Here are two more helpful articles by well respected evangelical Bible scholars:
On December 23rd of last year, writer Kurt Eichenwald had an online article go live which became this week’s cover piece for the newly re-published Newsweek magazine entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” In it, while trying to be objective, he takes shot after shot at a tradition, or evangelical, understanding of the Bible. And, by traditional and evangelical I am not being overly precise. I mean a basic understanding of Scripture that it is true and authoritative.
There are several good responses now on the web and there are several very helpful books on the topic of why the Bible is a reliable document, historically, theologically, and spiritually, and I will link you to a blog by NT scholar Daniel Wallace where he argues at greater length and with greater precision than me, but let me just outline some of the things to keep in mind if you have read the Newsweek piece or plan on it for the future.
1. The article has several factual flaws, such as how the Bible came to be, dating, the history of Christianity, the basics of Christian belief, etc.
2. The arguments used in the article are not new. They have been widely discussed and have been propagated by liberal theologians for centuries and now are re-articulated by faculty in university religion departments, not least by Dr. Bart Erhman of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. These arguments have been addressed and responded to clearly, rigorously, and with the highest levels of scholarship, by evangelical Biblical scholars and theologians. These evangelical rebuttals cannot make an unbeliever believe. That is the work of the Spirit. But, they show that Christian belief in the Bible is reasonable and comports with evidence.
3. The article dismisses out of hand evangelical presuppositions and convictions that drive our view of the Biblical text – in its creation, its transmission, and its present form – and thus does not view current evangelical responses to his arguments as valid. The author then goes on to assume other biases that are the basis of his arguments without defending those philosophically or in any other way. Orthodox Christians – fundamentalists, evangelicals, and even moderates – are all simply cast aside as ignorant and unable to reasonably hold to our view of the Bible. By the way, he lumps everyone together and does not distinguish how certain traditions and strains of Christianity have significantly different approaches to Scripture. He rightly points out some very dodgy views on the Bible, but assumes all Christians see it that way.
4. The article has a very flat view of the Bible and does not account for how literature, not least ancient literature, works. He sees contradictions, inconsistencies, errors, and the lot, not because they are clearly seen in the text, but because he does not evaluate literary genre, how things are intended to be read in context, the overall story of the Bible, the nuances of authorial perspective, etc. It is actually a far more nuanced view of the Bible that allows for evangelical convictions to thrive.
5. Every argument for a position, whatever it is, is evidence of a personal narrative. That is true for orthodox Christians and why we believe the Bible to be the very voice of God. But, it is also true for Kurt Eichenwald. While I think his piece is just not good, or helpful, or written with journalistic integrity, I imagine the effort he put into it by means of research and thought are driven by a personal story of disappointment with orthodox Christianity and its view of the Bible. Some of the hurt might be pretty justified. Perhaps he, or someone he loves, has been very affected by how some Christians used the Bible to attack, condemn, or emotionally jab. So, just as we must own our biases (and let’s admit that our conviction about the Bible is biased…it’s just that we think our biases are correct) we must acknowledge that articles like this one come out of a personal story and are not just an interesting journalistic contribution to public thought and for the common good. I think that means we should pray for Mr. Eichenwald and not just excoriate him. That is possible, you know. We can both repudiate his article and be compassionate toward him – and yes, toward Bart Ehrman and the many other public voices, and not so pubic voices, of those who struggle with Christianity, the Bible, the gospel, and Jesus himself. As the Lord directs you, would you pray for the salvation of folks like this? You and I were no better off before God saved us, miraculously, through the converting power of the Holy Spirit, giving us faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is a helpful post by Dr. Daniel Wallace. Daniel Wallace response
Watch Alistair Begg explain the answer.
There are plenty of blogs out there on this issue. Very good ones. In the past I have assumed my people were reading those blogs and therefore I did not see how my voice would be an important aspect of shepherding, not just in conveying truth but in also leading as a pastor. I don’t think I can be silent anymore. If you stumble on this as a person outside my church, great. But, for those of you at the Bible Church, I want you to hear your pastor publicly care about recent events in Ferguson, New York, and in many other situations, recently.
I want to begin with the question: How do we respond?
1. We are responding, one way or the other. If you think you are staying out of it by silence, that is a response. That says something. The issues we are facing demand we acknowledge our response and then to be intentional with it. Is it Biblical? Is it defined by the Gospel?
