Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Final part)

Two months ago, I started to write this series of articles titled “Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission” to formulate answers to some of the mission-related questions that had been arising in my mind. These articles were heavily influenced by Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret, by David J. Bosch’s Transforming Mission, and by what I have been learning from my own Bible reading, especially from Acts, Romans, Galatians and Hebrews.

I began this series by asking what happens when our understanding of Scripture is contradicted by the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is easy for us to convince ourselves that we are holding to “biblical” values and principles simply because we belong to a ministry that strongly emphasizes Bible study, and yet miss what God is saying to us here and now. The epistle to the Hebrews contains a vivid description of how the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with Scripture (Hebrews 4:12-13, NIV):

Continue reading →

More Thoughts on the Updated NIV of 2011

Editor’s note: Last month, Ben W posted an article that was supportive of the NIV 2011. The piece below, which was written by Chris Kelly and first appeared on his own blog, presents a different view.

As most of you know, the NIV Bible has been used by millions of readers since it first appeared in 1984 and is one of the best-loved translations for many reasons. But this year those who hold the copyright to the NIV have introduced an updated version on BibleGateway.com, and their plan is to replace the 1984 version with this new version. This new translation is not only needless and dishonest, but harmful in the following respects:

It is an attempt to win the approval of people. It is a capitulation to the whims of men and women of this godless age rather than a resolve to be faithful to the word of God. It will lead to the loss of a great and beloved translation, which is being replaced with a lesser, though newer one.

Continue reading →

The Brain Science of Ambition

Yesterday, after we published Gerardo’s article on theories of intelligence, a fascinating article appeared on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog:

Ambition… Virtue or Vice?

This article was written by ‘RJS’ who is a frequent contributor on the Jesus Creed website. RJS is a sincere Christian, a woman, an accomplished scientist, and a faculty member at a secular university. She writes primarily about the relationship between faith and science and occasionally about the role of women in the church.

In this article, she discusses what brain imaging technology (fMRI) has revealed about some of the Seven Deadly Sins. She reports that lust, especially in males, “sets nearly the whole brain buzzing,” producing a biochemical response that can be very addicting and destructive. Envy produces patterns of brain activity that reflect ‘a kind of social pain,’ and when the object of envy (the person who incites it) experiences a downfall, the response is a kind of pleasure which is well described by the German word schadenfreude.

Continue reading →

Psychology Meets Religion (Part 1)

As a student of psychology, I encounter many research studies that can speak on matters of faith and personhood. If the Bible teaches us about who man inherently is, then I have believed that even secular science should confirm this as faith and science can’t conflict (though faith and scientist can). And indeed, in many studies I have come across, this is exactly what I have found. There are quite a few psychology studies that confirm the Bible’s teaching on who man is, what motivates man, and what ultimately makes him happy.

One line of research that has recently gotten a lot of attention deals with what are called “lay theories of intelligence.” This is not a theory on what intelligence is as much as a theory about what people think intelligence is and how it shapes their behavior.

Continue reading →

To Stay Or Not To Stay?

When is it a good idea to stay in a church or para-church ministry, and when is it better to leave? This was the question that Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones addressed in 1966 at the National Assembly of Evangelicals conference in England. Lloyd-Jones was a very respected evangelical leader, and he used this opportunity to implore evangelicals to leave the Church of England because it was tolerating theologically liberal people and ideas in its ranks (He told evangelicals to join with another evangelical church).

Another respected leader named John Stott was at the meeting, and after Dr. Lloyd-Jones was finished, Stott approached the lectern and said to the audience, “I believe history is against what Dr. Lloyd-Jones has said… and I also believe that Scripture is against him.” Stott wanted evangelicals to stay within the Church of England to be a transforming influence.

Continue reading →

Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 12)

In the last installment, I argued that a major theme of Paul’s epistle to the Romans is divine election. Paul didn’t answer all the questions that people have about Calvinism versus Arminianism. His writings are less about theology than they are about history.

In a nutshell, Paul says that God hardened the hearts of most first-century Jews to reject the gospel message of righteousness by faith. The remnant who accepted the gospel did so by the grace of God alone. And the Gentiles who accepted the message did so by the grace of God alone. Paul also expressed his hope that someday the Jews, seeing God’s work among the Gentiles, would be aroused to envy, believe the gospel and be saved.

Continue reading →

How's Your Mark's Gospel Study?

Have you been taught Mark’s Gospel? Has Mark’s Gospel been preached to you from the pulpit? Have you taught Mark’s Gospel to others? From your recollection, what was the main theme or the main point of Mark’s Gospel? Was it to be a servant? Was it to give your life as Jesus gave his life (Mark 10:45)? I ask these questions because I have taught Mark’s Gospel countless times to countless people (one to one, and in groups) for more than two decades with servantship as the main theme and the main point. Of course, we Christians should be humble servants. But no matter how humble we are, or how much we sacrifice for others and serve others, are we really humble servants?

I open with these questions as I review King’s Cross (Feb 2011), which is Tim Keller’s new book. The book is adapted from sermons he preached from Mark’s Gospel. (Keller is the senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York.) I was quite impressed and moved by Keller’s presentation and emphasis in his study of Mark’s Gospel, especially in that what he taught as central was not what I had emphasized in my own Bible teaching of Mark’s Gospel. Very briefly, Keller’s emphasis of his Mark’s Gospel study is “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” while my emphasis was “You better be like Jesus and SERVE and GIVE YOUR LIFE, you lazy selfish sinner!” Of course, I never said that, but that was my point. Let me explain.

Continue reading →

Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 11)

When modern Protestants study Romans, we tend to focus on justification by faith. Our eyes are drawn to Romans 1:17, which many have said is the key verse of the whole book. In light of church history, this is understandable. Children of the Reformation will read the Bible through Reformation goggles. Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the teachings of St. Augustine, and his resolution of his own personal struggle through Romans 1:17, was the spark that ignited renewal in the 16th century.

Reading Romans to learn about justification by faith is a useful exercise. But it is also helpful to take off those Reformation goggles to see what Paul was actually saying to Roman Christians in the first century. If we do so, then we may find that the central teaching of Romans is not justification by faith. Rather, I believe we will find that the key idea is divine election.

Continue reading →

Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 10)

In the last installment, I argued that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 should not be taken out of context and made the preeminent motivator and description of evangelism. Those verses appear at the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, and their meaning cannot be discerned apart from a careful analysis of the whole gospel.

Similarly, the world mission command of Acts 1:8 functions as an outline for Acts, and its true meaning cannot be discerned apart from the entire book. As I have previously noted, this verse is not a command but a promise. Jesus said to his apostles: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” What Jesus promised came to pass. The apostles became witnesses of the risen Christ, and the gospel did go out from them to Jerusalem, to all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. As I explained in part 5 of this series, this propagation of the gospel did not come about through the apostles’ visionary planning, effort and zeal. It happened just as Jesus said it would, through the power and initiative of the Holy Spirit.

Continue reading →

Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 9)

Election is a controversial concept for many Christians because, in the way that it is often presented, it appears to contradict human freedom. The Bible upholds both election and freedom without attempting to fully explain or resolve the tensions between them.

The word elect simply means “chosen.” In the Old Testament, God chose the people of Israel and made a special relationship with them. If we examine how this choice is portrayed, two aspects are emphasized. First, the Israelites were not chosen because of their inherent goodness; election came to them by grace alone. Second, election did not confer on them any claim of superior status before God. On the contrary, their election placed them in a position of responsibility and servantship toward other nations. Their failure to live up to God’s covenant led to captivity and humiliation, and that should have further prepared them to receive the gospel of salvation by grace.

Continue reading →