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Pauline Theology @ Mt. Pleasant Christian Education Institute

It has been my privilege and joy this week to teach the 10-hour course, A Pauline Theology of the Church, for the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Christian Education Institute, Washington, DC. The students are asking great questions and providing challenging responses to the presentations.

As promised to the students, I am posting the resources below for further study beyond the the course text:

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Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology – with a free study guide (Zondervan)

Thomas Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (IVP Academic)

Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans)

Tom Holland, Paul: Contours of a Pauline Theology (Mentor)

I suggest you start with Horton; read with a small group or class. Advance to Schreiner after Horton. Then read Ridderbos and Holland in any order of preference.

Also, as a follow-up to the brief discussion on same-sex marriage, please consider Justin Taylor’s post, “Gay Marriage: Not Just a Social Revolution but a Cosmological One.

 

Spurgeon’s Standards for Conversion and Membership

From the Reformation 21 blog (and I couldn’t agree more):

POSTED BY JEREMY WALKER
I hope that I will be able at some point to provide a review of Tom Nettles’ excellent volume, Living for Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (pastors and preachers, you need this book, and can get it at Amazon.com,Amazon.co.ukWestminster).

In the meantime, there are a couple of threads from the book that it is profitable to weave together. Spurgeon was adamant that the door to the church be well-guarded, and had a carefully-developed system whereby converts applying for membership were graciously but robustly assessed by elders, himself, and the whole congregation. He did not rush people into professions of faith, baptism and church membership (indeed, he had some distaste for the inquiry room as potentially exerting a pressure beyond that of the Holy Spirit’s work on the heart of a sinner).

At two separate points in the book, Nettles shows how – at times of particular evangelistic endeavour, as well as during the more regular procedures of church life – the saints were encouraged to make a thoughtful and scriptural assessment of a man’s standing with God and prospective relationship with the local church.

With regard to conversion,

counselors of inquirers looked for three pivotal evidences of true conversion. One focused on the nature of the individual’s perception of his sin and dependence on the work of Christ. Did the inquirer seem to have a clear and distinct and abiding sense of the seriousness of his offense toward God, a healthy remorse for that sin, a desire to turn from it and cease such offensive behavior toward God; did he also recognize that God was willing to receive him through the atonement made by Christ and through that alone? Second, did the present determination of the person’s soul indicate a clear intention to live for Christ and overcome the opposing forces of the world; did he feel the urgency of seeing others escape from the wrath to come? Three, with a full knowledge of his own unworthiness and his full dependence on God, did the person have some knowledge of the doctrines of grace and that mercy was the fountain from which his salvation flowed? (310-11)

Then, with a great deal of common ground, here is the expectation for church membership:

Arnold Dallimore’s examination of this book [called the Inquirers {sic} Books, in which interviewing elders recorded their comments] showed that the entire interview process centered on the determination of three things. One, is there clear evidence of dependence on Christ for salvation? This involved a clear and felt knowledge of sin and a deep sense of the necessity of the cross. Two, does the candidate exhibit a noticeable change of character including a desire for pleasing God and a desire for others to believe the gospel? Three, is there some understanding of, with a submission to, the doctrines of grace? The only effective antithesis to merit salvation, in Spurgeon’s view, was a knowledge of utter dependence on divine mercy. (248)

Perhaps, in our day, we are not always sure what we should be looking for in the heart and life of men and women who profess faith in the Lord Jesus. Far too many churches, perhaps feeling the pressure of numbers or some other force, are inclined to drop their standards or blur their distinctions, if they have them in the first place. In the face of that, these standards seem to me to be thoroughly biblical, genuinely gracious, and appropriately robust. They combine doctrinal understanding, experimental religion, and principled obedience – a religion of head, heart and hand, if you will. If more congregations embraced a righteous assessment of this sort with regard to professing converts and applicants for membership, I am persuaded that they would be spiritually healthier places than they too often are.

POSTED JANUARY 9, 2014 @ 6:12 AM BY JEREMY WALKER

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Highly recommended additional resources on church membership:

Clinton Arnold, “EARLY CHURCH CATECHESIS AND NEW CHRISTIANS’ CLASSES IN CONTEMPORARY EVANGELICALISM,” JETS 47/1 (March 2004): 39–54.

Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (Crossway).

J. I. Packer, Taking God Seriously: Vita Things We Need to Know (Crossway). Packer provides the basics we need to teach to every new member who enters the church. This work is very enjoyable and easy to read. Packer’s small work can take the guesswork out of a New Members course.