2. I think we need to admit there is something very wrong in our system. When very conservative evangelical leaders, not known for their progressive bent toward social issues, are decrying the handling of police force against minorities lately, then the canary has died in the mineshaft. I think we need to face the facts. Something is very wrong. We certainly need to admit that minorities in this country are experiencing profound hurt. Regardless of all the contingencies and mishandling of that hurt, we should feel compassion and we need to address system. Personal sin is a very crucial doctrine, but so is corporate and systemic sin. We must keep both doctrines at the center of this, and work toward repentance in both domains.
3. We need to acknowledge, if we are a majority ethnicity and/or if we have never experienced racism, that we cannot tell people who have what to feel. I do not know what it is liked to be followed in a store as I window shop. I have never been pulled over out of suspicion due to my race (plenty of time for speeding, unfortunately). My bi-racial status was always accepted in the milieu of the San Fransisco Bay Area. If anything, the fact that I am half Indian, part European, and part Native American, from a privileged family, with a good education, given how I present myself in clothing, and speaking, and the lot, has only opened doors for me. We need to know that living life as an African American is not neutral, even in very liberal cities. I am coming to grips with my own naiveté in these days.
4. We need to pray. There is not much more to be said, but we need to start making this a regular feature of our intercession. That will reveal a lot about what we believe, how we feel, and most importantly it will be used of God to bring transformation by the power of the Gospel.
5. We need to respect our law enforcers still. Remember, this is about a handful of policemen and other leaders in question. The vast majority of our law enforcers are good people, who do their job with justice, who try and protect life, and are comprised of white, black, latino, asian, and more.
6. We need to do something. That is now an agenda for the leadership of our church. I do not have a timetable. I do not have a chart. But, the leadership is praying, talking, and seeking ways of being a church that stands for the glory of God in doing something in our city to show that God is glorified in the unity, love, equality, friendship, partnership, and esteem of all races. Will you join us in seeking God in what He would have of us? Would you be willing to be willing to join with us in addressing these issues as a church for the name and fame of Christ?
Our church is beginning a very exciting new chapter. We are beginning to embrace the reality that a healthy church is a multiplying church. A healthy church is a church-planting church. What is true for individual disciples, that they be disciple-makers of disciple-makers, is also true for local churches.
Now, almost every pundit on matters ecclesial agrees there are pockets in North America that are under-churched. Marin County, CA and Portland, OR are two examples. But, what about the South? Does the Bible-belt really need more churches? Aren’t there enough churches in the South that Southern churches can take their limited resources and pour them into the places of real need, like the unreached people groups of the other nations?
Clearly, healthy churches need to be devoted to bringing the gospel to the nations. This is not an either/or. It is a both/and. But, should churches in the South spend a lot of time, energy, and money on planting new churches in what seems to be one of the most established Christian areas in America, which seems to be the most Christian nation in the world?
Yes. Absolutely. I think we would actually be neglecting our call if we did not. It would be unhealthy if we did not.
But, some of you might need to know why. And, some of you may still not agree with my reasons, but at least you will see there are good reasons. Each needs much more unpacking, but let me at least list them out.
1. Biblical theology argument: The New Testament shows that the model of kingdom expansion was church planting. As soon as the Apostles began their ministry outside the initial revivals in Jerusalem, churches were planted in Asia Minor, often directed by Paul and his cohort. The kingdom had its pivot foot in local churches, and still does. This New Testament paradigm is not just descriptive but prescriptive, and there is a library’s worth of nuanced Biblical and theological treatments that establish this. Take a look at http://www.redeemer.com for some resources.
2. Healthy church argument: Simply tallying up how many churches are in a given area and how many people attend them is not the way to do the math on this issue. The issue is: how many heathy churches with converted Christians who are on mission comprise the ecclesial make up of an area? Many people define a healthy church as: orthodox, stable attendance, and stable income. That is not the right definition. A healthy church is rigorously Biblical with a value for expositional ministry, has godly leadership, it equips believers for ministry, it has a strong community, it has a clear and robust gospel-centered vision, it invests mercy locally, it emphasized and trains people for personal evangelism, and it is committed to multiplying healthy churches locally and globally. So, are there enough of those churches in any area, even the South? No. Nope. Nada. Uhuh. From Chapel Hill to Nashville, Birmingham to Jackson, Richmond to Memphis, more truly healthy churches are needed. By the way, when more heathy churches are planted in an area, two things happen in that community. The churches that have potential (Biblically faithful but not healthy yet) are stoked to life, and unhealthy churches (dysfunctional, theologically liberal, legalistic) are brought to a quicker end. Adding more churches only helps the true churches of that area. Everyone benefits.
