Archive for October 18th, 2008
Essential Truths: Reformed Apologetics
Introduction: We have been studying Apologetics, which means making a defense of the faith, or, as I have also called it, witnessing better. Our key verse has been 1Peter 3:15“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
We have looked at classical apologetics that uses rational proofs such as the cosmological and ontological arguments and the moral argument. We have looked at the teleological argument and the evidentialist approach. With the evidentialist approach we looked closely at the biblical prophecies about Christ and the miracle stories, especially the resurrection. Now tonight we examine the Reformed Method of Apologetics called by the fancy name Presuppositionalism. Now that was a mouthful but let me tell you that this form of apologetics is where probably most of you in this room are most comfortable.
What I have been doing is building one step at a time, beginning with the least used form, adding to it the next strongest form, and now adding what may be the most used form of apologetics except for the last one that we will study next. In other words, I don’t think many of you will remember let alone use the ontological argument; some of you may use the evidence for the resurrection, but tonight’s form I really think you will appreciate. That said, there are still some difficult ideas here that will require some serious thought. The bottom line with the Reformed Method is that there are only two foundations for all the various philosophies out there: Man is the center of the universe and the ultimate measure or the God of the Bible is the center of the universe and he is the ultimate measuring rod. The Reformed method focuses on Revelation, God has revealed himself to us in Scripture and with his Son and we must conform our thoughts to his thoughts. **Isaiah55:6-12**The Reformed method of apologetics is very authoritarian as well as being authoritative: We believe there is a God because the Bible tells me so, just like the song, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Now do you see where I am going with this?
I. The Other Approaches Are Good but Not Enough!
Many of the reformed apologists (reformed means Calvinistic) do not like the other approaches at all, but I think that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Augustine used some of the rationalistic approaches and Calvin himself used the teleological approach to an extent. Frankly I think a lot of professors get territorial over their pet theories. The Classical and Evidentialist positions have their uses, especially when we are answering the questions of those who ask us about our hope as our key verse states.
But tonight we will focus on another key verse: 1Cor.2:14 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
What this verse means for apologetics is that you cannot argue a person into the kingdom of God because he is not going to understand spiritual truth. You can present to him the logic of the cosmological argument, that simply says there has to be an infinite cause for our finite universe, but he will not trust in God based on that alone. You can use the watchmaker argument but it will not convince him. Why? Romans 3:11 “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…v.18 There is no fear of God before their eyes…23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…Eph.2:1″you were dead in your transgressions and sins…**4:17ff**.
The natural man is fallen and this means that even our minds are affected by sin so that even if we are confronted with all the arguments for the existence of God and the truthfulness of scripture and the resurrection of Christ, we will not believe on our own. Sin has so corrupted us that we will disbelieve all the huge amount of evidence. We are so morally fallen that we do not want to believe the arguments and the evidence.
This is why Jesus, in John 3** stresses our need for being born from above. We cannot birth ourselves and unless we are born of the Spirit we will never see the Kingdom of God. We will remain foreigners to God until He sends his Holy Spirit to regenerate our hearts. Like Ezek.37 we are just a valley of dry bones. Spiritually dead men are absolutely incapable of deciding to accept the evidence on their own apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Now let me tell you that this strong view of the fallenness of man, this idea of original sin is the minority view in evangelical circles today. The old fashioned name for this is Total Depravity and is one of the key doctrines of Calvinism.
Much of the church views man as being the final authority, saying that man can respond to the gospel if we argue strong enough or entertain him enough or tell enough tear jerking stories and give a compelling psychologically based invitation. Now all of these things are good in themselves if we don’t trust in our techniques alone. But sadly many, even in the churches, have a worldly mindset that makes man the measure of all things.
II. The Reformed Apologetic
Reformed Apologetics is to present biblical truth, biblical Christianity and show or refute the false positions of the worldviews that are not biblical. The beginning point is our faith in Christ and we reason from that perspective. The lost person begins with reason or experience, both of which are grounded in self and sin. The reformed apologist boldly claims that the Christian worldview is the only reasonable and livable worldview that is consistent. Thus, Christianity is true and all other opposing systems are false.
Look at 2Cor.10:5**. Reformed apologetics takes an aggressive approach to our fallen culture and actively seeks to take over every area for the glory of Christ. We try to show that unbelieving thought is, at the very foundation, irrational. I saw a bumper sticker once that makes the point: Hell is forever- it’s insane to sin.
Reformed apologists insist on the necessity of presupposing the divine inspiration of scripture and its inerrancy.
II. Practical Application
When lost people ask the question about why bad things happen to good people, we Christians can respond by saying that we know that God is control, he is all wise and that he has a purpose for everything. Romans8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” To the lost man, things happen by chance but we know that God loves us and is working to include us in his plans for his glory and for our benefit. We can find purpose even in suffering due to evil that has unjustly been done to us or in those accidental things like a car wreck or illness. To the lost man, things just happen, life is ultimately pointless.
The lost person will sometimes respond with “How can you believe in a God who would let evil happen? Either God is not all powerful or he is not all loving if he continues to allow evil to exist. Therefore, there is no God because evil does exist.”
We can respond with the Reformed apologetic to this criticism in several ways. 1) If you want God to stamp out all evil right now, what about the evil that is in you? Or is it just other people’s evil you want God to stamp out. Rom.3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
2) God is going to take care of the problem of evil at the last judgment but he has also allowed his own Son, Jesus, to be a victim of evil, in that Jesus was betrayed for money by a close friend, his trial was an unjust sham, even the Roman governor declared Jesus to be innocent, Jesus suffered and died as an innocent, even sinless man. But the scriptures claim that it is by Jesus’ death that we have salvation. 1Peter3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” God took what is evil from our viewpoint and turned it into good.
3) By using the term “evil” the lost man actually proves that there is a God, for evil is either something personal and subjective, that is, what I dislike, or it is an objective fact that lies outside of us. If we are merely animals that evolved and there is no God then there can be no such thing as true evil. For evil to exist there must be an objective standard of right and wrong that is above and beyond us. We believe that God determines what is right and good from what is wrong and bad. Relativism makes man the final decision maker in what is right and wrong and that if everyone votes to kill all the Jews in Germany then that is right for them. If there is no God, then everything is permitted wrote Dostoevsky.
Conclusion: The Reformed method of Apologetics emphasizes the use of scripture as the final authority. When we witness or answer the questions of the lost people we should always!! Refer to the Scriptures! The Holy Spirit is the one in charge of saving people, not you. The Holy Spirit uses scripture to bring conviction upon the lost.
The other arguments for the existence of God are useful, and should not be thrown out, but they are in a supporting role for the main thing which is the Word of God.
Next week we will look at the role of your personal experience and testimony in apologetics and witnessing as our final method.
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Overview: John Calvin was born and converted in France but led the second phase of the Reformation from French speaking Geneva, Switzerland. A pastor, teacher, writer and theologian, Calvin gave needed order to the Reformation and his writings are still in great use today.
- 1509 born in Picardy, France; studied for the priesthood but received his Doctorate of Law from Orleans in 1532. His first published work was a commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia, but became famous for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, the first edition was published at 27 yrs. old in 1536.
- Shortly after his conversion he had to flee France due to persecution. He pastored in Strasburg 1538-41 then moved to Geneva to pastor Eglise St. Pierre where he remained for the rest of his life.
- 1539 he married Idelette de Bure, a widow with two children. She was famously beautiful and lived as a great example of a pastor’s wife. She died in 1549.
- As pastor he wrote commentaries on 23 of the Old Testament books, and all of the New Testament except for Revelation.
- As teacher he taught hundreds of pastors from all over Europe, including John Knox of Scotland. His books spread rapidly across Europe and Geneva’s leading industry became printing.
