In his book, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die, John Piper asks us to reflects of the following 3 passages of Scripture:
For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:5
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11
If we have died with him, we will also live with him. 2 Timothy 2:11
The way he ties it all together is a wonderful Easter reflection:
“The keys of death were hung on the inside of Christ’s tomb. From the outside, Christ could do many wonderful works, including raising a twelve-year-old girl and two men from the dead—only to die again (Mark 5:41-42; Luke 7:14-15; John 11:43-44). If any were to be raised from the dead, never to die again, Christ would have to die for them, enter the tomb, take the keys, and unlock the door of death from the inside.
The resurrection of Jesus is God’s gift and proof that his death was completely successful in blotting out the sins of his people and removing the wrath of God. You can see this in the word “therefore.” Christ was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him” (Philippians 2:8 -9). From the cross the Son of God cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And by means of the resurrection, God the Father cries, “It was finished indeed!” The great work of paying for our sin and providing our righteousness and satisfying God’s justice was finished in the death of Jesus.
Then, in the grave, he had the right and the power to take the keys of death and open the door for all who come to him by faith. If sin is paid for, and righteousness is provided, and justice is satisfied, nothing can keep Christ or his people in the grave. That’s why Jesus shouts, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).
The Bible rings with the truth that belonging to Jesus means we will be raised from the dead with him. “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Corinthians 6:14).
Here’s the connection between Christ’s death and our resurrection: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Which means, we have all sinned, and the law sentences sinners to everlasting death. But the text continues, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 57). In other words, the demand of the law is met by Jesus’ life and death. Therefore, sins are forgiven. Therefore, the sting of sin is removed. Therefore, those who believe in Christ will not be sentenced to everlasting death, but will “be raised imperishable . . . then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:52, 54). Be astonished, and come to Christ. He invites you: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). “
-John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die, 100-101
Michael Bloomberg, the three-time New York City mayor, is starting a gun advocacy group with a jump-start of $50 million dollars of his own money. His hope is that his investment will make the US a safer place, getting guns out of the hands of the ‘wrong’ people. What’s most telling is this well-reported comment he made about the merits of his contribution:
I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.
Seems like full-on Pelagianism is still alive and well. What would John Piper say to the former New York City mayor? I think this extended quote tells us exactly the approach he would take:
“What a folly it is to think that our good deeds may one day outweigh our bad deeds. It is folly for two reasons.
First, it is not true. Even our good deeds are defective, because we don’t honor God in the way we do them. Do we do our good deeds in joyful dependence on God with a view to making known his supreme worth? Do we fulfill the overarching command to serve people “by the strength that God supplies— in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11)?
What then shall we say in response to God’s word, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23)? I think we shall say nothing. “Whatever the law says it speaks . . . so that every mouth may be stopped” (Romans 3:19). We will say nothing. It is folly to think that our good deeds will outweigh our bad deeds before God.
Without Christ-exalting faith, our deeds will signify nothing but rebellion.
The second reason it is folly to hope in good deeds is that this is not the way God saves. If we are saved from the consequences of our bad deeds, it will not be because they weighed less than our good deeds. It will be because the “record of [our] debt” in heaven has been nailed to the cross of Christ. God has a totally different way of saving sinners than by weighing their deeds. There is no hope in our deeds. There is only hope in the suffering and death of Christ.
There is no salvation by balancing the records. There is only salvation by canceling records. The record of our bad deeds (including our defective good deeds), along with the just penalties that each deserves, must be blotted out—not balanced. This is what Christ suffered and died to accomplish.
The cancellation happened when the record of our deeds was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:13). How was this damning record nailed to the cross? Parchment was not nailed to the cross. Christ was. So Christ became my damning record of bad (and good) deeds. He endured my damnation. He put my salvation on a totally different footing. He is my only hope. And faith in him is my only way to God.”
