them, but because I believe it is important we hear from them. I find when I read of these shifts away from the inerrancy of the Bible they ring hollow. It is helpful to hear the reasons, but as I study are restudy these issues I find it strengthens my understanding of and commitment to the inspired, inerrant, sufficient and authoritative Word of God. It is also important to hear these reasons because others will also hear them, which will raise questions, so we must be prepared to respond.

Michael Kruger is one of those who has done just that, and he has done it publicly so we can learn of some of the responses to the objections. Kruger followed with a series of his own responding to those who changed their views of inerrancy: Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scriptures’ Difficult Passages

Peter Enns has recently invited a number of Christian scholars to blog on his website who have come to believe that the Scriptures contain historical mistakes or errors.  The series is called “Aha Moments: Biblical Scholars Tell Their Stories” and is (largely) written by scholars whose beliefs about the Bible had changed after they realized that, at least at some points, the Scriptures were simply mistaken.

No doubt Enns’ new blog series has resonated with many folks who have qualms about the difficult passages in Scripture.  But, I think it is important for these same folks to know that there are other Christian scholars who think there are reasonable answers to some of these difficult historical issues.  These scholars have studied at major universities, have been introduced to the same critical problems, but have reached different conclusions about the truthfulness of Scripture.

Thus, I am beginning a new series here at Canon Fodder where I invite evangelical scholars to respond to some of the critical issues raised in Pete Enns’ “Aha moments” series.  Scholars who have agreed to participate include Craig Blomberg, Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Andreas Köstenberger, and Don Carson. Other names will be added as we go along.

In addition to Kruger’s initial post, five others have responded to key issues related to the biblical text, none of which undermine the inerrancy and authority of the Bible: Greg Beale, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, Andreas Kostenberger and John Currid.

I encourage you to read, learn and live, for we live truly live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

Most every remembrance and celebration by Christians of certain events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the media will also have something to say. Most often this occurs around Christmas and Easter, two of the most well-known by both Christians and non-Christians and the most celebrated by Christians.

More often than not the secular media seeks to present articles that will call into question the historicity of these events, doubting the supernatural/miraculous. In essence, since they begin with a presuppositional bias against the miraculous when they encounter the miraculous in the Bible they read and interpret it according to their bias: it is mythical, legend, fabricated, etc. It is unlikely they approach other historical documents in the same manner, but redemptive history as recorded in the Bible often gets “special” treatment.

This year the attack was not against the Christ of Christmas but the Bible. And it was not just the Bible’s account of Jesus’ miraculous conception (importantly, this is not the immaculate conception) and virgin birth but the Bible in total. Kurt Eichenwald wrote the lengthy cover article for Newsweek: “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.”

In this particular instance, it is not just that Eichenwald has a different view of the Bible than Evangelicals do, but that he misrepresents the Word of God and those who affirm its authority and sufficiency. This is an example of writing from caricature and ignorance (I do not use the term with moral overtones), not honestly dealing with potential or apparent problems with the Bible. On the one hand it is so over the edge and such a misrepresentation of good, careful research, even if he does not affirm the Bible as the Word of God, that it is difficult to take it seriously. But on the other hand, since it appears in such a magazine and people will read it and conclude it is an accurate portrayal of the Bible, it is imperative that we respond to it.

It is not that the Bible cannot be questioned or that Christians are opposed to questions or objections being raised against the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word and can stand up to any and all questions and objections. God’s Word is true (Ps. 119:160; Jn. 17:17), like a fire and hammer (Jer. 23:29), living and active (Heb. 4:12) and a whole lot more (cf. Ps. 119).

Here are a number of excellent responses I commend to you. However, before you read these responses, I encourage you to read Eichenwald’s article and find the problems in it and develop a response to it, if even only mentally, before reading these below. Once you have done your own homework, then read and learn from these others.

