Monday, December 04, 2006

REVELATIONAL REUNIONISM



REVELATIONAL REUNIONISM:
A BIBLICAL AND PHILISOPHICAL PARADIGM FOR
THE DOING OF NATURAL SCIENCE
"A Calvinist who seeks God, does not for a moment think of limiting himself to theology and contemplation, leaving the other sciences, as of a lower character, in the hands of unbelievers; but on the contrary, looking upon it as his task to know God in all His works, he is conscious of having been called to fathom with all the energy of his intellect, things terrestrial as well as things celestial . . ." These words, spoken by Abraham Kuyper in his fourth Stone Lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898, represent the heart of what is meant by the term Revelational Reunionism. It is a distinctly Christian paradigm due to its claim that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the quintessential "missing link" within the discipline of natural science today. Simply stated, Revelational Reunionism is the proposition that an unnatural dichotomy has been introduced into the human condition by the fall, causing us to wrongly separate the witness of nature (i.e. natural revelation) from the witness of Scripture (i.e. supra-natural revelation); and humanity’s greatest need, in order to avoid error and vain speculation in the discipline of natural science, is simply the reunion of these two sources of revelation. The burden of this paper will be to defend this thesis, first, by laying out the basic paradigm; second, by exploring the value of natural revelation; third, by exploring the value of supra-natural revelation; fourth, by demonstrating the necessity of reunion; and fifth, by demonstrating how the glorious reunion of these two sources of revelation is to be accomplished.
The Basic Paradigm
A thorough knowledge of the world in which we live is absolutely essential to human existence. Unfortunately, when one steps out into the realm of nature, one does not find the road-map to deeper knowledge carved into the trunks of trees or spelled out in the leaves, or verbalized upon the lips of animals. Such a system (or paradigm) is simply not supplied by nature alone. Discernible orders and patterns of behavior in nature may seem to suggest particular paradigms; but in the end, the fact that such systems are derived from human observation, renders them subjective, and therefore susceptible to error. What is needed, therefore, is a model, which is not based upon subjective human observation, but rather, revealed by an infallible source.

It has already been stated that Revelational Reunionism regards Scripture as the missing link within the discipline of natural science. Scripture is understood in this context to be the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God. Turning to Scripture, then, in search of an authoritative paradigm for the doing of natural science, becomes a mark of highest prudence. Upon investigation, it turns out that Scripture does reveal a paradigm, implicitly throughout, and explicitly in certain places. The paradigm, simply stated, is the proposition that the witness of nature (i.e. natural revelation) and the witness of Scripture (i.e. supra-natural revelation) have been bound together by God with an essential, organic unity, out of which they are meant to speak to us with complete unity of voice. The separation of the two is unnatural and can only lead to error.

In the very first chapter of the book of Genesis, we find God’s revealed paradigm implicitly taught by the eight-fold repetition of the formula: "Then God said . . . and it was so." This formula demonstrates in no uncertain terms, the existence of an essential, organic unity between the Word of God and the physical universe in which we live. Without the Word of God, our world simply would not exist. The same paradigm is implicitly taught in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Through John, Christ reveals Himself to us as "the Word;" and the Scripture states that, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Once again, the essential, organic unity between the world and the Word of God is clearly implied. Furthermore, according to the first chapter of the book of Hebrews, He "upholds all things by the Word of His power." If this is the case, it was not simply the creation of the world, which was dependent upon the power of God’s Word; but it is the actual abiding presence of that Word which maintains its very existence even now. The organic unity of natural and supra-natural revelation is so essential, that without it the very universe itself would plummet back into the abyss of nothingness and simply cease to exist.
If the implicit teaching of this paradigm is found to be compelling, the explicit teaching of it ought to obliterate all doubt. Psalm 19 does exactly that. It is divided into three parts. The first part, verses 1-6, demonstrate the witness of natural revelation, with its highest expression contained in verse 1: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." The second part, verses 7-11, demonstrate the witness of supra-natural revelation, with its highest expression contained in verses 7 and 8: "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." The third part, verses 12-14, demonstrate the final results which may be achieved when both natural and supra-natural revelation are allowed to speak to us with complete unity of voice; verse 14 says: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." The entire Psalm is dedicated to the demonstration of this paradigm. The Works and the Word of God are meant to speak to us with complete unity of voice. When they are allowed to speak together as they were intended by God, humanity is enabled to think wise and enlightened thoughts about the physical universe, and recognize all of it for what it truly is, the work of God’s hands.

The Value of Natural Revelation
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." This passage testifies to the great value of natural revelation; and it is a testimony, which ought to encourage the Christian in the discipline of natural science. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. Ever since the enlightenment, Christians seem to have retreated from the field of scientific investigation in mass, believing it only to produce conclusions, which are antithetical to the testimony of Scripture. This retreat from science is, of course, a reaction against enlightenment philosophy and Darwinian theory. But to take such a position is to dishonor God who created the natural realm for His own glory and for the benefit of mankind. Ironically, in shying away from what is thought to be antithetical to Scripture, retreating Christians have adopted a response which itself, is antithetical to Scripture. It is, after all, Scripture that has given us the mandate in Genesis 1:28 to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it. . ." But in order to subdue the earth, we must possess a knowledge of the earth; which mandates the discipline of natural science. The fact that secular science uses the raw data of natural revelation to support non-Christian conclusions is not a call to retreat, but a call to battle. It should motivate Christians to exercise with relentless tenacity their God-given mandate to subdue the earth in order that they might take back the territory, which the secularists have high-jacked and once again claim it for the glory of God. Anything less than this constitutes a departure from historic Christianity.