-John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, 52-53
Here are the most interesting links I’ve stumbled upon over the last two weeks or so:
- Miroslav Volf’s Lecture on Exclusion and Embrace
- 4 Areas of New Testament Studies That You Need to Know
- 100 Free Philosophy Courses
- Alan Strange on Marriage and Family
- David Brooks and James Davison Hunter on the Role of Character in Society
- Lectures and Sermons from Carl F. H. Henry
- Symbols of Christ in the Wilderness- Nick Batzig
In his massive Doctrine of the Christian Life, John M. Frame helpfully highlights a number of ways the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) points us to the Jesus Christ as “the end of the law” (Cf. Rom. 10:4). This is something certainly worth reading meditatively.
If all Scripture testifies of Christ (Luke 24:27; John 5:39), then the law of God surely cannot be an exception. As we study the law, then, we should examine its witness to Christ. I assume that some readers of this book are preparing for Christian ministry. They especially need to know how to use the Decalogue in their preaching and teaching. But all of us need to learn how to see Christ in the law.
The law bears witness to Christ in a number of ways, some of which I shall discuss in the following points.
1. The Decalogue presents the righteousness of Christ. Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s law. That is why he was the perfect lamb of God, why God imputes his active righteousness to us, and why he is the perfect example for the Christian life. He never put any god before his Father. He never worshiped idols or took God’s name in vain. Despite what the Pharisees said, he never violated the Sabbath command. So the Decalogue tells us what Jesus was like. It shows us his perfect character.
2. The Decalogue shows our need of Christ. God’s law convicts us of sin and drives us to Jesus. It shows us who we are, apart from Christ. We are idolaters, blasphemers, Sabbath breakers, and so on.
4. The Decalogue shows us how God wants us to give thanks for Christ. In the Decalogue, as we shall see below, obedience follows redemption. God tells his people that he has brought them out of Egypt. The law is not something they must keep to merit redemption. God has redeemed them. Keeping the law is the way they thank God for salvation freely given. So the Heidelberg Confession expounds the law under the category of gratefulness.
5. Christ is the substance of the law. This point is related to the first, but it is not quite the same. Here I wish to say that Jesus is not only a perfect law keeper, according to his humanity, but also the one we honor and worship, according to his deity, when we keep the law.
(a) The first commandment teaches us to worship Jesus as the one and only Lord, Savior, and mediator (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5).
(b) In the second commandment, Jesus is the one perfect image of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Our devotion to him precludes worship of any other image.
(c) In the third commandment, Jesus is the name of God, that name to which every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10–11; cf. Isa. 45:23).
(d) In the fourth commandment, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. In his presence, we cease our daily duties and hear his voice (Luke 10:38–42). He is Lord of the Sabbath as well (Matt. 12:8), who makes the Sabbath his own Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10).
(e) In the fifth commandment, we honor Jesus, who restores us to the divine family as he submits himself entirely to the will of the Father (John 5:19–24).
(f) In the sixth commandment, we honor him as our life (John 10:10; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4), the Lord of life (Acts 3:15), the one who gave his life that we might live (Mark 10:45).
(g) In the seventh commandment, we honor him as our bridegroom, who gave himself to cleanse us, to make us his pure, spotless bride (Eph. 5:22–33). We love him as no other.
(h) In the eighth commandment, we honor Jesus as the source of our inheritance (Eph. 1:11), as the one who provides everything that his people need in this world and beyond.
(i) In the ninth commandment, we honor him as God’s truth (John 1:17; 14:6), in whom all the promises of God are Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20).
(j) In the tenth commandment, we honor him as our complete sufficiency (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9) to meet both our external needs and the renewed desires of our hearts. In him we can be content with what we have, thankful for his present and future gifts.
For other helpful works expounding a Christ-centered reading of the Ten Commandments, see:
- How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments- Edmund P. Clowney
- Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life- Joachim Douma
- The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses- Vern S. Poythress
Here’s the lecture given by Albert Mohler, President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminar, titled “God’s Lion in London: Charles Spurgeon and the Challenge of the Modern Age,” presented at Reformed Theological Seminary in orlando, Florida on March 10, 2014.
Here is Mohler’s 10 point analysis:
- The modern age (MA) must be accepted as a fact.
- The MA is a challenge to be confronted.
- The MA is a great opportunity.
