Great Sermon! It's about time someone made this point, that Christianity is radical faith. Jim White is a formidable scholar and deep thinker. Those who believe that the Bible is full of dogmas requiring "blind faith" have never read it. It must rank among the most deconstructive documents in all of human history. It requires critical thought by its very nature. Thus, it contrasts favorable with the worldview of "naturalism," which is little more than an exercise in speculative metaphysics.
Couldn't stop listening! I was brought up in the Catholic Church, but never in my wildest fantasies could I have imagined it as Pastor MacArthur describes it here. His sources are impeccable, and I know he's not making any of this up (unbelievable though it may seem). MacArthur is among the most compelling, forceful and clear speakers in the evangelical Christian world today. I don't know whether his reformed theology jibes with his dispensationalism, and I really don't care. Eschatology bores me to death anyway, and probably should be left to those who thrive on speculation. There's a good reason why Calvin wrote no commentary on the Book of Revelation.
In any case, a beginner in evangelical Christianity could probably learn all he or she needs to know by reading the bible and listening to MacArthur.
Great Sermon! Superb! I've never heard a clearer or more on-point presentation on the subject of Bible translations than this one. The whole idea of "dynamic equivalence is based on certain philosophical biases which have deep roots in the West, and has little to do with Scripture as divine revelation. These biases undergird a model of how language works which is not true to experience. In short, it is the idea that there exists a fuzzy, numinous realm of "ideas" or "concepts" which exists independent of language. Language is then understood as a "tool" used to "express" these ideas. In truth, there is no such realm of ideas; there are no thoughts without language. Thought IS language. A linguistic utterance "means" just what the words say. Thus, God can only communicate with us in words. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
DJC49: you certainly may, and thank you for your reply. Your addendum expresses an absolute truth, the consequences of which I have recently experienced firsthand. I've concluded that the only mistake we can make when adversity and misfortune overwhelm us is to fail to ask the question: "what am I supposed to be learning from all this?" God, being sovereign, draws His elect to Himself in more than one way. In fact, for many of us, He takes us the long way around. And if He chooses to do it this way, who is going to stop Him? When we view the process in retrospect, comparing where we've been with where we are, and perceiving the divine genius in bringing about what we could never have brought about by our own devices, then it's God who gets the glory, not we. Over time, I've grown rather skeptical of claims of instant conversion with absolute certainty that one has been "saved." I'm sure it happens that way for some people (the Apostle Paul was probably one), but not for all; perhaps not even for most. How do you see it?
To "turn to religion" when things are in a state of disarray, hoping that religion will fix them is to treat God as a vending machine. It's always there when you need it, but doesn't obtrude itself into your affairs when you don't. In fact, this is an egregious affront to God. God doesn't exist for our convenience. Even now, we fail to ask the hard question: why are we in this sorry state to begin with? Even now, the temptation is to put our affairs in order, and then worry about religion later. Right now, we've got to "get on with our lives." We fail to understand that without God, we have no "life" to get on with. Absent redemption by grace, what we call "life" is little more than despair. We don't notice it, because most of the time we manage to immerse ourselves in distractions. When there are no distractions left, we are forced to confront the emptiness and sense of futility which has always been there. We THEN decide to turn to God, assuming that He will be there for us. But we shouldn't count on it. Scripture exhorts us to "seek the Lord while He may be found [and] call upon Him while He is near." This means in His time, not in ours. If we turn to Him one of these days and find that He's not available, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
"Some people believe anything !!! -- Just look at Obama -- he actually believes all the media puffery they continually air about him."
KK: You've made a point which bears repeating. Even though Obama is unprincipled, he isn't ruthless enough to succeed in the world of politics. And that will be his downfall. As Machiavelli and Hobbes understood, the politician makes a Faustian bargain--selling his soul for the sake of honor and glory. He must be sufficiently cynical to cultivate one persona for himself, and another for public consumption. This means that he cannot himself really believe in the latter. If he clings to the latter in the vain hope that he will have something left if he loses, he deludes himself. In politics, there's no reward for failure if the Faustian bargain doesn't work out. Wait until after the elections. When he has lost, he will fade into oblivion, just as Kerry did four years ago. Who takes Kerry seriously now? The same is true of Al Gore, notwithstanding his vain attempts to revive his image by invoking crank science and airy New-Age metaphysics.
Whatever one thinks of Obama's stand on "the issues" is irrelevant. He will lose, not on the issues, but because he's a loser. He just doesn't have what it takes to succeed in dark world of politics.
