The LampsLeviticus 24 1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly. 3 Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 4 He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.
Bread for the Tabernacle5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. 8 Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”
Punishment for Blasphemy10 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, 11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12 And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them.
13 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.
An Eye for an Eye17 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. 21 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.” 23 So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.
The Sabbath YearLeviticus 25 1 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.
The Year of Jubilee8 “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.
13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. 14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. 15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. 17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.
18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.
Redemption of Property23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land.
25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. 26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.
29 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. 30 If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31 But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. 32 As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. 33 And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. 34 But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.
Kindness for Poor Brothers35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. 44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. 45 You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. 46 You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.
Redeeming a Poor Man47 “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan, 48 then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself. 50 He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired worker. 51 If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price. 52 If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service. 53 He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. 54 And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. 55 For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
When Being a Christian Is Like Being a Californian
By J. Warner Wallace 3/25/2015
I live in California; that makes me a Californian. I’ve lived here in gorgeous, temperate, beautiful Southern California my entire life (are you jealous yet?) I’ve got a right to call myself a Californian, even though I often take it for granted. After all, without doing some research online, I’d have great difficulty telling you when the state of California was even established or what that historic process looked like. I really don’t know the precise structure of California state government (i.e. how many members are in the state legislature). I also have no idea how the state government operates (i.e. the rules that govern how a bill is turned into a law), or the content of any of its core value or mission statements (if it even has such things). I barely know the names of the counties in my area, let alone the northern part of the state. I’m a rather poorly informed Californian, I will have to admit. But I do know that I like it here. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s sunny.
So if you ask me why I’m a Californian, I guess I’d really have little to offer you aside from the fact that I was born here, am comfortable here, enjoy my proximity to the beach and the beautiful weather. While those are good reasons to live here, they have nothing to do with the rich history of our state, the way the state operates or the objective truth of its propositions. I have very selfish reasons for living here and I will readily admit them.
As I travel and speak at churches around the country, I’ve come to realize that many of us are Christians in the same way I am a Californian. Maybe we have parents that were Christians and we’ve been a part of the Church for as long as we can remember. Maybe we like the Church because it’s comfortable, familiar or helpful. As a result, we haven’t really taken the time to understand what the Church truly claims about Jesus or about the nature of the world around us. We haven’t even taken the time to study the history of the Church or how the truth has been handed down to us. In many ways our membership in the Church is a lot like my citizenship in California; we’re just here because we were born here, it’s comfortable and it serves our purposes.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Help My Unbelief | Romans 12:3
By John Piper 6/12
In the context of this verse, Paul is concerned that people were thinking of themselves “more highly than [they] ought to think.” His final remedy for this pride is to say that not only are spiritual gifts a work of God’s free grace in our lives, but so also is the very faith with which we use those gifts. “. . . each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
This means that every possible ground of boasting is taken away from us. How can we boast if even the qualification for receiving gifts is also a gift?
This truth has a profound impact on how we pray. Jesus gives us the example in Luke 22:31–32. Before Peter denies him three times Jesus says to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus prays for Peter’s faith to be sustained even through the sin of denial, because he knows that God is the one who gives faith. So we should pray the way Jesus did — for ourselves and for others that God would sustain our faith.
Thus, the man with the epileptic son cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). This is a good prayer. It acknowledges that without God we cannot believe as we ought to believe.
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John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Calvin On Doubt
By John Calvin
We cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. . . . Believers are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief. . . . He who, struggling with his own weakness, presses toward faith in his moments of anxiety is already in large part victorious. . . . In order to understand this, it is necessary to return to that division of flesh and spirit which we have mentioned elsewhere. It most clearly reveals itself at this point. Therefore the godly heart feels in itself a division because it is partly imbued with sweetness from its recognition of divine goodness, partly grieves in bitterness from an awareness of its calamity; partly rests upon the promise of the gospel, partly trembles at the evidence of its own iniquity; partly rejoices at the expectation of life, partly shudders at death. This variation arises from imperfection of faith, since in the course of the present life it never goes so well with us that we are wholly cured of the disease of unbelief and entirely filled and possessed by faith. Hence arise these conflicts; when unbelief, which reposes in the remains of the flesh, rises up to attack the faith that has been inwardly conceivedInstitutes of the Christian Religion
Atheism is a Worldview
By Roger Browning 2/1/2017
If I’m going to say that atheism is a worldview, I better start defining terms before I find myself on the wrong side of my own issue. So, the first part of this post will be defining “atheism” and “worldview.” Once I do that, I’m going to give an analogous depiction of life incorporating the definitions and then draw a conclusion to affirm the title.
Atheism. Two distinct definitions come to mind. The first is the literal definition based on the original Greek. ‘a’, meaning ‘no’ and ‘theos’, meaning ‘god’. In the strictest sense, atheism literally means no-god. But, literal translations don’t always carry over to current word usage. The word “joystick” for example, hardly means rejoice peg. The second definition is more popular with a lot of atheists at the moment, and that is: a disbelief in god or gods. I’ve written a lot on why I think these two definitions are the same (here and here). Nate has also discussed this here and here, and there are some great external links for good measure here and here). Since a lot of ground has already been covered on the second definition, I’m going to move on.
Worldview. Until about 6 months ago, I didn’t really think this word needed a definition; it’s pretty straightforward, actually. The word “worldview” is simply a view of the world. But, in good faith, we will grab a more accurate definition for our friends at Google: “a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.” This definition actually works to my advantage, but we’ll get to that.
As a quick recap, atheism is either a belief in no god or a non-belief in god (because these are not the same?? I digress) and worldview is the perception of reality as it pertains to origins of the world. Can we agree to these two points? Leave some feedback below.
Now, an analogous incorporation of these two terms.
Could not find profile on Roger Browning except he writes for A Clear Lens and is willing to engage with people who mostly insult.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 18The LORD Is My Rock and My Fortress
18 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David, The Servant Of The LORD, Who Addressed The Words Of This Song To The LORD On The Day When The LORD Delivered Him From The Hand Of All Is Enemies, And From The Hand Of Saul. He Said:
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
People criticize pro-lifers for focusing so much on abortion. But there’s a reason we do.
By Matthew Lee Anderson 2/3/2017
I have been pro-life for as long as I can remember. My family were not culture warriors: We never picketed, and I’m not sure we ever discussed the subject at home. My only memories of anything close to activism are of occasional appeals to our church to donate diapers to a local crisis pregnancy center. I was impressed by the urgency of the requests, which focused almost exclusively on the burdens disadvantaged single mothers faced and the opportunity we had to aid them. That somewhat idyllic approach impressed on me the vague but definite intuition that life in the womb was worth preserving and the woman who bore it worth supporting. This impression that being pro-life means supporting the people whose wombs bear life as much as the life itself has never left me.
My activist impulses have grown since my youth, and those instincts have been sharpened. The reasons for this are complex, and personal: Like many people, I have been intimate with those struggling to conceive and with those desperately seeking to avoid doing so. The heart-wrenching pain of infertility and miscarriage, the struggles of teenage motherhood, the fears and anxieties of an unwanted pregnancy — as I have grown older, such experiences have deepened my sense that human life is a wonderful, tragic mystery. Whatever else we think about it, the drama of conception leads to the most profound joys and sorrows, the most ardent hopes and expectations, and the most visceral fears and anxieties. In college, I would describe myself as pro-life; I now joke that I am rabidly pro-life. Only it’s not really a joke.
Yet what it means to be “pro-life” is, these days, hotly contested — and, I think, often misunderstood. The question has been unavoidable in 2017: The Women’s March was dominated by headlines about whether the “pro-life feminist” is a viable species; the March for Life was accompanied by the annual hand-wringing about news outlets naming us “anti-abortion”; the refugee ban was met by denunciations framed by pro-life concerns; and the president’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court justice prompted dismissive charges of hypocrisy for the movement’s narrow focus.
Beneath these disputes lies a simple charge: Pro-lifers care about what happens in the womb, and nothing beyond it. Such a depiction is almost certainly a caricature. And yet it aggravates a real phenomenon: The pro-life movement has emphasized embryos in the womb for reasons that go to the heart of being “pro-life” itself. Without grasping the peculiar ethos that animates this emphasis, the decision by pro-lifers to succumb to the temptation of Donald Trump for the sake of a Supreme Court justice will remain an unintelligible mystery and degradation.
The ethos of the pro-life movement, which unabashedly emphasizes life in the womb, is not precisely its beliefs: Those are well-known enough, even if controversial. Ask a pro-lifer why they object to abortion, and you are likely to get a hodgepodge of reasons appealing to God, to science, and to claims about human dignity or rights.
Matthew Lee Anderson is a doctoral candidate in Christian ethics at Oxford University, and the founder of Mere Orthodoxy. He invites you to follow him on Twitter or email him at email@example.com.
Neglected Big Problems
By Robin Hanson 2/5/2017
Some problems are often mentioned in media, such as global warming, war, medical funding, political conflicts. Some problems are less often mentioned in media, but still often discussed in academic publications: encouraging innovation, managing large organizations, extending lifespans, and setting the right amount of regulation. But some problems are obviously big, yet rarely much discussed in media or academia as problems to solve. They are neglected. Oh people on occasion lament such problems, but they don’t often talk seriously about how we might think systematically about solving or mitigating them.
In this post I’d just like to remind folks of a few big neglected problems. I’m not going to propose solutions to them here, though I wouldn’t mind inspiring others to think more about them. Most of them have to do with ancient inherited habits that don’t seem to work that well in the modern world.
Relearn Every Generation – We must each relearn many basic life lessons during our individual lifetimes, lessons that millions or billions of others already learned in their previous lifetimes, or that millions or billions of others are currently learning in parallel with us. There seem huge potential gains from finding better ways to learn from our ancestors and colleagues.
