To feast on this forever is the aim of our being created and our being redeemed

by John Piper

Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Jesus Christ, the Person, never had a beginning. He is absolute Reality. He has the unparalleled honor and unique glory of being there first and always. He never came into being. He was eternally begotten. The Father has eternally enjoyed “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3) in the Person of his Son.

Seeing and savoring this glory is the goal of our salvation. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24). To feast on this forever is the aim of our being created and our being redeemed.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, p. 25

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Biblical orthodoxy without compassion

by Francis Schaeffer

Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.

Good Deal, Great Impact

from in Christ Jesus blog

Here’s an extended sample from the free sample (see below):

Two major developments emerged in the late nineteenth century that contributed to the loss of the Christian mind in America. The legacy of the Pilgrims and Puritans waned, and two new movements emerged from which the evangelical church has never fully recovered….
1. The emergence of anti-intellectualism. While generalizations can be misleading, it is safe to say that from the arrival of the Pilgrims to the middle of the nineteenth century, American believers prized the intellectual life for its contribution to the Christian journey. The Puritans were highly educated people (the literacy rate for men in early Massachusetts and Connecticut was between 89 and 95 percent) who founded colleges, taught their children to read and write before the age of six, and studied art, science, philosophy, and other fields as a way of loving God with the mind. Scholars like Jonathan Edwards were activ- ists who sought to be scholarly and well informed in a variety of disci- plines. The minister was an intellectual, as well as spiritual, authority in the community. As Puritan Cotton Mather proclaimed, “Ignorance is the Mother not of Devotion but of HERESY.”

In the middle 1800s, however, things began to change dramatically, though the seeds for the change had already been planted in the popu- larized, rhetorically powerful, and emotionally directed preaching of George Whitefield in the First Great Awakening in the United States from the 1730s to the 1750s. During the middle 1800s, three awaken- ings broke out in the United States: the Second Great Awakening (1800–1820), the revivals of Charles Finney (1824–1837), and the Layman’s Prayer Revival (1856–1858). Much good came from these movements. But their overall effect was to overemphasize immediate personal conversion to Christ instead of a studied period of reflection and conviction; emotional, simple, popular preaching instead of intellectually careful and doctrinally precise sermons; and personal feelings and relationship to Christ instead of a deep grasp of the nature of Christian teaching and ideas. Sadly, as historian George Marsden notes, “anti-intellectualism was a feature of American revivalism.”

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the emphasis of these movements on personal conversion. What was a problem, however, was the intellectually shallow, theologically illiterate form of Christianity that came to be part of the populist Christian religion that emerged. One tragic result of this was what happened in the so-called Burned Over District in the state of New York. Thousands of people were “converted” to Christ by revivalist preaching, but they had no real intel- lectual grasp of Christian teaching. As a result, two of the three major American cults began in the Burned Over District among the unstable, untaught “converts”: Mormonism (1830) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (1884). Christian Science arose in 1866 but was not connected with this area.

2. Evangelical withdrawal began. Sadly, the emerging anti- intellectualism in the church created a lack of readiness for the wide- spread intellectual assault on Christianity that reached full force in the late 1800s. This attack was part of the war of ideas raging at that time and was launched from three major areas. First, certain philosophical ideas from Europe, especially the views of David Hume (1711–1776) and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), altered people’s understanding of religion. Hume claimed that the traditional arguments for God’s exis- tence (for example, the world is an effect that needs a personal cause) were quite weak. He also said that since we cannot experience God with the five senses, the claim that God exists cannot be taken as an item of knowledge. In a different way, Kant asserted that human knowledge is limited to what can be experienced with the five senses, and since God cannot be so experienced, we cannot know He exists. The ideas of Hume and Kant had a major impact on culture as they spread across Europe and into America.

For one thing, confidence was shaken in arguments for the exis- tence of God and the rationality of the Christian faith. Additionally, fewer and fewer people regarded the Bible as a body of divinely revealed, true propositions about various topics that requires a devoted intellect to grasp and study systematically. Instead, the Bible increasingly was sought solely as a practical guide for ethical guidance and spiritual growth.

Second, German higher criticism of the Bible called its historical reliability into question. The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was challenged and the search for the historical Jesus was launched. Believers grew suspicious of the importance of historical study in understanding the Bible and in defending its truthfulness. An increased emphasis was placed on the Holy Spirit in understanding the Bible as opposed to serious historical and grammatical study. Third, Darwinian evolution emerged and “made the world safe for atheists,” as one contemporary Darwinian atheist has put it. Evolution challenged the early chapters of Genesis for some and the very existence of God for others.

Instead of responding to these attacks with a vigorous intellectual counterpunch, many believers grew suspicious of intellectual issues alto- gether. To be sure, Christians must rely on the Holy Spirit in their intel- lectual pursuits, but this does not mean they should expend no mental sweat of their own in defending the faith.
Around the turn of the nineteenth century, fundamentalists with- drew from the broader intellectual culture and from the war with liberals that emerged in most mainline denominations at the time. Funda- mentalists started their own Bible institutes and concentrated their efforts on lay-oriented Bible and prophecy conferences. This withdrawal from the broader intellectual culture and public discourse contri- buted to the isolation of the church, the marginalization of Christian ideas from the public arena, and the shallowness and trivialization of Christian living, thought, and activism. In short, the culture became saltless.

More specifically, we now live in an evangelical community so deeply committed to a certain way of seeing the Christian faith that this perspective is now imbedded within us at a subconscious level.

This conceptualization of the Christian life is seldom brought to conscious awareness for debate and discussion. And our modern understanding of Christian practice underlies everything else we do, from the way we select a minister to the types of books we sell in our bookstores.

