What God Has Joined Together Let No Man Separate: A Few Words on Scripture and Tradition

jenny-marvin-u3py_1Tcnuc-unsplashLast week, I offered a few (here and here), reflections on the important and challenging relationship between Scripture and tradition. This week, I offer a few more, beginning with a three-paragraph summary of sola Scriptura from Kevin Vanhoozer and Daniel Treier. Avoiding the error of thinking we can interpret Scripture by ourselves (solo Scriptura), it is important to understand that sola Scriptura affirms a proper, yet secondary, place for church tradition. That is, any historic church teaching is always evaluated and when necessary corrected by Scripture, even as creeds, confessions, and catechisms aid the church to read and understand Scripture. Put differently, the apostle’s possess a magisterial authority that comes from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, while the church catholic enjoys a ministerial authority that rises or falls as it properly understands and applies Scripture.

Bringing these three ideas together—Sola Scriptura, apostolicity, and catholicity—Kevin Vanhoozer and Daniel J. Treier, in Theology and the Mirror of Scripture, remind us how to avoiding separating what God has joined together. They write,

Mere evangelical theology is both catholic and apostolic. To say apostolic affirms the supreme authority of the commissioned testimony from the prophets and apostles—those “sent” to extend in writing Christ’s self-communication. Apostolic thus signifies the inspired human writings borne along by the Holy Spirit, who “speaks only what he hears” in bearing witness to the Word incarnate, Jesus Christ. To say apostolic identifies what anchors both faith and theology: the canonical gospel. To say catholic explains what is “mere” about evangelical theology’s focus, namely, what it believes with the whole church about the gospel of God and the God of the gospel. Continue reading

Why Blog? (4): So that the sparks may fly.

Why blog?

If two of the three reasons for blogging listed so far are aimed at conversation with non-Christians (i.e. 1. to explain and expound the gospel of Jesus Christ, and 2. to defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints),  the fourth reason is directed towards other believers.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  So too, we who know the Lord ought to spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Heb. 10:25)– the language of “spurring” is one of provocation.   However, it is not the kind of goading that leads to argumentation–the kind that I used to engage in with my younger brother.  Rather, it is the thought-provoking, spirit-convicting, heart-rending kind of spurring that would turn someone to repent from error and wrongdoing.   It is the kind of spurring that instigates godly sorrow and saves a brother from egregious sin (cf. 2 Cor. 7:8-9; James 5:19-20).  It is not the kind of instigation that leads to wranglings over words, personal attacks, or vain speculations, but it is the kind that prizes truth but never relinquishes charity.   This kind of provocation takes more thought and time, and cannot be done without the Spirit.

When done in this manner, blogging can be very fruitful and clarifying.  Even when more heated issues are debated, the resulting friction can provide a flame to purify consciences and a surface to round rough edges.  The daily exercise of answering difficult questions and articulating nuanced thought is valuable in understanding the simplicity and profundity of the Bible.  Thus, blogging proves valuable in crystallizing complex ideas.  At the same time, in a way that no other medium can, it allows brothers from all over the globe and from various traditions to discuss critical matters of the faith. 

Sadly, as we all know, blogging can also be mean-spirited, fool-hardy, and destructive.  Providing a platform for the carnal nature to take center stage, blogging has the potential to incite vicious arguments, undisciplined rants, and speech that is simply unbecoming to a Christian.  With sober recognition of that, we who belong to Christ must guard our tongues and fingers.  For even if your post can be deleted, your words cannot (Matthew 12:36) .  Consequently, we must exercise spiritual discernment over what and how we write.  Perhaps sitting on comment for a day beforing publishing, or letting another brother read it in private before the world can view it in public.   

With that said, blogging remains an excellent way for those committed to the gospel to challenge and encourage one another in the things of Christ and His Word.   And it is something to be employed for fruitful and godly discussion.  So brothers, draw your swords and let the sparks fly.

Sola Dei Gloria, dss

Why Blog? (3): Blogging as the Modern Day Areopagus

Why Blog?

