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Archive for the category “Doctrine”

What is Truth

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Either you believe that the Bible is the word of God or not. If you believe it, then by definition the Bible is truth and the above quote by Jesus is too. If you don’t believe it, the Bible is still true; you just don’t have a spiritual anchor.

“I believe that the Bible is true; so I am OK, right?” Not necessarily! Do you know the truth?

You see, the truth of Jesus Christ is under attack. It always has been. You wouldn’t think that the attack would be coming from inside the church but it is. It always has!

In the first century, the attack was from a group of people known as the Gnostics. They believed that they had a special revelation and knowledge about our Savior that no one else had. Several of Paul’s epistles were written because of the Gnostic influence in the early church. The doctrine that was being disseminated sounded good but was totally anti Christ. So it seemed that after Paul had preached Christ and made many converts, the Gnostics attempted to add their own spin to the Gospel. They were somewhat successful at leading some away from the truth.

Are you being led away from the truth? One indication is what you believe about the Bible. Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired word of God? Another indication is whether or not you know, read and study your Bible. Even if you answered “yes” to both of the indicators, you still could be being led away from the truth; although it is not as likely. What does the man in the pulpit of your church think about the Bible? Does he preach the Gospel or does he preach messages with references to Gospel passages? Do the messages that reference Scripture use the meaning of Scripture that you would get by reading that passage in context or is the meaning changed to emphasize the point the preacher is trying to make?

St Nicholas' Kirk

St Nicholas’ Kirk (Photo credit: Nick in exsilio)

I attend a church where the pastor delivers messages with scriptural references. I am also reading at least one book that the pastor has highly recommended. What I am discovering is that my pastor is teaching from books other than the Bible. That isn’t necessarily wrong. It does however, send up a red flag. I need to be a “good Berean” and search the scriptures to verify what he is teaching. If “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”, why then would a pastor need to teach from any other book. Just because it comes from the pulpit at your church, don’t believe blindly what the pastor says, check it out for yourself. Better yet, become so familiar with the truth that a half truth or a lie is repugnant on its face.


Can We Hear the Voice of God? (Part 9)

Why Is Scripture Authoritative?

Holy Scripture is God speaking. That simple but profound statement is why Christians believe that Scripture is our highest authority by which all other lesser authorities are tested. Practically, this means that lesser courts of reason, tradition, and culture are under the highest court of truth, which is divinely inspired Scripture.

By contrast, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches teach that Scripture is a part of the larger pool of revelation that the church uses in its teaching. The authority is not in the Bible itself, but in the teaching office of the church.

Others appeal to the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral:

Wesley believed that the living core if the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illuminated by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God “so far as it is necessary for our salvation.

In practice, though, the Bible often becomes just one of four major sources of authority to be balanced. Thus, when contemporary critical theories of the Bible start to be taken seriously, the Bible is often judged by other authorities.

The central development of the Protestant Reformation was the return to Scripture as supreme authority. The reformers coined the slogan sola Scriptura (sometimes prima Scriptura) to summarize this conviction. Nothing judges Scripture. It judges everything else. As followers of Jesus, we take the same stance He did and receive the Bible alone as infallible, inerrant truth from God with full authority in our lives.

English: Mural of Protestant Reformation, Mour...

English: Mural of Protestant Reformation, Mourneview A mural of the key players in the Protestant Reformation – at the shops on Mourne Road in Lurgan’s Mourneview Estate. There was a loyalist paramilitary mural here originally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible is a living book of God authoritatively speaking as a perfect Father to children He dearly loves. The Bible tells us to live Godly lives. For example, it commands us to “put away falsehood” and “speak the truth with our neighbor”, not as arbitrary rules of conduct but as church family members who are “members one of another.” It is a story of what is best in a loving family, a family we are invited to be a part of, a family leaving sin and dysfunction and growing to maturity and fulfillment. It is the story of the God of redemption rescuing us from rebellion, brokenness, sin and death. Its authority is that in these inspired words we find how to connect with the forgiving and transforming power of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Can We hear the Voice of God? (Part 8)

Can I Trust That My Bible is God’s Word

If you have a good modern translation of the Bible, the you have almost exact what the ancient authors wrote. It is amazing that people try to argue that we cannot trust the Bible because we do not have the original copies. It would never occur to those people to question the writings of Plato, Sophocles, Homer or Caesar Augustus, when we only have fewer than ten copies of each book, and those copies were made at least one thousand years after the author wrote the original.