It was the Protestant Reformation that called Christendom out of the ignorance of the dark ages into the light of scientific investigation. Abraham Kuyper speaks to this very fact, saying: "And so it came to pass that the people itself, who had until now refrained from encouraging science, by a new and sparkling energy, suddenly called it into action, spurring it on to a sense of liberty, hitherto unknown." Furthermore, the Scriptures themselves speak to us in a way that demands our knowledge of the world in which we live. For instance, it would be useless for the Scripture to speak to us about Christ walking on the sea of Galilee, or an axe-head floating in the river Jordan, if we were completely ignorant of the fact that human-beings and large pieces of steel generally sink in water rather than float. Moreover, the Scriptures continually speak to us through parables involving agriculture, rain cycles and astrological observations. All of these passages are premised upon our possessing some knowledge of the world in which we live.
Christians must awaken to a new recognition that the raw data of natural revelation does not demand the conclusions of secular science. Abraham Kuyper again has a word for Christians today: "Everything astronomers or geologists, physicists or chemists, zoologists or bacteriologists, historians or archeologists bring to light has to be recorded by you - detached of course from the hypothesis they have slipped behind it and from the conclusions they have drawn from it - but every fact has to be recorded by you as a fact that is to be incorporated as well in your science as in theirs."

Clearly, then, natural revelation is of great value, and is, in fact, absolutely indispensable. It must be remembered, however, that the data from natural revelation alone, cannot lead one to proper conclusions about the world in which we live because it was never meant to stand on its own. When natural revelation is isolated from supra-natural revelation and forced to bear witness by itself, error is the inevitable result.

The Value of Supra-natural Revelation
"The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." These words represent the great value of supra-natural revelation, and demonstrate the absolute necessity of consulting Scripture in order to arrive at wise and enlightened conclusions about the world. In Scripture, God Himself speaks to us about His creation. He tells us how he brought it into existence: by the power of His spoken Word. He also tells us why He brought it into existence: for His own glory. Armed with this knowledge, the natural scientist is free to investigate the physical world on any level without being misguided with regard to the question of origin or purpose. The witness of supra-natural revelation, therefore, enables natural science to exist. And although the Scriptures were not meant to be a natural science textbook, they nevertheless, speak to us about nature on almost every page; and when they do speak to us about nature, they do so inerrantly.

Supra-natural revelation goes above and beyond natural revelation in terms of value, because it is the only infallible source of revelation available to humanity. When Adam and Eve sinned and brought down the curse of God, all of humanity as well as the entire physical universe suffered the devastating consequences. God, speaking to us through the apostle Paul, says in Romans 8:20-22, "the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption . . . for we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." The clarity and accuracy of natural revelation, then, has been obscured by the curse of God due to the fall of mankind into sin. All Scripture, however, in Second Timothy 3:16, is said to be "inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." The Scriptures, then, are the only source of revelation that can speak to us with absolute clarity and accuracy about the physical universe. But here, again, there is a problem. This time, however, the problem does not exist within the source of revelation, but within the receiver of the revelation. For the radical corruption of sin has left no part of man untouched, including his intellect. While Adam and Eve enjoyed the full potential of an unfallen intellect before the fall, after the fall, every faculty of man became corrupted. Humanity no longer possess the original, unfallen intellectual power with which it was created, and is, therefore, prone to error even when confronted with a perfect source of revelation.

Hermeneutics is a system of interpretive principles by which to ensure accuracy of Biblical interpretation. Thankfully, God has providentially allowed the development of hermeneutics to serve as a caveat against the erroneous interpretations, which would be the inevitable result of fallen humanity attempting to deal with Scripture devoid of guiding principles. Hermeneutics, therefore enables us to push through our own corruption in order to arrive at the radiant perfection of God’s pure truth contained in supra-natural revelation. In this, once again, we see the gracious character of our God. Not only did He provide us with an alternate source of supra-natural revelation after humanity’s perfect fellowship with Him was broken at the fall, but He has also provided us with a system of interpretation to ensure that we can understand it. The value of supra-natural revelation, then, cannot be overstated.

The Necessity of Reunion
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were surrounded with the wonder and grandeur of God’s creative handiwork revealed in nature. They possessed a perfect specimen of unfallen creation as well as the full potential of an unfallen intellect with which to comprehend it. Yet God was not content to leave them with natural revelation alone. God spoke to them directly by way of instruction, prohibition and commission. The very fact that He chose to speak to them rather than remain silent testifies to the inadequacy of natural revelation alone to lead them to a proper understanding of the world in which they lived or the way in which God desired them to interact with it. What was needed in addition to natural revelation was a kind of supra-natural revelation, a source of information not revealed in nature alone but equally essential. The perfect fellowship, which Adam and Eve enjoyed with God before the fall, enabled them to receive this supra-natural revelation directly through the spoken word of God. This perfect fellowship, however, was broken for all of us when they decided to disobey Him; and along with this loss of fellowship came also the loss of God’s direct, supra-natural revelation. Thankfully, God is gracious and did not leave us destitute of supra-natural revelation. But instead of receiving this revelation through direct fellowship with God, it would now be given to us through the written testimony of Scripture. Nevertheless, from that moment forward, this unnatural dichotomy between natural and supra-natural revelation has existed in one form or another, leaving all those who reject the Scriptures doomed to wander aimlessly in the darkness of error and vain speculation. What is needed, finally, is a proper reunion of these two revelations, in order that humanity, once again, may be able to arrive at a proper understanding of the world in which we live and the way in which God desires us to interact with it.

The Glorious Reunion
Having stated the thesis, laid out the basic paradigm, explored the value of natural and supra-natural revelation, and demonstrated the necessity of reunion, it only remains now to suggest how such a reunion ought to be facilitated. In order to avoid the imposition of anything arbitrary, our methodology must arise naturally from both thesis and paradigm. At least three guiding principles seem to arise naturally from the foregoing discussion.