3. Demographic argument: Even though the South tends to have more healthy churches than other parts of the country, most people in the South are not Christians and do not have a strong connection to a healthy church. In the Triangle, there are over a million people who do not know Christ. We could triple the amount of local churches and still not adequately reach these people. Different churches, while sharing the characteristics that make for health, can still be quite different in ethos. Different ethos attracts different people. The more churches that are contextual to a certain sub-group or demographic, the better.
4. This only helps a commitment to the nations argument: Churches that plant churches, as long as they are truly healthy, will be more committed to international church planting and ministry, not less. Multiplying churches are also better internally. There tends to be more growth as a local body. There are more resources to take care of internal needs. A multiplying church is robust and full of gospel energy. A lot of that energy (and finances) can be directed at the nations.
5. History proves the above arguments argument: The biggest thing going against those skeptical of this is history. In the last 25 years, as this vision of the church has taken off as a fact of Biblical obedience (not trendiness), the above four arguments have proven to be the case. Now, can church planting churches not be healthy? Of course, and history has shown that, but that is why I defined health not solely upon church-planting but also other indicators like godly leadership and Biblical fidelity.
Therefore, the South needs more healthy churches. But, so does the Northeast, West coast, Midwest, and the Rockies. So does Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica. Let us be committed to all of these. Let us not forget who lives across the street, not just across the oceans. Let us not forget that the church is the hope of the world.
I have been here in North Carolina for three falls now. I have detected a pattern. The low humidity, warm weather, and off-season travel prices cause something to happen. That something is a large percentage of our people becoming erratic in their worship attendance. Now, I am all for taking time off. Weekends in an area where there is easy access to a beautiful coastline or to beautiful mountains should be used for renewal and recreation. But, what does it say when fairly large chunks of a church don’t attend a Lord’s Day worship service in weeks? Is this all about taking advantage of good weather or is there something more?
I would encourage us to consider that these attendance figures, that I think every church in our area experiences, is endemic of a greater challenge, and that is a laxity toward gathered worship. I wonder if there is prevailing notion that while one should attend church more often than not, that it is just not that vital to be at church every Sunday. So, on top of illness or travel, I would guess there is a fair amount of people who wake up on Sunday mornings and just don’t feel like going to church, that they would rather take a hike in a state park or have a leisurely morning reading the paper and hitting up an artisan bakery. This is just my theory, but I think my sense of things might be somewhat accurate.
In that vein I would encourage you to read this blog by Tim Challies on why going to church for gathered worship is pretty important.
I will follow up on some more thoughts that I hope will inspire at least a few people to re-evaluate their understanding of gathered worship. I hope that many of us will simply desire to be at church when not sick or traveling because we know what God does through that worship.
Kevin DeYoung just wrote a post on The Gospel Coalition site that is worth pasting here, on things we will not regret in life. Here it is:
After writing yesterday’s post on God’s “regret” and then reading R.C. Sproul Jr. write poignantly about how he regretsnot holding his wife’s hand more, I got to thinking about all the things we are likely not to regret when we get to the end of our days.
We won’t regret playing hide and seek with our children.
We won’t regret turning off the t.v. and putting the phone away.
We won’t regret that one night (or week, or even season of life) we let the kids get happy meals just so they would be happy and we could survive.
We won’t regret singing the same hymns over and over until they became familiar enough to sing with the saints around a hospital bed.
We won’t regret the time we spent hiding the word in our hearts.
We won’t regret jumping in a pile of leaves every fall.
We won’t regret overlooking a lot of little things that bother us about our spouses.
We won’t regret kissing our spouse in front of the kids.
We won’t regret going to bed with a messy house if that meant we had time to chase the kids around in the backyard.
We won’t regret all the wasted time with friends.
We won’t regret laughing often and laughing loudly.
We won’t regret hugging our kids whenever they’ll let us.
We won’t regret the times the kids slept in our beds and the times in the middle of the night we had to carry them softly back to theirs.
We won’t regret being a little bit goofy.
We won’t regret asking for forgiveness, and we won’t regret forgiving those who ask.
We won’t regret dancing at weddings–fast and silly with our kids, slow and sweet with our spouse.
We won’t regret giving most people the benefit of the doubt.
We won’t regret commiting to a good church and sticking around.
We won’t regret learning to play the piano, read music, or sing in parts.
We won’t regret reading to our children.
We won’t regret time spent in prayer.
We won’t regret going on long road trips filled with frustrations, but full with memories.
We won’t regret letting our kids be kids.
We won’t regret walking with people through suffering.
We won’t regret trusting Jesus.