A Black and White Choice NOT to read Fifty Shades of Grey

by Mary Kassain

Fifty Shades of Grey,” an erotic novel by an obscure British author based on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, has electrified women across the country. Readers have spread the word like wildfire on Facebook pages, in college hallways, at office functions and in spin classes. Within six weeks of publication, the three books of the series, Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, claimed the top three spots in USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list. Sales have topped 10 million. The series is so popular that last month, author E. L. James was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World“.

Red Room of Pain

The books in question are erotica that explicitly describe sexual bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). The story follows an unfolding affair between a recent college graduate, the virgin Anastasia Steele, and handsome young billionaire entrepreneur, Christian Grey, whose childhood abuse left him a deeply damaged individual, and who enlists her to share his secret sexual proclivities. Steele is required by Grey to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her. Because of her fascination and budding love for him, she consents to a kinky sexual relationship that includes being slapped, spanked, handcuffed, and whipped with a leather riding crop in his “Red Room of Pain.”

A few weeks ago, the book popped up as Amazon’s suggested buy on my Kindle. I declined. Like my friend,Dannah Gresh, I absolutely refuse to read these books.

Smut is Smut

Undoubtedly, the series portrays BDSM in the context of an engaging, passionate, tender, romantic relationship that culminates in the characters falling in love, and the conflicted girl assuaging the billionaire’s troubled soul. But it doesn’t matter to me how the author sweetens it up. The tasty red Kool-Aid doesn’t offset the bitter poison. Smut is still smut.

I don’t have to read the book to know that it’s bad for women. Nor do I need to read it to tell you that I think it would be unwise for you to read it.

7 Reasons Not to Read 50 Shades

1. It violates God’s design for sex:

God created sex to be exclusive to marriage. In 50 Shades the relationship is based on a sex contract, not a marriage covenant. The Lord says that sex outside of marriage is sin. It grieves Christ when we take pleasure in something He abhors.

 2. It violates the biblical concept of authority:

The relationship between a man and wife is to mirror Christ’s relationship to His Bride. BDSM tells a lie about the nature of that relationship. Christ taught and modelled that authority is for the purpose of loving service. It is not an egotistical power trip. Christ is not into domination, control, abuse, and humiliation. So in my mind, there’s something seriously wrong when we get a kick out of interpersonal domination/humiliation, and bring BDSM into Christian bedrooms.

3.  It violates the biblical concept of submission:

A wife’s submission is first and foremost to Christ. The biblical directive to submit does not turn women into brain-dead, passive, weak-willed doormats who acquiesce to the whims of dominant, controlling men. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Lord doesn’t want His daughters to be wilting, weak-willed, wimpy women who welcome and enjoy abuse. BDSM perverts and mocks the beauty of what true submission is all about.

 4. It encourages the sin of sensuality:

Erotica is a genre that aims to arouse sexual desire. It evokes sensuality, a sin that appears in numerous New Testament lists of vices (Gal 5:19, Rom. 13:13, Mark 7:21-23, 1 Pet 4:3, 2 Cor. 12:21). Sensuality is anything that

  1. is characterized by lust
  2. expresses lewdness or lust,
  3. tends to excite lust.

Scripture tells us to flee all such things.

5. It promotes sexual perversion:

“Curiosity” has led to the downfall of multitudes who have been trapped in the destructive, downward vortex of sexual sin. Fifty Shades piques curiosity. It dangles behaviors that are forbidden, unfamiliar, and titillating. Maybe you’re just curious, or maybe you rationalize that it might boost your libido and marital sex life. And it might. Temporarily. But the problem with erotica, as with porn, is that you’ll end up craving increasingly graphic, perverse images over time. Erotica/porn lead to deeper, darker erotica/porn. What’s more, they end up robbing people of the joy and satisfaction of “ordinary,” non-twisted sex with an “ordinary” spouse. In the end, they assault and diminish a healthy sex life.

6. It glamorizes pathological relationships:

The male protagonist is a very tortured and misunderstood soul with a proclivity for sexual perversion. One moment he is abusive, and the next he is tender and romantic. The girl feels she is the only one who can reach him and help him. Hmmm. Sounds like a seriously dysfunctional co-dependent abusive relationship to me. As Dr. Pinksy, a relationship expert said, “the idea that women look at this relationship as anything other than absolute, categorical, profound pathology is more than I can imagine… I worry about the 15-year-olds and 19-year-olds reading this and formulating a notion that this is anything close to a reasonable relationship.”

7. You won’t get it out of your head:

The Bible tells us to think about things that are pure, right, excellent, praiseworthy, lovely, admirable, noble, and true (Phil 4:8) There’s truth to the old proverb that “as a man thinketh so is he,” and the modern day adage, “garbage in – garbage out.” Your thoughts have transformational power – for good or for evil. Filling your head with thoughts of sin, sensuality, dysfunction, and BDSM will lead you further away from the things of God and not closer to them. Darkness has incredible “sticking power” – Once exposed, it can be extremely difficult to get the images and thoughts out of your head.