First, all data must be complete. That is to say that we must forbear the development of any final conclusions until all of the available data has been collected and properly taken into consideration. This is where many scientists go wrong today. Secular scientists, such as Stephen J. Gould, do not recognize the Scriptures as viable data at all, and it is, therefore, completely rejected, leaving them with only half the data from which to derive their conclusions. This approach is doomed to failure. On the other hand, most Christian scientists today recognize the Scriptures as viable data, but do not unite it with the data from nature before rendering conclusions. Instead, they make one conclusion based upon natural data alone, and another based upon Scriptural data alone, and then try to harmonize the conclusions. This approach is also doomed to failure. We must seek to possess all of the available data contained in natural revelation, as well as all of the available data contained in supra-natural revelation, and allow them to speak to us together with complete unity of voice. Only then can we arrive at any proper conclusions.

Second, all data must be accurate. It has already been stated that natural revelation has been corrupted by the fall, and therefore, does not speak to us infallibly. It has also been stated, that although we possess the inspired and innerant Word of God, our intellectual capacity has been effected by the fall in such a way that we cannot interpret it properly without the guiding principles of hermeneutics. These truths demand that we take the utmost care in how we obtain our data. We must use trained scientists to render accurate data from nature, and trained theologians to render accurate data from the Scriptures. We cannot be too careful in this area. In order to produce accurate conclusions, accurate data is of absolute necessity.

Third, all conclusions must be in line with Scripture. It has already been stated that Scripture is the only infallible source of revelation that we possess. If that is the case, it follows that if we should ever find ourselves confronted with data from nature, which does not seem to harmonize with data from Scripture, the Scriptural data must take precedence. It is our earnest intention to give all data equal weight, but since natural revelation has been corrupted by the fall, we must never let it dictate final conclusions over against Scripture. In some cases we may have to live with a certain amount of ambiguity or embrace a paradoxical conclusion. Revelational Reunionism leaves room for exercise of faith.

In the final analysis, Revelational Reunionism simply seeks to do in the realm of natural science, that which David sought to do in Psalm 19:14, when he prayed: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." The underlying assumption of Revelational Reunionism is that this goal is achievable in the realm of natural science by reuniting that which should never have been separated. Let us bring natural revelation and supra-natural revelation together once again in glorious reunion; and emblazon upon them forevermore the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt. 19:6).
Soli Deo Gloria,
Shane Morgan

Saturday, September 09, 2006

CONTOURS OF IMAGO DEI

CONTOURS OF IMAGO DEI
THE POLITICAL AND SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF
HAVING BEEN MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
by: Shane Morgan

"Calvinism was bound . . . not to rest until both politically and socially every man, simply because he is man, should be recognized, respected and dealt with as a creature created after the Divine likeness" (Kuyper, Abraham, Lectures on Calvinism. pg. 27). When Abraham Kuyper made this statement in his first Stone lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898, he was expressing in seed form the political and social implications of having been made in the image of God. The task now falls to us to delineate in greater detail, just what these implications are in order to trace the contours of imago Dei.

There are, of course, various different angles from which one may approach a subject of such intrinsic complexity. The angle which we shall adopt in the present analysis will be to trace the contours of imago Dei by fleshing out the essence of three main propositions. The first proposition to which we will give analysis is that man was created imago Dei. Second, we will focus our attention upon the proposition, which states, man is the subject of moral agency. And third, we will examine the undeniable proposition that man is inherently social.

First, to say that man was created imago Dei is to espouse one of the most foundational truths taught in Scripture: "God created man in His own image . . ." (Gen. 1:27). Undeniably, there are certain fundamental differences between human beings and the other creatures with which we cohabit our planet, contra the claims of various animal rights activist groups. There is an intrinsic value and dignity possessed by human beings that by far outweighs that of every other creature. But humans are not only unique in contrast to animals; they are also individually unique in comparison to other human beings. Humans possess the capacity to think for themselves; they have different likes and dislikes, different emotional and psychological needs, different goals and ambitions. And these various combinations of uniquenesses coalesce in each individual constituting an independent being.

In recognition of these truths, it is understandable that the framers of the Declaration of Independence would include among the basic rights of human beings, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The value and dignity of the human person demands these freedoms. People all throughout history have been willing to die for the cause of liberty. Indeed, "[m]an, it would seem, is destined to want to be free" (Samuel, Gregg, On Ordered Liberty. pg. 29). Liberty, however, is not as easily achieved as it is espoused once we realize that there are other persons with whom we must cohabit, who also have the right to freedom. This immediately means that each person’s freedom must be limited by perimeters, which prohibit any free acts that would impinge upon the liberty of another. This then, is the paradox of freedom - that in order to ensure liberty for all who deserve it, liberty itself must be constrained by certain limitations. In the end, "the value of liberty depends upon its being used well," (Ibid. pg. 47) which requires the ability to make choices that are ethically and morally charitable toward all human beings who have been created in the image of God.

Second, to say that man was created imago Dei, is to imply also that man is the subject of moral agency. God, Himself is the supreme moral agent and therefore those created in His image are the subjects of moral agency as well. He tells us in no uncertain terms, "you shall be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:45). Furthermore, "God . . . imprints in men a natural law or rational command that is written in their hearts" (Piedra, Alberto, Natural Law. pg. 10). He preserves an element of freedom within the human person, however, which renders each person free to choose the way in which they will respond to this natural law. This leaves us in a difficult position, because although man is a rational being, the results of the fall render our natural reasoning faculties insufficient to exercise our moral agency in a way that consistently honors the freedom and dignity of others. Even a casual reading of the daily news will prove this to be the case.