Changing World – Early in life we read the world around us and choose life plans and paths matched to that world. During our life the world around us changes, and we make some adaptations to that, but they seem insufficient. For example, we often seek to achieve in ways that were awarded with high status when we were young, to find that our achievements are much less valued by the new world.
Poor Matching – We match people as friends, lovers, spouses, and workers. Our distant ancestors only had a few available options for matches, and we inherited many intuitive mechanisms appropriate for that situation. But we now have a vast world with far more matches possible, and it seems like we don’t use that larger scope very well. We still rely heavily on inherited informal mechanisms. I see so many lonely and otherwise mismatched people.
Robin Hanson | bio
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
3. Another principal part of our reconciliation with God was, that man,
who had lost himself by his disobedience, should, by way of remedy,
oppose to it obedience, satisfy the justice of God, and pay the penalty
of sin. Therefore, our Lord came forth very man, adopted the person of
Adam, and assumed his name, that he might in his stead obey the Father;
that he might present our flesh as the price of satisfaction to the
just judgment of God, and in the same flesh pay the penalty which we
had incurred. Finally, since as God only he could not suffer, and as
man only could not overcome death, he united the human nature with the
divine, that he might subject the weakness of the one to death as an
expiation of sin, and by the power of the other, maintaining a struggle
with death, might gain us the victory. Those, therefore, who rob Christ
of divinity or humanity either detract from his majesty and glory, or
obscure his goodness. On the other hand, they are no less injurious to
men, undermining and subverting their faith, which, unless it rest on
this foundation, cannot stand. Moreover, the expected Redeemer was that
son of Abraham and David whom God had promised in the Law and in the
Prophets. Here believers have another advantage. Tracing up his origin
in regular series to David and Abraham, they more distinctly recognise
him as the Messiah celebrated by so many oracles. But special attention
must be paid to what I lately explained, namely, that a common nature
is the pledge of our union with the Son of God; that, clothed with our
flesh, he warred to death with sin that he might be our triumphant
conqueror; that the flesh which he received of us he offered in
sacrifice, in order that by making expiation he might wipe away our
guilt, and appease the just anger of his Father.
4. He who considers these things with due attention, will easily disregard vague speculations, which attract giddy minds and lovers of novelty. One speculation of this class is, that Christ, even though there had been no need of his interposition to redeem the human race, would still have become man. I admit that in the first ordering of creation, while the state of nature was entire, he was appointed head of angels and men; for which reason Paul designates him "the first-born of every creature," (Col. 1:15). But since the whole Scripture proclaims that he was clothed with flesh in order to become a Redeemer, it is presumptuous to imagine any other cause or end. We know well why Christ was at first promised--viz. that he might renew a fallen world, and succour lost man. Hence under the Law he was typified by sacrifices, to inspire believers with the hope that God would be propitious to them after he was reconciled by the expiation of their sins. Since from the earliest age, even before the Law was promulgated, there was never any promise of a Mediator without blood, we justly infer that he was destined in the eternal counsel of God to purge the pollution of man, the shedding of blood being the symbol of expiation. Thus, too, the prophets, in discoursing of him, foretold that he would be the Mediator between God and man. It is sufficient to refer to the very remarkable prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 53:4, 5), in which he foretells that he was "smitten for our iniquities;" that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him;" that as a priest "he was made an offering for sin;" "that by his stripes we are healed;" that as all "like lost sheep have gone astray," "it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief," that he might "bear our iniquities." After hearing that Christ was divinely appointed to bring relief to miserable sinners, whose overleaps these limits gives too much indulgence to a foolish curiosity.
Then when he actually appeared, he declared the cause of his advent to be, that by appeasing God he might bring us from death unto life. To the same effect was the testimony of the Apostles concerning him (John 1:9; 10:14). Thus John, before teaching that the Word was made flesh, narrates the fall of man. But above all, let us listen to our Saviour himself when discoursing of his office: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Again, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." "The Son of man is come to save that which was lost." Again, "They that be whole need not a physician."  I should never have done were I to quote all the passages. Indeed, the Apostles, with one consent, lead us back to this fountain; and assuredly, if he had not come to reconcile God, the honour of his priesthood would fall, seeing it was his office as priest to stand between God and men, and "offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins," (Heb. 5:1); nor could he be our righteousness, as having been made a propitiation for us in order that God might not impute to us our sins (2 Cor. 5:19). In short, he would be stript of all the titles with which Scripture invests him. Nor could Paul's doctrine stand "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," (Rom. 8:3). Nor what he states in another passage: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared to all men," (Tit. 2:11). In fine, the only end which the Scripture uniformly assigns for the Son of God voluntarily assuming our nature, and even receiving it as a command from the Father, is, that he might propitiate the Father to us by becoming a victim. "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer;"--"and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name." "Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again."--"This commandment have I received of my Father." "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." "Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name."  Here he distinctly assigns as the reason for assuming our nature, that he might become a propitiatory victim to take away sin. For the same reason Zacharias declares (Luke 1:79), that he came "to perform the mercy promised to our fathers," "to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death." Let us remember that all these things are affirmed of the Son of God, in whom, as Paul elsewhere declares, were "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and save whom it was his determination "not to know any thing," (Col. 2:3; 1 Cor. 2:2).
5. Should any one object, that in this there is nothing to prevent the same Christ who redeemed us when condemned from also testifying his love to us when safe by assuming our nature, we have the brief answer, that when the Spirit declares that by the eternal decree of God the two things were connected together--viz. that Christ should be our Redeemer, and, at the same time, a partaker of our nature, it is unlawful to inquire further. He who is tickled with a desire of knowing something more, not contented with the immutable ordination of God, shows also that he is not even contented with that Christ who has been given us as the price of redemption. And, indeed, Paul not only declares for what end he was sent, but rising to the sublime mystery of predestination, seasonably represses all the wantonness and prurience of the human mind. "He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved: In whom we have redemption through his blood," (Eph. 1:4-7). Here certainly the fall of Adam is not presupposed as anterior in point of time, but our attention is directed to what God predetermined before all ages, when he was pleased to provide a cure for the misery of the human race. If, again, it is objected that this counsel of God depended on the fall of man, which he foresaw, to me it is sufficient and more to reply, that those who propose to inquire, or desire to know more of Christ than God predestinated by his secret decree, are presuming with impious audacity to invent a new Christ. Paul, when discoursing of the proper office of Christ, justly prays for the Ephesians that God would strengthen them "by his Spirit in the inner man," that they might "be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," (Eph. 3:16, 18); as if he intended of set purpose to set barriers around our minds, and prevent them from declining one iota from the gift of reconciliation whenever mention is made of Christ. Wherefore, seeing it is as Paul declares it to be, "a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," (1 Tim. 1:15), in it I willingly acquiesce. And since the same Apostle elsewhere declares that the grace which is now manifested by the Gospel "was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," (2 Tim. 1:9), I am resolved to adhere to it firmly even to the end. This moderation is unjustly vituperated by Osiander, who has unhappily, in the present day, again agitated this question, which a few had formerly raised. He brings a charge of overweening confidence against those who deny that the Son of God would have appeared in the flesh if Adam had not fallen, because this notion is not repudiated by any passage of Scripture. As if Paul did not lay a curb on perverse curiosity when after speaking of the redemption obtained by Christ, he bids us "avoid foolish questions," (Tit. 3:9). To such insanity have some proceeded in their preposterous eagerness to seem acute, that they have made it a question whether the Son of God might not have assumed the nature of an ass. This blasphemy, at which all pious minds justly shudder with detestation, Osiander excuses by the pretext that it is no where distinctly refuted in Scripture; as if Paul, when he counted nothing valuable or worth knowing "save Jesus Christ and him crucified," (I Cor. 2:2), were admitting, that the author of salvation is an ass. He who elsewhere declares that Christ was by the eternal counsel of the Father appointed "head over all things to the church," would never have acknowledged another to whom no office of redemption had been assigned.
6. The principle on which Osiander founds is altogether frivolous. He will have it that man was created in the image of God, inasmuch as he was formed on the model of the future Messiah, in order to resemble him whom the Father had already determined to clothe with flesh. Hence he infers, that though Adam had never fallen from his first and pure original, Christ would still have been man. How silly and distorted this view is, all men of sound judgment at once discern; still he thinks he was the first to see what the image of God was, namely, that not only did the divine glory shine forth in the excellent endowments with which he was adorned, but God dwelt in him essentially. But while I grant that Adam bore the image of God, inasmuch as he was united to God (this being the true and highest perfection of dignity), yet I maintain, that the likeness of God is to be sought for only in those marks of superiority with which God has distinguished Adam above the other animals. And likewise, with one consent, acknowledge that Christ was even then the image of God, and, accordingly, whatever excellence was engraven on Adam had its origin in this, that by means of the only begotten Son he approximated to the glory of his Maker. Man, therefore, was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and in him the Creator was pleased to behold, as in a mirror, his own glory. To this degree of honour he was exalted by the kindness of the only begotten Son. But I add, that as the Son was the common head both of men and angels, so the dignity which was conferred on man belonged to the angels also. For when we hear them called the sons of God (Ps. 82:6), it would be incongruous to deny that they were endued with some quality in which they resembled the Father. But if he was pleased that his glory should be represented in men and angels, and made manifest in both natures, it is ignorant trifling in Osiander to say, that angels were postponed to men, because they did not bear the image of Christ. They could not constantly enjoy the immediate presence of God if they were not like to him; nor does Paul teach (Col. 3:10) that men are renewed in the image of God in any other way than by being associated with angels, that they may be united together under one head. In fine, if we believe Christ, our felicity will be perfected when we shall have been received into the heavens, and made like the angels. But if Osiander is entitled to infer that the primary type of the image of God was in the man Christ, on the same ground may any one maintain that Christ behoved to partake of the angelic nature, seeing that angels also possess the image of God.