As Dannah says,

“God has given me more than fifty shades of truth in His Word and when just one of them is in conflict with my entertainment choices, I choose to pass! To be clear: I wouldn’t drive my Envoy into the front of an oncoming semi-truck any more than I would open the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey. I love my marriage, my God, and myself too much.”

So girls, have some respect for the Lord, and for yourselves. Exercise some discernment, and don’t read this book!

In my opinion, the choice whether or not to read Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty black and white.”

-Mary Kassain, http://www.girlsgonewise.com/a-black-and-white-choice-not-to-read-fifty-shades-of-grey/

What is “The Fall”

by Tim Challies

“What do Christians mean when we talk about “the Fall” (note the capital F)?

“The Fall” refers to a specific, historic event which occured in the lives of the very first human beings in the Garden of Eden. It has forever changed creation and the human race.

The event is described in Genesis 3 and its effects are seen throughout Scripture and the rest of human history. Bruce Waltke provides a helpful summary of what occurred:

Adam and Eve were created in a state of righteousness (accepted with God) and innocence (a state of untested righteousness). They would have continued in a state of blessed sanctity with God and of enjoying life in the garden if they had obeyed God and not eaten the forbidden fruit. … By Adam and Eve’s failure to trust the goodness of God’s character and the truthfulness of his word, they disobey and instantaneously “fall” from their state of bliss in the garden into a tragic state of irreversible sin and death and banishment from the garden.

Much more could be said about how this “fall” introduced the human race to original sin and total depravity, how it led to the cursing of all creation, and how it set the stage for the glorious redemption of all things in Christ Jesus. But in its essence “the Fall” refers to the loss of man’s righteousness and bliss before God, his newfound bondage to sin, the inevitability of death, and banishment from the presence of God. All of this came as a consequence of man’s disobedience and his distrust of both the character and word of God. Fall is a small word with a great depth of meaning.”

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/resources/the-essential-fall

Notes on National Israel’s Future from Church History

by Nathan Busenitz

Romans 11:26 promises that all Israel will be saved. Dispensationalists understand this verse to refer to a national salvation of ethnic Israel after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Non-premillennialists sometimes imply that such an interpretation is a dispensationalist invention, because it means that God still has a future plan for national Israel.

But did you know that many throughout church history, including many in the Reformed tradition have shared that same interpretation?

None other than John Calvin, in his commentary on Romans 11:25-26, noted that “when the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith.”  Other Reformers, such as Martin BucerPeter Martyr, and Theodore Bezasimilarly concluded that there would be a future calling and conversion of the Jewish people.

A belief in the future salvation of national Israel was especially strong among the Dutch Reformed and the English Puritans of the seventeenth century. Regarding the Dutch Calvinists of that time period, J. Van Den Berg explains that for “virtually all Dutch theologians of the seventeenth century, ‘the whole of Israel’ indicated the fullness of the people of Israel ‘according to the flesh’: in other words, the fullness of the Jewish people. This meant that there was a basis for an expectation of a future conversion of the Jews—an expectation which was shared by a large majority of Dutch theologians” (Puritan Eschatology, 140).

Commenting on the English Puritans, Iain Murray similarly notes: “This same belief concerning the future of the Jews is to be found very widely in seventeenth-century Puritan literature. It appears in the works of such well-known Puritans as John Owen, Thomas Manton and John Flavel. … It is also handled in a rich array of commentaries, both folios and quartos – David Dickson on the Psalms, George Hutcheson on the Minor Prophets, Jeremiah Burroughs on Hosea, William Greenhill on Ezekiel, Elnathan Parr on Romans and James Durham on Revelation: a list which could be greatly extended.” (The Puritan Hope, 43).

But a belief in national Israel’s future salvation actually goes all the way back to the early church. What follows, then, is a brief sampling of theologians throughout church history who have affirmed that future reality. Others could be added, but these should suffice to make the point:

1. Justin Martyr (c. 100–165) held that the tribes of Israel would be gathered and restored in accord with what the prophet Zechariah predicted: And what the people of the Jews shall say and do, when they see Him coming in glory, has been thus predicted by Zechariah the prophet: “I will command the four winds to gather the scattered children; I will command the north wind to bring them, and the south wind, that it keep not back. And then in Jerusalem there shall be great lamentation, not the lamentation of mouths or of lips, but the lamentation of the heart; and they shall rend not their garments, but their hearts. Tribe by tribe they shall mourn, and then they shall look on Him whom they have pierced; and they shall say, Why, O Lord, hast Thou made us to err from Thy way? The glory which our fathers blessed, has for us been turned into shame.”

2. Tertullian (c. 155–230) urged Christians to eagerly anticipate and rejoice over the coming restoration of Israel: “It will be fitting for the Christian to rejoice, and not to grieve, at the restoration of Israel, if it be true, (as it is), that the whole of our hope is intimately united with the remaining expectation of Israel.”

3. Origen (185–254) believed in “two callings of Israel.” The first calling of Israel refers to Israel’s calling before Christ that eventually led to their stumbling and falling. The second calling of Israel, however, is future and will take place after the period of the fullness of the Gentiles. In Origen’s words: “But when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then will all Israel, having been called again, be saved.”

