Monthly Archives: July 2014

Replacing Replacement Theology?

Clarence Larken (1850-1924) was an American Baptist pastor who developed charts like these that depict a dispensationalist view of the End Times. If you click on the image to expand the detail, you will see how Larkin divided the church on the left from Israel on the right. Contemporary followers of Larkin accuse "replacement theology" of wiping out Israel's place in Biblical prophecy.

Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) was an American Baptist pastor who developed charts like these that depict a dispensationalist view of the End Times, as popularized in the immensely influential Scofield Reference Bible. If you click on the image to expand the detail, you will see how Larkin divided the church on the left from Israel on the right. Contemporary followers of Larkin sometimes accuse “replacement theology” of wiping out Israel’s essential place in Biblical prophecy.

What is “replacement theology?”

About twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. I looked out over the Sea of Galilee. I climbed part of the great mountain fortress of Masada. I witnessed orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall. I walked the streets of Jerusalem down the Via Dolorosa, the Israeli flag flying high and proudly over several of these streets. It was a breathtaking experience.

However, the exhilaration was soberly offset by a conversation I had with the bus driver for our tour group. Like many other Palestinian Christians, his family had lived in the land for centuries with their Jewish and Muslim neighbors, mostly at peace. However, the events of the past 60+ years between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors have resulted in persecution for his family. He never went into the details, but I was always puzzled by what he meant by that.

Later on in the tour, when our group came to a stone gate in East Jerusalem, our bus driver nervously pointed out the bullet holes where Israeli and Jordanian fighters clashed with one another during the electrifying 1967 Six Day War. On the one hand, I felt then the thrill of the Israeli victory and reclamation of the ancient city that was discussed in this previous Veracity post.

But I had become also deeply troubled: what side was our Christian bus driver’s family on during that bitter conflict, or were they simply caught in the middle of the violence (like in this recent piece of news)? As I am writing this in July, 2014, Israel and Gaza’s Hamas have for weeks been involved in a deadly exchange, and Christians like this Baptist church in Gaza are vulnerable to the crossfire.

What is a Christian to think about the prophetic promises regarding national Israel, while also considering the challenges faced by Palestinian Christians living in the contested land in Middle East today, like my bus driver? What does the Bible have to say?

The study of Bible prophecy is a complicated subject and passions run very, very deep when people talk about “Israel.” Most evangelical Christians believe that “Israel” has a special place in God’s future plans, but there is a growing widespread confusion as to what this really means. So I must admit that I get conflicted when some Christians begin to talk about  the errors of “replacement theology.”  What is being meant when people speak of “replacement theology?” Granted, some criticisms are indeed valid, but a quick survey of what you find on YouTube can be rather troubling. Here is the ever colorful television personality Jack Van Impe:

Well,… uh, ok… now… what in the world is this guy talking about??????????
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Announcements

Just a few announcements for our regular readers…

Kaqexeß Page

A couple of years ago our church’s director of Christian education told me about a meeting she had with our associate pastor during which he tossed around the idea of creating online self-directed Bible study courses—a “Chapel U” website as it were. We didn’t have the institutional resources to pull off such an ambitious undertaking, and having just launched Veracity I had plenty to keep me busy. But the idea of self-directed Bible study was intriguing, so I thought it might be helpful to catalog the posts that Clarke and I write on the blog. Maybe someday we might have enough content that people could do a kind of self-directed study.

We pretty much write about whatever our current devotional interests are, with no real agenda or curriculum. Our five most recent posts show up on our home page, then roll off to the automatic archives. But since the very beginning we have also cataloged them in a logical order on our Kaqexeß page, where readers can do topical, self-directed Bible study. We are now closing in on 300 published posts, and if you really worked through them you would have a decent shot at holding your own in discussions about the claims and content of the Bible. (Actually, most of our readers can hold their own regardless, but we have been blessed with feedback from those who learned a great deal from these posts.)

Please check out our Kaqexeß page and see if you have any comments or suggestions as to how we might make this material more accessible and useful. (We also take requests from readers about topics you’d like to see covered on the blog.)

