As I am writing this we are just 24 hours away from the start of a new year. Much has happened this year. We have seen another denomination battle it out over LGBT in the United Methodist Church. We have seen a mother try to force her little boy to be chemically castrated and “transitioned” to a “girl.” And we have seen the impeachment of another U.S. President.
The year has shown that humanity is declining further into sin. Biblical literacy is falling among evangelicals. Times are perilous.
As I reflect on 2019 I continue to see the need to call for a new reformation. We need to take a stand as Christians for the truth of Scripture. Scripture needs to return to prominence as our final authority. We need to stand against leaders in the church who would take us away from what Scripture says to find another way in this world. We need to boldly proclaim the Gospel.
In 2020, let us take our stand. Let us lift the name of Jesus with the truths of Scripture. Let us not bow down to the culture and surrender. Let us be ready for the fight. Let us proclaim truth. Let us not be afraid to offend because the truth is offensive as darkness hates the light. Let us not worry about being politically correct. Let us worry about the Truth and let us proclaim it with bold authority.
It is hard to believe that we have arrived at another Christmas Eve. There is much going on in the world. The U.S. President is under impeachment. War still rages in the Middle East. There is still the atrocities of terrorism. There is disease and famine. It is not a peaceful time by man’s standards.
However, today we look back 2,000 years to remember a night of great joy. A night when the angels appeared to the shepherds to say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill, toward men.”
What if we, the church, recapture that spirit, that moment? Can you imagine the shepherds in that field that night? They were terrified according to Luke 2. Who wouldn’t be? But at the same time, they were awestruck by what they saw. Again, who wouldn’t be?
But what did the shepherds do? They listened. They followed the instructions of the Lord’s message and went to see this amazing baby. They went to see the Savior.
Christmas reminds us that God came in the flesh (John 1:14) to live here among us. He came to live as we did, to experience what we experience, to know what we know and feel what we feel. And, most importantly, He came to take our place on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice. He was the substitute for our condemnation. He died in our place.
That is what Christmas is truly about. It was the start of a 33-year story. A story that is the greatest story ever told. A story that shows how God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but he will have eternal life.
Merry Christmas and, in the words of that famous character, Tiny Tim, May God bless us, everyone.
Book Review: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible
Today I decided to do something I have not done in a while, read a whole book in a day. For a while, I have wanted to read Mark Ward’s Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. Today, I finally sat down and accomplished this task.
The debates surrounding the King James Bible vs. other English translations have been raging for decades. There are very heated and passionate discussions on the topic. Some of these discussions are rational and biblical but many are not. So in a very real sense, Dr. Ward is brave for tackling this topic head-on. But he is also to be commended in the very sincere, rational, biblical, and respectful way that he has approached the debate.
First, the book is easy to understand. It is written in plain language and not bogged down with tons of Greek and Hebrew. In fact, I honestly don’t remember reading much, if any, Greek and Hebrew in the book itself. That’s not the focus of the book. The focus is whether or not the King James Bible is still the best translation to use for the modern English reader.
Without giving away too much information, you should really buy the book, Dr. Ward takes the approach of looking at the English language itself. For example, he explores dead words that are used in the KJV. He is fair in stating that yes, we can look these words up in dictionaries, but points out that you need special dictionaries that include these words to begin with.
But the bigger issue Ward points out is what he calls “false friends.” False friends are words that we do not understand but do not realize we do not understand them. What is meant by this is that the words meant something significantly different in 1611 than what they mean today. He goes through quite a few examples of these in the book making a compelling argument for needing a fresh translation.
Dr. Ward also examines ten common objections to using translations other than the KJV. He explores these in detail and breaks down the argument and gives logical rebuttals to each of these arguments. These are arguments such as the new translations use corrupt manuscripts, they dumb down the English language, or the problem isn’t really that big.
All in all, Ward does a superb job of explaining why we should not ditch the KJV but also should not expect it to be the primary English translation used in every day study. This book should be required reading for people looking for a good English translation and I give Authorized a five star rating!
Gavin Ortlund’s new book, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals, seeks to give us instruction on why we need to look to church history for answers in today’s age of advancement and millennial thinking.
Ortland argues that Evangelicals have lost touch with the history of the Christian Church. Much of this is for fear of becoming too close to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. And, as he explains, those are valid fears. But the fears should not keep us from exploring the rich heritage of Christianity and to explore the scenarios and events that have helped shaped the theology of the church between the first century and the church today. After all, was there nothing good that came out of the church in its first 1500 years of existence?