7. Osiander has no reason to fear that God would be found a liar, if the decree to incarnate the Son was not previously immutably fixed in his mind. Even had Adam not lost his integrity, he would, with the angels, have been like to God; and yet it would not therefore have been necessary that the Son of God should become either a man or an angel. In vain does he entertain the absurd fear, that unless it had been determined by the immutable counsel of God, before man was created, that Christ should be born, not as the Redeemer, but as the first man, he might lose his precedence, since he would not have been born, except for an accidental circumstance, namely, that he might restore the lost race of man; and in this way would have been created in the image of Adam. For why should he be alarmed at what the Scripture plainly teaches, that "he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin?" (Heb. 4:15). Hence Luke, also, hesitates not to reckon him in his genealogy as a son of Adam (Luke 3:38). I should like to know why Christ is termed by Paul the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:47), unless it be that a human condition was decreed him, for the purpose of raising up the ruined posterity of Adam. For if in point of order, that condition was antecedent to creation, he ought to have been called the first Adam. Osiander confidently affirms, that because Christ was in the purpose of God foreknown as man, men were formed after him as their model. But Paul, by calling him the second Adam, gives that revolt which made it necessary to restore nature to its primitive condition an intermediate place between its original formation and the restitution which we obtain by Christ: hence it follows, that it was this restitution which made the Son of God be born, and thereby become man. Moreover, Osiander argues ill and absurdly, that as long as Adam maintained his integrity, he would have been the image of himself, and not of Christ. I maintain, on the contrary, that although the Son of God had never become incarnate, nevertheless the image of God was conspicuous in Adam, both in his body and his soul; in the rays of this image it always appeared that Christ was truly head, and had in all things the pre-eminence. In this way we dispose of the futile sophism put forth by Osiander, that the angels would have been without this head, had not God purposed to clothe his Son with flesh, even independent of the sin of Adam. He inconsiderately assumes what no rational person will grant, that Christ could have had no supremacy over the angels, so that they might enjoy him as their prince, unless in so far as he was man. But it is easy to infer from the words of Paul (Col. 1:15), that inasmuch as he is the eternal Word of God, he is the first-born of every creature, not because he is created, or is to be reckoned among the creatures, but because the entire structure of the world, such as it was from the beginning, when adorned with exquisite beauty had no other beginning; then, inasmuch as he was made man, he is the first-born from the dead. For in one short passage (Col. 1:16-18), the Apostle calls our attention to both views: that by the Son all things were created, so that he has dominion over angels; and that he became man, in order that he might begin to be a Redeemer. Owing to the same ignorance, Osiander says that men would not have had Christ for their king unless he had been a man; as if the kingdom of God could not have been established by his eternal Son, though not clothed with human flesh, holding the supremacy while angels and men were gathered together to participate in his celestial life and glory. But he is always deluded, or imposes upon himself by this false principle, that the church would have been akefalon--without a head--had not Christ appeared in the flesh. In the same way as angels enjoyed him for their head, could he not by his divine energy preside over men, and by the secret virtue of his Spirit quicken and cherish them as his body, until they were gathered into heaven to enjoy the same life with the angels? The absurdities which I have been refuting, Osiander regards as infallible oracles. Taking an intoxicating delight in his own speculations, his wont is to extract ridiculous plans out of nothing. He afterwards says that he has a much stronger passage to produce, namely, the prophecy of Adam, who, when the woman was brought to him, said, "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh," (Gen. 2:23). But how does he prove it to be a prophecy? Because in Matthew Christ attributes the same expression to God! as if every thing which God has spoken by man contained a prophecy. On the same principle, as the law proceeded from God, let Osiander in each precept find a prophecy. Add, that our Saviour's exposition would have been harsh and grovelling, had he confined himself to the literal meaning. He was not referring to the mystical union with which he has honoured the Church, but only to conjugal fidelity, and states, that the reason why God declared man and wife to be one flesh, was to prevent any one from violating that indissoluble tie by divorce. If this simple meaning is too low for Osiander, let him censure Christ for not leading his disciples to the hidden sense, by interpreting his Father's words with more subtlety. Paul gives no countenance to Osiander's dream, when, after saying that "we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones," he immediately adds, "This is a great mystery," (Eph. 5:30-32). For he meant not to refer to the sense in which Adam used the words, but sets forth, under the figure and similitude of marriage, the sacred union which makes us one with Christ. His words have this meaning; for reminding us that he is speaking of Christ and the Church, he, by way of correction, distinguishes between the marriage tie and the spiritual union of Christ with his Church. Wherefore, this subtlety vanishes at once. I deem it unnecessary to discuss similar absurdities: for from this very brief refutation, the vanity of them all will be discovered. Abundantly sufficient for the solid nurture of the children of God is this sober truth, that "when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them who were under the law," (Gal. 4:4, 5).
 John 3:16; 5:25; Mt. 18:11; 9:12.
 Luke 24:46; John 10:17; 3:14; 12:27, 28.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Sola Scriptura Then and Now
By Don Carson 10/31/201714 “When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. ESV
The setting here is important. Moses envisages a time, long after his own death and after the people have settled into the Promised Land, when they will ask for a king to rule over them. The people are to ensure that the man they appoint is the one “the LORD your God chooses” (14:15). He is to be a fellow Israelite, i.e., a member of the covenant people of God, not a stranger. Then the king is told what he must not do as he launches into this new role. This list includes four things:
He must not acquire a great number of horses (v. 16). For “horses,” read “tanks”: the king is not to build his power by military might. The lust for power recurs in every age. The apostles themselves, misunderstanding the nature of the kingdom, sought the places of privilege and perceived power next to Jesus (Matt. 20:20–28), not discerning that the Master himself came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
He must not make the people return to Egypt (v. 16). The prohibition reflects Israel’s political realities. God saved Israel by enabling her to escape slavery in Egypt. Sadly, Israel kept trying to play power politics, pitting friendship with Egypt over against friendship with one of the regional superpowers to the north (first Assyria, then Babylon). The desire for political security was something Israel valued more highly than the promises of God.
The king must not take many wives (v. 17). The issue was not just sex; it was networking. To marry one of the daughters of every regional two-bit city-monarchy meant it was far less likely that these tiny city-states would rebel against the king. Solomon became a master of such networking, the size of his harem simultaneously establishing his sexual prowess and securing his borders. Sadly, as God warned, his wives led his heart astray: pretty soon he was building pagan temples for them, even within Jerusalem itself. The desire for the kind of networking that guarantees social approval has not faded in the centuries since then.
And finally, he must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. Jesus himself insists that one cannot serve both God and money. What we must passionately desire becomes god for us. Money regularly signals freedom, prestige, power—and idolatry.
Look again at these four prohibitions: power, false security, desire for social approval through compromised networking, the pursuit of wealth—very much among the false gods still cherished and worshiped today.
So what, then, should the king make his top priority when he first assumes the royal throne? Should he audit the books of his predecessor? Rapidly form his cabinet, or at least appoint a secretary of state and a minister of defense? No, the first thing he is to do concerns the priority that God gives to Scripture. The king is to write out, by hand, a copy of “this law” (v.18). This is not a matter of downloading a text from the cloud to the hard-drive of a laptop without it going through anyone’s brain. This is laborious copying by hand.
What is included in the expression “this law” is disputed: it may be part of Deuteronomy, or all of Deuteronomy, or all of the Pentateuch. Whatever the size of text to be copied, the work is to be done so carefully that it becomes the king’s personal reading copy — a reading copy to be read and pondered by the king every day for the rest of his life. God provides three reasons for this priority: (1) the king will thereby learn to revere the Lord and his words; (2) he will thus be protected from thinking of himself as superior to others; and (3) he will not turn aside from God’s ways, to the right or to the left (17:18–20).
This passage indicates how highly the Word of God is valued, even at this early stage of canonical history. Joshua is told much the same thing: this book of the law shall not be tossed aside; rather, Joshua is to keep the Book of the Law on his lips, and meditate on it day and night, carefully doing everything written in it; for then he shall enjoy good success (Josh. 1:7–8).
The opening psalm in the Psalter declares, in the second verse, that the righteous person delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night (Ps. 1:2). It takes constant meditation on holy Scripture to train one’s mind to think God’s thoughts after him. The point, in part, is that we are not what we think we are, but what we think, we are. That is why Paul tells the Romans that they must be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:1–2). So important is the valuation of Scripture that it trumps even our necessary food: God takes pains to teach Israel that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3) —a lesson the Lord Jesus has already absorbed when he faces his own Satanic temptations (Matt. 4).
Sola scriptura is no mere slogan, a creedal point to be checked off with approval from a list. Either Scripture establishes what the gospel is, calls people back to the gospel, and transforms God’s people with his Spirit-anointed gospel truth, shaping them into conformity with his Son, or it is but an empty boast. Sadly, some affirm sola scriptura in a sloganeering way, but rarely read Scripture and never meditate on it; or, worse yet, they thoughtlessly defy it. Against all such failure, Deuteronomy 17:14–20 stands as a powerful bulwark. If these seven verses from Deuteronomy had been followed in the centuries before Christ, all of Old Testament history would have been different. Scripture — and, as we shall see, Scripture alone — is that important.
Here are eight reflections on sola Scriptura, reflections that are variously historical, theological, and pastoral.
