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Archive for October, 2008

The Lessons of the Reformers

In honor of Reformation Day today, here’s a selection from Stephen J. Nichols:

The things that matter most to us all center on the gospel. The church simply can’t afford to forget the lesson of the Reformation about the utter supremacy of the gospel in everything the church does. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, has dedicated his life to bear­ing witness to the unimaginable horrors and atrocities of the Holocaust. He speaks of the unspeakable. And he does so because humanity cannot afford to forget the lesson of the Holocaust. It is far too easy to forget, especially when forgetting eases our conscience. History, however, com­pels us to remember. In studying the Reformation, we remember what the church is all about, and we remember how easy it is for the church to lose its grip on the gospel.

If he said it once, Martin Luther said it a hundred times: “The church’s true treasure is the gospel.” Luther lived at a time when this true treasure had been traded for something worth far less. As a monk, he stood in a long line of succession that stretched back through centuries of theologians and churchmen who had heaped up layer upon layer of extrabiblical teaching and practice, obscuring the church’s true treasure of the gospel. Like scaffolding that surrounds and hides the beauty of a building, these layers needed to be torn down so the object that mat­tered could be seen without hindrance and without obstruction. Luther, with a little help from his friends, tore down the scaffolding, revealing the beauty and wonder of the gospel for the church once again. Luther called his own (re)discovery of the gospel a “breakthrough” (durchbruch in German).

In the process he brought about an entire revolution of church life, practice, and doctrine. Many of the doctrines that we Protestants take for granted find their crystallized expression in the thought of the Reformers. Theologians speak of the Solas, from the Latin word sola, meaning “alone.” Usually we list five Solas:

• 1. Sola Scriptura, meaning “Scripture alone”: The Bible is the sole and final authority in all matters of life and godliness. The church looks to the Bible as its ultimate authority.

• 2. and 3. Sola Gratia, meaning “grace alone,” and Sola Fide, meaning “faith alone”: Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. It is not by works; we come to Christ empty-handed. This is the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, the cornerstone of the Reformation.

• 4. Solus Christus, meaning “Christ alone”: There is no other mediator between God and sinful humanity than Christ. He alone, based on his work on the cross, grants access to the Father.

• 5. Soli Deo Gloria, meaning “the glory of God alone”: All of life can be lived for the glory of God; everything we do can and should be done for his glory. The Reformers called this the doctrine of vocation, viewing our work and all the roles we play in life as a calling.

These doctrines form the bedrock of all that we believe, and the Reformers gave these doctrines their finest expression. In addition to the doctrines we routinely believe, the Reformers also laid out for us many of the practices of the church that we take for granted. The church had lost sight of the sermon, celebrating the Mass instead. The Reformers returned the sermon to the church service. In the case of the Puritans in England, they returned it with a vengeance.

Congregations didn’t sing in the centuries leading up to the Reformation. In fact, Jan Hus, one of the pre-Reformation reformers, was condemned as a heretic for, among other things, having his congregation sing. Luther and the other Reformers restored congregational singing to the church. Knowing this should humble us every time we sing in church. We should offer our heartfelt thanks to Luther, and we should remember what Hus gave for the privilege.

Excerpt taken from The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World by Stephen J. Nichols


October 31, 2008 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church History,Holidays,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,The Gospel,The Reformation,Theology | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:37 am | 1 Comment »

“Suffering Creates Teachable Moments for Gospel Reception”

John Piper recently wrote about how “bad times are good for missions”.

His insights compelled me to share a passage from the recently released Suffering and the Goodness of God, the first volume in Crossway’s Theology in Community series, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson.