4. John Chrysostom (349–407) said this in regards to Romans 11:26:

[Regarding the fact] that they [the Jews] shall believe and be saved, he [Paul] brings Isaiah to witness, who cries aloud and says, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Isaiah 59:20.) … If then this has been promised, but has never yet happened in their case, nor have they ever enjoyed the remission of sins by baptism, certainly it will come to pass.

In his homilies on Matthew, Chrysostom also noted:

To show therefore that [Elijah] the Tishbite comes before that other [second] advent … He said this.  … And what is this reason? That when He is come, He may persuade the Jews to believe in Christ, and that they may not all utterly perish at His coming. Wherefore He too, guiding them on to that remembrance, saith, “And he shall restore all things;” that is, shall correct the unbelief of the Jews that are then in being.

5. Augustine (354–430) concurred: It is a familiar theme in the conversation and heart of the faithful, that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ, by means of this great and admirable prophet Elias who shall expound the law to them. . . . When, therefore, he is come, he shall give a spiritual explanation of the law which the Jews at present understand carnally, and shall thus “turn the heart of the father to the son,” that is, the heart of the fathers to the children.

6. Cyril of Alexandria (378–444): Although it was rejected, Israel will also be saved eventually, a hope which Paul confirms.  … For indeed, Israel will be saved in its own time and will be called at the end, after the calling of the Gentiles.”

7. Theodoret of Cyrus (393–457): And he [Paul] urges them not to despair of the salvation of the other Jews; for when the Gentiles have received the message, even they, the Jews, will believe, when the excellent Elijah comes, bringing to them the doctrine of faith. For even the Lord said this in the sacred gospels: ‘Elijah is coming, and he will restore all things.’

8. Cassiodorus (c. 485–585) [commenting on Psalm 103:9]: This verse can be applied also to the Jewish people, who we know are to be converted at the world’s end. On this Paul says: Blindness in part has happened in Israel, that the fullness of the Gentiles should come in, and so all Israel should be saved.

9. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274): It is possible to designate a terminus, because it seems that the blindness of the Jews will endure until all the pagans chosen for salvation have accepted the faith. And this is in accord with what Paul says below about the salvation of the Jews, namely, that after the conversion of the pagans, all Israel will be saved.

Note: Other early theologians who believed in a future salvation of Israel include Prosper of Aquitaine (390–455), Gregory (540–604), Isidore (560–636), Bede (d. 735), Peter Damian (1007–1072), Anselm (1033–1109), and Bernard (1090–1153).

10. The Geneva Study Bible (16th century): He [Paul] speaks of the whole nation, not of any one part.  … The blindness of the Jews is neither so universal that the Lord has no elect in that nation, neither will it be continual: for there will be a time in which they also (as the prophets have foretold) will effectually embrace that which they now so stubbornly for the most part reject and refuse.

11. William Perkins (1558–1602): The Lord says, All the nations shall be blessed in Abraham: Hence I gather that the nation of the Jews shall be called, and converted to the participation of this blessing: when, and how, God knows: but that it shall be done before the end of the world we know.

12. Elnathan Parr (d. 1630) [on Romans 11:26]: That all the elect shall be saved? Who ever doubted that? But of the calling of the Jews there is doubt. He calls their salvation a secret or mystery but there is nothing mysterious about all the elect being saved. He shows that there is an unbroken reference to Israel/Jacob, that is, ethnic Israel. [From verses 25-28 Parr concludes,] Before the end of the world the Jews in regard to their multitude will be called.

13. Matthew Poole (1624–1679): [On Romans 11:26] By Israel here (as in the precedent verse) you must understand, the nation and people of the Jews. And by all Israel is not meant every individual Israelite, but many, or (it may be) the greatest part of them.  … These prophecies and promises [from Isaiah 27:959:20 and Jer. 31:33], though they were in part fulfilled when Christ came in the flesh, (see Acts 3:26,) yet there will be a more full and complete accomplishment thereof upon the Jewish nation and people towards the end of the world.

14. Increase Mather (1639–1723): That there shall be a general conversion of the tribes of Israel, is a truth which in some measure hath been known and believed in all ages of the church of God, since the Apostles’ days.

15. Matthew Henry (1662–1714): Another thing that qualifies this doctrine of the Jews rejection is that though for the present they are cast off, yet the rejection is NOT final; but, when the fullness of time is come, they will be taken in again. They are not cast off for ever, but mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath.  … The Jews shall continue in blindness, till God hath performed his whole work among the Gentiles, and then their turn will come next to be remembered. This was the purpose and ordination of God, for wise and holy ends; things should not be ripe for the Jews’ conversion till the church was replenished with the Gentiles, that it might appear that God’s taking them again was not because he had need of them, but of his own free grace.

16. Cotton Mather (1663–1728): This day, from the Dust, where I lay prostrate before the Lord, I lifted up my Cries … for the conversion of the Jewish nation, and for my own having the Happiness, at some time or other, to Baptize a Jew that should by my ministry be brought home unto the Lord.

17. Thomas Boston (1676–1732): There is a day coming when there shall be a national conversion of the Jews or Israelites. The now blinded and rejected Jews shall at length be converted into the faith of Christ.

