Monthly Archives: May 2012

Book of Job

The Old Testament book of Job is a story about faithfulness through longsuffering, perseverance, and ultimately the love of God.  Right?  Right.  But what else might we glean from the text?

You might be surprised to learn that Job is arguably the most ancient book in the Bible—predating Genesis by as much as 400 years.  It also contains more information about the creation of the universe than most of us realize.  What might it tell us of ethics, purpose, right doctrine, obedience, redemption, and even Heaven?  Why does God ask all those specific questions?

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out the book below.

Enjoy!

Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job


Inerrant and Infallible

We cannot explain or resolve all parts of Scripture.  However, to surmise that apparent conflicts in the Bible must be ‘errors’ is an arrogant and dangerous supposition.  Too many people give up too easily—if it doesn’t make sense they aren’t willing to dig deeper.  Or to trust. Bible

A couple of years ago I listened as wise, godly friends discussed the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.  All of them are mature Christians.  The issue was not the authority of Scripture for faith and practice.  The issue was whether it is necessary and/or appropriate to include in our statement of faith that the Bible contains the ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’ word of God.

While I try not to get too personal with this blog, the most that I can contribute on this topic is personal.  Specifically, the more I study the more it all makes sense.  Not just in a little way, but in one “Oh wow!” realization after another.

Many (not all) passages that at one time confused me or caused me to wonder if the writer was correct, came into sharper focus with deeper study.  This detailed-study-leads-to-edification process has happened so many times that my view on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible has strengthened considerably.

Just one example—I recently audited an apologetics course entitled Creation and the Bible by Reasons To Believe.  Dr. Hugh Ross, a renowned astrophysicist and the founder of Reasons To Believe states in his testimony that he became a Christian by reading the foundational books of the world’s religions and discarding them one by one based upon scientific errors apparent in their text.  When he got to the Bible however, he found 13 scientifically accurate statements about the creation of the universe in the first chapter of Genesis.  If you take the time to dig, the details are amazing and dramatically support the case for ascribing inerrancy and infallibility to the Bible.

There’s no shortage of opinions on the accuracy of the Bible.  Our post-modern culture promotes individual opinions and disharmony over conformity and agreement.  Fine.  Got it.  No one wants to give a straightforward yes or no to the question of Biblical inerrancy, and actually that should be the case.  What do you do with translation differences, poetry, allegorical statements, the use of Koine (slang) Greek, textual criticism, differing accounts of the same events by different authors, a lack of modern technical precision, observational descriptions of nature, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, and so on?  It takes a fair amount of clarification before we can get to a yes or no response.

But the concepts behind these adjectives are extremely important, and there are those who have done a very good job building a case for unity on this topic.  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is a document worthy of very careful reading.  Before I read it, I had my own unfocused views on the subject.  After reading it and thinking it through, I’m in.  I support the Chicago Statement.

So back to the question of whether it is necessary or appropriate to include that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in our statement of faith.  In its constitutional context, the Williamsburg Community Chapel’s statement of faith is reduced to eight points about which we believe so strongly that we would break fellowship with those who would disagree.  In this context, personally I believe it is appropriate—but not necessary—to include these terms (see Article XIX of the Chicago Statement).  In other words, would I break fellowship with someone who was struggling with the genealogies of Christ in Matthew versus Luke?  No.  Would I break fellowship with someone who insisted that the differences in these genealogies prove the errancy of the Bible?  Absolutely.  More importantly, do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible, inspired word of God?  Yes.


The Ascension Was Not Enough

Ascension of ChristHave you ever thought about the events that transformed the apostles from runaway associates of Jesus into witnesses willing to be martyred for his message? The ‘About’ page on the Veracity blog encourages readers to “figure some things out.” That’s precisely what the apostles did between Good Friday (on the eve of the Jewish festival of Passover) and Pentecost (during the Jewish festival of Shavuot). But what they figured out wasn’t good enough.