1. Truthful and ReliableThe doctrine of sola Scriptura demands the truthfulness and reliability of holy Scripture. A document may be truthful but not in any useful sense authoritative. For example, a restaurant menu may tell the truth as to what is on offer, but we do not therefore speak of an authoritative menu. It is much more difficult to see how a document can be authoritative without being truthful — unless, of course, its “authority” is nothing more than a declarative fiction or an agreed convention.
For example, an organization may decide to operate under the authority of its charter, even if it is widely recognized that that charter needs revision because it embraces serious errors. For a document to be intrinsically authoritative in the matters of which it speaks, however, it must speak the truth, or its authority is pretentious folly.
2. Context of the DebateThe formula sola scriptura can be accurately understood as a facet of Reformation theology (though the formula itself was invented a generation or so later) only when the sola component is grasped in the historical context of the debates of the 16th century. Seen in one way, the position on Scripture upheld by the Roman Catholic Church was every bit as “high” as the position of the Reformers on Scripture: Scripture is inspired by God, utterly truthful and reliable, infallible, reflecting the words and the mind of God. But late-medieval Catholicism insisted that God had given his deposit of truth to the church, and that this deposit included not only Scripture but also extra-biblical tradition confided to the magisterium. Indeed, only the magisterium was authorized to interpret Scripture. After all, had not the church declared which books should be accepted as canonical and authoritative?
Small wonder that in many contexts where the Roman Catholic Church holds sway, laypeople have been actively discouraged from reading the Bible (as was the case in French Canada when I was growing up) or even forcefully prohibited from reading it. By contrast, from the perspective of the Reformers it was obvious that the magisterium set itself over the Scriptures. The debate between Catholics and Reformers was not over the truthfulness of Scripture, nor over the authority of Scripture, but over the locus of divine authority in the Church: was it sola scriptura, or, alternatively, Scripture embedded in the still larger deposit entrusted to the Church? The rival of sola Scriptura is not the abandonment of scriptural authority, but a configuration of authority in the Church such that, say, only 80 percent of this authority is scriptural, or 90 percent, or 99 percent. The Reformers insisted that Scripture alone is invested with divine authority as the norma normans.
Though the events are well known, we do well to remind ourselves of what took place at the Diet of Worms. The imperial “diet” was an evaluating council chaired by the holy Roman Emperor, at that time the young Charles V. It was customarily convened in the German city of Worms. And so, about three and a half years after he had posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the chapel of the Wittenberg castle, Luther found himself before this Diet. On April 16, 1721, at 4 p.m., the council began its work. The moderator, Johann Maier von Eck, pointed to stacks of books on the desk — 25 volumes written by Luther — and asked if Luther was ready to renounce the heresies in them. Luther did not say, “Here I stand; I can do no other. So help me God.” Rather, he said, in effect, “May I have the night to think about this?”
He spent the evening and night consulting with some of his trusted friends, praying, and reading Romans. The next morning, April 17, 1521, when the diet was reconvened and Eck confronted him with the same challenge, Luther replied that the material in the 25 books could be divided into three parts. The first part was made up of material that surely caused no offense: everyone agreed that Luther was speaking the truth. The second part was made up of things grounded in Scripture that were contrary to Catholicism. The third part was personal attack, where Luther acknowledged his fault: his zeal sometimes prompted him to resort to abusive language, and for this he begged forgiveness.
But as for that second part, Luther declared, in words that flesh out what we mean by sola scriptura:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scripture or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is not safe nor right to go against my conscience. May God help me.
At least in the early months and years of the magisterial Reformation, the test case for the effect of sola scriptura was Catholic teaching on indulgences. Once again, permit me to remind you of the history all of you already know. We should begin with Johann Tetzel (1465–1519). He became a Dominican friar in 1489, and served as inquitor of heresy in Poland, and then grand commissioner for indulgences in Germany. Apparently he offered full plenary indulgences even for sins not yet committed. The money he collected was supposed to go to the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but about half of it went to Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg, the archbishop of Mainz, Tetzel’s superior, to pay off the debts Albert had incurred in securing the archbishopric. Tetzel secured his doctorate of sacred theology in 1518, one year after the posting of the 95 Theses, for defending the doctrine of indulgences against Luther. After his studies, he retreated to the Dominican monastery in Leipzig, where he fell out of favor and died a year later.
So what is an indulgence? The quick and ready definition is that it is a way of reducing the amount of punishment for sin. Today, a sophisticated Catholic definition is this:
An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain defined conditions through the church’s help when, as a minister of redemption, she [the church] dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of satisfactions won by Christ and the saints.
The Counter-Reformation adopted wording along these lines to clean up what it saw as abuses: indulgences cannot free anyone from hell, but only from purgatory (hence the reference to “temporal punishment”). Further, indulgences cannot protect anyone from sins not yet committed, nor can they be purchased with money. Under these tighter standards than those assumed by Tetzel, both the current pope, Pope Francis, and his predecessor, Pope Benedict, have liberally dispensed indulgences.
Benedict promised special plenary indulgences to Catholics who participated in the Year of Faith celebration (2012–13). These indulgences were designed, in part, to encourage the reading of Vatican II documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and were offered to pilgrims who went to shrines and participated in the events of the Year of Faith. The blessings of these indulgences could fall either on a Catholic pilgrim or on a departed soul. Similarly, Pope Francis announced jubilee indulgences ahead of the Year of Mercy. To secure such an indulgence, a Catholic had to go to the confessional, receive the holy Eucharist, make a profession of faith, and pray for the pope and for his intentions.
All of this makes a fair bit of sense if one has adopted the structures of Roman Catholic theology. The theology of indulgences fits nicely into orthodox Catholic frameworks, shaped by merit theology and a view of justification in which sinners actively participate in securing the needed righteousness. Apply sola scriptura, however, and purgatory dissolves into nothing, the arguments for the papacy and its claimed authority begin to totter, and “the treasury of satisfactions won by Christ and the saints” is merely a way of diminishing the exclusive sufficiency of the cross work of Jesus Christ. How much more sharply shall sola scriptura ravage the undisciplined form of indulgences offered by Tetzel?
It would be easy to survey the effect of sola scriptura across the entire theological syllabus. Sola scriptura is the epistemological center on which all of the solas are established. But perhaps it is enough to remind ourselves that sola scriptura is not only a theological stance that eliminates errors, but it establishes the truth; in short, it reforms. To quote another well-known passage from the pen of Martin Luther:
Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing; the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble . . . I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the Emperor wouldn’t have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug’s game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word.
Now that was the historic context in which sola scriptura exercised its transforming role.
3. Recovery of Early TheologyIt is important to grasp that the Reformation commitment to sola scriptura was not a new doctrinal development, but the recovery of the theology of the early church. In a fascinating book, professor Larry W. Hurtado demonstrates how the Christians of the early centuries were committed to a book, to Scripture. Christianity was a bookish religion, with great focus on “reading, writing, copying and observation of texts” (105). This was one of the means by which early Christians, to use the language of Hurtado, destroyed the pagan gods: the authority of Scriptures that could be studied, learned, preached, heard, read, obeyed.
Earlier yet, it is remarkable that when the apostle Paul is arguing with biblically literate Jews or Gentiles, he does not argue from his experience: we do not find him saying, “What you need is your own version of my Damascus Road experience.” Nor does he declare that apostolic authority sorts out everything: after all, he has himself rebuked the apostle Peter for hypocritical inconsistency (Gal. 2:14–18), and the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) was constrained not by apostolic authority but by scriptural arguments. The point I am making is a simple one: sola scriptura was not invented by the Reformers, but rescued and reasserted by the Reformers.
4. Sola, Not Solo or NudaOne cannot too strongly insist that sola scriptura is not to be confused with solo scriptura or nuda scriptura. The doctrine does not open itself to biblicist proof-texting that is devoid of awareness of how Scripture has been read and applied in past generations and in other cultures. As John Peckham astutely comments, “All that is necessary to undergird the ‘sola’ of this principle is for Scripture to present itself as uniquely authoritative over all other factors. Notably, each of the three categories that encompass other possible sources of theology — reason, experience, and tradition — are not excluded but are explicitly subordinated to the unique authority of Scripture.”
Peckham goes on to give some examples:
[W]hile humans should make careful and appropriate use of reason and experience (cf. Isa 1:18), the reliability of human reason and experience is explicitly undermined through the Bible, especially in light of the fall (Ps 14:1–3; Rom 1:21; 3:11). . . . Proverbs 28:26 adds, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (cf. Job 11:7; Prov 14:12; Isa 55:8–9; Ro 11:3; 1 Cor 1:16). Human experience is thus to be tested by God’s word (Matt 24:24–26; cf. 2 Cor 11:3-4; Gal 1:8). . . . With regard to religious authority, Christ subjects tradition to the “word of God” and the “commandment of God,” criticizing those who “invalidated the word of God” and transgressed “the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matt 15:6, 3; cf. Mark 7:5–13; Col 2:8). Peter’s response to the high priest’s command (religious authority) is equally clear: “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), the apostolic message itself being not merely “the word of men” but “the word of God” (1 Thes 2:13). (205)
When we speak of other authorities, such as creeds and confessions (for example, Augsburg, Heidelberg, Westminster), their authority does not subtract from the authority of Scripture, as if by acknowledging their authority, the authority of Scripture is correspondingly reduced. We are not playing a zero-sum game. The authority of the creeds is always a subordinate and derived authority. The authority of a creed invariably leaves the sola of sola scriptura unscathed, because Scripture alone has the authority of the norma normans.
Much more evidence could be adduced to justify a place for creeds, formulas, catechisms, and more. But Christians in the Reformed tradition are not living up to the best insights of the Reformation when confessional documents are given such status that they effectively stand over Scripture, instead of under it.