- The MA is deeply hostile to revelation.
- The MA is subversive to creeds and confessions.
- The MA reveals the simplicity of the Christian gospel.
- The MA requires evangelical definition.
- The MA requires a systematic understanding of revealed truth.
- The MA demands the preaching of the Bible.
- The MA will give way to something else.
As I’ve noted on past occasions, the Reformed apologist and theologian Cornelius Van Til is often represented as a fideist, one that rejects rational and historical evidences for the truth of Christianity. This error has turned away a fair number of apologetics students from taking his work seriously. It’s made him a boogey man of sorts. While it’s true that historical apologetics was neither a strong suite nor a topic of emphasis in Van Til’s work, his statements on the subject are anything but obscure.
Historical apologetics is absolutely necessary and indispensable to point out that Christ arose from the grave, etc. But as long as historical apologetics works on a supposedly neutral basis, it defeats its own purpose. For in that case it virtually grants the validity of the meta- physical assumptions of the unbeliever. So in this case a pragmatist may accept the resurrection of Christ as a fact without accepting the conclusion that Christ is the Son of God. And on his assumptions he is not illogical in doing so. On the contrary, if his basic metaphysical assumption to the effect that all reality is subject to chance is right, he is only consistent if he refuses to conclude from the fact of Christ’s resurrection that he is divine in the orthodox sense of the term. Now, though he is wrong in his metaphysical assumption, and though, rightly interpreted, the resurrection of Christ assuredly proves the divinity of Christ, we must attack the unbeliever in his philosophy of fact, as well as on the question of the actuality of the facts themselves. For on his own metaphysical assumptions, the resurrection of Christ would not prove his divinity at all.
In addition to showing that Christ actually arose from the grave and that the facts recorded in the Scripture are as they are recorded as being, insofar as this can be ascertained by historical research, we must show that the philosophy of fact as held to by Christian the- ism is the only philosophy that can account for the facts. And these two things must be done in conjunction with one another. Historical apologetics becomes genuinely fruitful only if it is conjoined with philosophical apologetics. And the two together will have to begin with Scripture, and argue that unless what Scripture says about itself and all things else of which it speaks is true, nothing is true. Unless God as an absolutely self-conscious person exists, no facts have any meaning. This holds not only for the resurrection of Christ, but for any other fact as well.
-Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 242-243
As always, Van Til is concerned that evidence not be presented as if it were neutral. But this concern doesn’t lead him to reject historical apologetics altogether. Where there are attacks on particular historical claims of the Bible the apologist is charged to take up that cause and defend the faith. We are to demonstrate that objections against Christianity fail. Van Til affirms this strongly. But we shouldn’t stop there. We need to show not only that the objection fails, but also that the worldview assumptions underlying the objection destroy the very possibility of knowledge.
I’ve had several projects on my plate as of late. That’s why I haven’t had much time to post new material. Here are the latest links that I’ve found particularly useful over the past two weeks:
- I am afraid of this indisputable pro-choice argument- Matt Walsh
- Symbols of Christ in the Wilderness- Nick Batzig
- We Won’t Solve Biblical Literacy with Bible Trivia- Marc Cortez
- Is Tim Keller Weak on Wrath?- Tony Reinke
- K. Scott Oliphint speaks on Covenantal Apologetics at ETS
What I’ve been reading:
Description: In his recent book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher From Galilee historian Bart Ehrman explores a claim that resides at the heart of the Christian faith— that Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, God. According to Ehrman, though, this is not what the earliest disciples believed, nor what Jesus claimed about himself. The first response book to this latest challenge to Christianity from Ehrman, How God Became Jesus features the work of five internationally recognized biblical scholars. While subjecting his claims to critical scrutiny, they offer a better, historically informed account of why the Galilean preacher from Nazareth came to be hailed as ‘the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Namely, they contend, the exalted place of Jesus in belief and worship is clearly evident in the earliest Christian sources, shortly following his death, and was not simply the invention of the church centuries later. (From the back cover)
Here’s the newest round of links:
- How Jazz Can Shape Apologetics- Douglas Groothius
- Antitheism Presupposes Theism (And So Does Every Other ‘Ism’)- James Anderson
- Can We Prove the Existence of God?- James Anderson
- Why I Am a Cessationist- Thomas Schreiner
- Why I Am a Continuationist: Sam Storms
- Six Factors that Do Not Affect Inerrancy- C. Michael Patton
- Free Kindle download: 52 Words Every Christian Should Know
I’ve discussed the biblical doctrine of common grace elsewhere, but here are The wise words of Cornelius Van Til on the subject:
Common grace is [God's] favor to sinners by which they are kept from working out to the full the principle of sin within them and thereby are enabled to show some measure of involuntary respect and appreciation for the law of God that speaks to them even through their own constitution, as well as through the facts of the world outside.
-Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 55.
In 2010 Crossway released David VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture. VanDrunen is the Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, CA. In this work, VanDrunen aims to unpack what’s come to be known as Reformed Two Kingdoms Theology (R2K hereafter). Living in God’s Two Kingdoms offers an alternative to the view that’s become quite popular among young Reformed thinkers: Christ is king over all creation and therefore Christians are to influence their cultures for the cause of the gospel. This means, according to what I will refer to as the Kuyperian (or neo-Calvinist) view, that Christians are to aim for distinctively Christian approaches to economics, politics, law. Vandrunen fears this approach to the Christ and culture question will lead to a misapplication of Scripture and a triumphalistic attitude toward non-Christians.
Content. VanDrunen affirms the Lordship of Christ, though R2K theology teaches that God rules over his creation in two distinct, yet complimentary ways. Each of these ways represents a sphere, a kingdom, of God’s providential agency. Early on VanDrunen clearly develops what each kingdom entails and how God has chosen to rule through it. Whether one agrees or disagrees with VanDrunen’s proposal, we should certainly appreciate his clear exposition of a doctrine that hasn’t always been (to my mind, at least) the easiest to pin down.
The Two Kingdoms. The two kingdoms are the common kingdom and the redemptive kingdom, respectively. The redemptive kingdom, VanDrunen explains, was established with the call of Abram in Genesis 15. Its distinguishing characteristics are the establishment of a chosen people who are provided the means through which they can inherit eternal life. Likewise, as God’s people called out of the world, citizens of the redemptive kingdom maintains a spiritual antithesis with the world. The Israel of God is in union with God in Christ, while unbelievers are under the dominion of Satan. In contrast, the common kingdom was established back in Genesis 9 in God’s covenant with Noah. According to R2K theology, cultural development, the family, and the cause of justice mark the common kingdom. This means at least two things: First, the spheres of the family, economics, civil government, and cultural institutions fall under the rubric of the common kingdom. Second, as a part of this kingdom, they will pass away at Christ’s second coming. Third, while the citizens of the redemptive kingdom maintain a spiritual antithesis with unbelievers, they nonetheless share a cultural commonality with them via the common kingdom.
The Cultural Mandate. One of the most central disputes between Kuyperians and proponents of R2K theology is the application of the cultural mandate found in Gen. 1:28 (“Be fruitful and multiply…”). Was this a uniquely Adamic task? Is this something that applies to humanity more generally? According to VanDrunen Adam served as both a king and priest before God. The Fall was the result of Adam’s infidelity to protecting Yahweh’s sacred sanctuary (the Garden) from the intrusion of the (morally and ceremonially) unclean serpent. If Adam had obeyed he and his seed would have been rewarded with the age-to-come and (and this is the hotly debated point) all cultural activity would have ceased. In contradistinction from Adam, Christ in his perfect obedience as king and priest fulfills Adam’s original task on behalf of his people, thus winning the age-to-come for them. Because of Christ’s victory, the cultural mandate does not directly apply to Christians. As VanDrunen puts it:
Redemption does not consist in restoring people to fulfill Adam’s original task, but consists in the Lord Jesus Christ himself fulfilling Adam’s original task once and for all, on our behalf. Thus redemption is not “creation regained” but “re-creation gained.”
