White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Recovering Scripture: The Church’s Only Hope

I recently gave a talk where I walked through the arguments for the sufficiency of Scripture. It was amazing to me how few of the people—in a conservative evangelical church—had never heard anything on the subject. This is a problem.

Roman Catholic apologists argue forcefully that the Bible is “the Church’s book.” Since the New Testament canon (as well as the Old) was “determined” by the church, it must be the case that the church is the mother of Scripture.

The Reformation countered that the church is the “creature of the Word” (creatura verbi). They knew, of course, that the church preceded the completed canon. After all, the church has existed from Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15) to the present. It is the Word that creates the church, regardless of time and place. Abraham knew less clearly what we know more fully, but the object of his faith was the same: his heir, Jesus Christ, in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.

But now we have a canon. There is a qualitative difference between the ministry of the apostles and that of the ordinary pastors. Paul could appeal to the immediate revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1), while encouraging Timothy to take courage in the gift that was given to him “when the council of elders [presbytery] laid their hands” on him (1 Tim 4:14).

“Scripture alone” does not mean that the church has no authority. Rather, as the Reformers taught, there is a distinction between the extraordinary ministry of prophets and apostles (providing the canonical foundation of the faith) and the ordinary ministry of those pastor-teachers and elders today who lead Christ’s body. The church has a ministerial authority. That’s why we embrace the ecumenical creeds and Reformation confessions (Lutheran or Reformed) as faithful summaries of Scripture. However, the church’s authority is not magisterial. The church may get it wrong, but God’s Word remains. Scripture must have the last word in every controversy.

There is no “apostolic office,” whether of popes or Pentecostal prophets. Christ speaks to us every time we hear the Word of God preached (Rom 10:1-17) on the basis of the biblical canon that is now complete. Even in the days of the apostles, sectarian rivalry threatened the unity of the church. Therefore, Paul declared, “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6). If churches that were founded by the apostles were in danger of having their candlestick removed (Gal 3:1; 5:4; Rev 2:5), then what hubris is represented by popes who preached a gospel other than the one that was delivered by Christ through his apostles?

Lose the Scriptures and you lose the gospel.

But in our day, it’s Protestants—even evangelicals—who downplay the sufficiency of Scripture for doctrine and life. As in the medieval church, many today think that Scripture is unclear about various doctrines, practices, and forms of worship. It’s just not interesting enough. We have to add our speculations, experiences, and cultural perspectives.

We believe the Reformation recovered the central themes of Scripture that the church slowly had abandoned – as it tends to do in every generation. We all need to recover Scripture: in our devotional lives, as the source of our theology, in our churches, and as the living voice of God today. It is only “by Scripture alone” that we hear the odd announcement of a Father who “so loved the world who gave his only-begotten Son.” Compromise this “sola” and you end up surrendering “solo Christo” (by Christ alone), “sola fide” (through faith alone), and “soli Deo gloria” (to God alone be the glory).

I don’t say this often, because I think it’s often over-used. But with sola scriptura, everything is at stake. That’s why we’re offering a special MP3 CD entitled, “Recovering Scripture,” as our gift to you with your $100 donation to White Horse Inn before the end of the year. Let us recover Scripture together: in our devotional lives, as the source of our theology, in our churches, and as the living voice of God today. Click here to take advantage of this special offer and thank you for your support of White Horse Inn.

 

WHI-1233 | Christianity, Hinduism & Islam

What are the major differences between Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam, and how can we reach out to people with Hindu or Muslim backgrounds? On this live edition of White Horse Inn, Michael Horton will discuss these important issues with Hicham Chehab of Salaam Christian Fellowship and Isaac Shaw of Delhi Bible Institute.

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ETS Reception

Join the editors of Modern Reformation for a special “meet and greet” reception at the Evangelical Theological Society on Friday, November 21st at 4:30 pm at Trellis Garden Grille on the property of the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, California.

We’re especially interested in finding new authors, so if you’re in town for the Evangelical Theological Society meeting, please stop by for a bit to eat and get to know Modern Reformation magazine. We’ll be previewing our 2015 editorial calendar and talking about the different departments that the magazine will feature.

Although the event is “invitation only,” it’s very easy to get an invitation: just ask! Our editors will be at the ETS meetings and you can get an invitation from one of us. You can also pick up an invitation from the 1517 Project booth in the exhibit hall. Email us (editor@modernreformation.org) or direct message us on Twitter (@ModRef) to get more information.

The reception begins at 4:30, immediately after the special session in the Golden Ballroom featuring D. A. Carson, Mark Dever, and Michael Horton. Make your way to Trellis Garden Grille for appetizers and drinks before dinner or your trip home.

We’re looking forward to meeting you!