5. For Ordinary ChristiansIn a remarkable paper, not yet published, Scott Manetsch, gathers some of the evidence from the 16th century as to how the Bible was cherished and handled by the Reformers and their followers. In other words, he asks for evidence as to how Scripture functions in the lives of the Reformers and their followers. Much of the material is familiar: one begins with the place of the Bible in family and church, the printing and reading of the Bible, the interpretation and the preaching of the Bible, the centrality of the Bible in the fledgling theological institutions the Reformers were starting, the use of the Bible in pastoral care, and much more. But then Manetsch poses a question that is often overlooked. It is one thing to study the Reformers themselves, and it is easy to detect their commitment to the sola scriptura principle — but how far did such commitments extend to ordinary Christians?
To answer his own question, Manetsch turns to the little-known work of Jean Crespin. Stripped of his inheritance and banished from his hometown of Arras in the Spanish Netherlands because of his “Lutheran” leanings, Crespin fled to Geneva in 1548, where with Calvin’s help he returned to his trade and set up a printing shop with four printing machines and 16 workers. He became the most prolific printer of the Protestant Reformation.
In 1554, he published Le Livre des Martyrs, which in 687 octavo pages told the stories of Christian martyrs from Jan Hus in 1415 to the more recent death of a Protestant, Pierre de la Vau, executed by burning at the stake in Nîmes in 1554. Crespin continued to update his work until 1570. That final form is customarily referred to in English as History of the Martyrs, and occupies 1,450 pages in folio, relating the deaths of about 600 martyrs. The book became a staple of Huguenot spirituality.
Crespin’s volume is simply saturated with Scripture. More remarkable is the way in which martyr after martyr ties his or her faith to holy Scripture. Here are the words of Charles Favre, a student killed in Lyons in 1554: “I believe and confess that the Scripture alone is the rule of religion and the Christian faith, which is contained in the Old and New Testaments, and that it is firm, certain and true, infallible and perfect.” These are not statements uttered in the coolness of quiet meditation or in the comfort of an air-conditioned library. Often they are words drawn from judicial hearings.
For example, another martyr, by the name of Jean Rabec, when challenged about the immaculate conception of Mary, said, “You have as the foundation of your [belief] an explanation based on the human brain; as for me, I have the Word of God. Judge who is most wise, God or you.” Rabec was defrocked and excommunicated, and sentenced to be burned at the stake. On the day of his death, the executioner first cut out Rabec’s tongue, and then suspended him by his wrists for half an hour before the wood for the fire was ignited. With blood still streaming from his mouth, Rabec was heard to be mouthing and voicing the words of Psalm 79 as the fire consumed him and reduced him to ash.
79 A PSALM OF ASAPH. ESV
Psalm 79:1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
2 They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the heavens for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
3 They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
mocked and derided by those around us.
5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your anger on the nations
that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
that do not call upon your name!
7 For they have devoured Jacob
and laid waste his habitation.
8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise. ESV
In the summarizing words of Scott Manetsch:
The Protestant martyrs in Crespin’s martyrology were people of the Bible. They not only defended its authority and debated its message, they also bought and sold it; they read it; they memorized it; they sang it; they talked about it; they found comfort from it; some even died for it. For many of these martyrs, the message of sacred Scripture profoundly shaped the way they viewed God, his nature and purposes, and the way they conducted their daily lives. An English noblewoman named Anne Askew stated before her accusers that she would “prefer to read five verses in the holy Bible of God than to hear the same number of Masses,” for she “felt great edification in reading the Bible but none when listening to the Mass.” Estienne Brun, a peasant farmer from Dauphiné, devoted the majority of his time to ploughing his fields and reading his French New Testament — the first activity was “for the nourishment of his family,” and the second was “for the instruction of himself in all fear of God.”
6. Developed Over TimeWe have already asserted that the Reformers were not so much innovators in their emphasis on sola scriptura as men who were recovering ancient doctrine. But now we must go further and insist that their heirs and successors often became more detailed and skilled in the articulation of this doctrine than were the initial Reformers themselves. In another paper, also unpublished, written by another distinguished colleague, John Woodbridge discusses in some detail the work of William Whitaker (1547–1595), master of St. John’s College, Cambridge, as he engaged in debate with Robert Cardinal Bellarmine (1542–1621), Catholicism’s ablest apologist of the day. Whitaker’s major work is titled ASIN: B0097C3KL8 (1588). Woodbridge calls it “the most comprehensive Protestant defense of biblical authority and sola scriptura in the English language during the Reformation era.”
Moreover, it would be easy to demonstrate that the commitment to Scripture’s authority was not some aberrant stance that flared up in the 16th century and then fizzled out. The historical papers in a recent volume nicely lay that canard to rest.
7. Important TodayWe insist that sola scriptura is just as important today. To focus for a moment on one element of contemporary life in many parts of the world, this is a time when the effluent from the craze of epistemological postmodernism attempts to tear down all certainties and any trace of stable truth, and especially of the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). The arguments can be sophisticated, but in their most basic form they run something like this:
What is the point of truth claims about Scripture, it is asked, and what value is there in proclaiming sola scriptura, when contemporary analysis has demonstrated the subjectivism and relativism of all interpretations? Not only are claims of sola scriptura too self-referential to be believed, but, even if they are believed, the brute reality is that the interpretation of Scripture is unstable, intrinsically overflowing with multi-valence.
Nowadays, we are all familiar with the arguments. When I was a young man, old-fashioned hermeneutics taught me that I, the interpreter, ask probing questions of it, the text. The questions are from me to it; the text, as it were, answers back. If my hermeneutics, considered to be a set of sophisticated rules that enable me to understand texts in all the complexity of their diverse genres, are mature and responsible, the questions I ask of the text cannot fail to produce straight answers that warrant my claim that I know what the text means.
But about three-quarters of a century ago, the so-called new hermeneutic argued that the “I” that is doing the questioning is not stable. “I” will not bring the same set of questions as, say, a semi-literate prostitute on the streets of Lagos, or an elegant Chinese expert in Confucianism. Truth be told, the questions I bring to the text today may not be the same as the questions I bring to the text tomorrow, as by then I may be short of sleep, or ill, or perhaps I’ve suffered a bereavement. That means that the answers “I” am open to hearing from the text are a little different from what another “I” will hear.
Not only so, but the answers I hear, whatever they are, will subtly change me, with the result that the questions I pose tomorrow, and the answers I hear tomorrow, cannot be exactly the same as what I hear today. The text does not give me straight answers. Its answers swipe me, as it were, and change me, so that the text appears different to me the next time I confront it. Not only do I interpret the text, but in this fashion one might say that the text interprets me. And thus a hermeneutical circle is set up, in which fixed interpretations are impossible. Our finitude and our changeableness, our social location and our corruptions, all conspire to make the interpretation of Scripture a fickle and changeable thing. Does not reception theory teach us the same lesson? So how is it meaningful to trumpet “Scripture alone” when Scripture itself has become so plastic?
How shall we respond?
Many things might be said, but I shall restrict myself to four observations.
It is vital to avoid holding up as our goal the certainty that is possible only to Omniscience. We finite human beings can never know things as God knows them, in all their entanglements, complexities, and multi-layered relationships. We will never be omniscient. Even in the new heaven and the new earth, our knowledge will never be more than partial. If the only acceptable standard that enables us to speak of knowing truly is omniscience, than human beings can never truly know anything. We are disqualified from the certainty of knowledge that only Omniscience enjoys.
In reality, however, we can and do speak of human knowing, and even of certain knowing with certainty, as long as such claims acknowledge our status as finite image-bearers. We do speak of knowing things — of knowing people, of knowing texts, of knowing history, of knowing facts, and much more — in natural ways that are entirely appropriate to our experience as finite beings. Far too much of the argumentation of the new hermeneutic turns on holding up an ideal of knowledge that is impossible for human beings to attain, and then declaring that we cannot therefore truly know anything. We might well wonder, of course, how those committed to this stance can know this alleged truth with such certainty. In any case, invoking omniscience as the necessary condition for all true human knowledge, in order to dismiss the possibility of certainty in human knowledge, is finally manipulative. Experience shows us that we can learn some things, in some measure. First-year students of the Greek language start with the alphabet, memorizing simple declensions, gaining some control over regular verbs, moving on gradually to more complex syntax. After two or three years of study, demonstrably the student knows more than he or she did three years earlier. We do not say they know nothing because they do not know everything. Of course, some early memorized “rules” turn out to be such generalizations that later study shows them to be reductionistic, even inept: we keep learning, and consequently know more. But even the greatest Greek scholar knows a great deal about how much he or she still doesn’t know. What sort of model is it, then, that argues such learning and knowledge is impossible, when similar experiences of learning crop up in every discipline?
We must recall the many things God has put in place to enable us to know: general revelation, godly examples, the illumining work of the Holy Spirit, pastors to teach us, and above all holy Scripture. Human knowledge is not a zero-sum game: either we know everything, or we truly know nothing. We are not dealing with a hermeneutical circle so much as with a hermeneutical spiral, even if we never manage to spiral all the way in to omniscience. Or, to change the metaphor, our knowledge makes an asymptotic approach to the ideal, even if, as an asymptote, it never touches the line.
The reality is that sola scriptura releases us from both the arrogance of personal, subjective truth claims, and also from the groundless authority of a magisterium. But it would take another lecture to justify this claim.
Of course, the loss of the ability to speak of truth in many parts of (mostly) Western culture is not the only worldview issue confronted by the claims of sola scriptura.
