Brief Review: The God Delusion

Overview

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, First Mariner Books, 2006. 

Dawkins.jpg

The God Delusion (2006) is a passionate diatribe against religious faith, particularly the Christian faith. Richard Dawkins begins by attempting to show that the traditional arguments for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God are “vacuous” and “infantile.” Next, he offers his own kind of proof for the non-existence of God. His main argument against the existence of God is that “any God capable of designing a universe…tuned to lead to our evolution, must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide.” The assumption made in the argument is that a being capable of creating a complex universe is at least, if not more, complex than the universe itself. Furthermore, complexity is related to probability – the more complex, the less probable. Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist. After making his case for a godless universe, Dawkins offers a purely natural explanation for the origins of religion and morality. Dawkins then critiques the (im)morality of the Christian Scriptures. Finally, Dawkins dedicates a chapter to justifying his overt hostility toward religion. Hostility is warranted, even required, because religion is dangerous; it is the cause of widespread ignorance, pernicious evil, blatant bigotry and grotesque violence. The book concludes by arguing that implanting religion into the mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong, tantamount to child abuse.

Evaluating the Moral Argument Against the Existence of God

The book is full of moral claims. Dawkins aims to refute Christianity on a scientific level in other books, but the arguments of this book are primarily moral arguments. Therefore, this brief review will narrow the focus to some of the moral assumptions and accusations found throughout the book. Basically, Dawkins articulates a two-pronged moral argument. First, we don’t need God for morality because the origin of morality can be explained by Darwinian evolution. Second, the morality of the Bible and therefore Christianity is primitive, abhorrent, and evil. It’s past time for it to go.  

Let’s begin with the first part of the argument – God isn’t necessary for morality because our convictions about right and wrong originate in our evolutionary past. Admittedly, Darwinian evolution appears unfit to explain moral virtue. Natural selection and the so-called “selfish-gene” would seem to work against admirable moral behavior. However, closer examination of how these principles work evidences how humans developed a sense of right and wrong. Here are three Darwinian reasons that explain the roots of morality.

The first reason is “kin altruism.” This means that genes have programed certain organisms to care for similar organisms for the sake of their own survival. Dawkins writes, “Genes ensure their own selfish survival by influencing organisms to behave altruistically” (247). We behave for self-preservation. Secondly, there is reciprocal altruism: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” (247-48). Do good to others because then they will do good to you; harm others and they will harm you. Third, a good reputation has survival value, especially among a species that has developed the ability to communicate verbally. Having a bad reputation makes for a hard life. Therefore, being morally “upright” has social benefits. According to Dawkins, then, we have been programmed by evolutionary processes to be moral for the sake of survival. These Darwinian reasons for moral behavior explain the origin of morality, and so he concludes: “We now have...reasons for individuals to be altruistic, generous or ‘moral’ towards each other” (251).

In summary, morality is hard-wired into human nature by evolutionary process. Therefore, God and religion are unnecessary to explain morality. Dawkins cites research to tighten his argument. The research indicated that there is no substantial difference in the way individuals of varying religious backgrounds, including atheists, react to moral dilemmas. The similar moral responses are explained by our genetic disposition to act a certain way, not religious belief.

Below are four counter-arguments from a Christian perspective.

First, a hard-wired morality is consistent with a Christian worldview. An inner sense of moral obligation, instead of a product of Darwinian evolution, is the result of every person being made in the image of God. We are moral creatures by nature, though our sense of what is right and wrong has been distorted sense the fall.  Nevertheless, every person has a God-given conscience and the moral law of God is written on their hearts (Romans 2:15). This explains why people of varying religious backgrounds may act in a similar way; all human beings have an innate, undeniable sense of morality, whether or not they believe in God.

Second, the Dawkins-Darwinian model of morality doesn’t have a basis for real moral obligation. Surely, Dawkins would affirm that we should be kind and do good to others, but how do you get moral obligation from impersonal evolutionary processes? Even if we grant for the sake of argument that morality is the product of Darwinian-evolution, there is still no ground for moral obligation. Moral “ought” does not exist in Dawkins’s world.  

Third, Dawkins has no way of defining right and wrong, good and evil. Just ask the question: On the basis of Dawkins’s worldview, would it be it morally wrong for me to harm others if it preserved my gene pool? If morality arose from unguided genetic programming for the sake of survival, is anything immoral if it’s done for the sake of kin preservation? We instinctively say “Yes!” but that’s because we are image bearers of God, not meat machines just trying to survive.

Fourth, Dawkins’s explanation of morality undermines moral virtue and altruism. When someone does good or shows love to another, in reality, according to Dawkins, that person is acting selfishly. All good acts are ultimately selfish acts. All love is ultimately self-serving. Dawkins anticipates this objection: “Do not, for one moment, think of such Darwinizing as demeaning or reductive of the noble emotions of compassion and generosity” (253). But such Darwinizing is demeaning and reductive because it reduces all virtue to self-preservation.

Take altruistic acts as an example – making costly sacrifices for the sake of others. Some readers will have seen the image of the brave man who used his own body as a human shield to protect a woman during the recent Las Vegas mass-shooting. How does Darwinian morality explain such an act? Answer: it’s an evolutionary misfire. Kin altruism – a genetic disposition which developed while man was a clan creature – took over, as it were, but it was misdirected to a stranger. Thus, the man in Las Vegas was motivated by an evolutionary mistake.

Can we explain morality without God? It depends on what we mean by “without God.” We can intellectually reject the existence of God but still have a sense of morality because we live in God’s moral universe and we remain moral creatures made in his image with an innate, God-given sense of right and wrong. But without God, in Dawkins’s world, there is no basis for moral obligation, no way of objectively defining right and wrong, and the moral virtue which we praise and admire is reduced to self-preservation or evolutionary misfires.

In recent years, the worldview Dawkins argues for has gained plausibility, at least among certain groups living in the Western world. However, its moral implications are often ignored. Could that be because its moral implications are undesirable and, in fact, unlivable? This is not to suggest that Dawkins is wrong just because we don’t like where the worldview leads. Rather, it is to argue that people intuitively know that morality is more than self-preservation and that altruistic acts are more than evolutionary misfires. That human intuition is not an evolutionary illusion; it’s a God-given awareness. We perceive that there is more to morality than kin altruism, reciprocal altruism, and maintaining a good reputation. And even if we deny it on the intellectual level, we at least live as though there are moral obligations, objective moral norms, and self-sacrificing moral actions that cannot be reduced to evolutionary mistakes.

