The Bible the Book of Mankind (2) by B.B. Warfield

This is Part 2 of a 3-part article. It was read at the World’s Bible Congress held at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, California, August 1-4, 1915.

It goes without saying that the diffusion of the Bible throughout the world might be a matter of warfieldlittle moment — scarcely more than an interesting fact in literary history — if, on becoming, above all other books, the book of the peoples, it did not at the same time become everywhere, above all other books, the book of the people. It has already repeatedly been made incidentally plain, however, that the Bible has been everywhere, above everything else, the people’s book. This is the significance, for example, of the particular form in which the Latin Bible came into existence. The Latin Bible was, in its origin, nothing so little as a literary performance. It was simply the Greek Bible transfused by the Latin-speaking people into whose hands it came into their own everyday speech for their own familiar use. So redolent of the soil was it that it was a sad stumbling-block to the cultured. Ex ungue leonem: the world has never known a book so distinctively a people’s book as the Bible has been since its origin. In this sense, Christians have been from the first, above all other people who have lived in the world, the people of a book. The book and the people have been bound so closely together that we hardly know whether it was juster to say that where Christianity has gone there the Bible has gone, or that where the Bible has gone there Christianity has gone. In the first age of the Church, pre-eminently, the Christian and his book were inseparable. The Bible was not so much the book of the Church as the book of the Christian; and from the cradle to the grave every Christian was expected to keep it in his hand and in his heart, to live in and by it. The writings of the Fathers are crowded with exhortations, both formal and incidental, to diligent Bible-reading on the part of all. The reason given is most significant. Those who were taught by others were taught of men; those who took the Bible for their teacher were taught of God. They were “theodidactoi”, God-taught, listening immediately to him speaking in his Word. “The deepest and ultimate reason why every Christian should read the Bible,” — so Harnack expounds the sentiment of the first Christian ages — “lies in this, that, just as everyone should speak to God as often as possible, so also everyone should listen to God as often as possible. Oratio and lectio belong together; so we read in countless passages from the later Fathers, but Cyprian had already said it quite clearly. He wrote to Donatus: ‘Be assiduous in both prayer and reading; in the one you speak to God, in the other God speaks to you.’”

No doubt, it was as possible then as it is now to honor the Bible in appearance rather than in fact. As we may find today great “family Bibles” encumbering the “parlor-tables” of households little interested in their contents, so we read of sumptuous Bibles then, written in gold letters on purple vellum and glittering with gems, which were kept for show rather than for use. But this very practice among the wealthy is a speaking evidence of the value universally placed upon the book. It was the family-book above every other. Husbands and wives read it daily together and Tertullian knows no stronger argument against mixed marriages than that in their case this cherished pleasure must be foregone. The children were introduced to the Bible from the tenderest age. They learned their letters by picking them out from its pages. They were practiced in putting syllables together on the Bible names, the Genealogies in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke supplying (one would think most unpromising) material for this exercise. They formed their first sentences by combining words into Bible phrases. As they clung about their mothers’ necks, we are told, amid the kisses they snatched, they snatched also the music of the Psalms from their lips. Every little girl of seven was expected to have already made a beginning of learning the Psalms by heart; and, as she grew to maturity she should lay up progressively in her heart the words of the Books of Solomon, the Gospels, the Apostles and the Prophets. Little boys, too, traveling through the years, should travel equally through the Sacred Books. We hear again and again of men who knew the whole Bible by heart. There were, for example, the deacon Valens of Jerusalem, and the blind Egyptian, John, of whom Eusebius tells us. “He possessed,” says the historian of the latter, “whole books of the Holy Scripture, not on tables of stone, as the divine Apostle says, nor on skins of beasts, or on paper which moth and time can devour, but — in his heart, so that, as from a rich literary treasure, he could, even as he would, repeat now passages from the Law and the Prophets, now from the historical books, now from the Gospels and Apostolical Epistles.” Memory, however, was not to be solely depended upon; the Bible was not to be studied once for all and then neglected. It must be the Christian man’s constant companion through life. It was to be read continually, read day by day, and year after year; visited unceasingly as a fresh fountain from which to quaff living water. To this extent Christians were the people of a book; and to this extent the book was the people’s book.

