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History Could Happen Again

Nathan Finn:

Those who followed Jonathan Edwards advanced his original vision for prayer, spiritual awakening, and missionary advance. Between 1780 and 1820, entire denominations experienced revival, sound doctrine overcame soul-deadening error, numerous new benevolent ministries were launched (I have only referenced the mission societies), and English-speaking evangelicals became passionate about fulfilling the Great Commission. It could happen again.

A Different Kind of Millennial Problem

Brandon Clements:

I serve as a pastor at a 7 year-old church plant in downtown Columbia, where we have a different kind of millennial problem – we have too many of them. We are a church that averages 800 on Sundays with over 925 people plugged into LifeGroups.

But the most shocking part? 90% of our church is under 30 years old. We have the exact opposite problem of most churches. When someone who looks older walks through our door, we pray they are solid and that they’ll stick around to pour into the mass of youth we have.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Get Sola Scriptura in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub and MOBI editions of Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton (paperback)
  • Moses and the Burning Bush teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)
  • The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

We Need To Stop Blaming Parents For “Wayward” Teens

Stephen Altrogge:

When a teenager goes AWOL, we immediately assume that the his parents must have failed him in some way. His parents must not have brought enough discipline into his life. His parents must not have prayed for him enough, read him the Bible enough, sent him to VBS enough. If his parents had done the right thing, the child wouldn’t be plunging headlong into sin.

We really need to stop blaming parents for wayward teens. 

A Gender-Confused World

Heidi Jo Fulk:

Distinguishing our kids—all people for that matter—as male or female seems straightforward enough. But in our culture that seemingly simple dividing line is being questioned; not just roles and stereotypes, but the most basic of issues—even for children.

 

Know the Heretics

Know the Heretics by Justin Holcomb

“Heretic” is one of those words we struggle to use well. Often times, you see it used in one of two ways—either liberally or ironically. One equates all disagreement with apostasy, the other pretends disagreement doesn’t matter at all.

Both rob the word of its power.

Justin Holcomb understands the seriousness of heresy and what it means to call someone a heretic—it is “a weighty charge that [is] not made lightly, nor [is] it used whenever there [is] theological inaccuracy or impression” (14).

So how do we learn to use this word wisely? By knowing what heresy really is. And so, we have Holcomb’s newly released Know the Heretics. This short book introduces readers to several heresies that have threatened the church throughout history, and how the controversies surrounding each—whether it be the requirement to obey the Law, the existence of original sin, or the Trinity itself—helped shape the church as it is today.

Learning from the past to understand the present

It’s tempting to pretend that ancient heresies don’t matter anymore because, well, they’re ancient. But this tendency is our chronological snobbery at work. We like to think we’re beyond the problems of the ancient world; that because we are so much more advanced, we couldn’t possibly fall prey to the same errors our spiritual forbearers did.

You know what they say about those who ignore the past, right?

That’s why we need a book like this one. “This book is a case study of fourteen major events when the church made the right call—not for political or status reasons… but because orthodox teaching preserved Jesus’ message in the best sense, and the new teaching distorted it,” Holcomb writes (12).

These case studies confront readers with our core problem: apathy. Take Sabellianism—a form of Modalism—for example. The reason this error gained ground so easily wasn’t because it was intellectually sound or vigorously defended. It gained ground simply because we have a tendency to be apathetic. The idea of the Trinity as best we understand it from Scripture—that there is one God who exists in three persons (Father, Son, Spirit)—is one of the chief areas in which our apathy reigns.

It’s not that we don’t care, though. It’s just that the idea of the Trinity is too hard for us to comprehend fully. “Compared with the idea that God is merely one, the orthodox answer might seem overly complex and philosophical, or an unnecessary later addition to the authentic Christian faith” (85).

So we wind up not thinking about it too much, and use really bad analogies to describe it—often ones that themselves find their roots in Sabellianism. But, as Holcomb notes, “Trinitarian theology…takes seriously the idea that God has revealed himself in Scripture and wants to be known, and that he has revealed himself in a certain way” (85). And so, the Bible forces us to answer the question of whether or not God is one or three.

Just as practically, having a sense of the Trinity better helps us respond to the claims of other religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who actually view biblical Christianity as Sabellian:

Since many of the errors that these groups ascribe to mainstream Christianity are actually Sabellian in nature, it is useful to know the middle road that orthodox doctrine strikes between unity and distinction. Being able to articulate concisely what the Trinity is, how it makes the best sense of Scripture and how it affects our salvation and the worship of God can be valuable in witnessing to others as well as developing our own relationship with God. (86)

The Trinity also helps us see the power of the gospel at work—in fact, it’s safe to argue that without the Trinity, there is no atonement. Only if Christ is God as well as man could He pay for the sins of the world. Without the three persons of the Godhead agreeing from before the foundations of the world to redeem and rescue sinners, we’re left with a deficient view of the gospel that sees it as some sort of back-up plan.