What about the other side of the moral argument that Christian morality – based on the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments – is primitive, abhorrent and evil? Many responses can and should be made, but one will have to suffice here.

A Christian apologist by the name of Cornelius Van Til once wrote, “Anti-theism presupposes theism.” Dawkins illustrates the point Van Til so economically stated. Notice, when Dawkins argues that Christian Scripture is immoral, he presupposes certain things are true in order for his argument to even make sense. He presupposes some kind of objective moral standard and the reality of good and evil. But how can Dawkins account for objective moral norms and the moral categories of good and evil on the basis of his own worldview? He can’t. Darwinism can’t provide objective moral standards, nor can it define good and evil. It can only give us a genetic disposition to survive. Therefore, Dawkins has no ground to stand on when he makes a moral argument against Christianity. He must unwittingly rely upon the Christian worldview which has grounds for objective moral norms in order to make his argument. Put another way, Dawkins presupposes God to argue against God.

We can state this differently. For the argument that Christianity is absolutely immoral to mean anything at all, then a personal, moral, absolute God must exist. Why? Because absolute moral standards do not arise from impersonal processes (i.e., evolution); they can only arise within a personal universe. Someone might respond and say we can ground moral standards in non-absolute persons, collectively or individually. That is to say, morality can be grounded in a culture or an individual’s personal opinions. However, if moral standards are grounded in non-absolute persons, whether subject to a culture or person, they are merely subjective standards. And subjective standards lack necessity and authority because they are not absolute. For morality to be absolute it must be grounded in a Personal Absolute. That Personal Absolute is the true and living God. Therefore, while Dawkins makes absolute moral claims about the God of the Bible, he unwittingly depends on God in order to make his argument in the first place. If God doesn’t exist, his argument is non-sense.

The aim here is not to respond to the examples cited by Dawkins of the alleged immorality of Scripture. Others have already ably done so. The point here is that Dawkins doesn’t have grounds to make his argument without presupposing certain things that are true only if Christianity is true. He relies on Christianity while trying to deny it. Objective moral standards only exist if a personal and absolute God exists. If Dawkins wants to reject the existence of that Personal Absolute, then he needs to come to terms with his own worldview and its implications: If morality is rooted in Darwinian evolution, you cannot have moral standards, and therefore you have no basis to argue against the supposed immorality of the Bible.

Fall Quarter: Adult Sunday School Class

Apologetics: Giving a Reason for Our Hope
Fall 2017
Adult Sunday School

What do you think of when you hear the word “apologetics”? Maybe you think of someone saying they’re sorry. But that’s not what we mean by the term. Or perhaps you’re more familiar with the word, but in your experience it involves technical and sophisticated arguments that don’t relate to the people you talk to every day. Sometimes apologetics is perceived as an academic discipline for the scholarly and intellectual types. But this, too, is a misconception of Christian apologetics.

The Bible defines apologetics as giving a reason for the Christian faith, and it involves the application of Scripture to unbelief. Peter commands every believer to be prepared to make an apology, that is, a defense (1 Peter 3:15). Therefore, all Christians are called to do apologetics to honor Christ the Lord.

Join us this fall as we prepare to give a reason for our hope, and learn how to expose the futility of every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.

Class Outline:

  • Introduction to Apologetics
    • What Is Apologetics?
    • Why do Apologetics?
  •  Biblical Foundations for Apologetics
  • Understanding Worldviews
  • Approaches to Apologetics
  • The Reformed-Worldview Approach
    • Principles and Practice
  • Major Issues in Apologetics
    • The Existence of God
    • The Inspiration and Reliability of the Bible
    • The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
    • The Problem of Evil and Suffering
    • The Sexual Revolution
    • Science and Faith

"Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters?"

“Why would an all-powerful and all-good God allow natural disasters?” asked Peter. “If God is powerful and good, he is surely at fault for the devastation and deaths caused by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes wildfires and so on. But how could a good and powerful God ever allow such evil to occur? That’s why I do not think the Christian God is real.”

Preliminary Comments

Before responding to this objection, let’s notice something important. Peter’s objection actually depends on a Christian worldview for it to make any sense. In other words, the question of how a good and sovereign God could allow natural disasters only makes sense if Christianity is true. The irony pervading the question of how a good and powerful God could allow natural disasters is that such a question would never even occur to a conscience that has not in a profound way been determined and shaped by the moral universe created by God.

So for natural disasters to even be a problem, Peter is already showing his dependence on the Christian truths of good and evil. Take away Christianity, and you take away the basis for the objection. If Christianity is false, the objection rings hollow. For instance, if Peter rejects the existence of God and says that the natural world is all there is, what basis does he have to argue that a deadly natural disaster is evil? Such events are simply the outcome of blind, impersonal natural processes, according to his own worldview. You see, to even make the argument, the objection relies on Christianity because without it, there is no basis for good and evil. I’ll put a point on it and say that for this objection to be made, the God Peter wants to disprove must exist, otherwise the question is meaningless.

Let me mention an important qualification that is often neglected. We need to remember that human actions can and often do play an important role in disastrous events. Human injustice, foolishness and greed can turn a natural event into a disastrous event. 

For example, thousands of people who died from the tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004 lived along the coast in areas zoned by the authorities as unsuitable for housing. After the tsunami, some survivors said they lived along the coast because it was the only place they could live. Good government should have attempted to work out a solution for such a housing crisis. Many lives could have been spared. That same year, another deadly tsunami struck Indonesia. Warnings were sent to government officials, advising them to clear the area, but in several regions these warnings were not made public.[1] And of course it doesn’t help that in many of these areas there are no building regulations or builders cut corners which vastly increases the risk of injury and death.