 

Tim Keller on Influencing Society as a Servant

“If at the very heart of your worldview is a man dying for his enemies, then the way you’re going to win influence in society is through service rather than power and control.” – Tim Keller, King’s Cross, 149 (Italics added.)

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RAAN Father’s Day Giveaway

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On Twitter today, the Reformed African American Network announced their Father’s Day Giveaway Sweepstakes (info below). I am grateful for their ministry.

Last week, concerning Eric Mason’s, Manhood Restored, I posted on Facebook,

If you are looking for a Father’s Day gift that will do more than make dad smell good, dress better, or eat well, get him a copy of Manhood Restored by Eric Mason. Before you say, “He never will read it,” don’t discount the Holy Ghost and give him lest honor than you would give Gold Toe, K&G, Giorgio Armani, or Carolina Kitchen! Get the book for dad and get him off the fence of mediocre manhood – that natural substitute for real manhood. I heard Eric Mason say, “The manliest thing a man can do is worship God.” He is absolutely right: One is not a whole man until he fulfills all his Creator and Savior has designed him to be.

Similarly, of Where Are All the Brothers?, I wrote on Facebook,

If your dad, granddad, uncle, cousin, nephew, son, grandson, brother, husband, or other object of Father’s Day love has not met Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior and Lord, who died for our sins and rose again from the dead victoriously, why only get him another trinket when his soul is in jeopardy this very hour? Where Are All The Brothers? will address objections he has to Jesus and the church and points him to the truth of the Gospel (and many other books will do the same). Celebrate the dads in your life, and help unbelieving dads hear the Gospel. Invite your dad to church on Father’s Day, hook him up with dinner, and talk to him about His soul and Jesus. Be prayerful, bold, courageous, and humble.

 

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Father’s Day Giveaway Sweepstakes

 

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We are partnering with Moody Publishers, Crossway, ESV, and B&H Publishing to bring you the Father’s Day Giveaway Sweepstakes.

Enter for the chance to win:

Grand Prize Winner: Manhood Restored Kit, ESV Bible, Where Are All the Brothers, and It Happens After Prayer.

Approximate retail value of Grand Prize prize is $133, Second Place prize is $100 and Third and Fourth place prizes are $40 each.

HOW TO ENTER

There are many ways to enter. Answer a question (1 entry & mandatory). “Like” or “Follow” RAANetwork (10 entries), the authors of the giveaways (3 entries), or our sponsors (2 entries), on Facebook or Twitter! You can also tweet about it everyday for 5 additional entries per day.

SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY TO YOUR FRIENDS. IF RAAN REACHES 3500 LIKES ON FACEBOOK, WE WILL REVEAL THE 2ND, 3RD AND 4TH PLACE PRIZES.

 

 

 OFFICIAL RULES

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  The Father’s Day Giveaway Sweepstakes (“Sweepstakes”) is sponsored by Crossway, Moody, B&H Publishing, and the Reformed African American Network. The Sweepstakes begins June 7, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. CST, and ends June 15, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. CST.

The Sweepstakes is open to all citizens or permanent residents of the continental United States who are 18 or older, except employees of Sponsors or any other organizations affiliated with the sponsorship, fulfillment, administration, prize support, advertisement or promotion and/or their respective agents, affiliates, subsidiaries, and members of their immediate families or persons residing at the same address.

Facebook is not affiliated with or responsible for any part of this sweepstakes.

Repost from Denny Burk – More on the Poison Pill: Responding to Stanley, McKnight, and Bird

I am reposting this post from Denny Burk’s blog because I think this discussion is very important and needs the widest possible readership.

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More on the Poison Pill: Responding to Stanley, McKnight, and Bird

by  on JUNE 6, 2013 in CHRISTIANITYTHEOLOGY/BIBLE

Last week, I wrote a blog postcritiquing Andy Stanley’s brief remarks about the historicity of Adam and Eve. In short, I concluded that his remarks were a “poison pill” for the doctrine of scripture. Even after Stanleyresponded in the comments underneath that post (herehere,here), I believe that my concerns still stand.

Since then, both Scot McKnight and Michael Bird have suggested that I have erred in my critique of Stanley. Bird says he was “deeply frustrated” by what I wrote while McKnight said my reflections were a “failure to think theologically.”

