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By In Theology

The Word Makes History

St. John begins his Gospel with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” a

The Word as “Logos”

His use of “word” is often explained with its connection with the Greek “λόγος.” b The Scripture explains that God is Word, and this is associated with the Son in Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity. While there may be additional philosophical and theological meanings for “word,” my core idea here is of God coming to us through the medium of language.  (more…)

  1. John 1:1 NKJV  (back)
  2. Strongs 3056: Logos is a word as embodying an idea, a statement, a speech  (back)

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By In Culture, Family and Children, Film, Humor, Wisdom

On Crude Humor

Author Remy Wilkins is a teacher at Geneva Academy.
His first novel Strays is available from Canon Press

“You wouldn’t hit a man with glasses would ya?”
“No, of course not. I’d hit him with a bat.”

In our culture of frivolity it is tempting for Christians to think that solemnity should be our defining attribute. The coarseness of the world impedes us from enjoying an y sort of sexual or bodily function jokes because we do not want to be guilty of approving that which is sinful. Even though we know that the bed is undefiled and the body is good, and are therefore free to enjoy those aspects of life in humor, we are stunted in our ability to appreciate them due to the folly and poor taste of our age.

So while we are not to be characterized by coarse jesting, we must learn to distinguish jokes that laud wickedness (the ribaldry forbidden in Ephesians) from those jokes that merely highlight the glorious and comedic world. We cannot merely clam up and play it safe, throwing out the good jokes with the bad. If we are to be characterized by joy then we must be leaders in laughter, but Humor is not a tame lion. It is invasive, subversive and mysterious. It is hard to determine where it is anchored, whether it mocks or praises, and what it is standing with or against.

For this reason many hedge their laughter, guard their mirth like an untrustworthy servant. There is a temerity that would rather not laugh at something funny than to laugh at something sinful. So how can we train our minds to laugh wisely? (more…)

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By In Podcast

Biblical Interpretation with Dr. Gregg Strawbridge

Originally recorded in 2015, this interview is focused on the nature of Biblical interpretation espoused by the Biblical Horizons and the Theopolis groups led by James B. Jordan and Peter Leithart.

The lectures offered at the 24th Biblical Horizons Conference, 2015, can be found and purchased at wordmp3.com. The 2015 Conference featured talks from Peter J. Leithart on Revelation, James B. Jordan (4 talks) on Joshua, Jeff Meyers (3 talks) on Wealth in Luke and Acts, Rich Bledsoe (2 talks) on Psychotherapy and Drugs, and Uri Brito (1 talk) on Christian Counseling from Jay Adams to David Powlison, and some psalmody/services and interviews.

Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy (USM, 1994)

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By In Theology

Upgraded Humanity: What was Biblical history for? (Part 1)

One of my favorite novels of the nineties was the “cyberpunk” thriller Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. (Content warning: not a Christian book.) The most unrealistic element in the book, however, was the posited “true meaning” of the story of the Tower of Babel. In the book’s retelling, humans used to be programmable using something a lot like machine code. Consciousness and free will came about through a virus introduced into the human race at Babel.

To repeat: this was the most unrealistic part of the novel, but it allows conflict as Hiro Protagonist (his real name—the novel doesn’t take itself too seriously) discovers a global conspiracy to reverse the virus and make humans programmable again. I took it as a metaphor for the quest for unity versus the value of freedom despite the social costs.

How Do You Upgrade Human Software?

But recently I’ve been thinking again about this fictional alternative to the Biblical story and the Bible’s own information about how humans are upgraded. After all, at Babel, something like a change in human “software” did miraculously take place. God wiped out a vocabulary and rules of grammar in people’s brains and uploaded new words and grammar rules in their place. The analogy to computer programs isn’t that much of a reach.

But when God called Abram (the story that follows the story of Babel and the scattering of humans into diverse nations), he does so in a way that makes clear that Abram is his “tower.”

And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:3-4; ESV)

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3; ESV)

We know from the miracle of Pentecost that God wanted the divisions imposed at Babel to be ameliorated so that a unity could be provided through the Gospel.

But what was the purpose of history between Babel and Pentecost? What was God doing?

Maybe we should ask ourselves how human “software” is normally “installed” or changed. Unlike what some science fiction may lead you to imagine, one can’t change thinking and behavior simply by plugging the brain into a computer. Brains are part of bodies, not machines.

