Monday, September 28, 2009

A Gospel Outline

I mentioned yesterday that I would post the gospel bullet points I gave you. Here they are.

First, God is holy. (Isaiah 6:3, Psalm 99:9) God is morally perfect, completely separated from sin, and devoted to His own glory. (His holiness and devotion to His own glory are strikingly illustrated in Leviticus 10.

Second, God is Lord. (Acts 17:24, Psalm 97) Scripture repeatedly refers to God as the “Lord of all the earth.” He has created all things, therefore, He owns all things, therefore, He is Lord of all things. He has the right to rule over his creation and to demand perfect obedience from His creatures (Gen 2:16-17, Lev 11:45).

Third, Man is sinful. (Rom 3:10-18, 3:23) All men have willfully violated the law of God and sinned against Him.

Fourth, Man is under the wrath of God. (John 3:36, Rom 3:23, Eph 2:1-3) God’s wrath, while experienced in various ways in this life, culminates in eternal separation from God in a literal hell (Matt 3:12, 7:13, 8:12, 10:28, 13:38-42; 2 Thess 1:9).

Fifth, out of love, God sent His Son to bear the punishment for sin. (Rom 5:6-8; 1 Cor 15:3; Gal 3:13; 1 John 2:2) There are three important things to note about Jesus. He lived sinlessly (Heb 4:15). He died willingly (Matt 26:51-54; John 10:17-18). He was raised literally (Luke 24:42-43; John 20:25-28; 1 Cor 15:1-8).

Sixth, now God calls on us to repent of our sin and trust in Christ for our forgiveness. (Mark 1:14-15; Luke 24:45-47; Acts 17:30-31) There must be both repentance and belief, a turning away from sin and reception of all that Christ is. Belief is not mere intellectual assent – the demons demonstrate that kind of belief (Luke 4:34). Rather, this is a complete surrender to and trust in the saving power of the blood of Christ, and the acceptance of His lordship over one’s life (Rom 10:9).

Seventh, if we do this we are born again into an eternal life with God. (John 3:16, 6:40, 47; Rom 6:23.) Christ mediates peace between God and man so that the one who believes now stands boldly before the throne of God (Rom 5:1-2; Eph 3:11-12).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chris Tomlin - I Will Rise

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads and thousands and thousands, saying with a loud voice, "worthy is the lamb who was slain, to recieve power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" Revelation 6:11-12


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

...but what about Romans 8:29?

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:29 ESV

(If you have not looked at the previous articles in this series, you may benefit from the discussions of John 3:16, 2 Pet 3:9, and 1 Tim 2:4.)

Given the manifold references to election and predestination in the Scriptures, some Arminian apologists look to Romans 8:29 to argue that these references do not speak about unconditional election, but rather conditional election.[1] That is, God’s predestination of individuals unto salvation is conditioned upon their free decision to choose Him, which He foreknew before the foundation of the world. Those whom he foreknew he also predestined… In other word, in the understanding of the Arminian, before time began God saw those people who would choose Him, and He then predestined them for the benefits of salvation. Therefore, it is argued, Romans 8:29 becomes the lens through which we should view other references to election and predestination in the Scriptures. This understanding of election is sometimes called “election/predestination according to foreknowledge.”

There are several problems with this interpretation on exegetical, contextual, logical, and semantic grounds. We’ll take these in order.

First, the Arminian interpretation is not based on sound exegesis, which refers to reading out of the text. Rather, it amounts to eisegesis, which refers to the act of reading something into a text. Rom 8:29 refers to people, not actions when it says, “those whom he foreknew.” It says nothing about God foreseeing that they would choose Him, that they would believe, or anything else about their future actions. It says that He foreknew them. The Arminian position is not even implied. It simply cannot be derived from the words in the text.