As we come to terms with this truth, it becomes evident that if we are to govern ourselves in a way that is mutually beneficial, we simply must appeal to divine revelation. There is no other way. The enlightenment philosophers attempted to circumvent this truth, but in the end they ultimately "failed to provide a public rational justification for a morality void of teleological foundation" (Ibid. pg. 28). With reasoning faculties, which through sin have been rendered insufficient to respond to natural law, and without the corrective influence of divine revelation, every person becomes a law unto themselves with anarchy as the inevitable result. (Sorry Dem's, your self-deluded pipe dream of a world in which your personal autonomy is the highest priority of government simply won't work!) We see this truth in vivid colors when we survey the moral landscape within our post-modern context. Indeed, it is a sad indictment upon any society when a person can at the same time approve of partial-birth abortion and the boycott of KFC because of it’s mistreatment of chickens! Can any thinking person really believe the ACLU is not a living, breathing oxymoron? When truth and morality are divorced from the solid grounding of natural law and divine revelation, they are effectively reduced to nothing more than personally subjective opinions. The so-called "age of reason" has thus nullified the very concepts of truth and morality so as to render human beings all the more incompetent to function as the subjects of moral agency within society. This implies the absolute necessity of human government, whose main purpose is to constrain through force, those who without such constraint, would commit acts which impinge upon the freedom and dignity of others.

Third, that man is inherently social is a principle that permeates and underscores all that we have said hitherto. Human beings are not constituted in such a way as to comfortably live a life of radical autonomy devoid of close relationships. Indeed, God tells us, "it is not good that man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). This implies the inevitability of human societies, which in turn demands some form of government. It is our task then, as freedom loving people, to create a form of government that is consistent with the dignity and freedom of all persons made in the image of God.

Throughout the history of human existence, man has experimented with many different forms of government ranging from totalitarian rule on one end of the spectrum to utopianism on the other. These experiments have shown democracy to be the one form of government, which takes most seriously both the dignity and the freedom of the human subject. But what form of democracy shall we have? We must keep in mind that "The value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes" (Pell, George, Is There Only Secular Democracy?. pg. 324). Indeed, Cardinal George Pell asks, "Is there only secular democracy?" (Ibid. pg. 321). Listening to the anti-Christian voices within our post-modern context, one might conclude that there is no other form of democracy. And yet secular democracy is failing miserably to maintain a proper balance between the freedom and dignity of human persons! Instead, secular democracy upholds freedom as the greatest good to the detriment of intrinsic dignity, which is possessed by all who have been created imago Dei. This is seen most vividly in the current abortion epidemic, where people uphold freedom of choice while ignoring the dignity and value of the human fetus. It is also seen in the degradation of human personhood through pornography and the breakdown of the family which leaves countless children emotionally and psychologically damaged. Could any sincere Christian support a political party, which not only endorses but celebrates these moral evils?! If secular democracy continues to win the day and freedom continues to be elevated as the greatest good over against the dignity of human personhood, our very form of government is destined to collapse in on itself. So what is the answer?

What we need, contends Cardinal Pell, is a form of democracy "founded on the transcendent dignity of the human person" (Ibid. pg. 326). But if this sort of democracy is ever to materialize, once again, it is clear that we must embrace the dictates of divine revelation. There is no other way. The moral consciousness of Christianity alone holds the dignity and freedom of the human person in perfect balance and thus forms the basis for a form of democracy, which could rescue secular democracy from its trajectory toward total bankruptcy. We would do well to listen to the likes of Robert Kraynak who spells this out well when he says, "modern democracy needs the faith and morals of Christianity to sustain its deepest assumptions about responsible freedom and human dignity" (Kraynak, Robert P., Christian Faith and Modern Democracy. pg. xiii).

In conclusion, the political and social implications of having been created in the image of God are far-reaching indeed. We must recognize the intrinsic value and dignity of every person who has been created in the image of God and seek to preserve for all the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the end, we must seek to bring the theology of imago Dei to bear upon all things - not upon ourselves only, but upon others as well. We must bring the theology of imago Dei to bear upon society, culture and ultimately even upon government itself to the end that all things might redound to our good and to God’s greater glory. One can only hope we haven't slid down the slope of moral compromise so far that recovery is impossible.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Shane Morgan

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"DON'T DRINK OR DANCE OR CUSS OR CHEW AND DON'T HANG AROUND WITH THOSE WHO DO!!"

"DON’T DRINK OR DANCE OR CUSS OR CHEW
AND DON’T HANG AROUND WITH THOSE WHO DO!!"

I just read a blog by Tom Ascol in reference to Bobby Welsh’s article in SBC Life, dealing with the much disputed "Resolution # 5," A resolution which will live in infamy! (If I may take the liberty to apply an appropriate quote to the issue). This blog drew down a firestorm of comments written by those who agree and those who disagree with the resolution. It seems as if this thing just won’t go away. And that’s sad, because we have far more important issues, which demand our attention and energy.

So why am I taking the time and energy to speak to the issue? Good question! And the answer is that I think I have an approach to the issue that nobody has voiced as of yet. We have heard all of the arguments for the resolution and we have heard all of the arguments against the resolution. So, who’s right? I think they both are. Now just hang with me for a minute and I’ll explain why I say that. I intend to demonstrate that in all of this bickering we have failed to have a balanced view of the issue. There are principles that weigh in on both sides of the issue, and to fail to take them all into account results in a lopsided theology.

Principle 1: It is an indisputable fact that Scripture nowhere condemns the use of alcohol. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. Without a doubt, wine was used in the celebration of the Passover and therefore at the Last Supper, which by the way, is the institution of the Lord’s Supper. In evidence of this Paul had to write to the Corinthians in (1 Cor. 11: 17-22) instructing them not to get drunk when they came together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This would not have been an issue if wine were not used. Furthermore, Paul actually instructs Timothy in (1 Tim. 5: 23) to use wine for medicinal purposes. In every instance where the Scriptures speak to the issue of alcohol, it is in reference to the abuse thereof. The bottom line is that Scripture nowhere condemns the consumption of alcohol in and of itself, but everywhere condemns it’s abuse.

