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Bible, Theology

An Exegetical Analysis of 1 Peter 3:18-22

January 15, 2021

 For many students of the Bible, and particularly of the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:19-22 stands as one of the most difficult passages to interpret and understand. Christians and scholars throughout church history have struggled with various interpretations surrounding what exactly happened to Jesus after he was crucified.[1] In fact, the great Reformer Martin Luther once said about this passage, “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.”[2]

While we cannot be certain and dogmatic of any position, we can give our best exegetical analysis of what is happening in this text. The purpose of this paper is to bring clarity to the predominant issues in the text. 

 Two problems arise from a cursory reading of 1 Peter 3. First, what does it mean that Jesus went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison? Who are these spirits? What does it mean that Jesus “went”? How does the death of Jesus relate to the story of Noah? Second, what does it mean that Peter says, “baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you”? How does the story of Noah provide a typology for water baptism in the New Testament? How does baptism intersect with salvation? In order to fully argue my position on these two issues, a holistic approach must be taken, meaning that we will examine each issue exegetically, theologically, and historically. 

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Bible, Theology

Why You Need the Language of Lament At The End of 2020

January 4, 2021

Many of us are ending the year tired, weary, exhausted, and hopeless. The global pandemic has caused a multitude of losses: friendships, time with family, jobs, opportunities, graduations, rituals. The ‘”New Year, New Me” facade is glaringly absent as the hopelessness continues on for another year. Even for some of you who are seeking to turn over the new year leaf, eventually we have to come face-to-face with the trauma and suffering that we have endured this year. If you do not have the language of lament, you will be woefully deficient in dealing with the multiple heartbreaks from the last year.

Thankfully, God has not left us alone in our pain and sorrow—God has given us language to deal with our trauma: the language of lament. In fact, the wisdom literature is primarily comprised of lament language, which gives the people of God freedom to express their grief and sorrow towards God and to one another. Because of the effects of sin on the world, part and parcel of being human is dealing with pain and suffering. Lament gives you language to properly grieve the loss while at the same time trusting God in the pain.

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Bible, Culture

Expressive Individualism and the Corruption of Community

December 1, 2020

Everyone is a philosopher. The common American may not often think deeply about works of philosophical reflection but everyone functionally lives a philosophy of life every single day. In other words, every single human is pursuing their version of “the good life” (for more reference to this subject, please see James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love). We make plans, set goals, pursue hobbies, and conform our life around a particular vision of what will bring us satisfaction and delight. Perhaps one of the most prominent philosophical systems that most Americans orient their life around is expressive individualism, yet few would actually use the proper term. So what is expressive individualism? A survey of popular slogans illustrates just exactly the ethos of this way of life:

  • You do you.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Find yourself.

These slogans reveal what Westerners chiefly value: individual freedom to decide what is best for oneself. Our highest good is to be true to our selves and thus, if we were to deny ourselves certain impulses, desires, or loves, we would be denying that which is ultimately good. As Americans, we are hard-wired culturally to see ourselves as individuals who “isolate themselves from the mass of his fellows and withdraw into the circle of family and friends” (Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart). What does it mean that as individuals we must express ourselves? Yuval Levin in The Fractured Republic is helpful:

That term suggests not only a desire to pursue one’s own path but also a yearning for fulfillment through the definition and articulation of one’s own identity. It is a drive both to be more like whatever you already are and also to live in society by fully asserting who you are. The capacity of individuals to define the terms of their own existence by defining their personal identities is increasingly equated with liberty and with the meaning of some of our basic rights, and it is given pride of place in our self-understanding.

A culture that values expressive individualism is a culture dominated by people yearning for fulfillment through the definition and articulation of one’s own identity. Your identity does not come from any external factors, rather, it is a call to bend yourself inward, to discover what is most true about yourself. But then, you are not only called to find your identity inwardly, but you must express it to the rest of the world. To hide your true identity or values denies your right to self-understanding.

Therefore, any culture, religion, or ethical system that imposes rules, regulations, identities, or expectations on an individual is seen as threatening and oppressive. If I am my own authority and if my identity is found by finding “the true me” internally—a community of faith, a government, or a hobby group that asks me to conform to their way of life not only infringes upon my rights to self-understanding but also places me under bondage so that I may not experience my true identity.