It informs the way we raise our children to think about Christianity; it determines how we give money to the cause of Christ; and it shapes our vision, priorities, and goals for both local and parachurch ministry. If our lives and ministries are expressions of what we actually believe, and if what we believe is off center and yet so pervasive that it is seldom even brought to conscious discussion, much less debated, then this explains why our impact on the world is so paltry compared to our numbers. I cannot overemphasize the fact that this modern understanding of Christianity is neither biblical nor consistent with the bulk of church history.

What, exactly, is this modern understanding of Christianity?

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You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you know about Christian beliefs

by Dorothey Sayers

Why do you balk at the doctrine of the Trinity – God the three in One – yet meekly acquiesce when Einstein tells you E=mc2? What makes you suppose that the expression “God ordains” is narrow and bigoted, while your own expression, “Science demands” is taken as an objective statement of fact?

You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you know about Christian beliefs.

I admit, you can practice Christianity without knowing much theology, just as you can drive a car without knowing much about internal combustion. But when something breaks down in the car, you go humbly to the man who understands the works; whereas if something goes wrong with religion, you merely throw the works away and tell the theologian he is a liar.

by Phillip Yancey

I do not get to get to know God and then do his will,

I get to know him more deeply by doing his will.

The Call of Every Christian

Every Christian is called to contend, in various ways, in the various roles to which God has called him or her. This requires us to take what is often the more difficult path, doing what doesn’t come quite so naturally. When we contend—whether inwardly or outwardly—we act in faith and hope, trusting that as we obey God and cooperate with him, truth may prevail over error, obedience over disobedience, and godliness over sin. Contending takes the narrow way; it is not a path to travel alone. This, practically speaking, is why God gives us community. We gather in our local churches to praise the Lord Jesus corporately and to work out our faith practically, with fear and trembling to the glory of God (cf. Phil. 2:12). He does not leave us to our own devices to figure out how to live faithfully. He gives us pastors and leaders to help guide us, and fellow congregation members to walk alongside us on this journey of obedience to Christ and his Word. It’s in this context that we contend for the faith—first (and continually) inwardly, and then (as necessary) outwardly.

To contend with others—to contend outwardly—is to speak the truth in love. This is one of the greatest acts of mercy we can perform, greater even than charity, for it holds out the hope of eternal blessing. To contend in this way is to humbly and confidently confront error and folly and call the wayward to the truth of the gospel. It is to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 20-23).

Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World

Why Won’t God Show Me a Sign?

by chab123 at Ratio Christi-At The Ohio State University

Miracles play a significant role in Christian theology. Obviously, if miracles can’t happen the Christian claim is false (see 1 Cor. 15). What is the definition of a miracle? Theologians and philosophers have offered numerous definitions. For example, Peter Kreeft says, a miracle is “a striking and religiously significant intervention of God in the system of natural causes.” (1) So we might say that a miracle is a special act of God in the natural world, something nature would not have done on its own. In the Bible, miracles have a distinctive purpose: they are used for three reasons:

1. To glorify the nature of God (John 2:11; 11:40)
2. To accredit certain persons as the spokesmen for God (Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3–4)
3. To provide evidence for belief in God (John 6:2, 14; 20:30–31). (2)

Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, told Jesus, “‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him’ ” (Jn. 3:1–2).

In Acts, Peter told the crowd that Jesus had been “accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). Miracles also confirmed the apostolic claim. In 2 Corinthians 12:12: Paul says, “The things that mark an apostle signs, wonders, and miracles were done among you with great perseverance.” (3) For the record, Jesus’ miracles are not the same thing as magic. But that topic can be dealt with at another time.

There is no kingdom without a king. In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. In Matthew 12:38-39, Jesus says, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” In this Scripture, God confirmed the Messianic claim when Jesus said the sign that would confirm his Messiahship was to be the resurrection.

And in Matthew 11:13, John the Baptist, who was languishing in prison after challenging Herod, sent messengers to ask Jesus the question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” In response to John, Jesus provided evidence that His miracles serve as an evidential feature of his messianic identity. Jesus responded to John’s question by saying, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matt. 11:4–6; see also Lk. 7:22). So the pattern for miracles in the Bible is the following:

Sign/Miracle—–Knowledge is Imparted—–Should Result in Obedience/Active Participation

Why Won’t God Show Me A Sign?

Many skeptics have told me they would become a follower of Jesus if God would just show them a sign. In response to this, let’s go back to the Gospels: It is important to note that not all witnesses to a miracle believe. On many occasions Jesus did direct miracles for his audience and they still rejected His claims to be the Messiah. Even in Matthew 12: 22-24, it says:

“ Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.  All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

In this case the Pharisees attribute the miracles of Jesus to Satan. And in some cases the miracle is a witness against those who reject this evidence. John grieved: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37). Jesus himself said of some, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). One result, though not the purpose, of miracles is condemnation of the unbeliever (cf. John 12:31, 37). (2)

Just the other night, our apologetics ministry at The Ohio State University hosted an event called “Can We Detect God in the Natural Sciences?” The speaker was Dr. Paul Nelson. During the question and answer time, a student asked Dr. Nelson the following: ” What would you do if you got direct, concrete evidence for the existence of God?”

I think Dr. Nelson did a great job with this question.  He said if God happened to walk through the door here (where he was speaking), he is not sure how he would handle it. He said he would be quite terrified. He also said that perhaps most of the audience would probably think we were hallucinating. Also, (as mentioned above) Dr Nelson discussed the issue of how the audience of Jesus did not believe in His miracles. The point is that the desire for concrete, or direct evidence for the existence of God can be misguided. This has been written about in Paul Moser’s work.

  1.  Kreeft, P. Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 1994, 101-120.
  2. Geisler, N. L., BECA, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book. 1999, 481.
  3. Ibid, pgs 470-481.