My first Greek professor gives a great rule of thumb for supporting one’s interpretation on a given passage. He says, “you’ve got to be able to put your finger on the page of Scripture and say, ‘This is why I hold this interpretation.’ If you can’t do that, abandon your interpretation.” The Arminian can’t do that in this case because the words are not there. For this reason, it would be equally valid to interpret the verse to mean, “those whom he foreknew would like spinach” or “those whom he foreknew would prefer jeans over slacks.” These two options take no more liberty with the text than does the Arminian interpretation. This is clearly a case of a favored theology being forced into a passage, rather than deriving a theology from the words of a passage.

Second, the Arminian interpretation does not fit with the immediate context. All of the verbs in vv29-30 are active verbs with God as the subject. Paul is seeking to encourage believers suffering in this present life that God determined from ages past not only to save them, but to carry that plan to its completion, their glorification. Indeed, if we read to the end of the chapter we see in the entire section the idea that glorification is sure because it is God who is accomplishing it. Nothing can prevent that from happening. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. How peculiar, then, to deduce, based on something that is not even stated in the passage, that all of God’s work on behalf of the believer, intended by Paul to be a comfort to the reader, in the end rests on the shoulders of the reader. If that were the case, vv38-39 should more appropriately read, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor almost anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Further, if we look at the greater context in ch9, we find Paul explicitly rejecting the notion that God bases His choice of certain individuals on His foreknowledge of their actions. In explaining God’s choice of Jacob over Esau, Paul writes in vv10-13, And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Clearly, Paul here asserts that God chooses according to His own purpose, not because of foreseen actions on the part of individuals.

The Arminian interpretation of Romans 8:29 can also be rejected on logical grounds. Predestination according to foreknowledge, as the Arminian view presents it, shows God to be completely passive in predestination. In fact, His predestination is shown to be a completely meaningless, unnecessary, and ineffectual gesture. Why would God predestine an event that He has already seen will inevitably come to pass without His involvement? His predestination does not accomplish anything. Rather, what is efficacious is the decision of the sinner to believe. Consider this: because God has foreseen that the sinner will believe, and his “predestination” is based on that future belief, it would be far more appropriate to say that the sinner has predestined himself for salvation, albeit via the foreknowledge of God. For man is the true actor in this scenario, God simply passively observes the future action of the sinner.

The only reason I can find for this superfluous act of predestining something that is already destined to occur is that God would like to take the credit for what this sinner freely chose to do. But for God to do so is dishonest since He had no hand in the sinner’s decision, according to Arminian theology. (If He did have a hand in it, according to the Arminian, He has violated the sinner’s libertarian free will. More on this in Sunday School.) This scene ends up making God sound like a first-grader on a playground arguing with another kid:

“I chose you first.”

“Nuh-uh, I chose YOU first.”

“NO, I chose YOU first.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Uh-huh!”

And so God’s so-called “sovereign plan” is thereby handed to Him by fallen man, even though He would seek to claim authorship. Try as one might to square that with the strong statements about God’s sovereignty that we’ve been talking about in Sunday School, the Arminian will always come up empty here. The God presented in this interpretation of Roman 8:29 is not the God of the Bible.

And yet, the best reason for rejecting the Arminian interpretation is semantic. Next time, we’ll look at the range of meaning for the word “foreknew,” and put this one to bed.



[1]Jack W. Cottrell, “The Classical Arminian View of Election” in Perspectives on Election: 5 Views, ed. Chad Owen Brand (Nashville: B&H, 2006), 85-88.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What kind of revelation can save? Part 2

Last time I started with a question: what kind of revelation can save? Or more specifically, does general revelation provide enough truth to save a person from sin? There are two main positions, the first of which is inclusivism, which holds that general revelation does indeed provide, by itself, salvific truth. If you missed the introduction to this view, you read about it here.

This time I’d like to provide an introduction to the other view, exclusivism. In subsequent posts, I’ll reveal which position I prefer (no big mystery), defend it, and respond to the most prominent objections to it.

Exclusivism is also referred to as restrictivism or particularism. Exclusivists hold that general revelation, by itself, does not provide salvific truth and that special revelation of Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation. In other words, biblical truth about Christ must be apprehended in order for a person to be saved.

One of the main biblical texts used to support this position is Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” As well, John 14:6 is cited, which says, “ . . . I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John Calvin, one of the leading historical figures to support the exclusivist view, wrote, “Surely, after the fall of the first man no knowledge of God apart from the Mediator has had power unto salvation.”[1]

On the other hand, exclusivists hold that general revelation, while it does not offer sufficient truth to save man, does provide sufficient truth to condemn man. Proponents of this view contend that this truth is the main thrust of Romans 1:18-32, particularly vv18-20 and 28-32:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse…

28 ...And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,

30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,

31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Exclusivists find in this passage that the revelation depicted here is exclusively general revelation. Without special revelation, accompanied by God’s grace, man will inevitably reject the truth afforded by general revelation.

It follows then that all the unevangelized – those who have not and will not hear the gospel in their lifetime – are condemned to hell. “If a person in a remote area has never heard of Christ, he will not be punished for that. What he will be punished for is the rejection of the Father of whom he has heard [via general revelation] and for the disobedience to the law that is written in his heart,” writes R. C. Sproul.[2] “Man’s problem is not that he doesn’t know God but that he refuses to acknowledge what he knows to be true. . . [This] revelation is sufficient to render man inexcusable.”[3]

The main strength of the exclusivist position is the voluminous biblical support for the exclusivity of salvation in Christ, who cannot be known outside of special revelation. Belief in Christ is necessary for salvation. “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?”[4]

So which view is more biblical? Does the creation itself – all the things God has made – provide sufficient truth for salvation? Or is it necessary to hear the gospel of Christ in order to be saved? Next time, I’ll start making a biblical case for the view I hold. But I exhort you in the meantime to search the Scriptures for yourself and see what you find. One of the two views is definitely more biblical. Which one is it?


[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Library of Christian Classics, vols. 20-21, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 2.6.1.

[2]R. C. Sproul, Reason to Believe (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 56.

[3]R. C. Sproul, Reason to Believe (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 59.

[4] Rom 10:14b

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I do not cease to give thanks for you...

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:15-21)

As I was memorizing this passage in November 2006, little did I know the significance it would hold for me fewer than three years later. At that time, these were just the next verses in line. I was plowing through them with little thought for what was behind them, especially vv15-16. I had never experienced that kind of deep, abiding affection for anyone outside of my family. I could not relate to Paul’s words.

Not only was I unaware of what these specific verses would eventually mean to me, but I also had no idea how familiar I would become with the book, nor the mode for attaining that familiarity. In November 2006, I had absolutely no desire to be a pastor. I thought the Lord had me in seminary to be a biblical counselor or even a college professor. I didn’t recognize them at the time, but looking back I see the circumstances around me and Shelby, changing our hearts and giving us the desire for pastoral ministry.

Sitting in a systematic theology class that Fall, I listened as Dr. Bruce Ware recommended to us a bible memorization plan developed by a former Southern student. I was intrigued and downloaded the plan as soon as I had the opportunity. The plan recommended memorizing books of the Bible rather than isolated verses. The book of the Bible used to illustrate the plan was Ephesians.

That was the only reason I started there. There was no deeper, more meaningful reason for doing Ephesians first. What a gracious blessing it is to look back now and see that where I was clueless, God was all-purposeful, preparing me to know, love, and preach that book to a congregation that did not yet exist, preparing me to love dozens of people I did not yet know. Knowing what I know now, I still believe that Ephesians is the perfect place to start with a new body of believers. Providence is a very fitting name for our church.