20th century Roman Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor calls this Western phenomena the “age of authenticity.” For Taylor, authenticity is less tied to integrity and honesty but rather is set against conformity. In this way, your purpose of life to find your deepest self and then express it to the world. You are to forego what those around you say, you must pursue what feels right to you. In respect to our current age of authenticity, Taylor notes:

I mean the understanding of life which emerges with the Romantic expressivism of the late-eighteenth century, that each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live out one’s own, as against surrendering to conformity with a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious or political authority.

The Silent Killer of Community

In this ideology, my highest good is finding my identity in myself and therefore, outside authority is a challenge to my vision of flourishing. But, the Bible paints a vastly different picture to this view. In the beginning, before there was any sin, humans were designed to submit to God’s authority while at the same time flourish, in the deepest sense of the word. Even now, we believe that the best life is not found in isolation from authority but in conformity to God’s authority. Therefore, the highest good that I can pursue is to find my identity outside of myself—to find it in God himself. While it may seem counter-intuitive or even flat-out wrong to find good in submission to authority, that is only because our lenses have been colored by expressive individualism and we are unable to see authority and submission without our presuppositional and cultural baggage. 

If the average American believes that the fullest life is found by turning inward, shedding of cultural, religious, and political expectations, then unfortunately, the church will be seen more as an enemy than as a friend. But is the problem with the church/Bible or with the cultural presupposition? How then will Christians interact with one another if our primary philosophical presupposition is one of expressive individualism? How will we handle conflict? Disagreements? Put bluntly, expressive individualism left unchecked will be the silent killer in the church in the West. Because of the work of Jesus, we can now turn outward to those in need, giving our time, money, talents, and lives for the good of others. Our lives no longer revolve around ourselves but for they revolve around the good of others. 

If the expressive individualist says that the highest good is individual freedom, happiness, self-definition, and self-expression, what happens when that expression goes against what the Bible says or leads to the harm of another person in the community? How can serve one another in love, humility, and service when our highest pursuit is ourselves? How do I consider others more significant than myself, if I believe the most significant thing in life is my own happiness (Phil 2:3)?

Much like the old adage of the frog slowly boiling to death, if expressive individualism is left unchecked, it will silently kill the health of a church. After all, as Americans, expressive individualism is the air we breath. Therefore, let us be vigilant in our analysis of our church culture, so that what we are reflecting is Christ and not a cultural phenomenon. Let us look to Christ, who did not bend himself inward but rather, extended himself outward on the Cross for you and I, so that our selfish hearts may in turn bend towards the needs of others.

Bible, Culture, Politics

Before You Vote: Remember the True King

October 13, 2020

In the last few months, several members of Coram Deo (the church I pastor) have asked me about what they should do regarding this upcoming political election. For some, this is the most important political election they have ever witnessed; for others, they are discouraged and weary of the political division. Given that election day is three weeks away, I hope to write a series of articles that are primarily directed at the members of Coram Deo, while also applying to the broader Christian circle in which I am a part of.

A quick disclaimer: my approach to politics comes primarily from the perspective of Reformed Christianity, particularly in the realm of Kuyperianism in relation to culture. For those unaware, Kuyper was a 19th century theologian, politician, journalist, and a prolific writer of how the church should engage not only in the area of biblical theology but of culture and politics. I am aware that some of you may disagree with my perspectives, which is totally in your right to do so. My plea to you as you read and engage with other people in this season: extend the same grace that has been given to you in Christ.


Around this time of the year, I yearn for election season to be over, primarily so that the endless number of billboards and commercials will cease. Every four years, there seems to be endless promises, half-told stories of particular candidates, and the potential for doom if one candidate looses (particularly, the candidate that is NOT your candidate). Yet, something feels different this year. There is more angst, more animosity, more fear, and the Christian camp is not immune to this. Fear and anxiety have gripped the people of God concerning who will get elected in a few weeks.

While I do believe that Christians should be actively involved in the cultural and political moments of their time, I would caution us to remember that fixing our hopes and identity upon a political party or candidate will always lead to disappoint and angst, whereas fixing our eyes on Jesus, the True King, will always lead to rest and security. In other words, in this election season, church, remember Whose you are. Remember the first question of the New City Catechism: what is your only hope in life and death? That you are not your own but belong to God.

