Thursday, December 18, 2008

For the love of free software

The Tyndale Tech is an invaluable place to bookmark if you're into research and stuff. Posts are few and far between, but every one of them is worth waiting for. The latest one is on New Essential Research Tools. Here's a snippet:
With the following free software you can:
* access your work on any computer, and write it at the same time as a colleague
* never lose your work - automatically save to the internet every few seconds
* never ruin your work - previous versions of a document are always available
* add library catalog entries to your bibliography automatically, in your chosen style
* attach notes to a book or article which you can search and find later
* copy web pages or articles or documents which you can search later
* search videos from many sources (like YouTube) and save them (increasingly important!)
* copy pages from online books and save them as searchable documents
* save photocopies online and search them as though they were text documents

While you're there, you might want to download the Tyndale toolbar.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A bundle of books

Win a bundle off of Trevin Wax. As in $260 worth of books (and that's not even exponentialised into Canadian dollars). And yes, my main motive in posting this is to increase my chances of winning. But wait, if all you go and sign up, then I've decreased my chances. This is when I'm glad my blog has such a small readership I guess!

While I'm at it, you can also enter to win Dandelion Fire at N.D. Wilson's blog, and two great Children's Bibles at Abraham Piper's blog.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The church as family

Alan Knox asks the question, "What would happen if your family acted like a church?" Maybe something like this?

Two young men walked in the den where grandma was watching her "stories". They shuffled their feet, made small talk, but finally got down to business.

"Grandma, we've all talked about it, and we don't think you're doing your job the way you once did - the way we need you to," the first man started.

"What do you mean, son?" the older lady asked, trying to see the TV around the two men.

"Well, you can't cook or clean anymore. You don't tell us stories of the old days. We haven't heard any wisdom from you in a long time. You usually just watch television and sleep. We're going to have to let you go," the second man said.

Grandma hung her head. "I realize that I'm getting older and can't carry out my duties that I once did. Will you at least give me a few weeks to find a new family?"

"We'll give you two weeks and a good recommendation. I'm sure that God is calling you to a good older family out there somewhere," her son said.

Read the whole thing. Of course, the question is not meant to drive us from church, but to drive us (the church), to Christ.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The best Bible commentary series of them all

Which is it? Baker's?

No. Then surely the New International series.

Not even. How bout the Pillar series?

Close. But THE BEST commentary series on the Bible of them all is....

...The Chronicles of Narnia. Buy them. Read them. Read them to yourself, read them to your spouse. Read them to your kids, read them to your parents. They're so good that even grown-ups will be able to understand the Bible!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hebrew for the rest of us

The happiest part of my day was learning that the companion to Mounce's Greek for the Rest of Us has been written. I've been hoping someone would write this for five years. Well, Lee Fields has now done it: Hebrew for the Rest of Us. Thank you Mr. Fields, and thank you Zondervan. This could be a $20 birthday (or Christmas) present that would provoke me to a $200 smile, for those family members of mine who are listening... :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sermonic ironies

Just helped my neighbour get his keys out of his locked-up car, and get his car out of the snow. And now he's coming to church this Sunday. Which is funny because I was somewhat reluctant to help what with all the sermon prep I was engaged in. That said, I hope my Sunday sermon is as good as my Friday night one.

More Dawkins and Lennox

Michael Bird recounts hearing a lecture by John Lennox, sitting down to a meal with the man, and provides us an interesting portion of a Dawkins interview.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Road trip top 5

Just got an email asking how the Bible conference went last weekend in Saskatoon. Here's my top five highlights:

1. Seeing how God had raised a friend's marriage from the grave.
2. Talking with an old hippie-turned-Christian.
3. Watching the above man's eyes fill with tears when he recalled what Jesus Christ crucified meant to him.
4. The comradeship of travelling and hanging out with two great buddies of mine.
5. Seeing a billboard in Saskatoon on which a wife says: "I kissed my husband and I loved it!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pray for the unborn in North America

I'm not under any disillusionment that my teeny space on the web here will influence American voters. But it can influence a handful of people to pray, and prayer (and fasting) is what we need at this point. I'm not going to tell people what to pray for, just what to pray about. Pray about the future of the unborn in America. We are weeks away from seeing a pro-abortion individual of the most reckless kind entering into one of the most powerful positions in the world. If you don't believe me read Robert George's latest essay: Obama's Abortion Extremism. If you want to read a succinct summary of the essay, read Justin Taylor's.

A few quotes, just to wreck your appetite:
Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.
It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos.
What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama’s America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the laws. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: “that question is above my pay grade.” It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator’s pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy—and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.

New online Bible study resource

There's a great website dedicated to biblical arcing. Arcing is a helpful strategy for determining an author's flow of thought. Biblical arcing helps us do what many commentators (and preachers!) fail at: following a biblical author's flow of thought.

John Piper has a very useful booklet explaining the process or arcing. I would encourage all serious readers of the Bible to download it for free and use it.

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The ocean in a nut-shell

In an effort to please C.S. Lewis, who instructed us to avoid "chronological snubbery", I've been reading some 18th century Jonathan Edwards sermons. Talk about a different world and a different language, but also an older world. Or a younger one--you know what I mean. Edwards knew God and experienced God; and he preached God.

Here are some lines that hit me from his sermon on Psalm 46.10.
What are we? and what do we make of ourselves, when we expect that God and his ways should be upon a level with our understandings? We are infinitely unequal to any such thing, as comprehending God. We may less unreasonably expect that a nut-shell should contain the ocean: Job xi. 7. "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." If we were sensible of the distance which there is between God and us, we should see the reasonableness of that interrogation of the apostle, Romans ix. 20. "Who are thou, O man, that replies against God?"
The sermon ends with even less foolin' around:
You shall consider it; you shall know it; God will make all men to know that he is God. You shall either know it for your good here, or to your cost hereafter.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Media chuckle

A lesson that can never be remembered often enough: read the media with a well-tuned baloney detector. Here are two (more) reasons why.

Roger Bolton writes a piece about Codex Sinaiticus. Sample:
For those who believe the Bible is the inerrant, unaltered word of God, there will be some very uncomfortable questions to answer.

Dirk Jongkind (the guy who wrote the book) responds. Sample:
What can we say about this article? It took me till the seventh paragraph before I found a paragraph without a factual mistake (oops Roger Bolton, this is even for sensationalist journalism rather poor).

Then there's the U.S. veep debate between Biden and Palin. The media were quick to record Biden's factual superiority of the two. But see the pieces by Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg (HT Douglas Groothuis), remembering that the point here is not about the potential veeps themselves, but rather the majority in the mainstream media who were so impressed with Biden's command of the "facts".

[Jongkind also responds to Bolton's BBC programme.]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Piper preaching through John's Gospel

The first message is up. John Piper gives his reasons for preaching this series here. I missed his massive series through Romans, but I'm anticipating following along through John.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Apologies aren't supposed to be THIS embarrassing

So in the ultimate load of hooey, the Church of England is going to issue an apology to Charles Darwin! Doug Wilson has a good article on just how hooetical it is. Apologies are supposed to be embarrassing because of what they reveal about past actions, not present ones, no?