On May 31, 1889, the city of Johnstown in Pennsylvania was destroyed by a flood after the South Fork Dam broke. Over two thousand lives were lost in the span of a few minutes as a towering wall of water crashed through the city. Rain levels were abnormally high before the flood, but research has shown that the fault of this catastrophic event lies primarily at the feet of wealthy members of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club who neglected to repair the earthwork dam. Water levels also rose at a dangerous pace because hillsides were heavily deforested, causing rainfall to gather rapidly in the Little Conemaugh River.[2]

These are just a couple of examples of how a natural event can turn into a devastating disaster because of human injustice, greed, negligence, and foolishness. One senior scientist who has studied this topic carefully concluded that “the deaths caused by natural disasters can often be attributed almost in their entirety to actions taken by people, which turned a natural process into a disaster.”[3]

And so we need to be more restrained in our conclusions about disastrous events. We should remember that some disastrous events are largely caused by the choices and actions of people. Sometimes disaster results directly from human greed, foolishness, injustice, or abuse of the environment.

The Problem of Good

Peter is absolutely right that Christians believe God is good. The Christian worldview says that God is good and does good to all. His abundant goodness is revealed in all of creation. We live because God gives us breath, and everything we enjoy comes from him (Acts 17:25). He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall (Matthew 5:45). All of creation depends on God for provision. Psalm 104 celebrates God’s comprehensive care of creation, reminding us that our lives are moment-by-moment pervaded by his goodness.

The question Peter asks relates to the problem of evil, but what about the problem of good? What about the good we experience? If we interpret disaster as evidence against God, why shouldn’t the good we experience every day be interpreted as evidence for God? And yet that’s not how we are prone to think. The human heart is quick to find reasons to say, “There is no God,” but slow to recognize the many reasons to say, “There is a God, and he is good!” Why do we want to blame God for disaster, but not recognize him for the good that we experience every day of our lives?

Creation, Fall, Redemption

Now let’s try to respond to the question. Christians do not presume to know all the reasons God has for allowing natural disasters. To know something like that, one would have to see the beginning and end of all things, one would need to have a divine vantage point upon all of time. But no Christians claims such knowledge. Our understanding is limited to what God tells us in the Bible.

We can summarize what God says in Scripture with the Christian doctrines of creation, fall, and redemption. If you understand what is meant by these three words, you can understand how the presence of natural disasters does not require the denial of God’s goodness and power or existence.

Let’s unpack that. First, the doctrine of creation teaches that God made the world and it was good. There was no death, no natural disasters that suddenly and tragically blotted out human life. God created man to reflect his own character and rule over the creation, but man rebelled against God and brought ruin and corruption into the world.

And so we have what Christians call the “the fall.” That’s when our first parents sinned by rebelling against God. Sin ruined mankind’s relationship with God and brought a curse upon creation. Creation remains good, but now everything is subject to frustration, futility, and death because of sin. In short, the origin of natural disasters is mankind’s moral rebellion against a good and gracious God. 

The fall does not mean that God lost control of the world he made. Even natural disasters are under his rule. Nor are they without a purpose. Again, we don’t know the hidden purposes of God, but such events do serve as a reminder that life is not guaranteed, that we all deserve death, that we all face the judgment of God and therefore while it is still day we should seek after God and turn to him (Luke 13:1-5). In other words, natural disasters tell the living it is time we turn from sin and trust in Jesus Christ.

That leads to the final word, redemption. The fall is not the final word of Christianity. Redemption is. God did not abandon humanity or the world to the curse even though that’s exactly what was deserved. In the fullness of time, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into this fallen and cursed world, and Jesus overcame the world. He overcame sin by taking sin’s guilt upon himself and bearing in his own body the curse of God upon the cross. He overcame death by being obedient unto death and on the third was raised. And the risen and reigning Christ has promised to return and make all things new. Death, pain, and natural disasters shall be no more.

[1] David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?

[2] David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood.

[3] Christopher Ash, Where was God When that Happened?, 42.

Encouragements from General Assembly

Dear Church Family,

Last week I had the privilege of attending the PCA General Assembly in Greensboro, North Carolina. If you’d like a summary of the news from General Assembly (GA), head over to byfaithonline.com/news. Overall, the Assembly was an encouragement to me. I had the opportunity to attend several seminars, serve on the Committee of Commissioners for Discipleship Ministries, and participate in the work of the General Assembly itself.

Let me share a few brief encouragements. First, one seminar I attended was hosted by the Gospel Reformation Network (GRN). Visit gospelreformation.net for more information on the work of the GRN and to access some excellent resources. The GRN was started by several PCA pastors who want to cultivate healthy, gospel-centered, confessional churches in the PCA. The network was initially started in response to unhealthy teaching about sanctification in our beloved denomination, but the network has expanded its purpose to promote the following seven marks in PCA churches:

1.      Biblical Fidelity and Confessional Integrity

2.      Gospel-Driven and Christ-Exalting Ministry

3.      Earnest Prayer & Expository Preaching

4.      Intentional Evangelism & Personal Discipleship

5.      Godly Leadership & Presbyterian Polity

6.      Reformed Worship and Vibrant Community

7.      Missional Clarity & Church Multiplication

A second encouragement came from serving on the Committee of Commissioners for Discipleship Ministries (CDM). CDM exists to connect people to biblical resources and to help the local church make disciples. You can visit the website (pcacdm.org). The Committee of Commissioners I served on reviewed the work of CDM and made recommendations to the GA to expedite the work of the assembly. What encouraged me was CDM’s commitment to equip local churches with solidly biblical and robustly reformed resources. I also learned about an exciting new curriculum CDM has put together for Junior High Students titled Genesis to Revelation (G2R). This Sunday School material leads students through the Bible over the course of three years and helps them see the unfolding of God’s plan in redemptive-history and its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Another encouragement was being able to take Kelsey and the girls to GA for the first time. It was a great joy to worship as a family with thousands of brothers and sisters in the PCA. Kelsey profited from a seminar led by Michael and Melissa Kruger on being a pastor’s wife.

A final encouragement is resources gained. The amount of resources available at GA is overwhelming. Each year I bring home books that help me better serve you. This year I focused on finding theological resources for counseling and found many helpful books. I’d like to recommend a few to you. 

David Murray, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture

Do you ever feel exhausted, depressed, anxious, stressed, or joyless? This book is about burnout. It identifies the warning signs of burnout and offers practical strategies for living at a sustainable pace. This book is greatly needed today.