What you say is true: other than receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, thereâ€™s nothing else we can DO TO ACHIEVE salvation. But just what does it mean to say that one has â€śreceived Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?â€ť Some think that once I've made the decision, thatâ€™s the end of it. But that would be a simplistic interpretation of sola fide, would it not?
If I decide to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, that decision implies conduct consistent with it. If I make the decision and then do things which tell the world that my decision really makes no practical, observable difference in the way I conduct my affairs, then in what sense is my decision anything more than empty words?
Some say that there are many ways to God, and that all religions teach the same thing. We all know that this is false. Rational examination of various religions leads us to conclude that they donâ€™t all teach the same thing. So if I attend a church which teaches doctrines at odds with what I must necessarily believe if Iâ€™ve accepted Christ as my Lord and savior, a non-believing observer would not know what to make of it. My decision, then, would be a well-kept secret. Paul declares â€śI am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation." (Rom.1:16.)
Engineer: Many thanks for that quote from C.S. Lewis; I hadn't heard it before.
It's frustrating, isn't it, that we live in a country in which a significant segment of the electorate can blithely overlook Obama's position on abortion, and support him because of his shallow promises to make us "one people." We are not "one people," and we never will be until Roe v. Wade is overruled and every abortion mill in this country is shut down. It frightens me to reflect on what might happen to me in my later years, when I've outgrown my usefulness, and the State can no longer afford to keep me alive. On the other hand, I am encouraged by the near unanimity among the writers in this forum on the issue of abortion. As Christians, we can no longer be intimidated by liberals who wail and moan that we're trying to "impose our views" on others. If this be imposition, so be it.
Abortion, especially partial-birth abortion, is a crime against humanity, no less egregious than genocide or slavery. We fought a civil war to rid the Republic of slavery. Perhaps it's time for another. The time for talk is past. As Bismarck once remarked, "the great issues of the day are resolved not by parliaments and debates, but by blood and and iron."
bernie wrote: . . . this man will probably gain the presidency, because he is exactly the kind of leader America deserves.
Bernie: you couldn't be more right. In fact, we can even state it as a universal law of nature: PEOPLE ALWAYS GET THE GOVERNMENT THEY DESERVE. The reason is that the governed far outnumber the rulers. The latter have only opinion to keep themselves in power. Spinoza put it well: "The sovereign has right insofar as he has might; and he has might only insofar as his subjects deem subjection a lesser evil than rebellion." Violent revolution is always an option.
While there may be redemption in religion, there is none in politics. Once a nation allows a practice like abortion to become law, it incurs the wrath of God, sooner or later. And it will do no good to say, "but we didn't know!" This is NOT an issue on which reasonable people can disagree, any more than slavery or genocide are issues on which reasonable people can disagree. Anyone who is pro-abortion (there's no such thing as "pro-choice") disqualifies himself for high office, ipso facto. It makes no difference where he stands "on the issues." THIS is THE ISSUE. It attests to our lack of ability to think critically that so many Americans can't see this.
The focus of this question, it seems from the posts I've read, is election. Unconditional election and Limited atonement are the toughest hurdles for anyone to clear, Christians as well as non-believers. The contemporary "seeker" doesn't like them because to him, it's just "not fair" that God would arbitrarily choose only some for salvation, and leave others behind.
It's in the realm of soteriology, I think, that sola scriptura must be accepted in its most uncompromising form. It is from Scripture alone, not intuition, not reason, not direct "experience," nor from any other source that our knowledge of God is derived. It's all too easy in our God talk to allow intuition and cultural biases to get in by the back door. When we assert that "God is good" or "God is just," then "goodness" and "justice" when predicated of God mean just what Scripture says they mean, and nothing else. It may be that at times we find it hard to reconcile passages in Scripture with each other. But we must keep in mind that God has revealed to us only what He has deemed it necessary for us to know about Himself, not everything there is to know. If there are gaps in our knowledge, so be it. Order and tidiness are demands of reason, not of Scripture and not of revelation.
MurrayA: thank you for your reply. At this point I'm not prepared to resolve the dialectic between you and JD, because I'm not well enough schooled in this subject. For me it's a learning experience. I currently read the NASB and the English Standard Version, the former because our church prefers it, and the latter because it seems to strike a balance between the NASB and the NIV. The translators adopt a "word-for-word" translation philosophy rather than a "dynamic equivalence" philosophy. But it reads a bit more lyrically than the sometimes wooden NASB. As for the KJV, it's a masterpiece of English literature; I don't think anyone would deny that. At the same time the revealed Word must be more than literature. Since, as a Protestant, I take Scripture to be the sole source of divine revelation, I've got to get it right the first time. And since translating Scripture from the originals is beyond my capability, I've got to rely on the ability of others to get it right. I often wish that God would just send us a nicely bound, gift-wrapped Bible and put it on the shelf at Borders or Barnes, along with the message "This is THE AUTHORIZED VERSION of Scripture. Any objections?!" For my part, Iâ€™ve always wondered whether English is the official language in heaven.