18. James Robe (1688–1753): Me thinks I hear the nation of the Jews (for such is the cry of their case) crying aloud to you from their dispersion, … we have now been rejected of God for more than sixteen hundred years, because of our unbelief, and for this long, very long while, wrath to the uttermost hath been lying upon us! There are many promises and predictions that we shall be grafted in again.  … Pray therefore, and wrestle with God, that he may, according to his promise, pour forth upon the Spirit of grace and supplication, that we may look upon him whom we have pierced, and mourn.

19. John Gill (1697–1771): And so all Israel shall be saved.  … Meaning not the mystical spiritual Israel of God, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, who shall appear to be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, when all God’s elect among the latter are gathered in, which is the sense many give into; but the people of the Jews, the generality of them, the body of that nation, called “the fullness” of them, Romans 11:12, and relates to the latter day, when a nation of them shall be born again at once; … when they as a body, even the far greater part of them that shall be in being, shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their King; shall acknowledge Jesus to be the true Messiah, and shall look to him, believe on him, and be saved by him from wrath to come.

20. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758): The Jews in all their dispersions shall cast away their old infidelity, and shall have their hearts wonderfully changed, and abhor themselves for their past unbelief and obstinacy. They shall flow together to the blessed Jesus, penitently, humbly, and joyfully owning him as their glorious King and only Savior, and shall with all their hearts, as one heart and voice, declare his praises unto other nations.  … Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11.

21. Charles Hodge (1797–1878): The second great event, which, according to the common faith of the Church, is to precede the second advent of Christ, is the national conversion of the Jews.  … The restoration of the Jews to the privileges of God’s people is included in the ancient predictions and promises made respecting them. . . . The future restoration of the Jews is, in itself, a more probable event than the introduction of the Gentiles into the church of God.

22. Robert Murray M‘Cheynne (1813–1843): Converted Israel … will give life to the dead world.  … just as we have found, among the parched hills of Judah, that the evening dew, coming silently down, gave life to every plant, making the grass to spring and the flowers to put forth their sweetest fragrance, so shall converted Israel be when they come as dew upon a dead, dry world. The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.

23. J. C. Ryle (1816–1900): It always seemed to me that as we take literally the texts foretelling that the walls of Babylon shall be cast down, so we ought to take literally the texts foretelling that the walls of Zion shall be built up—that as according to prophecy the Jews were literally scattered, so according to prophecy the Jews will be literally gathered—and that as the least and minutest predictions were made good on the subject of our Lord’s coming to suffer, so the minutest predictions shall be made good which describe our Lord’s coming to reign. And I have long felt it is one of the greatest shortcomings of the Church of Christ that we ministers do not preach enough about this advent of Christ, and that private believers do not think enough about it.

24. Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892): I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this.

(Spurgeon again): The day shall yet come when the Jews, who were the first Apostles to the Gentiles, the first missionaries to us, who were far off, shall be gathered in again. Until that shall be, the fullness of the Churches’ glory can never come. Matchless benefits to the world are bound up with the restoration of Israel; their gathering in shall be as life from the dead.”

-Nathan Busenitz, http://thecripplegate.com/church-history-and-israels-future/

Ten Boom: The Power to Forgive

“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”

-Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

Is Your Bible Trustworthy?

by Chad Graham

“Charles Spurgeon was right when he said: “it behoves all who love the Lord Jesus and his gospel to keep close together, and make common cause against deadly error”.[1] Many are familiar with the famous motto of Rupertus Meldenius now adopted by many denominations, including the Evangelical Free Church of Canada: “In Essentials Unity; In Non-Essentials Charity; In All Things Jesus Christ”. There are many debates in the Church, which have to do with people’s interpretations of particular doctrines. There will always be diversity on some issues, and sometimes believers must agree to disagree on the non-essentials. But there is a foundation upon which they must agree, if they will be able to agree to disagree! Because of its foundational nature, inerrancy is the real issue upon which the unity and vitality of the Church will live or die, and so one’s view of the “trustworthiness of Scripture” became the watershed doctrine of the historic evangelicalism from the Reformation to the present.

What does Inerrancy mean? Feinberg defines the doctrine in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:

“the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in what it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences”.[2]

This definition guards against knee jerk assumptions and sophistry by giving a balanced but grounded definition. It is only “when all the facts become  known” and when considering “the original autographs” and when “correctly interpreted” that the believer may be confident of the trustworthiness of something the Bible “affirms”. Hard work and careful scholarship are needed: “Do your best” Paul instructs Timothy, “to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV). The “word of truth” or “trustworthy word” yields its truth only to the “worker” who has “done [his or her] best” to “rightly” handle the Scripture.