Principle 2: Every Christian has a personal responsibility to weigh the principle of the weaker brother against the principle of Christian liberty and decide which one is more prudent. As Christians we have the liberty to indulge, as well as the right to waive our liberty to indulge. In almost all cases, those who argue for the liberty to indulge are very good at pointing out that based on (Rom. 14) and (1 Cor. 8 & 9) Christians have the liberty to consume alcohol if they wish, as long as they don’t violate the prohibitions against abuse taught in other portions of Scripture. Unfortunately, the same polemicists always fail miserably to recognize that the OVERWHELMING emphasis in these passages is Paul’s argument that if his liberty could, in any way, become a stumbling block to others, he ABSOLUTELY, WILL NOT partake. In other words, he is willing to waive his Christian liberty with regard to anything, in order to prevent a brother or sister from stumbling. And he has every right to waive this liberty. This is the overwhelming burden of Paul’s teaching in both places. Now I would ask every Christian who sincerely wants to be governed by Scripture to check themselves with regard to this issue. We all know without a shadow of a doubt, how big of a stumbling block alcohol is in our culture (and yes, even within the church). In light of this, it is every sincere Christian’s responsibility to make sure his personal liberty does not cause others to stumble. There are two ways to do this: first, don’t indulge at all; and second, don’t indulge publicly (and that means don’t brag about it or try to champion it as a Christian liberty issue either). If you realize that you, as a Christian, possess the liberty to use alcohol responsibly (as I do), you need to do so with the utmost caution and care for others. And in the vast majority of cases, I think you will conclude that it is better to exercise your right to waive your Christian liberty. Which one of these two solutions you choose in every situation is up to you and should be based upon the particular circumstances in which you find yourself.

Principle 3: It is the churches responsibility to stand exclusively upon Biblical truth and not to water it down or to add to it (Rev. 22: 18-19). As I argued before in my blog entitled: What Is The Gospel, we must be careful to present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I outlined the gospel in five basic propositions and made the comment that anything less than this is not a full gospel presentation, and anything more than this is to bind up heavy loads and place them on men’s shoulders. The gospel of the kingdom should be presented in all it’s complexity and simplicity without denominational baggage or men’s opinions. Therefore, the church should not require more from it’s members than Scripture does. The church is to be "the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Tim. 3: 15). If we cannot trust the church to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, who can we trust? This is a very serious responsibility and one which we should not take lightly. If the church embellishes the revealed truth of God with it’s own extra-Biblical requirements, the revelation is altered just as much as if we were to take something away. And the full truth of Scripture on the issue of alcohol is this: we have the liberty to indulge as well as the right to waive that liberty in the interest of our weaker brothers. Both teachings are necessary in order to maintain Biblical fidelity.

Principle 4: The SBC is not a church. This is where I think so many people fail to have a balanced understanding of this issue. The Scriptures and the truth contained within, are the responsibility of the church to maintain and defend. The church must not take anything away or add anything to God’s revelation. Therefore, for a local church to make any resolutions that fail to live up to Scriptural standards or exceed Scriptural standards, is a failure to maintain the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But neither the SBC, nor the Seminary, either one, are churches! They are para-church organizations. Anyone who disagrees with me at this point seriously needs to brush up on their ecclesiology. But I’m going to assume that my readers are in full agreement with me here. That being said, the SBC, and the Seminary, (being constituted as para-church organizations and not churches) both have the authority to impose requirements upon their members for any reason they like - even extra-Biblical ones. In the case of Resolution # 5, the reasons are EXTREMELY COMMENDABLE, and ought to be consented to by all serious Christians. They don’t want to cause anybody to stumble! Nor do they want to tarnish their image as a body of like-minded Christian people, distinct from the world. Yes.... yes.... yes; I know there are those in the ranks who advocate the resolution based upon legalistic, fundamental, and just plain poor Biblical theology. But that’s beside the point! The point is that as a para-church organization and not a church, the SBC and the Seminary are not violating God’s Truth Trust by requiring their members to abstain from alcohol. It is specifically the church who has been charged with the task of being the pillar and ground of the Truth.
Now lets juxtapose these four principles and see if we can construct a balanced view of this issue.
  1. The Bible doesn’t condemn the use of alcohol, but rather, the abuse thereof.
  2. It is every Christian’s responsibility weigh the weaker brother principle against the Christian liberty principle.
  3. It is the responsibility of the church to be the pillar and ground of the truth.
  4. The SBC, nor the Seminary, either one, are churches.

When brought together into a comprehensive whole, we begin to see that Resolution #5 is not as polarized as it defenders and detractors would like to believe. The fact of the matter is, they’re both right.

Two points need to be taken into consideration on a personal level. First, Christians have the Biblical liberty to indulge in alcoholic beverages as long as they don’t violate the no-abuse principle. And second, Christians also have the right to waive their Christian liberty if it might become a stumbling block.

Two points need to be taken into consideration on an institutional level. First, it is the Church who has been charged with the task of being the pillar and ground of the Truth. And second, the SBC nor the Seminary are churches.

So when we look at the issue of Resolution # 5 through the lens of these four principles, on an institutional level we see that it was not wrong for the SBC or the Seminary to impose a rule of abstinence upon it’s members because they, in fact, are not churches. Furthermore the weaker brother principle supports the decision as a prudent one at such a time as this. At a time when alcohol is such a huge stumbling block in our culture, it does indeed seem wise and prudent to exercise our right to waive our Christian liberty to indulge. I think the serious Christian who weighs the liberty principle against the weaker brother principle, will eventually see this. On a personal level, each individual Christian has the liberty to indulge, and the right to waive his liberty to indulge. That being said, make your decision Christian. The SBC and the Seminary have made theirs. You have no right to castigate them for exercising their right to waive their Christian liberty. Nobody’s forcing you to remain in the SBC, or for that matter the Seminary. If you cannot live with their decisions, which are both Biblically supported and prudent for our times, then you should leave. As a matter of personal choice whether to exercise your Christian liberty to indulge, or to exercise your right to waive your Christian liberty to indulge, the matter is simple. As students at Southern, you are bound by the Code of Student Conduct to abstain. By enrolling at Southern, you implicitly give your consent to this perfectly legitimate and Biblical rule to exercise your right to waive your Christian liberty. As a member of the SBC you are not bound personally to abstain unless you want to serve in office. Now you have two choices, either exercise your Christian liberty to responsibally indulge in private so as not to cause a brother or sister to stumble; or exercise your right to waive your Christian liberty.