WHI-1232 | Pluralism & The American Religion

What are the beliefs and assumptions of contemporary American spirituality? Why is it that so many people pick and choose their religious beliefs based on what makes them happy—rather than by evaluating their truth claims? On this edition of White Horse Inn recorded before a live audience in Vail, Colorado, the hosts, along with special guest Greg Koukl, discuss these questions and more as they outline the characteristics of the American Religion.

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Kim Riddlebarger’s New Book!

Our friend and colleague, Kim Riddlebarger, has announced the forthcoming publication of his new book on B. B. Warfield, The Lion of Princeton: B. B. Warfield as Apologist and Theologian.

The book will appear in both print and as a Logos download in January. You can preorder the Logos version now.

Here’s an overview:

There’s little doubt about the impact B.B. Warfield has had on American Christianity. Some hail him for his apologetic and polemical skills, praising him as a defender of Reformed orthodoxy. Others view him with less regard—as too focused on the role of reason in faith and too devoted to the inerrancy of Scripture. But all agree that he is a man with whom one must reckon.

Despite the resurging interest in his life and work, Warfield’s views are often misunderstood. In The Lion of Princeton, Kim Riddlebarger investigates Warfield’s theological, apologetical, and polemical writings, bringing clarity to the confusion that surrounds this key figure of the Princeton tradition.

Riddlebarger provides a biographical overview of Warfield’s life and traces the growing appreciation for Warfield’s thought by contemporary Reformed thinkers. Furthermore, he evaluates the fundamental structures in Warfield’s overall theology and examines Warfield’s work in the field of systematic theology.

Warfield’s theological heirs revere his memory, while his critics continue to find his work misguided and his legacy troubling. “The Lion of Princeton,” as he was known, was certainly up for the challenge. We must therefore take a fresh look at the work of this great scholar, who was in many ways the most significant American apologist, polemicist, and theologian of his age.

Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology is a peer-reviewed series of contemporary monographs exploring key figures, themes, and issues in historical and systematic theology from an evangelical perspective.

In the Logos edition, this valuable volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Michael Horton commends the volume:

It has been a pleasure for me to learn more about Warfield as a colleague of Kim Riddlebarger. To my mind, Kim is a lot like Warfield: lucid and learned, measured and careful with his judgments, yet bold just where it’s needed. This book exposes us to Warfield on his own terms, and usually in his own words.

Congrats, Kim!

WHI-1231 | Is God a Religious Pluralist?

Is it true that all religious paths lead to the same God? Can something be true for you, but not for others? How are we to deal with the exclusive claims of Jesus in our pluralistic age? On this special edition of White Horse Inn, our friend Greg Koukl will discuss these questions in his address at a recent WHI conference.

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Should We Keep Religion Out of Politics?

As we pull into the final stretch for mid-term elections, the media frequently asks, “Should Americans keep their religious views out of politics?”

You never know exactly what someone means by the question. And the people who answer quickly usually don’t either. So let me hazard a rough reply, based on what I think folks mean by the question.

Option One: Religious convictions are deeply personal and private; they shouldn’t shape a voter’s public policy perspectives.

This view, associated with John Rawls and Richard Rorty, assumes that religion is a “conversation stopper.” However, it is a naïve position because it assumes one’s most deeply-held convictions don’t have anything to do with how one thinks about life and the common good. It’s hardly a news alert that noted atheist Richard Dawkins thinks it’s immoral not to abort children with Downs Syndrome and that if we love our pets enough to put them down, we should be as “compassionate” to human beings. Everyone brings his or her worldview into the voting booth and Christians shouldn’t allow themselves to be bullied into thinking that they must not.

Christianity has all the more reason to claim our most basic allegiance. Christ is Lord, proved publicly in history by his resurrection from the dead. For those who embrace that truth, Christ’s lordship is not just true for me, but for everyone. Christ is the eternal Word by whom and for whom all things exist, and in the fullness of time he became human to save sinners from death and hell. From the beginning, his was a public and universal claim. Whether it is right or wrong, it’s not private. And it changes everything.

Consequently, it’s impossible for a Christian to separate his or her most deeply-held religious convictions from judgments about the common good.

Option Two: Public arguments have to persuade. The properly coercive arm of civil government shouldn’t give preference to one religion or church in public policy decisions.

Government creates laws, and enforcement agencies—like the police—make sure that they’re followed. “Christ is Lord” is not just a private claim, but also a public one. Positive law is grounded in natural law—the law of God known to the conscience of everyone as God’s image-bearer, even if the truth is suppressed in unrighteousness. Christians should make explicit their religious grounding for public policies, while offering arguments that prick the conscience of unbelievers to reconsider the nihilistic path to which their presuppositions lead.