Kelly Kapic, Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering

Kapic avoids ivory tower musings that try to neatly solve the problem of pain. It is a pastoral meditation on suffering that focuses attention on the example of our Lord Jesus who became a man, suffered, died, and has been raised again.

Aimee Byrd, No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God

This book addresses the roles of men and women in the church. The author encourages women to be mature women of the word and to use their gifts in service to the church. It also challenges church leaders to nurture and use the spiritual gift of women in the church. I hope the ladies and leaders of our church will read this book.

Mark Jones, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God

There is nothing more important in life than knowing and loving God.  This book will encourage and challenge you to do both.

William Edgar, A Transforming Vision: The Lord’s Prayer as a Lens for Life

If the recent sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer has you interested in studying the Lord’s Prayer further, start with Edgar’s book. Edgar helps readers appreciate the depth of the Lord’s Prayer.  More than a liturgical mantra, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray and informs a biblical worldview.

Christopher Ash, Bible Delight: Psalm 119 for the Bible Teacher and Bible Hearer

If you sometimes struggle to want to read the Bible, read this little commentary on Psalm 119. The goal of the book: to help you delight in and love God’s Word.

Timothy Witmer, Mindscape: What to Think About Instead of Worrying

Sometimes we are slaves to our own sinful thought life. This book reminds us that that gospel transformation involves the progressive transformation of how we think. In other words, sinful patterns of thought, which cause stress, anxiety and worry, can be changed by God’s grace and replaced by biblical patterns of thought. Mindscape is a practical action plan for changing your mental landscape by informing it with biblical truth. Highly recommended.

Most of these books are available for purchase from the PCA bookstore.

I want to thank you for making it possible for me to attend General Assembly each year. It is a joy and privilege to participate in the work of the broader church, and it is a joy and privilege to be your pastor.

With love and gratitude,

            Pastor Jared

The Lord's Supper: An Overview

"Given for you" - Luke 22:19

The Lord’s Supper is an essential part of our worship. Along with baptism, prayer, and the word of God read and preached, communion is a primary means of grace. The means of grace are things which God has appointed, in his word, for the spiritual health and growth of his people.

As a divinely appointed means of grace, the Supper is more than a symbolic meal. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit working through faith, communion is a means where we commune with Christ and he strengthens and nourishes our faith. This post briefly explains our understanding of the Lord’s Supper.

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19)

Dimensions of the Lord’s Supper

A sacrament.  Sacraments are signs and seals of God’s promises (Rom 4:11). As signs, sacraments point to God’s promises; as seals, sacraments confirm God’s promises.

Throughout Scripture God gives his people promises and confirms them with signs (Gen 17:9-14; Exo 12:1-14; Mt 28:18-20; Lk 22:15-21). As signs, sacraments picture God’s gracious promises; as seals they confirm those promises to God’s people. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper visually represents the heart of the gospel – Christ dying for our sins, and it assures us of the love and grace of God revealed at the cross.

A memorial meal. The Lord’s Supper is a public remembrance of God’s mighty act of redemption (1 Cor 11:24). It reminds us of Christ’s atoning death as believers express their faith by partaking of the elements. As we remember the gospel made visible, faith is stirred, hope is strengthened, and our love for God and his people is exercised.

A communion meal. At the Table, the spiritual union of believers with Christ and fellow believers is expressed and experienced. We commune with Christ and our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Supper is a meal where we share fellowship with our Savior and the body of Christ (1 Cor 10:16-18).

The truth of communion is important for our understanding of the Lord’s Supper. The meal is not a bare remembrance of an absent Christ. Christ is not physically present with us at the Lord’s Supper, but he is truly present by the Holy Spirit, otherwise it would not be a communion meal. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit we truly commune with Christ at the Table. We are fed and nourished by him through faith (1 Cor 10:16). And as we do this together, we manifest our unity while we partake of the one bread (1 Cor 10:17).

A covenantal meal. God’s people are in covenant with the Lord. The goal of the covenant relationship is communion with God (Gen 17:2). The Lord’s Supper is a sign of the covenant (Lk 22:20). A covenantal understanding of the Lord’s Supper implies that it is an expression of the bond we have with God and his people. It is a meal in which we experience God’s love and favor, and we express our love to God as we devote ourselves afresh to walking before him in obedience. 

In corporate worship, and particularly during the Lord’s Supper, the covenantal relationship is renewed, sustained, and strengthened. In the Supper, God ratifies his promise to redeem his people through the cross of Christ, and our faith is sustained and nurtured as we promise commitment to Christ whom we trust (Mk 14:24).

A proclamatory meal. The Lord’s Supper preaches. It is “the word of God made visible.” When we eat the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26). By partaking of the bread and drinking of the cup, we witness to God’s saving mercy in Christ. We tell the old, old story of what God has done to rescue and redeem his people.

This proclamation not only strengthens the faith of the faithful; it calls for the faith of the doubtful. This is a neglected but important aspect of the Lord’s Supper – it is evangelistic because it visibly proclaims the gospel of God. As the elements pass by unbelievers, they are not only hearing but seeing that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53).

A heavenly meal. The Supper anticipates a final heavenly banquet. The tension between the now and not yet of the Christian life is expressed. While on earth, we fellowship with Christ in heaven, and we look forward to the celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of that heavenly banquet. Therefore, the Supper functions as a sign and foretaste of our victory over death and being raised with Christ in glory. As Jesus promised, one day we will eat and drink with him in his Father’s kingdom (Mt. 26:29).

 “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:16-18)

Christ’s Presence at the Lord’s Supper

The question of the nature of Christ’s presence in communion has been a source of much debate. Here is a brief summary of four main views.

Transubstantiation. This is the Roman Catholic view. “This is my body” is taken literally. A miracle occurs when the priest pronounces the words of institution – the bread and wine, while remaining bread and wine in appearance, are substantially converted to be the body and blood of Christ.

There are two main problems with this view. First, there is no indication in Scripture that the elements are anything but bread and wine. When Jesus said “This is my body” he was standing right there (see also 1 Cor 11:26). The disciples would have understood Jesus’ language figuratively. Second, this view understands the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice. According to Rome, the sacrifice Christ offered on the cross and the sacrifice of Mass are one single sacrifice. The problem, however, is that Jesus established the Lord’s Supper as a meal, not a sacrifice. He didn’t say “Take and offer it,” he said “Take and eat.” Christ’s atoning sacrifice occurred on the cross. It is not a reoccurring event. It is finished. He offered up his body and bore our sins in his body on the tree “once for all” (Heb 10:10).