The Reformation confessions clearly view the Scripture as the criterion of all truth, and as “the very word of God”. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy has a detailed definition of the word. Perhaps it can best be summarized by the following: “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches….Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching”.[3]

Rene Pache declares that verbal, plenary inspiration is the historic doctrine of the Church and this doctrine “implies that in drawing up the original manuscripts the sacred authors were guided in such a way that they transmitted perfectly, without error, the exact message which God desired to communicate to men”. Thus the Scriptures are infallible, and if “infallible it cannot err; and if it is inerrant, this is because it contains no mistakes”.[4] Perhaps most poignant as a summary is Harold Lindsell’s definition: “the Bible is completely trustworthy”.[5]

So is the Bible trustworthy? The Scriptures claim from beginning to end to be the “very words of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). From God’s direct command to Moses to “write these words down” (Exodus 34:27), to the many instructions similar, such as that to Jeremiah: “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Go and speak… This is what the LORD says” (Jeremiah 2:1-2), God makes plain that the Scriptures are full of his words. Several passages confirm that “every word” is his. “All Scripture” the Bible claims, “is God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and “prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 NIV)

There are many arguments which could be raised in order to demonstrate that the Bible is a Divine work. However, I like Spurgeon’s summary:

How do you know that God wrote the book? That is just what I shall not try to prove to you. I could if I pleased, demonstrate it, for there are arguments enough, there are reasons enough, did I care to occupy your time to-night in bringing them before you; but I shall do no such thing. I might tell you, if I pleased, that the grandeur of the style is above that of an mortal writing, and that all the poets who have ever existed could not, with all their works united, give us such sublime poetry and such mighty language as is to be found in the Scriptures. I might insist upon it, that the subjects of which it treats are beyond the human intellect; that man could never have invented the grand doctrines of a Trinity in the Godhead; man could not have told us anything of the creation of the universe; he could never have been the author of the majestic idea of Providence—that all things are ordered according to the will of one great Supreme Being, and work together for good. I might enlarge upon its honesty, since it tells the faults of its writers; its unity, since it never belies itself; its master simplicity, that he who runs may read it; and I might mention a hundred more things, which would all prove, to a demonstration, that the book is of God. But I come not here to prove it. I am a Christian minister, and you are Christians, or profess to be so.[6]

Now God is completely and explicitly trustworthy. Plato, the Philosopher of Western thought, attributes to God perfect goodness, “he is the highest and most perfect being”.[7] It is impossible to imagine the “highest and most perfect being” as a deceitful and corrupt being. The Bible professes that God is “the truth” (John 14:6) and Psalm 119:160 declares that all his “words are true”. The Christian belief in Inerrancyis fundamentally the belief that God is trustworthy. Your Bible is trustworthy, if its author is trustworthy, and 1 Corinthians 1:9 affirms that the highest and most perfect being “is faithful”.

Up next, we will survey just how this has been “the real issue” or “the watershed doctrine” setting evangelical believers apart from other forms of Christian religion, especially since the Reformation. Previous posts include: “Is the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy in error?” (link) and “Inerrancy, what is it?” (link).”


[1] C.H. Spurgeon The Sword and the Trowel Annual Volume 1887, preface http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/dg00.htm

[2] P D Feinberg, “Bible, Inerrancy and Infallibility of” Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology sec. ed., Editor Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic), 156

[3] Carl F. H. Henry in God, Revelation and Authority, vol. 4 (Waco, Tx.: Word Books, 1979), 211.

[4] Rene Pache The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture  (Chicago, IL: Moddy Press, 1980), 120

[5] Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids; MI: Zondervan, 1976), 12

[6] C.H. Spurgeon “The Bible” http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0015.htm

[7] “Western Concepts of God” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/god-west/

-Chad Graham, http://wagraham.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/is-your-bible-trustworthy/

Christianity, Unplugged

by K. Scott Oliphint

“When was the last time you withdrew? Not the last time you were the only person in the room or in the house — when was the last time you withdrew from contact with anyone else? Jesus “would withdraw” from the crowds “to deslolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). He knew that His busy schedule required time alone — completely alone — with His heavenly Father.

In the twenty-first century, being alone and withdrawing mean much more than being the only person in the room. They mea n being unplugged. In our appreciation for the help that technology can bring, we have perhaps been unaware of its more subtle dangers. And its dangers are not simply located in the content that technology can deliver, harmful as that may be. Its dangers lie also in thebehavior that is required by its use. Owning a smartphone creates the peer pressure of immediate communication. How many times a day do you check your email — by phone, computer, laptop, or tablet? How many times do you check it even when you’re in the middle of a conversation? Also, with the reality of our new penchant to be in constant contact comes the reality of others’ constant expectations of us. Owning a cell phone brings expectations that one should never be alone.

One of the historical paradigm shifts in neurology came when the “standard view” of the brain as a hardwired machine was shown to be false. Instead, studies have shown, the brain is a pliable organ. It is shaped and molded, in large part, not simply by what we think but by the manner or way that we choose to inform our brains. This phenomenon of pliability is called “neuroplasticity.” The brain is a kind of soft and supple clay. Like clay, it can be formed and conformed; but like clay, it can gain a rigidity over time, once formed in a particular way. If we train the brain to be distracted, it will “learn” that distraction is its normal mode of operation. It will also “learn” that contemplation and thinking are foreign to its practice.

