Culture Wars and the Sufficiency of Scripture Part 1

Recently, there has been more and more discussion and divide between progressive Christians (liberals) and evangelical Christians (conservatives) over “culture war” issues. Namely, what they believe concerning marriage/sexual ethics and abortion. As I read articles and blogs related to these views I was reminded of J. Gresham Machen and his book Christianity and Liberalism. The book was first published in 1923 and is a great defense of Orthodox Christianity, answering many liberal objections of the day. Machen nailed the foundational issues at stake as he wrote about doctrine, God and man, the Bible, Christ, Salvation, and the Church. I, too, want to point to that foundational battleground and say that the “culture wars” still have to do with where doctrine comes from, the Bible. The battle for this sacred text goes on today and is of utmost importance. As a follower of Christ I believe that the bible is trustworthy and to be interpreted with sound methods. Specifically, we believe the historical-grammatical method of hermeneutics is most accurate and helpful. This method seeks to understand authorial intent through context, grammar of the original language, and how the church has historically interpreted the text. This method, by the way, is the same method that conservative justices use as they interpret constitutional issues (i.e. authorial intent). To clarify, one saying I remember as I was learning this method (haven’t arrived, still learning) said a text of scripture can never mean what it never meant. Those who oppose conservative “culture war” views do so, on the basis of some other kind of hermeneutic. Many of them would say that the bible is a document whose central interpretation changes with the culture. I disagree. What I hope to accomplish in these posts is to argue that scripture is sufficient to speak into our lives and cultural norms are not. I want to do this through an exegesis of one of my favorite texts of Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Through these series of posts I will share excerpts from a sermon that I have preached several times. This is an early form of it titled “The Sufficiency of Scripture”.

When we say sufficiency we aren’t just talking about the inerrancy of scripture, but rather inerrancy lived out. Sufficiency means, according to Jimmy Draper and Ken Keathley in their book “Biblical Authority”, that “the Word of God has the ability to address every area of human existence”. So we are saying that scripture, correctly interpreted, accurately addresses every situation of life. To say that the bible is sufficient is to say exactly what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says: that All scripture…is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness…to make us complete, equipped for every good work.

What the bible gives are a set of clear teachings, principles, and commands that provide the Christian with the framework and tools to deal with all the issues of life. In 2 Timothy 3 Paul exhorted Timothy to look to the scriptures for teaching doctrines, presenting reproofs, providing corrections, and supporting training in the knowledge of God.

Christian leaders today must believe the scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice. We must understand the sufficiency of scripture because, as my pastor reported at a conference a few years ago, “it is likely that we have become inerrancy idolaters. We have become a people who will slam our bibles on the pulpit for the cause of inerrancy, but when it comes to practical use, we discard it for man-centered methods of evangelism, corporate worship, and psychological self-help in the place of absolute truth. It is my sincere prayer that the Spirit of God will rekindle the flame of the sufficiency of scriptures in our churches today.”

Memorial Day

This year the males of the family went to Naval Air Station Pensacola on Memorial Day while vacationing in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  It was a great experience.  I am very thankful for the sacrifice of soldiers who have fought to preserve freedom from oppressive nations.  I was especially struck by a talk I heard from one particular veteran who served on the USS Enterprise during World War II.  He spoke of two particular incidents that he had witnessed during the War.  One was of a pilot who was killed by friendly fire, and another of sailors who were trapped in a capsized ship.  The sailors in the capsized vessel were communicating with rescue personnel on the outside, who were attempting to cut into the hull of the ship.  Knowing that they would not be rescued before they ran out of air, they tapped out in Morse code how privileged they were to have served their country.  They also made known that it was obvious they would run out of air soon, so the rescue workers should move on to help others!  These two stories, on top of watching video of kamikaze destruction in the Pacific, made me even more grateful for those who have served and suffered.  I am highly aware that I live a neat, clean, privileged life.  I am sheltered from much of the ugliness that exists in the world.  For the most part, I am very grateful and happy to live in my own little world.  However, it is good to be reminded that there is depravity and suffering that goes on the world that is unthinkably horrible.  Here’s why:

  • Depravity reminds me that the whole world is desperately in need of redemption.  There is only redemption in Christ. (Romans 8:18-25)
  • I too am depraved.  In the eyes of God, my wickedness is just as appalling as Adolf Hitler’s.  I need a rescue.  My only rescue is in Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12)
  • It makes me long for the ultimate redemption.  I long for the day when things will be set right.  I am an alien here.  My citizenship is in heaven. (Phil 3:20/1 Cor. 15)
  • It makes me hate sin.  When I am confronted with the ugliness of sin, I hate it.  Recently, Noah Crowe passed away.  He was a little boy who suffered from cancer.  His cancer is a result of sin.  I am not saying he got cancer because he sinned in some way (John 9:1-3), I am saying he had cancer because we live in a fallen world.  Reading his parents journey through this makes me hate sin all the more.  I long for the resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)
  • Still, God has purposes for suffering that are greater than worldly comfort:  The Glory of God (John 9:1-3), Conformation to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29), growth in Joy and perseverance (James 1:2-4), instruction (Hebrews 12:4-11), and to help others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

Father, help me to always be reminded of the ugliness of sin.  Give me grace to flee from it.  Give me grace to learn from it.  May it make me always flee to Christ!