This means that regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, your eternal security and present comfort is found in God’s covenantal love for you in Christ and God’s preserving of the church for the ages to come. Rather than being a cheesy, cliche statement that Christians hold on to, you seriously need to remember that through all things, Jesus is still King. As King, Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Nothing can thwart God’s agenda in this world—and yes, not even your worst political nightmare.

EVERY SQUARE INCH

Even though Abraham Kuyper was Prime Minister of the Netherlands, he nevertheless retained his theological bent, believing that the state is a necessary good, while at the same time believing that the Kingship of Jesus reigns as supreme over all things. Make no mistake: the state is absolutely a necessary good in a world governed by corruption, but the state is limited. Government has been instituted by God (Romans 13:1) and have been instituted to restrain evil in society (Romans 13:3). In the throes of governing and politics, Kuyper never abandoned his chief concern in life:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

Abraham Kuyper – Sphere Sovereignty

Kuyper believed, and we believe in his stead, that Christ, not the state, is the rightful ruler and king over all creation. There is nothing outside of his jurisdiction or control. There is never a moment of stress or angst in God’s heart as he governs and sustains the world right now. And the good news? God will never be dethroned. Your political candidate may win or loose in a few weeks but Jesus the King will remain King forever. Lest we get tunnel vision in our political vision, let us remember the end of history: all of the nations gathered together, bowing before Christ the Lamb, celebrating the victory of Jesus over all kings and rulers (Revelation 7:9).

So, Christian, go to the ballot box on November 3 with complete assurance and confidence, not in your political party or candidate, but in the fact that Jesus is the reigning and ruling King over all creation. Go in confidence to vote remembering that God has sustained his church through far more wicked governments. Go in hope to the ballot box, not in the promises of Trump or Biden, but in the promises of God found in the Scriptures.

Bible

Why Should You Study 1 Peter?

August 26, 2020

Starting in September, I will begin to preach through 1 Peter at Coram Deo. Why should we care about 1 Peter and how is it relevant to the life of a Christian today? My hope and prayer is that the people of Coram Deo may learn not just information but be transformed by the renewing work of God found in 1 Peter. So then, why should we study 1 Peter now in the 21st century?

PETER IN A TIME SUCH AS THIS

Many Christians are familiar with the Pauline epistles, the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Gospel stories; very few people spend significant time in 1 and 2 Peter. In fact, I have rarely, if ever, heard a Christian say that 1 Peter is one of their favorite books, even though the book has so much relevance to the life of a Christian in the 21st century. Even though thousands of years apart, we would discover that Peter’s world and our world are really not that different.

For one, depending upon when you believe Peter wrote 1 Peter, the persecution that Peter warns against is very similar to the persecution that Western Christians are now facing or will begin to face very soon. For Peter, the majority of persecution was verbal and cultural, meaning that perhaps a Christian would be verbally shamed or ridiculed for their belief in Christ while not enduring physical punishment. As Western culture continues to push further from Christianity, we will continue to see verbal and cultural persecution. For many of us, this type of aggression will be foreign to us and sadly, many of us will respond more from an American mindset than a biblical mindset. We will want to defend our honor, retaliate, and protect our rights. Rather, Peter would admonish us, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called.” (1 Peter 3:9)

Peter will help refocus our priorities and fix our hope firmly on our Covenant God. Many of us have been accustomed to being in a place of cultural power, which is now shifting, and without the help of the Scriptures, we will be left confused at best and angry at worst. This, personally, leads me to the most important reason to study 1 Peter in the 21st century.

AN EXILIC IDENTITY

In the introduction, Peter identifies his audience as “elect exiles,” which, for our current cultural situation, is incredibly relevant. The average American Christian probably does not feel like an exile but the reality is that we progressively feel more like an exile as the years progress. An exile is a resident of one country while being a citizen of another. In this case, the people of God have always been exiles in this world—members of the Kingdom of God while living in the world. Yet, for many of us who grew up in Christendom, we have not felt like exiles. Times are changing, folks.

Peter wants to ground our identity in two facts—that we are elected and chosen by God and we currently reside as exiles and aliens in a foreign world. We recognize that we primarily belong to a world that is not here, to a Kingdom that is unshakeable, and to a King that is unimpeachable. Rather than grasping for cultural straws, it allows us to rest in and for the Kingdom of God that is breaking in right now.