It was Marshall McLuhan who coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” What McLuhan was setting forth with that phrase was that it was not only the content of a particular medium that is important to recognize. For instance, it is not only the images that a television communicates that are important. Perhaps even more important, because it is more subtle, is that it communicates by way of images. The medium — that is, the communication of images on the television — is the message. Images are two-dimensional; they cannot communicate depth. They are not context dependent; they are their own context. Images are unable to communicate concepts like universals or the content of emotion (though they can communicate the emotion itself).

With the ever-burgeoning advances in technology, we have become a society (and a church?) that has committed itself, perhaps unwittingly, to distraction. The problem of distraction is serious enough, but the power of that distraction to train our plastic brains can be deadly for Christian growth. If the brain is really molded by how we think, then it is possible that our addiction to distraction will eventually train us not to think at all. We will be so mastered by our constant urge to check and answer our email, to look at our smartphones every time they buzz, to check the scores of our favorite teams, to “text” notes that our ability to think, to pray, to savor the truth of God will be all but gone.

Like Christ, Christians must withdraw, unplug. It is time to make sure that we are molding our plastic brains in a way that they will be trained again to think carefully, to concentrate, to work through difficulties, to meditate on God’s character, to revel in His glory. The Apostle Paul commanded us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us. It might be possible to fulfill that command by reading and memorizing Scripture. The adverb, however, is all-important. The word of Christ is to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). The adverb expresses a depth and abundance that can come to us only if that Word that we read, even memorize, takes its place in our minds such that we contemplate and meditate on its truths. If the medium is the message, then the Word of God in Scripture is given to us so that we might continue to renew and train our plastic minds to think God’s thoughts after Him.

When the crowds pressed in on Jesus, He knew that obedience to His heavenly Father required that He must at times withdraw to focus on that relationship, and on it alone, in order to meet and confront a needy and hostile world afterward. A Christian who is serious about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ will make technology a resourceful servant, not a mind-numbing master, and will commit to making a habit of withdrawing from it all in order to mold the mind, more and more, in conformity to the depth and truth of the Christian faith.”

-K. Scott Oliphint, http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/christianity-unplugged/

Spurgeon: Be Bible Readers

“Most people treat the Bible very politely. They have a small pocket volume, neatly bound;…when they get home, they lay it up in a drawer till next Sunday morning; then it comes out again for a little bit of a treat, and goes to chapel; that is all the poor Bible gets in the way of an airing. That is your style of entertaining this heavenly messenger. There is enough dust on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers. There are some of you who have not turned over your Bibles for a long, long while, and what think you? I tell you blunt words, but true words. What will God say at last? When you shall come before him, he shall say, “Did you read my Bible?” “No.” “I wrote you a letter of mercy; did you read it?” “No.” ”Rebel! I have sent thee a letter inviting thee to me; didst thou ever read it?” “Lord, I never broke the seal; I kept it shut up.” ”Wretch!” says God, “then, thou deservest hell, if I sent thee a loving epistle, and thou wouldst not even break the seal; what shall I do unto thee?” Oh, let it not be so with you. Be Bible-readers; be Bible-searchers.”

-C.H. Spurgeon, http://www.chspurgeonquotes.com/be-bible-readers/

7 Evils of a Grumbling Spirit

by B.J. Stockman

“As a sequel to my recent post “Mr. Grumbly Gills”, I thought it’d be helpful to draw from the deep wells of Jeremiah Burroughs’ old work The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment to further demonstrate the sin of grumbling. It’s easy to ignore pervasive “normal” sins like grumbling and fixate on more occasional “shocking” sins like that sexual sin that held you years ago or that time you dropped the F-bomb on your parents, kids, or spouse. But don’t be deceived: a murmuring mouth is particularly grieving to God because it reveals discontent in God. Psalm 106 says that one of the reasons God made the people of Israel “fall in the wilderness” was because they “murmured in their tents” (v. 25, 26). Therefore having a case of Mr. Grumbly Gills has serious consequences. In the following, I summarize and add to Burroughs’ section on “The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit” and offer seven evils of a grumbling, murmuring, and complaining heart within the Christian:

1. It models Satan. The angel Lucifer was the first grumbler. The onset of his fall from heaven was a result of dissatisfaction in his position and the desire to be like God.

“The Devil is the most discontented creature in the world, he is the proudest creature that is, and the most discontented creature, and the most dejected creature. Now, therefore, so much discontent as you have, so much of the spirit of Satan you have.”

2. It is contrary to who you are. You are a son and daughter with a heavenly Father who loves you, the deeply beloved bride of Christ, and actual members of Jesus’ body. When you bellyache and complain about every little thing you mar your royal and treasured position.

“Are you the King’s son, the son, the daughter, of the King of Heaven, and yet so disquieted and troubled, and vexed at every little thing that happens? As if a King’s son were to cry out that he is undone for losing a toy; what an unworthy thing would this be! So do you: you cry out as if you were undone and yet are a King’s son, you who stand in such relation to God, as to a father, you dishonor your father in this; as if either he had not wisdom, or power, or mercy enough to provide for you.”

3. It is the opposite of prayer. In prayer we come to God with requests and with praise and thankfulness in order to commune with him, but when we grumble, complain and murmur we essentially reverse prayer and rehearse all that we aren’t getting or all that God is not doing that we think he should be doing.