My notes from Lennox's book on the whole Galileo / RC Church thing are here. Scroll down.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anti-theft sandwich bags

I wish I would have thought of this....It's a sandwich bag that deters thieves. The question is, come 12:00, would it also deter me?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Power on behalf of the over-powered

I'm finding James Edwards' commentary on Mark's Gospel to be excellent. Here is what he has to say in conclusion to Mark 1.21-28, Mark's narrative of Jesus' authority on display in the synagogue in Capernaum:
The initial report about Jesus from the synagogue in Capernaum is not simply of a victory of the Holy One of God over bent and evil forces, as though two chess players were manipulating pawns on the board for their own advantage. Jesus' defeat of the “strong man” (Mark 3.27) is not at the expense of Satan's victims but on their behalf. Not only are unclean spirits expelled, but broken people are restored to health and wholeness and to the possibility of restoration with their Creator, in whose image they are made. The exousia [Greek, means 'authority', 'power'] of Jesus is astonishing not as a display of Jesus' grandeur but as a power of redemption for captives.
I think the Evangelist Peter would be happy with Edwards' concluding statements. They seem to be in agreement with Peter's own attempt to summarize much of the life of Christ:
...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10.38)

More Lennox resources

A friend emailed me, pointing me to some more resources from John Lennox. The site claims to be dedicated to growing its current offerings. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A provocative post on grammar

I never knew, until now, that it was possible to write provocatively on grammar. Abraham Piper has managed to do it. Here's where it all started, and hear's where it all ended up.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Fed-Ex delivery guy of the cell

[This is a guest post by my friend Margaret. She wrote this for Love for Truth at my request.]


I have an enormous respect for scientists. Some of them have changed the way we live. Witness the computer. Others have changed the way we view the universe.

Still others have changed the way we view life. New discoveries revealing the complexity of life’s simplest forms are being made continually. And universities are very generous in making these discoveries available to the public, at no cost except a click of the mouse.

Harvard has a site called BioVisions which contains a short, animated movie called "The Inner Life of the Cell". It took a team of animators 14 months to make this 8 minute movie. [BTW, the Wikipedia entry on “The Inner Life of the Cell” has some links at the end of the article. One is the 8-minute animation; another is David Bolinsky’s speech when he introduced the movie.]

Bolinsky describes the cell’s protein micro-machines as “the envy of nano-technologists the world over.” And I love the motor protein which he calls the “Fed-Ex delivery guy” of the cell.

Bolinsky is fascinated by “truth and beauty” in the arts and sciences. He describes these as “awful things, meaning they are things you can worship.” This does not suggest that he believes in God; but it does mean that the things he is talking about are not trivial.

I do not believe in God because of these things. But such things do suggest that belief in an intelligent Creator is a perfectly rational conclusion, based – not on ignorance – but on valid evidence.


MJK's note: The link provided above for "The Inner Life of the Cell" is the high speed version. Those with slower or faster web connections can view either of the following: slow speed version; super speed version. Also, for a shorter, non-narrated viewing, go here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The atheistic Faith

It can be hard getting atheists to own up to the role faith plays in the formation of their own materialistic worldview (witness the comments section in this post). Yet Paul Giem makes the case convincingly in the origin of life context:
But it is heavily faith-based. We have no experimental evidence for this belief, and the theoretical problems appear insoluble. We have here belief against all the evidence, analogous to the most daring leaps of religious faith imaginable, that is to say, faith not only without evidence but in the teeth of evidence. And it is even worse; there is no appeal to a God Who could reasonably do the feat that needs explaining. It is a miracle without God (my emphasis).
Read the whole thing.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Some random links

First, flies escaping death in slow-mo.

Second: This is rich. A prosperity praise parody.

Third: My brothers are being killed in India. If you pray, please pray.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

God's Undertaker - Reduction, Reduction, Reduction


The God of the gaps

It doesn't take long in discussions like these for the phrase “God of the gaps” to be mentioned. “This is the idea that the introduction of a god or God is an evidence of intellectual laziness: we cannot explain something scientifically and so we introduce 'God' to cover our ignorance” (p.46). But in the previous chapter's example of Mr. Ford's car, we do not use Mr. Ford to plug in the gaps of our understanding of internal combustion engines. He does not make it into even a footnote of an explanation as to how the engine works, but he does receive credit in an explanation of how the engine came to be in the first place.

So with God. Richard Swinburne:
Note that I am not postulating a 'God of the gaps', a god merely to explain the things that science has not yet explained. I am postulating a God to explain why science explains; I do not deny that science explains, but I postulate God to explain why science explains. The very success of science in showing us how deeply ordered the natural world is provides strong grounds for believing that there is an even deeper cause for that order (p.47).
Lennox continues:
The point to grasp here is that, because God is not an alternative to science as an explanation, he is not to be understood merely as a God of the gaps. On the contrary, he is the ground of all explanation...It is important to stress this because influential authors such as Richard Dawkins will insist on conceiving of God as an explanatory alternative to science—an idea that is nowhere to be found in theological reflection of any depth (p.47).
De-deifying the universe – the very first scientists

An ancient hears thunder and ascribes it to some god stirring himself in the heavens. That kind of thinking is not going to lead to scientific discovery, and so, for science to progress, the universe had to be de-deified.

Xenophanes was not content with the popular mythological explanations of his day (c. 570-478 BC). Noting the tendency of people to make gods in their own image, he commented: “If cows and horses or lions had hands and could draw, then horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, cows like cows, making their bodies similar to the shape of their own” (p.48). Such criticisms led to the advancement of science.

Lennox notes that Xenophanes wasn't the first to “criticize the polytheistic view”. Centuries before him, “Moses had warned against worshipping “other gods, bowing down to them, or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky” (Deuteronomy 17.3). So also had the later prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 8.2). Now here's the striking thing: These Hebrew prophets, in their praiseworthy zeal to suppress the deification of nature, did not jump “to the conclusion that getting rid of gods either necessitate[d] or [was] the same as getting rid of God” (p.49).

The critical thing to grasp here is that, in contrast to the Greeks, whose gods lay inside of the world, the Hebrews understood God to be outside and independent of the world. Those Greek philosophers who pushed the gods out of nature are applauded for their insight, but the Hebrews were ahead of them from the first. The Hebrews didn't need a champion to free them from intellectual enslavement to the concept of gods in nature; they had never allowed nature to be defied in the first place. Thus, for “Moses and the Prophets it was absurd to bow down to various bits of the universe...But they regarded it as equally absurd not to believe in and bow down to the Creator God who made both the universe and them” (p.49).

Neither did Xenophanes lump God with gods. Despite the polytheistic culture that surrounded him he wrote: “There is one God...similar to mortals neither in shape nor in thought...remote and effortless he governs all there is” (p.49-50).

So the relationship between the divine and nature can be conceived of in two ways: (1) Nature is made into gods, or (2) God made nature. The first is an obvious science-stopper. When you find something you don't understand in nature, all you've got to do is make nature into a god and voila! The inquiry can stop.