There was nothing, however, esoteric in this devotion of the Christians to their Bible. The Bible was not so conceived as the Christians’ book that they desired to keep it to themselves. Rather, reading it themselves thus diligently, they wished everyone else to read it, too. Finding it the source of life for themselves they ardently desired that others also should drink at its inexhaustible fountains. The missionary value of the Bible was well understood. Its translation into other languages, Augustine, for example, looks upon as essentially a missionary act: God had given it originally in Greek only as an ad interim provision — the Greek Bible was merely the central reservoir whence it should flow out in translation to all the world. And nothing was closer to the hearts of Christians than that the heathen among whom they lived should be induced to read the Bible. We are told that “Trypho is the first Jew and Celsus the first Greek whom we know to have read the Gospels.” But this only means that they are the first Jew and the first Greek that we happen to know of, who read the Scriptures and remained unconvinced. How many in the meantime had read and believed! As the same writer reminds us, “Aristides, the earliest of the Apologists, exhorts his heathen readers, after reading his own work, to take into their hands and to read the Holy Scriptures themselves. This appeal to the Holy Scriptures runs through all the Apologies, from the earliest to the latest, and shows that their authors were united in the belief that the regular way to become a convinced Christian was to read the Holy Scriptures. In this way, Justin and Tatian and Theophilus expressly say that they themselves became Christians.” And again, for a little later time: “The Church was ever most anxious that the Bible should be open and accessible even to the heathen; for she had again and again learned by experience that the Bible was her best missionary. The conversions of Hilary and Victorinus in Rome were notable examples; these men had been led to the Church by the Holy Scriptures.” We cannot avoid perceiving that in the first age of Christianity the Bible was, and was understood to be, the seed of the Church.

We do not, however, half appreciate the significance of the position taken by the Bible from the first as the book of the people, until we remind ourselves of some of the difficulties it required to surmount in establishing itself in this position. These first days of the Church were not the days of the printing-press, with its rapid and cheap multiplication of books. Nor were they the days of universal education. We may well wonder where the Bibles came from to be read by the people, and where the people came from able to read the Bibles. The triumph of the Bible over these difficulties — a triumph which has been repeated until it has become a matter of course — marks the introduction of the Bible into the world as easily the greatest event that has ever occurred in the history of the diffusion of literature, and just as easily the most powerful educative force which has ever entered humanity.

We lack materials for tracing in detail the processes by which the requisite supply of Bibles was produced. We can only note with wonder the fact that the miracle was wrought. The publishing trade was highly developed and most efficient, and no doubt it knew how to take advantage of so great a demand. In the fourth century, we see the publishers “taking up” popular Christian books with the most businesslike avidity, and “pushing” them with a vigor which the most energetic modern publisher could scarcely surpass. There has even come down to us from the middle of the fourth century a “list” of a “Bible House,” containing information designed to protect the purchaser from the wiles of too enterprising book-sellers. Pious persons gave themselves to the work of copying the Scriptures and this came to be the chief occupation of ascetics. Good men had Bibles made for them to present to the needy. We are told, for example, of Eusebius’ friend Pamphilus, the great Christian bibliophile of his day, that he kept a store of Bibles by him which he gave to those who desired them; and that “not only to men, but also to women whom he saw to be given to reading.” No doubt, especially in the earliest days of the faith, many zealous believers wrote out the Bible, or parts of it, with their own hands that they might possess copies of their own. Papyrus sheets have come down to us from the early fourth century, painfully traced out in an unpracticed hand, which may be a fragment of such a personally made Bible, though Messrs. Grenfell and Hunt think them rather a schoolboy’s exercise — which would give them almost as much significance.