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until the middle of the twentieth century, the situation was similar with the Hebrew Old Testament. Our oldest copies dated from about AD 900. We knew the extreme care the rabbis used to copy the sacred text before they destroyed the worn one. But still the copies we had were historically distant from the original (called autographa). But then in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at Qumran. Suddenly we had copies of the Old Testament that were more than a thousand years older than the previous oldest copies.

A comparison of the Qumran manuscript of the Book of Isaiah with the Masoretic text from AD 900 showed the most minor variations, mostly spelling (like the American honor and the British honour) or stylistic changes like adding a conjunction. After comparing the texts that were a thousand years old and finding no significant differences, scholars came to the conclusion that the Old Testament books that we have are basically the same as the original manuscript.

In the case of the New Testament, we have 14,000 ancient copies, with fragments written no later than one hundred years after the original books and letters. This is so amazing because the books were copied onto such fragile materials as papyrus and those copies were not stored anywhere that would protect them from the elements, but in God’s providence they still survived.

Finally, Jesus Himself used copies and translations. He trusted them, so we should too. Because we have so many copies of scripture that are virtually the same, we have no reason not to trust that the texts we have are the same text that was originally authored.

Can We Hear the Voice of God? (Part 7)

Does Scripture Contain Errors and/or Contradictions?

We believe what the Bible teaches is true, so we come to the Bible with what J. I. Packer calls “an advance commitment to receive as truth from God all that Scripture is found on inspection actually teach.” This has been the universal affirmation of the church until the time of Enlightenment, when acceptance in the secular academy led some biblical scholars to base their conclusions on culturally misguided reason rather than on revelation and reality.

The affirmation of the truthfulness of the Bible is inextricably tied to the character of God. He is a truthful God who does not lie! Therefore, because God is ultimately the author of scripture, it is perfect, unlike every other uninspired writing or utterance.

The Bible claims to be wholly true! We find such explicit statements in passages such as 2 Samuel 7:28, “O Lord God, You are God and Your words are true”; Psalm 19:7-10, which uses words such as perfect, sure, right, pure, true, and righteous; Psalm 119: 42-43, 142, 151, 160, 163, which uses the specific word truth or true; and John 17:17, “Your word is truth.” Second Timothy 3: 16 rightly says “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”

Unlike the Bible, however, those of us who read and study it are not inerrant in our understanding of it. The Bible itself gives us much cause for humility as we approach the Scriptures because:

  • God’s thoughts are much loftier than ours;
  • God has secrets that He has not revealed to anyone;
  • sometimes we see the truth as if through a dirty and fogged window;
  • we are prone to resist God’s truth because it forces us to repent, and sometimes we are simply hard-hearted;
  • we know in part;
  • some parts of the Bible are just hard to understand.

Therefore , if it appears that there is a contradiction in Scripture, we should first dig deeply into our Bible to see if what appears to be an error is, in fact, not an error once we have examined it more closely. In the end, it is perfectly acceptable to admit that we don’t have an answer for every question we may have, though in the future we may discover the answers.

A telling example of the Bible’s accuracy is in the transliteration of the names of foreign kings in the Old Testament as compared to contemporary extra-biblical records. The bible is accurate in every detail in the thirty-six instances of comparison, a total of 183 syllables. To see how amazing this is, Manetho’s ancient work on the dynasties of the Egyptian kings can be compared to extra-biblical records in 140 instances. He is right 49 times, only partially right twenty-eight times and in the other sixty-three instances not a single syllable is correct!

Those parts of the Old Testament that are most commonly rejected as error are also those sections that Jesus clearly taught. This includes creation, the literalness of Genesis 1 & 2, Cain and Able, Noah and the flood, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot Isaac and Jacob, manna in the desert, and Jonah in the belly of the whale.

Because Scripture is God speaking to us because He wants us to understand, we also believe Scripture speaks accurately on ordinary language. The writers used ordinary language rather than technical terminology. There are figures of speech, summaries and approximations. When we study the Bible, we must take into account the author’s intent when we interpret the story.

This does not mean that there are no questions to explore. The Bible has kept scholars working for centuries and will for centuries more.

See Also: Can We Hear the Voice of God

Can We Hear the Voice of God? (Part 6)

This is a continuation of a series that I started over a year ago. If you read “Can We Hear the Voice of God” dated April 4, 2011 you can get an idea of what topics will be covered.

Why Were Some Books Not Accepted As Scripture?

In recent years, the so-called lost books of the Bible have enjoyed revived interest. For example, Dan Brown built much of the story line of his best-selling book, “The Da Vinci Code”, on the premise that the church selected the four canonical Gospels from eighty similar books. The others, it is said, were stamped out “a church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned non-believers, and forbidden that pagan reverence for the sacred feminine.