Charlotte Apologetics Conference

Charlotte BBQ

Where is this place? Sign up for the NCCA conference to find out.

The early bird discount for the 2014 National Conference on Christian Apologetics will not be available after July 31st. The conference doubled its attendance last year to over 2,400 attendees, and registration had to be closed due to space limitations. The 2014 conference is moving to a larger facility, and a strong turnout is expected. If you want to give a boost to your devotional life, attending this conference is the way to go. The speakers are subject matter experts, and are quite engaging and entertaining. The conference is scheduled for October 10 and 11, and only costs $90 for early bird registrants (with two box lunches, which you’ll want). Let us know that you signed up, and I’ll tell you where you can find good local barbecue, apples and cider.

H-E-A-R-T Tournament

H-E-A-R-T

H-E-A-R-T

Our friends Debbie and Rob Smith are holding their 12th Annual H-E-A-R-T golf tournament on October 1st, at the Golden Horseshoe’s Green Course in Williamsburg.  Help out a great ministry with a hole sponsorship, or sign up a team using this registration form.

Debbie Smith is the only person I know who has a federal law named in her honor, with a movie to tell her story. She’s been on 60 Minutes, Oprah, and a large number of programs, testified before Congress, and has received three gubernatorial appointments. From my limited perspective, Debbie and Rob Smith exemplify the power of church community in the aftermath of personal trauma. If you are not familiar with their incredible story, read about it here on their website.

Veracity Readers Out On The Town

We don’t do it as often as we should, but to mark a milestone birthday several Veracity readers and I took my dear wife Marion to the Williamsburg Inn. We’ve attended so many funerals this year it occurred to us that special celebrations like this one are among the most cherished memories we can have. The evening was fabulous, and I am truly blessed to count these dear people among my family and friends—particularly Marion, whom I count doubly.

Marion's Birthday

Marion’s Birthday


A Gideon Exposé

Room 19, Central House Hotel  in Boscobel, Wisconsin. Kept in the style it was in September 1898 when the first Gideon founders, Nicholson and Hill, met here. From the scramped quarters one evening came a ministry that has impacted millions of people around the world for Christ.

Room 19, Central House Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. Kept in the style it was in September 1898 when the first Gideon founders, Nicholson and Hill, met here. From the cramped quarters one evening came a ministry that has impacted millions of people around the world for Christ.

1898. Boscobel, Wisconsin. Two businessmen, John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill, arrived in town looking for a place to spend the night. However, the Central Hotel was so crowded that there was only one room left available. Nicholson and Hill, who had never met one another before, agreed to share that room with a double bed for the night. These men soon discovered that they were Christians. They prayed and read the Bible together. As these men were on their knees, they soon realized an idea that would eventually become the Bible distribution ministry of the Gideons.

If you stay at nearly any hotel these days, pull open the bedside drawer and chances are that you will find a Bible placed there by the Gideons. Over a hundred years after Nicholson and Hill met that evening together, first as strangers, then as brothers in Christ, the Gideons International has placed over 1.9 billion Bibles all over the world, in multiple languages, at an average rate of two copies of the Bible per second. The Gideons record countless stories of changed lives through people picking up a Gideon distributed Bible. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross had grown up in a completely secularized environment until he took the time to read a copy of the Bible given to him by the Gideons in his school, which eventually led him to place his faith in Christ. I myself remember getting my own green copy of the New Testament as a freshman in college.

But have you ever seen a sticker placed by an atheist on a Gideon Bible?
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How We Got the Bible (Part 1)

“We should not imagine a committee of church fathers with a large pile of books and these five guiding principles before them when we speak of the process of canonization. No ecumenical committee was commissioned to canonize the Bible.”

Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible

The Ecumenical Council

The Ecumenical Council by Salvador Dali, 1960

 

Our church’s Statement of Faith is pretty minimal. We only list eight core beliefs, the second of which states that we believe “in the inspiration of all the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit, and that they are the final authority for our faith and practice.”

“…final authority for our faith and practice?” Really?!