Consubstantiation. Like Catholicism, Lutherans believe that Christ is physically present in the sacrament. However, instead of the elements being transformed, Christ is physically present with the elements. The body and blood of Christ accompany the elements of bread and wine while they remain bread and wine. Partakers eat and drink the substance of the body and blood of Christ along with the substance of bread and wine.

The Lutheran view requires an unbiblical view of Christ’s human nature. If Christ is physically present with the elements, then Jesus is no longer truly human. For the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper to be true, Christ must be physically present in more than one place at one time. Lutherans argue this is possible because divine qualities have been communicated to Christ’s humanity. Christ is now able to be everywhere-present because his humanity has in some ways been divinized. But this confuses and mixes Christ’s divine and human natures. We confess that Christ is fully and truly both God and man – two natures united in one person without mixture, confusion, separation or division.

Symbolic Memorialism. In contrast to Catholic and Lutheran views, many Protestants hold to a memorialist view of the Supper. According to this view, the meal is purely symbolic. Faith in Christ is expressed as Christ’s death is remembered. It is not a means of grace; it is a memorial meal where we recall what Christ has done and express faith by eating and drinking. According to this view, Christ is not present. 

This view has trouble doing justice to 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul says that the cup is a participation in the blood of Christ and the bread a participation in the body of Christ (10:16).  Communion is a certainly a time for us to direct our thoughts to what Christ did for us, but it is also a time of real spiritual communion with Christ.

Real Spiritual Presence. By rejecting the Roman and Lutheran views, we deny that Christ is physically present during Communion. By rejecting the memorialist view, we deny that Christ is absent. So how should we understand the nature of Christ’s presence at the Lord’s Supper?

Reformed Christians affirm the real presence of Christ, but this presence is not physical; it’s spiritual. In other words, the Holy Spirit enables believers on earth to have real communion with Christ in heaven. We are drawn to Christ in his heavenly presence. At the Table, believers commune with the exalted Christ and are fed and nourished by him. Christ meets us in Communion and gives himself to us, nourishing our faith. The bread and wine remain bread and wine, but there is a real relation between the signs of bread and wine with the life-giving virtue of Christ’s body and blood when we eat and drink in faith (1 Corinthians 10:16; Westminster Confession of Faith 27.2).

A spiritual understanding of Christ’s presence avoids another error. Catholics and Lutherans affirm the objectivity of the sacrament – Christ is physically present in the elements objectively. Whoever partakes, even if it is without faith, feeds on Christ. The Reformed view is that Christ is present as the Holy Spirit works through faith. We feed on Christ spiritually – by the ministry of the Holy Spirit – when we eat and drink in faith. Without faith, we cannot understand the truth represented in the Supper, nor participate in its blessings. Because of the significance of what the bread and wine represent, to partake without faith is to eat and drink judgment on one’s self (1 Corinthians 11:29).

The spiritual presence of Christ is not an artificial presence. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a real communion meal. By the Spirit, Christ meets us as we eat and drink in faith.

 

Sunday School

Can I Trust the Bible? 

How can a Christian know that the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are the right ones? What distinguishes them from false gospels and fake apostolic letters? Do Christians have sufficient grounds to know which books are from God or do we simply receive them in blind faith? These are not academic questions; these are foundational questions that confront every Christian. Can you ever know with certainty that the books of the New Testament are from God? This is known as the problem of canon, and this is the issue we will take up in Sunday School this spring (March-May). This class is based on Michael Kruger’s book, Canon Revisited. Please join us as we study the origins and authority of the New Testament. Topics will include:

·       The Battle for the Bible: Survey of Current Challenges to the Bible

·       Bible Origins: The Bible as Community-Determined

·       Bible Origins: The Bible as Historically-Determined

·       Bible Origins: The Bible as Self-Authenticating

·       Defending and Exploring the Divine Qualities of Scripture

·       Defending and Exploring the Apostolic Origins of Scripture

·       Defending and Exploring the Corporate Reception of Scripture

·       New Testament Manuscripts and Book Production in the Early Church

·       False Gospels, Forgeries, and Apocryphal Texts

 

 

Book Review: Canon Revisited by Michael J. Kruger

Kruger, Michael Kruger J. Canon Revisted: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

How can a Christian know that the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are the right ones? Do believers have sufficient warrant to affirm the twenty-seven books of the New Testament or are they simply received in blind faith? These are not merely academic questions; these are questions that confront every Christian. Can Christians ever know with certainty that the books of the New Testament are the books God intends the church to have? This is the problem of canon, and these are questions that Dr. Michael Kruger addresses in Canon Revisited.

     The problem of canon cannot be ignored. After all, Bible-believing Christians confess the authority and sufficiency of the Bible for faith and life. But that belief is based on the conviction that Christians have the right books. Thus, the problem of canon is foundational. As Kruger suggests, unless the question of canon is answered, it “could become the single thread that unravels the entire garment of the Christian faith” (16).

     Critics are aware of the challenge this presents to historic Christianity. After all, “There can be no New Testament theology if there is no such thing as a New Testament in the first place” (16). Kruger mentions three factors contributing to the ongoing interest of critics in the New Testament canon. First, critics raise doubts about the authorship and date of various New Testament books. It is argued that many books are forgeries – written by later authors purporting to be an apostle. This, of course, is a challenge to the canonical status of the books in question. If the books are forgeries written much later than previously thought, why should they be authoritative for Christians? Why should they have canonical status? Are they really substantially different from other Christian texts dating back to the time of the early church?

     This brings up the second factor. In recent decades, several apocryphal books have been discovered, raising another challenge to the concept of canon. This has led critical scholars to suggest that there are additional Gospels and Scriptural texts that Christians need to factor into their faith.  

     A third factor is the enduring influence of a book written by Walter Bauer. The book is Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, and the thesis of the book is that early Christianity was, from the beginning, a diverse movement. There was no “Christianity” in the early church, only “Christianities,” and each group had its own supporting texts. According to Bauer, what we know today as Christian orthodoxy are the beliefs of those who had the power to enforce their views in the church. In other words, the New Testament canon is the result of the fight for power in the early church. “Thus,” Kruger writes, “the books of the New Testament canon are simply the books of the ‘winners’ of the early church power struggles, but do not necessarily represent ‘original’ Christianity and should not be considered normative for Christians” (19).  