In fact, however, even by the most generous count there are fewer than thirty “gospels.” Only the canonical Gospels date from the first century. The earliest of the others was written more than one hundred years after Jesus lived. Most of them are dated at least two hundred years after Jesus.

Contrary to false accusation, not one of these “lost Gospels” was hidden by the church. The church fathers knew of these writings but simply decided not to consider them sacred scripture. There is no reason to be concerned about any lost gospels containing truth that we need about God. Anyone curious about their truthfulness should simply read them!

The Gospel of Thomas is one of the earlier and most widely affirmed of the Gnostic gospels. It is not a gospel in the sense of a narrative that tells the story of Jesus. Rather it consists of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus, some of which clearly parallel sayings in the canonical gospels.

To be fair, there are a handful of other ancient books that have some good content. Books such as the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache were appreciated by the early church and are akin to some popular Christian books today that can provide some insight but do not rise to the level of scripture or fall to the level of heresy.

From the very earliest days, the church knew which books were God’s inspired word for them. They read them, studied them, obeyed them, lived them, and passed them on. We should do the same without adding anything to the scriptures. Proverbs 30:5-6 commands just this, saying, “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

Erased from the Book of Life?

In today’s devotional reading, I was introduced to a new concept. The passage is Revelation 3:5, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Is it possible to have your name erased from the book of life? What about “once saved, always saved?”

I hope someone comments on this. I would enjoy a good discussion and time of learning!

What is a Christian?

Today I was talking with my friend Sonny (we talk a lot). He asked me a question I couldn’t answer immediately. The question is “What is a mature Christian?” I gave the answer that a mature Christian is a person that , when you look at their daily life, you see the image of Christ. (That worked when I was in Catholic grammar school.) Then he asked, “Using your definition, do you know anyone that is a mature Christian?” I had to admit that I didn’t and that I wasn’t likely to meet one soon.

I then asked him what his definition was, his response was from 1 Timothy 3. By this definition a mature Christian is above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full
respect. After thinking about this for a couple of minutes i came to the conclusion that those qualities, while admirable, are not necessarily Christian qualities. So does that mean a mature Christian does not even have to be a Christian?

That then leads me to the question for today, “What is a Christian?” We need to define what a Christian is before we can determine what a mature Christian looks like. What are your thoughts?

A Long Reply to Sonny’s Comment

Since I had two comments that relate to the OLd Testament and because they are related, I posted this on the main blog as its own article. The other reason is that the reply didn’t support the tables well.

Let me clarify the difference between the Jewish Holy writings and the Old Testament.

The total number of books in the Jewish Old Testament is twenty-four. Those twenty -four books are the equivalent of the Old Testament’s thirty-nine books. For example the Jews regard the twelve books of the minor prophets as one book which they call “The Twelve”. Also Samuel, Kings and Chronicles are each one book, and Ezra is combined with Nehemiah.

By the time of Christ, the Jews had grouped the books into three major sections: The Law, The Prophets, and the Writings. These groupings are illustrated below:

The Hebrew Old Testament Arrangement

LAW (Torah)


WRITINGS (Kethubhim)

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy
  1. Former Prophets

    6. Joshua

    7. Judges

    8. Samuel

    9. Kings

  2. Latter Prophets

    10. Isaiah

    11. Jeremiah

    12. Ezekiel

    13. The Twelve

  1. Poetical Books

    14. Psalms

    15. Proverbs

    16. Job

  2. Five Rolls (Megilloth)

    17. Song of Songs

    18. Ruth

    19. Lamentations

    20. Ecclesiastes

    21. Esther

  3. Historical Books

    22. Daniel

    23. Ezra – Nehemiah

    24. Chronicles

The chart below illustrates the Protestant Old Testament Arrangement:


LAW (Pentateuch)

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

  1. Job
  2. Psalms
  3. Proverbs
  4. Ecclesiastes
  5. Song of Solomon

  1. Joshua
  2. Judges
  3. Ruth
  4. 1 Samuel
  5. 2 Samuel
  6. 1 Kings
  7. 2 Kings
  8. 1 Chronicles
  9. 2 Chronicles
  10. Ezra
  11. Nehemiah
  12. Esther


Major Prophets

  1. Isaiah
  2. Jeremiah
  3. Lamentations
  4. Ezekiel
  5. Daniel
Minor Prophets

  1. Hosea
  2. Joel
  3. Amos
  4. Obadiah
  5. Jonah
  6. Micah
  7. Nahum
  8. Habakkuk
  9. Zephaniah
  10. Haggai
  11. Zechariah
  12. Malachi

My research has not indicated why the books are arranged differently. I can only assume it was for practical reasons that has no relation to the scriptures themselves.