Scripture alone is adequate to confront the miasma of narcissism, worldwide consumerism, and rampant individualism in some cultures and enchaining social conformity in others, the residue of theoretical Marxism that still promises freedom but everywhere leaves people in chains, the many faces of resurgent Islam, the vast appeal of Buddhism and Hinduism, growing militant atheism, active persecution, and, perhaps the most dispiriting of all, enormous seas of sheer lostness. Sola scriptura.
8. The Eschatological DimensionWe must see that sola scriptura has an eschatological dimension. Unlike people, who are like grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the field, “the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Pet. 1:25; cf. Isa. 40:6–8). Indeed, the heavens and earth will pass away, but Christ’s word will endure (Matt. 5:18). More: the Scriptures keep pointing forward to the end. Jesus declares, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17; emphasis added).
Some hear the word “abolish” and, detecting an antithesis, interpret the verb “to fulfill” to mean something like “to maintain” or “to preserve,” the opposite of “to abolish”: I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to preserve them. Nevertheless, the verb plēroō, to fulfill, is used more frequently in Matthew than in the rest of the New Testament, and in Matthew it never means “to preserve.” Indeed, in Matthew it always has an eschatological orientation: to bring to pass what has been announced in the past. In other words, what starts off as an apparent antithesis has a twist in it: Jesus has not come to abolish the law or the prophets; no, that is not his purpose at all. Rather, he has come to do something quite different: to bring to pass everything the law and the prophets anticipate. Jesus fulfills them.
And how long does this function continue? The answer is provided in the two “until” phrases in the next verse: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (5:18). So there are two terminuses. The first is the absolute one: until heaven and earth disappear. But the second lies on a roving scale, namely, until everything is accomplished.
For example, the Passover ritual becomes Christ our Passover sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7); the temple becomes the destruction of Jesus’s body, raised up for us as the new and final place where sinners meet with God; the command not to commit adultery issues not only in the prohibition of lust but in the absolute purity of the new heaven and the new earth; yom kippurim in Leviticus 16 becomes the peerless sacrifice of Hebrews 9; and so, until everything is accomplished. That is the way Scripture works; it is the way only Scripture works.
As the prophet Isaiah repeatedly reminds us in Isaiah 40–45, God who has given us Scripture is the only one who can foretell the future, not only because he knows it, but because he brings it to pass. Precisely because Scripture is God’s Word, Scripture alone has the revelatory authority to set forth the gospel, in words that tie together the books of the Bible into one glorious eschatological whole, more stable than the universe itself, more permanent than heaven and earth. Of no ecclesiastical council or creed, of no pope or encyclical, does the Lord Jesus declare that heaven and earth will pass away, but that encyclicals pronounced ex cathedra will never pass away.
So let us hear the end of the matter: God has declared, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isa. 66:2).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream
By John Bunyan 1678
THE SEVENTH STAGENow I saw that, just on the other side of this plain, the pilgrims came to a place where stood an old monument, hard by the highway-side, at the sight of which they were both concerned, because of the strangeness of the form thereof; for it seemed to them as if it had been a woman transformed into the shape of a pillar. Here, therefore, they stood looking and looking upon it, but could not for a time tell what they should make thereof. At last Hopeful espied, written above upon the head thereof, a writing in an unusual hand; but he being no scholar, called to Christian (for he was learned) to see if he could pick out the meaning: so he came, and after a little laying of letters together, he found the same to be this, “Remember Lot’s wife.” So he read it to his fellow; after which they both concluded that that was the pillar of salt into which Lot’s wife was turned, for her looking back with a covetous heart when she was going from Sodom for safety. Looking back with a covetous heart ... the message is she did not want to leave. So where your heart is your treasure will be, in this case herself.
Gen. 19:26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. ESV
Which sudden and amazing sight gave them occasion for this discourse.
CHR. Ah, my brother, this is a seasonable sight: it came opportunely to us after the invitation which Demas gave us to come over to view the hill Lucre; and had we gone over, as he desired us, and as thou wast inclined to do, my brother, we had, for aught I know, been made, like this woman, a spectacle for those that shall come after to behold.
HOPE. I am sorry that I was so foolish, and am made to wonder that I am not now as Lot’s wife; for wherein was the difference betwixt her sin and mine? She only looked back, and I had a desire to go see. Let grace be adored; and let me be ashamed that ever such a thing should be in mine heart.
CHR. Let us take notice of what we see here, for our help from time to come. This woman escaped one judgment, for she fell not by the destruction of Sodom; yet she was destroyed by another, as we see: she is turned into a pillar of salt.
HOPE. True, and she may be to us both caution and example; caution, that we should shun her sin; or a sign of what judgment will overtake such as shall not be prevented by this caution: so Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with the two hundred and fifty men that perished in their sin,
Numb. 16:31-32 31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. ESV
did also become a sign or example to others to beware. But above all, I muse at one thing, to wit, how Demas and his fellows can stand so confidently yonder to look for that treasure, which this woman but for looking behind her after, (for we read not that she stepped one foot out of the way,) was turned into a pillar of salt; especially since the judgment which overtook her did make her an example within sight of where they are; for they cannot choose but see her, did they but lift up their eyes.
CHR. It is a thing to be wondered at, and it argueth that their hearts are grown desperate in the case; and I cannot tell who to compare them to so fitly, as to them that pick pockets in the presence of the judge, or that will cut purses under the gallows. It is said of the men of Sodom, that they were “sinners exceedingly,” because they were sinners “before the Lord,” that is, in his eyesight, and notwithstanding the kindnesses that he had shown them; for the land of Sodom was now like the garden of Eden as heretofore.
Gen. 13:10–13 10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD. ESV
This, therefore, provoked him the more to jealousy, and made their plague as hot as the fire of the Lord out of heaven could make it. And it is most rationally to be concluded, that such, even such as these are, that shall sin in the sight, yea, and that too in despite of such examples that are set continually before them, to caution them to the contrary, must be partakers of severest judgments.
HOPE. Doubtless thou hast said the truth; but what a mercy is it, that neither thou, but especially I, am not made myself this example! This ministereth occasion to us to thank God, to fear before him, and always to remember Lot’s wife.
I saw then that they went on their way to a pleasant river, which David the king called “the river of God;” but John, “the river of the water of life.”
Psa. 65:9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it. ESV
Ezek. 47:1–9 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. 9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. ESV
Now their way lay just upon the bank of this river: here, therefore, Christian and his companion walked with great delight; they drank also of the water of the river, which was pleasant and enlivening to their weary spirits. Besides, on the banks of this river, on either side, were green trees with all manner of fruit; and the leaves they ate to prevent surfeits, and other diseases that are incident to those that heat their blood by travel. On either side of the river was also a meadow, curiously beautified with lilies; and it was green all the year long. In this meadow they lay down and slept, for here they might lie down safely.
Psa. 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. ESV
Isa. 14: 30 And the firstborn of the poor will graze,
and the needy lie down in safety;
but I will kill your root with famine,
and your remnant it will slay. ESV
“Behold ye, how these Crystal Streams do glide,
To comfort pilgrims by the highway-side.
The meadows green, besides their fragrant smell,
Yield dainties for them; And he that can tell
What pleasant fruit, yea, leaves these trees do yield,
Will soon sell all, that he may buy this field.”
Now I beheld in my dream, that they had not journeyed far, but the river and the way for a time parted, at which they were not a little sorry; yet they durst not go out of the way. Now the way from the river was rough, and their feet tender by reason of their travels; so the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way.
Numb. 21:4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. ESV
Wherefore, still as they went on, they wished for a better way. Now, a little before them, there was on the left hand of the road a meadow, and a stile to go over into it, and that meadow is called By-path meadow. Then said Christian to his fellow, If this meadow lieth along by our wayside, let’s go over into it. Then he went to the stile to see, and behold a path lay along by the way on the other side of the fence. It is according to my wish, said Christian; here is the easiest going; come, good Hopeful, and let us go over.
HOPE. But how if this path should lead us out of the way?
CHR. That is not likely, said the other. Look, doth it not go along by the wayside? So Hopeful, being persuaded by his fellow, went after him over the stile. When they were gone over, and were got into the path, they found it very easy for their feet; and withal, they, looking before them, espied a man walking as they did, and his name was Vain-Confidence: so they called after him, and asked him whither that way led. He said, To the Celestial Gate. Look, said Christian, did not I tell you so? by this you may see we are right. So they followed, and he went before them. But behold the night came on, and it grew very dark; so that they that went behind lost the sight of him that went before.
He therefore that went before, (Vain-Confidence by name,) not seeing the way before him, fell into a deep pit, which was on purpose there made, by the prince of those grounds, to catch vain-glorious fools withal, and was dashed in pieces with his fall.
Isa. 9:16 for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,
and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. ESV
Then Hopeful groaned in himself, saying, Oh that I had kept on my way!
CHR. Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way?
HOPE. I was afraid on’t at the very first, and therefore gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoke plainer, but that you are older than I.
CHR. Good brother, be not offended; I am sorry I have brought thee out of the way, and that I have put thee into such imminent danger. Pray, my brother, forgive me; I did not do it of an evil intent.
HOPE. Be comforted, my brother, for I forgive thee; and believe, too, that this shall be for our good.
CHR. I am glad I have with me a merciful brother: but we must not stand here; let us try to go back again.
HOPE. But, good brother, let me go before.
CHR. No, if you please, let me go first, that if there be any danger, I may be first therein, because by my means we are both gone out of the way.
HOPE. No, said Hopeful, you shall not go first, for your mind being troubled may lead you out of the way again. Then for their encouragement they heard the voice of one saying, “Let thine heart be toward the highway, even the way that thou wentest: turn again.”