“By murmuring you undo your prayers, for it is exceedingly contrary to the prayer that you make to God. When you come to pray to God, you acknowledge his sovereignty over you, you come there to profess yourselves to be at God’s disposal.”

4. It is simply a waste of time. It accomplishes absolutely nothing. It accelerates personal stress and is downright annoying and draining to listen to.

“How many times do men and women, when they are discontented, let their thoughts run, and are musing and contriving, through their present discontentedness and let their discontented thoughts work in them for some hours together, and they spend their time in vain!”

5. It swallows up the blessing of mercy before it arrives. If you covet a particular mercy of God (like say a big raise), when it finally comes you won’t be thankful for it but will waste it. Coveting a blessing can turn the blessing into an idolatrous curse.

“Discontent and murmuring eats out the good and sweetness of a mercy before it comes. If God should give a mercy for the want of which we are discontented, yet the blessing of the mercy is, as it were, eaten out before we come to have it….There are many things which you desire as your lives, and think that you would be happy if you had them, yet when they come you do not find such happiness in them, but they prove to be the greatest crosses and afflictions that you ever had, and on this ground, because your hearts were immoderately set upon them before you had them.”

6. It worsens sufferings and afflictions. A murmuring attitude in the midst of affliction increases the affliction. Having a bad attitude in the midst of pleasant or mediocre circumstances poisons your heart and the hearts of others, and how much will this increase if this overwhelmingly negative spirit continues and truly difficult circumstances arrive.

“It in no way removes our afflictions, indeed, while they continue, they are a great deal the worse and heavier, for a discontented heart is a proud heart, and a proud heart will not pull down his sails when there comes a tempest and storm. If a sailor, when a tempest and storm comes, is perverse and refuses to pull down his sails, but is discontented with the storm, is his condition any better because he is discontented and will not pull down his sails? Will this help him?”

7. It wears the hopeless costume of pessimism.

This doesn’t mean you have to go all Joel Osteen on the world. It simply means consistent pessimism is not in line with the sure hope and life-changing power of the gospel. There is an inherent optimism within the gospel that produces hope, love, joy, peace, etc. Positive commands like “rejoice in the Lord” and “in everything give thanks” and negative commands like “be anxious for nothing” and “do not grumble” all reveal that there is a gospel optimism about the Christian life that is to flavor the personality of a Christian.”

-B.J. Stockman, http://bjstockman.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/7-evils-of-a-grumbling-spirit/

Questions About Tithing

by J.D. Greear

“Over the years I have gotten (and had myself) questions about whether or not the tithe (giving the first 10% of our income back to God as prescribed by the law) was biblical. Let me give you brief answer to some of those questions that demonstrate how I have learned to approach them.

1. Isn’t tithing Old Testament law? Aren’t we free of that? Yes and No.

A. Tithing is a part of the law, and Jesus has definitely fulfilled it all in our place so that we are free from it’s bondage. However, the purposes of the law were (generally speaking) 3-fold:

1. To show us what God was like;

2. To reveal how far short we fall of God’s character;

3. To show us how to thrive in the creation God has placed us in.

None of those 3 purposes faded with the death of Jesus. If anything, Jesus’ coming intensified them. We saw more of what God was like, what holiness was like, and what a man acting in perfect harmony with creation was like. As it relates to the tithe, the law reveals the unchanging character of God and how He expects us to view the money HE provided for us. A minimum of 10% that he has given to us, whether we are rich or poor, is to go back into His work. This is how He set up the world order. This is why the “tithe” principle (the first 10% of income going into God’s work) is taught pre-law (Abraham); law (Moses); post-exile (Malachi); and even affirmed under Jesus (Matthew 23:23). God’s purposes for creation haven’t changed. We are no longer under the theocratic nation state of Israel, but how God has set up his economy for His people has not changed. God doesn’t lay the financial weight of the entire world on any of our shoulders, but He has given His people a plan whereby they do their part. The law was given to help people live in the shalom of God. That’s what gives the law (principles like taking a Sabbath and the tithe) an enduring effect. Thus, the idea that 10% of all that God gives to you is given for you to give back to Him remains, I believe, as a good guide to our giving.

Now, let me be clear — Jesus left us under NO PART of the law, not the tithe or any thing else! But the law, in that it reflects God’s character and his ordering of creation, is still good, and still functions as a guide to how we are to live under God in this world. Men and women of God throughout the Bible, including Abraham and Jesus, seemed to recognize that. See John Piper for more on this.

B. If anything, the Gospel raises the level of our response to God’s laws. True obedience, Jesus says, goes much deeper than the behavior standards the law require. For example, the law said “Don’t murder;” yet, Jesus said the Gospel demanded we love our brother always and not hate him, not even our enemies. The law said “Don’t commit adultery;” yet, Jesus said that the Gospel demanded people not even “look on another woman with lust in our heart.” So, if the law says “Give 10%,” what kind of generosity does the Gospel call for? Would it not be GREATER generosity than 10%, just as the other commands were also intensified in Christ? In other words, if the people who saw God’s generosity in the Exodus responded with giving 10%, how much more should people who have seen the cross? This is why you see the early church giving FAR beyond 10%. So overwhelmed by the generosity of Christ, they wanted to pour out their possessions for those in need (2 Cor 8:9).

