Christian Apologetics: Defending the Resurrection – Guy Waters

TT-Jan-2016To wrap up the featured articles on apologetics in the January 2016 issue of Tabletalk, Dr.Guy P. Waters addresses the vital subject of the resurrection (cf. link to full article below).

To show the Christian defense of this doctrine, he takes us to Paul’s defense of it in Athens on Mar’s Hill as recorded in the Scripture in Acts 17.

This is how Waters ends his treatment of Paul’s defense of the resurrection of the dead, with the calling for the church to continue to do so:

Thus far, Paul has reasoned with the Athenians based upon what they know of God and of themselves from the creation. He then turns to a particular fact of history—God raised a man from the dead (v. 31). That God has lifted the sentence of death from Jesus and publicly vindicated Him means that Jesus was a righteous man. That is to say, He is unlike any other person who walked the face of the earth. This righteous Jesus had claimed on earth that He would judge all people (see John 5:19–29). The resurrection vindicated this claim. In raising Jesus from the dead, God publicly affirmed Jesus’ claim to judge the world at the end of the age. Because this judgment is certain and imminent, Paul pleads with his hearers to “repent” (Acts 17:30), to turn from the service of idols to the worship of the triune God. The resurrection and the worldwide preaching of the gospel has brought to an end the “times of ignorance,” during which God was pleased to withhold final judgment (v. 30). The days of comparative but culpable Gentile blindness have come to an end. Only the gospel can dispel the ongoing ignorance and blindness in which unrenewed humanity finds itself.

Paul’s mention of the resurrection yields two very different results. Some mock and sneer—the very idea that one’s body would have immortal existence was laughable to the Greek mind (v. 32a). Others, however, want to hear more and, trusting in Christ, follow Paul (vv. 32b–34).

Proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus did not, on this occasion, win Paul the accolades of the Athenian intelligentsia. Neither did it yield a visibly impressive host of converts in Athens. But Paul did not preach the resurrection because it was popular. He preached it because it was true. The resurrection of Jesus confirmed the coming judgment but also secured blessing for the undeserving. However God is pleased to use this truth in the lives of unbelievers, the church’s task remains the same—to tell others that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

Source: The Resurrection by Guy Waters | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Defending the Truth Concerning God by K. Scott Oliphint & Training Pastors by I.Martin

TT-Jan-2016As we have mentioned here before this month, the January issue of Tabletalk has the theme of “Apologetics: Giving an Answer for Our Hope.”

As Christians, we are called by our Lord to defend our faith and practice. And because that faith and practice centers on our Triune God, the central truth we are called to defend is that concerning our God Himself.

The second featured article on the theme in this month’s issue treats that very doctrine. Dr. K.Scott Oliphint in “God” tells us why and what we are to defend our faith as far as the true God is concerned. He does so by directing us to Exodus 3 and God’s special revelation to Moses at the burning bush.

This is how he ends his article:

In Exodus 3, therefore, God identifies Himself in two ways. He tells Moses that He is the covenant God, who is with His people, and that He is the self-existing God, who needs nothing in order to be who He is and to do what He purposes to do.

This brings us to the burning bush. The purpose of that miracle was not simply that Moses might be amazed; it was to display God’s own twofold character that He had announced to Moses. The burning bush illustrates what theologians call God’s trascendence and immanence. The revelation of the burning bush was a revelation that the “I Am” is and always will be utterly independent and self-suffiicient. He is fully and completely God even as He promises and plans to “come down” (Ex. 3:8) to be with His people and to redeem them. The burning bush points us to that climactic revelation of the One who is fully and completely the self-existing God, who comes down to redeem a people, and who is Immanuel (God with us). It points us to Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 1:2328:20).

The revelation of God’s twofold character in Exodus 3 is essential to grasp for all who seek to engage in the biblical task of apologetics. No other religion on the face of the earth recognizes this kind of God. The faith we defend is wholly unique. It begins and ends with the revelation of this majestic mystery of God’s character given to us in Holy Scripture.

To read the rest of Oliphint’s article on this subject, visit this link: Source: God by K. Scott Oliphint | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Another fine article in this issue appears under the rubric “For the Church.” Rev. Iver Martin writes about “Training Pastors,” and has this to say about the church’s work through her seminaries:

A truly healthy church is one in which its members are theologians, coming to church each Sunday with a readiness to think and learn, with an insatiable appetite for more. A good pulpit ministry will richly edify God’s people. It is fatal to underestimate the perceptiveness of our congregations. As people discover what it means to follow Jesus, the intellect often comes to life and the gospel produces a hunger for knowledge that a pastor should be well equipped to satisfy.

To suggest that today’s pastors do not need rigorous seminary training because the disciples did not have it is a spurious argument. Their time with Jesus was a three-year intensive course, complete with internship and testing, and in which they discovered the Scriptures as never before. If the church in the twenty-first century is to thrive, it will depend on high-quality pulpit ministry and well-equipped pastoral skill. If training for the ministry comes at a high price, it is worth it. The church cannot afford otherwise.

To read the rest of Martin’s thoughts on this subject, follow the link given above.

J. I. Packer’s Rare Puritan Library Now Digitized

Last week we did a post on the books that have impacted J.I. Packer in his life and work. For those interested in the Puritan part of his personal library – and reading it online! – check out this wonderful news release (see link below).

I was not aware of this digital library before, but I plan to save the link to it now! Maybe you wish to as well.

Justin Taylor (The Gospel Coalition) introduces it this way:

The John Richard Allison Library in Vancouver—which hosts the joint collections of Regent College and Carey Theological College—has now made available their entire rare Puritan collection to be read online for free. What a gift of modern technology to help us recover these gifts from the church of the past.

There are currently 80 Puritan authors in their collection, many of whose works were digitized from J. I. Packer’s private library.

I also love the picture he has with his post:

Puritan scholar J. I. Packer strolling the stacks at the John Allen Library in Vancouver.

To access the library, visit the link provided above or below.

Source: J. I. Packer’s Rare Puritan Library Now Digitized to Be Read Online for Free | TGC

How to Read Calvin’s Institutes and Why You Should Seriously Consider It – J.Taylor

CalvinsInstitutesOn Jan.9, 2016 Justin Taylor posted this excellent article on the Gospel Coalition website on how and why to read Calvin’s magnum opus, the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

If you have never read this classic work because you are intimidated by it or argue you don’t have time, read on. Perhaps 2016 is the year you take on this massive (in size, scope, and significance!) tour de force.

Here is Taylor’s important introduction:

If you haven’t yet read C. S. Lewis’s introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, I’d highly recommend it.

He wants to refute the “strange idea” “that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.”

Lewis finds the impulse humble and understandable: the layman looks at the class author and “feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him.”

“But,” Lewis explains, “if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.”

Lewis therefore made it a goal to convince students that “firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.”

I suspect this holds true with respect to evangelical Calvinists and one of the great theological classics: Calvin’s Institutes. Are we in danger of being a generation of secondhanders?

Let me forestall the “I don’t have time” objection. If you have 15 minutes a day and a bit of self-discipline, you can get through the whole of the Institutes faster than you think.

From there, Taylor says this, while also providing three (3) main reason why we should read Calvin’s Institutes:

The McNeill-Battles two-volume edition (for now the generally accepted authoritative standard) runs about 1800 pages total—so you could technically read it twice in one year at just 15 minutes a day!

Three reasons why this book in particular should be a particular object of serious study:

  1. The Institutes may be easier to read than you think.

  2. The Institutes is one of the theological wonders of the world.

  3. The Institutes has relevance for your life and ministry.

To read the rest of what Taylor has to say on this subject – something that applies to many classics of the Christian faith (read Lewis’ comments above again!) – visit the Gospel Coalition link below.

Source: How to Read Calvin’s Institutes and Why You Should Seriously Consider It | TGC

An Apology for Apologetics – Stephen Nichols

TT-Jan-2016The first issue of Tabletalk for 2016 treats the important subject of apologetics, with the sub-title “giving an answer for our hope.”

You may recall that this branch of theology (practical) deals with the Christian calling to defend his faith, not only against attack from outright enemies (polemics), but also in answering those who ask us a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet.3:15-16) – an aspect of evangelism or personal witnessing.

Editor Burk Parsons gives his usual introduction to the subject in these opening words:

When people first hear the word apologetics, they typically think of our modern use of the word apology. They often conclude that the task of apologetics is apologizing for the Christian faith as if to say we are sorry for our faith. However, the word apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, which means “to give an answer” or “to make a defense.” Apologetics is not an apology, it’s an answer—a defense of what we believe. In his first epistle, Peter writes, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols has the first featured article on this topic (linked below) and adds this by way of further definition:

The Command

The Greek word apologia means literally “to speak to.” Over time, it came to mean “to make a defense.” When Athens accused Socrates of being harmful to society, Socrates had to offer his defense. He titled it Apologia. He stood before the “men of Athens,” offering his reasoned defense. The New Testament uses the word seventeen times. Many instances concern court cases, such as the time Paul appeared before the Jewish Council in Acts 22 and before Festus in Acts 25. Paul also speaks of his imprisonment in Rome as an apologia of the gospel (Phil. 1:716).