However the Bibles were supplied, they were supplied; and to this miracle the even greater one was added of the creation of a reading public for them. It is too little to say, as Harnack says, that by the universal zeal for Bible-reading “a powerful stimulus was given to the extension of the art of reading,” and so, in an age of decaying education, the Church “became the great elementary school-mistress of the Greeks and Romans.” The Church not only stayed the downward progress of education and increased the number of readers, but, by its demand that the Bible should be read by all ranks and classes and sexes and ages, introduced the principle of universal education into the world and advanced far toward making it a realized fact. The service of the Bible to the Greek and Roman people — the people as such, the “submerged masses,” as we say — was, therefore, hardly less than that which it rendered to the outlying barbarians, to whom it for the first time gave letters and a written tongue. It made them literate. Thus the Bible became the mother of truly popular education. Has there ever been a greater revolution wrought in the intellectual history of the race?

It is true that the conquest thus begun was not pushed steadily to its end; the ground gained was not even retained without interruption. After a while, a great misfortune befell the Church. It lost its Bible-reading public. Happier in this than the East, the West needed at first but a single version. It made no Punic Bible, nor an Iberian or a Celtic Bible; and the reason was that, bound together in the common use of the Latin tongue, the needs of all the Western peoples were met by the Latin Bible. But hardly had it fully possessed the field than the irruption of the barbarians swept away its literate public. Then began a long period of schism, between the Church and the people; a Latin Church and an ever increasingly non-Latin people. Little was done to close the constantly widening gulf. Rather, new theories, running directly athwart all previous Christian feeling and practice, were invented to justify it. ‘The people could not be trusted with the Scriptures.’ ‘The uncouth speech of the people was incapable of receiving and reproducing their sacred contents.’ ‘The Latin language was holy, and its sounds fell with sacramental effect upon the ear.’ We appropriately call these somber years the Dark Ages.

We are told nowadays, it is true, that there never were any Dark Ages. We rejoice that it is possible to paint them darker than they were. It is very largely a matter of point of sight. Christendom has never known a time, let us thank God for it, when the Bible was out of mind; when its teaching was not widely diffused and was not powerfully operative in the lives of men. There were schools in the Dark Ages, and the Bible was in a very true sense the textbook of these schools. There were libraries — in the capitals, in the universities, in the monasteries — and the Bible was to be had in these libraries. There were scriptoria, and the Bible was diligently copied in these scriptoria. A beginning was made already in the eighth century of translating the Bible into the vernacular languages, and by the end of the Middle Ages it was accessible to Frenchmen and Germans, Englishmen and Bohemians, Spaniards and Italians and Poles in their own tongues. Nearly two hundred manuscripts of the German Bible and almost as many of the English from this later period remain today to attest the wideness of their use. Printing came in the midst of the fifteenth century and W. A. Copinger catalogues a hundred and forty-four editions of the Latin Bible for its first half century; and for the sixteenth century no fewer than four hundred and thirty-eight.

But how many there were to whom all these Bibles were sealed books! How closely confined their use was to a class — the clerics, a few nobles, and in the later Middle Ages the rising middle-class of burghers! At a time when a German monarch almost passed for a cleric because he could read, we may imagine how it stood with the laity. And at a time when Bonaventura vainly applied the test of reading to a candidate for a Bishopric we may cherish doubts even of the mass of the clergy. The libraries of the late Middle Ages were well stocked with Bibles, and they were accessible to the student on very liberal terms; gifts of Bibles were even made to libraries for the express purpose of being loaned to needy students — a striking evidence, this, of the scarcity of Bibles. But we learn from the old catalogues of libraries published by S. Becker, for example, that “a royal foundation like St. Vaudrille, about the year 800, did not possess a complete Bible, and Boniface had to be satisfied with parts.” The manuals of Biblical instruction used in the schools were nearly as bad as they could be: Luther calls them in that language, more vigorous than elegant, in which he was wont to release his indignation, “the nonsensical, good-for-nothing, pernicious monkish books, Catholicon, Graecista, Florista, and such-like asses-dung.” The famous “Mammotrectus” is a fair example. Composed by a Minorite at the end of the thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth century, it held its place in the schools until the end of the sixteenth. When the art of printing came in, such was the demand for it that it passed through at least thirty-four editions in the fifteenth century and was still being printed in 1596. Its author piously represents himself as pouring out the results of his studies as the Magdalen poured out the oil, on the feet of his Master. Employing another Biblical illustration, Sixtus of Sienna, less unctuously but with more descriptive force, declares that “like the poor widow who out of her want cast two pennies into the treasury of the temple, this brother brought to the temple of the Lord, in the poverty of his understanding — all that he had.”

When this was the nature of the provision that was made for the literate, we may fancy the condition of the illiterate, that is to say, of the whole mass of the people. Keep the eye fixed on the literate classes and we may wonder whether the Dark Ages were quite as dark as we have been accustomed to think them. It is true that the Bible lay at the very foundation of the entire social structure of the Middle Ages. It is true that it was everywhere in the background; and that it was working powerfully in the whole life of the times. It is true that it was everywhere accessible to those able to use it. Shift the eye to the masses and a very different picture meets it. No doubt the Bible was not without its influence on the masses, too. But pervasive and powerful as that influence was, it was indirect, by percolation from above. The people had no direct contact with the Bible. It had become an esoteric book of which they knew only by hearsay. Their inability to read cut them off absolutely from all immediate approach to it; and the employment of Latin in the church services deprived them even of the opportunity to hear portions of it in the lessons. A very few even of the literate, indeed, could ever hope to possess Bibles of their own. The size of mediaeval Bibles was immense. They were veritable libraries, deserving literally the current name by which they were known, Bibliotheca, consisting of four or five — in one instance of fourteen — great folio volumes. The cost of the production of these great books was naturally very great, and the price they commanded was prohibitive to any but very wealthy purchasers. If we understand S. Berger’s account rightly, it was in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century a very cheap Bible indeed — such as could only rarely be had — which cost as little as seventy- five dollars of our money; the common price ran up to about three hundred dollars. We know of such values as five to nine hundred dollars being placed on them or actually paid for them, and even such as eighteen hundred to two thousand dollars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Bibles were left in wills as precious bequests; they were put in pawn for the performance of important services; they were given as security for large debts. “One sees,” remarks Berger, “from these prices, what we otherwise were aware of, that a country priest could not dream of possessing a Bible.” The Bible had become the peculiar property not merely of the literate few, but of the few literate who were rich. The poor man could not have a Bible, and commonly lived and died without ever having seen one. The Bible had become to the people only a tradition.

How Jesus turned the world upside down

Originally posted on The Christian Mind:

The problem with the world is not  its diversity – social, ethnic, or racial. I am white, he is black; I belong to society’s elite, he is a poor farmer; I speak Yoruba, she is Fulani. No. The problem arises when love and service are left out, and the elements of power and superiority are introduced. Then it becomes: I am white, he is black, therefore I am better than him. I am the manager, she reports to me, therefore she must do whatever I want. I am wealthy, he is poor, therefore I can do as I wish to him.

This is the language of power and it has dominated the world ever since. Cain killed his brother Abel because he felt he could exercise power over him.  He was not driven by love to serve him, rather he was driven by power working through hate (Gen. 4:1-10). Abimelech…

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The Bible the Book of Mankind (1) by B.B. Warfield

This is Part 1 of a 3 part article. It was read at the World’s Bible Congress held at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, California, USA on August 1-4, 1915.

Adolf Harnack1, in repelling the proposal that the faculties of Theology in the German Universities should cease to bewarfield faculties of distinctively Christian Theology, and become faculties of Theology in general — without special reference to any particular religion — points out that Christianity’s place is not so much among as above the other religions. He that does not know it, says he, knows none, and he who knows it in its historical development knows all. Chief among the characteristics by which it elevates itself above other religions, he emphasizes this one: that Christianity has the Bible — the book of the ancient world, the book of the Middle Ages, and (though not perhaps in the market-place) the book of these new days of ours. What does Homer matter, he asks; what the Vedas; what the Koran, in comparison with the Bible? And how inexhaustible it is! Every succeeding period discovers new aspects of it, and every new search into its depths raises the inward life of Christendom to a higher level. What Harnack means is perhaps expressed in somewhat crisper phrase by Martin Kaehler2, when he declares that history has written in shining letters on the forefront of the Bible, “This is mankind’s book.” Other books may belong to a people, an age, a stage of human development; this book belongs to all peoples, all ages and all stages of growth, whether of the individual or of the race — unifying them all and welding them into one vitalized and vitalizing whole. The Bible is, by way of eminence, the book of humanity.

The Bible did not begin, indeed, as a world-book. The Jewish Bible was the book of a people and was written in the tongue of a people. An earnest of what was to come was given, it is true, when this book of a people began in the third century before Christ to clothe itself in a world-language. The rendering of the Hebrew Bible into Greek has an immense significance in the history of civilization, as the first important attempt in the region of Mediterranean culture to translate from one language into another. It thus became at once a symbol and an instrument of the unification of the peoples. Of far more importance was it, however, in the development of religion among men. Its meaning here was nothing less than this — that the diffusion of the Jewish people through the earth should not spell loss to the religion of revelation, but its entrance as leaven into the world. The Jews, scattered among the nations, might lose their language, but not their religion. Their religion, on the contrary, was to go with them, and through them was to work upon men of every race and of every clime. The Greek version of the Old Testament thus became a bond which held the Jewish diaspora firmly to the religion of revelation, and as well a powerful ferment in the life of the peoples into contact with whom it was brought. Thus it prepared the way for Christianity.

It did not as yet, however, become a world-book. That the Old Testament could not become without the New. It was only by being taken up into that Evangel which was “to course and range through all the world,” that it could become a portion of the Bible of mankind. So long as the Kingdom of God was like a pent-in stream, the book of that Kingdom must needs be the book of a race, the race chosen of God to be his people during those days of mere conservation. Its passage into a world-language could at most dig the canal through which the universal gospel might afterwards flow out to water the earth. This the Greek Old Testament did. For, if the Greek language did something for it, it in turn did much for the Greek language. It taught it to speak the great things of God. It was only, however, when the barriers were broken down, and the stream rushed forth to overspread the world, the Spirit of the Lord driving it, that the book in which was embodied the Word of the Kingdom could become veritably a world-book. It was no accident that the Christian Bible was a Greek Bible. Greek was at the time the lingua franca of the civilized world, and the universal gospel naturally clothed itself in this world-tongue. But even the lingua franca of the civilized world did not suffice the Bible. It was the world, not the civilized world, which was “the field” in which the seed of the Kingdom was sown and, within the civilized world, the whole body of the people, not that “upper crust” which had found it convenient to communicate with one another in a common speech. The gospel penetrated through every stratum and spread outward from land to land. As it worked its way thus intensively and extensively, the book in which it was enshrined became ever more and more obviously the world’s book.

