Posted by: austend | Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Virgin Conception

The doctrine of Christology (the study of Jesus Christ) is a very difficult doctrine, full of intricate and complex issues that must be studied with utmost care.  One of those important but complicated issues is the virgin conception (usually,  though somewhat less accurately, called the virgin birth).  I ran across an interesting quote on the matter today that I thought deserved sharing:

“Alluding to Barth again, the virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it.  It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further.  If our faith staggers at the virgin birth what is it going to make of the feeding of the five thousand, the stilling of the tempest, the raising of Lazarus, the transfiguration, the resurrection and, above all, the astonishing self-consciousness of Jesus?  The virgin birth is God’s gracious declaration, at the very outset of the gospel, that the act of faith is a legitimate sacrificium intellectus (sacrifice of intellect).”

Basically this quote is saying that the virgin conception is essentially the first thing we come to in learning about Jesus Christ.  If we cannot accept that God brought forth a true Man inside the womb of a virgin woman, then there’s no point in accepting anything else in Christianity.  All of the rest of the content of Christianity is equally “astounding.”  We cannot even begin to explain how God accomplished the virgin conception; it is simply our choice whether to believe that it happened or not.  If we can accept it, then all the rest that follows about Jesus (His healings and resurrection, for instance) can be accepted as well.  But, if we cannot accept this first statement about Jesus, then you may as well give up on the rest of Christianity.  Where do you stand?

The quote comes from Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ, InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 37 {here}.

Posted by: austend | Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thoughts on Humility

Here are some thoughts on humility gleaned from one of my professors (Dr. JW):

“Humility is basically agreeing with reality.”

“Being humble doesn’t mean you let people walk all over you.”

“Being humble doesn’t mean you grovel in the dirt all the time.”

“Being humble doesn’t mean there is no reward.”

The attitude of humility is based on the principle in 1 Peter 5: “At the proper time He [God] will exalt you.”

“Modesty and humility are different.”

A thought on humility from Robert F. Morneau in Humility: 31 Reflections on a Christian Virtue:

“What is humility? It is that habitual quality whereby we live in the truth of things: the truth that we are creatures and not the Creator; the truth that our life is a composite of good and evil, light and darkness; the truth that in our littleness we have been given extravagant dignity…. Humility is saying a radical ‘yes’ to the human condition.”

Posted by: austend | Friday, January 22, 2010

The Difficulty in Translating the Bible

In this lengthy post I’d like to share some of the difficulties  in translating the Bible from the original languages into English.

Read More…

Posted by: austend | Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Read Thru the Bible in a Year

I have posted a Read Thru the Bible in a Year schedule I made {here}.  I made this schedule several years ago, used it once, and now I am using it again this year. It is very helpful for me to stay disciplined in reading the Bible everyday. I make no claims that this schedule is better than any other, but I like it, and it works for me, so if you’d like it, please be sure to check it out.

Posted by: austend | Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Thought-Life of the Puritans

This quote about the Puritans struck me.  The Puritans were they way they were because they were so focused on God.  Reminds me of 2 Tim 2:4.

The Puritans were men whose minds derived a peculiar character from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not content with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling Providence, they habitually ascribed every event to the will of a Great Being, for whose power nothing was too vast, for whose inspection nothing was too minute.  To know Him, to serve Him, to enjoy Him, was with them the great end of existence…They recognized no title to superiority but His favor; and, confident of that favor, they despised all the accomplishments and all the dignities of the world.  If they were unacquainted with the works of philosophers and poets, they were deeply read in the oracles of God….The intensity of their feelings on one subject made them tranquil on every other…cleared their minds from every vulgar passion.

What do you set your mind on?  May you think of God more today.

Taken from Macaulay’s Milton, cited in Richard Ellsworth Day, The Shadow of the Broad Brim: The Life Story of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Heir of the Puritans, Chicago: The Judson Press, 1934, p. 118.

Posted by: austend | Saturday, May 30, 2009

One Bible Only?–Book Recommendation

Earlier in the school quarter, I had to read a book for my Bibliology (study of the Bible) class.  When I first saw the title, I was not very thrilled: One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible.  I am not that interested in the KJV-only debate.  I don’t think the KJV-only people are right, but it’s not a battle that I am willing to devote myself to fight.  Thus, I was not very excited to read this book.

However, once I began reading it, I could hardly put it down.  It is not merely about the KJV-only debate.  Rather, it discusses many, many important topics related to Bibliology in general.  It does speak much about the KJV-only debate, but what it says about other topics related to the Bible is invaluable.  I highly recommend reading this book.  It will give you an appreciation for the issues surrounding the KJV-only debate, and it will also provide you with many other key concepts related to the Bible in general.

