What does it mean? (Part 2)

Yesterday I reported a radical view of [re]interpreting the Bible – today we shall see there is a more traditional view.

When listening to Bob Gordon speak about the Bible one phrase was certain to appear,

“We all agree it is the Word of God, the only problem is, what does it mean?

Of course if we had certainty on that then life would be more straightforward, though not necessarily easier.

One good piece of news is that “on behalf of (very) Conservative Christianity, John MacArthur knows the answer and is having a conference to tell us about it. After his Strange Fire conference you might detect a note of sarcasm in that last comment.

However I do admire people who have such clarity and certainty in these matters, I struggle at times to make sure I am really doing justice to God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, as I read and try to interpret. Maybe that means I haven’t read the right book to help me use the correct hermeneutical procedure, (or at least the one that is in favour at this point in time.) And then I might also struggle with the way Jesus used scripture at times, which was in direct contradiction to many of the principles and procedures suggested in those books.

Sometimes I think that idea of the Bible and the Holy Spirit might not be such a bad idea – at least until I hear some “Pentecostal” preaching!

Charisma news reported some of MacArthurs comments about the forthcoming conference,

“…experience and subjectivity are not authoritative, then the Bible—the source of all authority—is the only thing of consequence. Scripture is the revelation of divine truth. The truth is always experienced in the Christian life, but experience itself can never be allowed to define the truth.”

When asked what are the biggest problems facing today’s churches, MacArthur said it is related to Scripture.

“There are those who deny its absolute authority and inerrancy with severe consequences,” he explained. “There are those who misinterpret it and use it to teach error. There are those who understand its truth but fail to apply and proclaim it.”

“Errors regarding Scripture lead to a lack of discernment in the church, which is like spiritual AIDS. The church has a deficient immune system and then becomes sick with a thousand heresies,” MacArthur concluded.

The summit will feature Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Carl Trueman, Iain Murray, Ian Hamilton, Derek Thomas, Miguel Nunez, Steve Lawson, R.C. Sproul, Mark Dever, Paige Patterson, Stephen Nichols and Kevin DeYoung.

“These are leaders who are willing to stand up for the integrity of Scripture without compromise,” MacArthur noted.

He said the summit “is intentionally designed to bring together men of conviction and influence to make a clear statement on this issue for our generation. It’s our prayer that the statements, articles and books that come out of this summit will honor our God who has spoken in His Word.”

So I end up firmly agreeing with Bob, I love the Bible, I treasure it and read it (almost) every day, it is the Word of God – but what does it mean?

What does it mean? (Part 1)

The Bible is firmly on the agenda for Christians at the moment. Regular readers of this blog will be aware of Steve Chalkes views on the Bible. Chalke has received support from a range of groups, Brian McLaren gives a general idea of who is supporting this move away from traditional conservative views of the Bible,

[quoting Derek Flood] These leaders represent a sea-change in the Evangelical landscape which has long been associated with being anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-science. Chalke, along with these other leaders, represents a growing shift, especially among younger Evangelicals, towards a more affirming, compassionate and thoughtful face of Evangelicalism, and this flows into how Scripture is interpreted and applied. In contrast to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Chalke’s paper firmly denies the idea of inerrancy and instead calls for a way of interpreting Scripture characterized by debate and questioning,

“We do not believe that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ or ‘infallible’ in any popular understanding of these terms. In truth, there is nothing in the biblical texts that is beyond debate and questioning, and healthy churches are ones that create an environment which welcomes just that. The biblical texts are not a ‘divine monologue’, where the solitary voice of God dictates a flawless and unified declaration of his character and will to their writers.”

Steve Chalke published a paper on the Oasis website. It is strong in rejecting what many believers have traditionally believed to be a proper interpretation of the Bible.

Peter Saunders offered some insights in answering what he believes Chalk is doing and also tried to defend traditional interpretation (it is worthwhile reading his article to get a feel for what he says.) In drawing to a conclusion he made this comment,

Chalke’s underlying motivation seems to be to remove, or to reinterpret, biblical teachings that he thinks will put people off embracing Christianity. He wants to make the Christian faith more ‘attractive’, ‘relevant’, ‘inclusive’ and ‘welcoming’.
The problem with this is that in so doing he is both undermining people’s confidence in the authority of Scripture, which Jesus himself upheld, and also modifying the Gospel.
Chalke has fashioned for himself an alternative Gospel which cherry picks from Scripture the beliefs he wants and discards those which he finds inconvenient.
He claims that this is in order to draw people to Christ – the real Word of God – but I can’t help wondering if he is simply responding to the temptation of choosing a message which will help him avoid being attacked.
In embracing popular contemporary causes like gay marriage and avoiding speaking out on areas where Scripture is under attack Chalke risks emasculating the Gospel.

