Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scripture and Authority

Last week I finished J.I. Packer's 1996 book called Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life. It is such a good resource, I’m going to devote a few posts to the content.

Chapter 1 in the book is called God’s Freedom Trail and covers the Christian belief that the Bible is authoritative. Early in the chapter, Dr. Packer notes that holding this view can be difficult for those who have had negative experiences with people who have misused their authority. Packer explains that this can “leave a bad taste and prompt skepticism about authority in all its forms.” Yet the Bible being authoritative, Dr. Packer argues “is not necessarily authoritarian." Dr. Packer explains,

“When Christians affirm the authority of the Bible, meaning that biblical teaching reveals God’s will and is the instrument his rule over our lives, part of what they are claiming is that Scripture sets before us the factual and moral nature of things.” (pg. 15)

He explains that Christians do not hold this view for some arbitrary or random reason, but rather it is rooted in our view of God’s character:

“When historic Christianity receives the Bible as an absolute authority for creed and conduct, it does so on the basis that since God is a God of truth and righteousness, the instruction that he lays before us in writing must have the same qualities.” (pg. 14)

Dr. Packer also explains that this belief in the Bible's authority is also rooted in our belief in Christ - who we believe has been given all authority in heaven and earth. Jesus Christ, we believe, is "God incarnate, the risen, reigning Son of God to whom all authority has been given."

Thus, he explains that the only authority-principle which imparts the blessings of God that brings "satisfaction and salvation", "is the personal divine authority of ‘the man Christ Jesus’ (I Tim. 2:5), mediated by the Holy Spirit in and through the Bible.” (pg. 25).

Dr. Packer next addresses the issue of human freedom, explaining that Christ is both the source and the model for freedom. According to Dr. Packer, because of Christ, Christians can experience "real" freedom. He explains that, “real freedom is freedom from sin, which brings with it a place in God’s family, which is the place of permanent external security. Jesus tells them that only those whom he himself has freed…are free in this full sense. If you read the whole passage (John 8:31-36) you will see this at once.” (pg. 24)

This freedom Dr. Packer explains comes not from ourselves, but from God, “We cannot have the freedom we want until we receive it on God’s terms, that is, by giving up our rebellious independence and letting God be God to us. Real freedom is only ever found under authority – God’s authority in Christ, authority which reaches us via God’s written word.” (pg. 26)

His other point in this first section of his book is that Scripture is unique. It is not merely a book that bears a textual witness to God and His works, but it is also an instrument that God will use, to help us discern His will. Thus Scripture, “is not just a witness to Christ’s universal reign but is actually the instrument of it so far as humankind are concerned.” (p. 25)

"How is this possible?" You might wonder. "How can a book be an instrument of God?" It is possible, as Dr. Packer explains, through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who, “opens and applies Scripture to our hearts that we discern Christ’s will and are enabled to do it.”

....a helpful perspective on the authority of Scripture and its importance in a Christian's life.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent Resource

Tomorrow, Sunday (11/27/11) we began the season of Advent (which is celebrated by the Church during the four weeks prior to Christmas).

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means "arrival" or "coming". During this time, the Church focuses on waiting on the Lord and preparing ones' hearts for Christ as we remember those who waited for Jesus' arrival 2000+ years ago.

As they've done for several years, All Saints Church in North Carolina has produced a devotional resource for the advent season.

Here is a link to an overview of Advent: http://www.allsaints-chd.org/connect/news/advent-is-coming-a-short-message-from-rector-steve-breedlove/

And here is the link to Week 1 of the Advent resource: http://www.allsaints-chd.org/site-images/AD2011week1.pdf

I've found these devotionals helpful during this time for preparing our hearts. I appreciate the commitment that All Saints Church has made to create these resources.

Blessings during this season,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life

This week I finished reading a book by J.I. Packer called Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life.

Dr. Packer's books have played an important role in my life. Reading his book Knowing God during my college years was an important introduction to God's character and attributes and very helpful for my spiritual growth.

Then, when I was 24, I read his book called A Quest for Godliness - a great book that provides a wonderfully detailed description on the theology of the Puritans. In more recent years I read his books Keep in Step with the Spirit (a book on the Holy Spirit) and God's Words: Studies of Key Bible Themes.

Over the years I've found it helpful to re-read these books, reminding me again and again of God's faithful through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Recently, I heard Rev. Ligon Duncan recommend Dr. Packer's Truth & Power at a workshop hosted by the Gospel Coalition. The context for his recommendation was for pastors to clearly understand the role of preaching and teaching in the local church. Interestingly, not only does Dr. Packer cover this topic in detail in the book, but also covers a number of other helpful issues as well.

I'll plan on posting a summary of the book's chapters in future posts.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Alan Jacobs on Reading in an Age of Distraction

I've mentioned before that I am a big fan of the audio series called the Mars Hills Audio Journal, a bi-monthly resource hosted by Ken Myers.

One of my favorite contributors to the journal is Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton College.

He recently delivered a lecture on the "pleasures of reading in an age of distraction." Here's the link: http://vimeo.com/25156793