Tag Archives: kevin vanhoozer

Was the Reformation a Mistake?: A Book Review

Is Roman Catholic doctrine “not unbiblical?” Have you ever thought of that?

The late, beloved Bible teacher, R. C. Sproul was a champion of Martin Luther’s reformation. Sproul died in the year marking the 500th anniversary of Luther’s defiance of the medieval church. But was Luther’s reformation, back in 1517, simply all one huge mistake?

More than anyone else in recent times, R. C. Sproul sounded a call to the church of the late 20th and 21st centuries, to reaffirm the message of Martin Luther. Sola Scriptura, the authority of Scripture, and Scripture alone, must be the watchword of a truly godly church. Many Christians, unfamiliar with the history of the church, have largely forgotten what Luther was all about. Others have heard Sproul’s clarion call, and seek to continue the work of the Reformation, for yet a new generation. At the same time, there are defenders of Rome, who believe that this renewed enthusiasm for Luther, while well intentioned, is unfortunately misplaced.

On a road trip over Christmas, to visit family in the American Midwest, I listened to an audiobook, that inspired me to write the following book review (SPOILER ALERT: this review is in-depth, as the subject matter itself is pretty deep). But first, let me give you some background, and why the idea of the Reformation as a “mistake,” is actually a very good topic to consider.

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Statements: A Reforming Catholic Confession

 

Now, here is a theological statement that I can really get excited about!!

Since the Reformation, many have accused Protestants of being a divisive folk, unable to agree on much of anything, thus undermining the unity of God’s Church throughout the world. On the eve of remembering the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, this is a charge that deserves some careful thought, before responding.

Yes, there are differences that can divide, but is there a core of fundamental beliefs that unites Protestants together? In there a “mere Protestantism,” recalling C.S. Lewis’ famous book, Mere Christianity?

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School theologian, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, says, “Yes!” In the following video, Vanhoozer explains that there is a core of common beliefs among Protestants. The Reforming Catholic Confession is a statement written that seeks to demonstrate that unified, shared core. Over 750 Christian leaders have already signed on, supporting this confession.

When I read the confession for myself, I wondered if this was even broader in scope than “just for Protestants.”  My hunch is that at least some of my Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends might even find agreement here as well. Read the Reforming Catholic Confession for yourself, and let me know what you think.

In general, I am always a bit cautious about “statements,” as they are rarely the final word on anything. At best, they are works in progress. But the Reforming Catholic Confession is the kind of statement that is really a great place to start. Tell your friends about it!

Can I get an “AMEN?!”


Inerrancy and Interpretation: An Extended Review of Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy

What is biblical inerrancy? At one level, it is pretty simple and straightforward. As Christian philosopher and apologist Norman Geisler says, “The Bible is the Word of God, and God cannot err; therefore, the Bible cannot err.” If the Bible cannot err, the Bible is inerrant. Broadly speaking, I support this logic.

Such logic, essentially means, that when we read the Bible, we can have the confidence that God is speaking truth to us, through the sacred text. A so called “Bible difficulty” is due to either an error with the translation, a faulty exposition being given about what the Bible says, or because of some misunderstanding on the part of the reader. The problem is never with God’s Word itself.

Pretty clear, right? Well, as they say, often the “devil is in the details.” Different Christians sometimes have different ideas of what they mean by “inerrancy,” and these differences can have diverse consequences in the details.  Digging into those details has led some people to be encouraged in their faith in times of doubt, while raising more doubts in the minds of others, and thereby providing fuel to the skeptics’ fire. How can this be?

It all depends on how “inerrancy” is defined and defended. Have you ever thought about how the four Gospels treat Peter’s “three” denials of Jesus?


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Why N.T. Wright Can Be Both Fascinating and Frustrating

Nicholas Thomas Wright. British New Testament scholar, retired Anglican bishop, ... and agitator among more than a few conservative, evangelical Protestants.

Nicholas Thomas Wright. British New Testament scholar, retired Anglican bishop, … and agitator among more than a few conservative, evangelical Protestants.

This fall, our church has been conducting a Bible study on the first eight chapters of the Book of Romans. We have been using a study guide written by an Anglican New Testament Scholar teaching at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, N.T. Wright, Romans (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides).

I need not give you a biography of N.T. Wright, other than to say that Wright is perhaps one of the most influential evangelical scholars of our day. In the 1990s, Wright wrote about and impressively critiqued the rather infamous Jesus Seminar, that sought to determine the “truly” authentic sayings of Jesus in the Gospels simply on the basis of majority vote among the Jesus Seminar scholars. Wright also wrote perhaps the best contemporary defense of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, The Resurrection of the Son of God (the only other book that comes anywhere close to exceeding Wright’s work is Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach). He has been a bishop, and he regularly speaks all over the world, appealing to conservative and liberal-minded Christians alike, along with interested skeptics and seekers. N.T. Wright writes faster than most humans can read… and he is overall an excellent and engaging writer, writing for both academia and also for the popular audience, as with his C.S. Lewis-like introductory book to the Christian faith, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. For the intellectually inclined, Wright is very much like a C.S. Lewis for our times… and he even has a great English accent to listen to!

But Wright also disturbs many of his fellow Christians, particularly those from a Reformed theological background. Now, the study of Romans is incredibly rich and rewarding in and of itself, but if you are not familiar with N.T. Wright, you might find yourself perplexed by some of the things N.T. Wright argues for in his study book. Consider a note on Romans 1:17 that Wright gives us on pages 13-14 of the Romans study guide:

Here Paul introduces a word and theme that will be critical throughout the letter. The Greek word and its variants are often translated as “righteous,” “righteousness,” “just” or “justice.” The problem is that Paul (though writing in Greek) has Hebrew words and meanings in mind, which English translations often overlook…..the phrase “the righteousness of God” [refers] to God ‘s own faithfulness to his promises to Israel, to his covenant…He keeps his word and thereby shows his trustworthiness, justice and righteousness…. What does this mean for what Paul is saying in Romans? [God] does not impart or impute or transfer his righteousness, his just character [to the believer]….”

and here is this remark on page 26:

The phrase often translated “righteousness of God” … is not, as some have argued, a righteous quality that God gives or imparts to humans. It is God’s own righteousness, his being true to the covenant. This covenant faithfulness carries with it more of the overtones that Paul is trying to highlight, referring back to God’s covenant promises to Abraham to undo the problem caused by the sin of Adam. But Israel failed to both keep the law and bring the message of God to the nations.

For evangelical Christians who read this, those who have grown up hearing sermons about the “imputation” of Christ’s righteousness to the believer, primarily through Christ’s “active obedience” to the Mosaic Law, thus enabling God to see us clothed in Christ’s righteousness instead of our sin, sentences like those above from N.T. Wright are frankly startling. It can even be downright maddening! So then, what is N.T. Wright up to here? (CAUTION: you might need to put your thinking cap on!)
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