A KINGDOM-SHAPED ETHIC

Because we are living in times where it is evident that Christians are exiles, it is more important than ever to have lives that are modeled after the Kingdom. Perhaps for many growing up in Christendom, morality was regulated via the government or the neighborhood that you grew up in. With the rise of postmodernism, morality is no longer enforceable outside the individual realm and thus, the people of God must be shaped by an ethic outside of themselves, namely through the Scriptures and the Kingdom of God.

1 Peter will not only teach us but shape us as a people to live as exiles in God’s kingdom. We will learn what it means to honor governors (even ones that are evil and commit evil acts), how to live as a godly family, how to serve in our vocations, and how to minister to those that are different than us. Rather than taking our cues from culture, 1 Peter invites us to be shaped around a Kingdom ethic.

JOIN US IN SEPTEMBER

I hope that you will join us as we learn from 1 Peter in the Fall. Perhaps you are new to Las Cruces and are looking for a church home, I invite you to join us on Sunday mornings at 10 am (you can also join us online as well). For those of you who already attend a church in Las Cruces, we invite you to journey with us and mine the riches of Peter’s epistle that is more relevant now than ever.

Bible, Catechism

Question #5: What Else Did God Create?

August 25, 2020

What else did God create?

God created all things by his powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule

In my last post, we discussed New City Catechism’s question #4, which deals with the purpose of humanities creation: to know and love God. Now, after dealing with humanity, the catechism turns to the rest of the world. What else did God create? There are three points of interest that the catechism offers us.

GOD CREATED ALL THINGS

A simple reading of Genesis 1 and 2 would make God’s creation of all things a known fact. Birds, reptiles, trees, fish, and a host of other animals were created by God. But God did not only create what can be seen, but also the unseen: he created emotions, desire, will, relational and familial systems. Think about the vast sum of objects that you enjoy in this life. Marriage? Friendship? A ribeye medium-rare? A perfectly pulled shot of espresso? The Rocky Mountains? All of this, and more, comes from the hand and mind of God.

CREATED BY HIS POWERFUL WORD

You may be thinking, what is so special about God creating? We create all the time. We create tables, iPhones, cultural systems. We create all the time. For you and I, we are entirely dependent upon raw materials to create. In order to design and create a table, we must purchase a saw, screws, and wood. What is unique about the work of God is that He creates without any raw materials. In other words, Genesis 1 and 2 tell a story of a God who simply speaks and creates. God says, “Let there be light” and light appears.

God creates with no strain or stress, whereas we create with incredible stress and strain. Mankind has created some of the most fascinating inventions, yet most of the time through arduous work. God, on the other hand, never tires or worries about what he is creating. He never has a rough draft. God creates all things perfectly and painlessly. Here is the unique and inviting aspect of Christianity: God is immensely powerful while being highly relational at the same time. The same God who spoke the universe into being longs to be in relationship with you.

EVERYTHING CREATED VERY GOOD

We were originally created to live in a world that flourished, rather than the world that we live in now that has been corrupted by sin. Every single person, whether they are religious or not, recognizes that there is something wrong with the world. There is something inside of our bones that cries out, “This is not the way it’s supposed to be.” That is because something in our soul recognizes that there was a moment when everything was perfect.

Because God is perfect in himself, God created everything perfectly, or as the catechism notes, everything was created to flourish. This is what we all desperately long for: flourishing relationships, businesses, and friendships. We were designed to live in a world that flourishes under God’s loving rule, where everything works in perfect harmony together. Our hope lies in the fact that one day, God will return to earth to renew and restore all things, so that our heart gets what its longing for: to be in relationship with God and then world in perfect harmony.

Bible, Catechism

Question #4: How and why did God create us?

August 17, 2020

How and why did God create us?

God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

New City Catechism #4

Deep inside humanities’ bones, everyone is asking: Why do I exist? What am I here for? Tired, anxious mothers question their existence and calling in sleepless nights; ambitious college-students seek to find their niche in the world; children wonder what their eventual purpose will be in the world. Simply put, wondering why we exist is simply human. Thankfully, Christianity and the catechism are not devoid of engagement with some of life’s most prominent questions. Here we have our answer, though some may not like it: we were created to know God, love God, live with God, and glorify God.