Does the second understanding of God and nature also hinder science? Not at all. Because in the second understanding, the divine is kept outside of nature, which means that the divine can not be brought in as an explanation of a mechanism within nature. It is the difference between believing a Mr. Ford built the car engine and believing a Mr. Ford is the car engine—or some part of it. And here Thomas Aquinas is of some help to us. Aquinas realized that there could be various levels of causation. “He regarded God as the First Cause—the ultimate cause of all things. God directly caused the universe to exist and it was thus dependent on him” (p.50). Let's call this direct causation. But then Aquinas also recognized “a second level of causation...that operated within the universe. This consisted in the cause-effect web that is spun out of the vast interlocking and interdependent system that is the universe. Thus, the fact that explanations of secondary causation can be given in terms of laws and mechanisms does not imply the non-existence of the Creator on which the very existence of the cause-effect web depends” (p.50). This means that when confronted with a problem at the second level—the level of why the piston moves, for instance—we are not allowed to introduce first level solutions—like Mr. Ford or God.

Lennox finishes this part of the chapter with a warning:
Perhaps there is a subtle danger today that, in their desire to eliminate the concept of a Creator completely, some scientists and philosophers have been led, albeit unwittingly, to re-deify the universe by endowing matter and energy with creative powers that they cannot be convincingly shown to possess. Banishing the One Creator God they would then end up with what has been described as the ultimate in polytheism—a universe in which every particle has god-like capacities (p.50).

Methodological reductionism. Explaining something by breaking the problem “up into separate parts or aspects, and thus 'reduce' it to simpler components that are individually easier to investigate” (p.51).

Lennox discusses this in the light of mathematics. Mathematics has succeeded in reducing very complex phenomena like the elliptical orbit of planets around the sun into simple, elegant equations. However, as Godet proved in his First and Second Incompleteness Theorems, there is a limit to how far the whole can be reduced to parts. As Freeman Dyson said, “Godet proved that in mathematics the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts” (p.52). Therefore Peter Atkins is wrong to say that “the only grounds for supposing that reductionism will fail are pessimism in the minds of the scientists and fear in the minds of the religious.”

Epistemological reductionism.
The view that higher level phenomena can be explained by processes at a lower level. The strong epistemological reductionist thesis is that such 'bottom-up' explanations can always be achieved without remainder. That is, chemistry can ultimately be explained by physics; biochemistry by chemistry; biology by biochemistry; psychology by biology; sociology by brain science; and theology by sociology (p.53).
Richard Dawkins holds this view: “My task is to explain elephants, and the world of complex things, in terms of the simple things that physicists either understand, or are working on” (p.53).

Basically, Lennox says “the ultimate goal of such reductionism is evidently to reduce all human behaviour—our likes and dislikes, the entire mental landscape of our lives—to physics.” But there's a problem: “There is almost always an unresolved residue left by even the most successful attempts at reduction” (quoting Karl Popper, p.53).

Lennox explains why this is so using an illustration of words on the page of a book. The significance of the letters and words on the page cannot be explained by the physics and chemistry of the ink that formed them, or of the paper they're formed on. Even with language itself, “you cannot derive a vocabulary from phonetics, or the grammar of a language from its vocabulary” (p.54).

If this is true of information on paper, it is equally true of genetic information encoded in DNA.

Ontological reductionism. Closely related to epistemological reductionism.
A classic example of it is given by Richard Dawkins: 'The universe is nothing but a collection of atoms in motion, human beings are simply machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object's sole reason for living' (p.55).
Lennox points out that “the words 'nothing but', 'sole', or 'simply', are the tell-tale signature of ontological reductionist thinking. If we remove these words we are usually left with something unobjectionable'.

Ontological reductionism leads to saying the type of things Francis Crick says:
You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules (p.55).

Thankfully, ontological reductionism is self-defeating. John Polkinghorne:
If Crick's thesis is true we could never know it. For, not only does it relegate our experiences of beauty, moral obligation, and religious encounter to the epiphenomenal scrap-heap. It also destroys rationality. Thought is replaced by electrochemical neural events. Two such events cannot confront each other in rational discourse. They are neither right nor wrong. They simply happen...The very assertions of the reductionist himself are nothing but blips in the neural network of his brain. The world of rational discourse dissolves into the absurd chatter of firing synapses. Quite frankly, that cannot be right and none of us believes it to be so (p.56).

This reminds us of Darwin's doubt:
With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy (p.56).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Commentary giveaway!

Now that I have your attention, Logos is offering the Matthew-Mark volume of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary for FREE. David Turner comments on Matthew; Darrell Bock on Mark. I'm not familiar with Turner, but I am with Bock, and, based on his tremendous two-volume commentary on Luke's gospel, I heartily commend this free download to you.

Note that this download is for you even if you're not running Libronix on your computer. See the link for details.

Also, Doug Wilson has a review of Logos Bible Software Scholar's Edition. His conclusion:
This really is a stupendous product. Logos Bible Software is one of the reasons why God included superlatives in His gift of language.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Young men -- weigh in here for a while

There are four types of women in the world:
  1. Those who are high maintenance and it shows;
  2. Those who are high maintenance and it doesn't show;
  3. Those who are low maintenance and it shows;
  4. Those who are low maintenance and it doesn't show.
Question for the meta: which type of woman is most desirable?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Flooding in Ukraine

My last post for the night: Malcolm Stanley reports on flooding in Ukraine in the Lviv and Ivano Frankivsk area (which we visited last fall). Please pray.

Red River Raycer

The Red River Raycer has finished in 9th place in the 2008 North American Solar Challenge. It's a great looking car and a great looking finish. I'm mighty proud of my old college, and, in particular, its Mechanical Technology Department.

Ezekiel, Calvary, the Tomb, and the ESV Study Bible

Three interviews:
What Did Calvary Look Like? An Interview with Leen Ritmeyer (Part 1)
What Did Jesus' Tomb Look Like? An Interview with Leen Ritmeyer (Part 2)
Interview with David Reimer on Ezekiel in the ESVSB

See the ESVSB's website.

Some complementary links

Andy Naselli has an interesting interview with Andreas Kostenberger on his views on 1 Timothy 2.12 and women's roles in the church. Elsewhere, John Koessler writes
While I am not ashamed of complementarian theology, I am sometimes ashamed of complementarians.
I'm fairly confident that Kostenberger is not one of those complementarians.

Lennox versus Hitchens

First he debated Richard Dawkins. Now John Lennox will square off with Christopher Hitchens. I have no doubt that Lennox will be up to the challenge. The question is, will Hitchens. It is for him we must pray.

HT: David Reimer

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We are more than conquerors

Some great quotes I came across recently in preparing a couple messages interacting with positive thinking.