     Critics distil these considerations down to one fundamental challenge to canon. Given the supposed forgeries of New Testament books, the presence of apocryphal literature, and the diversity of the early church, Christians cannot know with any real certainty if the books of the New Testament are the right ones. Kruger calls this the de jure objection to canon. There are many de facto objections to canon which in one way or another argue that Christian belief in canon is wrong because it is false. On the other hand, the de jure objection “argues not so much that Christian belief in canon is false, but that Christians have no rational basis for thinking they could ever know such a thing in the first place” (20). Christians must take the canon on blind faith because it’s impossible to know for sure that the books of the New Testament are the correct ones. In short, Christian belief in canon is irrational.

     Kruger’s distinction between de facto objections and the de jure objection clarifies the purpose of the book. The book does not attempt to objectively prove to skeptics that Christians are right about canon. Instead, it contains a persuasive response to the de jure objection to canon. Therefore, Kruger offers an account of a Christian’s knowledge of canon, arguing that Christians do indeed have intellectual warrant for affirming the New Testament canon (21).

 Part 1: Determining the Canonical Model

The book is comprised of two parts. Part one surveys canonical models which attempt to account for canon is authenticated. Chapters 1-2 review “community-determined” and “historically-determined” models, noting their strengths and weaknesses. Community-determined models, in some sense, argue that canonicity is established by people, whether individually or corporately (29). In other words, books are authenticated by the “reception or recognition of individuals or the church” (23). Therefore, canonicity is not something intrinsic to certain books but is a status imposed by an individual or group. Forms of the historically-determined model include the “historical-critical,” the “Roman Catholic,” the “canonical-criticism,” and the “existential/neoorthodox.” These groups rightly recognize that community reception is important. However, historically-determined models absolutizes the reception of canon so that it is authenticated only when it is received by the Christian community – whether individually or corporately.

     Chapter 2 evaluates the historically-determined models. These models attempt to establish canonicity on the basis of the reliability and origins of a book. Historical investigation establishes the status of a book or portions of a book if investigation can show that the book contains authentic teaching of Jesus and the apostles. The canon-within-the canon model is typically wed with higher-critical presuppositions. This model attempts to uncover the remnants of authentic Jesus-teaching that remains within the canon. The criteria-of-canonicity model, which is adopted by many evangelicals, tries to prove which books are canonical on the basis of established criteria (apostolicity, date, orthodoxy, etc.).

     The primary challenge Kruger raises against both models is that they try to “authenticate canon on the basis of something external to it” (289). Both appeal to an authority outside the canon in order to establish the canon. In the end, human judgment has the final say on which books are in and which books are out. While both models have legitimate insights into the formation of canon, they end up subjecting the canon to an external authority, effectively subjecting Scripture to the judgment of fallible man. Furthermore, both models fail to take into consideration the ontology of canon. That is, they do not adequately reckon with what the canon is.

     Chapter 3 explains the self-authenticating model. Rather than seeking to establish the canonical status of the New Testament on the basis of authority external to the canon, the self-authenticating model “ground[s] the canon in the only place it could be grounded, its own authority” (89). Canonical books – books given by God to his people – are inherently authoritative, and thus are self-authenticating. But what exactly does this mean? A potential misunderstanding would be to think that the canonical model suggests that New Testament books are canonical simply because the Bible says so. However, that’s not the argument. The self-authenticating model, says Kruger, “refer[s] to the way the canon itself provides the necessary direction and guidance about how it is to be authenticated.” Furthermore, “to say that canon is self-authenticating is simply to recognize that one cannot authenticate the canon without appealing to the canon. The New Testament canon speaks for itself. It sets the terms for its own validation and investigation” (91). In other words, the self-authenticating model applies Scripture to the question of canon.

     When we look to Scripture for direction on which books belong in the canon, Scripture “testifies to the fact that God has created the proper epistemic environment wherein belief in the New Testament canon can be reliably formed” (94). This environment includes three elements: (1) Providential exposure of the books to the church; (2) Attributes of canonicity; (3) The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit whereby believers – individually and corporately – are enabled to recognize the divine qualities of Scripture and believe the books of the New Testament are God’s books.

     Because God provides the necessary “epistemic environment” for knowing which books belong in the canon, Christians have sufficient warrant for affirming the New Testament canon. Believers can justifiably believe they have the right books because God has given apostolic books to the church, which are confirmed by their divine qualities and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

     A strength of the self-authenticating model is that it does not absolutize one definition of canon. Another helpful point made in the book is that the self-authenticating model is able to bring together varying definitions of canon to make sense of the historical development of canon. Kruger explains three potential definitions of canon. (1) The “exclusive” definition describes canon in terms of its reception. (2) The “functional” definition looks for when books were used as Scripture. (3) The “ontological” definition understands the books as divinely given and thus canonical the moment the ink dried. The self-authenticating model affirms all three of these definitions without absolutizing one over the others. If the canon is given by God (ontological definition), it was inevitable that those books would be used as Scripture by Christians (functional definition), and because they divine books which functioned as Scripture in the church, it was inevitable that over time those books would be corporately recognized by the church (exclusive definition). This allows us to affirm that the church had a canon of books very early while also recognizing that “the story of canon is indeed a process” (119).

 Part 2: Exploring and Defending the Canonical Model

Part 2 explores the attributes of canon and defends them against potential defeaters.

     The first attribute of canon, its divine qualities, is frequently ignored in canonical studies. This is largely due to the “naturalization of canon” in modern studies – trying to understand the origins and formation of the New Testament canon from a purely historical perspective while denying or ignoring the intrinsic character of Scripture. Kruger returns to the ancient path of understanding canon by considering the internal qualities of canonical books. Following the Westminster Confession of Faith, three categories of divine qualities are explained: beauty and excellency, power and efficacy, and the unity and harmony of Scripture. The books of the New Testament witness to their divine origins because they bear the beauty and perfection of God (127), they exhibit divine power, and together they display a remarkable unity in doctrine, redemptive-history, and covenantal and canonical structure.

