Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dr. John N. Oswalt's New Book

While a professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary, Dr. John Oswalt taught a class that I believe was called "Man, Myth, and History." The class covered the true origins of Scripture, refuting the liberal belief that the ancient Jewish nation developed its God and modeled its Scriptures on the myths and religious practices of surrounding cultures. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to take the class when offered. But now, Dr. Oswalt, who is now a Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, has written a new book covering the material he presented in class. The book is called "The Bible Among The Myths: Unique Revelation Or Just Ancient Literature?" Here is a link to a very positive review of Dr. Oswalt's book on the blog Biblical Foundations which is produced by Dr. Andreas Kostenburger. "The Bible Among The Myths" is published by Zondervan.

Church Signs I Have Seen

The following Church signs have appeared in Monongalia and Preston Counties, West Virginia:

"Need a Miracle? Come on in!"

"You can't make a wrong move doing a good turn."

"Listen, Hear, Believe." (What about obey?)

"Need a Lifeguard? Ours walks on water."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Friday Night Frozen Dinner And An Intellectual: " 'Fundamentalism' And The Word Of God" by J.I. Packer. Part II

I only had time to read chapter three of " 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God" by noted theologian J.I. Packer. This chapter is entitled "Authority."

There are two different types of theological dispute within the Church. One such dispute is between those who accept the authority of Scripture for doctrine and conduct; the argument concerns just what Scripture says. Packer gives us an example of this: Arminianism v. Calvinism. The second dispute is between those who affirm the Bible's authority and those who challenge such authority. The issue of authority is really what the controversy over Fundamentalism is all about, according to Packer.

What choices do the people of God have when determining what shall be the final authority in matters of right and wrong and what is true concerning the Triune God? Packer lists three. Many rely on a combination of Scripture and tradition, or tradition alone. Others believe that human reason is the final arbiter of truth. The correct choice is to rely on Scripture. The reliance on Scripture, a practice that was recovered by the Reformation, has been the Church's practice since the first Christians. Packer does not forbid the use of tradition or reason, but points out that both must be evaluated by Scriptural standards. In the case of tradition, it is impossible not to pass on the faith to the next generation without using tradition as a vehicle for such transmission. Each individual Church has its own history of worship and Church practice that forms the opinions of those who grow up within that tradition. However much we like to cling to what we have been taught by the tradition we grew up in, we cannot let that tradition determine our beliefs and conduct when tradition is in direct violation of Scripture. Some would believe that John Wesley violated this rule because he had a four fold source of authority: Scripture, tradition (Church history up to the present time), reason( rational thinking and sensible interpretation) and experience (a Christians personal, communal experience with Christ). (Albert Outler dubbed this formulation the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.) Yet these four components of Wesley's formulation were not co-equal: Scripture for Wesley was the supreme authority; the other three were aids in interpretation of Scripture.

Packer affirms the practice of the historical Church in affirming the divine authority of the Old Testament. Jesus affirmed its authority as regards to His own doctrine and practice; He fashioned His entire ministry on Old Testament grounds and everything he did was in line with what the Old Testament said about Him. The Apostles preached the authority of Christ based on the Old Testament. The Decalogue, the Ten Commandments were written with God's own finger on the tablet of stone for Moses to deliver to the Israelites; yet all the other Old Testament books written through down physically by men are just as authoritative. Both the Old and New Testaments are organically one, each confirming the other's authority. Not only are the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament authoritative, but the Apostles writings are as well. This became inevitable as the Apostles' writings were used alongside the Old Testament and Christ's teaching in 1st Century Church worship. As the books of the New Testament were acquiring the status as canon, the church was not creating Orthodoxy, but affirming already existing Orthodoxy. Packer states the following:

"For the idea of a 'canon' (a set of authoritative Scriptures functioning as a rule of faith and life) was not a second century invention. It had existed in Christendom from the first, since the Church took over the canonical Jewish Scriptures. And the expectation of a New Testament canon to supplement and complete the Old emerged naturally--indeed inevitably--from the original Christian understanding of Christianity. Christ had bound His Church to live under the authority of the Old Testament, in conjunction with His own teaching and that of the Apostles (which was, after all, no more than His own teaching in its completed form). But if the New revelation was to become law for the Church alongside the old, it needed to be put into a permanent written form, as the Old had been. And if God has caused His earlier, preliminary revelation to be written, then no doubt He would cause His final, crowning revelation to be recorded in writing. If the New Covenant was the completion and fulfillment of the Old, then it was natural to expect from the God who inspired an authoritative account of the one an authoritative account of the other. When there was an Old Testament, recording the first and more obscure stages in saving revelation, it would have been strange indeed had there been no New Testament, proclaiming God's full and final revelation in Christ, to complete and elucidate it. The inner logic of Christianity thus required an apostolic New Testament as a God-given complement to the Old. The fact that the early Church felt this shows that it understood by what principle of authority it ought to live. We should not hesitate to ascribe the process by which it sought and found a New Testament to the providential guidance of the Holy Ghost, nor to receive that New Testament as from the hand of Christ, as God-breathed Scripture, inspired and, together with the Old Testament, authoritative for faith and life."

The key issue in analyzing Biblical authority, according to Packer, is our attitude towards Scripture as we interact with it. Those that reject the Bible's supreme authority in doctrine and practice subject the Bible to human methods and presuppositions. Literary Criticism has been applied to Scripture for a century; Literary Criticism presupposes that the Bible is not what it claims to be. In other words, proponents of Literary Criticism assume that Scripture errs. While Evangelicals must be up to date regarding current Biblical Scholarship, Packer reminds us that they must not forget that the Bible itself must fix and control the methods and presuppositions with which it is studied.