Because the Internet and weblogs are the forum for the twenty-first century Aeropagus.  In Acts 17, Paul travels from Thessalonica to Berea to Athens.  Being run out of the first two cities, he arrives in Athens to mend his wounds and wait for his traveling/ministering companions.  Yet, as he walks the streets of the cosmopolitan city “his spirit was provoked within him as he saw the city was full of idols” (v. 16), and he could not hold back.  In response to the culture’s false religions, he went to the synagogue (v. 17a) and the marketplace (v. 17b) “preaching Jesus and the resurrection” (v. 19).

Stirring up significant attention to his claims, Paul was ushered to the Aeropagus.  Located on a hill on the outside of Athens, this forum of philosophers “would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (v. 21).  Having heard that a new preacher was in town, the Aeropagite leaders invited the apostle.  Standing up in the midst of this erudite but skeptical assembly (v. 22-31), Paul preached the gospel–starting with the religious worship of an unknown God (v. 22-23), he described the God of the Bible as the Creator (v. 24-28 ) and Judge of humanity (v.29-31), and the one whom all men would one day give account.  He spoke of Jesus as the man God raised from the dead to judge all humanity, and he called them to put faith in him (v. 34).

The scene is impressive.  Paul, in isolation yet empowered by the Holy Spirit, boldly enters the pluralistic assembly and proclaims the exclusive message salvation offered by the God of Israel through His Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.  Such is the task of a faithful blogger, to enter the arena of swirling ideas and nihilistic philosophies and proclaim a surer message.  Today the world of ideas is too expansive for an Aeropagite rotunda, but within the WWW the Aeropagite debate rages on. 

Consequently, like Paul there must be a steady stream of humble witnesses proclaiming the Truth.  For this reason, Christians (perhaps not all, but some) must blog.  Not to be heroic, but to be a small but persuasive voices standing against an avalanche of avatars who reject Jesus Christ or who simply misuse and abuse his name.   For behind every weblog sits a person with a name and a soul, someone made by God (Acts 17:28 ) and called to believe in his savior for eternal life.  

When Paul left the Aeropagus, some mocked (v. 32), others said they would hear him again, but only two said that they believed (v. 34).  So is it in the blogosphere: many who hear about Jesus mock, others out of intrigue, antagonism, or misunderstanding listen and debate, but few believe.  Nevertheless we must contend (Jude 3) and blog, so that seekers of wisdom like Dionysius and Damaris (v. 34) may encounter voices of truth when they enter today’s Google-navigated Aeropagus.  

And perhaps to their amazement and surprise, what they find is not information but wisdom.  Wisdom that is not found on the the beaten path of the information superhighway, but rather on the sloped road that leads to Mt. Calvary, that winds into a garden tomb, and that turns to view the hill on which Christ will one day reign-Mt Zion.  This may sound like foolishness to some, but to others who have ears to hear it is the way of wisdom.  And for the latter ensnared in the Aeropagus, we must blog.

Sola Dei Gloria, dss

Why Blog? (Part 2)

Why Blog?

Let me suggest another reason: In order to grow in the wisdom of God’s word and to better understand and articulate its Truth.

Consider 2 Timothy 2:7 with me. Paul writes, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” This verse has two parts. First, is the command to “think over what I say”–in other words, to cogitate, to meditate, and to postulate on the inspired words of the living apostle. Enlisting the imagery of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer in previous verses to respectively illustrate devotion, honesty, and rigorous labor, the elder apostle seems to indicate the value in thinking hard upon the his apostolic message (cf. 2:2). Certainly, the apostle Peter considered some of Paul’s words very challenging (2 Pet. 3:15-16), and thus these truths needed then and still require careful and thoughtful attention. For this reason alone, blogging is useful because it stimulates thought.

In addition to this plain command comes the second part of the verse which underscores a foundational principle, “the Lord [gives] understanding.” This command to think in verse 7 is coupled with the biblical the reality that the Spirit of Christ must illumine truth (cf. John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; 1 John 2:27). This means that hard thinking alone does not produce revelation. The story of Martin Luther teaches us this. The Augustinian monk beat on Romans 1:17 until Paul was a bloody mess, but not until the Spirit moved did the apostle speak and divulge his secrets of justifying fatih.