Implications. Several implications follow from VanDrunen’s exposition. First, the redemptive kingdom is to be found in the church and in no other cultural institution. ‘Kingdom work” is accomplished in the church and in the church only. From this starting point Vandrunen emphasizes both the spirituality and ministerial authority of the church. The spirituality of the church is specifically anti-nationalistic. Since the redemptive kingdom is comprised of believers from the Church Catholic, no nation can claim to be the “hub.” We aren’t to confuse the common good of our respective countries for the advance of the kingdom of God. Likewise, since the minister of the gospel is not called to be a statesmen, politician, poet, or social activist, his authority is linked solely to the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments. This is merely an application of the regulative principle. The minister’s authority lies in expounding God’s word. If it does not carry the authority of “thus says The Lord” it should not be spoken from the pulpit.
Commendation. As I noted earlier, VanDrunen is an excellent communicator of his position. He not only provides you with his theological conclusions, but also presents you with the scriptural passages that he is persuaded get you there. For Reformed thinkers who are interested in the kind of biblical theology and thinking found in the works of the late Meredith Kline this book certainly speaks your language. And this is a good thing, considering just how much Kline has contributed to Reformed redemptive-historical thinking over the last 50 years.
Likewise, Vandrunen has an excellent discussion of the role of kingly and priestly work of Adam in the Garden of Eden (somewhat building from the thought of G. K. Beale). I don’t agree with all of it (even all of what I wrote above) but he’s provided excellent food for thought. But the thing I appreciate most is his love for the local church and his concern for its purity. This comes out clearly on nearly every page. Again, this is a very good thing. VanDrunen is not leveling a strawman when he warns of the dangers of neo-Calvinism. Often Kuyperians do (functionally, at least) downplay the importance of the local church, along with the ministry of the word and sacrament. This breaks my heart, as I’m sure it does his, though I do not believe this error is inherent in the Kuyperian view. Far from it. All that to say, VanDrunen is right to remind us that whatever position we hold, we must keep the local church front and center in the advance of God’s kingdom work.
Concerns. There are a number of things that concern me about the book’s proposal. I’ll summarize them as 1) misrepresentation, 2) the “new-new creation” view, 3) sources of authority, and 4) a lack of interaction with alternative positions.
Misrepresentation. One thing that aids a reader ‘s comprehension is knowing an author’s audience. Living in God’s Two Kingdom’s is published by Crossway, an evangelical publishing house. While Crossway publishes broadly evangelical works of theology (along with works of devotion and Christian living), over the last 10 years or so it has discernably shifted it gears in catering to what I will call the TGC (The Gospel Coalition) demographic. This point is almost indisputable. This means a large percentage of Crossway readers are Reformed males ranging from the ages of 25-45. I state all of this for this reason: early on Vandrunen links his concerns for Kuyperian/neo-Calvinist theology (what he refers to as ‘transformationalism’) along with his concerns regarding the Emergent Church and the New Perspective on Paul (by which the discerning reader understands as N.T. Wright). But, in truth, there is almost nothing to link these groups other than the shared conviction that there is continuity between this present creation and the New Creation and that our Christian worldview should inform all of life. Outside of these points, linking Kuyperianism with the New Perspective and the Emergent Church (theologies largely perceived as rivals to the TGC demographic) borders on guilt by association. This is unfortunate considering that in the early sections of the book VanDrunen is quite fair in his presentations of neo-Calvinism. But that too is short-lived.
My primary concern with his misrepresentation is in his discussions of the doctrine of justification by faith (central to the thought of the apostle Paul and the theology of the Reformation). VanDrunen rightly links justification to the obedience of Christ as the second Adam (obeying and trusting God where Adam did not trust and disobeyed God). The problem is found when he repeatedly (either directly or by implication) says that the ‘transformationalist’ position that he opposes affirms a kind of salvation/justification by cultural engagement. If this charge seems a bit harsh, I urge my reader to see his comments on pages 28, 46 (twice), 47, 50, 51 (twice), 56-57, 62, 71, 139, 165, and 204-205. This is no mere slip of the pen. Yet it simply cannot be demonstrated that any bona fide neo-Calvinist has ever taught that we achieve our forgiveness and acceptance with God by means of our obedience to the cultural mandate. This is positively inflammatory.