When listening to Bob Gordon speak about the Bible one phrase was certain to appear,

“We all agree it is the Word of God, the only problem is, what does it mean?

It appears the question is still very much alive today.

New changes in F1

For the 2014 season Formula 1 has introduced a whole raft of changes. Usually I watch about 30 minutes of F1 racing during the whole season. However, my dad is passionate about F1, and as he has been ill in hospital I saw this and thought of him. I love you dad.

by RedBull.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Am I healthy?

In his book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health,  Donald Whitney  asks 10 helpful questions which are good to apply to ourselves.

1. Do I thirst for God?

2. Am I governed increasingly by God’s Word?

3. Am I more loving?

4. Am I more sensitive to God’s presence?

5. Do I have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?

6. Do I delight in the Bride of Christ?

7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to me?

8. Do I still grieve over sin?

9. Am I a quicker forgiver?

10. Do I yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

Prayer quotes

I have been asking the Lord to teach me how to pray – seems a good biblical prayer and one that was necessary after nearly 30 years of being a believer. As well as praying more I am trying to do some more reading, included in my booklist is Dick eastman’s classic, The Hour That Changes the World. Here are a few quotes from chapter 1 – there will be more on my twitter feed (@rdcramblings) in coming weeks.

“To seek aid in time of distress from a supernatural Being is an instinct of human nature. I believe in the truthfulness of this instinct and that man prays because there is something in prayer. As when the Creator gives His creature the power of thirst, it is because water exists to meet its thirst; and as when He creates hunger there is food to correspond to the appetite; so when He inclines men to pray, it is because prayer has a corresponding blessing connected with it.”

Charles Spurgeon

“In prayer you align yourselves to the purpose and power of God and He is able to do things through you that He couldn’t do otherwise. For this is an open universe, where some things are left open, contingent upon our doing them. If we do not do them, they will never be done. For God has left certain things open to prayer – things which will never be done except as we pray”

E. Stanley Jones

“Only as we apply our knowledge of prayer to the actual practice of prayer will we discover the practical power of prayer”

Dick Eastman

Eastman cites this story: Dr. Walter Judd, missionary to China, frequently enjoyed sharing his prayer experiences from missionary days. Of these experiences the doctor related, “There would come into my spirit something that supported and helped steady me, gave me confidence and assurance during the day. I can’t explain it. I can’t explain how some of the food I ate tonight for supper becomes brain, some blood, some bone, but I haven’t stopped eating just because I can’t explain it! In the same way, I can’t explain this. It is not in the realm of explanation yet, or of logical proof. It is in the realm of demonstration; prayer works.”

Learning the unforced rhythms of grace

Living life in the power and presence of the Spirit and Word of God is not easy – personally I don’t believe God intended it to be. Learning what Eugene Peterson calls, “the unforced rhythms of grace” is not an easy matter, but it is supremely rewarding.

Matthew 11:28-30 (Msg) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Which leads me to ask how we can do it? Everything I read and hear, years of living the life, tell me discipline in all areas of my being is a key.
John Wesley realised such a life does not come easy, and so on a regular basis he asked some very direct questions of those fellow members of his Holy Club. This week I introduced these to the students in my discipleship group, next week we shall be working our way through them. Asked and applied in a constructive manner they are a stepping stone to the unforced rhythms.
(My apologies for not being able to cite the original source for the list below, it has been with me for years but I can’t remember where I got it from.)

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I’m better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?

2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

3. Do I confidentially pass on what was told to me in confidence?

4. Can I be trusted?

5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?

6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying or self justifying?

7. Did the Bible live in me today?

8. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?

9. Am I enjoying prayer?

10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?

11. Do I pray about the money I spend?

12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?

13. Do I disobey God in anything?

14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?

15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?

16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?

17. How do I spend my spare time?

18. Am I proud?

19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?

20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what I am doing about it?

21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?

22. Is Christ real to me?