- He suffered from poor health for many years, sometimes needing to be carried to the pulpit and giving lectures from his sickbed. He died in 1564 at age 54.
- Sola Scriptura, Calvin was a biblical theologian and exegete. His humanist education trained him in the grammatico-historical method of examining a text. He rejected allegory and moralizing, sticking to the literal meaning in its historical context. He believed the Scriptures were the only reliable source for knowledge of God, they were inspired and infallible.
- The three-fold offices of Christ. Calvin was the first theologian to stress this aspect of Christology- Christ is our Prophet, Priest and King.
- Soli Deo Gloria- God’s glory was a dominant aspect of Calvin’s theology and pastoral ministry.
- God’s providence is another theme in Calvin’s works. God is always at work directing all events toward His end.
- Predestination and the decrees of God are central to the destiny of all men.
- Justification by grace through faith is a theme that occupies nine chapters in some editions of his Institutes.
- Prayer occupies a significant place in his Institutes, right after the chapters on predestination.
- Ceremonies in worship must be simple and Bible based, understood by laymen.
- Sacraments are visible signs of God’s invisible grace, rejecting Zwingli’s memorial view and Luther’s consubstantiation, they give what they represent.
- Against State interference with the Church, rebellion against tyrants is allowed.
Questions for Further Study and Application on
Questions for Further Study:
In what way do you think Calvin’s early training in Law helped him as a theologian and Bible expositor? Why or why not?
What was Calvin’s view of the Atonement and from which Medieval Scholastic did he derive this view?
Did Calvin develop the TULIP?
We know that printing became Geneva’s major industry, but what other industry did Calvin bring to Geneva?
Questions for Application:
Do you think that most Christians approach their faith in a logical, systematic way like Calvin or do they have an emotion based faith?
Was Calvin right to teach that Christians can resist unjust tyrants?
How do you respond to the ideas of God’s sovereignty and predestination?
Recommended Reading: The Life of John Calvin, Theodore Beza (originally published 1575) edited and translated by Henry Beveridge 1844. This new edition edited and expanded by Gary Sanseri. Back Home Industries: Milwaukie, OR. 1996 (149pp).
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Mark 2:18-22 “Is Fasting Useful Today?” 3 Oct. 1999 PM
I. Controversy over Fasting
II. The Who and What of Fasting
III. To Fast or Not To Fast
IV. The Why of Fasting
Introduction: The classic Christian disciplines are missing from much of modern Christianity. Prayer- just examine any Baptist church on prayer meeting night and you will realize we are not a praying people (contrasted with the Korean churches!) Scripture reading, study, memorization, and sermon listening and meditation- if we read the quarterly and a one page devotional a few days a week and manage to stay awake while we preach, I mean, listen to a sermon (take notes? nah-never); most folks memorized a few vss in SS or VBS as a child but none since then. Journaling- very rarely.
Silence and solitude, never. Frugality- not in this debt driven society. Fasting-we have the highest number of overweight members of any denomination said an article in CT last year.
Three years ago when I was working at the law office, I remember a conversation I had with a woman on Ash Wed. at the beginning of Lent. She related a conversation she had on the elevator with three other women who were discussing Lent. Herself and two others were talking about what they were going to give up for Lent (chocolate, coffee, cigarettes), the 4th lady was a Baptist and she said, “I’m a Baptist and I don’t have to give up anything!” That pretty much sums up where we as Baptists are in our discipleship and disciplines doesn’t it?
So why a sermon on fasting? First of all these sermons are text driven, the subject comes up so I started studying it. While I have preached on it before, I did not have the resources that I have now, and so the more I studied the more fascinating it became. Secondly, I have been going through a huge struggle in my own soul for the past two and a half years and I am desperate for God to lead me further in His grace, fasting is a tool that perhaps will assist me in my journey of faith. Thirdly, here in our church, we are in great need of renewal and revival, of growth, and fasting may be a tool that we should examine to help us seek God.