In conclusion, let me say again that the burden of this blog was to demonstrate that the issue if Resolution # 5 is not as polarized as it’s defenders and detractors would like to believe. In fact they are both right. And it is only when we properly juxtapose all of the Biblical principles involved and look at the issue through that lens, that we can escape the lopsided theology of which most are guilty and come to a balanced understanding. May God grant us light!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Shane Morgan

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Real Men Like HOT Salsa

REAL MEN LIKE HOT SALSA

Recently a good friend and I made some fresh garden salsa out of some vegetables I grew in the back yard. When it came time to add the jalapino peppers, my friend asked me to save him a portion without the peppers. To this request, I jokingly replied: "real men like hot salsa." Now, we have an ongoing bit of friendly banter whenever we make salsa, as I ask him if he would like the sissy version. His reply is always something like, "no, I just want you to save me some before you ruin it."

Such friendly banter amongst men is healthy and fun. And, of course, whether or not one likes their salsa hot or mild really has nothing to do with manhood. But I think it does raise a question that is crucial within our current cultural milieu. And that is, What does true masculinity look like?

With that question now asked, I must lament with bitter tears the sad, sad fact that our society has absolutely no clue how to answer this! The influence of feminism has so radically eclipsed the distinctiveness of manhood and labeled the portrayal of masculinity as an expression of male chauvinism, that not only has a healthy masculinity been lost to antiquity, but the very term itself has come into wide-spread disuse. The Feminist and homosexual movements have unwittingly lent strength to one another and in a joint effort have almost completely succeeded in wiping out any vestige of a healthy understanding of gender roles within our society.

I recently read an article on dailymail.com by a columnist named Nirpal Dhaliwal, entitled How Feminism Destroyed Real Men. I cannot endorse the article due to its biting tone and inappropriate sexual content. However, Mr. Dhaliwal is certainly onto something. Listen to a few of his comments. He writes:

"Back in the Nineties, emboldened by the successes of feminism, women sought to slay the dragon of patriarchy by turning men into ridiculous sissies who would cry with them through chick-flicks and then cook up a decent lasagna. . . In recent years, men have been trained like circus seals to be inoffensive to women. . . Now, over a decade later, women are waking up to the fact that these men are drippy, sexless bores. The feminisation of men hasn’t produced the well-rounded males women were hoping for. . . These are cardboard cut-out men who gush with empathy whenever their wives and girlfriends need to dump their professional stresses and female angst on them: weak and soulless men who haven’t the guts to make a mark themselves, who take the passenger seat in their women’s juggernaut journey to post-feminist nirvana. . . Men are now generally terrified of women. They hold their tongues for fear of being misinterpreted as sexist. . .They suppress their masculinity and present themselves as cuddly Mr. Nice Guys, and won’t project self-confidence in case it’s regarded as unreconstructed machismo."

Even if written in an un-Christianly biting tone, Mr. Dhaliwal has leveled a pretty accurate diagnosis of the current state of masculinity. Feminism would have us believe that gender roles are repressive and artificial; that the differentiation of male and female characteristics and mannerisms are simply cultural constraints that tend to devalue women and inhibit their freedom to succeed. And because the female body has been elevated to an object of worship for the vast majority of Americans, women now hold an incredible sexual power over men everywhere. This is a power they have mastered well; and they wield it with incredible efficacy. The result is, of course, that masculinity has virtually disappeared and men have been browbeaten into subjection to the politically correct position, which is now termed "equality."

Men, however, are not simply innocent victims in all of this either. Ever since Adam in the garden of Eden, men have found it easier to take the back-seat. Consider this quote from the story of the fall: "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate" (Gen. 3:6). The text says that Adam was with here the whole time! The one who was supposed to be the head of the household, the leader, provider and protector, apparently stood right there and let her transgress the express law of God!! Satan successfully turned the family structure on it’s head and enticed Eve to lead the way into sin and Adam into following her.
After the fall, as part of the curse, God said to Eve "your desire shall be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (Gen 3:16). What we have now is a dispute over leadership within the home. Now, says God, "your desire shall be for your husband" (i.e. the leadership capacity of your husband), and yet he is still responsible to "rule over you" (i.e. to be the head of the household). God, in effect, said: if that’s the way you want it, that’s the way you’ll get it. The result is that the natural inclination of every woman’s heart is to usurp the male leadership role within the relationship, and the natural inclination of every mans heart is to be subject to that usurpation. It was an abdication of God-given masculinity that led to the fall; and it’s an abdication of God-given masculinity that plagues us still today.

In Christ, however, the curse has been lifted. We still deal with the residual inclinations of a sinful heart; but we are no longer in bondage to them. It is a woman’s Christian duty to fight against the sinful inclination to usurp the leadership role; and it is a man’s Christian duty to fight against the sinful inclination to submit to that usurpation. We must embrace a healthy, Biblical sense of masculinity and live it out in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Randy Stinson has written a very insightful article in Southern Seminary magazine, helping us to see just exactly what a Biblical masculinity should look like. He writes:

"Most definitions and descriptions of biblical Christian manhood tend to major on the Christian and minor on the manhood. . . But are there not specific, differing ways in which men and women will live out the Christian life? Are there not certain ways in which I am going to instruct my sons, that I will not do with my daughters? There are no generic people. There are men and there are women. Consequently, there are no generic Christian people. There are Christian men, and there are Christian women."

He draws his instruction from David’s final words to his son Solomon in (1 Kings 2: 1-9). That passage begins like this: "As David’s time to die grew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.’" Isn’t it interesting that David begins his instruction by telling his son: "Show yourself a man!" I love that! In the following verses, David spells out how Solomon is supposed to do this. He tells Solomon to "be strong," (v. 2) "Keep the charge of the Lord your God," (v. 3) "Act according to your wisdom," (v. 6) "Show kindness" (v. 7). In other words, David was telling Solomon to show himself a man by leading with strength, remaining obedient to God, acting in wisdom and showing kindness where kindness is due. And these characteristics of masculinity are reiterated all throughout Scripture when speaking about manhood. But there’s more.

"The Bible," Stinson says, "when giving specific instruction and admonition to men, usually does so within three key categories: leading, providing and protecting." Stinson suggests nine characteristics of leadership. Leaders must 1. Cast a vision; 2. Give direction; 3. Provide instruction; 4. Lead by example 5. Provide inspiration; 6. Give affirmation; 7. Evaluate progress; 8. Make corrections when needed; 9. Protect and provide for those in their care.

The Lord Jesus demonstrated these qualities perfectly during His time on earth. He is to be our model; and there could be none better. The Lord Jesus Christ showed Himself a man in everything that he did. His masculinity dominated his character. His strength and resolve was displayed in His victory over the temptations of the devil in the wilderness (Matt. 4: 1-11). "He perfectly manifested a balance of masculine compassion and provision," writes Stinson, "with the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery, and masculine righteous protective anger in denouncing the Pharisees and Sadducees and cleansing the temple. He set His face like a flint toward the cross and, in spite of the abandonment of His disciples and their failure of nerve, He persevered to His death and victorious resurrection. In other words, Biblical manhood is modeled after the Lord Jesus."

Stinson ends his article with a few suggestions about how we can cultivate masculinity under the lordship of Christ.
  1. Do the hardest task first. Attacking your hardest task of the day without delay will build your resistance to passivity.
  2. Run to the battle. One only needs to consider the life of the Apostle Paul to see that conflict is a regular feature of the Christian life. Men who think all conflict should be avoided, or who refuse to engage with those who would harm the body of Christ or their family, not only model passivity but fail in the area of protection.
  3. Don’t procrastinate. The man who is cultivating Biblical masculinity will not allow things to rule over him. He will exercise dominion over them by doing them in a timely manner.
  4. Keep your domain in order. A life that is characterized by disorder is evidence of passivity. Your home, dorm room, garage, office and car should bear the mark of your masculinity as you subdue it and keep it in order.
  5. Kill a bear or a lion. In other words, do something that is challenging for you. It may actually be to kill a bear or a lion, but it may be a health challenge like running a triathlon or a marathon. It may be riding a roller coaster or snorkeling with sharks. Or it may mean you need to finally share the gospel with your lost friend.


So, just what does true masculinity look like? It will look exactly like the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be characterized by strength of character; it will be characterized by obedience to God; it will be characterized by the exercise of wisdom; it will be characterized by kindness when kindness is due; it will be characterized by a willingness to lead, a willingness to provide, and a willingness to protect; it will be characterized by a rejection of passivity; it will be characterized by an aggressive determination in pursuit of good and godly goals; it will be characterized by the exercise of dominion; it will be characterized by bravery, honor and integrity; and it will be decidedly anti-feminine in its mannerisms.

And on rare occasions, it just may involve working up the nerve to try a mouth-full of really hot salsa (which, by the way, my friend did).

Soli Deo Gloria,
Shane Morgan





Wednesday, August 02, 2006

ANCIENT BOOK OF PSALMS

ANCIENT BOOK OF PSALMS


ABC News International published an article today announcing the finding of midieval book of Psalms. You can access the article here.

As a Bible history enthusaist, I revel in findings such as this supposedly 800-1000 year old copy of the book of Psalms. If this dating is accurate, this book was owned by an Irish, Catholic, Christian sometime between 1oo6 and 1206 AD. This is well before the Reformation and smack dab in the middle of the Renaissance period. The Catholic church reigned supreme during this period and therefore, it is no surprise that this copy of the Psalms is written in Latin.

In all probability this book was owned by a monastary or perhaps by an individual monk who translated and bound it himself. This is most probable for several reasons. One, a book like this would have been well outside the price range of the common man in those days. The vast majority lived in abject poverty. This argues for monastic ownership. Two, binding materials were extremely expensive and time comsuming to produce, therefore, velum bindings were almost always extremely thin. But the binding on this codex is said to be "leather velum, very thick, wallet in appearance." This means the production of this codex was a special project and argues for individual ownership. Three, monks would have been the only people educated enough to read and write at a level of proficiency capable of producing a work like this. The vast majority were completely illiterate during this time period. This once again argues for monastic origin.

We won't know much more about this treasure for a good long while since the pages are stuck together due to 800 to 1000 years of emersion in an Irish bog. The only reason we can know as much as we do now is becasue the book was found open to Psalm 83, which gaves archaeologists a look at the text. Perhaps as studies continue and pages are separated, a date and name will be discovered! Then we will know for certain what we can now only speculate. Regardless, this is an exhilerating discovery and one that I look forward with great anticipation to hearing more about.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Shane Morgan

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

THE ONE BOOK SURVEY

THE ONE BOOK
I got this from a friend, who got this from a friend, who probably got it from a friend. It looked like fun, so here goes.
1. One book that changed your life: Without a doubt, this would have to be The Sovereignty of God, by: Arthur W. Pink
2. One book that you’ve read more than once: There are several books I've read more than once but I'm going to say Pilgrim's Progress. I've read that one three times.
3. One book you’d want on a desert island: The Bible of course! (But can I please, please, please take a couple more?!?!)
4. One book that made you laugh: Any and all books that try to defend Arminianism.
5. One book that made you cry: The Sovereignty of God, by: Arthur W. Pink (yes, I've already mentioned that one)
6. One book that you wish had been written: A magic reference book that contains all the information I will ever need when writing papers, with an easy to use table of contents and quick locate tabs.
7. One book that you wish had never been written: The Devinci Code, this has without doubt, become the biggest scurge upon Christianity since Darwin's Origin of Species.
8. One book you’re currently reading: The Mystical Presence, by: John williamson Nevin
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: Institutes of the Christian Religion, by: John Calvin; it's such a daunting task to try and read this work between semesters!
10. One book you haven't finished but will finish in the next month: John Owen On The Christian Life, by: Sinclair B. Ferguson

