Paul and Logic, Part One: Logic and What Is Written

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Lately, SharperIron members have been discussing the question of applying the tool (or tools) of logic to Scripture. Are logical conclusions based on the Word as authoritative as the Word itself? Are they authoritative? If logic is required just to read and understand the messages of the Bible, then we must accept logic. So, how can we then question logic applied to Bible truths? Is the gathering of biblical data subject to the exact same noetic defects as making calculations based on that data? What logical system should we employ? Should laws like non-contradiction be treated as “God’s laws”? Did He create them or did we think them up and impose them on the Word without permission?

I do not believe that we will be able to effectively make an apologetic for some of these problems. Questioning everything can get tedious. Descartes, doubting everything, first had to conclude that he existed because he could think (“cogito, ergo sum”). There is a place in which faith must be exercised. Faith, after all, is “substance” when there is nothing firm to grasp and “evidence” of things outside our observation. So if I have scrubbed myself into a cognitive corner, it will be faith that gets me out the door playing with the other boys. I am simply going to make a couple statements that I believe about logic and the Word. If you agree with me, then come along beside me and let’s play some volleyball; this floor might be clean enough.

  • I believe that God used human language to communicate so we would understand that which He wished us to understand.
  • I believe that there are levels of authority with regard to reading Scripture. Or perhaps I should call them “levels of confidence” with regard to such authority.

    1. The true meaning of Scripture. We may or may not know this perfectly. Yet this is our absolute authority.
    2. Our understanding of primary biblical data. This is our understanding of the meaning of the messages of the Word. It is our highest tangible authority. Yet it is imperfect. It has come through the filters of copying, translation, and our own reading.
    3. Our understanding of doctrines which are logically derived from the primary biblical data. This also is imperfect, coming through the additional filter of our own reasoning. Doctrine is inferior to primary biblical data because it uses one more filter, but that relationship is occasionally reversed when we allow our doctrine to shape our reading (e.g., The Reformed theologian concluding that “all” doesn’t mean “all”).


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I'm Biased

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A Review of the Northwest Baptist Missions Conference

If you have never been to a Northwest Baptist Missions (NBM) Annual Fellowship Meeting, you’ve missed out on one of the most unique, close-knit bands of preachers and their families anywhere in the country. No humbugs. No spiritual charlatanism. It is fellowship with a big capital F. Or should I say “family,” only in all bold letters?

Yes. We are unique and, probably to outsiders, quite an odd, mixed bunch. But just notice where we live and minister. Not every man who lives in a predominant Bible belt is cut out to fit the exact holes in such places as Rexburg in Idaho, Winnemuca in Nevada, or Nephi in Utah. Don’t you think? One-of-a-kind men are needed for such vividly singular places. Maybe that is why NBM get togethers tend to be just that–fun and colorful. You never know what is going to shoot down the pike or jump out from the sagebrush. This year, it happened to be good ol’ Aunt Martha (you have to watch out for some of those pesky relatives), who lovingly, playfully scolded Pastor Jason Ehmann and Pastor Dennis Rodgers right up on the front stage in view of a full auditorium. Some of the new preachers probably didn’t know what to think. Watching from the audience, Brother Dan Mauldin (and brand-new executive board member) was ready to invoke 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

But no worries; ol’ Aunt Martha and I go back quite a spell. We just want to make sure everybody is awake. Alert. On their toes. Better to meet Aunt Martha than some predacious six-shooter.

Ron Ehmann, the director of the mission, on the opening night of the meetings (Sept. 25 in Idaho Falls, Idaho), preached out of 1 Samuel 17. He spoke of Goliath snubbing the Israelite army, and I am paraphrasing Ron. “These men’s perspectives had been conditioned by the giant. The whole army was thinking the same way.” But then a new perspective came along in verse 26. Excellent. Because “we forget whom we serve. We get use to standing around and looking at each other.”