This has been an interesting exchange, to say the very least. And I hope that carrying it forward will be clarifying and helpful to readers. So I want to respond to each of these in turn and invite further discussion and response. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to read my original post as well as those by McKnight andBird.

Response to Andy Stanley

Stanley’s comments were very brief, but he still tries to clarify his earlier remarksby saying this:

Perhaps the confusion stems from the fact that I was suggesting an approach to talking about “The Bible” in a culture that is no longer moved by “The Bible says.” But I do believe the epicenter of the faith is something that actually happened.

If I understand him correctly, Stanley is saying that he was not articulating a doctrine of scripture but a strategy for engaging people who don’t believe in the Bible. Is he suggesting that we can evangelize people in ways that call into question the reliability and authority of scripture? I cannot imagine a scenario in which it would ever be helpful or right to tell someone that I believe something but “not because the Bible says so.” When trying to convince someone that the Bible’s message is true, why would I tell them that,

The foundation of our faith is not the Scripture. The foundation of our faith is not the infallibility of the Bible… The Scripture is simply a collection of ancient documents.

These kinds of statements do not engender confidence in God’s written word. If anything, they seem to denigrate scripture. I cannot imagine speaking of the Bible like this to anyone, much less to unbelievers.

One final thing: Stanley affirms another commenter who says that “believing in verbal plenary inspiration is not required for being an evangelical.” I wonder if Stanley really meant to communicate that verbal plenary inspiration is a “take-it-or-leave-it” option for evangelicals. If he did, I ardently disagree.

Response to Scot McKnight

McKnight contends that I have a “Word problem” and a “canon problem.” My Word problem is that I have failed to “think theologically about the Bible as the Word, and the Word as Christ.” I am frankly not sure where this critique is coming from. My post says nothing to disaffirm the reality of both the written word and the living word. In fact, I affirm both. My point is simply that we cannot know Jesus apart from special revelation, and that special revelation comes to us as the written word of God. McKnight seems to agree with this when he says that we know what we know about Jesus because “the Everlasting Word Before Time, chose to ‘Word’ the Word into words.”In short, we can only know Jesus through the Bible. Since that’s precisely the point I was making, I’m not sure why McKnight cites this as a disagreement.

My canon problem—according to McKnight—is that I have failed to recognize that Jesus’ authority is both logically and chronologically prior to the existence of the canon. He writes, “So any articulation of our faith that is not first God in his authority before Scripture’s authority makes a fundamental mistake.” Again, I am not sure where McKnight is getting this from. Of course Jesus precedes the canon. He precedes everything (John 1:1-3)! I think we all agree on that. My point is simply that we cannot know this preexistent Christ apart from Scripture, so it’s not helpful to suggest that we might (as Andy Stanley does).

Response to Michael Bird

Bird takes issue with my statement that the Bible is the “foundation” for Christian faith. He believes such a formulation to be a “recent post-Protestant innovation” that assumes a “mass produced Bible-culture” and that ignores the masses of Christians throughout the ages who have not owned Bibles.

But I would argue that Bird has a non sequitur embedded in his critique. To speak of the Bible as “foundation” does not imply that everyone can read or own a Bible. I would say that Christians who followed Athanasius against Arius were standing on a biblical “foundation.” I do not mean by that that every peasant in fourth century North Africa owned a Bible. That’s absurd. I simply mean that the faith that they held derived from scripture, however it was communicated to them (either through preaching, the reading of scripture in church, or any other means of transmission).

As I mentioned in my original post, the “foundation” language drives from scripture itself. On more than one occasion Paul referred to the apostolic message as the “foundation” (1 Cor. 3:10-12Eph. 2:20). If Paul spoke that way, I think we can as well. In that sense, we are on solid ground in calling the Bible the “foundation” for Christian faith. This is hardly “a recent post-Protestant innovation.”

In my original post, I contended that apart from the Bible there is no salvation. Bird thinks that this is “Christologically disastrous” and that this suggests that one can be saved by the Bible apart from Christ. This critique pushes language to the brink. I wonder if Bird would offer the same critique of David’s words in Psalm 19:7“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul.” Wouldn’t Bird’s objection go something like this if applied to Psalm 19? “Surely David had it wrong. The law cannot restore the soul. Shouldn’t David have said that God restores the soul?” If that objection hits wide of the mark with Psalm 19, then I think it does with my statement as well. We can multiply passages of scripture which speak of the message as the means of salvation (Rom. 1:161 Cor. 1:18). Everyone knows that such language never implies that the message operates independently of the One proclaimed in the message.

