Can You Believe It’s True?

CanYouBelieve While I disagree with Feinberg in respect to his approach to apologetics (he is evidential, I subscribe to presuppositional), I nonetheless appreciated reading this book. In the post-modern epoch, Feinberg seeks to build a defense in proposal of being able to definitively and qualitatively proclaim truth. Whether we agree on initial premises of apologetic approach, it was nonetheless beneficial for me to understand why he disagrees with presuppositional apologetics, yet also, glean from his understanding of post-modernism and his framework in dealing with the evidences he puts forth.

The book itself stands with much to merit. Feinberg splits the book into three sections, the first being an introduction to modernity and postmodernity. This is truly the point in which I think Feinberg does an excellent job, as he respectively moves through each of these intellectual fields. In this, he highlights both strengths and weaknesses associated with these post-enlightenment ideals, namely demonstrating how post-modernism displays a healthy skepticism of blind appeals to authority, yet on the far other end of the spectrum, casts doubts on the credibility of anything. In this, he rightfully attributes the folly behind the unequivocal, “there is no truth but what is true for you and what is true for me, even if they don’t coincide.”

Once we move beyond this point of the book, he introduces a section devoted to approaching Christian apologetics. While it is clear that Feinberg does not agree with the presuppositional stance, he does note five significant contributions to the field of apologetics.

  1. Everyone has presuppositions and this figures in to our worldview.
  2. The Holy Spirit is needed within apologetics for it to be successful.
  3. Human reason is finite and subjected to the affect of sin.
  4. Scripture does teach that God has been made apparent to everyone.
  5. The strategy of exposing contradictions and demonstrating absurdities in contrary worldviews.

In the third portion of the book, Feinberg moves on to giving defense to particular areas in debate from secular sources:

  • The problem of evil.
  • The reliability of the gospels.
  • The resurrection of Christ.
  • The issue of religious pluralism.

In either case, those looking to read on apologetics will stand to benefit from this section as well.

On the whole, while I disagree on a foundational level – I would recommend reading this book. Feinberg is charitable in his disagreements with presuppositional apologetics and argues winsomely for his case. Yet ultimately, I feel he falls short of the true nature of man in respect to their ability to know truth. If we factor in the ministry of Satan upon the earth to keep unbelievers in their respective blindness, their predisposed, utter inability to understand God in their darkened minds, and the devastating affect sin has upon our intellect, it would seem evident that mankind, apart from the illuminating work of the Spirit, cannot agree even on the relative bodies of Christian truth to their fullness. Instead, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, leaving any evidences for God to be rejected along with the foundational truths of the scriptures.

Though common revelation is given to man on the basis of natural revelation, ultimately, this is only sufficient to condemn. For true agreement to be reached between a non-Christian and Christian, the common basis is found in the root of truth: the God of all truth. If one does not believe in God, the route by which they come to adhere to any Christian truth is not due to intellectual ability or logical deduction – it is revelatory.

While these truths can lead one to accept the probability of there being a god, it does not necessitate that they believe in the One true God. Hence, it is still an under-girded presupposition on the basis of their own intellectual ability and preconceived ways they are able to study/view the world and how it functions. These presuppositions, namely from a darkened soul that does not understand or seek God (Romans 3:11), gird how they view and explain the evidence. Even if consistent agreement is found, it does not indicate that they are any closer to believing it to be evidence for God than when they first started. Apart from the saving grace of God, they cannot come to believe the foundational truths, which lead one to salvation.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page book reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Romans 12:2 Visual Theology

Romans12v2

Finished product is comprised of two layers of 1/2″ compressed maple, inset with 1/8″ clear plexi glass; all layers with direct print to the material.

Verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NASB).

All artwork, concepts, and finished productions are property of Grayson Gilbert. If you are interested in this piece, or any other artwork that I have produced/designed, please feel free to contact me for a quote. You can see all of my designs by clicking on the “Art For Christ” tab above, or visit my Etsy shop for some pieces that I have made available for production.

Hearken, O’ Earth

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face.
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

My Takeaway From the Past 7 Weeks of Seminary

I recently just finished a course at Moody Seminary called “Theology and Practice of Intercultural Ministry” which is a mouthful to describe a class on Missiology, or the study of Missions. I walked away with a lot from the class – but not the content itself. Rather, I found myself disagreeing with much of the content of the assigned reading (the world view of the anthropologist from Oxford, the presuppositions of the Christian with a doctorate in Missiology).