The apostles witnessed all the miracles of Jesus while shadowing him for three years, but when the Roman soldiers showed up in Gethsemane all they had processed during those three years was quickly abandoned. They distanced themselves from him. So much for being bolstered by intellect. Obviously they were focusing on self-preservation and avoiding the pain and suffering that was about to be inflicted upon Jesus—just like you and I would have done. They knew that Jesus was God and that he had the power to raise the dead. They were there for the miracles, the transfiguration, the raising of Lazarus.  Intellectually and experientially they knew—but they followed their feet.

Forty days after the resurrection, they witnessed the ascension. But as mind-blowing as that event must have been—particularly in the afterglow of the resurrection—it wasn’t enough to change the apostles from cowards to revolutionaries. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem (for Pentecost, 10 days later).

This video from Glo Bible and our friends at Day of Discovery summarizes the events leading up to the ascension.

Jesus knew that his ascension would not be enough when he told the apostles beforehand, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The anointing of the Holy Spirit wasn’t icing on the cake, and it wasn’t an unplanned or spontaneous result of all the teaching that transpired before Pentecost. It wasn’t an insurance run in case the apostles didn’t get it. It was a vital part of God’s plan, preordained, and God’s provision for equipping disciples.

Ray Vander Laan has an amazing lesson on Pentecost (on the Southern Stairs of Herod’s Temple). It is one of the clips from the Faith Lessons DVDs, that should be in your personal library. This is teaching as good as it gets, and you can understand why Ray gets choked up when he describes the significance of being on those steps.

So…after all they had witnessed in the 51 days after Good Friday, particularly the resurrected Christ and his ascension, the apostles still didn’t have what it takes. We may like to think that if we had seen the ascension we would have been fully convicted and empowered. But the truth is it takes more. It takes God with us, not merely God before us. God knew that. God knows that.

When Christ gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28, he commanded his disciples to go to all the nations and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The ascension was not enough. It took Pentecost. It takes the power and person of the Holy Spirit. Dick Woodward has a lot of teaching about the Holy Spirit, as does the Apostle Paul. If we’re going to get anywhere in our devotional lives, it takes the Holy Spirit. There are rich blessings behind the preceding two hyperlinks.

Why is it important to appreciate the ten days between Christ’s ascension and Pentecost? It gets to the heart of the Trinity, and understanding that God is manifest in three persons—and that we need the power of all three in our lives. It also clearly demonstrates God’s plan for us—we are not only his children, but his anointed children. Without that anointing, it’s not enough.


Chi Rho

Veracity BlavatarIn the early days of Christianity, believers often paid the cost of discipleship with their lives.  Estimates are that 700,000 people died in the Roman Colosseum, where Christians were slaughtered for amusement at midday.  Followers of Jesus adopted Chi Rho as a christogram to symbolize their faith in Christ.   When choosing a graphical symbol for this blog the decision was pretty easy.

Depending upon where you live and your circumstances, life for a contemporary Christian can be quite comfortable.  While persecution of the Christian church is very real, in my corner of the world our faith is seldom called into the midday arena.  But I had dinner recently with the Reverend John Yates, whose faith was tested, and who paid a great price for his beliefs.

Without going down rabbit trails, the crux of the matter is a highly publicized dispute between the Episcopal Church and several Virginia congregations who took issue with the “intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world.”  The breakaway congregations felt that Episcopal leadership was acquiescing to contemporary culture instead of holding true to the Christian faith.  At the Chapel we have a Woodwardism (sayings attributable to Dick Woodward) that applies here: “Is the Church a thermostat or a thermometer?”  In other words, is the Church telling us what the temperature is, or is the Church setting the temperature?

The decision to leave (quoted below from a 2007 Washington Post article) resulted in the Diocese filing a lawsuit to regain the buildings and assets of the breakaway congregations.  The lawsuit dragged on for years, and cost millions of dollars in legal fees.  The court decided first in favor of the congregations, then reversed itself in favor of the Diocese.  John Yates’ The Falls Church congregation will have a final on-site service then vacate the premises on May 13, 2012.  They will then meet in rented facilities while they work out a long-term plan for their church house.