In my opinion, the book deals very fairly, yet honestly and intelligently about the issues concerning the KJV-only debate.  It’s conclusion is that there should be no reason to dogmatically support one Bible version over all others.  Which Bible version one reads should not be a test for orthodoxy.  All Bible translations have some value, so none should be made the standard version of evangelicalism.

Far more importantly, however, the book discusses in understandable yet deep ways the complex issues affecting the Bible.

  • The history of the OT and NT Texts in the original languages are discussed at length.  This part proved to be particularly fascinating to me.  I had always wondered how we got our Bible’s Text, and this answered most of the questions.  I came to realize that the issue of the Text of Scripture is not so simple as we might hope.  There is no one perfect Hebrew or Greek manuscript.  We have to study all the available manuscripts (some of which are faulty) and “create” a reliable manuscript which most nearly represents the original manuscript by comparing the variant manuscripts.
  • The matter of the preservation of Scripture is considered.  Do we have the exact words with which the original manuscript was written?  Do we have to have them in order for our Bible to be the Word of God?  How do we explain errors introduced into the manuscript copies by copyists?  Does our Bible represent the original message God gave to the writers of Scripture?  These are vital questions, and this book considers them very well.
  • The matter of Bible translations is weighed.  What is the best translation to use?  Is the KJV okay?  Is the NIV okay?  What about the NLT or the TNIV?  Which is better: dynamic equivalent (aka, functional equivalent: “thought-for-thought”) translation theory or formal equivalent  (“word-for-word”) translation theory?

All in all, this book is outstanding in its consideration of these matters.  Once you read this book, you will realize that the matters of translations and the preservation of Scripture is not as cut-and-dry as you once thought it was…  If you have any interest in these matters, this is an excellent introduction to the subject.  Please take the time to read it.  It will prove invaluable to your consideration of Bibliology-related matters.

One Bibly Only? Edited by Roy E. Beacham and Kevin T. Bauder.  Grand Rapids, Mi: Kregel, 2001. {here}

Posted by: austend | Friday, May 8, 2009

No Second Chances

Two quotes from commentaries on Ecclesiastes that remind us that we have no second chances on life.  We only have one life to live, and we had better make it count:

…[There is a] need for us to work with all our power in this life since we will have no further opportunity for this sort of work after we have left our bodies. (commenting on Ecclesiastes 9:4-10)

We shall not be brought back again for a second chance to cooperate with God in doing His will on this side of eternity. (commenting on Ecc 3:22)

It is so easy to put things off.  We tell ourselves that we’ll start praying more tomorrow, we’ll read our Bibles tomorrow, we’ll go visit that unsaved neighbor tomorrow, we’ll work on that sin problem next time temptation comes up…  Friends, we’re running out of tomorrows!  One of these days will be our last on earth, and we can’t come back to do all those things we’ve postponed.  We are only promised today, and we must make the most of this day.  Let us be diligent to do today whatever God has asked us to do.  There won’t be opportunity after your last breath to make up for lost time.  Let’s be diligent about our time and opportunities!

See also James 4:13-14 and all the NT references to “today.”

I misplaced the source information, but I think the quote is from: J. Stafford Wright, “Ecclesiastes” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol 5 (1991). {here}

Posted by: austend | Monday, May 4, 2009

Grace is Not License

A quote that is very appropriate:

No amount of emphasis on grace can justify taking liberties with God, for the very concept of grace demands gratitude, and gratitude cannot be casual.”

In other words, we cannot use the fact that we are saved by grace alone as a justification for becoming careless with God.

Under pre-Christian times,  one approached God based on the commands of the Law–“do this” and “don’t do this!”  With that kind of system, one had to be careful how he treated God, otherwise he might be punished by God for approaching God in an unacceptable way (cf. Nadab & Abihu, Aaron’s sons, Lev 10:1-3).

Now that we’re saved by grace alone regardless of our good or evil works (Eph 2:8-9), we might be tempted to treat God however we want since He cannot eternally condemn us or unsave us based upon our works.  But this is not the case!  Grace is not a license for us to do whatever we want with regards to God!  We cannot approach Him any old way we want.  He still is a holy God with standards that must be met.  Grace, rather, should drive us to humble gratitude for what God has done for us, and teach us willingly to obey what God has commanded of us.  True gratitude is thoughtful and careful to express itself rightly, not however it feels.  True gratitude is purposeful.