Bird also turns his critique upon my denomination’s statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BF&M). I hold to this confession without any reservation, and I am happy to defend the BF&M against all-comers. Bird says that he agrees with the 1963 revision of BF&M, which reads, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” Yet this is precisely the section that theological liberals used to pit Jesus against other parts of scripture. The 2000 revision removed that pretext for undermining the authority and integrity of scripture. I wonder if Bird is aware of this history of interpretation of the BF&M.

Bird also objects that the BF&M 2000 “replaces our Deliverer with Doctrine!!” This objection hits wide of the mark as well. The words in question actually refer to the preamble, and not to the confession itself. Anyone reading the confession itself would be hard-pressed to make the case that Jesus somehow gets displaced by “doctrine.” For instance, consider the section on “God the Son” (II.B):

Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

I leave it to the reader to judge whether the BF&M 2000 really “replaces our Deliverer with Doctrine.” I don’t think so.

I am very grateful to Stanley, McKnight, and Bird for taking time to read and interact with my post. These matters are not trivial. The doctrine of scripture is foundational, and at a time when it is so contested it is worth every effort to get it right.

 

Eric C. Redmond:

Screwtape is one of Lewis’s best works.

Originally posted on C.S. Lewis Minute:

Screwtape 2013 TripleTo say that The Screwtape Letters is a popular book by C.S. Lewis would be to make one of the clearest understatements regarding him. It was the first publication that put Lewis on the international radar and even if two different collections of books from the 1950’s (The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity) weren’t released,  this book would have been enough to give him lasting fame.

I bring out this point because today is another anniversary for the publication of the book version (it was first a weekly “blog” in The Guardian prior to this). Interestingly, this month should almost be considered “International Screwtape Month” due to the fact that two other related anniversaries also occur. February 16, 1943 saw an American publisher release the book and then on February 27, 1961 a new edition was released entitled The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast

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Originally posted on Daniel B. Wallace:

There’s an old Italian proverb that warns translators about jumping in to the task: “Traduttori? Traditori!” Translation: “Translators? Traitors!” The English proverb, “Something’s always lost in the translation,” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes. The meaning, on one level, is the same, but on another level it is quite different. Precisely because it is no longer a word-play, the translation doesn’t linger in the mind as much as it does in Italian. There’s always something lost in translation. It’s like saying in French, “don’t eat the fish; it’s poison.” The word ‘fish’ in French is poisson, while the word ‘poison’ is, well, poison. There’s always something lost in translation.

But how much is lost? Here I want to explore…

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Originally posted on Daniel B. Wallace:

Overview

At the annual Society of Biblical Literature conference held in Chicago last month, the latest edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece, or the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, was unveiled. This has been a long time coming—nineteen years to be exact. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) in Münster is behind this production, and deserves accolades for its fine accomplishment. This is the first new edition of the Nestle-Aland text since the death of Kurt Aland, the founder of the INTF.

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Inexplicably, even though the new text was available at SBL—both as just the Greek text and in diglot with English translations—it could not be acquired through Amazon until later. I pre-ordered a couple copies last April; the diglot arrived in November but the Greek-only text will not be released until January!

Several gave presentations on the new Nestle-Aland text at SBL. Klaus Wachtel of INTF gave an…

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Originally posted on C.S. Lewis Minute:

If you paid close attention to my recent contest you noticed the opportunity to get a FREE booklet (PDF) containing the “Best of the C.S. Lewis Minute.” If you didn’t catch how to get that be sure to read below for details about how to get it. Plus, learn more about TWO biographies on C.S. Lewis being released next year by one person (Alister McGrath).

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Eric C. Redmond:

Kristie makes a courageous post

Originally posted on Convinced:

I can still smell his smoke-filled, alcohol-infused breath. I can feel the cactus-like prickles of his beard. One kiss was all he took, but it felt like much more was lost. And it was.

Mr. Piggy, as folks called him, was a scruffy old man, but seemingly harmless. He and his wife owned a makeshift dime store-basically they bought bulk candy and sold it from their kitchen to the neighborhood kids.

I remember the day I skipped down the road, pigtails flying, to buy some candy from Mr. Piggy. Usually there was a gang of us bombarding his back door, spending the change we found under seat cushions or had left over from lunch money. But this day I was alone. As I held out the coins to pay for a Mary Jane and some Dum Dums, Mr. Piggy pulled me to himself, smashed my face into his, and not only…

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