Ortland points out an alarming trend of people leaving Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. He highlights a prominent Christian Celebrity, Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, to illustrate this point explaining that Hanegraaff left Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy a couple of years ago. He demonstrates that this has been happening at an alarming rate. And why is this happening?
So what is causing this trend? Obviously, every person’s story is unique, and we must leave room for a wide array of different kinds of factors in each case. However, one of these recurring themes among these denominational migrations is related to how Dreher interpreted Hanegraff’s conversion: the desire for historical depth.
Gary Ortland – Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals Chapter 2
Historical depth is the problem according to Ortland as well as others. So the solution, according to Ortland, is Theological Retrieval.
Theological Retrieval is the process of studying church history. But not just the history of the church, the writings of the early church. Ortland shows a process of rediscovering the early writings of the Early Church Father’s and filtering how we ended up with the doctrines that we hold so dear today.
The second half of the book shows practical methods for engaging in theological retrieval. He explores topics such as God (Theology Proper), the atonement, and art.
In each of these cases, he takes the theological concept, puts the current thinking on the topic in light, then looks to see what the church has written about the topic historically. He admits that to be a good systematic theologian, you must respect historical theology as a discipline. In this book, he meshes those two disciplines together.
Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals is not an easy read. There were times when reading that I had to force myself to get into the text or just put it down and come back later. However, the truth contained within and the methods examined and displayed are valuable and to be encouraged.
Because of this, I give Theological Retrieval for Evangelical three out of five stars. However, I do recommend it as a read for those who are seeking to know the history of their faith and how their Evangelical Protestantism fits into the elaborate history of the Christian Church.
I was given a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I am excited to announce that I will be teaching John’s Gospel verse by verse starting in January.
John’s Gospel is one of the most theologically rich, if not the most theologically rich, books on the person of Jesus Christ. In John, we find the explicit declarations that Jesus is God. He is Lord over all of creation. He took on the establishment of religion in Judaism and turned it upside down. He challenged false teachers in the Pharisees head on.
In John’s Gospel, we see Jesus as Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. In John, we have the “I am” statements of Christ. We have the sign miracles that show his power over creation, over the Sabbath, over sin, over mankind. In John, we see the disciples struggle to understand and grapple with their Master’s teachings. We see the work on the cross.
In John, we see the glorious doctrines of grace. We see how God orchestrates our salvation. We see how God chooses His elect. We see the definite atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross as our substitute. We see the effectual calling of God to those He has chosen to be given to the Son. And finally, we see the preserving grace of the Father that none who are given to the Son will be lost.
But most importantly, we see “The Word became flesh.” What a great truth and comfort to know that Jesus Christ, God, came to this earth to dwell among us. He knows what we go through, he knows how we live, because he was with us for 33 years on this earth.
I have often said that if I could only have two books of the Bible to read and study it would be John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter to the Romans. The amount of theology in these two books alone is enough to study for a lifetime. So I am greatly excited about teaching through this book.
I have been asked how long this study will take. The honest answer is, “I have no idea.” I will be in this book until we are finished. Looking forward to it. The study will also be recorded and posted as a podcast. Details coming soon!
A lot of focus during the Christmas season gets put on Mary as well as Jesus since she was his mother. There is a lot of incorrect theology about Mary, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. One of these doctrines is the idea of the Immaculate Conception.
The immaculate conception often is misunderstood to mean the supernatural conception of Christ in Mary’s womb. I also misunderstood this in the past. But that is not what this term refers to at all. In fact, the immaculate conception has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Instead, the immaculate conception deals with Mary. Specifically, it teaches that Mary was sinless and free from original sin.
There are two primary texts that Catholics use to make this claim. The first is Genesis 3:15.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Genesis 3:15 English Standard Version
The main problem with using this text to define anything about Mary is that Mary is not found in this verse. The woman here is Eve, not Mary. Yes, Mary is part of Eve’s distant offspring through her descendants, but the only people mentioned in this verse specifically are Eve, Satan, Christ, and God the Father. So we can automatically throw this verse out with having anything to do with supposed sinlessness of Mary.
The other major text used by Catholics for the Immaculate Conception is Luke 1:28
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28 (ESV)
In this verse they use the term favored one to claim that Mary was sinless. But how do they come to this conclusion?
First we must look at the underlying Greek for the term favored one and see whether or not it means sinless. The term is κεχαριτωμένη, which is pronounced kecharitomene. It is derived from the lemma χαριτόω (charitoo). But what do these words mean, and if they mean sinless, why are they translated as favored one?