Quote from: Derek Kidner, Ecclesiastes (Intervarsity Press: 1984). {here}

Posted by: austend | Thursday, April 30, 2009


A brief but poignant quote about prayer:

Prayer is not reciting a list as quickly as possible so as to rush once more into the round of daily life…

In other words, when you pray, don’t be in a hurry to just name off to God all the requests on your list so you can get back to the chores and busyness of daily life.  Prayer is about communication with God.  It is about talking to Him, not telling Him a bunch of things that He ought to do.  It is also about listening and meditating on His Word.  So, please set aside some day every day when you just talk with God.  Make it true communication.  Perhaps even spend a few minutes with God without asking for anything–no request list!  Just praise Him or thank Him; don’t ask.  Make your prayer life part of your relationship to God.

Quote from: J. Stafford Wright, “Ecclesiastes” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol 5 (1991). {here}

Posted by: austend | Thursday, April 23, 2009

J.N. Darby & The Jews

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) was a pastor among the Plymouth Brethren.  He was the first to majorly develop the eschatological system of Dispensationalism (more {here}), whose primary emphasis (one of two) is a distinction between Israel and the church.  In a recent Bibliotheca Sacra article, writer Paul Wilkinson shares some interesting things about him:

The immediately following account is of Darby visiting a deathly-ill boy and sharing the Gospel with him:

“…’After upwards of an hour’s toilsome walking…over steep hills…[and]…heavy marshes,’ Darby arrived at a peasant’s cottage and found the young lad with his mother, lying on a bed of straw ‘in a state of extreme suffering and exhaustion.’  The boy stared at Darby ‘like a frightened animal.’  Darby was immediately ‘struck with dismay and almost despair,’ not knowing how to reach this lost soul who was close to death, illiterate, and ‘altogether ignorant of the way of salvation.’  Darby records how he ‘raised up’ his heart in prayer, asking the Lord to direct him ‘in this most difficult and trying position’ and to open to him ‘by His Spirit of wisdom a way to set forth the glad tidings of salvation so as to be understood by this poor benighted wanderer.’  As Darby enquired about his condition, the boy told him how he had fallen ill after searching the mountains in inclement weather for one of his father’s sheep, which had gone astray.  Having found the distressed animal, the boy, whose lungs had been pierced by ‘the cold mountain blast,’ lifted it on his shoulders and carried it home, much to the delight of his father.  As the boy declared, ‘I did my best to save the sheep.’  The Lord had provided ‘this happy opening’ for Darby, who proceeded to use the story to tell him the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). ‘The Lord mercifully opened not only his understanding, but his heart also, to receive the things spoken.  He himself was the lost sheep, Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd,  who was sent by the Father to seek for him….My poor sick lad seemed to drink it all in.  He received it all; he understood it all.  I never saw a clearer proof of the power of the divine Spirit to apply the Word of God….He accepted Christ as his Savior [and] earnestly prayed to be carried home like the lost sheep in the heavenly Shepherd’s arms.  He died humbly, peacefully, almost exulting, with the name of Jesus, my Savior and my Shepherd, the last upon his lips.'”

Wilkinson with Philip Hallie in Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed and David Brog in Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State points out  that Darby’s influence among some villagers in the French village Le Chambon led these villagers to harbor some 5,000 Jews during the Holocaust.  They loved the Jews, and they were willing to risk their own lives to help them.  One account in this village includes a German Jewish lady visiting a farm of some Darby followers.  When the Jewess asked to buy some eggs, the farmer’s wife asked her if she was Jewish.  She affirmed that, only to have the farmer’s wife summon the whole family down to where the two women were standing.  The Jewess, who had become very nervous,  was completely taken aback when the farmer’s wife gladly showed her family this representative of the Chosen People.  They loved the Jews, and this love came through John Darby’s influence.  The main organizer of this effort to save the Jews in Le Chambon was Andre Trocme, who was posthumously honored as a Righteous Among the Nations in 1972 by Yad VaShem (Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum).

Quotes by Darby:

Darby loved the church all his life, but “there was, however, another flock that Darby took into his heart,  a flock despised, neglected, and rejected not only by the world, but by many in the church.”  This was, of course, the Jews.

“Israel is always the people of God [and] cannot cease to be the people of God.”

“The Jews are the habitual object of the thoughts of God; for, although He cannot recognize them for the moment, as being under His chastening hand, they are nevertheless still His people…”

Material taken from Wilkinson, Paul R. “John Nelson Darby and His Views on Israel.” Bibliotheca Sacra 166, no. 661 (January-March 2009): 84-99.

Paul has written a book with Thomas Ice on John Darby’s influence in supporting the Jews and Zionism: Wilkinson, Paul and Thomas Ice. For Zion’s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. Wipf and Stock, 2007. {here}

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