For Gospel-touched people, tithing should never be the ceiling of their giving, but it should be the floor.

Tithing, in and of itself, is not a iron-clad rule for Christians as it was for Israelites under the law. That said, “giving our firstfruits to God” most definitely IS a biblical principle, true of God’s people in all places and at all times. And 10% is a great place to start with that.

2. Should I give the tithe “pre-tax”, or post-tax? In the OT, God called the tithe a “firstfruit” (cf. 1 Cor 16:2). This meant their giving to God came first before anything else. That teaches pretty clearly that our giving to God comes before Uncle Sam takes his share. God gets the firstfruits, not the second ones.

3. When during the month should I give? The principle of “firstfruits” also show you, in my opinion, that the tithe check should be written first, and not at the end of the month when you see how much left over you have. If you do the latter, you will inevitably never have enough to give God 10%. You’re giving him your scraps. But if you do the former, you will inevitably adjust your lifestyle around what you have left. And, God also will find a way to multiply His blessings to you. I’ve seen that happen in my own life multiple times. It’s pretty exciting.

4. Should we give to the church, or other things? In the OT system, the tithe went to the work of God’s institution, the Temple. Caring for the poor beyond what the Temple did, or funding an itinerant rabbi, etc, all came out beyond the tithe. I believe the implication is that tithing should go to God’s new institution, the local church. Hopefully you have a church that you feel good about how they spend their money (not all on buildings, entitlement perks for members and pastors, etc) and you see them working in the streets and unreached parts of the world. Give some grace here, of course… it’s always easy to play armchair quarterback and talk about how you’d do it differently. I’d say if you trust your pastors, however, you honor God by giving to the institution He ordained. Then, give like a Gospel-touched fool beyond that to all the things God has put in your heart.

I hope this helps. I know some of you might think this is self-serving… as in when people tithe, my own means as a pastor are provided. I guess there’s no way around that for me, but I can tell you that my passion in this area has little to do with that. We have enough people who believe in our church that I’m not worried right now about where my next paycheck will come from. In other words, if this bothers you, we don’t need your money. Give it somewhere else, but I want you to experience the joy of obedience and faith in this area. I’d rather you obey the principle and give somewhere else (even if you come to our church) than I would miss out on this principle of trust and obedience because you think I’m being manipulative. God will take care of us. You focus on obeying Him, and if this feels manipulative, give to someone else besides the Summit Church.

5. How does this work out for your family, J.D.? When Veronica and I first got married, we had to stretch ourselves unbelievably thin to tithe. As God has increased our income over the years, we have yearly increased the percentage of what we give. We now give way above the tithe to our church, and then beyond that to ministries blessing the poor, carrying the Gospel to the world, and some to our church’s expansion project, Believe. We love it. Veronica last night said, “This is so fun… giving.” It really is more blessed to give than to receive. God really has multiplied what we have given to him and given it back to us “in every way,” –financially, in joy, in perspective, etc (2 Cor 8-9). We love it.

Here’s a recent message you might listen to, if it helps.It’s called “A Life Responding to the Gospel: 2 Chronicles 29:2-21″ preached on 2/21/11.

Here’s a tool for those of you who do want to give to our church.

Here’s info our church’e expansion project, Believe.

Always open to your comments! Do you have a great story about God’s faithfulness to you in the midst of your giving? I’d love to hear it. Post it below!”

-J.D. Greear, http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2012/06/questions-i-get-about-tithing.html

God’s Providence Over All for His Elect

by A.W. Pink

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” — Romans 8:28

“These words teach believers that no matter what may be the number nor how overwhelming the character of adverse circumstances, they are all contributing to conduct them into the possession of the inheritance provided for them in heaven. How wonderful is the providence of God in over-ruling things most disorderly, and in turning to our good things which in themselves are most pernicious! We marvel at His mighty power which holds the heavenly bodies in their orbits; we wonder at the continually recurring seasons and the renewal of the earth; but this is not nearly so marvelous as His bringing good out of evil in all the complicated occurrences of human life, and making even the power and malice of Satan, with the naturally destructive tendency of his works, to minister good for His children.

‘All things work together for good.’ This must be so for three reasons. First, because all things are under the absolute control of the Governor of the universe. Second, because God desires our good, and nothing but our good. Third, because even Satan himself cannot touch a hair of our heads without God’s permission, and then only for our further good. Not all things are good in themselves, nor in their tendencies; but God makes all things work for our good. Nothing enters our life by blind chance: nor are they any accidents. Everything is being moved by God, with this end in view, our good. Everything being subservient to God’s eternal purpose, works blessing to those marked out for conformity to the image of the Firstborn. All suffering, sorrow, loss, are used by our Father to minister to the benefit of the His elect.”

– A.W. Pink (1886-1952), taken from: Comfort for Christianshttp://www.erictyoung.com/2012/06/02/god-makes-all-things-work-for-the-good-of-his-elect-a-w-pink/