Trying to Understand the World without Reference to God and His Glory: “a pathetically parochial point of view” – J. Piper

…We live in such a pervasively secular culture that the air we breathe is godless. God is not part of the social consciousness. Christians, sad to say, absorb this. It combines with our own self-exalting bent, and we find ourselves slow to see the obvious – that God is a million times more important than man, and his glory is the ultimate meaning of all things.

The world thinks that because we can put a man on the moon and cure diseases and build skyscrapers and establish universities, therefore we can understand things without reference to God. But this is a pathetically parochial point of view. It is parochial because it assumes that the material universe is large and God is small. It is parochial because it thinks that being able to do things with matter, while being blind to God, is brilliant. But in fact, a moment’s reflection, in the bracing air of biblical God-centeredness, reminds us that when God is taken into account, the material universe is ‘an infinitely small part of universal existence.’

Those are the staggering words of Jonathan Edwards. To be impressed with the material universe and not be impressed with God is like being amazed at Buck Hill in Minnesota and bored at the Rockies of Colorado. If God wore a coat with pockets, he would carry the universe in one of them like a peanut. To ponder the meaning of that peanut, without reference to God’s majesty, is the work of a fool.

So, yes, the portrait of God in the Bible demands that we always read the Bible with the aim of seeing the glory of God. When Paul that ‘from him and through him and to him are all things’ (Rom.11:36), he did not mean ‘all things except the things in the Bible.’ He meant all things. And then he added, ‘To him be glory forever.’ Which means: it is God’s glory to be the beginning, middle, and end of all things. It is his glory to be the alpha and omega of all things – and every letter in between. And therefore his glory belongs to the meaning of all things. And would we not blaspheme to say that this glorious God is anything less than the ultimate meaning of all things?

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017Quotation by John Piper, taken from Chapter 5, “Reading [the Bible] to See Supreme Worth and Beauty” in Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017), pp.89-90.

God’s Word: Our Heavenly Standard for All of Life

ps119105This meditation appeared yesterday from “Grace Gems” and makes a fitting post at the outset of this year. The one book we as Christians must read and retain more than any other is God’s Book, the holy Bible.

This is how Arthur W. Pink brings this home in this meditation:

A heavenly standard for the regulation of all our conduct

(Arthur Pink, “A Prosperous New Year”)

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth. You shall meditate on it day and night–so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

“You shall meditate on it day and night.”
Only thus will its injunctions be fixed in the memory;
only thus shall we be able to ascertain our duty;
only thus shall we discern the rightful application of the Divine precepts to all the varied details of our daily lives.

The more I am regulated by the Divine Rule–the more I shall be preserved from the mistakes and follies which characterize those who follow a course of self-pleasing. But in order to do God’s commandments, I must be conversant with them; and in order to perceive their breadth and specific application unto any problem or decision confronting me, I must “meditate on it day and night.” Meditation stands to reading–as mastication does to eating. Spiritual prosperity eludes the slothful and careless.

“That you may be careful to do everything written in it.” This must be the dominating motive and object. God’s Word is to be appropriated and masticated–fed and meditated upon–not for the purpose of understanding its prophecies, or obtaining an insight into its mysteries–but in order to learn God’s will for myself, and having learned it–to conform thereunto. God’s Word is given to us chiefly–not to gratify curiosity or to entertain our imagination–but as “a lamp to our feet–and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105) in this dark world. It is a Rule for us to walk by–it is a heavenly standard for the regulation of all our conduct. It points out the things to be avoided–the things which would harm us. It tells of the things to be followed and practiced–the things which are for our good and our peace. It contains not only good advice–but is clothed with Divine authority, commanding implicit and unqualified obedience.

BIBLEreadingplans

In that connection, at the beginning of the year it is also good to have a good Bible reading plan in place. Perhaps you are continuing or carrying over a plan from 2017; that is good; stay on it. But if you are looking to start fresh this new year, Ligonier Ministries has some good helps to get you started.