My purpose in blogging about this issue is not to cast stones at the Episcopal leadership, or to inflame anyone.  I just find it encouraging that in an age of stupendous cultural compromise there are believers willing to die on mountains for their faith.  How exciting for John Yates’ congregation.  I envy them in a way because church will be more expensive and less comfortable for quite some time, but what a privilege to know that your leadership is up to the task.  God bless.  Chi Rho.

Why We Left the Episcopal Church

By The Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness

The Washington Post
Monday, January 8, 2007

When even President Gerald Ford’s funeral at Washington National Cathedral is not exempt from comment about the crisis in the Episcopal Church, we believe it is time to set the record straight as to why our church and so many others around the country have severed ties with the Episcopal Church. Fundamental to a liberal view of freedom is the right of a person or group to define themselves, to speak for themselves and to not be dehumanized by the definitions and distortions of others. This right we request even of those who differ from us.

The core issue in why we left is not women’s leadership. It is not “Episcopalians against equality,” as the headline on a recent Post op-ed by Harold Meyerson put it. It is not a “leftward” drift in the church. It is not even primarily ethical — though the ordination of a practicing homosexual as bishop was the flash point that showed how far the repudiation of Christian orthodoxy had gone.

The core issue for us is theological: the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. It is thus a matter of faithfulness to the lordship of Jesus, whom we worship and follow. The American Episcopal Church no longer believes the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers. Some leaders expressly deny the central articles of the faith — saying that traditional theism is “dead,” the incarnation is “nonsense,” the resurrection of Jesus is a fiction, the understanding of the cross is “a barbarous idea,” the Bible is “pure propaganda” and so on. Others simply say the creed as poetry or with their fingers crossed.

It would be easy to parody the “Alice in Wonderland” surrealism of Episcopal leaders openly denying what their faith once believed, celebrating what Christians have gone to the stake to resist — and still staying on as leaders. But this is a serious matter.

First, Episcopal revisionism abandons the fidelity of faith. The Hebrew scriptures link matters of truth to a relationship with God. They speak of apostasy as adultery — a form of betrayal as treacherous as a husband cheating on his wife.

Second, Episcopal revisionism negates the authority of faith. The “sola scriptura” (“by the scriptures alone”) doctrine of the Reformation church has been abandoned for the “sola cultura” (by the culture alone) way of the modern church. No longer under authority, the Episcopal Church today is either its own authority or finds its authority in the shifting winds of intellectual and social fashion — which is to say it has no authority.

Third, Episcopal revisionism severs the continuity of faith. Cutting itself off from the universal faith that spans the centuries and the continents, it becomes culturally captive to one culture and one time. While professing tolerance and inclusiveness, certain Episcopal attitudes toward fellow believers around the world, who make up a majority of the Anglican family, have been arrogant and even racist.

Fourth, Episcopal revisionism destroys the credibility of faith. There is so little that is distinctively Christian left in the theology of some Episcopal leaders, such as the former bishop of Newark, that a skeptic can say, as Oscar Wilde said to a cleric of his time, “I not only follow you, I precede you.” It is no accident that orthodox churches are growing and that almost all the great converts to the Christian faith in the past century, such as G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, have been attracted to full-blooded orthodoxy, not to revisionism. The prospect for the Episcopal Church, already evident in many dioceses, is inevitable withering and decline.

Fifth, Episcopal revisionism obliterates the very identity of faith. When the great truths of the Bible and the creeds are abandoned and there is no limit to what can be believed in their place, then the point is reached when there is little identifiably Christian in Episcopal revisionism. Would that Episcopal leaders showed the same zeal for their faith that they do for their property. If the present decline continues, all that will remain of a once strong church will be empty buildings, kept going by the finances, though not the faith, of the fathers.

These are the outrages we protest. These are the infidelities that drive us to separate. These are the real issues to be debated. We remain Anglicans but leave the Episcopal Church because the Episcopal Church first left the historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, “Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.”

The Rev. John Yates is rector and Os Guinness is a parishioner of The Falls Church, one of several Virginia churches that voted last month to sever ties with the Episcopal Church


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