The following excerpt is from the chapter entitled “Christ and Crocodiles: Suffering and the Goodness of God in Contemporary Perspective” by Robert Yarbrough. In this chapter, Dr. Yarbrough lays out eleven theses on suffering’s significance in a world created and ultimately redeemed by God. This is from Thesis 5: Suffering Creates Teachable Moments for Gospel Reception:

Jesus did not evade the issue of suffering and neither should we. One day as he was teaching (Luke 13:1–5), he was informed of Pilate’s murder of some Galileans who were in the very act of worshiping God. We do not know all Jesus said. But we know he leveraged the shock of the hour into an object lesson, urging listeners to make a life change. He even took it a step further by pointing to a building collapse that claimed the lives of eighteen people. The lesson he drew from this tragedy was the same: Repent, lest you too perish!

There is much more to say about suffering than “Consider your ways and turn to God!” But Jesus reminds us of that standing imperative. If we dare deepen our comprehension of suffering vis-à-vis God’s goodness—cognizant that “he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccles.1:18)—we do well to seek ways to emulate Jesus’ acknowledgment of suffering as an occasion for human affirmation of God.

We have already argued that this does not make suffering in itself a good thing (Thesis 1 above). But it does encourage us to enlarge our outlook to incorporate suffering into our view of what it means to come to Christ and then to honor and serve him. We do not trust in him so that we can evade suffering, nor do we present Christ as an assured means of escape from hard times. Rather we trust so that in good times and bad our lives will reflect fidelity to him and the courage that Jesus modeled and imparts. The same suffering that hardens some or drives them to faithless despair can be an occasion for the bold move of hope in Christ in spite of suffering’s disincentives to affirm and believe in God.

We do well to remain intent on enlarging our spiritual understanding so that we become tougher and wiser when it comes to absorbing and responding to suffering. As we do so we will become more effective messengers of the gospel to others whose sufferings may likewise be the occasion of making the right choice when faced with the question: should I let adversity drive me away from the Bible’s testimony to God’s good purposes and eternal promise, or should I believe that the message of Jesus and the cross are still adequate grounds for personal faith in him? It is often suffering that makes this anguished but fruitful outcry unavoidable and that also paves the way for the best, though usually not the easiest, response.

Here are the eleven theses Dr. Yarbrough teaches through this excellent chapter:

  1. Suffering is Neither Good nor Completely Explicable
  2. Suffering in Itself Is No Validation of Religious Truth
  3. Accounting for Suffering Is Forced upon Us by Our Times
  4. Suffering May Be a Stumbling Block to Gospel Reception
  5. Suffering Creates Teachable Moments for Gospel Reception
  6. Suffering Will Bring Glory to God in the Lives of Believers Subjected to It
  7. Suffering Is the Price of Much Fruitful Ministry
  8. Suffering Is Often the Penalty for Gospel Reception
  9. Suffering Nobly Borne Testifies to God’s Goodness
  10. Suffering Unites Us with Other Sinners We Seek to Serve
  11. Suffering Establishes True Fellowship among Christians

Learn more about Suffering and the Goodness of God here.

October 29, 2008 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Trials / Suffering | Author: James Kinnard @ 10:16 am | 0 Comments »

ESV RSS Reading Plans Are Now Podcasts

All the ESV Bible reading plans are now available as free podcasts. You don’t need to do anything special if you’re already subscribed: the MP3s will show up automatically for you.

To subscribe in iTunes, here’s what to do:

  1. Go to the ESV Reading Plans page.
  2. Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want.
  3. Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  4. Start iTunes.
  5. Choose Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast
  6. Paste the URL from step three into the box.
  7. Click OK.

We’re still working out a few kinks, but we hope you enjoy the podcasts. The audio is by David Cochran Heath and is available for purchase and for streaming at the ESV Online Study Bible.

| Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 6:12 am | 1 Comment »

“Jesus and the Feminists” is Now Available

Nearly every aspect of American society has been affected by the feminist movement, and the church turns out to be no exception. The feminist movement did not merely change the way evangelicals view themselves; it changed the way they view the Word of God.

In Jesus and the Feminists, author Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger begins by offering a brief survey of the feminist movement, revealing the radical misunderstanding of Jesus it has facilitated. Köstenberger then critiques the relevant works of well-known feminist scholars and the ways they interpret certain passages of Scripture related to Jesus and his approach to women.