Thursday, July 27, 2006

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

It is very interesting to notice that within evangelicalism there seems to be some confusion about just exactly how to define the gospel. The reason I find this so interesting, is of course, because the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is supposed to be the common denominator upon which all evangelicals take their stand. If this is the case, then one would expect to find a broad, sweeping unanimity amongst our ranks when it comes to defining the gospel. But this just doesn’t seem to be the case. Opinions on what elements are essential to the gospel message vary considerably; and consequently, the way the gospel is shared with lost people varies as well. I believe that all evangelicals, whatever their definition of the gospel may be, are well intentioned. And I understand the necessity to keep the gospel just as simple as the Bible presents it. But, I am concerned that in some cases, a full gospel presentation may not be given; or in other cases, that the gospel is laden with such a load of denominational baggage that it’s darn near impossible to tote. Some clarity is needed on the issue.

What then, are the essential elements of the gospel? Most evangelicals follow something similar to the Romans Road, emphasizing at least three essentials. One, we are all sinners. Two, Jesus died to save sinners. Three, we must accept Christ by faith in order to be saved. Some feel that this is not a full gospel presentation. Others feel this definition to be more exhaustive than Scripture calls for, appealing to (1 Cor. 15: 3-4) "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. . ." Based upon this passage, some evangelicals insist that there are only three essential elements to the gospel: 1. "Christ died for our sins;" 2. "He was buried;" and 3. "He was raised on the third day." Still others would define the gospel even more simply than this, appealing to (1 Tim. 1:15) "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." In this gospel presentation, there is only one essential truth: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

It is my contention, that all of these understandings of the gospel are too simplistic and in the end, they are not full gospel presentations. Even the Romans Road (as described above) I do not consider to be a full gospel presentation. But I do believe that the Romans Road is on the right track. The full gospel message is not contained in any one verse, in any one place. Elements of the gospel are scattered throughout the New Testament, and need to be drawn together in a comprehensive whole, without denominational baggage and without personal opinions.

It is necessary, therefore, to establish a basic hermeneutic principle; and that is that we never build an entire doctrine based upon only one passage of Scripture. While (1 Cor. 15: 3-4) and (1 Tim. 1: 15) are both excellent statements of gospel truth, they never claim to be exhaustive in their treatment of the gospel. The problem with those who reject the Romans Road approach in favor of these passages of Scripture, is that they insist on a very wooden and explicit reading of these passages without taking into consideration their clear implications. For example, when read no deeper than face value (1 Cor. 15: 3-4) only teaches three essential gospel elements: Christ died for sins, Christ was buried and Christ was raised on the third day. But clearly, if Scripture states that Christ died for sins, it implies first that there were sins for which he needed to die; and second, that death was the only way do deal with them. So obviously, when Paul points explicitly to only these three elements, he certainly expects his readers to understand all of the other gospel essentials by way of synecdoche.

The same is true of (1 Tim. 1:15). Taken at face value, this passage only explicitly teaches one element: Christ came into the world to save sinners. There’s not even a hint of the fact that He had to die in order to accomplish this mission; and only a partial elusion to the fact that sinners need to be saved. This is obviously not a comprehensive treatment of the gospel. Once again, Paul expects his readers to understand him by synecdoche, to be referring to whole gospel message.

Now, my problem with the Romans Road model (the way it is most commonly used) is that I believe it to be missing at lease one essential element, and that is the resurrection. I believe that when we do an exhaustive search of the Scriptures, we find five essential elements that make up the gospel message.
  1. We are all sinners separated from God with no hope of reconciliation by our own efforts. (Rom. 3: 32) (Eph. 2: 8-9 & 10)
  2. Jesus Christ is the very Son of God. (Acts 8: 36-38) (1 Jn. 6:13) (Mt. 16: 16-18)
  3. Jesus Christ died as our substitute on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and provide a means of reconciliation with God. (1 Pet. 3: 18) (Rom. 3: 24-26)
  4. Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave on the third day. (Rom. 10: 9-10) (Acts 15: 12-19)
  5. Sinners must receive Jesus Christ by faith as both Savior and Lord. (Eph. 2:8-9) (1 Tim. 1:1) (2 Pet. 1:11)

This is the gospel message. And yes, people need to believe all five in order to be saved. You can look up these verses on your own and see if you think I’m straying off course or not. But I fully and committedly believe that anything less than this is not a full gospel presentation. And conversely, anything more than this is binding up heavy loads and placing them on men’s shoulders. I don't think poeple need to fully comprehend all of the theological constructions behind these five elements. For instance, people need to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but they do not have to have an indepth working knowledge of Chalcedon. People need to believe that Christ died for them personally, but they don't need to have an indepth, working knowledge of propitiation, expiation and imputation. You see what I mean. Belief in these five essentials is necessary, but not full understanding. Faith seeking understanding is the proper persuit of Christian descipleship and sanctification and that will come later.

Calling upon Christ to save sinners through the proclamation of His Word is a serious business and entails a commitment on the part of the preacher to deliver His Word accurately and fully. To present half a gospel dishonors the Lord of the gospel and leaves people in their lost condition. To present a gospel laden with denominational baggage and men’s opinions is to stand in judgment over the gospel message and presume to be an editor of God’s revealed truth; and once again, this leaves people in their lost condition.


We can’t be too careful on this. And the widespread divergence of gospel definitions within evangelicalism demonstrates a lack of seriousness with regard to the essential elements of the gospel. Those who would proclaim God’s Word and ask Him to save sinners through their efforts, need to make sure they are delivering the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Shane Morgan