On Romans 5.1-11

Douglas Moo

Sufferings, rather than threatening or weakening our hope, as we might expect to be the case, will, instead, increase our certainty in that hope. Hope, like a muscle, will not be strong if it goes unused. (Romans commentary, p.303)

On Romans 8.35-38


Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God's wisdom turneth their plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really no one is against us! (Moo p.539)

John Stott

Our confidence is not in our love for him, which is frail, fickle and faltering, but in his love for us, which is steadfast, faithful and persevering. The doctrine of 'the perseverance of the saints' needs to be re-named. It is the doctrine of the perseverance of God with the saints. (The Message of Romans, 259-60)

2 Corinthians 4.17

John Piper

Affliction raised his sword to cut off the head of Paul's faith. But instead the hand of faith snatched the arm of affliction and forced it to cut off part of Paul's worldliness. Affliction is made the servant of godliness and humility and love. Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. The enemy became Paul's slave and worked for him an even greater weight of glory than he would have ever had without the fight. In that way Paul—and every follower of Christ—is more than a conqueror. (Don't Waste Your Life, p.97)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Every Christian a Bible scholar; every scholar a Bible-lover

Dave Black puts in a plug for Erasmus, which, as it turns out, is also a plug for reading the Bible (especially in Greek and Hebrew). Here's Erasmus:
“I am now eager, dear Colet, to approach sacred literature full sail, full gallop; I have an extreme distaste for anything that distracts me from it, or even delays me…. Hereafter I intend to address myself to the Scriptures and to spend the rest of my life upon them.”

BTW, I recently listened to a message by Mark Driscoll that really encouraged me in the same way. That is, to read the Bible for myself, to read it lots, and to read it to find Jesus. He disclosed the six practical questions he asks of a text. I'm already working on adopting them for myself:
  1. What does the Bible say in this passage?
  2. What does this passage mean?
  3. What is the hook in the passage?
  4. Where is the resistance to this passage? (the apologetical question)
  5. What is the significance of this passage (to me, to my family, to my church, to my city)?
  6. Where is Jesus in this passage?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A backlog of links

Download Jonathan Edwards' The Religious Affections for FREE!

John Piper has an excellent article entitled Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Pain.

Scientists beware: the PC police do not like the term 'black hole'. (HT Denyse O'Leary)

A little exercise for young theologians: don't sing too loud when you're going through theological puberty. (While I might add a few qualifications to it, this post offers some wise advise to younger bloggers, writers and preachers like me.)

Actually, Doug Wilson has a number of books out/coming out in response to the evangelists of atheism.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

In print to online, and online to in print

Books by David Gooding and John Lennox are available online for free at . This is huge; avail yourself of it.

Also, that debate I enjoyed so much between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson is now being published as a book. I love the Wilson quote on the front cover:

You gonna do something or just stand there and bleed?

It's rich my friends, oh it's rich.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Plug for learning German

To encourage my friends who are trying to learn German, here are 12 reasons to keep you going. And here's a blog to help you out.

HT: Dave Black

Sermon on the Myth of Adolescence

Get it here.

HT: Dave Black

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Peter, if you love me, get fed by the best shepherds out there

How many times I have thought to myself: "I would really be a stronger Christian if I could meet with THAT church over there in ____. And becoming a stronger Christian is important right?" Now that I've opened the window for you and shown you the mindset I have at times, you're prepared to understand how hard Alan Knox's last post hit me. His post starts off about walking, but by the end it was speaking to me more about kneeling. I realized this: that when I begin to think the way I mentioned above, I'm really viewing my brothers and sisters as hindrances-to-me when I should be viewing myself as a helper-to-them.

Be sure to read Alan's thoughts.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dennis Rainey - what is the hope that is in you?

Dennis Rainey's daughter recently gave birth to little Molly Ann, who died at one week old. How did the family respond to this tragedy? I wept when, reading their letters (before and after) at Tim Challies' blog, I learned the answer: supernaturally. As one who just celebrated his daughter's 1 week birthday I asked myself, how would I have responded? HOW would I have responded? I don't know. But I do know that I won't be able to read 1 Peter 3.15 for a long time without thinking of the Rainey and Mutz families.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Greek Vocab Tips

I've been asked recently about how I learn and review my (limited) Greek vocabulary. I more or less follow the approach recommended by Alan Knox, which you can read here. I try to review the Stack #3 pile once every week. And it's important to work both ways, English to Greek and Greek to English, although I have found that English to Greek generally suffices for words once I have grasped them well.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

God - that's not fair!

One of the applications we could make from Jesus' parable in Matthew 20.1-16 is that we should always check ourselves before we determine what is fair or unfair for God to do.

On a slightly related note, Craig Blomberg writes
But we are fools if we appeal to God for justice rather than grace, for in that case we’d all be damned. Nor will it do to speak of salvation begun by grace but ever after preserved by works. True salvation will of necessity produce good works and submission to Christ’s lordship in every area of life, or else it never was salvation to begin with. But all who are truly saved are equally precious in God’s sight and equally rewarded with eternal happiness in the company of Christ and all the redeemed. Jesus has now finished his answer to Peter’s question of 19:27 (New American Commentary).

UPDATE: Sorry, I had given the wrong reference. It is now Matthew 20:1-16, as it should be.

Science - Mr. Ford's Undertaker?

I deliberately did not complete my post on chp 2 of Lennox's book. That's because I wanted to spend an entire post quoting the section with which Mr. Lennox closes that chapter. See if the distinctions Lennox makes in the following are helpful; I know I found them helpful one busy day in Ukraine.

God – an unnecessary hypothesis?

This section is a strong finish to the chapter and so I will quote most of it. The explanatory success of science has led many to believe that, because “we can understand the mechanisms of the universe without bringing in God, we can safely conclude that there was no God who designed and created the universe in the first place” (p.44). To show the logical fallacy behind such reasoning Lennox brings out an illustration he has also used in Christianity: Opium or the Truth (coauthored with David Gooding):

Take a Ford motor car. It is conceivable that someone from a remote part of the world, who was seeing one for the first time and who knew nothing about modern engineering, might imagine that there is a god (Mr. Ford) inside the engine, making it go. He might further imagine that when the engine ran sweetly it was because Mr. Ford inside the engine liked him, and when it refused to go it was because Mr. Ford did not like him. Of course, if he were subsequently to study engineering and take the engine to pieces, he would discover that there is no Mr. Ford inside it. Neither would it take much intelligence for him to see that he did not need to introduce Mr. Ford as an explanation for its working. His grasp of the impersonal principles of internal combustion would be altogether enough to explain how the engine works. So far, so good. But if he then decided that his understanding of the principles of how the engine works made it impossible to believe in the existence of a Mr. Ford who designed the engine in the first place—in philosophical terminology he would be committing a category mistake. Had there never been a Mr. Ford to design the mechanisms, none would exist for him to understand.

It is likewise a category mistake to suppose that our understanding of the impersonal principles according to which the universe works makes it either unnecessary or impossible to believe in the existence of a personal Creator who designed, made, and upholds the universe. In other words, we should not confuse the mechanisms by which the universe works either with its cause or its upholder.

Michael Poole...puts it this way: '...there is no logical conflict between reason-giving explanations which concern mechanisms, and reason-giving explanations which concern the plans and purposes of an agent, human or divine. This is a logical point, not a matter of whether one does or does not happen to believe in God oneself.'

In total disregard of this logical point, a famous statement made by the French mathematician Laplace is constantly misused to buttress atheism. On being asked by Napoleon where God fitted into his mathematical work, Laplace, quite correctly, replied: 'Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.' Of course God did not appear in Laplace's mathematical description of how things work, just as Mr. Ford would not appear in a scientific description of the laws of internal combustion. But what does that prove? That Henry Ford did not exist? Clearly not. Neither does such an argument prove that God does not exist. Austin Farrer comments on the Laplace incident as follows: 'Since God is not a rule built into the action of forces, nor is he a block of force, no sentence about God can play a part in physics or astronomy...We may forgive Laplace – he was answering an amateur according to his ignorance, not to say a fool according to his folly. Considered as a serious observation, his remark could scarcely have been more misleading. Laplace and his colleagues had not learned to do without theology; they had merely learned to mind their own business.'