The text from the Oxford grad was quite illuminating in some respects (the text itself dealt with child prostitution in Thailand) by dispelling some of the common myths to the sex trade industry. However, even from the point of observational anthropology – you will undoubtedly catch propositions that reflect the author’s bias. In this, much of the heinous nature of what takes place is relativized in lieu of familial obligation, abject poverty, lack of education, etc.

In the end, this was no sin of the parents who willingly placed their children into prostitution, or of the children who all willingly went into the trade, nor even of the “suitor” who abused the children. In more plain speech, the necessity of the situation removed culpability – and though we would like to blame the “suitor” for having sex with innocent children, the conventional sense of innocence is precluded based on the cultural definition from the particular slum village in discussion. Thus, they did that which was right in their own eyes – and though the anthropologist was no fan of it, they could not pass judgment based on the complexities that arose from their destitute position.

The other book by the Missiologist spoke in great length of the merits to any missionary (or student of missions) to study sociological, psychological, and anthropological sources in conjunction with the scriptures. I believe one of the arguments in particular said this was needed just as much as an understanding of biblical and systematic theologies in order to speak gospel into a culture.

There were some excellent points in regard to utilizing language which would be understood, being a “cultural exegete” so as to understand the particularities of said culture, and the plea for a wealth of biblical knowledge. I wanted to like the book because points like these continually came up in the book – yet again; there was a heavy emphasis on the latter academic principles of sociology, psychology, and anthropology. It is not so much the understanding of these fields that bothered me – but the implementation of secular methodology that has no foundation or interest in the Lord and the scriptures.

Surely, the missiologist loved (and often properly quoted) scripture – yet many of his principles on reaching the unreached were founded upon secular methodology and he reflected nothing that I noted of studying such things with an extremely critical mind. The foundations of each of these fields are respectively built on Darwinian principles, and subsequently, are often antithetically opposed to what is revealed in scripture. This does not shock me in the least. In fact, I expect a mindset that is opposed to the scriptures from one who is not in Christ (just read Romans 1).

The class I was involved with was neatly split down the middle on these issues. Thus, meeting the physical needs of these families in Thailand were tantamount, if not paramount to their need for salvation. Alleviating poverty, educating them, providing jobs, food, and shelter, etc., would allow the church to be able to proclaim the gospel – and would subsequently make it valid.

Surely, James and Paul do not separate one’s faith and works – but do they make affluence and education man’s primary needs before a God whom they are alienated from? How much better is our “Christian Nation” for having an abundance of ease for most everything we have (including welfare, unemployment benefits, social programs, education, etc.)? I am not saying all of these things are bad – I am saying that they do not change the heart and will never possess that ability. The “betterment” of society in erecting these Babel-esk programs provides a means by which we often say, “Nothing is impossible for man!”

So what did I walk away with all of this? Sadly, that the broader church is in desperate need to be reacquainted with the scriptures – and a love for the things which the world declares to be foolish that the word calls the wisdom of God. Many have a sweeping, biblical illiteracy – and do not even seem remotely bothered by it. Many others read the bible year after year only to walk away with a complete misunderstanding of the text. Both of these camps either actively embrace or relativize heresies that the early church condemned, sweeping away doctrinal and theological differences under the rug of “love” because they don’t like division.

If we go to a biblically sound church – that is excellent! However, we often live in the bubble of our local church and relegate the unbelief of scripture to those who are outside of Christ. Far more damaging to the reputation of the Lord are those who claim to be in Christ, having nothing but disdain for what the scriptures teach. They are whitewashed tombs; having no love for Christ, they not only commit deeds deserving of death, but also approve of those who practice them.

The slide into this position is much faster than we all would like to believe – and it starts with a disposition to place the authority of God’s word under the authority of the teaching of men.

Defining the Terms

As originally posted on The Chorus In The Chaos

Modern evangelicalism contains numerous terms that summarize lengthy teachings in order to expedite scholarly work. These terms are incredibly important to our understanding of the framework that others operate under. Rather than developing an argument previously understood, writers are able to use such terms to get to the point of their own thesis.

In seeing these terms upon our study, we ought to implement the common, orthodox usage of them. However, much to the detriment of many laypeople, these terms are often ambiguously understood or used. In some cases, a person may misuse the term entirely, supplanting what they believe it to mean rather than the intended meaning.

In more recent years, we have seen scholars, such as Craig Bloomberg, redefine a term to nuance their own positions. In this specific example, Bloomberg has strayed from the common usage of the term “inerrancy” in order to supplant his own. With this in mind, it is helpful for us not only to understand the common definition given to inerrancy, but also Bloomberg’s position. A helpful place to start would be the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

Once we have developed our understanding of the orthodox view on inerrancy, we can move forward to understanding those whom may use the same terms, but imply something entirely different.