In verse 43, “the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” Big mistake! While Goliath was defying “the God of the armies of Israel,” David made sure “that all the earth” knew “there is a God in Israel.” In battle, there is no greater cause than to glorify God. And remember, “You don’t need a sword or a spear. You just need God.”
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Of Sunday Schools and Dodo Birds

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To ask, “What is the biblical philosophy of Sunday school?” is a loaded question: the question is loaded with the assumption that the Sunday school should be there, and it is loaded with all our circumstantial preconceptions of the Sunday schools we’ve grown up attending. There is no “biblical philosophy” of Sunday school per se; no concordance search will locate the “Sunday school chapter” of the Bible, telling us how, or even that, God wants Sunday school conducted. Sunday school is a man-made institution; and along with the Sunday evening service, gospel tracts, Christian camps and schools, SharperIron, visitation, church buildings, and a host of other institutions, it could go the way of the dodo bird without the church flagging in faithfulness one bit. That so many churches in town are dropping their Sunday evening service may speak of a trend toward capitulation to the spiritual sloth and lethargy of the masses; nevertheless, there is nothing inherently wrong with nixing the evening service, or Sunday school, for that matter.
Dodo BirdAs a Sunday school superintendent of a small church, I find the nonessential and expendable qualities of Sunday school both burdening and liberating: burdening, in that the burden of justifying the institution’s very existence is upon us, but liberating, in that we are free to tweak it or overhaul it as much as we like—it’s only a human institution. I point out the nonessential and expendable qualities of Sunday school to remind us of this burden and this liberty, and not for the sake of reckless iconoclasm.

As a Sunday school superintendent, I join a work in progress–first, the work of the church militant marching across the centuries; and second, the work of my particular congregation. While we’d all like a chance to start with a Bible and a blank whiteboard, most of us join a work in progress. Whether we like it or not, Sunday school is here. And while there is no inherent unfaithfulness in scrapping it, there is no inherent virtue in scrapping it, either. “What is a biblical philosophy of Sunday school?” is a loaded question, and loaded it must be. There’s already writing on the whiteboard, but that’s OK. It’s erasable. And maybe some of the writing on the whiteboard is useful to us.
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Shall We Reason Together? Part Four: Ye Know Not the Scriptures

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In The Nick of TimeWithin the final week of His ministry, Jesus announced Himself as the Messiah and took possession of the temple in Jerusalem. During the buildup of hostilities that led to the crucifixion, He was confronted by each faction of the Jewish leadership. The confrontation with the Sadducees(Matt. 22:23‐33; Mark 12:18‐27) is especially instructive.

The Sadducees are known mainly for the beliefs that they rejected. They did not believe in a bodily resurrection. They did not believe in the existence of angels or spirits. They did not accept much of the Hebrew canon, recognizing only the books of Moses as authoritative.

Their confrontation with Jesus centered upon the doctrine of the resurrection. They posed a question about a woman who had, under the code for levirate marriage or yibbum, wed multiple husbands, only to be widowed repeatedly. They asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection.

Their question was not a request for information. Instead, the Sadducees were attempting a reductio ad absurdum, pointing to an intolerable consequence (namely, polyandry) of a bodily resurrection. This placed Jesus in a dilemma: either He could embrace the intolerable consequence, or else He could distance Himself from belief in a bodily resurrection.

Conceding nothing to the Sadducees, Jesus slipped between the horns of the dilemma in an amazing coup fourré. “Ye do err,” He said, “not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” In other words, He accused the Sadducees of two areas of ignorance. He then articulated two answers, one to respond to each area of ignorance.

In reply to the Sadducees’ ignorance of the power of God, Jesus stated that, “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”This was new revelation. Jesus did not base this teaching on anything from the Old Testament, but upon His personal knowledge of things supernatural. It implies not only a knowledge of resurrection, but also a knowledge of angels. Such a reply was not calculated to endear Him to the Sadducees.

The more interesting part of Jesus’ response concerns the Sadducees’ ignorance of Scripture. Here, Jesus appealed to the text of Exodus 3:6, in which God says to Moses, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Reasoning from this verse, Jesus affirmed, “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.”
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Why Sing? | Part 2

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Link to Part 1

Using Music to Mature the Emotions

If churches want to establish mature believers, then they must aim at the whole of man, including his emotions. God has given man music as a tool to help him express his emotions. Any casual reader of Scripture will recognize the clear connection between music and emotional expression. Here are just a few examples:
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Anne Rice's Christ the Lord? A Contradiction?

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Note: This article was originally posted November 25, 2005.