Quite so. But suppose Napolean had posed a somewhat different question to Laplace: 'Why is there a universe at all in which there is matter and gravity and in which projectiles composed of matter moving under gravity describe the orbits encapsulated in your mathematical equations?' It would be harder to argue that the existence of God was irrelevant to that question. But then, that was not the question that Laplace was asked. So he did not answer it (pp. 44-5).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

God's Undertaker - The Scope and Limits of Science


Defining science

Michael Ruse: science “by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law” (p.31). This definition is helpful because it distinguishes between astronomy and astrology. The problem is that it rules out much of cosmology.

What does Ruse mean by “the natural”? Certainly he means that the things science bothers itself with are all things found in nature. But it may imply more. For many science's dealing only with the natural means, that all of science's explanations for these things found in nature must be natural explanations. If they're not, the explanations are not scientific (p.32).

Massimo Pigliucci: “The basic assumption of science is that the world can be explained entirely in physical terms, without recourse to godlike entities” (p.33).

Christian de Duve:
Scientific enquiry rests on the notion that all manifestations in the universe are explainable in natural terms, without supernatural intervention. Strictly speaking, this notion is not an a priori philosophical stand or profession of belief. It is a postulate, a working hypothesis that we should be prepared to abandon if faced with facts that defy every attempt at rational explanation. Many scientists, however, do not bother to make this distinction, tacitly extrapolating from hypothesis to affirmation (p.33).

Paul Kurtz: “What is common to naturalistic philosophy is its commitment to science. Indeed, naturalism might be defined in its more general sense as the philosophical generalizations of the methods and conclusions of the sciences” (33).

Which comes first – science or philosophy?

Kurtz would view the philosophy of naturalism as arising from his science. But the impression of the scientist going about his enterprise with no bias or philosophical precommitments is a myth. It could very well be the other way around, with naturalism preceding and shaping one's science.
George Klein: “I am not an agnostic. I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith...The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy” (p.34).

Richard Lewontin:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated” (p.34-5).

Lewontin goes on to say, “Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door” (p.35).

Lennox responds: “I am not so sure that Dawkins would be as enthusiastic about eradicating this kind of 'blind faith' in materialism as he is about eradicating faith in God, though consistency would argue that he should” (p.35).

Following where the evidence leads – always?

Lennox comes up with a novel suggestion: Let's avoid begging the question by “defining science to be essentially applied naturalism” and instead “understand it to be investigation of and theorizing about the natural order so that we give weight to what is surely of the essence of true science—that is, a willingness to follow the empirical evidence, wherever it leads” (p.37).

Summing up so far

Two extremes to avoid: (1) Seeing science's relationship to religion as one solely of conflict; (2) Seeing “all science as philosophically or theologically neutral” (p.38).

The limits of scientific explanation

Science has explained so much and so helpfully. How much can it explain? Scientism answers: “ Basically everything.” Peter Atkins: “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence” (p.39).

Richard Dawkins' quote in the book dedication of The God Delusion: “Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it?” (p.39).

Lennox doesn't think much of this: “It [the above quote] gives the game away. For it shows that Dawkins is guilty of committing the error of proposing false alternatives by suggesting that it is either fairies or nothing. Fairies at the bottom of the garden may well be a delusion, but what about a gardener, to say nothing about an owner? The possibility of their existence cannot be so summarily dismissed—in fact, most gardens have both” (p.39).

Regarding the claim that only science can deliver truth, this is ridiculous. Can science determine what is a poor poem and what is a good one? What about evaluation of art? And matters of morality? “Science can tell you that, if you add strychnine to someone's drink, it will kill them. But science cannot tell you whether it is morally right or wrong to put strychnine into your grandmother's tea so that you can get your hands on her property” (p.39-40).

Finally, the assertion of scientism is self-refuting, a fact easily seen by examining Bertrand Russell's assertion: “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know” (p.40). But the 'truth' of Russell's assertion is not itself a discovery of science which means, by Russell's own way of stating things, that the thing he has stated is unknowable.

Aunt Matilda' cake

The author proposes a simple illustration. Aunt Matilda makes a cake, which is then examined by world-class scientists of various disciplines. But no matter how good their expertise, they are not able to go beyond answering the how questions to supplying answers to the why question (why as in purpose). Does that mean that it is impossible to know why Aunt Matilda made the cake? According to Russell's earlier statement, yes, it is impossible. But this shows us how mistaken Russell is, for all one has to do is ask Matilda. Peter Medawar in Advice to a Young Scientist writes: “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare—particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for—that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking...” (p.41).

Yes, science has its limits. To suggest otherwise is to elevate science only ostensibly. Saying that science can figure out everything might appear to give it unique pride of place amongst all other disciplines, but in actual fact its reputation would fare better without such statements because they self-destruct. Lennox puts it well: “For, the statement that only science can lead to truth is not itself deduced from science. It is not a scientific statement but rather a statement about science, that is, it is a metascientific statement. Therefore, if scientism's basic principle is true, the statement expressing scientism must be false. Scientism refutes itself. Hence it is incoherent” (p.42).

To make such “exaggerated claims for science” makes “science look ridiculous” (p.43). To say that “science is limited is, therefore, no insult to science” (p.42).

Lennox notes that although revelation—not science—must determine the purpose of Aunt Matilda's cake, this does not mean that reason is not involved. No, reason must be involved. “The point is that in cases where science is not our source of information, we cannot automatically assume that reason has ceased to function and evidence has ceased to be relevant” (p.43).

One More Section

There is one more section, but it is too important to tack onto the end of an already long post. I shall quote it (almost) in full in a subsequent post.

Size Limits of Very Small Microorganisms paper

In the discussion thread of my post on the Preface of Lennox's book, Margaret suggests I post a link to a book. I'm happy to oblige:

Read this FREE online!
Full Book PDF Summary

If it's easier for readers send me an email and I will email the book to you as an attachment.

NOTE: you can download this book for free by clicking the above link and then signing in (painlessly) on the right hand side of the page.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

God's Undertaker - War of the Worldviews (chp 1)


[Please note that the following headings are often mine, not Lennox's. They do not necessarily represent Lennox's flow of thought or emphases.]

The relationship between faith and evidence

Lennox has a tidy little dust-up with Dawkins over Dawkins' representation of faith as being proudly independent of evidence. Dawkins takes the first jab:

It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, “mad cow” disease and many others, but I think that a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate. Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion (pp.14-15).

Dawkins takes another by quoting Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) approvingly:
When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called Religion (p.15).
So Dawkins defines faith as “being belief that isn't based on evidence.” Elsewhere he says that whereas “scientific belief is based upon publicly checkable evidence, religious faith not only lacks evidence; its independence from evidence is its joy, shouted from the rooftops” (p.15).