I’ve since come to know what many of you were doing three years ago. Some of you were in the middle of that desperate and frustrating church search that so many of us have endured, every Sunday in a different church, not knowing which was the more appropriate question to ask ourselves – “Is this where we belong?” or “Is this something we can live with?” Now I praise God for that search, both on behalf of my family and yours. That search, while at times tempting us to despair, steeled our resolve and conviction that doctrine matters and God’s Word must be held high. I know for Shelby and I, that church search was a gift of God’s grace without which we never would have considered planting a church.

God was also moving in the Joneses at the same time, and the Eberts, and the Jonsons, and the Peters – different circumstances but the same destination. In the Lord’s time, so many others came…and stayed! And in the short time we’ve been together, He has knit our hearts together with the blood of Christ as the bond.

The time we spent together Sunday is something I’ll not soon forget. The building is a tremendous blessing, but the most striking thing to me was the obvious common faith in the Lord and the mutual love for all the saints. So many people from so many different stages of life and backgrounds, all worshiping together and enjoying the fellowship that only inclusion in the body of Christ affords – that is something only God can do. It cannot be strategized. It cannot be condensed and put into a church growth book. It cannot be reduced to methods or marketing. The sovereign God has saved us, reconciling us through His Son to Himself and each other, so that we are able to enjoy fellowship with Him and the church. The Lord has blessed us. May He find us to be faithful stewards.

So now I read Eph 1:15-21 differently. I understand Paul’s affection for the Ephesians. His prayer has become mine. Because I know of your faith in the Lord and your love for all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, praying that the Lord would give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

Can’t wait to worship with you again Sunday.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What kind of revelation can save?

Not long ago, I saw a video of Robert Schuler interviewing Billy Graham on “The Hour of Power.” In that interview, Graham said, “I believe that everyone who loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ.” He went on to say that people in the Buddhist world, the Muslim world, the Christian world and the unbelieving world are members of the body of Christ because they have been called by God. “They may not even know the name of Jesus. But they know in their heart that they need something they don’t have and they have turned to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved. They are going to be with us in heaven.”

Of course, Schuller was delighted to hear this and said, “So there is a wideness in God’s mercy?” Billy Graham responded, “There is. There definitely is.”

This brings up a very important issue: what knowledge is necessary in order to be saved? Is any revelation sufficient regardless of one’s exposure to biblical truth? Is it possible to be saved without having specific knowledge of Jesus Christ? Do Muslims, Buddhists, and members of other non-Christian religions go to heaven simply because they have searched for truth in some way?

We’ve heard these kinds of universal statements from some in the more liberal denominations and the emerging church movement. We expect it from them. But to hear Billy Graham saying that it is not necessary to hear the gospel in order to be saved is quite disturbing.

I’m going to spend at least a couple of posts exploring both sides of this issue because it is an important question. It affects our view of God, our view of Scripture, our view of Truth, our view of salvation, and most importantly, our view of Jesus Christ. This is one case where poor theology can lead to disastrous consequences.

The two main views regarding this issue are the inclusivist view and the exclusivist view.

Inclusivists hold that general revelation does indeed provide, by itself, salvific truth - truth sufficient to save. General revelation is the revelation provided in the creation itself. We find an excellent description of this in Romans 1:19-20: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

So general revelation excludes what is called special revelation, found in Scripture.

Inclusivists says that general revelation is salvific because the God who saves is its source. “All revelation is saving revelation. The knowledge of God is always saving knowledge.”[1] Those who enter a faith relationship with God are saved, while those who reject the truth delivered through general revelation are eternally and justly condemned. Thus, salvation has been available to all men in every part of the globe in every era of history.[2]

This means that those of other faiths can be saved because they are holding on to whatever revelation they have been given. Whether they believe His name is Allah, or that He exists in the form of thousands of Hindu gods, they are reaching for the true God, and God graciously accommodates the ignorance they have about Him due to the limited revelation they have witnessed.