Jesus and the Feminists points the way to a better understanding of the biblical message regarding Jesus’ stance toward women and offers both men and women a biblical view of their roles in the church and the home.

What Others Are Saying

“Dr. Kostenberger gives us a here a solid, sad, scrupulously fair case study of ideology deflecting exegesis over an entire generation. She shows conclusively that the attempts of a long series of scholars to find Jesus affirming women’s leadership in some way have entirely failed. Surely this is an important cautionary tale for our times.”
J. I. Packer,
Professor of Theology, Regent College

“Who is Jesus? Was he a chauvinist? A feminist crusader? Or an egalitarian emancipator of women? In this significant work, Margaret Köstenberger investigates whether the portraits of Jesus painted by proponents of women’s equality truly fit the Gospel narrative. Her analysis of underlying hermeneutics is careful and concise. Her conclusions­, balanced and well-reasoned. Is Jesus who they say he is? This is a valuable resource for all who seek to answer this all-important question.”
Mary A. Kassian, Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Margaret Köstenberger succeeds at bringing historical perspective to bear on feminist understanding of Scripture and Christ. Her analyses of radical, reformist, and evangelical wings of this movement are methodical, clear, thorough, and mature. Her findings are highly significant. They force the question: Is Jesus Lord over Western culture’s ideologies or their servant? Today a new generation stands poised to replace the aging leaders who ushered feminism into our churches. Köstenberger points the way to honor their concerns while avoiding their unjustified concessions.”
Robert W. Yarbrough, Associate Professor of New Testament and New Testament Department Chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“This book is an exceptionally valuable guide to feminist writings about Jesus. It summaries the entire history of feminist interpretation, summarizing each author fairly and then providing a thoughtful critique. Kostenberger’s patient, clear argument shows that the multiple feminist re-interpretations of Jesus are inconsistent with the actual text of the Gospels. She also provides excellent summary charts throughout. A very useful, readable resource for those who want to understand how feminism has continually reinterpreted the Bible to advance its own agenda.”
Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona

“This is an outstanding, comprehensive study of Feminist hermeneutic. It extensively deals with the historical development of feminism, the variety of feminist positions, and the development within each position. It shows that the results one gets from the Bible heavily depend on the view one holds on the Bible. It also makes meaningful use of internal feminist critique, and shows that mainly because of views taken on the Bible, it is impossible for conservative evangelical theology ever to accept any of the variety of views held within feminism.”
Adrio König, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology, University of South Africa

“The strength of this manuscript lies in the way it surveys the main figures of English-language theological feminism, carefully noting developments, differences, and trends. I know of no survey to compare with it. The hermeneutical analysis at each step is introductory, accessible, and sensible. Highly recommended.”
D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

October 28, 2008 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:52 am | 0 Comments »

ESV Hear the Word Audio Downloads Now Available

ESV Hear the Word Audio Downloads—the audio found at the ESV Online Study Bible—are now available.

Prices are $29.99 for the complete Bible, $19.99 for just the Old Testament, $14.99 for just the New Testament, $4.99 for Psalms and Proverbs, and $4.99 for the Gospels.

The complete Gospel of John is available for free download, as are a few other samples. As always, the ESV Online Study Bible lets you stream any passage you’d like.

This recording is by David Cochran Heath. Heath is a veteran stage actor, performing in more than one hundred productions. He has recorded many audio books, including Christian classics by Thomas a Kempis, Francis Schaeffer, and John Piper.

If you’re technically inclined, after you buy, you can choose the bitrate that best meets your needs: 128 KBps (4 GB for the complete Bible), 64 KBps (2 GB for the complete Bible) or 32 KBps (1 GB for the complete Bible). Unless you’re an audiophile, we recommend 64 KBps as the best balance between file size and audio quality.

The ESV Hear the Word Bible is also available as a physical product: on 59 CDs ($99.99) or 7 MP3 CDs ($49.99).

October 27, 2008 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 3:29 pm | (4) Comments »