How do people normally acquire language? Outside of the events of the special creation of Adam and Eve and the tower of Babel, we get our language from being immersed in a speaking and acting culture from the time we are born. We learn language not only by listening, or listening and watching, but by bodily interacting with others. We learn through our bodies.

And perhaps that’s the answer. Consider what the Bible tells us about God feeding Israel with manna in the wilderness. He gives them food to gather day by day six days a week. Any attempt to save up for the next day is frustrated because it becomes inedible except on the sixth day. On that day, they can gather for the daily bread and for the seventh day. And on the seventh day no manna appears on the ground.

God didn’t simply tell the people to work six days and rest on the seventh; he trained them to do so. (more…)

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By In Theology

Sola Scriptura is the Uniting Language of the Church, Part 2

In this last post, I wish to show how Scriptures is God’s own language and how it serves to unite God’s people (see the first post).

God’s Liturgical Language

Sola Scriptura is God’s language. Scripture shares God’s authority.a For a man to put himself above scripture is to put himself above God. In the Bible, when Satan attacks he always attacks God’s word. But the Bible is always God’s answer to assaults on the Bible. God uses his language to defeat evil. We are well aware of that famous Lenten passage in Luke 4 when our Lord is tempted in the wilderness. Jesus, the Word of God, appeals to God’s word. Scripture alone is the language of Jesus. When the devil tempts our Lord, Jesus doesn’t say, “Well, remember the words of Rabbi Kushner who once said…” No. Our Lord says, “For it is written…” Again, when the Pharisees attack him, Jesus appeals to the Word of God. In Matthew 22, Jesus reminds the Pharisees of Psalm 110 to make a case for His divinity. In John 10:35, Jesus says, “The Scriptures cannot be broken.” Sola Scriptura is God’s language. It’s unbreakable because it comes by the inspiration of an unbreakable Spirit. When the late medieval church elevated unwritten tradition to the level of the Bible, the Reformers said, “No, Scripture alone is our highest authority.” The Bible must be supreme because it is God’s language.

Our Uniting Language

Sola Scriptura unites our language. It is the Church’s liturgical language, it manifests God’s inerrant language, but it is also uniting language. When we talk about the Scriptures, it’s important to make a distinction between Sola Scriptura vs. Solo Scriptura. Sola Scriptura means God’s Word is our final authority. There are other authorities like leaders and parents and creeds, but Sola Scriptura says that all these authorities must submit to God’s ultimate authority. Solo Scriptura teaches that the Bible is the only authority and there are no other authorities.

In the 16th century, a group called the Ana-Baptists rebelled against the Roman Church, but they also rebelled against the Reformation. They wanted no one to have authority over the individual. They did not submit to pastors or civic leaders, in fact, many of them came to deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Only a proper understanding of the authority of the Bible can save God’s people from themselves, from anarchy or from becoming little popes. The Baptists and Reformed will differ on baptism; the Lutherans and Catholics will disagree on the Sacraments, but fundamentally if disagreement over the authority of the Bibe persists, there will never be a united Church. There is no future church, Peter Leithart says, if there isn’t a Bible-saturated church. We are shaped and built in the image of God revealed in the Bible. When we engage the text whether privately or publicly, we are becoming like Jesus Christ, the Logos of God. When we engage the text and encourage others to engage the text, we are uniting ourselves under the banner of Sola Scriptura.

  1. Some thoughts from Rich Lusk’s lecture on Sola Scriptura  (back)

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By In Theology, Worship

Sola Scriptura is the Church’s Language, Part 1

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 1517, I would like to offer some thoughts on the implications of Sola Scriptura in the Christian experience. In these two short articles, I’d like to elaborate on at least three consequences of this doctrine:

First, Sola Scriptura is the Church’s language. Second, Sola Scriptura is God’s language. And finally, Sola Scriptura unites our language.

The Church’s Language

In the late medieval era, Sola Scriptura was the rallying cry of this new movement called the Reformation. The Reformers, led by Luther and Calvin and many others, expressed their gratitude to the God who made the heavens and the earth for His revealed word. The Apostle Paul says in I Thessalonians 2:13:

We thank God continually for this, that when you received the message of God from us, you welcomed it not as the word of [mere] men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, which is effectually at work in you who believe.

