Archive for January, 2008

Challies on Discernment

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Tim Challies, Christian blogger, recently came out with his first book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. It received some strong endorsements–from Al Mohler, Nancy Pearcey, Mark Dever, and a foreword from John MacArthur. (My copy is on its way from Amazon, to find its place on my bookshelf among the many other wonderful books I should really get around to reading some day.)

He just completed a “blog tour“, in which he went around to a number of popular Christian blogs, answering questions about his book and the subject of discernment. There’s some good reading. (And I think I’ll have to add some of these blogs to my RSS reader.)

My favorite stop on the tour, I think, was the final one, at SharperIron. He answered the following challenging, meaty questions. (I’ll include excerpts from his answers, to tease you into going and reading the whole interview. 🙂 )

  • How does Scripture tell us to view discernment as a step of rational thought guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than a supra-rational sixth sense?
    • “The Bible, though, teaches that discernment is a skill and that it is a practice of the mind more than the “heart” or “spirit.” Hebrews 5:14 tells us that discernment is a skill that is developed by constant practice and Romans 12:2 says that, in order to be men and women of discernment, we must have our minds renewed. In these passages and others we see that discernment is more than intuition and more than new revelation.”
  • If I use my knowledge of Scripture to judge some action as evil, and this discernment seems clear, how should I view my brother who does not make the same discernment?
    • “So when you judge an action to be evil or wrong, you will first want to see just how important an issue it is. If it is an issue that strikes right to the heart of the faith, you will want to address the issue immediately and firmly, though always with love and humility. It may require church discipline or disassociation. But if you find it is a second or third-level issue, you will want to first affirm your common fellowship and from there seek to understand whether this disagreement must preclude you from close fellowship or if it is a disputable matter than should not inhibit close communion.”
  • In the same situation, how should I treat my discernment when no one around me agrees?
    • “It may be that God is using this issue to move you out of a dying church; of course it may also be that Satan is using the issue to use you to divide a God-honoring church. So proceed humbly, cautiously, prayerfully and with a heart saturated with Scripture.”
  • What about if I discern an action to clearly be good, how then should I view my brother who judges that to be evil?
    • “Assuming that this is not a first-level issue, this may well represent a time to express humility and a time to keep in mind the “weaker brother” principle. […] We do such things as an expression of love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord and as proof of a God-given desire to esteem others higher than ourselves. We build true Christian unity by humility.”

A Discussion on Inerrancy

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I’ve been thinking about posting some entries on the inerrancy of Scripture. But recently, the blogger Tim Challies has started a fairly thorough series on the subject. It has three entries so far: Are there Errors in the Bible?, What Does “Inerrant” Mean?, and Errors and Contradictions in the Bible. So, I’m going to be lazy–er, I mean maximize my resources, and just recommend them to you.

Another blogger, Michael Spencer (from the Internet Monk), posted a reply to something Challies said. Spencer denies inerrancy–though I haven’t been able to make out quite how or why. He affirms inspiration, but thinks the term “inerrancy” requires so many qualifications and clarifications and exceptions, that it’s not a meaningful word. But it’s not clear to me whether it’s just the word he has a problem with, or the definition. Does he disagree with the doctrine itself, or just the term?

So, I posted some comments in his entry. The second one got long, so I split it up in half. But then I couldn’t post the second half–his server keeps rejecting the message. I emailed him, and we think it’s due to some technical weirdness with character encodings. So, I’ve decided to post my comment here, and then post a link to it in his comment section. I can’t guarantee how much sense it will make to you, unless you go read his entry.

Here goes!


Links From Two Dans

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Dan Phillips had a very interesting post over at the Pyromaniacs blog. It involves this verse:

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
(John 5:6)

Dan looks at the issue, “Doesn’t that look like a dumb question? Isn’t it obvious the guy would want to be healed?” He comes up with an interesting possibility for why Jesus asked the question. And whether he’s right about that or not, I thought his observations were very insightful, edifying, and convicting. It involves asking, “Are you really willing for God to change you? Do you want to become healthy, or are you too attached to the way you are?”


Meanwhile, I got a compliment from a well-known scholar today! At the Parchment and Pen blog, Dan Wallace posted an entry on textual criticism–the study of places where the New Testament manuscripts differ from one another. Dan Wallace is a big-name Greek scholar. He wrote a major Greek grammar textbook, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics, and he’s one of the top 10 scholars in textual criticism. (I think there are 11 in the world. 🙂 ) He wrote a good review of Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus, a NYT best-seller that tries to argue that we can’t have confidence that our Bible is the same as the original. He also cowrote a book as a response, called Reinventing Jesus.

Anyway, Wallace has been writing a series of posts to introduce people to textual criticism and talk about various issues. I posted some comments in today’s entry with the username “Jugulum”, replying to some questions that someone asked. Then later, Wallace posted his own answer. And when he did, he also said, “BTW, Jugulum has given excellent responses to your questions. I don’t know who he or she is, but I like what s/he has to say!”

Cool. I love the internet. 🙂

Charismatic Concern, Tradition, and Other Miscellany

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Wendy commented on my entry, Keep in Step with the Spirit. I’d like to give it and my reply their own post.

Well, Tim. This is a first for me; hope I don’t mess up! I liked some of the stuff I read. I was concerned about your blog because as missionaries in Brazil we run into this a lot.(Charismatic) You mentioned tradition in a tone that might be negative and I immediately remembered II Thes. 2:15 and cross-referenced to IIThes. 3:6. Tradition isn’t necessarily wrong. A great way to stay on course is through tradition.(check out II Tim. 1:5 and my husband just reminded me about the Rechabites-Jer. 35, esp. vs. 18,19. Just be careful (I say that to my kids and it really means “I love you and want the best for you.”)

Hi Wendy,

I can certainly imagine how charismatic issues would be a pressing concern for you! (more…)

Lewis on Religion & Secular vs. Sacred

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

But even in this present life, there is danger in the very concept of religion. It carries the suggestion that this is one more department life, an extra department added to the economic, the social, the intellectual, the recreational, and all the rest. But that whose claims are infinite can have no standing as a department. Either it is an illusion or else our whole life falls under it. We have no non-religious activities; only religious and irreligious.[…]But none of them [religious observances] is necessarily of more spiritual value than the activities we call secular. And they are infinitely dangerous when this is not understood. This department of life, labeled “sacred,” can become an end in itself; an idol that hides both God and my neighbours. (“When the means are autonomous they are deadly.”) It may even come about that a man’s most genuinely Christan actions fall entirely outside that part of this life which he call religious.

I read in a religious paper, “Nothing is more important than to teach children to use the sign of the cross.” Nothing? Not compassion, nor veracity, no justice? Voila l’ennemi. [Behold the enemy.]

— C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer

[Note: The last should not be taken to mean that Lewis advocates “social gospel” over or to the exclusion of the gospel of salvation through faith. Reading Mere Christianity alone should prove that. Also, he goes on to say that he has been talking about religion as a pattern of behavior, not in terms of its content of beliefs. He also makes passing reference to “the little–the very little–that liberal theology has still left of the ‘faith once given'”.]