Theistic Evolution vs. the Word of God: An Article and a Book

This part Saturday (Nov.18, 2017), as part of its “Saturday Series” on significant books World magazine posted an article by Elizabeth Handford titled “Evolution vs. the Bible,” in which this pastor’s wife, mother and grandmother, licensed pilot, and Bible teacher takes on noted Christian theistic evolutionist, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and founder of BioLogos, a Christian scientific think-tank.

Collins also wrote an influential book, as Marvin Olasky, World’s editor-in-chief explains:

After she [Elizabeth H.] read Francis Collins’ The Language of God (Free Press, 2006) and saw how it undercuts the inerrancy of Scripture, she carefully examined its premises and evidence and sent me the essay that follows. It’s important, because 10 years after publication the paperback edition of The Language of God is still ranks in the top 10 of Amazon’s “Science & Religion” category. Please read Elizabeth’s essay and think hard.

Today we post part of Handford’s important article, as we believe it strikes at the heart of the “debate” on the origins “question” among professing Christians and churches. That heart is the authority and accuracy of the Bible as God’s inspired, infallible Word. The entire essay is worth your read (not very long), but we pick it up in the middle, where Handford states this:

If a reader of Scripture can decide for himself what is true and what can be ignored, he is setting himself as arbiter over the Scriptures. He becomes the decider of truth. This is indefensible if the Bible is truly God’s inerrant Word. Scripture is not “of any private interpretation.”

This puts Collins in an ambiguous position. If a number of individuals began the human race, as he believes, then Adam and Eve are myths. But that puts in doubt New Testament Scripture that have serious theological implications. Chapter 5 of Romans asks, “How could the death of one man, Jesus, pay for the sins of the world?” The answer? “Because sin, and death, came into the world by one man, Adam” (Romans 5:13-21). If Adam did not exist, then all the Scriptures that refer to him (Genesis 5; 1 Chronicles 1:2; Job 42; Luke 3; First Corinthians 15; 2 Timothy 2; and Jude) must be stricken from our Bibles.

…The issue here is not which scientific theory on the origins of life is correct. Our focus is only to show that the inerrant, verbally inspired Word of God cannot be reinterpreted simply to make it fit any theory of science.

In her closing paragraphs, Handford puts the cap and crown on her basic argument:

…Francis Collins yearns for a safe place for perplexed Christians to find answers for their questions concerning Biblical truth and science. I also yearn for a safe place for people to express their doubts and get sure answers. But there is no “safe place” anywhere if human being must carry the burden of deciding which parts of Scripture are true and which are not. Thank God, He has given us His Holy Word, without error of any kind, trustworthy far beyond what our puny minds can understand.

All of us need humility of mind and heart, admitting that we are fallen human beings without the capacity to understand all God is. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV).

True science and the Bible do not conflict. They cannot conflict. We simply do not yet know enough science to discern the answers. Meanwhile, we can trust our great and holy God to teach us everything we need to know about this wonderful world. After all, He created it simply by His command. He sustains it (Hebrews 1:3). He knows how it all fits together. We can trust His infinite wisdom and goodness.

I simply want to add, well said, Elizabeth.

In this connection, I also point out a new book on this vital subject. Crossway has just released Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, edited by J. P.Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem (2017, 1008 pp.). The publisher gives this description:

The debate about biological origins continues to be hotly contested within the Christian church. Prominent organizations such as Biologos (USA) and Faraday Institute (UK) insist that Christians must yield to an unassailable scientific consensus in favor of contemporary evolutionary theory and modify traditional biblical ideas about the creation of life accordingly. They promote a view known as “theistic evolution” or “evolutionary creation.” They argue that God used—albeit in an undetectable way—evolutionary mechanisms to produce all forms of life. This book contests this proposal. Featuring two dozen highly credentialed scientists, philosophers, and theologians from Europe and North America, this volume provides the most comprehensive critique of theistic evolution yet produced. It documents evidential, logical, and theological problems with theistic evolution, opening the door to scientific and theological alternatives—making the book essential reading for understanding this worldview-shaping issue.

The comprehensive table of contents is available at the Crossway link above, which you are encouraged to consider.

I have received a review copy, which I am eager to see one of our science specialists examine and review – either for the PRC Seminary’s Journal or for the Standard Bearer. Contact me if you are interested.

The Reformation Printer: Robert Estienne (1503–1559) | Desiring God

Today’s Desiring God Reformation 500 post (Day 24 of the “Here We Stand” series on Reformation heroes) is about a unique contributor to the Reformation cause – the Protestant printer Robert Estienne.

We know how significant printing was for the spread of the Reformation gospel – the printing of the Bible as well as the minor and major works of the Reformers.

But we should also remember that it took those who were sympathetic to and supporters of the Protestant cause to be willing to risk their lives to publish Reformation literature, especially the Word of God. Estienne was one of those whom God raised up. And what a work he did as God’s servant!

Below are a few snippets of this focus on Estienne the Protestant printer, penned by Matt Crutchmer (I added the image of Calvin’s Institutes). Read or listen to the rest of this important story at the link below.

Estienne was not only a significant printer on the Continent during the early- to mid-sixteenth century, but he was a scholar of the Bible and classical literature as well. While working in Paris during the rule of King Francis I, such was his skill that Estienne was named “Royal Typographer”: the king’s printer in Hebrew and Latin in 1539, and then the king’s printer in Greek in 1542.

…In Geneva, now openly supporting the Protestant movement, Estienne set up his press and became the printer par excellence of the Reformation cause. His 1553 French Bible continued the Reformation emphasis on lay reading of Scripture in vernacular languages, and his editions of Calvin’s Institutes and Commentaries, with other Protestant writings, all served the growing movement in its desire to hear clearly and be governed by the Scriptures.

The 1559 edition of the Institutes was “the most comprehensive summary of Protestant doctrine during the Reformation” (John Calvin’s “Institutes”, 219), and arguably the most important volume to arise in the Reformation, as evidenced by its translation into six (perhaps seven) other languages by 1624. Estienne’s edition, effortless to read and beautiful even by today’s standards, played a large role in the growth of Reformation churches during the sixteenth century.

Source: The Ink: Robert Estienne (1503–1559)The Ink | Desiring God

First 2017 “Standard Bearer” Special Reformation Issue

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and being mailed, and it is our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).

SB-Oct-Ref1-2017

The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

From the front cover of the issue you can see some of the topics treated. And from the table of contents posted below, you can see the rest of the important subjects covered in this issue.

You may have noted that I wrote “first” special issue in my heading. That is because we have also planned and will publish a second special issue on the Reformation this year. The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!

SB-Ref1-2017-contents

For today, we take a quotation from Prof. D. Engelsma’s article on the controversy over the bondage of the will, a subject of vital concern to the Reformers. Lord willing, we hope to feature another article from this issue as well.

The truth of the bondage of the will, including its being fundamental to the gospel of grace, has its urgent application to churches and professing Christians in AD 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of 1517. The doctrine is not a petrified mummy safely sealed up in an ancient ecclesiastical museum. It is not a truth to which hypocritical ministers and church members can pay lip service when this is convenient for them (as in the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, although even then the bondage is usually not one of the topics of their celebrations), while effectively denying it in their synodical decisions, in their preaching, in their writings, by their church membership, and by their ostracism and slander of churches and theologians whose only offence is an uncompromising confession of the bondage of the will.

First, applied to the heart of the elect believer, this truth assures him of his salvation in that his willing of God and the good by a true faith carries with itself the assurance that he is saved. His will is free, and it is free because it has been freed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he will glorify God on account of his salvation.

Second, confession of the bondage of the will is a fundamental mark of a true church. Confession of the bondage of the will is an essential element of the proclamation of the gospel of grace, and the true church proclaims, confesses, and defends the gospel of grace—the gospel of salvation by grace alone, without the will and works of the saved sinner.

