The Bible’s First Word – D.Thomas

Our “Word Wednesday” feature today is a bit different, in part because I was struggling for time to post something before it got too late, and then a bit of post-dinner reading led me to this article by Derek Thomas, the title of which appears above. I saw it while browsing Monergism’s latest free e-books. Off to the right side of their latest email newsletter is a list of free articles (pdfs usually) and, as you can imagine, “The Bible’s First Word” caught my eye.

God Adam and You-Phillips-2015Turns out this is a chapter in a new book published by P&R Publishing (copyrighted by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, 2015 and containing the speeches given at the 2013 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology) under the title God, Adam, and You: Biblical Creation Defended and Applied, edited by Richard D. Phillips. Contributors include Joel R. Beeke, Kevin DeYoung, Derek Thomas, Liam Goligher, Richard D.Phillips, and Carl Trueman.

Thomas’ contribution is the opening one, based on Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God” – and is a powerful introduction to this book. So, for our word feature today, we think about the revelation of God to us in these first words of the Bible, as elucidated by Thomas. May we pause to weigh them carefully – along with the “weight” of our Almighty Creator (You will see that there is a special word to learn in this post!).

Here is just one brief section from the chapter; find the entire article at the link above (where the title is given). And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to get the entire book; it looks to be a fine work dealing with the contemporary attacks on creation and the historicity of Genesis and our first parents.

It is no accident, of course, that the Bible begins with God. God is what the Bible is all about. One of the first lessons that we learn when reading the Bible is the importance of asking the right questions. Today people are prone to ask, “What is this passage saying to me?” We put ourselves in the center hermeneutically. Instead, the first question that we should always ask about any passage of the Bible is, “What is this passage teaching me about God?” For God is first, and he is the center, and he is last.

[In contrast to evolutionism’s “Big Bang” theory] …The Scriptures start, “In the beginning, God . . .” In the beginning was the Lord. In the beginning were the Father and the Son and the Spirit, three persons, one God. There is no express mention here that in the beginning, apart from God, there was nothing. Genesis 1:1 doesn’t actually say that God created out of nothing. But, of course, the very absence of any expression, the very absence of any reference to any material, is in itself suggestive of what Moses wants to tell you. The cause of everything that is, he says, is the creative, powerful, and sovereign hand of almighty God.

…As we think about the doctrine of creation and the importance of it, I want us to see a number of truths that emerge from this opening prologue, this opening statement of Moses.

First, we should notice a very simple thing: that the biblical doctrine of creation exalts God. We live in a culture, and even in a church culture, where God seems to be without weight. The “weightlessness of God” is what David Wells calls it.1 One of the great words in the Old Testament for the glory of God is actually a word that is suggestive of weight, much in the sense that some people use the word heavy today. If something is significant, they say, “Heavy, heavy.” That is, it has weight and depth. God is weighty. God is significant. He is the almighty and sovereign Creator. He is the glorious God who is. Everything that is, the totality of existence—space and time, the vastness of the cosmos, everything from the microcosm to the macrocosm—was made to exalt God.

Is Evolution Biblically Acceptable? The Question of Genesis 1 – Reformation21

Is Evolution Biblically Acceptable? The Question of Genesis 1 – Reformation21.

One of the main articles last month at the Reformation 21 website (December 2014) is this significant one by Dr. (PCA pastor) Richard D.Phillips. By it he begins a series in which he does and will argue that evolution is incompatible with the Bible’s teaching.

This first installment focuses on the issue of how Genesis 1 is to be read (he defends its full authority and historicity).

Below are a few paragraphs from it (follow the link above to find the full article). I believe this is must reading (and understanding!) for Reformed Christians, as it focuses on the issue facing us at the present time.

Given what World Magazine has called a “major, well-funded push” to promote the acceptance of evolution among evangelical Christians, the case must be persuasively made against the compatibility of evolution and the Bible.  In answer to this pro-evolutionary stance, I am one of those Bible teachers who believe that the implications of evolution involve sweeping changes to the Christian faith and life.