This does not mean that inclusivists believe that Christ is not necessary for salvation. They believe that the work of Christ is necessary, but not the knowledge of Christ. In other words, all men are saved through the work of Christ, but not all men are aware of the work of Christ. Inclusivism also does not hold that the knowledge of God gained through general revelation is attained by human reasoning. Romans 1:19 says, That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. So, the knowledge of general revelation is given by God to men by which He draws them to salvation.[3]

A main theme of inclusivism is the inconceivability of a God whose central characteristic is love damning people to hell without ever giving them a chance to be saved. “It is possible to say that this general revelation of God has only a negative function that leaves man without excuse. . . But what kind of God is he who gives man enough knowledge to damn him but not enough to save him?”[4] They believe that if God condemns men who through no fault of their own have never heard of Jesus Christ, He cannot be a God who truly desires for all men to be saved. Inclusivists hold that this view provides the most accurate and biblically consistent depiction of how God relates to the unevangelized.

But is this biblical? I encourage you to search the Scriptures and see if it is so that someone can be saved without a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Next time I’ll present the exclusivist view and deliver what I believe to be the clear biblical teaching on this issue.



[1] Alan Richardson, Christian Apologetics (London: SCM Press, 1947), 127.

[2]John Sanders, No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1992), 215.

[3]Ibid., 234.

[4]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1967), 59.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

...but what about 1 Timothy 2:4? Part 3

We're down to the last two possible interpretations of 1 Tim 2:4, both of which hold that "desires" refers to God's moral will. Arminian apologists like this interpretation because they assert that it denies the doctrine of unconditional election. Last time, attempting to show that it is not contradictory for God to morally will one thing while sovereignly willing something else, we looked at God’s dealings with Pharaoh in the exodus narrative. If you missed that post, you can find it here.

This time, I’d like to give just one more striking example of God’s two wills desiring different things. This example actually consists of several examples, all surrounding the death of Christ. We can start with Judas’ actions. In the book of John alone, we find 7 references to Judas that attribute to him either the intention to betray Christ (6:71, 12:4, 13:21-26), being influenced by Satan to betray Christ (13:2), or the act of betraying Christ (18:2, 18:3, 18:5). In Matthew there are 5 references (10:4, 26:14-16, 26:25, 26:47-49, 27:3). Mark has 3 references (3:19, 14:10, 14:43). Luke also has ­­­­3 (6:16, 22:3-6, 22:47-48). Both Luke 22:3 and John 13:27 tell us that Satan entered Judas just prior to the betrayal.

Betrayal of the Son of God is sin. Common sense would tell us that. However, Jesus said so explicitly to Pilate, when Pilate asked Him in John 19:10, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus replied, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin." “Handed me over” is the same Greek word translated “betrayed” and attributed to Judas. So Judas is said to have the greater sin.

Even Judas himself recognized his actions as sin in Matt 27:3-4, Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood."

What does this tell us? It was against God’s moral will for Judas to betray Jesus. All sin is a violation of God’s moral will. At the same time, we find ample evidence that Judas betrayed Christ according to God’s sovereign will.

In John 13:18, Jesus, explaining that one of the disciples will betray Him, says, “But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'” Jesus was quoting Psalm 41:9, which says, Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. A few chapters later, in John 17:12, Jesus confirms that Judas’ treachery would be a fulfillment of Scripture: I have guarded [the disciples], and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. In Acts 1:16, Peter stood up among the disciples and noted that Judas was destined to betray the Lord: "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.”

Perhaps the most explicit reference to Judas’ betrayal as the sovereign will of God is found in Acts 2:23, where we read that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”

I won’t belabor the point by going into such detail about the other people immediately responsible for the death of Jesus. Their treachery was as well documented as Judas’, and their sin was as much a violation of God’s moral will as Judas’. Luke, in recording a prayer of Peter and John, conveniently lumps all the perpetrators together, acknowledging that their actions were in accordance with God’s sovereign will: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28).

This is striking language. Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews, in executing Jesus Christ, were doing what God’s hand and plan had predestined to take place.

This is what Rick Jones might refer to as “an open and shut case.” It was a violation of God’s moral will for Judas, Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews to do what they did in betraying, arresting, beating, trying, stripping, flogging, crowning, condemning, and crucifying the Holy One of God. And yet, Scripture consistently affirms that all this took place according to the sovereign will of God.

So if we acknowledge this truth, we can go back to 1 Tim 2:4 and see that just as God’s moral will did not negate His sovereign will in the death of Christ, neither does His moral will that all be saved negate His sovereign will that only some be saved. Scripture upholds both His moral and sovereign wills.

Now then, which one of the two remaining possible interpretations of 1 Tim 2:4 is the best? Let’s refresh our memories about these last two options: 1) God calls all people without exception to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth; or 2) God calls all kinds of people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I personally prefer the last interpretation for the contextual reasons I outlined in the first part of this post. I do believe that the truth of the first interpretation can be found elsewhere in Scripture (Acts 17:30), but I do not believe that is Paul’s intention here.

At any rate, it should be clear that none of the four possible interpretations explored in this series assist the Arminian in his denial of the doctrine of unconditional election. We’ve now dealt with the two most common Arminian prooftexts, but we’re nowhere close to being done. Next time, Romans 8:29.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Book Review - God, Marriage, & Family

As our culture continues to abandon traditional views of marriage and family, confusion is on the rise in the church regarding issues such as divorce and remarriage, gender roles in marriage, and homosexuality. Several Christian denominations have embraced an egalitarian understanding of how husbands and wives are to relate to one another. Some of these same denominations have endorsed homosexual marriage and even have openly gay clergy in the upper levels of their organizations.

Other denominations that have not gone down such paths are nonetheless failing to instruct their people with biblical truth regarding these issues. Felt needs preaching leaves little to no time for solid doctrinal teaching about God’s design for marriage and the family. It is a very dangerous situation for the Church.

Dr. Andreas J. Köstenberger, professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has recognized the great need for clear teaching on all issues related to the family, and has delivered this teaching in his book, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation.

Essentially, this book is a biblical theology of the family. Some may shutter at the phrase “biblical theology” since many times it is code for “scholarly writing that is almost unintelligible to the average person.” The phrase can also mean “high-minded theoretical, theological hairsplitting with no practical value to everyday life.” Let me assure you as someone of average intellect who highly values practical teaching that this book is written for the average Joe and is intensely practical.

It is also thoroughly biblical. There is no conjecture or philosophizing in this book. Köstenberger simply brings the text of Scripture to bear on a plethora of issues facing 21st century Christians. Appealing to both Old Testament and New Testament teaching, he answers questions such as:

What does it mean to "leave and cleave"?

What are the biblical roles and responsibilities of husbands, wives, and children, respectively?

What is the purpose of marriage?

What should a Christian believe about the various forms of contraception and artificial reproductive technologies?

What does the Bible teach regarding singleness?

What is the biblical verdict on homosexuality?

Does the Bible permit divorce and remarriage? Under what circumstances?

Is it biblical for divorced men to serve as elders and deacons?

The book is refreshing in that it draws every conclusion on every issue directly from the pages of Scripture. It is also encouraging in that it demonstrates repeatedly that the Bible does indeed address the hotbutton issues of our day and is completely sufficient to serve as our moral and spiritual compass. Simply put, this is the most helpful book on the issues of marriage and family that I have ever read, both in terms of the breadth of issues covered and the depth and accuracy of the biblical answers.

Once again, you don’t have to take my word for it. The book has been endorsed by J.I. Packer, John Piper, Kent Hughes, Mark Dever, Russell Moore, Wayne Grudem, Dan Block, Paige Patterson, Ligon Duncan, Bruce Ware, Tom Schreiner, and Randy Stinson.

This book is a fine tool. I am sure I’ll be referring to it myself for years to come and I happily recommend it to you.



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