Michael Kruger, A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 1)

Michael Kruger, A Christmas Gift from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 2)

Al Mohler, Newsweek on the Bible — So Misrepresented It’s a Sin

Daniel Wallace, Predictable Christmas fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible

Ben Witherington, News Weak—- The Problems with Mr. Eichenwald’s Article

And then once you have done this, follow a similar exercise with the elders and other leaders of the church. Help them to think through these important matters related to the Bible, how to defend its authority and sufficiency, and how to respond to the common-day objections to it.

Finally, please plan to join us for our upcoming Theology Conference, January 28-30, where we will address this and many other matters in our focus on The Doctrine of the Scriptures.

In a previous post the differences between how we refer to the doctrine of salvation in the 1950 Statement of Faith (SOF) and the 2008 SOF were highlighted. A commenter affirmed the EFCA for “trying to become more biblical,” especially when many “seem to be heading in the other direction.” Regarding the specific order of salvation, this person concluded that “the 1950s SOF was actually unbiblical.”

Often the expression used of one or another’s position as biblical or unbiblical is a means of affirming one’s one view and denying the other. Although it does not use the language of heterodox or heretical, it is on a continuum. It is certainly true that there is such a thing as a belief or a theological view being biblical or unbiblical. Often, however, the expression is used as a means to undermine a view different from one’s own.

I am not suggesting that we shy away from using the expression. I am encouraging us to be careful why and how we use it and ensure it fits what we are claiming. We engage as theologians in the task of theology with humility (Isa. 66:2-3), with absolute confidence in God and His Word. What He has said and has been recorded, His special revelation, that is the Bible and what determines what is biblical.

Here is my response to the commenter.

First, regarding the SOF, I am encouraged of your commendation/affirmation of the EFCA’s commitment to the authority of the Bible. We were very aware of this as we walked through the process of revising our SOF. Whenever Statements of Faith (SsOF) are revised, it often is in the direction of making it more liberal and less rigorous biblically. We believe that through our process and with the adoption of our SOF in 2008, we strengthened an already strong SOF. And we did so by affirming the Bible is the norming norm (the absolute authority) and our SOF is the statement that is normed by the Scriptures. We also included biblical teachings in our SOF that were not included in the 1950 SOF, not because they were not believed but rather because they were not being discussed or denied among Christians or the broader culture. One of the purposes of a SOF is to state what we believe in the midst of a culture that is presently questioning, doubting or denying those biblical truths. This is one of a number of reasons why SsOF must be revised so that the faith can be affirmed in the present day in the midst of contemporary denials of biblical truth. Those revisions which are necessary for SsOF are not for the Bible, since it is absolute. Problems occur when it is treated as something that is normed by humans, culture, science, technology, biology, etc.

Second, regarding the 1950 SOF, historically, those who drafted the EFCA 1950 SOF were committed to the inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures. They attempted to be biblical in each and every of the 12 articles of the SOF. Our point is that the essential biblical truth could have been stated more clearly, and not in a way that privileged one understanding of the Bible’s teaching of salvation, i.e. the Arminian view. We would not claim, however, that the Arminian position, by virtue of the fact that it understands and articulates a different order of salvation, is unbiblical. (This is not to deny that some Arminian proponents may affirm an unbiblical position. But the same thing could be said for the Calvinist/Reformed proponents. Affirming a theological position does not necessarily make one  biblical or unbiblical.)

Finally, regarding the matter of biblical authority and different understandings, we in the EFCA believe one can focus on the essentials of biblical truth and still disagree how that is understood. Because one disagrees with my interpretation of the Scripture does not mean that person is necessarily unbiblical. That person may be unbiblical. But then again, so may I and my interpretation. In our Theology Conference, we will focus on the Scriptures, its sole authority and its sufficiency, its essential teachings upon which most Evangelicals agree, and specifically those of us in the EFCA, and then the non-essential differences. We acknowledge there are differences and that they are real. But these real differences do not necessarily lead to the criticism that the other is unbiblical or to a divide between those of differing perspectives.

In this way we believe the essentials of the gospel are affirmed as of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:1-5) in doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10-11) and in practice (Phil. 1:27), a small fulfillment of Jesus’ high priestly prayer for oneness in Him (Jn. 17; cf. Eph. 2:11-22; 4:1-3).