Does Scripture give us the answers to all of life’s questions? No, of course it does not. But on the other hand, Scripture is sufficient for our lives. Its sufficiency lies not in that it is a handbook for buying homes or an apology to the charges of atheists, but it lies in that it is the Wellspring of Salvation and of True and Transforming Knowledge. It is only through the Word and through his Name that men are saved, and it is only through the Word that men have seen the Father. Therefore, if we are to look upon the Father, he must be revealed specially to us. All attempts to know the Father apart from the Word are futile and wicked, for, by such attempts, attempters declare that they in their finitude can comprehend the Infinite, that they who are feeble can comprehend the Almighty, and that they who are stupid can comprehend the Omniscient. It is not by piety that men seek to know God apart from and beyond his Holy Scriptures, but it is by feigned ability and gross arrogance. It is in the end the idolatry of intellect–the forbidden fruit and the golden calf of the curious. It is philosophy beyond Special Revelation that perhaps cast the great minds of C. S. Lewis and John Stott into heterodoxy; we therefore would be wise to be diligent in our intellectual pursuits.1
Archive for January, 2009
In the early years of the Church, Tertullian posed the rhetorical question, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?” This question highlighted what Tertullian perceived to be a problem in the early Church, namely the mingling of philosophy (i.e. Athens) with the Scriptures (i.e. Jerusalem). Tuesday night, that question was posed to me, not by a person, but by two hours of the literal wrenching of my gut by my conscience in my Christian Philosophy class. It is not as though the question has not been posed to me before then, but it has never impacted me with such an incapacitating force. The question had my eyes flooding with tears of conviction and confusion as I drove home from class, and it presently has me sitting up typing this instead of sleeping as I would like to do.
I am sure you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Who cares about how Christianity and Philosophy coincide?” To be honest, I would have probably asked those same questions to myself a few months ago or would have at least had a certain apathy toward them, but I believe that our Bible study on Romans 9 has had a much more monumental effect on my convictions than I would have ever dreamed. To give you a taste, I wrote a post that almost directly addresses my present issue with my Christian Philosophy class entitled, “Bounding Our Pursuit of the Knowledge of God.” In it I argued that the sum of our knowledge about God and his ways is to be found in Scripture alone, and to delve outside of Scripture is to delve into wickedness and vanity.
Today, I and Haley celebrate our second anniversary—what seemed like three years ago an absolute impossibility.
Ten years ago, Haley and I began dating in high school. At that time, neither of us sought the Lord (evidenced by the way we consistently lived our lives), though you could find us in a church almost every week. We were both foolish, typical teenagers and believed that our lives were defined by high school, being cool, and each other. We, being the petty American adolescents that we were, dated off and on during those years, to suit whatever particular moods we were in or whatever fancies we had, and never truly established what one might called a meaningful and intimate relationship.
By the grace and mercy of God, we have completed yet another chapter in the greatest letter ever written. Romans 10 awaits, but until then, here are the posts that have been written on Romans 9. Yahweh is a faithful and merciful God indeed.
In a time of such global catastrophe and in a time where great action is needed, inaction rules the day. Indeed, we find many talkers and many proposers and many discussers, but by and large there are few who are willing to take immediate action to address the great crisis that is at hand—Global Warming. Global Warming is the most significant crisis that has faced mankind, not because of its immediate and apparent devastation, as was seen in such calamities as the Black Plague, but its effects, though not as immediately apparent, will be much greater and irreparable. While the Plague rushed through European civilizations like a brush fire, Global Warming is much more like a sinister cancer, manifesting itself slowly, degree by degree, until it is able to lunge at the world’s throat and choke out the little life that remains in her.
In spite of these clear truths, no one is acting. Yes, many are talking “green” and doing piddly deeds like recycling newspapers and discussing future remedies such as using hydrogen as fuel in our automobiles, but all these deeds are but mere opiates that numb the nagging consciences that demand us to do more. We presently have as much sense as a man who, nursing a bleeding knife wound with one hand, stabs himself elsewhere with the other hand. We need desperately to take action now with the resources that we have now and exhibit this great American ingenuity which we claim to possess.
In yesterday’s study, we saw quite an extraordinary picture of how God has chosen to deal with the Jews and the Gentiles of Paul’s day until now. The picture that is given, though presented in racial terms, is not based totally on race (i.e. Jew or not Jew), but it is also based upon their relationship to God’s Law. Expectedly, the Jews who possessed the law of God had a much different reaction that the Gentiles who did not possess the law. Yet, instead of finding the fulfillment our natural expectations, i.e. that the Jews would find themselves in God’s favor and the Gentiles would find themselves destroyed, the opposite is true. We find that the Gentiles who were not looking for God and righteousness found both, and the Jews who were looking for God and righteousness found neither.
Why did the Gentiles find righteousness and the Jews did not? Simply because the Gentiles received it by faith and the Jews attempted to attain it by works. For Paul writes, “They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 9:32, 33).
There is a treasure that is in the Gospel that is only found in the Gospel. Most people spend their whole lives pursuing things that appear valuable to them—money, possessions, children and grandchildren, retirement funds, sports teams, etc., but find only on their deathbeds that all those pursuits were empty. Frequently, even those who chase religious pursuits find that the end of those pursuits are just as empty, not because there is not a Lofty One to whom they should aspire, but because they pursued him wrongly.
When a person encounters the Law of God, there can be three distinct responses to it. The first response is the common response—to reject it as foolishness and thereby reject God. The second response is the response that we see from the Jews in Romans 9:32, namely the treating of the Law as a stepladder to God. Indeed, this is the typical response that any religious man has when he encounters a law. The religious man perceives the law, sees it as something that can be fulfilled with his works and disciplines, and then he labors his whole life under its yoke so that he might prove himself to God.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, now wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Pet. 3:9).
Please allow me to skip my typical rambling and jump straight in (though if you would like an introduction, feel free to read the introduction to yesterday’s post and then come here).
The typical interpretation of this passage from the second letter of Peter is that God is not willing that anyone in the world who has ever lived should perish apart from Christ but that every person in the world should come to repentance. If this is true, this text is nestled quite precariously in a hostile context.
Some people do not have a problem with saying that the Scriptures contain contradictions. Some others believe in the traditional doctrines that they have been taught so much that they simply ignore or radically alter the meanings of texts that do not fit their particular beliefs. I, however, do not have the benefit of such convictions or their lack. I believe that every word, letter, and accent that was originally penned by the prophets and apostles are the very words of God and, being that God does not change and there are no contradictions in him, that which he inspires must possess his same attributes. Therefore, when I encounter a teacher who believes that contradictions exist in Scripture or one who values his traditions over the clear testimonies of Scripture, I react a little like Jesus did toward the Pharisees and Sadducees who did the very same things.
And being that it has been brought up (as it inevitably does) that the doctrines of Romans 9 “contradict” other doctrines in Scripture or that we who “interpret” Romans 9 interpret the text incorrectly (though the Apostle leaves little room for any interpretation in the chapter), I thought that it would be profitable to take a look at some of the texts that supposedly contradict the teachings of Romans 9.
Another Sunday past; another excellent lesson. This Sunday, we were studying Matthew 20:17-19, and the facilitator (whose name shall remain anonymous to protect the innocent) brought to the forefront of our discussion the typical apathy with which we regard the sufferings of our Lord. He taught, that though we claim to cherish the cross and what it afforded us, we demonstrate that we do not cherish it by our willingness to continue in the sins that put Christ on the cross, for every sin that we commit is a spitting on the face of Christ, and every conceived lust is a laceration on his back.