I hope this answers your questions!

Can We Hear the Voice of God (Part 5)

What Is the Canon of Scripture?

The canon of Scripture is the collection of books that the church has recognized as having divine authority in matters of faith and doctrine. The term comes from the Greek word ‘kanon’ and the Hebrew work ‘qaneh’, both of which mean “a rule” or “measuring rod”. The canon is an authority to which other truth claims are compared and by which they are measured.

In his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, F. F. Bruce states, “One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament Books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in the canonical list; on the contrary, the church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect.”

Time after time Jesus and His apostles quoted from a distinctive body of authoritative writings. They designated them as “the Scripture”. They often introduced their quotations with “It is written”. We call these authoritative writings The Old Testament. Jewish people call them the Tanakh. It is important to note that the Tanakh includes the same material as the Protestant Old Testament though the books are arranged differently.

The early church used three criteria to establish the canonicity of the writings:

  1. Conformity to “the rule of faith.” Did the book conform to orthodoxy, Christian truth recognized as normative in the churches?
  2. Apostolicity: Was the writer of the book an apostle or did the writer have immediate contact with the apostles? All but a few of the New Testament writers were eyewitnesses to the events they recorded. Though not eyewitnesses, Luke received his information Paul and numerous eyewitnesses, while Mark received his information from Peter, who was an eyewitness. James and Jude were closely associated with the apostles in Jerusalem and were probably Jesus’ brothers, which would have also made them eyewitnesses.
  3. Catholicity. Did the book have widespread and continuous acceptance and usages by churches everywhere?

How Easily Misled

In my June newsletter, I took a tangent on the interpretation of one of the scripture verses. I went in a direction that the author never intended. I went in a direction that God never intended. I guess it is a good thing that no one really reads the news letter. I did, however find out something very important. It is very easy for one person to misinterpret scripture and then teach that misinterpretation to someone else. I suppose that is how cults are formed

Why is it so easy to mislead someone? I believe that it is because most people do not read the bible for themselves. Many that do, don’t make a habit of studying the Bible. Some that try to study the Bible, don’t understand the simple rules of hermeneutics. For you Hank Hanegraaff fans, that would be the art and science of biblical interpretation. This will not be an online course in hermeneutics!

Why don’t people read the bible for themselves? After all, the word of God is of infinite importance. Our eternal destiny hinges on faith in the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God. Isn’t His message to us important? How can a person have faith in that which he doesn’t know. The Bible is the only way we have to truly know God! So why don’t people know their bible?

Let me hazard a few guesses.

  • The Bible was written in a language we don’t understand. That is true enough. The books of the Bible were written in either Hebrew (The Old Testament) or Greek (The New Testament) a few passages of Aramaic were thrown in just for good measure. Most of us certainly don’t understand those languages so we have to have the Bible translated into our language.
  • The translations are hard to understand. I’ll grant you that! Some of the early translations into English are impossible to understand. The most prolific English Bible, the King James Version was published in 1611 and is still in print today. The problem is that I don’t know anyone that speaks the same English that was spoken 400 years ago. In my opinion, the King James Version needs to be translated. That problem has been overcome in America today. We have a plethora of translations and paraphrases. The idea of the paraphrases is to convey the idea of the original languages. Some are accurate, others not so much.
  • The thoughts conveyed in the original languages cannot be translated accurately in the English language. An example of this is the word ‘love’. There are three words in the Greek that are translated as love in English. The Greek words are: agape, eros, and philia. Three completely different thoughts represented by the thought that the word love conveys. Passages with the word love would be easy to misinterpret in the English language.
  • People are just too busy. Bible study and interpretation is just too demanding and too time consuming. It is much easier to let the pastor do the work and just listen to his sermons. One problem with that is no one knows if the message was understood correctly. The people hearing the message do not know if the pastor interpreted the passage correctly. The hearers, don’t know if they understood the pastor correctly. The pastor doesn’t know if the hearers understood him correctly. There is so much room for error in this scenario it is a wonder that we engage in the activity at all. It is, however, what we’ve always done!
  • If you are only listening to Sunday sermons, it will take over 20 years to hear the whole Bible. How well would you know the Lord’s prayer if you’d have heard it only three times in your entire life?

My point is, if you want to know that you have God’s truth, you need to learn to study it for yourself, engage in discussions with other learned bible students to ensure you have not gone astray, and pray for God’s guidance in your studies.

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