First, before we jump into the four reasons we were created, the catechism distinguishes how God created us. In the opening pages of the Bible, God is described as a Creator, who creates all things, including mankind. God first creates mankind in his image, noting that there is something amiss in the good creation, namely, a helper suitable for Adam. Now, lest we read our sin-filled world into Genesis 1 and 2, Eve being a “helper” for Adam is not derogatory or demeaning. A helper is someone who is strong, able to help, and fully competent (as I help my children with their homework, I cannot be the weaker party because then I could not help).

Everything in God’s good world was just that, good. Man and woman existed in perfect harmony with one another, with creation, with their vocation, and with their God. They existed together in a state in which we all long to be in. God created the first human pair to complement one another in relational harmony, as the catechism notes, we are created as male and female. We were created for vocational stewardship in this world, marital union, and relationship with God.

CREATED TO KNOW HIM

Our highest aim is to know God, more than as intellectual subject, but as an actual person. Of course we must know things about God but what is of utmost importance is that we know him like we know a good friend, rather than how we know how divide complex numbers. We were created to know God, as Adam and Eve were, walking in the garden with God in the cool of the day. Above everything else in life, you must ask yourself, “Do I truly want to know God? Am I fulfilling my ultimate purpose?”

CREATED TO LOVE HIM

More than just know God, we were created to love him, to have our affections stirred by him, and to have our delights infatuated by him. Men in the West have a difficult time understanding the concept of loving God, but the call is the same to both males and females: we are created to love God. We were created to know God and love God in a such a way that we exchange the best conversation around a fire with friends and think, “There’s no place I’d rather be!” In every moment of every day, we were created to love him.

CREATED TO LIVE WITH HIM

While some sectors of Christianity have espoused a monastic life, the vast swath of Christians in history have chosen to live with God in their day-to-day routines. This, frankly, is one of the most compelling things about Christianity. Rather than a cloistered religion, only known by the holiest of holy’s, Christianity is a rugged and personal religion, one in where God walks with you in the day-to-day affairs of your life. While certain sections of our life can be devoted more specifically to God (think, worshipping on Sunday morning), God is just as interested and involved in your business endeavors, your relational woes, and your fluctuating hobbies. God cares and wants you to live with him in every facet of your life.

CREATED TO GLORIFY HIM

The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks this fundamental question, “Why were you created?” The answer: to glorify and enjoy God forever. The reason you exist is not to make a name for yourself, to accomplish great tasks, or to build a great empire—but to glorify a great King. From work, to play, to rest, to parenthood, to marriage—all things are for the glory of God. You’re highest aim in life is to worship, adore, and glorify the Creator God.

Bible, Catechism

Question #3: How many persons are there in God?

August 11, 2020

Question #3 – How many persons are there in God?

There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

One of the most distinct and confusing doctrines of Christianity is the Trinity. Those who are new to the Christian faith or are outside the Christian faith may find the doctrine complex. How are we monotheists (believing in one God) while also believing in the Trinity (three persons in one God)? In order to fully understand the distinction, a helpful diagram has been drawn:

There are six fundamental truths that are communicated in this simple diagram that are crucial to the doctrine of the Trinity:

  1. The Father is God
  2. The Son is God
  3. The Holy Spirit is God
  4. The Father is not the Son nor the Spirit
  5. The Son is not the Father nor the Spirit
  6. The Spirit is not the Son nor the Father

How then do we believe in three persons but only one God? Through the language of substance, meaning that they share the same divinity. They are entirely equal in power, glory, and dominion, yet distinct in their roles and how they execute such substance. In one way, you can speak of the Trinity as three persons, meaning that each person of the Trinity plays a different role in the history of redemption. In another way, it is impossible to speak about God without speaking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is essentially who God is. The four affirmations from the ESV Study Bible summarize it well:

  1. There is one and only one true and living God.
  2. This one God eternally exists in three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  3. These three persons are completely equal in attributes, each with the same divine nature.
  4. While each person is fully and completely God, the persons are not identical. The differences among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are found in the way they relate to one another and the role each plays in accomplishing their unified purpose.

Rather than being an insignificant doctrine, church history would prove that the doctrine of the Trinity stands as one of the fundamental pillars of the faith. Early debates and controversies almost always surrounded the Trinity, which was clarified more fully as time progressed in the early church. For years, Jews regarded Yahweh as kurios (Greek for Lord, a translation of the Hebrew name of Yahweh), but now Jesus arrives and is declared as kurios. Early Christians had to wrestle with the identification with Jesus as Lord alongside Yahweh of the Old Testament.