The ‘New-new’ creation. VanDrunen also advocates the view that upon the return of Christ and his exercise of final judgment God will create a new heavens and earth. But before you think to yourself, “Isn’t that what Scripture itself teaches?” you should know that within the Reformed tradition it has been affirmed that the new creation spoken of in Scripture is in fact this present creation liberated from it’s “bondage to decay.” Herman Bavinck—a fountainhead of Reformed theology— says as much (here as well). I will not spend much time dealing with what I think is the biblical alternative to VanDrunen’s position because I’ve address it elsewhere. The position put forward in the book strikes me as confusing the metaphysical and the ethical (a danger Cornelius Van Til frequently warned us about). VanDrunen teaches that if Adam obeyed in the Garden and crushed the head of the serpent upon its challenge to the authority of the word of God, God would have ushered in the new creation. Traditionally it has been affirmed that if Adam obeyed his probation would have ended and his nature would have been fixed or made permanently obedient to the will of God (as redeemed saints will be in the New Creation). But there will not be a “swapping out” of this material world for another ex nihilo creation.
The New Creation will be a renewed creation, purged of the presence of sin and under the righteous and godly rule of God’s redeemed vice-regents.
Sources of authority. While not addressed directly in this work, VanDrunen has defended the R2K view that there are 2 sources of authority, each related to it’s specific kingdom. Natural law governs the common kingdom, while special revelation (specifically Scripture) governs the redemptive kingdom. John Frame has helpfully addressed this subject in his piece Is Natural Revelation Sufficient To Govern Culture?
A lack of interaction with alternative positions. Other than his brief summary of neo-Calvinism early on, there is hardly any critical interaction with neo-Calvinists. Thinkers like Cornelius Plantinga, Albert Wolters, Tim Keller, or Nancy Pearcey are absent from the discussion in VanDrunen’s work. Also, VanDrunen doesn’t interact with alternative exegesis of the passages he references to support R2K theology. This makes his exegesis feel forced when there are perfectly plausible alternative interpretations than the ones he sets forth.
Conclusion. As I’ve noted earlier, David VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms is to be commended as a clear and accessible introduction to Reformed Two Kingdoms Theology. He pulls from Reformed resources and helpfully explains Adams’ role in the Garden and rightly defends justification by faith alone. Finally, he has a passion for the local church and his love is crystal clear. All these things are wonderful and we need more of it.
Sadly I cannot recommend this work as a helpful proposal for the development and implementation of a biblical worldview. It unfairly misrepresents neo-calvinists as advocating a kind of salvation by works, doesn’t engage with rival exegesis or thinkers, and defends a view that teaches that God will replace this present fallen creation with another. It presents a religious version of the sacred/secular split that I reject and can—though to be charitable, it need not necessarily— lead to a theology of cultural disengagement and Christian ghetto-ism.
One of the most helpful works in Christian apologetics on the market is Nathan Busenitz’s Reasons We Believe: 50 Lines of Evidence That Confirm the Christian Faith. In this work he tackles reasons to believe in God, the Bible, and Jesus. The strength of his work is its brevity, or as John Frame puts it in his endorsement, it is both “comprehensive and concise.” Busenitz demonstrates that we can present a compelling case for Christianity without have to present technical, and highly philosophical, arguments (though, of course, I certainly believe there’s a place for that).
Early on in the book Busenitz spells out his approach to presenting evidence for the faith within the Bible’s own framework of thought. I think he’s right on the money. In his introduction he says:
Once we have developed each reason from Scripture, we can then show how extra- Biblical evidence corresponds with, and thereby attests to, what the Bible claims. To be clear, this external evidence does not establish the truthfulness of the Christian faith. If Christianity is true, it is because there really is a God, and He has revealed Himself to us through His Son and in His Word. Nonetheless, external evidence does corroborate the claims of Christianity. Because the God of the Bible is also the God of creation, time, and truth (cf. Psalm 19:1–6; Acts 17:26–28; John 17:17)—the facts of science, history, and logic will necessarily correspond to what the Bible reveals.