Jer. 31:21 “Set up road markers for yourself;
make yourself guideposts;
consider well the highway,
the road by which you went.
Return, O virgin Israel,
return to these your cities. ESV
Neither could they, with all the skill they had, get again to the stile that night. Wherefore at last, lighting under a little shelter, they sat down there till the day brake; but being weary, they fell asleep. Now there was, not far from the place where they lay, a castle, called Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair, and it was in his grounds they now were sleeping: wherefore he, getting up in the morning early, and walking up and down in his fields, caught Christian and Hopeful asleep in his grounds. Then with a grim and surly voice, he bid them awake, and asked them whence they were, and what they did in his grounds. They told him they were pilgrims, and that they had lost their way. Then said the giant, You have this night trespassed on me by trampling in and lying on my grounds, and therefore you must go along with me. So they were forced to go, because he was stronger than they. They also had but little to say, for they knew themselves in a fault. The giant, therefore, drove them before him, and put them into his castle, into a very dark dungeon, nasty and stinking to the spirits of these two men. Here, then, they lay from Wednesday morning till Saturday night, without one bit of bread, or drop of drink, or light, or any to ask how they did; they were, therefore, here in evil case, and were far from friends and acquaintance.
Psa. 88:18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness. ESV
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
God uses ordinary people (2)
2/9/2018 Bob Gass
‘Remember…few of you were wise in the world’s eyes…when God called you.’
(1 Co 1:26) For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. ESV
Max Lucado writes: ‘Edith Hayes was a spry eighty-year-old with thinning white hair, a wiry five-foot frame, and an unquenchable compassion for South Florida’s cancer patients. I was fresh out of seminary in 1979 and sitting in an office of unpacked boxes when she walked in and introduced herself. “My name is Edith, and I help cancer patients.” She extended her hand. I offered a chair. She politely declined. “Too busy. You’ll see my team here at the church building every Tuesday morning. You’re welcome to come, but if you do we’ll put you to work.” Her team, I came to learn, included a hundred or so silver-haired women who occupied themselves with the unglamorous concern of sore-seepage. They made cancer wounds their mission, stitching together truckloads of disposable pads each Tuesday, and then delivering them to patients throughout the week. Edith rented an alley apartment, lived on her late husband’s pension, wore glasses that magnified her pupils, and ducked applause like artillery fire.’ Edith’s story does away with the excuse, ‘I’m too old to do something for God.’ Noah was over six hundred years old when he came out of the ark and helped to start the human race all over again. If you’re older, think about it this way: you’re a walking repository of decades of wisdom and knowledge. So, before you leave this earth, endeavour to give to others what God has entrusted to you. Right now, somebody, somewhere, needs something you have, and if you ask God, He will show you who they are. When He does – get involved!
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
“Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” This was the campaign slogan of ninth President William Henry Harrison, born this day, February 9, 1773. He was the first President to die in office, serving the shortest term of only thirty days. A Major General, Harrison was commander of the Northwest, winning the Battle of Tippecanoe. He was the son of Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration, and grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President. William Henry Harrison stated: “There are certain rights possessed by each individual… The American citizen… claims them because he is… fashioned by the same Almighty hand as the rest of his species.”
Thomas R. Kelly
II. GATEWAYS INTO HOLY OBEDIENCE
In considering one gateway into this life of holy obedience, let us dare to venture together into the inner sanctuary of the soul, where God meets man in awful immediacy. There is an indelicacy in too-ready speech. Paul felt it unlawful to speak of the things of the third heaven. But there is also a false reticence, as if these things were one's own work and one's own possession, about which we should modestly keep quiet, whereas they are wholly God's amazing work and we are nothing, mere passive receivers. "The lion hath roared, who can but tremble? The voice of Jehovah hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8).
Some men come into holy obedience through the gateway of profound mystical experience.
It is an overwhelming experience to fall into the hands of the living God, to be invaded to the depths of one's being by His presence, to be, without warning, wholly uprooted from all earth-born securities and assurances, and to be blown by a tempest of unbelievable power which leaves one's old proud self utterly, utterly defenseless, until one cries, "All Thy waves and thy billows are gone over me" (Ps. 42:7). Then is the soul swept into a Loving Center of ineffable sweetness, where calm and unspeakable peace and ravishing joy steal over one. And one knows now why Pascal wrote, in the center of his greatest moment, the single word, "Fire." There stands the world of struggling, sinful, earth-blinded men and nations, of plants and animals and wheeling stars of heaven, all new, all lapped in the tender, persuading Love at the Center. There stand the saints of the ages, their hearts open to view, and lo, their hearts are our heart and their hearts are the heart of the Eternal One. In awful solemnity the Holy One is over all and in all, exquisitely loving, infinitely patient, tenderly smiling. Marks of glory are upon all things, and the marks are cruciform and bloodstained. And one sighs, like the convinced Thomas of old, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Dare one lift one's eyes and look? Nay, whither can one look and not see Him? For field and stream and teeming streets are full of Him. Yet as Moses knew, no man can look on God and live-live as his old self. Death comes, blessed death, death of one's alienating will. And one knows what Paul meant when he wrote, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Nothing is so deadening to the divine
as a habitual dealing
with the outside of spiritual things.
--- The Scottish novelist George Macdonald
The Bible holds up before us ideals that are within sight of the weakest and the lowliest, and yet so high that the best and the noblest are kept with their faces turned ever upward. It carries the call of the Saviour to the remotest corners of the earth; on its pages are written the assurances of the present and our hopes for the future.
--- William Jennings Bryan
Sometimes the Lord calms the storm,
sometimes He lets the storm rage …
and calms His child.
--- Audrey J. Brennan
The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.
--- C.S. Lewis
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
happy are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction, and grow wise;
do not refuse it.
34 How happy the person who listens to me,
who watches daily at my gates
and waits outside my doors.
35 For he who finds me finds life
and obtains the favor of ADONAI.
36 But he who misses me harms himself;
all who hate me love death.”
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Are you exhausted spiritually?
The everlasting God … fainteth not, neither is weary.
--- Isaiah 40:28.
Exhaustion means that the vital forces are worn right out. Spiritual exhaustion never comes through sin but only through service, and whether or not you are exhausted will depend upon where you get your supplies. Jesus said to Peter—“Feed My sheep,” but He gave him nothing to feed them with. The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you to the dregs. Be careful that you get your supply, or before long you will be utterly exhausted. Before other souls learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus direct, they have to draw on it through you; you have to be literally ‘sucked’, until they learn to take their nourishment from God. We owe it to God to be our best for His lambs and His sheep as well as for Himself.
Has the way in which you have been serving God betrayed you into exhaustion? If so, then rally your affections. Where did you start the service from? From your own sympathy or from the basis of the Redemption of Jesus Christ? Continually go back to the foundation of your affections and recollect where the source of power is. You have no right to say—‘Oh Lord, I am so exhausted.’ He saved and sanctified you in order to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that your supply comes from Him. “All my fresh springs shall be in Thee.”
Tell God you are ready to be offered, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Here for a while heard
to obey looked fear
in the face was outstared
by it took lust
for love burned more
than his fingers saw need
lie dropped it a tear
passed on. Visitors
from a far country
beauty addressed him
truth too he was no
linguist keeping his balance
without grace took
one step forward and one
back on the shining tightrope
between dark and dark.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Thomas A Kempis
Book One / Thoughts Helpful In The Life Of The Soul
The Ninth Chapter / Obedience and Subjection
IT IS a very great thing to obey, to live under a superior and not to be one’s own master, for it is much safer to be subject than it is to command. Many live in obedience more from necessity than from love. Such become discontented and dejected on the slightest pretext; they will never gain peace of mind unless they subject themselves wholeheartedly for the love of God.
Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.
Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases and is attracted to those who agree with him. But if God be among us, we must at times give up our opinions for the blessings of peace.
Furthermore, who is so wise that he can have full knowledge of everything? Do not trust too much in your own opinions, but be willing to listen to those of others. If, though your own be good, you accept another’s opinion for love of God, you will gain much more merit; for I have often heard that it is safer to listen to advice and take it than to give it. It may happen, too, that while one’s own opinion may be good, refusal to agree with others when reason and occasion demand it, is a sign of pride and obstinacy.
The Imitation Of Christ
The Hebrew People
The Hebrew people, the family of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, had come to Egypt in the days of Joseph. They had settled on the west of the Nile’s delta, an area called Goshen, on the southern end of which Cairo stands today. Even after Joseph’s death, probably during the rule of Amenemhet III (about 1805 B.C.), the Israelites experienced good years. Then, about 1730 B.C., a new people began a gradual conquest of Egypt. The country was ruled by a foreign aristocracy, the Hyksos, Semites from Asia. Goshen was one of the first areas conquered, and slavery was imposed on Israel.
Later, when the Hyksos were driven out, Israel’s lot was no easier. The people had grown numerous. And they were more closely related to the Asiatic Hyksos than to the Egyptians. By the time of Thutmose I, Egypt’s great empire builder, the presence of this foreign population was threatening. Thutmose’s concern over a potential enemy at home while his armies were away seeking new conquests led to severe measures. He commanded Egypt’s midwives to kill newborn Hebrew boys. When this failed, he directed all Egyptians to seize the male children that were born to the Hebrews and fling them into the Nile to drown. Israel’s plight was desperate.
And then God acted.
This is why a study of Bible history can sometimes be so exciting for us. At times our plight too becomes desperate. We too feel helpless, and can only call on God to act.