Early Christians then debated on how to understand the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. In the 4th century, debates surrounded whether or not Jesus was homousias or homoiuasis. For the uninformed, the two look identical but the difference is significant. The former conveying that Jesus is fully divine, of the same substance with God, while the latter affirming that Jesus is in someway supernatural, but in no way divine. The Holy Spirit was later defined as divine in the latter half of the 4th century at the Council of Constantinople.

The Trinity and the Christian Life

While the doctrine of the Trinity can become heady and stuffy, we should not detract its importance away from the Christian life. What then is the practical significance of the Trinity in the life of the Christian?

  1. God is a Triune God, meaning that He has existed in relationship for eternity. This forms the basis of our relational need, as we have been made to reflect and image a relational God.
  2. The Trinity serves as the foundation for further theological implications. For example, how would we know what it means to be adopted by God if He were not a Father?
  3. The Trinity brings comfort as each member of the Trinity ministers and intercedes in different ways.
Bible, Theology

Why Don’t We Use The Apocrypha?

July 29, 2020

One of the dividing lines between Protestants and Roman Catholics is their view regarding the Apocrypha, primarily the OT Apocrypha books. For those that are unfamiliar with the debate, the Apocrypha is a collection of books that were written between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament (around 4th century BC to 1st century AD). There are also New Testament Apocrphyal books, such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Apocalypse of Peter, but both Roman Catholics and Protestants reject these are canonical.

For Christians, books of the Bible are canonical in the sense that they are regarded as sacred, written by human authors, but breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16). In this regard, both Protestants and Roman Catholics view the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as Scripture, while the Roman Catholics include the Old Testament Apocryphal books as well (such as 1 & 2 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Judith, Tobit, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, as well as some smaller works and even some additions to existing canonical books). Why then do Protestants (we) not regard the Apocrypha as Scriptural or canonical?

No Historical Attestation

If the Old Testament apocryphal books were regarded as Scripturally and canonically valid, we would assume that contemporaries of their writings would regard them as such. Historically, this is simply not the case. As Michael Kruger notes:

Although these books were known and used among the Jews of this time period, there is little evidence to suggest they were regarded as Scripture. Neither Josephus nor Philo—key sources for our understanding of the scope of the OT canon—used them as Scripture. In addition, no NT author (most of whom were Jews) cites even a single book from the Apocrypha as Scripture. And later rabbinic writers do not receive the Apocrypha, affirming only the Hebrew Scriptures as part of the Jewish canon (b. Baba Bathra 14–15).

Michael Kruger

Even after the early Jews rejected the Apocrphyal books as canonical, early Christians in the 1st and 2nd century did not regard the Apocrypha as canonical. In fact, it wasn’t until the 6th century that Augustine argued for its inclusion, which was later confirmed in the 16th century at the Council of Trent. Therefore, for the first 1500 years of Christian Church History, they were not included as Scriptural or canonical.

No New Testament Attestation

Can you guess how many times an Old Testament verse is quoted in the New Testament? 855. In all of these hundreds of cases, not a single one is quoted from the Apocrypha. If the early Christians, many of whom were previous Jews, relied upon the Apocrypha as Scriptural, would it not be fair to assume that they would use and refer to the Apocrypha in their New Testament writings? There is not a single instance of an Apocryphal text being cited as Scriptural according to New Testament authors.

Helpful But Not Scriptural

This is not to say that the OT Apocrypha is not helpful in any regard; I simply wish to communicate that it is not Scriptural or canonical. The Apocrypha gives us a view into the world of the inter-testamental period (the time between the Old and New Testaments). It helps us, like a good history textbook, to understand what was going on in the current political, social, and culturally moments of the time. It also helps us understanding the 1st century Jewish context more, as there were 400 years of historical development between the last writing of the Old Testament and when Jesus was born.

