Letter from the Missions and Outreach Committee of Trinity

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 


The Missions and Outreach Committee (MOC) exists to serve and equip the congregation to be involved in the work of local outreach and worldwide missions. To that end, MOC has been discussing how we can effectively encourage congregational involvement in the work of the Great Commission. We have established several concrete goals we’d like to share with you. We have also developed practical plans for meeting these goals by God’s grace. 

Regarding local outreach, our goal as a committee is to encourage and equip the congregation to reach their friends, family, and neighbors for Christ. The steps towards reaching the goal are: (1) Familiarize our church with Christianity Explored (CE) in an Adult Sunday school course; (2) Begin annually hosting CE courses, ideally in a church member’s home. Each year we would like to host a CE Bible study in a different neighborhood in the Johnstown area. CE is a reliable curriculum which leads people through the Gospel of Mark. Other congregations have found it to be a helpful tool for local outreach. Using CE annually is one small step we encourage taking together as we move towards being more proactive in the work of evangelism. 

Another goal the committee established is to promote regular and earnest prayer for missions and outreach among the congregation. To reach that goal, a member of MOC will begin regularly updating the missions prayer list printed in the bulletin to help you pray for our missionaries. Secondly, we will begin devoting some corporate Sunday evening prayer times to praying for our missionaries, the work of missions, and local outreach. A member of MOC will create a prayer guide for those occasions to help everyone participate. The work of missions and evangelism is the work of the triune God through his people; therefore, we must be earnest in prayer, asking God to bless the work of his people. 

A third goal relates to our long term plans and international missions. While we are eager to support mission works around the world, MOC is taking steps toward adopting a particular part of the world as a place where we will intentionally seek to advance the gospel. We want to concentrate the resources of Trinity to further the work of the Great Commission in an area of the world where there is urgent need for church-planting and discipleship. The committee is in the early stages of identifying an area of the world where we can get involved. Once a mission partnership is established, we would like to begin sending members of Trinity onto the mission field for short-term visits to support, encourage, and help our long-term missionaries. This will also enable our members to report back to us on the progress of the work. We will keep you informed as the committee continues to take steps forward to meeting this long term goal. 

The work of the Great Commission isn’t finished! God has placed us together in Johnstown to reach others for Christ. God has also called us to participate in and support the work of sending ambassadors to the ends of the earth to proclaim Christ and summon people to enter into his kingdom by faith and repentance. May the Lord enable us to be a disciple-making, church-planting church. 

For Christ and His Kingdom,     

    The Missions & Outreach Committee

Introducing the Trinity Psalter Hymnal


At Trinity we are committed to singing psalms and Bible-based hymns and songs. We love to sing the God-inspired psalms, and we delight in singing biblically saturated hymns and songs. 

Historically, psalms have been central to the prayers and praise of God’s people. Sadly, psalm singing has fallen on hard times in recent years, but that’s changing. Christians are realizing afresh the joy of singing psalms. The psalms point us to Christ and describe the Christian life. The psalter is also the hymnbook Jesus grew up singing. And before that, these are the songs believers in the Old Testament sang together in worship. When we sing the psalms, we stand in line with that great tradition going back thousands of years. 

Another reason to appreciate psalm singing: they express the full scope of the Christian experience. John Calvin called the psalms an anatomy of the human soul. Contained in the psalms are songs of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, lament, and more. There are songs for every occasion and every emotion. There are psalms of praise and rejoicing as well as songs for broken-hearted, lonely, victimized, and depressed Christians. In the psalms, God has given his people words to express our joy and delight in God as well as the deepest pains and disappointments in the context of worship. If the biblical psalms are to be seen as normative for the Christian life and worship, then there is surely an unhelpful and unhealthy imbalance in many churches where songs of lament have virtually disappeared. As someone recently asked, “What can miserable Christians sing?” The answer is the psalms, a divinely inspired hymnbook.  

The hymnal portion of the TPH is also a tremendous resource for singing. It is a slimmed down version of the Trinity Hymnal. Whereas the Trinity Hymnal contained 742 hymns, the TPH has 424. The goal was to keep the best hymns of the past as well as add many newer, contemporary songs. 65 new hymns have been added that were not in the Trinity Hymnal. Because of our commitment to singing the psalms and the best Bible-based hymns from the past and present, the TPH is a ideal resource for our worship. 

This is why I am delighted to introduce the Trinity Psalter Hymnal (TPH). It will give us opportunity to sing the Bible’s own hymnbook along with many old and new hymns we enjoy singing together. On Sunday we begin using the TPH in worship. My hope is that we will quickly come to appreciate this resource for worship. May the Lord use this Psalter-Hymnal to help us worship our triune God together!

    Pastor Jared

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” 

- Colossians 3:16

Pastor's Philosophy of Preaching

For an upcoming course, one of my assignments is to summarize my philosophy of preaching in less than two pages. I was to write it as if addressing another pastor. Here's my attempt. 