We can observe its progress toward this result from the earliest years of the gospel proclamation. Wherever the gospel went, there the book is found; not as an exotic treasure, however precious, but as a leaven buried in the very substance of humanity and working through the whole lump. Wherever it went, it went as the people’s book; energizing at the bases of the people’s life and lifting the whole mass upward into new intellectual, ethical, spiritual vitality. And wherever it went, it established itself as at only a new frontier station whence it ever pushed yet farther beyond. In the West it became a Latin book. Not at Rome, indeed; for Rome was in those early days of Christianity a Greek city, and the Roman Church a Greek Church nourishing itself on the Greek Bible: its very Bishops commonly bore Greek names and when Latin names occur among them, they are disguised in Greek forms (Xystus). But in the outlying provinces, North Africa first, where Latin was the speech of the people; and where, in the form in which the people spoke it, it became the speech of this book of the people. Out from these beginnings, it made its way to dominate a whole civilization for a millennium and a half. In the East it became a Syriac book, and the service which the Latin Bible rendered in the West, the Syriac Bible rendered to another civilization in the East. The extent of the influence of the Syriac Bible was bounded only by the limits of the Eastern world. Copies of it have come down to us from Egypt, from Malabar, from China itself. “A whole series of peoples,” we are told, “received from the Syrians writing, the alphabet, and the Scriptures.” In the South it became a Coptic book, perhaps first breaking effectively down the barriers of the cumbrous old script which confined the possession of letters to a cast, and giving to Egypt, mother of letters, an alphabet which even the meanest might read. In the North it made its way, if more slowly yet with equal sureness, to the unlettered hordes which swarmed beyond the bounds of civilization: to the Goths and the Georgians, the Armenians and the Slavs, creating for its use in each case an alphabet and written speech.

It was thus that the Bible began to make itself the book of the world a millennium and a half ago; not waiting for civilization to prepare the road for it, but itself breaking the path for civilization; knowing no difference between cultivated and uncultivated, but seizing upon all alike and lifting all alike to its own level. From that day to this, with whatever slackenings in the rate of its progress, or even interruptions of it, it has advanced on the same lines. As the world grew ever bigger, it has grown with equal ceaselessness ever more expansive; until today it is not the Bible of the Mediterranean basin or of the Eurasian world, but of the whole round globe. It may sound cold and insignificant to say that it has now been rendered into all the chief languages of mankind. It may perhaps have more meaning to us to say that it may be read today in more than five hundred human tongues. Perhaps, however, it will be most intelligible if we say that the Bible is accessible today to three-quarters of the human race in their own mother speech. It is only natural that, in the presence of this stupendous fact of the transfusion of the Bible into the languages of the earth, men should think of the miracle of Pentecost and see that miracle projecting itself through the ages. Tennysonstrikes a note to which all our hearts respond when he places on the lips of his Wycliffite hero the apostrophe:

 “Heaven-sweet Evangel, ever-living word,

Who whilome spakest to the South in Greek About the soft Mediterranean shores,

And then in Latin to the Latin crowd,

As good need was — thou hast come to talk our isle.

Hereafter thou, fulfilling Pentecost,

Must learn to use the tongues of all the world.”

After five hundred years we look not forward but back upon this great achievement. The miracle has been accomplished, and now it is but a slight exaggeration to say that every man may hear the mighty things of God in his own language in which he was born.


(1851-1930) Liberal German theologian and church historian

(1835-1912) German theologian

(1809-1892) English poet

Revelation and the Christian worldview

“Christianity is the one revealed religion”

B.B. Warfield

The Christian worldview is based on Revelation. Therefore, if the concept of Revelation is denied, Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday SilhouetteChristianity cannot be accepted. As Dr Warfield wrote:  ‘Were there no “general revelation” there would be no religion in the world of any kind; were there no “special revelation” there would be no Christianity.’

Our understanding of the three aspects of Creation, Fall and Redemption derives from what God himself has disclosed to us. We understand, for instance, that the material world of stones, rivers and plastic is good because God said so, according to Revelation. Though our conscience testifies against our misdeeds, it only confirms what Revelation already declares: humans are fallen creatures and the whole of creation suffers under the sentence. Furthermore, we understand, only from Revelation, that the Creator of the universe has not abandoned his creation. He has redeemed the world and is restoring his kingdom among men.

God’s revelation is of 2 forms: General and Special. And the Bible speaks of each in several places:

 

The heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament shows His handiwork.

