Tag Archives: Personal Discipleship

Grandson

Whitner David Paine, b. October 8, 2015

Whitner “Whit” David Paine, b. October 8, 2015

I pray that you will:

  • recognize that God loves you
  • be a good friend
  • be dependable
  • be able to let things go
  • be humble and gracious
  • be a compelling witness
  • be slow to anger and quick to forgive
  • be a good steward
  • be willing to make difficult decisions
  • be loved unconditionally
  • love unconditionally
  • try hard
  • laugh easily
  • smile when people need you to smile
  • enjoy the small things in life
  • listen to and respect those who disagree with you
  • know that God has a plan for your life
  • know the joy of personal discipleship
  • discover and appreciate that Christianity is objectively true
  • have courage
  • have compassion
  • have an uplifting sense of humor
  • have friends like your parents

I pray that you will never:

  • hate people
  • burn with anger
  • chase things that don’t matter
  • worry about things that you cannot control
  • waste your time
  • embrace cultural values that contradict your faith
  • forget who died for you

Discipleship Sandwich

SandwichIt’s easy to approach our spiritual lives like a sandwich. We just add the ingredients we like and leave out those that we don’t. We eat until we are satisfied—then we are done. We can fall into pretty humdrum routines where we eat the same sandwich over and over.

For the past nine weeks, I have had the privilege of sharing some thoughts and resources for personal discipleship with an amazing adult Sunday school class. They are ‘amazing’ because most of them have studied the Bible thoroughly and devotionally, and it shows in the way they think and live their lives. They have inspired me for years.

In putting this class together, I had several goals. First, to share the incredible resources that are instantly available to us now through the Internet and other technologies. We are spoiled with an embarrassment of riches for personal discipleship and Bible study. A modern toolbox can include: videos from the greatest pastors, theologians, apologists, and philosophers; apps that read the Bible and books to us while we drive or go for a walk; multimedia Bibles that help us see the context of Scripture; podcasts to challenge our thinking; websites that contain enormous volumes of theological and devotional material; online research sites that go well beyond simple biblical commentaries; apps for journaling and note-taking that help us retain what we have studied; electronic books and magazines (that are electronically searchable); free online seminary courses; map-based websites that can fly us into ancient archaeological sites; and digital videos that inspire our souls and challenge our minds.

Secondly, to expose mature Christians to contemporary (and not so contemporary) challenges to the Christian faith, and give them a flavor for how well our faith stands up to scrutiny and attack. Many of us tend to shake a bit when some intelligent-sounding pundit (or coworker at the water cooler) attacks our beliefs. What I really want to share with people is that these attacks are in the mainstream culture, and there is nothing to fear if we know the appropriate responses.

Thirdly, I wanted to expose the class to apologists, researchers, theologians, and philosophers on the front lines who are blazing trails with their debating, research, and publishing. People like J. Warner Wallace, Daniel Wallace, and William Lane Craig. (During the course, Clarke Morledge and I updated our Top 10 Scorers list to make these people and their resources easily accessible.)

Granted, all of the material presented leans heavily towards the intellectual. Unapologetically. One of the great wonders of Christianity is that it succeeds both on very simple and very complex levels. You don’t need to know a lot to be saved, but diving deep can produce great appreciation for Christianity as an objective truth.

A Baptist preacher friend says, “Not everybody needs that (intellectual rigor).” While I completely agree, there’s more to it than that. Several other friends make statements to the effect that they believe the claims of Christianity, and they don’t need all the navel gazing and logic chopping. Got it. But here’s the deal—it’s not about us. While deeper study will produce deeper appreciation for the reality of our beliefs, and that is a VERY good thing, it’s about being good disciples.

Personal Discipleship is all about making the best sandwich you can. Not for yourself, but for somebody else.

Week-9

Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

 
 

HT: Ken Petzinger, Clarke Morledge, Joe Webers, Judy Williamson, Marion Paine, Dave Rudy, CommunityTable.com (sandwich image)


Inerrancy and Infallibility

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 few 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 text was correct came into sharper focus with deeper study. This detailed-study-leads-to-edification process has happened so many times that my views on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible have strengthened considerably.