Lennox Lewis responds, first by conceding that if Dawkins' definition of faith is correct, then maybe it should be classified as smallpox. And there certainly are those who believe in God who are anti-intellectual and anti-scientific who could benefit from a lesson from Dawkins at this point. However, the faith that the Bible speaks of is certainly not a blind faith. Rather, it is a faith that is a response to evidence. It is clear that Dawkins has not done his homework here.

Lennox takes time at this point to note an inconsistency on Dawkins' part by reminding readers of words Dawkins has said earlier:
Next time that somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: “What kind of evidence is there for that?” And if they can't give you a good answer, I hope you'll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.
Here's Lennox's application:
Dawkins' idiosyncratic definition of faith thus provides a striking example of the very kind of thinking he claims to abhor—thinking that is not evidence based. For, in an exhibition of breathtaking inconsistency, evidence is the very thing he fails to supply for his claim that independence of evidence is faith's joy.

Statements by scientists are not necessarily statements of science

Regarding some of the statements by scientists repeated above, Lennox reminds us that “Statements by scientists are not necessarily statements of science”. He says further that the earlier assertions by Dawkins “are not statements of science but rather expressions of personal belief, indeed, of faith—fundamentally no different from (though noticeably less tolerant than) much expression of the kind of faith Dawkins expressly wishes to eradicate” (p.18).

The forgotten roots of science

With these introductory comments behind him, Lennox then leads us into a discussion of the history of science. He argues in “The forgotten roots of science” that “the conviction that the universe is orderly”--without which science would be impossible—comes from the ancient Hebrew view “that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods...This monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science” (quoting Melvin Calvin, p.19). C.S. Lewis's famous words are also quoted: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver” (p.20).

Lennox also provides an impressive list of men who have been “towering figures of science” who were all of them theists, and many of them Christians: Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Babbage, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin and Clerk Maxwell. “Their belief in God, far from being a hindrance to their science, was often the main inspiration for it and they were not shy of saying so” (p.20).

The author is quick to acknowledge that “just because a religion has supported science does not prove that the religion is true” (p.22). But ditto for atheism.

History and the conflict thesis

This historical journey continues by examining two oft-mentioned confrontations: the one between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church; and the other between Huxley and Wilberforce. These two accounts are often used to support the conflict thesis—the notion that “science has been constantly at war with religion” (p.22). Turns out the conflict thesis is not well-served by these accounts at all. In the case of Galileo and the R.C. Church, Lennox makes the following points:

  • Galileo WAS a believer in God and the Bible
  • His first opposition was from secular philosophers, and he was receiving support from some religious intellectuals (if this was a science vs. religion debate, these guys sure didn't know what side they were on)
  • The RC Church hung on to its cherished Aristotelianism against Galileo's pushing and tugging, unable to afford a serious challenge to Aristotle when it was already feeling the Protestant Reformation's challenge to its authority
  • Galileo could have used some improvement in the PR department

Regarding the Huxley-Wilberfore debate in 1860, Lennox notes that: (1) Wilberforce was no ignoramus. Darwin regarded Wilberforce's review of his (Darwin's) work as “uncommonly quizzes me most splendidly” (p.25); (2) Wilberforce was no obscurantist. Determined to keep the debate as science vs. science (not religion) he wrote

We have no sympathy with those who object to any facts or alleged facts in nature, or to any inference logically deduced from them, because they believe them to contradict what it appears to them is taught by revelation. We think that all such objections savour of a timidity which is really inconsistent with a firm and well-intrusted faith.

(3) Thirdly, objections to Darwin's theory also came from leading scientists (enter Sir Richard Owen and Lord Kelvin) and not just from the church. (4) Wilberforce was successful in his own right in the debate; the outcome was far from one-sided.

Conclusion: “two of the main props commonly used to support the conflict thesis crumble” (p.26).

Two lessons

We'll be done with this chapter once I've mentioned two lessons that Lennox draws out of the Galileo account. First, for those of us “who are disposed to take the biblical account seriously” (p.24), we must “be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretation of it. The biblical text just might be more sophisticated than we first imagined and we might therefore be in danger of using it to support ideas that it never intended to teach” (p.25). If we were to get this into our heads once and for all, and the idea that faith is cut off from evidence out, oh how much better the Christian witness would be served!

Lennox has a lesson for the other body of people he belongs to: scientists. In light of the Bible-believing Galileo “who was advancing a better scientific understanding of the universe” against the oppositions “of the secular philosophers of his time”, so the “philosophers and scientists today also have need of humility in light of facts, even if those facts are being pointed out to them by a believer in God” (p.25).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

God's Undertaker - Preface


A popular enough notion today is that modern science has killed God. While the early founders of science—men such as Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton—may have believed “in an intelligent Creator God whose brain-child the cosmos was”, science “has moved on from such primitive thinking.” Science has “squeezed God into a corner, killed and then buried him by its all-embracing explanations. God has turned out to be no more substantial than the smile on a cosmic Cheshire cat” (p.8). It is this popular view, that science has triumphed over God, and the view behind it, that science was ever at war with God in the first place, that John Lennox wants to challenge in this book.

Of course, in challenging this view, he'll have to challenge its proponents. And there are plenty of them. Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg writes: “The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion...Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization” (as quoted by Lennox, p.8). Then there's good ole' Richard Dawkins: “I am utterly fed up with the respect we have been brainwashed into bestowing upon religion” (p.8).

So we have science on the one hand, and God (religion) on the other, and it's science, we are told, that has the upper hand of the two. However, when we speak of science in this way, we must be careful to distinguish between science itself and the philosophy or worldview behind it. When we make this distinction we come across a curious thing: that many of the men in whose hands science flourished were men, as already mentioned, who held a theistic worldview. And many scientists still hold that worldview today. Dawkins and company obviously hold to a naturalistic worldview. It is here that the issue lies. The battle between science and God has been falsely construed. This is not a debate between scientist and preacher. It's a debate between preacher and preacher, or between fellow philosophers at least. The assumption is that science and naturalism go together like a hand in a surgical glove, but is that a valid assumption? Is it not true that great scientific pioneers of the past found that science fit rather nicely with theism? And do not many scientists testify the same today? As Lennox asks:
Is naturalism actually demanded by science? Or is it just conceivable that naturalism is a philosophy that is brought to science, more than something that is entailed by science? Could it even be, dare one ask, more like an expression of faith, akin to religious faith? (p.9).

These are the types of questions Lennox dares to ask and tries to answer in this book. And he claims to be willing to follow the evidence, wherever it takes him:
The question that is central to this book turns out to be in essence a worldview question: which worldview sits most comfortably with science – theism or atheism? Has science buried God or not? Let us see where the evidence leads (p.13).

Paul and Silas...then comes Wesley and Bray

Charles Wesley's entirely unprofessional prison ministry. What increased the savour of this article for me was remembering that Wesley was a Methodist and Piper is a Calvinist. How appropriate are Spurgeon's words, "I do not try to reconcile friends."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Some chapel of ease

Some challenging words to missionaries (which includes us). An excerpt:
Sixthly. Beware of the greater reaction which will take place after you have acquired the language, and become fatigued and worn out with preaching the gospel to a disobedient and gainsaying people. You will sometimes long for a quiet retreat, where you can find a respite from the tug of toiling at native work—the incessant, intolerable friction of the missionary grindstone. And Satan will sympathize with you in this matter; and he will present some chapel of ease, in which to officiate in your native tongue, some government situation, some professorship or editorship, some literary or scientific pursuit, some supernumerary translation, or, at least, some system of schools; anything, in a word, that will help you, without much surrender of character, to slip out of real missionary work. Such a temptation will form the crisis of your disease. If your spiritual constitution can sustain it, you recover; if not, you die...