Why is this important?

Why do we need to understand these documents and look to those in the past who have laid such foundations?

Simply put, Christendom has always been subjected to debate over vitally important doctrines. In this, one’s hermeneutic will inevitably “lift the skirt” and expose how they read the text. More plainly, their functional vocabulary will define how they approach and understand the scriptures.

A Dispensationalist will understand the term “covenant” much differently than one who holds to Covenant Theology; a Theonomist will differ greatly in their understanding of scripture’s usage of “Law” than your standard Reformed Covenantalist. A person who holds to Annihilationism will undoubtedly give a different definition to the terms “perish”, “consume”, and so forth.

The inherent issue resides within a presupposition that we define the same terms in the same manner. We might speak with one and both affirm the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, yet if his definition is different than our own – do we both believe the same thing? More importantly, do we arrive within the realm of orthodoxy when studying the scriptures?

If I speak to one more theologically liberal on inerrancy, his functional definition will differ greatly than my own; he might say that the fundamental truths of scripture are without error, but not the text itself. Thus, because of this, we are left to read scripture in a manner that treats the Creation account figuratively, denying the historicity of Adam and Eve as legitimate persons through whom we were sold into bondage to sin. While they may even affirm the sinfulness of man, they stray from orthodoxy and their theology will show this.

In any dialogue we have regarding the faith, we must define the terms. Why is this important? I firmly believe that we should not only know the error of poor teaching, but the route with which they took to arrive. This will further serve to make us aware to an author’s bias, the presuppositions brought with their stance, and help us to navigate well the hermeneutical road so that me may safeguard our own study of the scriptures.

We have the Spirit to guide us in understanding these words, however, we function in an un-glorified state that is subject to deceit, misunderstanding, and willful rejection of the truth. If our task is to be transformed by the constant renewal of our minds, we ought to take utmost care and diligence in the methods we use to study divine writ. We must be vigilant in not only refusing heretical teaching; we must be vigilant in refusing a study methodology that logically leads one to accept such teaching.

We ought to know how to read our bibles in their proper genre, historical background, universal applicability, and even future applicability. We must know when to read scripture literally, and when to treat an allegorical text within that literary function. We need to know how to read wisdom literature, historical narrative, liturgical prose, and imperatival/polemical/instructional literature. If we neglect to do these things, we only serve to misunderstand our obligation as followers of Christ, and will continue to have a poor understanding of a marvelous God who revealed Himself artfully through human languages, histories, and cultures. Yet primarily, we will fail to see how the church is to function in response to the revealed truth of the Lord.

In summation, if we do not understand how to rightly divide the scriptures, we will only continue to navigate a path that goes contrary to the will of the Lord, and may find ourselves in a position of grievous error that we thought we would never land on. Perfect examples of this can be found all throughout the history of the church in the various councils held in order to affirm true orthodoxy, yet condemn heretical twists on non-negotiable theologies. We mustn’t neglect the foundation laid – yet we must also always be aware of scripture’s final, authoritative word over tradition, as the fully inspired word of God.

Too Rightly do the Righteous Trow

A poem in the perspective of the damned

Too rightly do the righteous trow,
bequeathing wisdom, splendor, lo!
And gentle winds shan’t cease to blow,
to usher winter’s wind in tow.

Too rightly do the righteous trow,
rescinding sunlight’s happy flow.
They testify of mankind’s throe;
pronouncing judgment, quid pro quo.

Too rightly do the righteous trow;
their light begets a somber show
and hastens forth – a laden bow,
forgotten truths now to bestow.

Too rightly do the righteous trow,
revealing but another woe!
Our cold, embittered hearts might stow,
if burning weren’t so apropos!

Too rightly do the righteous trow,
unveiling, stop! Now quickly, go!
One mustn’t spoil nor forego
enticement from so long ago.

So brightly do the righteous glow,
too bright for those who undergo;
they quell rebellion even though
relinquished sins once laid Him low.

Shall kingdoms cross without a foe?
Shall paradox dissuade Rousseau,
though false, contrived, pretentious, no?
Do not dissuade them, those below.

You can’t! You shan’t! You won’t! Although,
Perhaps we may persuade them so…
If faintly did our light thus glow,
one might contrive; devise to “know”.

As darkness binds all, to and fro,
devising, scheming, even so –
perchance desire will not slow.
perhaps in wrath, they’ll overflow.