But what does God do? How does He work in our lives to lift us out of our bondage, and set us on the way to freedom? In the New Testament, looking back on the days that Exodus reports, God tells us that the things that happened to Israel were “examples.” The word “example” literally means “type”—a model or pattern. Israel’s experiences were written down as signposts for us … signposts along a common road to freedom that we too are invited to travel (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11). Simply put, our own personal experience with God closely parallels the experience of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament story of redemption. These Old Testament books show us how Israel was led from slavery to freedom. They tell the story of redemption, and help us understand what God intends to do in our lives as well.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Book of Exodus
The Book of Exodus is the first book of the Bible. There in the ancient stories of Moses at Sinai, Israel in Egypt and Israel leaving Egypt, Israel in the Wilderness and Israel with Moses at Sinai are more beginnings for faith than are to be found in the Book of Beginnings.
In the Book of Exodus God gives Israel his special name, his special deliverance, his special guidance, his special covenant, his special worship, his special mercy and his special description of himself. In the Book of Exodus, the people Israel is born; Torah is born, and with it the Bible; the theology of Presence and response to Presence is born, and with it the special iconography of that large part of the Hebrew-Christian tradition which symbolizes ideas rather than beings; and priesthood and cultus in ancient Israel are born, laying the ancient sub-foundations of Temple, Synagogue and Church.
Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 3, Exodus
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
--- Psalm 73:26.
I find in [Mary] the loneliness of love. ( Wind on the Heath (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) The mother of Jesus was the bride of loneliness. Had her husband, Joseph, been spared to her through the years, it might have been very different with Mary. She might have turned to him when things were difficult. But Joseph died when Jesus was a boy, and Mary was left utterly alone, to love and ponder and be brokenhearted. Other mothers could compare experiences, but that was what Mary of Nazareth could not do. Even to her family she dare not turn for sympathy, for they thought [Jesus] was beside himself. Because Christ was unutterably wonderful, Mary was unutterably lonely, and she was lonely because she loved him so.
Every mother knows something of that loneliness, as childhood reaches to manhood or to womanhood. There comes a day when the most perfect mother has to make room for others in her son’s or daughter’s heart. And you have to multiply all that ten thousand times into the absorbing passion of the Son of God if you would understand the loneliness of Mary. Not to be able to blast and blight his slanderers when they said he had a devil and was mad—to be utterly powerless to keep him silent when every word was ringing out his death-knell—and then to stand at the cross and see him nailed there and hear the exceeding bitter cry he cried—could any loneliness be worse than that? Love is the secret of the sweetest song, and love is the fountain of the deepest loneliness. Sooner or later in this shadowed world a loving mother is a lonely mother. And it is when you remember Mary’s love for a Son who was as mysterious as God that you come to think of her, in all her glory, as perhaps the loneliest woman in the world.
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Defending the faith
“Defend the faith,” wrote Jude, “the faith that God has once for all given to his people.” No one has done that better than Athanasius. Born in 296 to Christian parents in Egypt, Athanasius was ordained to the ministry just as a heretic named Arius was teaching that Jesus Christ was not divine. Christ, said Arius and his followers the Arians, was created higher than angels but inferior to the Father.
Emperor Constantine convened a church council in Nicaea in 325 to settle the issue, and Athanasius attended. The young man strongly agreed with the council’s decision. Jesus is God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all divine — one God existing in three names. God, Athanasius believed, became a man and died to provide our forgiveness.
Athanasius soon afterward became bishop of Alexandria. But Constantine, still troubled by the rancor, ordered him to allow Arians to join his church. Athanasius refused, kicking over a hornet’s nest of intrigue. Traveling to Constantinople, he planted himself in front of Constantine’s horse, grabbed the bridle, and demanded the emperor retract his order. Instead, he found himself deposed.
After Constantine’s death, Athanasius returned to Alexandria, but not for long. The Arians had him exiled again in 339, and he spent the next several years in Rome, where his teaching attracted crowds and his writings an eager audience.
He returned to his church in 346. Thousands welcomed him, the city ablaze with torches, and his enemies retreated. But only briefly. On February 9, 356, as Athanasius led midnight worship, 5,000 soldiers stormed the church and the doors began buckling. Athanasius calmly asked his assistant to read Psalm 136 then slipped out a side door and escaped to the Egyptian desert.
He was later restored to his church, only to be exiled a fourth time. But he soon returned and ministered until his death at age 77. Seventeen of his 45 years of ministry had been away from his congregation. But today we owe enormous gratitude to Athanasius. He devoted his difficult life to protecting orthodox doctrine and to defending the faith that God once for all gave to his people.
My dear friends, I really wanted to write you about God’s saving power at work in our lives. But instead, I must write and ask you to defend the faith that God has once for all given to his people.
--- Jude 3.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - February 9
“And David enquired of the Lord.” --- 2 Samuel 5:23.
When David made this enquiry he had just fought the Philistines, and gained a signal victory. The Philistines came up in great hosts, but, by the help of God, David had easily put them to flight. Note, however, that when they came a second time, David did not go up to fight them without enquiring of the Lord. Once he had been victorious, and he might have said, as many have in other cases, “I shall be victorious again; I may rest quite sure that if I have conquered once I shall triumph yet again. Wherefore should I tarry to seek at the Lord’s hands?” Not so, David. He had gained one battle by the strength of the Lord; he would not venture upon another until he had ensured the same. He enquired, “Shall I go up against them?” He waited until God’s sign was given. Learn from David to take no step without God. Christian, if thou wouldst know the path of duty, take God for thy compass; if thou wouldst steer thy ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped, if we would let our Father take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid, if we would leave to his sovereign will to choose and to command. The Puritan said, “As sure as ever a Christian carves for himself, he’ll cut his own fingers;” this is a great truth. Said another old divine, “He that goes before the cloud of God’s providence goes on a fool’s errand;” and so he does. We must mark God’s providence leading us; and if providence tarries, tarry till providence comes. He who goes before providence, will be very glad to run back again. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go,” is God’s promise to his people. Let us, then, take all our perplexities to him, and say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Leave not thy chamber this morning without enquiring of the Lord.
Evening - February 9
“Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil [or, the evil one].” --- Luke 11:4.
What we are taught to seek or shun in prayer, we should equally pursue or avoid in action. Very earnestly, therefore, should we avoid temptation, seeking to walk so guardedly in the path of obedience, that we may never tempt the devil to tempt us. We are not to enter the thicket in search of the lion. Dearly might we pay for such presumption. This lion may cross our path or leap upon us from the thicket, but we have nothing to do with hunting him. He that meeteth with him, even though he winneth the day, will find it a stern struggle. Let the Christian pray that he may be spared the encounter. Our Saviour, who had experience of what temptation meant, thus earnestly admonished his disciples—“Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”
But let us do as we will, we shall be tempted; hence the prayer “deliver us from evil.” God had one Son without sin; but he has no son without temptation. The natural man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, and the Christian man is born to temptation just as certainly. We must be always on our watch against Satan, because, like a thief, he gives no intimation of his approach. Believers who have had experience of the ways of Satan, know that there are certain seasons when he will most probably make an attack, just as at certain seasons bleak winds may be expected; thus the Christian is put on a double guard by fear of danger, and the danger is averted by preparing to meet it. Prevention is better than cure: it is better to be so well armed that the devil will not attack you, than to endure the perils of the fight, even though you come off a conqueror. Pray this evening first that you may not be tempted, and next that if temptation be permitted, you may be delivered from the evil one.
Morning and Evening
I AM HIS AND HE IS MINE
George Wade Robinson, 1838–1877
Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
Spiritual maturity is a growing appreciation of God simply for who He is. Only then can we begin to revel in our eternal union with Him. This realization gives all of life a different perspective. Life takes on a new dignity, worth, and meaning. Even nature is viewed differently—“earth around is sweeter green …” Learning to abide in Christ means that we live with a calmer, more relaxed attitude because we rely on God rather than ourselves—“things that once were wild alarms cannot now disturb my rest.” John Wesley often spoke of this kind of life as “living with a loose rein.” Our union with Christ also makes us victors when we realize that “while God and I shall be,” nothing in life can ever separate us from this eternal love relationship (Romans 8:35).
The author of this text, George Wade Robinson, was a pastor of Congregational churches in England. The composer, James Mountain, was an Anglican minister who became greatly influenced by the Moody-Sankey campaigns in England in the early 1870’s. Mountain later devoted his life to the work of evangelism both in Great Britain and world-wide. “I Am His and He Is Mine” first appeared in James Mountain’s collection, Hymns of Consecration and Faith, published in 1876. The truths this hymn presents so well become more meaningful each time we sing it.
Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know—Spirit, breathing from above, Thou hast taught me it is so! O this full and perfect peace, O this transport all divine— In a love which cannot cease, I am His and He is mine.
Heav’n above is softer blue; earth around is sweeter green; something lives in ev’ry hue Christless eyes have never seen! Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flow’rs with deeper beauties shine, since I know, as now I know, I am His and He is mine.
Things that once were wild alarms cannot now disturb my rest; closed in everlasting arms, pillowed on the loving breast! O to lie forever here, doubt and care and self resign, while He whispers in my ear—I am His and He is mine.
His forever, only His—Who the Lord and me shall part? Ah, with what a rest of bliss Christ can fill the loving heart! Heav’n and earth may fade and flee, first-born light in gloom decline, but while God and I shall be, I am His and He is mine.
For Today: Song of Solomon 6:3; John 14:1–8; 15:9–11; Galatians 2:20.
Take time to truly meditate upon God and all that He is. Then revel and rejoice in the glorious truth that you are inseparably united with Him.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
William Lane Craig
Part 1: The Incarnation
Part 2: The Incarnation (2)
Part 3: The Incarnation (3)
Part 4: The Incarnation (4)
Part 5: The Incarnation (5)
Part 6: The Incarnation (6)
Part 7: The Incarnation (7)