The classic text for the Greek word apologia is 1 Peter 3:15–16. Peter’s first epistle was written to the “exiles” living in Asia Minor, located in modern-day Turkey. These exiled Christians were ostracized for their faith and suffered persecution. They were insulted and slandered. Some of them suffered at the hands of their own family members.

Peter commands these exiles not to live in fear or cower before opposition. Instead, he commands these exiled Christians—and us—to be always ready to make a defense. The main verb “to make a defense,” from the Greek word apologia, is in the imperative mood. The imperative mood is used for commands. There’s no procedure for deferment here. The command extends to all of us.

Further, Peter tells how to make our defense. He notes that we should “always be prepared.” That’s a tall order. Questions about our faith tend to come at unexpected times. In order to be always ready, we must know our faith, which means knowing our theology. We must also know our audience. We see this in Paul’s example of being an apologist on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16–34).

Peter also tells us that we need to make our defense “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s an even taller order. The word translated “respect” could equally be translated “reverence.” It’s the same word used of how we should approach God. So we exiles are to treat our examiners with gentleness and reverence.

Then there’s verse 16. Peter reminds us that who we are is every bit as crucial as what we say. May the testimony of our lives not put the testimony of our words to shame. Instead, “may our good behavior in Christ” also be our apologetic.

Source: An Apology for Apologetics by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

If you are seeking to learn how to defend your faith in this unbelieving world, you will also find articles on general revelation, God, man, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, and the resurrection. Visit the Tabletalk website for details.

Monergism Reading Guide 2015

MonergismLogoMonergism.com, the beneficial website promoting articles and books of Reformed/Calvinistic persuasion, published this reading guide today and I think it is worth posting here, for the reasons they give (Christmas gift-giving) as well as for building your own personal library or church library. Check out the site at the link below.

And if you have never visited Monergism before, be sure to poke around a while – including in their free ebook section. The latest free offering? J.Calvin’s On the Christian Life in multiple formats – otherwise known as the Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life (Baker, 1952).

If you are giving books as a gift to your friends and family this year, we have compiled a list of some of the best classic and contemporary books for beginner, intermediate and advanced readers.  If you work through the books on this list you will be devotionally enriched and will be giving yourself a solid theological education that you would not get at the vast majority of seminaries. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but a good foundation.

Source: Monergism Reading Guide 2015 | Monergism

Jesus Must be “Perfectly Human” – R.C. Sproul

Part of my Sunday reading today was in this month’s Tabletalk, including R.C.Sproul, Sr.’s edifying article under his regular column “Right Now Counts Forever.”

In “Perfectly Human”, Sproul treats the importance of Christians believing the truth of both the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. While we need Jesus to be fully God to save us, we also need Him to be fully human – a perfectly sinless man, he emphasizes. And that is especially brought home to us in this time of year when the church marks the incarnation of our Savior.

Here is a portion of Sproul’s article; read the rest of this instructive contribution at the Ligonier link below.

Christ’s sinlessness is vital to the biblical understanding of redemption. If Jesus is to be our mediator, if He is to be our redeemer, it’s essential that He be sinless. How could His atoning life have any significance if He committed even one sin? He’s called the lamb without blemish because His perfection is integral to His redemptive role as the mediator who offers up a perfect sacrifice to the Father to fulfill the old covenant and satisfy the wrath of God. The sinlessness of Jesus is critical to the full biblical understanding of His sacrificial death. Not only does Christ take what should be ours—namely, punishment for sin—but through imputation He gives to those who are in Him by faith alone the inheritance He receives for His perfect obedience (Rom. 3:21–26).

Some have denied the sinlessness of Christ in the name of protecting His humanity. If there’s anything that binds us together in common humanity, if there’s anything true of all men of all races and creeds, it’s that we fall short of our standards. We transgress our own laws, not to mention the laws of God. I don’t know anything more common to humanity than sin. If one man in this world today lived ten minutes in perfect obedience to God, that would be nothing less than astonishing. But Christ’s entire life was marked by sinlessness (1 Peter 2:22). So, how could a sinless Christ be truly human if sinlessness violates what is so common to human behavior?

What we’re really asking is this: Is sinfulness intrinsic to true humanity? We can answer only in the negative. To say that sinfulness is intrinsic to authentic humanity requires two conclusions: first, that Adam before the fall was not a human being; second, and more seriously, that Christians in a state of perfected glory in heaven will no longer be human.