The underlying Greek has a meaning of showing kindness, favor, giving grace, showing favor. So translators have gotten it right with favored one. But Catholics focus on one portion of this definition, giving grace. In fact, they argue that Mary was so full of grace that she did not receive original sin because she was “fully endowed with grace perfectly.”
But there is a problem with this viewpoint. First, being fully endowed with grace does not mean that you are sinless. All Christians are full of grace and favored and blessed. That is part of being the elect of God. Ephesians 1:6 uses the same word, charitoo, to describe all believers. Yet, all believers have original sin, and continuing sin that must be dealt with. Mary is no different.
The point is that there is no Scriptural basis for the Immaculate Conception. This is an invention and false doctrine of the Catholic Church. Mary was favored only in the sense that she was chosen to have the very special honor of giving birth to the Savior. She is not to be worshiped, not to be prayed to, she is a sinner saved by grace just like everyone else who is a part of the kingdom.
Back in October I mentioned the case of James Younger in my sermon on Reformation day. For those who do not know, James is a 7-year-old boy who has a divorced mother and father. His mother is trying to transition James into a girl named Luna by chemically castrating the boy and giving him hormone therapy. There is no indication that James wants this done or feels like he is a girl. Even if he did exhibit that, it doesn’t change the fact that he is a boy and should be raised and treated as a boy.
At the time of my sermon in October, a jury had ruled in favor of James’ mother that she should have sole custody over James and all decisions related to his life and health. A judge overruled the jury and put a stop to the ruling.
Now, Christian Post reports that the judge is being removed from the case. The removal of the judge was due to much political maneuvering and some twisting of facts, and the denial of the judge’s right to free speech. All of that is for another discussion at another time.
But the real issue here is what is going on with James and his parents. His father rightly wants him to be treated as the boy he is in reality. His mother is living in a fantasy world where she wants a little girl. It is abusive to pump chemicals into a child to try and change who they are biologically. This is true child abuse yet the liberal left celebrate this as progress? It is disgusting, it is sinful.
As believers, we should not be surprised by this. Romans 1 says they are going to be given up to their dishonorable passions. This is what is happening in the case of James Younger. The culture is going to what is dishonorable. It is leaving the natural order and defying God.
My heart breaks for little James and his Father. Pray that truth and justice prevail in this sad story.
One of the great challenges as a Protestant is to know and understand how we came to be. The Reformation is our roots in history, but the Bible is our root in theology. Simply put, to be Protestant means you leave the man-made teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and look towards Scripture as your authority for faith and practice.
Why do I make this point when talking about the Early Church Fathers (ECF)? It is simple. Catholics tend to put an inordinate amount of weight and authority in the ECF. They do this to the point of elevating their writings to the level of Scripture. However, they will tell you that they do not do this. Yet, when shown their interpretation is incorrect Biblically, they will say, “But Origen said…” or “But Iraneus argued….” or “But Clement states…” and so on. When you simply say they are wrong, and point out the error, they will say that are we to know better than those that sat under the Apostles?
This, of course, is a logical fallacy. It is an appeal to authority. However, there is no authority there.
We do not hold that the ECF were infallible. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the ECF, or the church today, including the Pope, are infallible in any way (though the Catholics will try to argue that there is). So how are we to use the ECF?
The answer to this is not difficult. We should use the ECF as we use any other commentary. It is useful for study and instruction but must always be tested against the Scriptures. The Scriptures and Scriptures alone have the final say in all matters of faith and practice. The ECF did get things wrong, and often, they even contradicted each other. Scripture, on the other hand, has no contradictions. It is the perfect and holy words of God.
So while we should read the Fathers, we should not elevate their work to the level of Scripture.
It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is past us and we are already full-swing into another Christmas season. Christmas movies are on, presents are being purchased, trees and lights adorn the country. All of these things are fun, exciting, and part of the celebration of Christmas. But what exactly are we celebrating? John’s Gospel gives us the answer:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
John 1:14a (English Standard Version)
We are celebrating the fact that the God of the universe thought enough of His elect that He took on flesh to walk on this earth as one of us. He faced the same trials and temptations yet he remained sinless. He took our place on the cross and took our penalty for our sins in his death. He brought us salvation and redemption that we might have eternal life. There is no greater love.
We often hear that Jesus is the “Reason for the Season.” But do we really take this to heart? Do we really understand the magnitude of what happened on that first Christmas? Do we really think about Immanuel, God with us? Do we consider what Christ did for us on the cross? Does it make a change in our lives?
These are the things that we need to dwell on this Christmas season. And not just Christmas, we need to think about these things every day of the year. So let’s remember what we are celebrating. We are celebrating the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us.