Third, confession and defense of the alleged free will of the natural, unsaved, man, which purportedly cooperates with grace and upon which grace depends, are the mark of an apostate, false church. In our ecumenical age, God’s people need to know this, and to act accordingly.

W. Tyndale and His English Translation of the Bible

W.TyndaleTyndale has been described as a polemicist, a propagandist, a political reformer, a moralist, a theologian, an enemy of the Church [that is, the Roman Catholic Church], and yet his first thoughts are those of the translator, the laborer-craftsman. His first complaint is about the Word of God being sealed shut. ‘They have taken away the key of knowledge and beggared the people,’ he said. Translation is primal cause for Tyndale.

[Then follows this quotation from the prologue to Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament in English.]

I have here translated, brethren and sisters most dear and tenderly beloved in Christ, the new Testament for your spiritual edifying, consolatio0n, and solace: Exhorting instantly and beseeching those that are better seen in the tongues than I, and that have higher gifts of grace to interpret the sense of scripture and meaning of the spirit than I, to consider and ponder my labor, and that with the spirit of meekness. And if they perceive in any places that I have not attained the very sense of the tongue, or meaning of scripture, or have not given the right English word, that they put to their hands to amend it, remembering that so is their duty to do. For we have not received the gifts of God for ourselves only, or for to hide them, but for to bestow them unto the honoring of God and Christ, and edifying of the congregation, which is the body of Christ.

Which leads the author to conclude:

This is not the voice of hostility [some have charged that Tyndale’s translation work arose out of anger and hostility toward the church at that time]. The warmth is evident. The humility is evident. He applies his text with meekness and sincerity. He is not shouting. He does not command nor does he please. He reasons. He appeals.

In 2017, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation, we thank God for this bold yet humble Reformer too, and for his wonderful work of translating the Bible into our tongue.

tyndale-teemsTaken from David Teems’ Tyndale:the Man Who Gave God an English Voice (Thomas Nelson, 2012; Kindle ed., pp.53-54).

Book Alert! “Knowing God in the Last Days” – M. Hoeksema

KnowingGod_2_Peter_MH-2017Just in time for the start of Bible study season, the Reformed Free Publishing Association has published a new commentary on the NT book of 2 Peter called Knowing God in the Last Days: Commentary on 2 Peter (2017, 96 pp., hardcover).

The author is Mark H. Hoeksema, who was trained in the PRC Seminary and served in two pastorates in the Midwest U.S. Hoeksema is also the author of several Bible new study guides published by the RFPA, specifically on the books of Acts, Romans, and James.

The publisher provides this description of the book:

Knowing God in the Last Days is an explanation of the general epistle of Peter to the early New Testament church. The primary theme of the letter is the knowledge of God, a concept that occurs many times and in various contexts throughout the book. This short epistle contains a wealth of instruction for the church today.

The secondary theme of 2 Peter is the application of the knowledge of God to the last days in which we live. Especially in his third chapter, Peter reveals to the church the knowledge of God as it relates to the end times.

Based on exegesis of the Greek text, this commentary gives clarity of explanation to God’s people regarding necessary and important aspects of today’s Christian life. May all who read be edified.

The “Foreword” is penned by his current pastor, Rev. Nathan Decker, who, among other things, gives this profit of the title:

Its value lies in its brevity. There is certainly a place in the lives of God’s people for longer and deeper commentaries on each book of the Bible, and many have been written. Such it not this volume. Instead, it is concise and to the point, briefly explaining 2 Peter verse by verse. The commentary will be excellent for a quick read to grasp the book as a whole in its general themes, for a needed reference to understand a particular section, for the family to read aloud around the dinner table for family worship, or for believers in a Bible study to generate thoughts and discussions on this portion of God’s word.