So, can we learn from the Apocrypha? Absolutely. Should we treat it as equal to the rest of the 66 books of the Bible? No. Early Jews, Christians, and Church Fathers did not regard these books are canonical and we would be unwise to reject their conclusions. Again, Michael Kruger is helpful:

The story of the OT and NT canon is a story that also involves “other” books. These other books have been a point of contention and controversy at various points within the history of Christianity. Moreover, these other books can raise concerns for modern day Christians who might wonder whether they’ve been improperly left out.But the historical evidence suggests we can have confidence in the content of both the OT and NT canon. Despite many years of wrangling over the OT Apocrypha, the Hebrew canon handed down by the Jews still stands as the Bible known by Jesus and the apostles and therefore is properly regarded as Scripture. Likewise, even though there has been much talk about “lost gospels,” these texts were written much later than our canonical ones and have little claim to historical authenticity. Thus, our biblical canon is complete. As Origen declared, “The net of the law and the prophets had to be completed . . . And the texture of the net has been completed in the Gospels, and in the words of Christ through the Apostles” (Comm. Matt. 10.12).

Michael Kruger
Bible, Culture

A Call To Civility In An Age of Hostility

July 28, 2020

If you were to describe the current cultural climate of the United States right now, what words would you use? For some, our country embodies hope, creativity, and exploration. For many, though, our country, at least right now, embodies an air of hostility, division, and a general spirit of unkindness towards one another. Perhaps this has been amplified by the rise of digital technology, allowing men and women to express what has always been inside their hearts, now with little to no consequences. If I were to select a few words to describe the current cultural climate, it would be hostility and division.

Perhaps in no other time in America history (outside possibly the Civil War era) has our nation been so divided. Before us is constantly a binary choice, forcing us to choose sides, dig our heels in, and vilify our opponents. Rather than approaching one another with dignity and respect, we assume the worst of one another, painting each other in negative lights, and use derogatory language about one another. A prime example of this is our current President, who should be the representative of a nation (perhaps, he is, after all), continuously mocking his political opponent with the nickname “Corrupt Joe Biden.” We can do better than this.

DISAGREEMENTS ARE HEALTHY

Contrary to what most people assume, disagreement and conflict are actually incredibly healthy for individuals, teams, and marriages. The ability to resolve conflict demonstrates a healthy system, rather than a family or team that never fights. A system devoid of conflict is not healthy, quite the opposite. The same is true for cultural systems and countries—our ability to resolve or not resolve conflict and disagreement is a barometer of our health. Ecclesiastes 7:5 notes, “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.” In some arena of life, there are those that are smarter and wiser, and thus, it would be wise for us to heed the rebuke rather than pick a fight.

What is required to be able to resolve conflict in a healthy way? Both parties must possess charity, kindness, and grace for one another while at the same time possessing incredible self-awareness.

Beginning with the latter, understanding our true selves as we approach a conflict is very important. What biases do I bring to the table? What presuppositions am I assuming (all Republicans value ____, all Southerners are ____)? How has my story shaped my beliefs? How can that be driving my desires at the present moment? In the former, leading with charity, kindness, and grace can entirely change the tone of the conversation. If there is a heated disagreement, we should first seek to listen and understand before we lecture.

This sort of demeanor is present not primarily in words but in our attitudes towards one another. Do I really see the person on the opposing side as someone made in the image of God, worthy of my dignity and respect, even if they disagree with me on fundamental issues? Do I believe that regardless of what a person believes, they are not worthy of my berating comments? Do I seek to follow the golden rule, of speaking to others as I would like to be spoken to? Words of kindness and charity flow from a heart that is full of kindness and charity for others; a lack of such words reveals that our heart is perhaps far darker than we dare even realize.

THE CHURCH AS AN EMBODIED KINGDOM ETHIC

Sadly, in the last few years, I have noticed that the broader American church has not followed the way of Christ in servanthood, kindness, and grace, but instead, has taken up the cultural vernacular of unkindness, bashing, and shaming. Rather than understand and show compassion to those we disagree with, we vilify and demoralize our opponents. What if the church embodied a Kingdom ethic, that was demonstrated in the character of God that is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness?

What if, as a church, we realized that every hill is not worth dying on, and that perhaps our kindness speaks more than our ability to argue? What if the world was drawn into our community by our affection, love, and kindness rather than our division and incivility? Dear Christian, remember, this world is not your home, you belong to the King and to the Kingdom. Rather than making every argument high stakes, remember that the Bible calls us to live at peace with all people (Romans 12:18).

Will you then, live counter-culturally, not by abdicating from certain immoral behaviors, but by embodying a speech ethic that is shaped by the Kingdom? Will you lay down your weapons, pull up a chair, and invite conservation that is charitable and profitable? Will you seek to serve your enemies rather than slay them with your words? Church, God is inviting us into a live of civility and kindness for the sake of a watching world.