     The divine qualities of Scripture have been challenged by critics. They point to apparent disagreements/contradictions between New Testament books. The defeater is essentially this: Since the books of the New Testament are inconsistent with one another, how can they possibly display the quality of unity and harmony? This objection is articulated by supporters of the Bauer thesis of diversity preceding unity in the early church. Thus, the canon as we know it is was established by the theological winners. But there’s a self-defeating contradiction in the defeater itself. Kruger points it out:

If the current form of the canon includes the preferred books of the theological winners and thereby represents a loss of great diversity, how, at the same time, can one claim that the Bible is composed of contradictory theological camps?...One cannot argue that the canon is the “invention” of the proto-orthodox designed to suppress the opposition and then turn around and argue that the canon is a cacophony of diverse theological viewpoints that stand in opposition (146).

 Therefore, the defeater lacks compelling force. Furthermore, the self-authenticating model affirms the presence of diversity in the New Testament; however, this is not a conflicting or contradictory diversity. Apparent contradictions can be explained and harmonized (i.e., Paul and James’ teaching on justification).

     The second attribute of canon is apostolic origins. This chapter examines the apostolic origins of the New Testament books which “reminds us that their authority – indeed their very existence – does not depend on the actions of the later church but is rooted in the foundational role played by the apostles as ‘ministers of the New Covenant” (161). Therefore, when the church later recognized these books, they did not become canonical; they already were by virtue of their apostolic origins.

     With the concept of covenant forming the structural framework for canon, and redemption accomplished through Christ being the rationale for further revelation, the apostles were God’s ordained agents to deliver New Testament revelation. Kruger writes, “God established the apostolic office to be the guardian, preserver, and transmitter of the message of redemption” (174). The New Testament books, therefore, are the “written expression of the authoritative, foundational, and eyewitness tradition delivered by the apostles of Jesus Christ” (181).

     The potential defeater to the apostolic origins is that several of the New Testament books are forgeries. If that is true, one cannot maintain that all books in the canon are apostolic. Kruger responds with four considerations: (1) Outside of critical circles, scholars have made persuasive arguments for the apostolic origins of the New Testament books; (2) Biblical criticism is based on non-Christian presuppositions, so it is not surprising when critical scholars challenge the historic Christian position on apostolic origins; (3) The attribute of apostolic origins is supported by the other attributes of divine qualities and corporate reception; (4) Methods used to prove that some books are forgeries are problematic.

     Chapters 6-8 explore the third attribute, the corporate reception of the canon. The role the church plays is not to establish the authority of the canon; rather, the church corporately recognizes which books are canonical. The church is enabled to do so by the internal witness of the Holy Spirit on a corporate level. Therefore, the church’s recognition of books provides further warrant for Christians to believe they have the right books. This warrant is based not on an infallible church; it is based on the internal witness of the Holy Spirit which was promised to the church by the Lord Jesus Christ.

     A potential defeater to corporate reception is the “canonical-diversity defeater” (196). If New Testament books are indeed from God, and the Holy Spirit imposes these books on the church, then why was there so much disagreement over them? Kruger argues that the defeater only works if it can be proven that the mere existence of disagreement over some canonical books conflicts with the self-authenticating model. However, this model has reasons to expect some disagreement over books in the historical development of canon. Reasons Kruger gives are: (1) False teachers and teaching; (2) Spiritual forces opposed to the church; (3) Peoples’ sinful resistance to God’s word; (4) The presence of heretical groups claiming to be the true church. Furthermore, Kruger shows that the level of disagreement over canonical books is often exaggerated by critics.

    In conclusion, Christians have an intellectually sufficient basis for believing the books that make up the New Testament are the right ones. Christians can give an account for the existence of canon from the standpoint of a theological and Christian worldview. God has given his books to the church. These apostolic books display divine qualities and thus are recognized and received by the corporate church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

Why It Matters: The Incarnation

The incarnation – like all Christian doctrines – is not for arid, abstract speculation. Instead, the mystery of the incarnation should produce adoring wonder and praise. Nevertheless, only as we seek to understand the incarnation as best we can will we know such wonder and awe. 

The incarnation means that Christ shares fully in our human nature except for sin. While remaining what he eternally was – fully and truly God – he became what he eternally was not – fully and truly human. Our Savior and Friend is true God and true man. The incarnation means that Christ shared in our humanity physically, psychologically, and emotionally. It’s the final aspect I want to dwell on briefly – Christ’s emotional life. Specifically I want to think about the fear – better yet, the terror – Jesus endured as the incarnate Son of God.

The theologian B. B. Warfield once wrote, “It belongs to the truth of our Lord’s humanity that he was subject to all sinless human emotions.” John Calvin put it another way: “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.” Without sin, Jesus experienced the full gamut of our emotional life – joy and sadness, love and hatred, happiness and anger. Jesus was not an emotionless stoic, always unmoved. Never a slave to his emotions, Jesus responded with the appropriate emotion to every circumstance.

On the eve of his crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was terrified. As the cross loomed on the horizon, Jesus was gripped with the shuddering horror of being under the unmitigated fury of Almighty God (Mark 14:33). He was to be the sin-bearer. He was to drink down the cup of God’s holy wrath.  Donald Macleod describes the scene vividly, “Immediately after telling his disciples that his soul was filled with mortal fear he turned away from them and set his face towards God: ‘He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed’ (Luke 22:41). There was nowhere else to go. Even the physical circumstances of his prayer make plain that it came out of a soul near the end of its resources. He throws himself prostrate on the ground. He is so exhausted by the first phase of his prayer that ‘an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him’ (Lk 22:44). And when he resumes his prayer, it is in anguish, praying so earnestly that his sweat falls like drops of blood to the ground….Here is a man pouring out his whole strength, physical and spiritual, into a plea that God would ‘save’ him. It is clear from all accounts that Jesus’ experience of turmoil and anguish was both real and profound. His sorrow was as great as a man could bear, his fear convulsive. He came within a hairsbreadth of break-down. He faced the will of God as raw holiness and it terrified him.”