These are the truths we ignore at our peril.

Understanding God’s purposes in heresy

Reading Know the Heretics is equally disheartening and encouraging. It’s disheartening simply because it’s easy to see the heresies of the past still making the rounds in our day, in one form or another, as (mostly) sincere people ask sincere questions, but accept wrong answers. These lies continue to be propagated, and men and women continue to be lead astray, thinking they know God when they are in fact rejecting Him.

But it’s also encouraging because, in learning more about the heretics of the past, readers gain greater insights into God’s purposes in allowing these aberrant teachings to exist—to strengthen the Church’s understanding of the truth about—and love for—God. “In order to love God, one must know who God is… right belief about God—orthodoxy—matters quite a bit” (156).

  • Without the Marcionites, we may never have formally developed the canon of Scripture.
  • Without the many heresies surrounding the nature of God and Christ, we might never have had the doctrine of the Trinity clarified.
  • Without the Pelagian error, we might not have as significant an understanding of the grace of God in saving sinners.

In that sense—and in that sense alone—we should be thankful the events and teachings Holcomb describes, not because falsehood is praiseworthy, but because the truth about God is.

Particularly valuable for those taking their first steps into studying church history, Know the Heretics offers powerful insights into the past and practical relevance for today. Read it carefully, learn from the past, and be encouraged for the future.


Title: Know the Heretics
Author: Justin Holcomb
Publisher: Zondervan (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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Worship in Spirit and Truth

David Mathis:

The issue is not whether we will worship, but what. Even better, whom and how.

On this Sunday, as many of us ready ourselves for corporate worship, perhaps the most significant single biblical text for guiding the essence of what we’re pursuing together when we gather is Jesus’s words in John 4:23–24.

Don’t Teach the Bible

Phillip Jensen:

There is an important difference between teaching the Bible and teaching people the Bible. It is easy to be so engaged in what we teach that we forget whom we are teaching. We can even be oblivious to the fact that we are not teaching anybody. This is particularly true of the sermon. The monologue engages the preacher’s mind but can completely miss the hearers’ thinking.

What Are Your Thoughts on “Minced Oaths?”

R.C. Sproul Jr:

A “minced oath” is a bowdlerization of words or phrases otherwise deemed offensive or blasphemous. Common examples would be the substitution of darn for damn, heck for hell, gosh for God. Some argue that when we use these substitutes we nevertheless stand guilty of using the originals, that gosh takes God’s name in vain, and darn belittles the reality and horror of damnation. While I am sympathetic to that perspective, and give thanks for those who seek to be deliberate and to honor God with their tongues, I do not share that conviction.

Work, value, and the gospel

Paul Grimmond:

Paul’s absolute conviction is that the church is made the way God wants it. So when I sit in church on a Sunday and I look around, I ought to find people there who are wildly different to me. I ought to meet toenails and pancreases, knuckles and elbows, kidneys and eyeballs. And more than that, as someone who belongs to Jesus, I am called to see how each of them is necessary to the life of God’s people. I am to learn to rejoice in the gift that God has given me in them and them in me!

7 Councils: The Council of Ephesus

Tim Challies:

This council came at time of conflict over authority within the church. The First Council of Constantinople had established the bishop of Constantinople as second in authority following Rome, whose bishop carried the title of Pope and who claimed his authority from the line of Peter. Alexandria and Antioch were also powerful bishoprics and their schools of Christology historically came from different positions. Leo Davis explains: “Just as all philosophers are said to be basically either Aristotelian or Platonist, so, roughly speaking, all theologians are in Christology either Antiochene, beginning with the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels and attempting to explain how this man is also God, or Alexandrian, beginning with the Word of John’s Prologue and attempting to understand the implications of the Logos taking flesh.” This council would further expose the rift between the two schools of Christology.

Book Review: The Church History ABCs

The study of Church history is an incredibly rewarding—and daunting—experience. In the 2000 years since Christ founded His Church, we’ve seen slave-traders dramatically converted into hymn writers, men give up their lives so that people can read the Bible in their own language, church fathers martyred for defending the faith, a reformation that transformed the world and countless other events. If there’s one thing Church history is not, it’s dull.

So how on earth do you begin to introduce kids to the riches of Church history? How about alphabetically?