This Friday evening I will read chapter four of Packer's book entitled "Scripture."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Night Frozen Dinner And An Intellectual: " 'Fundamentalism' And The Word Of God" by J. I. Packer. Part I

Last Friday I read the first two chapters of J.I. Packer's 1958 book, " 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God." While it has been fifty years since this book has appeared, it is not irrelevant to the current debate concerning the Bible's authority within the context of personal faith and doctrinal orthodoxy. In 1958, Packer was dealing with criticisms of the Evangelical faith from those who opposed Evangelicalism. Today, some of the same criticisms are being leveled against Evangelicalism by those who claim to be within the Evangelical camp.

At first Packer does not distinguish between the terms Evangelical and Fundamentalist because critics of Evangelicals consider the two terms synonymous. Packer lists the incomplete definitions the critics use to define Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism. Some define the terms to refer to a particular view of the Bible's origins, others think they refer exclusively to Biblical inerrancy, while others believe they refer to a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture. While critics cannot agree on a precise definition, they all agree that Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism as a theological stance is untenable in the light of modern scholarship; that it is anti-intellectual and authoritarian. The critics refer to it as a recent phenomenon, a product of twentieth century reaction to modern scholarship concerning Scripture. Actually, according to Packer, it is to be considered as a legitimate continuation of the Church's expression of the Christian message. Later, Packer does distinguish between the two terms when he explains why British Evangelicals have always resisted being referred to as Fundamentalists. Packer makes a convincing case for Christians to avoid using the term fundamentalist when referring to themselves; evangelical should be our label of choice.

The real issue between Evangelicals and its critics is the question of Biblical authority, states Packer:

"We shall maintain that Jesus Christ constituted Christianity a religion of biblical authority. He is the Church's Lord and teacher; and He teaches His people by His Spirit through His written Word...We shall argue that subjection to the authority of Christ involves subjection to the authority of Scripture. Anything short of unconditional submission to Scripture, therefore, is a kind of impenitence; any view that subjects the written Word of God to the opinions and pronouncements of men involves unbelief and disloyalty to Christ...Evangelicalism, however, seeking as it does to acknowledge in all things the supremacy of Scripture , is in principle Christianity at its purest and truest."

I had hoped to be a bit more detailed in this review, however my computer is acting rather slow today. Tonight I will read the next two chapters, "Authority" and "Scripture", which will require me to begin reading earlier than usual on Friday evenings.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Video: "The Signature In The Cell" by Stephen Meyer

Here is a video of a lecture given by Dr. Stephen Meyer at The Heritage Foundation. This lecture took place as Meyer's new book, "The Signature in the Cell" hit the bookstores. Meyer provides evidence that the digital code within cells is a convincing proof of Intelligent Design. Dr. Meyer wrote a peer reviewed article featuring evidence for Intelligent Design. The article appeared in the magazine "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington", a journal published by the Biological Society of Washington. Its appearance outraged the vanguard of Darwinian Orthodoxy within the Scientific community. The editor who permitted its publication, Dr. Richard Sternberg, came under fire. Some of Sternberg's colleagues at the Smithsonian Institute along with certain officers of the National Center for Science Education attempted to discredit Sternberg and damage his career. This is documented in Ben Stein's movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." For more detailed evidence, here is a link to a government report and an appendix published by the U.S. House of Representative's Oversight Committee under the direction of Congressman Mark Souder. See the links section of this blog for the series that this blog published last October, "Exposing ExpelledExposed", or link here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pro-Life News

Here are some links to recent new items concerning pro life issues:

A Catholic nurse was ordered to assist in a late term abortion despite the hospital's knowledge of her religious objections to abortion. She was threatened with disciplinary procedures being taken against her, which included a possible job termination, if she did not participate. At first the nurse was informed that the procedure was an emergency, however, that later turned out to be false. Hospitals currently receiving Federal funds are prohibited from forcing employees from engaging in medical practices that violate their consciences. This prohibition could be nullified by the health care legislation currently being debated in Congress. Britain has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe. Yet that hasn't stopped the British government from issuing a statement to that nation's teens encouraging them to engage in frequent sexual activity for their own health. These statements of course neglect to mention all the health risks associated with risky sexual practices and of course the current government in Britain is pro-abortion. In Oregon, elderly patients with severe medical conditions are being denied treatment under the State's health care coverage. Yet the State informs these same patients that if they choose to end their life through assisted suicide, then the State will gladly pay for that. A new product is on the market in drugstores that allows parents to determine the sex of an unborn child after 10 weeks of pregnancy. Pro-life advocates worry that these devises could lead to sex selective abortions; if a parent does not want a girl for fear a girl would be more of a drain on the family finances, they could choose to abort the child if the test confirms that the child is a girl. Walter Hoye is an African American who became an active participant in the pro-life movement because of abortion' s toll on the African American community. He was recently arrested outside an abortion clinic. Here is a blog post analyzing two news stories covering his arrest.

New Technology now permits the scanning of unborn children so that life size models of these children can be produced and presented to the child's mother. This allows mothers to see that the child they are carrying is not just a blob of tissue. Here is a link to a newspaper story on research concluding that fetuses have memories. Here is a blog post encouraging the pro-life community to reach out to foster children to bring stability to their lives and assist them in choosing not to engage in pre-marital sex. High rates of sexual activity exist among foster children. A blogger recently was invited to speak to his daughter's second grade class. He repeats the pro-life lesson he gave to the class.

Finally, here is a story on a disabled member of the British Parliament opposing legislation that would allow the ill to be transported to Switzerland to undergo assisted suicide with no legal repercussions for those who participate in the transportation. The bill was later defeated.