Too rightly did the righteous trow!
Too fiercely do the wicked trow!
For we who love the darkness go;
unto our beds of death, we go.

So now we know; too well we know:
there is no rest for the wicked soul.
There is no rest for the wicked soul.

The First Time We Saw Him

9780801016301Matt Mikalatos sets out with a noble goal in his book, The First Time We Saw Him. The intended purpose of the book appeals to understanding the scriptures with fresh eyes, namely, the eyes we once saw them with at the initial point of salvation. In these early months of receiving the gift of faith, we read with veracity, having scales fall off of our eyes due to the cleansing effect of His word upon our souls.

While he never goes into an in depth description of what discipleship is, Matt aptly points out that discipleship is not simply a body of information that needs dissemination to new converts. Rather, it is modeling this behavior in light of having the correct information from scripture. Thus, it is akin to Paul saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Orthodoxy meets and informs Orthopraxy. Though we don’t know the principles by which Mikalatos informs his understanding of Orthodoxy – this statement is incredibly solid.

His writing is clear and articulates what he desires to within the text. Simply stated, this book is easily accessible to those who have difficulty reading and maintaining focus. However, Matt takes liberty with common parables of scripture by rewriting them. Many convey a similar intended meaning yet ultimately fail to do justice to the text.

One specific example is in respect to the parable of the Good Samaritan. However, instead of the Samaritan being a Samaritan, Mikalatos changes the character to a practicing Muslim. Surely, Matt displays the “Good Samaritan-Muslim” as the one who exhibits compassion upon the needy soul as others whom we would expect to act pass by unflinchingly. However, the context of this parable is in reference to salvation.

Remember, the expert in the law asks Christ, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This parable hinges off of the premise that saving faith is one that understands not only the facts of salvation, but puts them into practice. Matt specifically writes in his dialogue of the parable, “Could the teacher be saying that a man like this is closer to eternal life than a respected pastor or seminary student [who do not respond accordingly]?”

The intended point in this passage is not to diminish a proper understanding of the Law – but that a true understanding of it brings about a heart of compassion. In other words, Matt’s “Muslim Samaritan” is not closer to eternal life, as his beliefs are still damnable. The illustration used asks that if one has poor or false teaching and is still merciful – how might the one who understands what the Law requires reconcile deliberate disobedience to it?

Beyond this, we see Christ portrayed on the cross in the manner of a kicking and struggling, unwilling participant in the crucifixion. This is horribly inadequate and against what scripture teaches. Christ went willingly to the cross, enduring the punishment and despising the shame of it – however, He did so with full intentionality and without complaint, bowing in submission to the Father to accomplish His will.

While Matt aptly highlights some of the costs associated with following Christ, and respectively, not following Him – one of them is not eternal separation. Beyond this, he treats the cost of following Christ without particular clarity. Part of this is obedience to the scriptures, another, losing one’s life (as Piper so eloquently puts it, “picking up the means of your execution and carrying it to the place of execution). Following Christ requires a large cost – yet not following Christ requires a large debt that cannot be satiated by those who are not in Christ. It is more than missing out on a transformed life – it is missing out on restored fellowship to your Creator and subsequently being damned to eternal punishment.

The larger problems in this book are not theological premises, but attitudinal. Namely, Matt never addresses the heart behind one’s lack of desire for scripture and how to read it, nor plainly, the sin in this. What is paraded instead is an appeal to emotion – ultimately implying that there is something wrong with the person who picks up their bible in the morning to be faithful, and doesn’t feel anything when they read it. In other words, when we read the scripture (especially the words of Christ – seemingly, displaying more of the red-letter preference nonsense) we ought to be touched in our hearts every single time.

To be clear – I am not saying that one ought not feel anything in the midst of reading scripture. However, I will emphatically argue that being faithful to dive deeply into the recesses of God’s revelation to mankind is not about getting the fuzzy-duzzies. For an excellent treatment of this, read this link.

The attitude with which one ought to bring to reading the scriptures is not one of sensationalism, but of desiring to know the Lord and His active plan in redemptive history and how that affects those whom are called. Moreover, ask questions like the following (and more): What do the scriptures teach about the condition of man? In what ways is the gospel applicable to my current situation? In what ways do I need to repent? In what ways can I further understand God, His purpose for the church, and His sanctifying work in my life? In what ways do I need to understand how to share this with others? How does this particular passage fit within its context – and how then does it apply to the church? What does the passage teach is the proper response to the truth I am reading? How then, do I practically respond in obedience to the truth that I am confronted with in order to please God?

Overall, I would not recommend this book. Another title I would recommend in its place would be: How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.