In The Church History ABCs, author Stephen J. Nichols and illustrator Ned Bustard, introduce children to 26 heroes of the faith from Augustine to Zwingli. Nichols keeps his text lively and concise, avoiding getting bogged down in too many details about the people to whom he is introducing readers. I particularly enjoyed his write-up of Ulrich Zwingli:

I always come last because my name starts with “Z.” Zurich starts with a “Z” too. Go used me to teach the people of the city of Zurich about Jesus. From Zurich, the Reformation spread to other cities in Switzerland (there’s a “Z” in that word, too). I preached many sermons. One of them had a funny title, “On the Choice and Freedom of Foods.” . . . The Reformation came to Zurich. I wanted everyone to know that we should follow God’s Word and do what it says. The Bible tells us everything we need to know from A to Z.

Bustard’s clean illustration style is a lot of fun and very expressive. I’m impressed at his ability to communicate so much personality in such “simple” drawings (my wife is an illustrator, so I know how difficult a task this can be). It’s a style that serves the content and the audience well.

From a parent’s perspective, The Church History ABCs is a lot of fun—the basic premise is intriguing enough to  make you want to pick it up and take a look, the content is strong enough to give a firm foundation in the bigger picture of Church history, and it’s a neat handy tool for teaching your kids the alphabet. Get a copy for your kids today.


Title: The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith
Authors: Stephen J. Nichols, Ned Bustard
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Book Review: Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg

Title: Anne Bradstreet
Author: D. B. Kellogg
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

The colonization of America in the 17th century was a fascinating time period. The circumstances that drove men and women to travel for weeks to forge a new life for themselves in what would become the United States are beyond what most of us can fathom. And the story is often told as acts of relentless heroism and bravery in the face of uncertainty.

Except when it comes to the Puritans. The Salem witch trials and an inflexible attitude & work ethic are, sadly, what the bulk of us think of when we consider the Puritans who founded much of New England.

And because of this, it’s easy to overlook figures like Anne Bradstreet, a devoted Puritan, wife, mother and… poet. Published as part of Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounters series, Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg offers readers a taste of the life of this extremely unusual figure.

And unusual she was. [Read more...]

The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Kostenberger and Kruger

heresy-orthodoxy

As postmodern ideas have taken root in our culture, exclusive truth claims have increasingly come under attack. Jesus is the only way. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. Orthodoxy and heresy exist.

These are not popular ideas. And in academic circles, the desire to debunk these beliefs has been making the rounds for some time—most notably with the publication of German academic Walter Bauer’s work Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (1934). In this volume, Bauer puts forth the idea that, rather than Christianity being characterized from its earliest days as unified in the preaching of Jesus’ apostles, the earliest Christians were marked by radical diversity. Today, Bauer has found an impassioned advocate in scholar Bart Ehrman, whose books such as Misquoting Truth and Jesus Interrupted, have brought Bauer’s thesis to the popular level—to the point that today, the only heresy is orthodoxy.

That’s why Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger wrote The Heresy of Orthodoxy. In this book, the authors carefully examine the Bauer-Ehrman thesis and seek to show readers why we can trust the Bible and rest in the knowledge that the faith we have is what was taught by Jesus and His Apostles.

Unity or Pluralism: Which Came First?

Divided into three parts, The Heresy of Orthodoxy first deals with pluralism and the origins of the New Testament. How did the Bauer-Ehrman thesis come about? How diverse was early Christianity? And when did heresy first arise?

While the Bauer thesis asserts that different “Christianities” developed in geographical regions and that “the Church Fathers overstated their case that Christianity emerged from a single, doctrinally unified movement” (p. 40), the authors’ brief survey of the available data suggests otherwise. Starting as Bauer did with late first/early second century sources, they reveal a Christianity that is marked by remarkable consistency, particularly when dealing with the person of Jesus Christ. The authors write:

Although the late first and early second century gave birth to a variety of heretical movements, the set of (Christological) core beliefs known as orthodoxy was considerably earlier, more widespread, and more prevalent than Ehrman and other proponents of the Bauer-Ehrman thesis suggest. . . . [W]hen orthodoxy and heresy are compared in terms of genesis and chronology, it is evident that orthodoxy did not emerge from a heretical morass . . . heresy grew parasitically out of an already established orthodoxy. (pp 66-67)

But rather than relying on comparatively late extrabiblical sources as did Bauer, Kostenberger and Kruger investigate the earliest sources we have: The New Testament itself. Their study reveals that, contrary to Bauer and Ehrman, orthodoxy even at that stage was far more widespread and the prevalence of heresy was far too narrow to suggest that there was an even playing field. [Read more...]