Sam Williams is seeing his Saviour

A great man of God has fallen flown today. I don't have all the details precisely, but sometime this morning Sam Williams, a precious elderly brother in our assembly, went to savour the Lord Jesus.

I say he was a great man because for the last decade or so (again, I don't have the exact dates) he has waited patiently on his wife, serving her, rubbing her feet, and generally doting on a woman who felt the frustrations of poor health and being shut in.

His serving his wife makes him great because Jesus says that makes him great. My personal reading tonight was in Matthew 20. Here are the words more pertinent to the subject of greatness than any other words ever spoken:
But Jesus called the disciples and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their superiors act like tyrants over them. That’s not the way it should be among you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That’s the way it is with the Son of Man. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people. (Matthew 20.25-28, ISV).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Teach us to number our...minutes

You can waste an awful lot of time in 15 minutes.

The Spirit and the Word

(1) The Spirit guides us into Truth:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, bu whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16.13)

(2) The Spirit reveals Truth that far exceeds our wildest and most optimistic imaginings:

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:9-16)

(3) And thus the Spirit grants us joy in reception of the Truth:

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

(4) Your turn: how else does the Spirit help us regarding Truth and the Word?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Christian and the employee RRSP fund

Should a Christian invest for retirement? This is a question I've wrestled with in the past, especially when faced with the radical nature of some of Jesus' demands. I recently came across a response to this question that has helped put this in perspective for me. It manages to hold together both the radical teachings of Jesus on possessions and the wise common sense the Bible espouses all throughout.

Here's Piper's conclusion:
So, all that to say, Put a governor on your life. Make as much as you can, give as much as you can, and save what you need to in order to be a responsible non-borrower. Then do retirement with some minimalistic plan that frees you up for gospel ministry till the day you drop.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The ESV Study Bible

Wow. You gotta admit it, this is a pretty impressive study Bible. Check out JT's post for the links, or poke around the ESV Study Bible site itself.

Amongst the many names that caught my eye was David Black's, who has written an article for this publication entitled The Original Languages of the Bible: Greek. As you might recall, I've got his Greek grammar, which is top-notch. Articles by Daniel Wallace, Darrell Bock, Walter Kaiser, John Piper, David Powlison, and Andreas Kostenberger also look promising.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Witnessing to the Witnesses without knowing Greek or Hebrew

I've been reminded lately of the kind of sticky situations one can get into when talking Christology with Jehovah Witnesses. I vividly remember visiting a JW couple in their living room and have a long—but good—discussion with them. The conversation was not without its' frustrations, however! It's amazing how these kinds of discussions can so quickly show one how little he knows his Bible!

Never mind his Greek or his Hebrew. In this vein, I encourage readers to see James White's article, Getting Over the Hurdles of the New World Translation. I might have a few quibbles with his comments on Titus 2.13 (I find Fee's suggestion persuasive that Paul is saying that Jesus Christ is the glory of the great God and Saviour), but, having just read it tonight, I still found the article very helpful.

And finally, I thought Dave Black's little story teaches us the attitude we should have to these people. You can find the whole thing at his blog under March 24, 2008. Here's an excerpt:

"Aren't you glad we both believe in Jesus?" the eldest asked, speaking for the group. "Yes, indeed," I replied, adding, "But who exactly is Jesus -- that is the question." "But we are all children of God," she insisted," because we have all descended from Adam and Eve." "It is true that we are all God's creation," was my reply. "But only those for whom the Christ of the Bible is Savior and Lord is God truly Father." I had to excuse myself as I was in the middle of mixing mortar, but I said that if they should ever come back again, they would have to agree in all subsequent conversations to use only the Bible, "in the original languages," I quipped, at which they broke out in laughter.

How can we stand by without compassion and love for such people? I cannot comprehend the fundamentalists who revile them, tear them down. Surely one can have compassion without being rude. It is supreme uncharity to treat them as witches, yet that is in fact what we do. It shows our fear of them. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to the fundamentals of the faith. Yet how odd that both sides, clashing with different theologies, so often conspire to destroy the true nature of God while attempting to substitute for it the madness of a particular brand of fervor.

As those dear ladies drove down our long gravel driveway, I prayed for them, that the One who has the power to open blind eyes to false teaching would do so -- and in the same breath I asked myself, Where were the men?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Austin news and an Inkling

We're very excited about having a dear friend with us the next couple days, Stephen Vance from Toronto. He'll be speaking in Austin this Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm, DV. If you're interested do come.

On Thursday we'll be taking Stephen up to Melfort, Saskatchewan for the annual Taylorside Youth Conference. Pray that the Lord will bless his Word to us young people.

In light of these events I undertook a major cleaning of the study tonight. What a blessing that I have Helen to prod me a little in things like this! I'm afraid that much more than my office would be in disarray without Helen. My whole life would be a mess without her.

I didn't need any prodding to read a little C.S. Lewis last night, though. The Weight of Glory, Learning in War-Time, and Transposition all proved to be exhilarating reads which could not be interrupted until finished. I don't have time now, but I know that in the future each of these addresses will reward thoughtful assimilation. After reading them I couldn't believe how long a time I had allowed to lapse since last reading Lewis. I can remember hanging on for dear life in Mere Christianity when I was in first-year college. It was good I hung on, too, because in second year a debate came up before class in which morality was deemed to be relative, and thus irrelevant. I tried, however feebly, to defend the Christian worldview. And shortly thereafter I lent Mere Christianity to the chief espouser of the relativistic view. A day or two later he handed the book back with a simple "Thank you". Lewis had persuasively defended the obvious, and the proud young man who days earlier had had so many words of "wisdom" to share, was reduced to two small words of humble admission. And my inward response was a "thank-you" too, directed heaven-ward, for giving the Church men with minds like Lewis had, so that the faith of an impressionable young man could be strengthened, and not squashed, in the anvil of secular scrutiny.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ukraine, again

Last fall we were blogging up a storm in Ukraine, and so it's a pleasure to point you to a blog devoted to God's work in this land. Helene is there at the moment with Flo Kancir. In the near future they will be joined by Helene's husband (Gilles), Malcolm Stanley (click to see picture), and Avrell Bowden. We encourage those interested to follow the blog and its bloggers with prayer.

There's also a website devoted primarily to the assembly in Lutsk.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Passing the buck

I haven't had much time for blogging these days. Our lives have not been busier it seems, what with basement renovations, prenatal classes and preparations for Baby, preparing messages, trying to learn Greek, and some other studies thrown in. But I've been enjoying my friends' blogs immensely, so just in case you're not checking up on theirs, here are links to Brandon's and Steve's lastest posts on Philippians. You'll enjoy them.

Best ESV edition...ever

While I'm linking to JT, he's just alerted readers to a single-column ESV Bible with paragraphing and cross-references. Beautiful. See the links for page samples.