Source: Perfectly Human by R.C. Sproul | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Dr. R.C. Sproul is chancellor of Reformation Bible College, co-pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and author of the books The Work of Christ, Who Is Jesus?, and The Unexpected Jesus.

November 2015 PR Seminary Journal Is Out!

The latest PRC Seminary Journal – Vol.49, #1, Nov. 2015 – is back from the printer and was mailed out last Friday. But the current issue is also available on the Seminary’s Journal page in pdf form (the other digital forms will be available soon).

PRTJ-Nov-2015-cover

This issue is an interesting and informative combination of articles and book reviews. Prof.R. Cammenga, editor of the Journal, gives this summary description of its contents:

  Welcome to the pages of the frst issue of volume 49 of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal.  The frst article in this issue is the transcript of the speech that Dr. John Bolt gave to the student body and faculty of the Protestant Reformed Seminary, as well as area ministers this past Spring.  Dr. Bolt is familiar to the constituency of the Protestant Reformed Churches as an outspoken critic of the treatment of Herman Hoeksema by the 1924 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.  Besides critical of the treatment of Hoeksema, he also fnds fault with the doctrinal formulations of the 1924 Synod defining and defending common grace.  In his article, Dr. Bolt points out what he believes to be the inadequacies of the “Three Points” and offers alternative formulations.  Even though the very worthwhile question-and-answer session that followed Dr. Bolt’s speech cannot be reproduced here, we trust our readers will proft from the transcription of the speech.

Our readers are once again favored with an article by a familiar contributor to PRTJ, Dr. Jürgen Burkhard Klautke, professor in the Academy for Reformed Theology in Marburg, Germany.  This article is the transcription of a speech by Dr. Klautke at a conference sponsored by the PRCA denominational Committee for Contact with Other [Foreign] Churches. The speech is a stirring defense of the truth of God’s covenant of grace, according to which elect believers are “in Christ,” as is the language of our Lord in His High Priestly prayer. Along the way, Dr. Klautke engages in necessary polemic against those who have perverted the truth of God’s Word that believers are “in Christ.

This issue contains the frst three parts of an eighteen part “John Calvin Research Bibliography” by the undersigned.  This bibliography was constructed over the course of a number of years and copies of it were distributed to students who took a newly developed interim course on “The Theology of John Calvin.”  It was thought that publishing this bibliography would make available a valuable resource for any who are interested in doing research on the great Reformer John Calvin.  Each section of the bibliography corresponds to a class session devoted to that main topic, with the related sub-topics that were covered in the class listed beneath each main topic.

Prof. David Engelsma, emeritus Professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, contributes a review article of Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in Early Modern Reformed Thought, edited by Willem J. van Asselt, J. Martin Bac, and Roelf T. te Velde.  The book examines the teaching of leading Reformed theologians of the sixteenth through the early eighteenth centuries on the freedom of the will.  It demonstrates that the Reformed tradition has consistently rejected the
error of “free will,” while at the same time upholding genuine human freedom.  Be sure to read this very worthwhile extended review—and then perhaps get the book and read it for yourself.

      As always, this issue of PRTJ contains a number of excellent book reviews.  This is a much appreciated feature of any theological journal, and that certainly is the case with our journal.  We take this opportunity to express our thanks to the men who regularly contribute book reviews.  Hopefully they know how much our readers anticipate their regular contributions in each new issue and beneft from them.

We remind our readers that our journal is made available free of charge.  The cost of its production and mailing are covered by the seminary.  Your gifts, therefore, are appreciated.  And many of you do send gifts periodically.  We are grateful for your support.

Now read and enjoy. Soli Deo Gloria!

If you wish to receive this issue or become a PRTJ subscriber, you may either stop by the Seminary, or contact the Seminary at the information given on its homepage.

Calvin’s Wisdom (and Reformation Truth) – G.Miller

Calvins-wisdom-GMiller-1992One of my favorite books in my personal library is a collection of John Calvin quotes edited by Graham Miller titled Calvin’s Wisdom: An Anthology Arranged Alphabetically (Banner of Truth, 1992) – a book I have had for 21 years now.

The beauty of the book is that it lets Calvin speak for himself, under a variety of subjects. So for this Wednesday of Reformation remembrance week, we will let Calvin speak on several topics of great importance to that great movement of God to restore His church to her roots and to the truth of the gospel.