Day unto day utters speech,

And night unto night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1,2)

 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:18-20)

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them. (Rom. 2:14,15)

Thus the created order, the physical universe, gives us some information about God. For instance, we learn that God is powerful and eternal, just and wise. We also learn to distinguish between right and wrong by taking note of our inbuilt conscience (Rom 2:14).  It, however, gives no knowledge of God as a loving and gracious Redeemer. That must come from elsewhere.

From the moment man sinned and his knowledge became clouded, God began to communicate himself anew to the human race. Not only did he communicate facts about Himself, about humanity and about its sinful state, He unveiled a progressive plan of redemption – a way out of the misery of the human condition. This knowledge came about through various means:

  • Sometimes there were visible manifestations of God Himself (Genesis. 16:13; 31:11; Exodus. 3:2; 23:20-23; 33:9; Job 38:1; Psalm 18:10-16). The highest point of God’s visible manifestation was when He himself came to live among us for a while (John 1:14).
  • At other times, God would communicate directly to his people or His chosen messengers who would in turn pass His message across. Much of these was then put into writing. Thus, we find God speaking to the Israelites in the wilderness (Deut 5:4). He spoke to prophets in dreams and visions (Isaiah 6), and He also taught them through the internal leading of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet.1:21). Finally, we have Jesus who came to earth to teach us the Father’s will (John 14:26).

Revelation is God’s loving self-communication. His essence is love, and when he gives himself in revelation, it is an outflow of love. The appropriate response to this loving self-giving is to lovingly give ourselves to Him in return. The purpose of revelation is not mere knowledge or even wisdom; it is relationship. He loves us so we can worship and love Him in return.

Six Signs That You May Be Ashamed of the Gospel

Originally posted on THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM:

Golgotha

We are living in a day of religious pluralism and theological illiteracy. On a very general level many Christians have been told they need to share the Gospel with people. But why? What is it that motivates you to even engage the culture for the Christian faith? Or maybe you just don’t engage it all. Overseas, Christians are being persecuted and killed for their beliefs. So don’t take it for granted that we have the freedom to share what we believe with others.

1. The Starting Point

If you don’t agree with the following syllogism, it makes it hard to want to share your faith: 1. The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence. 2. The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate. This claim to divinity was proven by His miracles/His speaking authority, His actions, and His resurrection. 3. Therefore, there is reliable historical…

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What is Covenant Theology?

This excellent article gives a brief description of Covenant Theology. it was written by J. Ligon Duncan, a Presbyterian minister, and was published in RPM Magazine, an online publication of Third Millennium Ministries.

Covenant theology is the Gospel set in the context of God’s eternal plan of communion with his people, and its historical outworking in the covenants of works and grace (as well as in the various progressive stages of the covenant of grace). Covenant theology explains the meaning of the death of Christ in light of the fullness of the biblical teaching on the divine covenants, undergirds our rainbow-covenantunderstanding of the nature and use of the sacraments, and provides the fullest possible explanation of the grounds of our assurance.

To put it another way, Covenant theology is the Bible’s way of explaining and deepening our understanding of:

(1) the atonement [the meaning of the death of Christ];

(2) assurance [the basis of our confidence of communion with God and enjoyment of his promises];

(3) the sacraments [signs and seals of God’s covenant promises — what they are and how they work]; and

(4) the continuity of redemptive history [the unified plan of God’s salvation].

Covenant theology is also an hermeneutic, an approach to understanding the Scripture — an approach that attempts to biblically explain the unity of biblical revelation.