The Church of our Lord has since its early days feasted on the richness of God’s word. As Van Til once wrote: “The Bible is God’s love letter to his bride.” This love letter, through the body of Christ, has saved orphans, built hospitals, adopted, and contributed for the good of society because the Church believed what God commanded. The city of Geneva where Calvin pastored and where the Scriptures were taught faithfully was known all over the world for its generosity to the poor and needy. It is true that Christians have ignored biblical truth leading to some damaging practices, but the vast majority of the Christian population led by the authority of the Bible and the ministry of the Church has served this world in beautiful ways since the Early Church. Paul says that this word which you have received and welcomed is truly the Word of God. These are not the words of uninspired men, but the very words of God working in men and women in the Church to change and transform not only themselves but their surroundings.

The Roots of Sola Scriptura

In the Reformation, the Scriptures returned to their proper place, shaping the language, liturgy, and life of the Church. The classical and historical Christian worship found in many Reformed churches today reminds us weekly from where our language comes. It originated from an early church that believed in the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

The authority of the Bible causes the church to develop habits of gratitude. One way the liturgical church makes this clear is that at the end of every Scripture reading the people respond together by saying, “Thanks be to God.” This is our way of expressing thanks for Sola Scriptura. When our children are nurtured in this environment each Sunday, they have no other option but to contemplate the Bible. The Church’s language ought to be scriptural language. It’s precisely when we abandon the church’s language that the Church abandons the authority of the Bible.

One of the most important studies on why people return to church after years of being away from church was done by Dr. Tom Rhainer. He observed that the main reason people once unchurched came back to church and stayed in the church was not primarily for the music—which by the way, out of the ten reasons, music was #8—but because churches taught the Bible. The second reason people come back to church after not being in church for many years is when churches hold firmly to their convictions. This explains the phenomenon of why mainline churches—that is, historic denominations that no longer believe in the authority of the Bible– are declining rapidly in the last two decades. The Church must proclaim in Word and Sacrament the authority of the Bible. Sola Scriptura must form our language.

Spurgeon once expressed marvel at a pastor who was saturated in the Bible and said:

“Why, this man is a living Bible! Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him.”

Similarly, the Church needs to be bibline; living and singing God’s revelation as a demonstration of submission to God’s inspired Word.

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By In Theology

Biblicism: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

If the modern scholarship is to be believed, Biblicism has died. It has been buried and never shall rise again. In Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible, he argues that Biblicism is not truly an evangelical reading of Scripture. Smith asserts that we cannot expect the Bible to be something it was not intended to be. He defines Biblicism as “A theory about the Bible that emphasizes together its exclusive authority…self-evident meaning, and universal applicability.”

According to Smith, you cannot make coherent statements about texts since this process produces variant forms of interpretations. Therefore, divergence in interpretation and applicability disprove the evangelical assertion that the Bible is true and authority.

Author Rachel Held Evans summarizes Biblicism as “perhaps best reflected in the old adage, ‘God said it, I believe it, that settles it.’” But is this Biblicism? Or is it just another modern attempt to deviate from the orthodox claim to Biblical authority? We ought to be aware of the isms, but has Biblicism been properly understood or too easily dismissed?

Professor John Frame, a philosopher and theologian, argues for a form of Biblicism that avoids the simplification of Smith and Evans. Frame elevates the theological discourse to a more nuanced conversation in his essay, In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism. He concludes:

“Scripture, therefore, must be primary in relation to history, sociology, or any other science. It is Scripture that supplies the norms of these sciences and which governs their   proper starting points, methods, and conclusions.”

While the Bible may suffer at the hands of leaders and laity, proper Biblicism establishes the primacy of the Bible in relation to all other endeavors. Divergence in views will continue until the Second Coming, but only Biblicism properly understood can provide comfort to the Christian interpreter of the first century and today. God has unmistakably spoken in His revelation and what He says is the basis for all reality.

Three Kinds of Biblicisms

Biblicism needs to be distinguished accurately. It seems wise to make a distinction between three forms of Biblicism. Here is the basic outline and perhaps it may be expanded in another article. I propose three types of Biblicism within evangelical theology: 1) Fundamentalist Biblicism (FB), 2) Pietistic Biblicism (PB), and 3) Ecclesiastical Biblicism (EB). (more…)

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