Piper on the prosperity "gospel"

I've been wanting to provide this video on our blog for a while now . Justin Taylor has just posted it, so head on down. It's powerful. And much needed.

Update: Overcoming: the Craving

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

All things work together for good?

Dan Wallace with an excellent post on Romans 8.28.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The 'heavies' post on 'Love for Truth'

Tired of being outdone, I've brought in a few friends of my own to blog on Love for Truth. I may not have the likes of Robert Thomson contributing, but I'll enlist the best I've got! So William Barclay, Warren Wiersbe, Gordon Fee, Markus Bockmuehl, and N.T. Wright, go to it! [Of course, this is all meant in fun. Seriously.]

William Barclay on Philippians 1.12-18
Paul was a prisoner but so far from his imprisonment ending his missionary activity it actually expanded it for himself and for others. In fact, the bonds destroyed the barriers. The word Paul uses for the advancement of the gospel is a vivid word. It is prokopÄ“; the word which is specially used for the progress of an army or an expedition. It is the noun from the verb prokoptein, which means to cut down in advance. It is the verb which is used for cutting away the trees and he undergrowth, and removing the barriers which would hinder the progress of an army. Paul’s imprisonment, so far from shutting the door, opened the door to new spheres of work and activity, into which he would never otherwise have penetrated.

His imprisonment had opened the way for preaching the gospel to the finest regiment in the Roman army. No wonder he declared that his imprisonment had actually been for the furtherance of the gospel. All the Praetorian Guard knew why Paul was in prison; many of them were touched for Christ; and the very sight of this gave to the brethren at Philippi fresh courage to preach the gospel and to witness for Christ.

Paul’s bonds had removed the barriers and given him access to the flower of the Roman army, and his bonds had been the medicine of courage to the brethren at Philippi.

There is a lesson for us here. Paul knew nothing of personal jealousy or of personal resentment. So long as Jesus Christ was preached, he did not care who received the credit and the prestige. He did not care what other preachers said about him, or how unfriendly they were to him, or how contemptuous they were of him, or how they tried to steal a march upon him. All that mattered was that Christ was preached. All too often we resent it when someone else gains a prominence or a credit which we do not. All too often we regard a man as an enemy because he has expressed some criticism of us or of our methods. All too often we think a man can do no good because he does not do things in our way. All too often the intellectuals have no truck with the evangelicals, and the evangelicals impugn the faith of the intellectuals. All too often those who believe in the evangelism of education have no use for the evangelism of decision, and those who practise the evangelism of decision have no use for those who feel that some other approach will have more lasting effects. Paul is the great example. He lifted the matter beyond all personalities; all that mattered was that Christ was preached. (The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians)

Gordon Fee on Philippians 1.12-18
Quoting J.L. Houlden:
In getting himself put in prison, in Rome above all, he has acted the Trojan horse, entering into the very heart of the Gentile world to which Christ had dispatched him as an apostle.
Short quotes:
…and his lordship over Caesar is already making itself felt through the penetration of the gospel into the heart of Roman political life. Here is one [Paul] for whom the gospel is bigger than his personal role in making it known.
Application of the passage:

It would be easy to dismiss this passage (vv. 12-18) as Paul's simply putting the best possible face on a bad situation. But that would be to miss too much. Paul can write things like this because, first, his theology is in good order. He has learned by the grace of God to see everything from the divine perspective. This is not wishful thinking but deep conviction--that God has worked out his own divine intentions through the death and resurrection of Christ, and that by his Spirit he is carrying them out in the world through the church, and therefore through both Paul and others. It is not that Paul is too heavenly minded to be in touch with reality or that he sees things through rose-tinted glasses. Rather, he sees everything in light of the bigger picture; and in that bigger picture, fully emblazoned on our screen at Calvary, there is nothing that does not fit, even if it means suffering and death on the way to resurrection. Such theology dominates this letter in every part; we should not be surprised that it surfaces at the outset, even in this brief narrative.

Second, and related to the first, Paul is a man of a single passion: Christ and the gospel. Everything is to be seen and done in light of Christ. For him both life and death mean Christ. His is the passion of the single-minded person who has been apprehended by Christ, as he will tell the Philippians in 3:12-14.

Third, Paul's passion for Christ has led him to an understanding of discipleship in which the disciple takes up a cross to follow his Lord. Discipleship, therefore, means to participate in the sufferings of Christ (3:10-11), to be ready to be poured out as a drink offering in ministry for the sake of others (2:17). Paul's imprisonment belongs to those trials for which "we were destined" (1 Thess 3:3) and thus come as no surprise.

Interestingly, these three theological realities are what also make for Paul's largeness of heart. True, he lacks the kind of "largeness" for which religious pluralists contend. Is that because such pluralists have not been apprehended by Christ and the gospel, as God's thing--his only thing--on behalf of our fallen world? Unfortunately, and ironically, such pluralism often has very little tolerance for the Pauls of this world! But in Paul's case it is his theological convictions that lead both to his theological narrowness, on the one hand, and to his large-heartedness within those convictions, on the other--precisely because he recognizes the gospel for what it is: God's thing, not his own. And that, it should be added, also stands quite over against many others who think of themselves as in Paul's train but whose passion for the gospel seems all too often a passion for their own "correct" view of things.

At stake for the Philippians--and for us, I would venture--is the admonition finally made explicit in 4:9: to put into practice for ourselves what we hear and see in Paul, as well as what we have learned and received by way of his teaching. (Paul's Letter to the Philippians, last quote copied from the IVP edition

Markus Bockmuehl on Philippians 1.12-18
Quoting Karl Barth:
To the question how it is with him an apostle must react with information as to how it is with the Gospel.
On verse 17:
Certain others, however, are driven by the poisonous fantasies of jealousy and selfish ambition: in contrast to verse 16, their actions arise not from what they 'know' but what they (wrongly) imagine. They also proclaim Christ, but theirs is a petty, territorial vision; their aim is naked self-advancement. The robe of 'Christian ministry' cloaks many a shameless idolatry. (The Epistle to the Philippians)

N.T. (Tom) Wright on Philippians 1.12-18
The first problem is, of course, that he's in prison. For a travelling apostle to be put in prison must have seemed like a concert pianist having his hands tied behind his back.

The soldiers were used, of course, to the 'gospel' of Caesar—the supposed 'good news' that a new emperor had taken the throne, bringing (so he claimed) peace and justice to the world. Now here was someone out of the blue announcing that there was a different 'gospel': that Jesus of Nazareth had taken the throne of the world, and was summoning every man, woman and child to bow the knee to him. Having Paul in custody meant they couldn't ignore this new message. They were having their noses rubbed into it. And Paul can see that already the other Christians...(the 'family', his brothers and sisters in the Messiah) are taking courage from his example. They can see the impact he's having even on hardened soldiers. Why shouldn't they seize the moment and speak about King Jesus to their friends and neighbours as well? (Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters)

Warren Wiersbe on Philippians 1.12-18

The secret is this: when you have the single mind, you look upon your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel, and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do....Paul's chains not only gave contact with the lost, but they also gave courage to the saved. (Be Joyful)

This post is part of the "Fridays in Philippians" synchroblog.