When Jesus wanted to explain the significance of His death to His disciples, He went to the doctrine of the covenants (see Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11). When God wanted to assure Abraham of the certainty of His word of promise, He went to the covenant (Genesis 12, 15, and 17). When God wanted to set apart His people, ingrain His work in their minds, tangibly reveal Himself in love and mercy, and confirm their future inheritance, He gave the covenant signs (Genesis 17, Exodus 12, 17, and 31, Matthew 28, Acts 2, Luke 22). When Luke wanted to show early Christians that Jesus’ life and ministry were the fulfillment of God’s ancient purposes for His chosen people, he went to the covenants and quoted Zacharias’ prophecy which shows that believers in the very earliest days of ‘the Jesus movement’ understood Jesus and His messianic work as a fulfillment (not a ‘Plan B’) of God’s covenant with Abraham (Luke 1:72-73). When the Psalmist and the author of Hebrews want to show how God’s redemptive plan is ordered and on what basis it unfolds in history, they went to the covenants (see Psalm 78, 89, Hebrews 6-10).

Covenant theology is not a response to dispensationalism. It existed long before the rudiments of classical dispensationalism were brought together in the nineteenth century. Covenant theology is not an excuse for baptizing children, nor merely a convention to justify a particular approach to the sacraments (modern paedocommunionism and baptismal regenerationism).

Covenant theology is not sectarian, but an ecumenical Reformed approach to understanding the Bible, developed in the wake of the magisterial Reformation, but with roots stretching back to the earliest days of catholic Christianity and historically appreciated in all the various branches of the Reformed community (Baptist, Congregationalist, Independent, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Reformed). Covenant theology cannot be reduced to serving merely as the justification for some particular view of children in the covenant (covenant successionism), or for a certain kind of eschatology, or for a specific philosophy of education (whether it be homeschooling or Christian schools or classical schools). Covenant theology is bigger than that. It is more important than that.

“The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture, are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenant of law and of grace. May God grant us now the power to instruct, and you the grace to receive instruction on this vital subject.”

Who said this? C.H. Spurgeon — the great English Baptist preacher! Certainly a man beyond our suspicion of secretly purveying a Presbyterian view of the sacraments to the unsuspecting evangelical masses.

Covenant theology flows from the trinitarian life and work of God. God’s covenant communion with us is modeled on and a reflection of the intra-trinitarian relationships. The shared life, the fellowship of the persons of the Holy Trinity, what theologians call perichoresis or circumincessio, is the archetype of the relationship the gracious covenant God shares with His elect and redeemed people. God’s commitments in the eternal covenant of redemption find space-time realization in the covenant of grace.

The Christian view of Work

A secular worldview, that is, an outlook on life that fails to take God and his revelation into account, distorts work in either of 2 ways. It could see work as a meaningless but necessary burden which we have to bear in order to survive, or it turns work into an idol – the sole purpose of a person’s existence. Work and not God becomes Lord.
work

The first view considers work as a curse; we do it because we have to. We cannot so much as bring passion to it. Do your work, receive your pay, and enjoy it on the things that really satisfy. The second view goes in the opposite direction. Career advancement becomes all a person lives for. Everything, including relationships, are simply tools to push us further on the career ladder. These views are not merely different ways of relating to work, they issue in different understandings of the nature of work itself.

The Christian worldview has a high view of work. We find the origin of work at the dawn of Creation. God had made man, planted a beautiful garden, and placed man there to take care of it (Gen. 2:15). Some verses earlier in Gen 1:28, God had given humanity (the combined team of man and woman) a charge to develop and extend creation. This charge has been called the Cultural Mandate, and it denotes humanity’s divine assignment  to complete and perfect the work of Creation as partners with God. Given these considerations, work thus takes on a new look. Far from being a mere necessity or a cursed burden, and far from being a platform for self-worship, it is a means by which we fulfill our task of developing the universe under God. Instead of a burden, it becomes a privilege. And instead of exalting ourselves, work becomes an avenue for glorifying God and serving others.

With the onset of sin,  however, the exercise of work is frustrated. Much of it now comes with toil and suffering. Nevertheless, where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Under God’s common grace, he keeps knowledge alive and limits the effects of the fall. And with the coming of Jesus the Redeemer, we are renewed and empowered to serve one another with the grace we have received from Him (1 Pet. 4:10).