Anne has switched the topic of her writing career from vampires to Christ. Remember seventy years ago, novelist Fulton Oursler, turning from agnosticism to devout faith and writing The Greatest Story Ever Told. Today, it’s Anne’s debut. With as much passion that Mel Gibson delivered in his movie production on Christ, Anne is exhibiting the same about-turn-face dedication to writing about the Savior. In her latest novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt , Anne invites, “This is a book I offer to all Christians—to the fundamentalists, to the Roman Catholics, to the most liberal Christians in the hope that my embrace of more conservative doctrines will have some coherence for them in the here and now of the book.” It was an invitation I couldn’t resist. After reading her book, here is my review of the delightful and the distasteful, with the intent that sometime these words from an Idahoan might cross the computer screen in her room so that her heart might consider.
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An Editorial Response to Vision Forum

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ADDED 12:35 AM Friday, October 6, 2006

Some words of explanation/clarification:

  • We had made several attempts to contact and converse with VF leadership, as well as with Scott Brown of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, following the original publication of the articles in 2005. An invitation to provide clarification of their position on the SI platform was offered to VF/NCFIC multiple times. The invitation still stands.
  • We have republished the “Family Squabble” article (though they have not specifically requested that we do so) in the interests of furthering charitable dialogue and clarification of the issues that unite and divide.
  • The most recent “personal contact” made with Jason before the recent publication of multiple articles on October 4, 2006, consisted of a fax of Einwechter’s article on the same day it was published online.
  • Jason is continuing to attempt personal conversation and dialogue between the VF leadership and the SI team.

––––

A little over a year ago, SI published a series of articles by Joe Fleener and Aaron Blumer detailing some concerns with the Family Integrated Church Movement. Joe Fleener specifically named Vision Forum Ministries in his three part series.

This week, Vision Forum began to issue a response to these articles. We have included the text to the main response on the SI blog.

However, it seems to have been implied that VF considers the publication of these articles at SI as “blogosphere gossip.” Prefacing Michael Gobart’s article is this statement:

The following article is presented as one example among many…of a SharperIron.org author attempting to discredit his brothers in Christ based on a point of scholarship over which he does not appear to have even a rudimentary understanding.

Furthermore, on the same day the articles by Gobart and Einwechter were posted, an excerpt from the Westminster Confession of Faith was published on the Vision Forum website. The post was entitled, “The Westminster Confession on Blogosphere Gossip.” The sidebar informs readers that: Read more about An Editorial Response to Vision Forum

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Family Squabble: Vision Forum responds to SharperIron

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CounterPoint

EDITORIAL NOTE: In 2005, SI published a series of articles by Joe Fleener and Aaron Blumer detailing some concerns with the Family Integrated Church Movement. Joe Fleener specifically named Vision Forum Ministries in his three part series. This week, Vision Forum began to issue a response to these articles. We have included the text to the main response on the SI blog. A secondary response/clarification was also published this week, and may be found here. Registered members of SI may discuss this article in our forums. Joe Fleener is also interacting with commenters on his blog. -GJL

Family Squabble An Autopsy of Joe Fleener’s Three Part, “Vision Forum, Patriarchy and Federal Husband,” Part I

by William Einwechter, October 4, 2006

(Vision Forum’s) Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Vision Forum began to receive requests from friends and supporters across the nation who had been hurt and in some cases adversely affected in their local churches as a result of a series of three defamatory articles authored by Joe Fleener and published on SharperIron.org. The articles were also widely disseminated by e-mail and other venues. The articles were noteworthy for their polemical nature, factual errors, lack of research, and, most significantly, for the unwillingness of the author or publishers at SharperIron.org to demonstrate brotherly charity and biblical integrity by contacting the Christians at Vision Forum Ministries to confirm facts or to raise private concerns prior to their decision to bring public charges and accusations to the broader body of Christ.

In response to these articles, Bill Einwechter, elder at Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, drafted the following response. Mr. Einwechter is not a member of Vision Forum staff, but, as a reformed and baptistic pastor who has been an invited guest to several Vision Forum events in the past, is a friend to the ministry. Mr. Einwechter’s three articles will be released one at a time, over the course of the month of October. Where proper attribution is included, permission is granted to publish and disseminate these articles. Read more about Family Squabble: Vision Forum responds to SharperIron

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