However, politics is the realm of negotiation and compromise. Our clashing worldviews lead to clashing political policies, and often even those with the same worldview differ on how exactly to apply it to specific policies. Instead of focusing on all out “wins,” we should focus on making arguments that are at least good enough to persuade enough folks to mitigate the damage that their ungodly worldviews could and would accomplish if consistently worked out. It’s only Christ-honoring and neighbor-loving for us to make those convictions explicit—and more honest than most secularists.

And yet, we must never—ever—cross the line of trying to invoke the properly coercive powers of the state to sanction a particular theological argument or justification for a particular public policy. For Christians, that’s not ultimately because of the First Amendment, but because Christ’s kingdom advances by the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—and not by the sword of state power. There are many arguments that I make for the public and universal truth of the Christian faith, but I would be conceding ultimate authority to Caesar and denying the gospel if I thought that good laws could create a good society and coercion could produce a godly society.

To conclude, a few suggestions for navigating the complexity:

  1. Don’t be bullied into separating your Christian convictions from your views of the common good. As a Christian, I affirm the value of human life on the basis of a host of theological convictions grounded in special revelation (Scripture). It’s only honest to share these deeper convictions with neighbors.
  1. Don’t assume that because something is true—objectively and universally—it should be legislated and enforced by state power.  It’s one thing to communicate my distinctively Christian rationale for a particular position. It’s another to expect my non-Christian neighbor to support a policy that can only be argued on that Christian basis.  To put it differently, a host of beliefs are engaged when I vote for a candidate or ballot measure.  But if it’s a matter of the public good, I should be able to defend what I think is a good policy on grounds that a non-Christian might find plausible.  No, none of us comes to general revelation neutrally.  But remember that we are all made in God’s image, including rebels, and that the Spirit restrains wickedness and promotes justice by his common grace.  When you offer good “general revelation” arguments, you’re not disengaging from the teachings of special revelation (Scripture).  The book of nature and the book of Scripture are in perfect harmony.
  1. Recognize that politics is the realm of give-and-take, as citizens with radically different convictions and even more radically different policy solutions try to reach compromises. If we can’t live with compromises, we can’t live in civil society. We’re not compromising our faith when we stop short of the full justification that we would offer for the value of life. Common grace is a restraint upon sin, not its elimination.
  1. Be courageous and Realize that even Christians can affirm diverse policy solutions on the basis of a shared worldview. Imagine Christians of different political leanings on other issues coming together with one voice to protect the life of the unborn and other vulnerable members of society. Rarely are policy decisions as cut-and-dried as abortion-on-demand or euthanasia. Scripture gives us the spectacles for viewing all areas of life, but not for determining every issue in life. That’s where Christian liberty comes into the picture. Otherwise, the church becomes a Republican or Democratic political action committee, a priestly auxiliary of MSNBC or Fox News.
  1. Pray. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

Decisions made in Washington and the state houses are very important. The cosmic battle between the ascended Christ and the kingdoms of this age is discerned in many policy crises. It touches our own families and neighborhoods every day. However, it’s particularly where the church witnesses to Christ that Satan’s opposition is most keenly felt.

The ultimate locus of this battle is “in heavenly places,” where the ultimate weapons are God’s Word and Spirit. When Christians pray—and especially when they come together to pray and to receive Christ with all of his benefits in Word and sacrament, Christ’s kingdom spreads and Satan’s prisons are claimed for his redeeming reign. Christ has won the decisive victory, though Satan and his hosts continue their insurgent skirmishes.

So let’s not confuse the mid-term elections—or any civil contest—into the cosmic battle that can only be waged by Christ’s gracious advance through his wonderfully liberating means of grace.

WHI-1230 | Is Reality Secular?

What are the roots and assumptions of secularism and why does this system of belief maintain such a stronghold in Western culture? Why are the other worldviews competing for our acceptance and how are we to know which one is true? On this program, Michael Horton will be speaking with Claremont University professor Mary Poplin about her abandonment of secularism and her subsequent conversion to the Christian faith.

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WHI-1229 | Renaissance

At the very time that many Christians have shifted their focus from the unchanging gospel to the transformation of culture, countless churches have been transformed in the name of relevance into Christian entertainment centers with motivational speakers. So are we actually changing the culture, or are we being changed by it? Is cultural transformation something we should focus on in the first place? On this program, Michael Horton discusses these questions and more with Os Guinness, author of Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times.

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Michael Horton on “Steve Brown, Etc.”

Steve Brown invited Mike Horton to join his program to discuss his new book, Ordinary.

You can listen in on the fun and get a preview of the message of the book.

Thanks to Key Life and Steve Brown for the conversation!

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