Why such fear, Jesus? Because, in Gethsemane, the full reality of what it would cost to be the Savior hits home. To be the Savior of sinners, he must be counted “the greatest sinner that ever was” (Luther). At the cross, Jesus saw the sword of divine judgment raised to strike (Zechariah 13:7). On him the horrifying wrath of God would fall. He would taste the wages of sin. On the cross there would be no mercy, no reprieve, no consolation. There couldn’t be, if he was to be our Savior. And on the cross his fear of being forsaken and judged became a reality. His cry of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was met with the deafening silence of heaven, only to be interrupted by the clamor of scoffers he had come to save. God was present to Jesus, but it was not the presence of a loving Father that he had enjoyed from all eternity.  It was the presence of a holy God letting loose his holy wrath against sin. Jesus was cursed and cast into the outer darkness. The sinless one became sin and on the cross the waters of God’s judgment overwhelmed him.

Fear was an appropriate response in the face of such an horrifying reality. But Christ did not shrink back in fear. Donald Macleod again: “The wonder of the love of Christ for his people is not that for their sake he faced death without fear, but that for their sake he faced it, terrified. Terrified by what he knew, and terrified by what he did not know, he took damnation lovingly.” 

Christ has come in our flesh. He has come to save us from being cursed by becoming a curse for us. In Christ, you will never be forsaken by God because Christ was forsaken for you. Although Christ was horrified at everything the cross meant for him, he set his face on the cross like a flint (Isaiah 50:7) and for the joy set before him, he endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). He did not turn away in fear or shrink back. He experienced the darkness and horror of Calvary to bring us into the light and joy of heaven. Dear friends! because Christ came and suffered in our place, we need not fear ever being forsaken. Christ bore the horror and reality of judgment for his people. The fear of condemnation is gone because you are in Christ Jesus!

Praise God for the incarnate Christ who saves his people from their sins! 

Why It Matters: Church Membership

Church membership is vitally important. It’s probably a topic we don’t talk about enough. Therefore, I want to take a moment to remind us of why church membership matters.

1. Church membership is biblical. We need to start here because today many people suggest that church membership is something made up. “Sure,” someone may say, “it’s not okay to be a lone ranger Christian, by why formal church membership? Can’t I just go to church regularly and that be enough?” It’s true, of course, there is no verse that says to church leaders, “Thou shalt have a formal church membership roll.” Nevertheless, what the Bible teaches about the nature of the church and our responsibility to one another inevitably leads us to say that church membership is biblical. In other words, church membership is a good and necessary consequence of the teaching of the New Testament.

Think of how the Bible describes the local church. The church is “one body.” That’s true of the universal church, but it’s also true at a local level. And so Paul says in Romans 12 that each member of the body belongs to the others. This spiritual reality must express itself visibly and tangibly. We belong to one another at Trinity. I exist as a part of the body to serve the other parts, and you exist as part of the body to serve the other parts. Jesus has designed it that way.

The Bible also describes us as a family. We are members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15). We relate to one another as a family. We love one another. We are committed to one another. We hold one another accountable. There’s a household code that shapes how we relate to one another (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

The Bible also leads us to the practice of church membership as it talks about the responsibilities of elders. They are called to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2). Simply put, elders can’t do that if there is not a defined flock. One day, elders will stand before the Chief Shepherd and give an account for how they cared for Christ’s beloved sheep (that’s a sobering reminder for me!). Membership is a way for elders to effectively know, love, care for, and serve the “flock that is among them.”

Furthermore, membership is required by the command to “obey your leaders” (Hebrews 13:17). What leaders? The leaders of the church to which you belong, “for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” In other words, church membership is a way of defining which flock you belong to and who your spiritual leaders are. It’s a way of saying, “I’m a member of this particular flock and those are my elders. I’m accountable to them and they’re accountable to Christ for me.” 

2. Church membership is a way of publicly declaring your commitment to Christ and his people in a low-commitment culture. Sadly, I think it’s fair to say that some local social clubs require more of their members than churches ask of their members. In a culture where the consumer is sovereign, and where if the consumer isn’t pleased they just move to another provider, committing to a local church sends a powerful message. We’re saying, “I’m not here to be a passive consumer; I’m here to serve. I am committed to these dear brothers and sisters and they are committed to me. Even when troubles arise, we are committed to maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

3. Church membership keeps us accountable

If we know our hearts, we know we need accountability. I know I do. When we become members of a local church, that’s what we should get: biblically-informed, gospel-centered, Christ-honoring, love-motivated accountability.

Mark Dever has written a book about the church and I like the way he describes church membership: “Church membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the [elders] and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We allow fellow believers to have great expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the responsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve and encourage as well.”

We could surely come up with others reasons for why membership matters, but here are three good reasons: (1). Membership is biblical; (2). Membership is a way of declaring our commitment to Christ and his people in a low-commitment culture; (3). Membership keeps us accountable.

In our low-commitment culture, let’s make the high commitment of taking hold of one another in responsibility and love.

For Christ and His Kingdom,

            Pastor Jared

Book Recommendation

Bible surveys are handy resources. A quality Bible survey will tell you what you need to know about each book found in Scripture. Surveys give you what you need so you can better understand and apply God's Word.

Rodger Crooks has put together a excellent survey of all sixty-six books of the Bible. He helps readers know not only what individual books of the Bible are about, but also how all of the Bible fits together in One Lord, One Plan, One People: A Journey Through the Bible From Genesis to Revelation. Crooks looks at each book of the Bible and in just a few pages helps us understand the author's historical setting and the message and major themes of each book. 

This resource will prove useful for a lot of people. Fathers could use this book in family worship to teach their families about different books of the Bible. Every Christian could use a primer on the essential message of each book of the Bible; this book provides that. Younger Christians could read this book to grow in their knowledge of Scripture and see how all of the Bible points to Jesus. For Christians afraid of venturing into their Old Testaments, this book will encourage them to profit from reading all of God's Word, not just the Gospels and New Testament epistles! I would also give this book to an unbeliever who wants to understand what the Bible is about. The author's conviction is that Jesus Christ is the central theme of all of the Bible. Each chapter connects each book of the Bible with God's plan to save a people for himself through Christ. 

I've been looking for a good Bible survey for a while. I found what I was looking for with Rodger Crook's book. 

One Lord, One Plan, One People: A Journey Through the Bible From Genesis to Revelation