March 2007


Wrestling with several issues and consultation with the youth pastor I help has led me, in the spirit of Jude 3, to identify some (though not all) of the propositional truths at the center of the Scriptures.   This is referred to as the Bounded Set theory of Christianity which has been heavily emphasized since the reformation.  It hedges, or fences, what is definitely out as far as being Christian.  Deny the resurrection, you’re still a son of Adam, but you are not a Christian. 

Complementing the Bounded Set is a theory more emphasized recently called the Centered Set theory.  It allows for various stylistic components and forms of worship, and takes as its litmus test the various fruit of the Spirit, that no one will condemn.  Are you loving?  serving?  growing in patience?  etc.  It’s emphasis is on lifestyle.

Unfortunately, some of the contemporary and emerging church emphasies have thrown away the bonded set, or so muddied its boundaries that heresies come in unchecked leading to death.  And unfortunately, it can define love in such a way that asks whether or not we are accepting people and making them feel comfortable at the expense of truth.  A good definition of this comes from John Piper, “Relationships trump truth.” 

We need both the Bounded and Centered Set views.  We need the proper knowledge of Chirst.  We need the proper response to Christ yielded from it, including living out a life worhty of the gospel (Phil 1) that highlights the Spirit’s transforming power in our lives.  Here are some of the Bounded Set propositions I have come to.  The essential nature of a select few may be debated, but it would be wise to view anything else with a critical eye from someone denying one of them:

God

  • One God- existing in three persons (Is 9:6)

  • Holy, perfect, sinless (Mt 5:48, Ps 24:3, Isa 6:3, Lev 19:2)

  • Created everything from nothing (Col 1) 

Jesus

  • Always was, begotten NOT created (Col 1, John 1)

  • Born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38, 2:6-7)

  • Substitutionary Atonement- God’s sacrifice to God for sin- Lamb of God (John 1:29)

  • Lived sinless (Heb 4:15)

  • Fully God / Fully Man (The Bible)

  • The one way to God (John 14:6)

  • Lord / King / Master (Rom 1, et al.) 

Who is Man

  • A creature created in God’s Image (Gen 1:27)

  • Given authority over nature (Gen 1:28-31)

  • Created as Male and Female- Two COMPLEMENTARY not interchangeable stewards of his creation (Gen 1:27)

  • Born into sin- (Rom 5:12, Ps 51:5)

Who is the Holy Spirit

  • God- person of the Trinity (I Cor 12:4-6, II Cor 13:14)

  • The promised counselor from Jesus to lead us in the way (Is 9:6, John 16-17)

Satan

  • Powerful / Personal Evil

  • Father of Lies, Liar from the beginning (John 8:44)

Hell

  • Hell- An eternal punishment that most of humanity will enter  

What is the Bible

  • Inerrant in its original manuscript (Num 23:19, Ps 12:6, Prov 30:5)

  • Inspired by God (Ex 31:18, 32:6, Deut 31:24-26, Isa 30:8, John 14:26, Isa 30:8)

Feel free to comment or add anything on the above.  Loving Jesus for who He is.

Larry

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” (James 1:19)  is not only good advice but essential in discerning and evaluating truth claims.

Last fall, I came across the following statements by N.T. Wright in The Australian:

“[N.T. Wright] An eminent theologian, an expert on the historical and biblical Jesus and a staunch believer in the resurrection, he baulks at denouncing those who are not.  

“‘I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection,’ he says carefully, citing another eminent scholar, American theologian Marcus Borg…

“‘Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately. The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection. ‘” (Article by Jill Rowbotham, Apr 13, 2006 Not all Christians believe in the resurrection)

I saw some bloggers immediately condemn Wright and I started to lean in that direction.  Then I started to ask questions.  What if Borg does believe in the resurrection in a spiritual sense and affirms most everything else about Jesus?  Would he be excluded as he tried passionately to follow the Jesus his philosophical and cultural worldview would not allow?  Be slow to speak…

Wright defends the historical Jesus and especially the resurrection voluminously, eloquently, and passionately.  He also reaches out to and engages his academic brothers of the liberal persuasion.  He challenges the liberal world to consider his Jesus.

But his statements are provocative.  They were the more so coming near Easter last year from a scholar who has spent decades on the first century period and historical Jesus.  And being provoked, I picked up one of Marcus Borg’s most recent books, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary.  It was an uncomfortable process leading me to evaluate the skeletal system of the faith.

Here are several observations about the Jesus that Borg knows:

  • Not the second person of the Trinity[1]
  • Fully man, Not God before Easter
  • Not the Son of God[2]
  • Not raised to life from the dead[3]
  • Not born of the Virgin Mary[4]
  • Not sinless[5]
  • A wisdom teacher on level with Buddha and Lao Tzu[6]
  • One among many ways to God[7]
  • Not necessary to be believed in
  • Jesus did not die FOR the sins of the world[8]
  • Jesus’ crucifixion was NOT necessary[9]
  • Jesus died for political reasons[10]
  • Didn’t perform miracles like changing water to wine, walking on water, etc.

In contrast to Borg’s Jesus, the testimony borne in the Scripture of Jesus is contradictory on almost every point:

  • Always was, begotten NOT created (Col 1:15-19, John 1:1-5)
  • Rose from the dead (I Cor 15, Mark 16, Matthew 28, Luke 24, and John 20-21)
  • Born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38, 2:6-7)
  • Died for the sins of the world (John 3:16) as a Substitutionary Atonement- God’s sacrifice to God for sin- Lamb of God (John 1:29, 3:14)
  • Lived sinless (Heb 4:15)
  • The One way to God (John 14:6)
  • Necessary to be believed in (Rom 10:9)

What is obvious is that these are two radically different pictures of Jesus and by Wright saying he has friends who don’t believe in the resurrection but he is quite sure are Christians, and then identifying Borg as one, is profoundly troubling.  There is no doubt, from his construction of Jesus and his denial of the testimony that led to the death of many of the apostles that Borg is preaching another gospel (the severity of which is highlighted in Gal 1:8). 

At best, this demonstrates fuzziness as far as Wright’s understanding of the gospel.  Borg’s own autobiographical sketch identifies growing up in a traditional Lutheran community and fails to liberate him from having a cultural or philosophical worldview from which he can deny the bodily resurrection.  Wright is quite wrong about the standing of his friend.

Practically, it is one thing to say Wright should not waffle on the eternal standing of his liberal friends.   It is quite another for us to do the same, being ready to have friends and family who drive us out and hate us for the name of Christ because we ourselves have a better hope (Matt 10:34-39, Luke 6:22, Heb 10:34-36). 


[1]Borg 136 “Was Jesus- the pre-Easter Jesus- God?  No.”  also Pg 321.

[2] Ibid 135-136

[3] Ibid 274-276

[4] Ibid 60-63.

[5] Ibid 120 tells us Jesus “decided to undergo, “John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” and on pg 173 Borg entertains as an interesting possibility the notion that Jesus was the prodigal spoken of in Luke 15.

[6] Ibid 166

[7] Ibid 328

[8] Ibid 274 “According to the gospels, Jesus did not die for the sins of the world.  The language of sacrificial substitution is absent from their stories.  But in an important sense he was killed because of the sins of the world.”

[9] Ibid 274 “Did Good Friday have to happen?  As divine necessity?  No.  As human inevitability?  Virtually.”

[10] Ibid 274

Sometime in the past week(s) we passed 5,000 visitors. Stats really aren’t that important to me, but I can’t speak for the others who claim to blog at this site 🙂 .  I’m guessing if they cared they would post more and try to drive the traffic up by posting on some controversial topic. Anyways back to the stats, to be honest today was the first day in a while I checked out our blog stats. And our traffic has been turtleishly slow recently.  This past week we averaged around 10 visit per day, while during our peak I think we would average around 35 (this is an educated guess). Our highest day ever was 147.  I know those aren’t stellar numbers, but what I do interpret from the numbers is we’ve been slacking in our posting.  You’d think with 5 people involved in the blog we would have more posting, nudge nudge.  😉

We’ll I just want to confess and say that I’m a terrible blogger and slacker, but I’m still alive and kicking.  How about the other bloggers?  You there?

I see Mark’s still alive, sorry for bumping you brother.  Your post is much better than mine.

Speaking of controversy…  Jacobus Arminius is my Homeboy!

If you are like me, you find it very easy to stop thinking and praying about reaching out with the gospel to our muslim neighbors here in the US. I don’t like that inertia.

Grab the feed of the Crescent Project podcast and keep these necessary things in front of yourself. Fouad Masri publishes the podcast once a month – and you know you’ve got a spare 15 minutes this month. It’s worth it.

(By the way, if you’re really pumped, check out thier staff opportunities, too!)

I was reading parts of Piper’s sermon last week titled, Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 2 and came across this quote talking about leadership in physical protection.

This is too obvious to need illustration—I wish. If there is a sound downstairs during the night and it might be a burglar, you don’t say to her: This is an egalitarian marriage, so it’s your turn to go check it out. I went last time.” And I mean that even if your wife has a black belt in karate. After you’ve tried, she may finish off the burglar with one good kick to the solar plexus. But you better be unconscious on the floor, or you’re no man. That’s written on your soul, brother, by God Almighty. Big or little, strong or weak, night or day, you go up against the enemy first. Woe to the husband—and woe to the nation—that send their women to fight their battles.

I found myself visualizing this scenario in my head, which brought out a good chuckle.

On a more serious note, I have thoroughly enjoyed his series on marriage even though I’m still single. The series has provided great biblical truths about men, women, and marriage. The world has seriously rejected and reinterpreted these biblical truths, and ashamedly I’ve done so also. May my understanding of marriage come from the Bible and not from my presuppositions based on worldly, man centered knowledge.

On another note, I’m done with the preparation for my talks tomorrow and I praise God for the strength, wisdom, and perseverance to complete them. I really enjoyed preparing, even though there were some rough patches. Sorry for not posting any of it on the blog, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to have time to post. Lord willing, I’ll post some things from it next week.

To God be the glory

Ladies and Gents, as I prepare for a couple of talks I’m going to recruit your help.  Currently I’m going to base the talks off of Hebrews 3:12-14,

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

OK, now I want you to make some observations about this text.  Don’t be shy, give me at least 5 observations and feel free to bring in more context as well.  Different perspectives will be useful, but if no one participates, this may be the last time I ask for your help in my preparation. 😦

Over the course of the next couple weeks I’ll post parts of the talks so you can get a flavor for what I’m going to share.  And feel free to give your two cents worth as well.  Maybe this will bring the blog back to life… 🙂

If you haven’t read “The Holiness of God” by R.C Sproul, you need to move it up on the reading list. It has planted itself firmly in my top 5 book list.

Another book I’ve been working on for a while and almost finished is “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” by John Owen. If you haven’t read this book or don’t plan too, you need to put down your Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew and get some meat. 😉

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