The Bible

Our wisdom ought to consist in embracing with gentle docility, and without any exception, all that is delivered in the sacred Scriptures. Inst. I: xviii.7

It is the foundation of all true religion to depend on the mouth or word of God; and it is also the foundation of our salvation. Jer.III:460

They who wish to build the Church by rejecting the doctrine of the word, build a hog’s sty, and not the Church of God. Is.IV:148

The Church

There are three things on which the safety of the Church is founded, namely, doctrine, discipline and the sacraments. Tracts I:50

Let us not doubt that there will always be a Church; and when it appears to be in a lamentably ruinous condition, let us entertain good hope of its restoration. Is.III:389

God begets and multiplies his Church only by means of his word. It is by the preaching of the grace of God alone that the Church is kept from perishing. Ps.I:388,389

Justification by Faith

Justification…is the principal hinge by which religion is supported. Inst.III:xi.i

The safety of the Church depends as much on this doctrine as human life does on the soul. If the purity of this doctrine is in any degree impaired, the Church has received a deadly wound. Tracts I:137

Satan has laboured at nothing more assiduously than to extinguish, or to smother the gratuitous justification by faith, which is here…asserted [Gen.15:6]… Abraham obtained righteousness…by imputation. Gen.I:405

Roman Catholicism at the time of the Reformation

Their whole doctrine contains nothing else than big words and bombast, because it is inconsistent with the majesty of Scripture, the efficacy of the Spirit, the gravity of the prophets, and the sincerity of the apostles… It is…an absolute profanation of real theology. Past.Epp.174

What is the worship of God in the papacy in these days but a confused jumble, which they have thrown together from numberless fictions? …fabricated by the will of man. Ezek.II:310

The whole of Popery …is built on ignorance of Christ. Col.177

Salvation

Salvation ought to be ascribed exclusively to his election, which is of free grace. Is.IV:21

Every part and particle of our salvation depends on God’s mercy only. Four Last Bks of Moses II:319

We must seek all the parts of our salvation in Jesus Christ; for we shall not find a single drop of it anywhere else. Past.Epp. 335

Sovereignty of God

That time is most fit for God to work when there is no hope or counsel to be looked for at man’s hands. Acts I:268

As we ought to presume nothing of ourselves, so we should presume everything of God. Dedication to the Institutes

God on high governs all things in such a manner as to promote the benefit of his elect. Is.III:395

Study Bibles as Theological Tool Kits – Justin Taylor

Source: Study Bibles as Theological Tool Kits by Justin Taylor | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

TTCover-Sept-2015The above-linked article is the third featured one in this month’s issue of Tabletalk, which is on the theme of Study Bibles. In this article Justin Taylor shows us how a good study Bible functions as a useful “theological tool kit”. At the end, he also gives us some practical pointers on how to use a study Bible well.

This too is a profitable article in learning whether you want to use a study Bible or not, and if so, how to use it best. I give you the first part of Taylor’s article and encourage you to use the link to read the rest.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to his young friend and pastoral protégé Timothy, he gave him a clear command about how to handle the Scriptures: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). We may draw several implications from this brief exhortation. First, handling God’s Word takes effort and skill. Timothy is to be a “worker,” doing his “best”—that is, striving by the Spirit to deploy careful excellence—as he undertakes this sacred task. Second, though Timothy is to interpret Scripture for himself and to serve others—so that he can know the truth and can teach it faithfully to others—interpretation is ultimately done in the presence of God and for the glory of God. It is before the Sovereign Author that our interpretations stand or fall. Third, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle God’s Word. Paul encourages Timothy to interpret “rightly” so as to avoid being “ashamed.”

Study Bibles can be a gift from God to help us understand His Word rightly and to plumb its depths. They can give us guidance in understanding history, practicing exegesis, and making theological application. I will explore these one at a time, quoting from the ESV Study Bible to illustrate—not because it’s the only good study Bible, but because it’s the one I know best.

And a little further into his article Taylor adds this specifically about how a good study Bible assists us theologically:

A good study Bible can help us become better theologians. First, it can show us how theology is derived from Scripture. For example, a note on John 1:1 will explain that this verse contains “the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed.”

Second, a good study Bible can help you avoid theological misinterpretation. When Paul says in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation,” the ESV Study Bible note helps us understand what this is and is not saying:

It would be wrong to think in physical terms here, as if Paul were asserting that the Son had a physical origin or was somehow created (the classic Arian heresy) rather than existing eternally as the Son, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the Godhead. What Paul had in mind was the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).

Third, many study Bibles contain theological articles that go into greater depth on theological truths of the faith. All of these tools can be a great aid in helping us become better theologians.

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