Philosophy of Preaching

The preaching of the Word is an ordinance of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints. Faithful preaching is marked by the following characteristics. 

Prayerful Preaching. Preaching is spiritual labor. You ought to prepare and preach in reliance upon the Spirit. Every sermon should be bathed in prayer. 

Studied Preaching. “Preaching requires much study, meditation, and prayer, and ministers should prepare their sermons with care, and not indulge themselves in loose, extemporary harangues, nor serve God with that which costs them naught.” Pastors should also keep their studies in the study. Hearers do not need to hear every detail about the pastor’s exegetical labors. When baking bread, the ingredients and cooking are done in the kitchen (the pastor’s study); the sermon should be presented as the baked bread served fresh to the people of God. 

Consecutive Expository Preaching. By consecutive I mean systematically working through a book of the Bible verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter. This should be the ordinary method of preaching because over time it sets before the people the whole counsel of God. It sets forth God’s character and the person and work of Christ in all of Scripture. It forces you to deal with the hard parts of the Bible. It gives a healthy variety to preaching. It sets your preaching schedule. It keeps you off your hobby horses. 

By expository I mean “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Preach the Bible from the Bible. What is preached should be drawn from a specific text. Therefore the sermon should ordinarily be tethered to a specific text of Scripture. The goal is to expound that pericope and apply it to the hearts and lives of hearers. 

God-centered Preaching. Major on the greatness and majesty of God. Preach what has been called a “big-God theology.” Common to preaching today is an emphasis on man and man’s problems. We need to hear more about God and see ourselves and our problems in light of who he is. 

Christ-filled Preaching. The person and work of Christ is the substance and goal of Scripture. Every sermon should point and lead to, set forth and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Didactic Preaching. Preaching and teaching are not synonyms. But faithful preaching includes instruction. Teach people the doctrines of the Christian faith. The need for sound teaching is urgent in our time. Positively to equip the saints with the truth; negatively to guard against false teaching within and without the church.  People need to learn how to think Christianly, with a biblical worldview.

Plain Preaching. Plain isn’t simplistic. Plain, clear preaching is not easy to achieve, but it’s what people need. Aim to be understood. Don’t obsess over theological debates or fads. Don’t use the pulpit to show off your learning. Focus on the fundamentals of the faith. Devote yourself to clarity. Proclaim the gospel in language that can be understood by all. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use theological terms (i.e., justification, sanctification, union with Christ, etc), but strive to ensure the people understand what those words mean.

Expectant Preaching. Believe that preaching is a God-ordained means of grace. Trust that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. Speak with the conviction that by the power of the Spirit the gospel saves and transforms lives.

Experiential and Transformational Preaching. The last course I took in the DMin program was taught by Dr. Joel Beeke. He argued that the greatest weakness in Reformed preaching today is a lack of experiential preaching. Experiential preaching aims to apply biblical truth to all of the Christian life and experience as well as the unbeliever’s life and experience. The goal of experiential preaching is the conformity of believers in all of life to Jesus Christ. Experiential preaching is drawing back the arrow (God’s word) and aiming for the heart. It’s applicatory preaching — bringing home the truth of God to the lives of the people of God. Experiential preaching is motivated by the conviction that doctrine is for life. It aims for authentic Christianity lived out through the saving power of the Spirit, not a false Christianity in mere religious forms and empty words.

By transformational, I mean Spirit-wrought change worked through the ministry of the word, evidenced in us through lives of faith and repentance, mortification and vivification. God intends to conform us to Jesus, and a chief way he accomplishes that purpose is the Word rightly preached, faithfully heard, diligently applied and worked out. 

Evangelistic Preaching. Salvation is the work of God, and he is pleased to use preaching to save sinners to the praise of his glorious grace. Preach for the conversion of men and women, boys and girls. Call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Set forth and offer Christ freely to all. 

Grave Preaching. There ought to be a weightiness to preaching. Matters of life and death, eternal blessing and eternal damnation are before the congregation. Preach earnestly and urgently. When John Bunyan depicted the minister in The Pilgrim’s Progress, 

Christian saw a picture of a very grave person hanging on the wall. This is what the man                 in the picture looked like: he had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in his hand,                 the law of truth upon his lips, the world behind his back. He stood as if pleading with                 men, and a crown of gold hung upon his head. 

Supported Preaching. Your life, in full reliance upon the Spirit of Christ, ought to commend what you preach. In public and private, the preacher’s conduct should be consistent with his preaching. This includes modeling repentance in the home and church.

How should this philosophy of preaching impact pastoral ministry? Preaching must be a priority. You cannot be a faithful minister without faithfully ministering the Word. Other necessary pastoral responsibilities and unrealistic expectations placed on the pastor should not distract from this great task. You must be committed to feeding the flock (John 21:15). Faithful preaching leads the flock each Lord’s Day to the green pastures of God’s Word where the sheep are fed with the life-giving Word of God. It is God’s Word that gives life to, sustains, and nourishes the flock of God.

Brief Review: The God Delusion


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


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.