While I appreciate the moderate spirit of many who want to find a way to accept evolution alongside the Bible, I find that the more radical voices are here more helpful.  For instance, I share the view of Peter Enns in the conclusion to his book The Evolution of Adam, writing that “evolution… cannot simply be grafted onto evangelical Christian faith as an add-on,”[1] but requires a fundamental rethinking of doctrines pertaining to creation, humanity, sin, death, and salvation.  But Christian ethics must also be revised.  Enns writes that under evolution “some characteristics that Christians have thought of as sinful,” including “sexual promiscuity to perpetuate one’s gene pool,” should now be thought of as beneficial.  Even so foundational an issue as the Christian view of death must be remolded by evolution.  An evolution-embracing Christian faith must now see death as an ally: “the means that promotes the continued evolution of life on this planet.”[2]

I am not a qualified scientist and have virtually nothing to contribute to the science involved in evolution.  As a Bible teacher and theologian, my concern is the necessary beliefs that flow from the Word of God.  For the ultimate issue involved with evolution is biblical authority: must the Bible submit to the superior authority of secularist dogma? Or may the believer still confess together with Paul: “Let God be true though everyone were a liar” (Rom. 3:4).  From this perspective, I plan a short series of articles arguing against the idea that evolution is biblically acceptable.

…One of the grand motives, I believe, for accommodating evolution in Genesis 1 is so that evangelicals can stop arguing about science and start teaching about Jesus.  But do we fail to note that Jesus’ story begins in Genesis 1?  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…” (Jn. 1:1).  In fact, when the interpretive approach used to neutralize Genesis 1 as history is necessarily extended by evolution, then the reason for Jesus’ coming is lost?  After all, without a biblical Adam as the first man and covenant head of the human race, then what is the problem for which the Son of God came?  Here we see just how right Peter Enns is: evolution is not an add-on to the Bible, it is a replacement.

Dr. Richard D. Phillips is the senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC and the chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology

See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/is-evolution-biblically-acceptable-the-question-of-genesis-1.php#sthash.h5cWQw5t.dpuf

In this connection, a great resource to read is this one by Prof.David J. Engelsma: “Genesis 1-11: Myth or History.”

Fourth of July Reflections on a Changing America – R.Phillips

Fourth of July Reflections on a Changing America – Reformation21 Blog.

For Christians, the issue of patriotism is always complicated by our citizenship in two realms, one earthly and one heavenly.  The Bible teaches that we have duties to our earthly nation, including obeying laws, paying taxes, and honoring our leaders (Rom. 13:1-7).  At the same time, we are subjects of the eternal kingdom of Christ.  Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”  (Mt. 22:21).  This dual citizenship presents serious complications when the civil and the divine authorities strongly conflict.  This was the situation the early believers faced in Jerusalem, resulting in their persecution.  Peter told the Jewish leaders, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and for his disobedience he was beaten and later threatened with execution (Acts 5:40; 12:1-6).

…Even more importantly, we must be faithful to Christ in the midst of these troubles.  The Bible has amply warned us to expect such upheavals (1 Pet. 4:12).  So let us be neither dismayed nor distracted from our primarily calling as disciples of Jesus.  This means:

1)  We must steadfastly refuse to violate God’s Word, either in obeying ungodly government requirements or in opposing them.  This is our absolute duty to the Lord and the source of our moral authority among men.

2)      Our churches must stop dancing to the world’s tune.  We must no longer measure church success in secular terms – attendance, buildings, and cash – but in the biblical terms of truth, godliness, and evangelistic zeal.  Our pulpits must resound with the biblical message of law and gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.  While many churches (especially many prominent mega-churches) may capitulate to the pagan agenda, ours must stand with the Lord through faithfulness to his Word.

…Christ is reigning over this year’s Fourth of July.  The startling troubles before us are as much an opportunity as they are a threat, but only if Christians rise up to our calling as servants of a triumphant gospel in the midst of a sin-broken world.