Proclaiming the Gospel

I finished Voddie Baucham’s book, Family Shepherds, Calling and Equipping men to lead their homes a few days ago.  There are so many great things packed into this small book I would recommend it to anyone.  Also, it was a fast read (the book is less than 200 pages)!   Its brevity doesn’t mean that it lacks for content.  A few things that I liked the most were:  a clarification of the gospel, an exposition of the wickedness of feminism, and the challenge to be a spiritual leader in the home.  Below I want to share something small from the book.

(BTW, I am so very thankful for my pastor Jeff Noblit, who always knows how to bring balance to spiritual matters.  His sermon this past Sunday night was dead-on helping me see things clearly concerning the dangers of what some are espousing in the FIC movement.  You can hear the sermon here.)

I love the gospel.  It is how I am saved and how God sanctifies me each day as I remember Christ’s provision set forth in the gospel (read A Gospel Primer for Christians for understanding how the gospel relates to Sanctification).  One thing that is promulgated in weak pulpits is the idea of living the gospel, rather than speaking the gospel.  Just a few weeks ago I had lunch with a gentleman who shared with me an experience where a man was consequently converted because he “experienced” the gospel through others, with no declaration of the gospel (written or spoken).  Now, obviously we want to live in a loving and pure way.  We don’t want our actions to be a stumbling block so that others don’t want to hear anything we say.  But the gospel needs to be proclaimed.  Indeed, the gospel must be proclaimed!  If souls are going to be saved they must hear the truths of the gospel.  The Holy Spirit then does His illuminating work.  This is the way that God has designed conversion.

I thought that Baucham illustrated the need for gospel proclamation well in Family Shepherds.  The following is an excerpt:

“The Gospel is news, first and foremost.  The Greek word (transliterated) evangelion refers to news, an announcement of a message.

Think about it; the gospel is news!  Therefore, we don’t “live” the gospel; we proclaim it.  We can no more live the gospel than live the nightly news.  Imagine saying, “let’s go live out last night’s eleven o’clock news headline story.”  That’s sheer foolishness.  The event has already happened; it cannot be relived.  You can live in the light of the news, or because of the news, but you cannot live the news.  And as famous as certain words of St. Francis of Assisi happen to be, he was wrong; we do not “preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words”.  Again, imagine the parallel:  “Channel 10 News…News so Powerful, We Don’t Use Words!”

I know this flies in the face of contemporary vernacular, but this is no minor distinction.  This is the difference between a life that views Christ and his finished work as the central message of Christianity and one that views its own experience as the central message.  If Christ’s life is the central message, then I have to tell the news.  If my life is the central message, then my living is enough.”

Inaugural Blog!

Welcome to the!

You may find a little bit of everything on here.  This is because my purpose for writing is perhaps a little bit different than you might imagine.

Why I am blogging

You are not the primary reason that I am writing this blog.  My primary purpose is to provide an online digital journal of things that I want to pass on to my own children (and their posterity).  For the last several years I have been journaling prayers, scriptures, notes, praises, frustrations, good/bad experiences, and my walk with the Lord by hand.  I was inspired to begin journaling while doing graduate work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  Under the leadership of Dr. Mike Miller, my small Spiritual Formation class went through Donald Whitney’s book Disciplines for the Christian Life.  The Lord used this book to help strengthen some spiritual disciplines and to help me understand others.

Prior to the class I had used a journal, but didn’t really have a foundation for what I was doing.  I just wanted to write down things that the Lord was teaching me for reflection later.  Dr. Whitney really helped me to understand the benefits and goals of spiritual journaling.  One of those things that really stood out to me was that I was journaling for future generations.  At the time, my wife and I were unsure if we were able to have children.  This was, of itself, a process worth journaling through.  God taught us many things in those years about Himself, our marriage, and sanctification that I have been able to preserve through journaling.  So my goal in spiritual journaling began to be that I would journal prayers, scriptures, thoughts, meditations and events with the goal that my children and grandchildren and their posterity will be reading and benefiting from my writings.

It is my hope that this blog will allow you to benefit from my own person walk with the Lord as I preserve it for my future generations.  SDG!