Oh, what a scandal it would be!

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We are Christians… We are not born in a land of heathenism, in gross darkness and in the shadow of death, and therefore our piety and virtue should far exceed all the practices of the heathen world. We are not left to the teachings of the book of nature, and to the silent lectures which the sun, moon and stars can read us: nor are we abandoned merely to the instructions of religion that we may derive from “the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the heaven,” or any of the works of God the Creator.

We are not given up in the things of religion merely to the wandering and uncertain conduct of our reason, feeble as it is in itself, corrupted by the fall of Adam our first father, beset with many sins and prejudices, and turned aside from the truth by a thousand false lights of sense and appetite, fancy and passion, by the vain customs of the country, and the corruptions of our sinful hearts. We are not bewildered among the poor remains of divine tradition delivered down from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to his posterity in the several nations of the earth; we are not left to spell out our duty from those sorry broken fragments of revelation, which are so lost and defaced amongst most of the nations, and so mingled with monstrous folly and delusion, that it is hard to find any reliques of truth or goodness in them. We are not given up to foul idolatry and wild superstition, nor to the slavish and tyrannical dictates of priests and kings, who contrive what ceremonies they please, and impose them on the people, which is the case of a great part of the heathen world.

Poor and deluded creatures! feeling about in the dark for the way to happiness, in the midst of rocks and precipices and endless dangers, and led astray into many mischiefs and miseries by those whom they take for guides and rulers. And what an infamous and shameful thing would it be for us, who have the divine light of the gospel shining among us to direct our paths, if we should read among the records of the heathen nations, that any of them have behaved better than we have done, either in duties to God or man, and exceeded us either in personal or in social virtues? Nay, what a scandal would it be to our profession, if we should not abundantly exceed all the shining virtues of the heathen nations, since the divine light that shines upon us, and the divine lessons that are published amongst us, are so infinitely superior to all that the heathen world has enjoyed?

The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 5, 5–6. (Image source)

The world rests on revelation

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The world itself rests on revelation; revelation is the presupposition, the foundation, the secret of all that exists in all its forms. The deeper science pushes its investigations, the more clearly will it discover that revelation underlies all created being. In every moment of time beats the pulse of eternity; every point in space is filled with the omnipresence of God; the finite is supported by the infinite, all becoming is rooted in being. Together with all created things, that special revelation which comes to us in the Person of Christ is built on these presuppositions.

The foundations of creation and redemption are the same. The Logos who became flesh is the same by whom all things were made. The first-born from the dead is also the first-born of every creature. The Son, whom the Father made heir of all things, is the same by whom he also made the worlds. Notwithstanding the separation wrought by sin, there is a progressive approach of God to his creatures. The transcendence does not cease to exist, but becomes an ever deeper immanence. But as a disclosure of the greatness of God’s heart, special revelation far surpasses general revelation, which makes known to us the power of his mind. General revelation leads to special, special revelation points back to general.

The one calls for the other, and without it remains imperfect and unintelligible. Together they proclaim the manifold wisdom which God has displayed in creation and redemption.

Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation, pp. 27-28

Who is the Master?

As I was working on a paper for my Ligonier Academy program, I had to stop and consider this passage from Peter Jensen’s book, The Revelation of God:

In the end, the Bible is the most reasonable of all books, for it conforms with reality. It is our culture that is irrational, our minds that are darkened. Just as the gospel commends itself to us by making sense of our experience, so too does the Bible. It insists on bringing moral judgment to bear on our existence, and revealing the truth about the human heart. It brings before us a standard of morality and godliness that would absolutely transform the world were we to live in accordance with its precepts. It provides a pattern of the relationship between the sexes that endorses the difference while affirming the equality. It majors on forgiveness of the wounded conscience. It gives hope for the future. Undoubtedly it cuts across many of the ideas held most dear in the culture. It is all the more important, therefore, that Christians should not capitulate to the contemporary mores. It is the difference of Christianity that will make the biggest impact, and, if indeed the Bible is the word of God, we may be sure tha tit will prove to be centred on ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24).

In short, human reason in all its variety is a most useful servant of the gospel. But where reason or tradition becomes the masters of the gospel, dictating how the word of God may come to us, it serves only that evil from which God aims to free us.

Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God, pp. 177-178

As I’ve read this over and over again, I keep coming back to one thing:

At the heart of all the controversies around the Bible and its reliability seems to be one issue—control.

When it comes studying to the Bible, who is in control?

If God has revealed Himself through the Bible, then we are obliged to obey. Yet, because it seems foolish to us naturally, we seek to ignore it. We rebel against because we want control.

But the Bible refuses to obey us.

It keeps pointing out the foolishness of our minds, the irrationality of our thinking. This is why we need the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures and free us from our bondage to our desire for human autonomy and allow us to understand and obey what can often seem so paradoxical.

Thinking about this has made me consider how I read and apply Scripture with great care. Am I doing so, hoping to control it or be brought under its control?

I’m praying it’s the latter.

Archaeology and the Seven Churches

This is a fascinating interview with Mark Driscoll and Dr. Andrew Jackson, one of the foremost authorities on biblical history in the country of Turkey.

In the first video, Dr. Jackson explains the history and importance of the city of Ephesus:

In the second, Dr. Jackson discusses the seven churches of Revelation:

The interviews above are well worth your time and provided some particularly interesting nuggets for me. For example, the order of the seven churches listed in Revelation 2:1-3:22 is deliberately organized for the travel circuit through each region is a very helpful bit of information as it means there was a specific reason for why the books were placed in the order they were.

Most of all, the videos remind me just how important the study of history is to our understanding of Scripture. Archaeological expeditions allow us to get a much better sense of what the culture was like, to see some of the remains of the cities where the gospel first went forward and bring believer today that much closer to our earliest counterparts.

And it’s all the more reason to give thanks.

Do you look into archaeological expeditions of biblical sites? If so, what’s been the most interesting you’ve learned?