In this sermon tonight we shall start with our main text then broaden our study to see what the whole counsel of God’s Word says about fasting. At the end of our study I hope that we can understand that fasting has a vital purpose for Christians today, for our church, that God can use the discipline of fasting to cultivate in our souls a genuine hunger for God that will lead us to joyfully allow Christ to reign in every area of our life as individuals and as a church.
I .Controversy Over Fasting
This story occurs also in Matt 9:14-17 and Lk5:33-38. We covered it thoroughly this morning but let me just say as a review that the Jews of Jesus’ day had added two regular weekly fasts on Mon and Thurs. Luke 18:9-14.
See Luke 7:33-35 for a comparison of John the Baptist and Jesus.
But with Jesus’ response we need to ask when were his disciples to fast, he did say that “the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.” Is he talking of just the day of his crucifixion? The three days in the tomb? He is talking of the ascension, the age of the church.
The picture is of a wedding party that has been interrupted, the bridegroom has left temporarily, but he will return. Therefore, the party is somewhat interrupted, we still have joy because we know the groom; we know we are the bride of Christ, but until he returns, we will practice fasting. Then, upon his return we will sit down at the Kings table for the great wedding banquet.
But for the disciples of John and the Pharisees, fasting was so normal that it was unheard of for anyone who claimed to be spiritual to go without fasting, hence the controversy.
II. The Who and What of Fasting.
First of all what is fasting? Fasting is voluntarily going without food for a set period of time for a particular spiritual purpose. This is different from a hunger strike, a diet to lose weight, a fast for a medical procedure, or loss of appetite due to illness, etc. Fasting is practiced in virtually every religion in the world. Some fasts are total, that is no food or drink except water, then there are radical fasts that include going without water as part of the fast (very dangerous).
Lev 23:26ff the Day of Atonement fast.
Ex 34:28 a supernatural fast, Moses
Psalm 69:9-10 David
Esther 4:15-16 2Chron 20:1-4
Matt 4:1-4; Lk. 2:36ff; Acts 13:1-3
III .To Fast or Not To Fast
Mark 2:18-22 implies his disciples will fast.
Matt 6:16-18 certainly states his followers will fast and gives guidelines for proper fasting. Acts 13:1-3;
Contra: 1Tim4:1-5; Col 2:20-23; Rom 14:3-6; 1Cor 8:8 (these vss interpreted wrongly by some to say no fasting)
IV. The Why of Fasting, or, a Theology for Fasting
1. What are we hungry for? Do we love the gift or the Giver of gifts more? Fasting helps us focus on God. Our greatest adversaries are not always the demons, not lost people, not evil governments, not the devil; sometimes the greatest temptations are God’s gifts and benefits to his people.
2. Are our spiritual senses deadened and dulled by our full stomachs and lives? Does our prosperity rob us of a hunger for heaven? Psa63, 42; Matt 4:4; Deut 8:3; John 4:31-38;
3. Do we love the Reality that the emblem of bread points to more than we love the bread? John 6:35; Lk 22:19ff
Read Piper p 23.
V. How To Fast.
Many cannot give up food for the medicine they must take. Try giving up something else, TV comes to mind. Food was about the only leisure or pleasure they had back then, we live in a day of multitudes of pleasures.
The key is what are your motives? It is not done to impress or bribe God into doing what you think is His will. The key is to do it as an act of worship, seeking God’s guidance and seeking to know God. It is a retreat from the things of this world for a season to seek the greater reality of God and his kingdom. Self control and discipline are certainly part of fasting but not the primary reason (else that would be asceticism) self control and discipline are tools for living a holy life for God’s pleasure, for seeking God. Fasting is a tool, it is not the big key to living a superspiritual life. There is certainly no room for pride in fasting, throwing a guilt trip on others.
I am a novice at fasting, a beginner. But God has my attention in this regard now. I am interested in doing anything biblical to seek God and his glory. I am interested in joining my saviour in suffering, in picking up my cross daily and following Him. Fasting may be a tool that I need.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )