Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: The Battle for the Beginning by John MacArthur

"For in six days the LORD created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it," Exodus 20:11.
     We live in a day where the Church is being swallowed up by the culture at large.  We are losing our saltiness, as we are to be the salt of the earth and if we lose that saltiness, our only good use is to be thrown down and trampled on.  We are losing our preserving influence in the world and this can be seen especially as the American Evangelical church seeks to prove its relevance through a reinterpretation of creation, especially the first couple chapters of Genesis.  It was with this in mind that I read Pastor John MacArthur's book, The Battle for the Beginning.
     In the introduction to the book, MacArthur states plainly the perilous state of the evangelical church in the world today, "So in an important sense, everything scripture says about our salvation in Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Jesus teaches in Genesis 1-3 about Adam's creation and fall.  There is no more pivotal passage of scripture," pg. 19.
    MacArthur explains well, with a pastors concern, the danger of the liberal hermeneutic(interpretive method), used by those who try to harmonize scripture and science.  The Bible states, "Let God be true and all men liars."  Pastor John seems to have this in mind as he skillfully exegetes Genesis 1-3, explaining the incontrovertible truth of a literal six day creation.  Pastor Mac states, "The simple, rather obvious fact is that no one would ever think the time frame for creation was anything other than a normal week of seven days from reading the Bible and allowing it to interpret itself.  The forth commandment makes no sense whatsoever apart from an understanding that the days of God's creative work parallel a normal human work week," pg. 21.  Pastor John's well founded criticism is that too many "evangelical" Christians use a scientific hermeneutic to interpret scripture.  He especially takes on scientist/evangelical Christian Hugh Ross and his approach to creation.  Now, Dr. MacArthur is careful to note that many old earth creationists believe in a literal Adam and Eve and the innerrancy of scripture.  He also points out that they carefully cage up their destructive interpretive method outside of the first few chapters of Genesis.  They switch methods so to speak.
     Dr. MacArthur does a wonderful job explaining the intricacies of God's creation and how evolution is an ineffective method of explaining these intricate systems and creatures.  His book is a refreshing and important  polemic affirming the authority of scripture against even science.  It is interesting that only because of a true understanding of Christian doctrine was modern science able to arise and it is now turning its attack on the very belief system that birthed it.
    I leave you with this quote from the book, as it so aptly explains how this discussion effects the gospel itself, "Paul's presentation of the doctrine of original sin in Romans 5:12-20 depends upon a historical Adam and a literal interpretation of the account of Genesis and how he fell.  Furthermore, everything Paul has to say about the doctrine of justification by faith depends on that.  "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all are made alive," 1Cor. 15:22.  Clearly, Paul regarded both the creation and the fall of Adam as history, not allegory.  Jesus himself regarded the creation of Adam and Eve a historical event, Mark 10:6.  To question the historicity of these events is to undermine the very essence of Christian doctrine," pg. 23.
     Dr. MacArthur is not over stating things here.  An incorrect view of creation has horrific ripple effects through out the rest of scripture and even can do great violence to the gospel itself.  We must be careful not to let vain philosophies guide our understanding of God's word and we must not be worried if people think we are ignorant for upholding the absolute authority of God's word, even over science.
     God bless you, learn, live and love the precious gospel of Jesus Christ!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pain and Suffering: Only Answered by the Suffering Savior

"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin," Hebrews 12:2-4.

     There I was, in small town Nebraska, screaming at the top of my lungs, "the cross, the cross" as Dinesh D'souza was struggling to explain the meaning of suffering.  Why he had been invited to present his new book on an evangelical radio show, I do not know, but he promised that this was the most difficult question for the Christian to answer and it was not a problem that other religions had to deal with.  Eventually, he settled on a little Mother Teresa theology by pointing to God's eternality and the blessedness of our suffering.  He stated, for example, that Job would be recompensed for his suffering by an eternity of blessedness in God's presence.  Finally, the talk show host, threw him a life preserver and mentioned the cross.  Dinesh jumped on it and mercifully that segment of the show was over.
     When you read Hebrews 10 through 12, it is hard to imagine how a Christian would be confused about suffering.  We worship a crucified Savior.  In fact, the writer of Hebrews seems to be chastising his readers(including us) for thinking that they will escape suffering.  In fact, God uses our suffering to grow our faith.  Now, we do not go out and look to suffer, as Mother Teresa(and other false teachers) promoted.  What we do is preach and live the gospel, no matter the circumstance.  If that means that we will be persecuted, we will be persecuted.  Just two pages over in my Bible, James writes this, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials."  James seems to echo his half brothers(Jesus) sentiments by exhorting us to have joy in our suffering.  A suffering that we fall into, not seek for ourselves.  James agrees Hebrews about the benefit of our suffering and the perseverance it produces.
     Interestingly, believers in countries that are suffering greatly, rarely if ever question why they suffer.  It is the coddled, fat and sassy western Christians who think that God owes them a comfy life that never so much as stubs a toe.  This kind of "faith" is no faith at all and will be exposed for its hypocrisy when pain and suffering afflict the western world.  Those who follow in seeker sensitive churches, health and wealth prosperity churches and many other professing Christians will quickly abandon the faith of the suffering Savior when the slightest inconvenience happens let alone a vicious persecution. 
     I will end this post where I started, on the same Christian radio show, a couple of days later.  Another writer was on, this one had a different perspective.  He stated, paraphrasing, "What a stupid question(why pain and suffering), the real question is, why does God bless us so much."  Friends, we need to, as Hebrews 12 exhorts us, remember our loving and great crucified Savior and learn, love and live His gospel.