Just one example—I audited an apologetics course entitled Creation and the Bible by Reasons To Believe. Dr. Hugh Ross, an 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.

______

2015 Personal Discipleship - Week 8
Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

HT: Dave Rudy


Responding to Textual Criticism

VilifyWhen someone confronts us in a particularly offensive manner or strikes at a deeply held conviction or belief, most of us have a natural inclination to fight back. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to let anger and emotions get the better of us.

Like it or not, we live in a world where there is little tolerance for people who think differently. From a purely cultural perspective, we are far less apt to listen and empathize than we are to attack and vilify. To win is to vanquish our enemies. Or is it?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”
Matthew 5:38-47, NKJV

In our Personal Discipleship class we have been studying contemporary challenges to the Christian faith. One of the more prominent challengers is Bart Ehrman, a popular skeptic who calls himself an agnostic, but who more accurately fits the mold of an angry, deconverted Christian. (Ehrman has a big beef with God over the problem of evil and suffering.) His books achieve best-seller status, and he is quoted by atheists and skeptics as an authority on the unreliability of the Bible. He is revered by friend and foe alike for his skill in textual criticism. His research is largely undisputed, but his premises and conclusions are highly biased. Nevertheless, he strikes a chord with those seeking to discredit the trustworthiness of the Bible.

While it’s very difficult for some to listen to abrasive skepticism, it is encouraging to see how rigorous scholarship can turn back the skeptic’s wrath. Well-articulated truth is a powerful antidote to skepticism, particularly when it follows the apologetic ethic of gentleness and respect. Here is a debate you can buy (sorry, there is no good quality video currently being served online) between Ehrman and Dan Wallace on the reliability of the text of the New Testament. It was at the time the largest debate ever held on the reliability of the New Testament text. (For some interesting background, see the video in this post.)

Wallace Ehrman Debate
Dan Wallace is amazing in this debate. He is honest, well-informed, learned, respectful, humorous, and makes a convincing case for the reliability of the New Testament text. His response to Bart Ehrman is a model of what Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount (quoted above). Wallace’s response is not angry—although he is deeply concerned about the effects of Bart Ehrman’s influence on our culture. Wallace has the proper response to textual skepticism. He doesn’t vilify Bart Ehrman—he doesn’t need to. It is amazing what we can do when we take the time to study the facts and respond in obedience, with an appreciation of the right ethics.

And finally, for those following our Personal Discipleship class or otherwise interested in Textual Criticism, here are the class notes.

Personal Discipleship Class-Week 7
Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

HT: Daniel B. Wallace, Marion Paine


Has the Bible Really Been Corrupted?

Among the most popular contemporary challenges to Christianity is the notion that our Bible has been corrupted over the millennia by copyists seeking to embellish or rewrite the original text for their self-serving purposes. The idea is nothing new, going back at least as far as 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

CocktailBut modern skepticism has evolved into a new art form. Painstaking textual scholarship is mixed with wild, unfounded theories that have no historical support to make a cocktail that skeptics cannot resist.

The unfortunate part is that most Christians never study the reliability of biblical manuscripts. Most just accept the Bible without fully appreciating what it took to transcribe, transmit, and translate accurate and faithful copies. They don’t fully appreciate what translation committees and publishers go through to produce the book that we hold in our hands as the final authority for our faith and practice—the special revelation of God to us. The really unfortunate part is that they miss the great joy of discovering how miraculously, faithfully, and accurately the Bible has been handed down to us.

Here is a video every Christian should watch. Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, arguably one of the world’s foremost authorities on New Testament manuscripts and textual criticism, lays out the scholarship to refute claims that the Bible has been hopelessly corrupted in its copying and transmission.

For those following our Personal Discipleship class, here are this week’s slides and notes on the topic.

Personal Discipleship Class - Week 6

Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

HT: Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Judy Williamson, Spark Church


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