Our founders didn’t draft up this idea—it is delineated in the historic confessions of the Christian church. Consider the absolute implications of this statement. It means the Bible contains the foundations for Christian faith and practice, and that we are bound to it in all matters. We don’t get to impart our personal, alternative views. We don’t get to cherry pick which parts we like or which parts we would write differently. We don’t get to interpret what it says in ways that are contradictory to it. When we disagree with someone else’s view or interpretation, we submit to the final authority of the Bible. No appeals. We believe the Bible comprises God’s special revelation to us.

If you’ve been reading Veracity for any length of time, you know that we are big on personal discipleship—which we define as the process in which a believer or seeker takes personal responsibility for investigating the claims and content of the Bible. Personal Discipleship is based on the Bible.

Exactly how did we get the Bible?

Welcome to our latest Veracity series.  If you’re like me or Salvador Dali you may have developed some loose derivative notions such as:

  • God told a select group of human authors what to write,
  • Their writings were evaluated by committees of men in silly hats,
  • These ecumenical councils voted on which writings would be in “the Bible,” and
  • Later ecumenical councils clarified and solidified the final selection (and some modified it).

In fact, if you read what Wikipedia has to say about Ecumenical Councils it sounds like a pretty cut-and-dried historical process. But is that all there is to it? For that matter are these notions even correct? Are we to live our lives under the complete authority of documents that were assembled by ancient and medieval committees? How do we know that the Bible we hold in our hands today is what God intended for us to have? What if it was corrupted in its translations or transmission? How do we know that we have the right books, and why do we disagree along denominational lines about what should be included in the ‘Holy’ Bible?

In preparing for this series I read a lot of texts that come at these questions from a canonical perspective (focusing on how the official list of biblical texts was created and adopted). I must confess, that was originally my interest as well. But Drs. Norman Geisler and William Nix have a more comprehensive, full-orbed understanding, which they explain in From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible. So let’s dig in and see what these and other scholars have to bring to our understanding of how we got the Bible.

Introduction

Over the course of this series we will look at the inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation of the Bible. But before we dive into the topic of inspiration here’s a Mini Bible College audio clip from Dick Woodward to give us the big picture.

Dick did a masterful job summarizing the basics for us, and Geisler and Nix will delve more deeply into the details (particularly when we get to the process of canonization). We’ll go slowly and see what we can learn about the book that comprises the authoritative basis for our Christian faith and practice.

Additional Resources

From God To UsNorman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible.

Michael J. Kruger, The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate.

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Audio Download.

Robert Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible: An Historical and Exegetical Study.

Jack P. Lewis, Jamnia After Forty Years.

Brooke Foss Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament during the First Four Centuries.

 

 


Aimee Semple McPherson: Disappearing Woman Evangelist

As a follow-up piece to the previous post (please be sure to read it first), I thought I would link to some resources regarding Aimee Semple McPherson, for those who want to learn more.

Sister Aimee was perhaps the most popular American evangelist between World War One and World War Two. She was a mother, an ardent anti-evolutionist, a persistent advocate for a vision of a “Christian America,” a faith healer, and one of the leading supporters of the contemporary revival of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, bringing a marginalized (and still contentious ) Pentecostalism into the very mainstream of American culture. She was also an extreme controversialist in her time: a divorcee who nevertheless pursued full-time Christian ministry and brought sensational headlines during her “infamous” disappearance off the coast of Los Angeles in 1926. Did she run off to have an affair with a married man, or was she kidnapped?

To the point of the last post, she was a female preacher. Was Sister Aimee using her public speaking gifts and following her God-given calling? Or was she in rebellion against the Word of God, failing to heed the Apostle Paul’s admonition for women not “to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 KJV)? Did biblical doctrine take a back seat to some degree to her experience, or was she following in the footsteps of the prophetess and judge, Deborah? I find Sister Aimee’s legacy to be a mixed bag, but I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Christian History magazine has a nice write-up on her. The PBS program American Experience did a film about her life. The following YouTube video includes the PBS program, followed by one of her recorded radio sermons.


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