This dual reality, then, is humbling and refreshing truth. Humbling because mankind is absolutely dependent on divine revelation; refreshing because God graciously reveals himself to those who earnestly seek him (Jer. 29:11; Matt. 7:7). Consequently, blogging when done well, perhaps even done “spiritually,” is an exercise in biblical cogitation which can and should promote a humble cry for help in ascertaining God’s truth. Likewise, in expressing these truths in open conversation allows for more precise application and proclamation in a sin-darkened world. Of course, thing like personal hubris, vanity, and self-deceit stand in the way of this aim, but without compromise this must be the kind of blogging to which we endeavor–the kind that thinks hard and prays for wisdom in our choice of words. Paul knew this dual reality, so did Solomon (see below). Think hard about it and ask the Lord, “Do you?”

May the Lord give us grace to see our blindness.

Proverbs 2:1-7

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,

Why Blog?

For today, let me pose a question that may take a few days to work out.  The question is: Why blog? 

Surely there are many reasons and motivations to avoid and guard against.  Snares like diffusing gossip, espousing puffed-up views of our own invention, promoting ones self  and their ministry for personal gain, unrighteous proclivities towards argumentation and disagreement, or simple intimidation to speak truth in person are a sampling of some negative reasons people (Christians) blog.  However, with such a broadband capability for delivering truth and testimony for Christ, such a medium also has limitless potetntial for doing good and proclaiming the gospel.  Edifying dialogue and inquiry, gospel conversation and explanation, Christocentric testimony, and Bible-saturated reflections on everyday life are all positive aspects.  To these we must hold fast. 

Today, in answering the question, “Why blog?” let me recommend the words of J. A. James, an eighteenth century puritan-esque preacher, and suggest that one good reason for blogging is the ever-needed communication of the gospel and the aim of converting sinners (albeit, only by the work of the Spirit).  His words chasten us and sharpen our focus on Jesus’ Great Commission.  Simultaneously, his words present a caution of thinking to highly of our blogs or of our clever turns of phrase.  May his words, uttered long before computers, Internet, and blogs, be constantly kept in mind as we hit the submit or publish button.

The thought of having done any thing to save souls from death gives [me] far more delight than he could have derived from having made the largest acquirements in learning and science, or from having gained a reputation for genius and taste. There is a time coming to every man when the knowledge of having been the instrument of plucking a single brand from the eternal burning, will yield him more real satisfaction than the certainty of having accomplished the loftiest objects of literary ambition(John Angell James, An Earnest Ministry [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1993; Reprint: 1847], xvii).

Via Emmaus

So again, on another website, with the same name.  I try my hand again at this thing called blogging.  With more humble intentions this time, I write– not trying to write bits-and-pieces of a theological treatise, but rather aiming to simply articulate thoughts on biblical theology, contemporary ecclesiology, and anything else on which the gospel light shines.  This is the concept; Jesus Christ is the content.  For in Him all things are united (Eph. 1:10) and by Him are all things explained (Luke 24).  He is the creator, sustainer, savior, and Lord, and to Him does this blog seek to point.  Following the trajectory of Scripture that leads all things to him (John 5:39), seeks to understand all life in the radiance of his glory.  And so it is called Via Emmaus.

This blog derives its name from the account in Luke 24, where two disciples are caught on the road (via ) fleeing Jerusalem for easier days in Emmaus.  Graciously, Jesus appears to them, interprets the enigmatic current events of His resurrection in light of Scripture, and explains how He–thought still hidden to them– is the fulfillment of all the law, prophets, and psalms, and prompts them to return to Jerusalem.  Such “biblical theology” explained reality and redemption to these wayward disciples.

So too, my prayer for this blog is that it might be a place where people are likewise turned back to the cross, to the resurrection, and to the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Just as the two doubting disciples returned to the Lord’s assembly in the middle of the night after hearing Christ’s words, may those who are here pointed to his sufficient Word, the Bible, experience greater hope and faith in the inspired truths therein contained.  My hope is that this blog will not take on a life of its own, but rather that it would point to the true life, King Jesus.  That in the end, it would simply be a signpost or a watering hole for those walking the dusty road from–not to– Emmaus.

Soli Dei Gloria!