JD: thank you for your reply. I share your dislike for the NIV, if only because their "dynamic equivalence" translation philosophy allows too much play for the imagination and the biases of the translator. (The NRSV, for my money, is hopeless. If I didn't know better I'd think that Hillary Clinton translated it.)
But now: if the KJV is still the authorized version 1500 years from now, who will be able to read it? And if a new translation will be needed, which manuscripts will be used? (I assume it won't be a translation from the English of the KJV.)
I wasn't aware that the translators of the KJV and the NIV used different manuscripts; I thought they all used the same ones except that the translators of the later versions had more manuscripts available. But then I may be wrong. I defer to your better knowledge of the subject. Please tell me more.
JD wrote: I really don't know who "church fathers" would be. Whoever formulated this question should have named a few as examples. There are no "fathers" of the Christian faith mentioned in the NT that I am aware of.
JD: you make some excellent points. If anyone deserves to be called a "father," it would be Paul. But from what we know about him from his writings, he would have disdained the title. Why, then, does anyone who had no part in writing Scripture deserve to be called a church "father?" This is a good example of the problems which arise once we depart from the principle of sola scriptura, and allow "holy tradition" as a co-equal source of divine revelation. We open wide the door to interminable speculation. The latter problem is resolved only by adopting some philosopher as the "official" philosopher of the Church (Augustine, Aquinas, or someone else) and then citing him along with Scripture as the ultimate authority. (A close reading of Summa Theologiae, however, reveals that Aquinas, to his credit, would not have worn the title "Doctor angelicus" gracefully.)
I'm not as well-informed on these things as many of you who have posted. But I've always wondered why the die-hard advocates of KJV-alone take the position they do. 1500 years from now (perhaps sooner if the teenage population increases faster than that of other age groups), the English we speak today will be virtually unintelligible. But hopefully humanity will have preserved the original Hebrew and Greek versions of the Bible, to which translators can always refer. Now, everyone knows that the KJV translators didn't have as many original manuscripts available to them as did the editors of the currently-used critical editions from which later translations have been made. Do the KJV-only people believe, then, that fewer are better? If so, then which ones, and why? Can anyone enlighten me on this?
Radio45 wrote: The more I read the Bible the more I am firmly a Roman Catholic. It all begins with the interpretation of the word "is." "Is" is and that's that. God said it, I believe it and that settles it for me. The words are "This is my Body," and "This is my blood."
Radio45: Have you ever counted how many times, and in how many different contexts, the word "is" appears in Scripture? Would you said that in each case "is" should be construed as a simple predicate--"A is B"? You seem to be adopting as a hermeneutic model the following epistemology: "'Snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white." Your take on this is laden with presuppositions derived from philosophy, few of which are supported by Scripture.
The Eastern Orthodox churches also adopt a literal interpretation of "This is my body." But they accept it as a mystery, and don't feel compelled to subject it to rational scrutiny. If the meaning is as straightforward as you're suggesting, then why does the Roman Church find it necessary to "explain" it by resorting to a spurious doctrine like "transubstantiation?" Have you found that in the Bible as well? You're also committing yourself to a literalist hermeneutic, but you seem unwilling in practice to apply it consistently.
Martin Luther's translation of the Bible into German from the original-source texts available to him was arguably the most revolutionary move ever made in the dissemination of God's word. It literally changed people's thinking on what it means to read and study the Bible. Luther's work, together with the printing press, made the Reformation possible.
It's remarkable, isn't it, that today centuries after the Reformation some haven't gotten the message. While I was associated with an Eastern Orthodox church, I was taught that the "Church Fathers" were the only qualified interpreters of Scripture. I sensed a disdain, in particular, for contemporary Protestant commentators.
Is there any reason why we, in the 21st century, can't read and understand Scripture as well as our predecessors? Is it not only our right, but our duty to do so?! Anyone who has read the Church Fathers knows that they often disagreed with each other. Many of them taught doctrines (like "theosis") which are, at best, of dubious value. Origen was arguably a pantheist.
The best commentary is the one you write yourself in the course of reading and studying the Word. Can you be mistaken? Sure! But who ever said that reading the Bible should be easy? "Omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt."