White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

WHI-1036 | Abrahamic Faiths

What is the relationship between Christianity and other “Abrahamic faith traditions”? Is Abraham really the father of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and if so, does this mean that each of these religions are legitimate ways to God? What are we to do with Abraham himself and with the other Old Testament patriarchs? Since they didn’t have explicit faith in Christ, how can Jesus be the only way of salvation? White Horse Inn: know what you believe and why you believe it!

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel Commission
Michael Horton
The Intolerance of Tolerance
D.A. Carson
The Christian Faith
Michael Horton

PROGRAM AUDIO

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

MUSIC SELECTION

Doug Powell

Suffered under Pontius Pilate

National Public Radio is featuring an interview with Lawrence Wright, whose cover story in the current edition of The New Yorker magazine raises troubling questions about the Church of Scientology. Through hours of interviews with church officials and extensive research into public and military records, Wright reports that some of the initial claims made by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, were false and/or unsubstantiated.

What difference will all this have on those who are devoted to Scientology? Wright explains:

“It’s hard to measure, because we’re dealing with a religion,” he says, “and people are drawn to it because of faith. And if it were simply a matter of reason, then one could put this [document about Hubbard's service] down in front of you and say, ‘Here is conclusive proof that the founder of Scientology lied about his military record and lied about his injuries and lied about the fundamental principles out of which he created the Church of Scientology. But that may not matter to people who are involved in it, who may feel they are gaining something from their experience — either because they feel like the truths of Scientology enhance their lives or because the community of Scientologists that they live among is something like their family. So they intentionally shield themselves from knowing these types of things.”

How different this is from Paul’s assertion in 1 Corinthians that if Christ was not risen from the dead as the Gospel writers claimed, Christianity was a sham and waste of time! Christianity is based upon historical truth claims, such as the claim we confess on Sundays from the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

There is nothing in Creedal and Confessional Christianity that belongs to Wright’s definition of “faith” and “religion.” It isn’t about the benefit that I personally derive from belief in a fairy tale; it’s about whether or not a real man, born from a real woman in a real place, lived a real life, suffered a real death under a real Roman governor, and actually rose from the dead three real days after crying out, “It is finished!”

Evangelicals and Confession

The Catholic Church’s new iPhone app is generating a lot of buzz. Today, The Christian Post featured a story that included the positive endorsement of Biola philosophy professor John Mark Reynolds:

A checklist like that is totally compatible with evangelical traditions. Someone like John Calvin or Martin Luther would want you to go through the Ten Commandments and reflect thoughtfully on how you may have broken them,” said Reynolds.

As digital confessors tap their way through the app, they are asked questions like: “Do I not give God time every day in prayer?” “Have I been angry with God?” and “Have I encouraged anyone to have an abortion?”

Daily and thorough introspection is a good thing, according to Reynolds.

“If we’re not careful, we fall into cheap grace,” he cautioned. “We don’t pay any specific attention to a lot of the bad things we do. A lot of people get two or three things that they struggle and those are the only sins that they only considered that they have committed.”

Reynolds said some mainline Protestant denominations such as Lutherans or Episcopalians still observe the tradition of confession before a priest or pastor. According to Roman Catholic beliefs, however, the presence of a priest is required for absolution.

Evangelicals aren’t required to adhere to the same standard of confessing their sins to a pastor but they should still follow the biblical mandate to confess their sins to one another, he said.

“The Bible says you should confess your sins to Jesus but it also says you should confess your sins to one another,” said the Biola professor. “It’s true that ultimately only the power of the Holy Spirit can save me and only Jesus can truly help me, but sometimes they need advice and counsel from someone.”

Reynolds said that a lot of Christians, including himself, falls into the “cheap grace” camp. That observation has led him to be more concerned about Christians under-confessing to the Holy Spirit rather than becoming obsessed over their sins.

“Sin separates us from God … It’s good to review what we are doing wrong,” he said. “If we say that we love Jesus but we want to do things that separate us from him then once again we’re lying and the truth isn’t in us.”

Sin needs to be examined seriously but it’s not something to dwell over 10 years down the road, according to Reynolds.

“Once we’ve received forgiveness from Jesus, it’s time to move on.”

Prof. Reynolds’ best point is that evangelicals don’t have a mechanism for confessing sin and receiving forgiveness. Sadly, this iPhone app won’t help fix that problem. It may give a pious evangelical help in identifying his or her sins, but its purpose is to drive the sinner to the Confessional where a priest can then direct the sinner’s penance. One priest, Father Edward Beck even said, “I think this app may be a boon for the sacrament.”

But what is an evangelical to do after coming up with a list of sins? Surely they can confess them to a brother or sister in Christ, though the best that they can offer–Reynolds reminds us–is “advice” and “counsel.” Do they make an appointment with their senior pastor (or one of his many associates) to confess their sins? I wonder how many professional ministry staff have a tag for that in Outlook?

Sadly, there isn’t much recourse for the tender-hearted evangelical, which may be one reason why the “cheap grace” Reynolds laments is so prevalent in the church. One can only be tender-hearted about their sins for so long if they are never given relief. That’s where the Reformed and Lutheran practice of corporate confession and absolution comes into play.

In all of the early Reformation liturgies, a place was given for the congregation to read the Ten Commandments or some other passage that detailed God’s requirements. Upon reflecting on the Law, the congregation was led in a corporate prayer of confession after which they would look up to their minister who in the name of Jesus would absolve them of their sin.

Depending on the tradition, this was done in different ways. Sometimes with a hearty, “I absolve you.” Sometimes with a declaration of pardon. Sometimes with a reading of various gospel texts that pointed the penitent to the work of Christ for them. But regardless of how it was done, a sinner was assured of his or her standing with Christ and could worship God without fear. They received the objective word of Christ that reminded them of their being a New Creation, that the sin which so easily entangled them that week was removed from them as far as the east is from the west, and that God looked on them in his beloved Son and pronounced them, “not guilty.”

The iPhone app, as we’ve been reminded, isn’t meant to do that. It’s just meant to prepare the penitent for the Confessional. Sadly, the evangelical who adopts it for their own private confession will only dwell on the Law and never hear the voice of God through his ministers speaking words of grace and peace.

For a personal account of the power of the practice of confession in a Lutheran context, you’ll want to read this account from our friends at New Reformation Press.

Confession App

So, you’ve probably heard by now that the Catholic Church has approved an iPhone app that helps prepare people for making confession. Check out this story from the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. The very first comment from E-Rock at 1:06 p.m. is priceless!

The Gospel-Centered Life Conference Audio

If you missed last month’s conference at Coral Ridge PCA with Mike Horton, Tullian, Tchividjian, and J. D. Greer, you can now listen to the audio of each of the sessions and Mike’s Sunday morning sermon.

The Science of Atonement

A great find from our friends at Mockingbird: from this week’s Economist, a story about the relationship between guilt and pain.

WHI-1035 | Is Faith in Christ Necessary?

According to a recent Pew study, 70% of Americans agreed with the idea that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” What’s more striking is that when this same question was put to self-identified evangelical Christians, 57% agreed. So is this view correct, or is faith in Christ the only way to heaven? That’s the focus of this edition of White Horse Inn as the hosts continue their series through the Great Commission.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel Commission
Michael Horton
Christ Alone
Rod Rosenbladt
Only One Way
ed. Richard Phillips

PROGRAM AUDIO

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

MUSIC SELECTION

Doug Powell

Help Wanted!

Will you be in southern California on February 18th?

Are you free from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.?

Would you like to help White Horse Inn create a study resource in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Mike Horton’s book, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace?

We’re looking for 15 people to be in the live studio audience on February 18th in Carlsbad, California as Mike Horton leads a small group through twelve sessions corresponding to the twelve chapters of Putting Amazing Back Into Grace. These sessions will be professionally recorded and packaged with a study guide and a new edition of the book later this year. All those who participate as members of the studio audience will get the complete package when it is published.

We have limited space available for this event and we need to know if you are committed to participating, so please leave a comment or contact us (please direct your comment to “Marketing”) to secure your spot and receive further instructions.

Thanks for your help!

WHI-1034 | The Mission Statement

The Great Commission is both deep in its intensity (making disciples, not just converts) and wide in its extensiveness (“into all the world”). But even where it was once strongly preached and professed, the Gospel’s light seems today to be a flickering candle. How do we take the message of the gospel into all the world? On this edition of the program the hosts discuss the meaning of Christ’s mission statement in the context of today’s religious pluralism.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Bible & Mission
Richard Bauckham
The Gospel Commission
Michael Horton
The Christian Faith
Michael Horton

PROGRAM AUDIO

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

MUSIC SELECTION

David Hlebo

The Gospel Sonnets of Ralph Erskine

I’ve recently started reading Ralph Erskine’s Gospel Sonnets to my four children with great profit. Written in 1720, this book combines incredible theological precision with beautiful poetry. Thanks to Google, you can now read or download a pdf copy of this hard to find book. Here are a few lines dealing with both justification and sanctification:

The believer, being married to Christ, is both justified and sanctified

Proud nature may reject this gospel-theme,
And curse it as an Antinomian scheme.
Let slander bark, let envy grin and fight,
The curse that is so causeless shall not light.
If they that fain would make by holy force
‘Twixt sinners and the law a clean divorce,
And court the Lamb a virgin chaste to wife,
Be charg’d as foes to holiness of life,
Well may they suffer gladly on this score,
Apostles great were so malign’d before.

When as a cov’nant stern the law commands,
Faith puts her Lamb’s obedience in its hands:
And when its threats gush out a fiery flood,
Faith stops the current with her victim’s blood.
The law can crave no more, yet craves no less,
Than active, passive, perfect righteousness.
Yet here is all, yea, more than its demand,
All render’d to it by a divine hand.
Mankind is bound law-service still to pay,
Yea, angel-kind is also bound t’ obey.
It may by human and angelic blaze
Have honour, but in finite partial ways.

Thus doth the Husband by his Father’s will
Both for and in his bride the law fulfill:
For her, as ’tis a covenant; and then
In her, as ’tis a rule of life to men.
First all law-debt he most completely pays;
Then of law-duties all the charge defrays.
Does first assume her guilt, and loose her chains;
And then with living water wash her stains:
Her fund restore, and then her form repair,
And make his filthy bride a beauty fair;
His perfect righteousness most freely grant,
And then his holy image deep implant;
Into her heart his precious seed indrop,
Which, in his time, will yield a glorious crop.
But by alternate turns his plant he brings
Through robbing winters and repairing springs.
Hence, pining oft, they suffer sad decays,
By dint of shady nights and stormy days.
But blest with sap, and influence from above
They live and grow anew in faith and love;
Until transplanted to the higher soil,
Where furies tread no more, nor foxes spoil.

Page 63 of 97« First...102030...6162636465...708090...Last »