Here Busenitz adds the helpful footnote:
This is not to say that science, history, or human reason should be considered of greater or equal authority to the Scriptures. Rather, we are noting that when the Bible is rightly interpreted, and when the facts of science, history, or logic are fully known, the two will not be in contradiction to each other. Rather, the general revelation of the world around us testifies to the truthfulness of the special revelation found in Scripture (cf. Psalm 19:1–11).
So the presentation of evidences “corroborate,” “confirm” and “testify” to the truth already provided in Scripture. They do not act as an independent source of authority. Returning to his line of thought:
Such evidence therefore provides wonderful confirmation for believers, because it bears witness to both the reliability of Scripture and the authenticity of Jesus Christ.
We’ll end with Busenitz’s comments on the relationship of evidence and the role of the Holy Spirit in providing the certainty of Christian conviction.
… Nonetheless, it is the Holy Spirit who ultimately makes the truth of Christianity certain in the hearts of believers (1 Corinthians 2:10–15). He gives us absolute confidence in both God’s Word and God’s Son—assuring us of our salvation and our heavenly hope (Romans 8:14–17)… But when a person becomes a Christian, the ‘assurance’ or ‘certainty’ becomes a reality. Christianity from a ‘morally certain’ standpoint becomes as undeniable as one’s own existence.” For Christians, then, the reasons surveyed in this book only confirm what they already know to be true.
With this approach to evidences, couching them in the Bible’s own “philosophy of fact” (to use Van Til’s term), I would encourage all who are interested in apologetics to pick up this book.
Well, this is exciting. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School has released 4 video lectures by D. A. Carson on the book of Hebrews. I’ve only made it through the first and have greatly benefited.
Right now there are tons of sales are great Christian e-books: Topics range from parenting, theology, preaching, Culture, Bible studies, prayer, and church development and a host of others. Following the arrangement of Tim Challies, they are alphabetically ordered:
- Andrew, Brother - God’s Smuggler ($2.51)
- Anonymous - Embracing Obscurity ($0.99)
- Baucham, Voddie - Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors ($1.99)
- Begg, Alistair & Ferguson, Sinclair - Name Above All Names ($3.99)
- Blomberg, Craig - Jesus and the Gospels ($4.64)
- Bounds, E.M.- The Complete Works on Prayer ($2.99)
- Carson, D.A.- Worship By the Book ($2.99)
- Chandler, Matt - Creature of the Word ($3.71)
- Chapell, Bryan - Praying Backwards ($1.99)
- Chester, Tim & Timmis, Steve - Everyday Church ($1.99)
- Crouch, Andy - Culture Making ($0.99)
- Dever, Mark - The Church ($4.64)
- DeYoung, Kevin - Crazy Busy ($1.99)
- Emlet, Michael- CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet ($2.51)
- Eswine, Zack - Preaching to a Post-Everything World ($3.99)
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Recently a friend from P&R publishing asked me what I thought of John M. Frame’s new Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Here are my thoughts:
“Frame’s ST is a cleansing breath of fresh theological air! I’ve shared this with John before, but I’m always impressed at how much better he gets at streamlining and sharpening his theological ideas to a fine point each time he repeats them. This struck me when DCL was first released. In the opening chapters of the book there’s a decent amount of review of concepts from DKG (written in the mid 1980s) but they were clearer and as a result more cogent and powerfully presented. Well, in ST Frame has done it again! I’m also glad that there are so many more visuals in ST. As both a former student and TA of John’s I can testify to the great help that comes from charts and visual summaries. As John himself would have us recognize, each ST comes from its own perspective. Sometimes these perspectives can hide truths that ought to be seen, but many times they enable the theologian to shed light on the truth they’re writing about. John’s theological acumen, philosophical subtly, and apologetic concerns allow his ST to see things that others miss.”
If you can only pick up a single systematic theology and are looking for clarity, cogency, and profundity this is the book for you!