As an example of the books contents, we quote part of the author’s exposition of chap.1:21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

By way of a positive contrast, Peter teaches that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. This is one of the clearest proofs that can be found for the inspiration of scripture. It is also the death of all compromise of this doctrine. Contrary to the teaching of many, including some purportedly Reformed theologians, there is not a primary author (God) of scripture and a secondary author (man). Nor is there a divine factor and a human factor in the speaking and writing of prophecy. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the one and only author of all scripture, while men are the writers, the instruments whom God is pleased to use to produce his word (Belgic Confession 3).

These men are called holy not because they are personally perfect, but because God has sanctified and prepared them to write the scriptures. Thus they are men from God, that is, they were sent from God, and they spoke and wrote from God. It is the Holy Spirit who moved these men as the wind carries a ship along, a descriptive figure that explains inspiration. [p.39]

“By reading [the Bible] we can see divine glory!” ~ J. Piper

To me, it is simply wonderful that God would lead Paul, in Ephesians 3:4, to make unmistakably explicit this breathtaking fact about reading, namely, that the riches of the glory of God are perceived through reading [the Bible]. It is wonderful because reading is so ordinary, but the unsearchable riches of Christ are so extraordinary. It’s as if he said that you can fly by sitting. Or that you an be on top of Mount Everest by breathing. By reading we can see divine glory! By the most ordinary act, we can see the most wonderful reality. A surge of joy goes through me when I think about this. In that book, by the act of reading, I may see the glory of God. O Lord, incline my heart to that book and not to vanity! That is my prayer – for myself and you.

Which leads the author to make this point of application:

But I must not lose sight of the point I am trying to make: that we should read God’s word in order to see his supreme worth and beauty. …Do you want access to the riches of the glory of God in Christ? Do you want to ‘perceive’ them (Eph.3:4)? Do you want to be empowered by them ‘to comprehend… the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph.3:16-19)? Then, Paul says, read! Read what I have written. Or we may say, read the Bible [p.71].

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017Quotation from Chapter 3, “Reading to See Supreme Worth and Beauty” of John Piper’s new book Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017).

The Goal of Reading the Bible: White-Hot Worship

It’s Monday. We returned to our work-week today. We were busy in our daily callings. High things and mundane things. Important things and small things.

But worship must still be on our minds. The worship of yesterday in God’s house. The worship of today in serving the Lord with our work and tasks. The worship of reading the Bible and prayer, personally and with our wives and families.

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017And it ought to be “white-hot worship”, as John Piper points out in his new book Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). For this is the purpose God Himself gives us for revealing Himself in His Word, that we might read about His great glory and might worship Him with “supremely authentic and intense” worship.

This is how Piper puts it in Chapter 2, “Reading the Bible toward White-Hot Worship”:

Our ultimate aim in reading the Bible, I am arguing, is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in everlasting, white-hot worship. When I use the phrase ‘white-hot-worship,’ I am calling out the visceral implications of the words ‘supremely authentic and intense.’ ‘The reason words like these are important is that there is a correlation between the measure of our intensity in worship and the degree to which we exhibit the value of the glory of God. Lukewarm affection for God gives the impression that he is moderately pleasing. He is not moderately pleasing. He is infinitely pleasing. If we are not intensely pleased, we need forgiveness and healing. Which, of course, we do [p.59-60].

May we keep that in mind as we read God’s Word this week. How “hot” is our worship of God? How much do we value His glory as revealed in that Word we read?

The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading-Bible-Supernaturally-Piper-2017So, first, what does the Bible tell us is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible?

…The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. In other words, each time we pick up the Bible to read, we should intend that reading would lead to this end.

The way that we as individuals are caught up into this ultimate aim as we read the Bible becomes clear as we spell out six implications that flow from this proposed answer to our question. When we say that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation, we imply that:

  1. the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshiping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

Taken from the “Introduction to Part 1” of Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017), p39.

In light of these thoughts, we may ask ourselves on this Saturday night: Has our Bible reading of this past week (including today) made us see and savor the infinite worth and beauty of our God, such that we are ready to fill tomorrow (the Lord’s Day) with “white-hot worship” along with our fellow blood-bought members of Christ’s bride?