Book Review - Pilgrim Theology

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Image of Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples
by Michael S. Horton
Zondervan 2013
Hardcover 512

Michael Horton has done a masterful job in providing a systematic theology written for the common man. Pilgrim Theology (the abbreviated version of his larger systematic theology, The Christian Faith), is a thorough, but not tedious explanation of the basic doctrines of Christianity. Horton presents these doctrines in simple terminology and in concise wording. He gives “just enough” information without exhausting the subject matter or his readers. Where technical terms are used there is either an immediate explanation or one is included in a helpful glossary located in the back of the book.

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Pilgrim Theology covers the major topics you’d expect in a book about theology: Christology, soteriology, eschatology, and more in only 450 pages. While that isn’t necessarily a short read, it isn’t nearly as daunting as the 1000+ pages in the larger, original volume. Wasting no words, Horton still manages to give a fairly comprehensive overview of each doctrine he addresses. Read more about Book Review - Pilgrim Theology

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Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: Jesus on Faith and Reason

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Christians are not immune from thinking independently of God. We do it when we think we can circumvent clear passages which we would rather say something other than what they say.

We can see this in two episodes in the life of our Lord.

In the first, Jesus warns the disciples to “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6). The narrative then says the disciples “reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.’” This brought forth a rebuke from Jesus:

O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves … do you not understand … How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? – but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matt. 16:8-11)

Then the narrative tells us that “they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Clearly the reasoning of the disciples was faulty and brought forth a righteously indignant response from Jesus. They were reasoning this way because faith was not guiding their reason. Notice that Jesus does not explain His meaning to them in verse 11, but simply repeats the warning of verse 6. That was because there was sufficient information in what He said to them for them to gain the right understanding—provided they let faith guide their reason!

The other example is in Mark’s Gospel. In Mark 4:35-41 we have the record of Jesus’ stilling of the wind and the sea. It starts out with Jesus’ statement of intent:

Let us cross over to the other side.

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Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: The Curse of Autonomy

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In this article on the roles of faith and reason I want to turn to examine some biblical passages which, I think, really help us to understand why reason must be driven by faith. The first of these comes from the Garden of Eden.

Autonomy: our default position in the use of reason

Although we do not have a protracted narrative of all that went on between the serpent and Eve, we do have everything necessary for us to learn what God wants us to learn. The culmination of the devil’s temptation of the woman was in the words, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). Of course this was a lie. No one could know good and evil like God without being God. But the promise of “being like God” was what did it. Read more about Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: The Curse of Autonomy

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Aphorisms for Thinking about Separation: Setting the Stage

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Some time ago I had a long talk and walk with an older, godly, academic separatist about the history of separatism. By separatist, I mean someone who separates not only from apostasy but also separates from those who do not separate from apostasy. (I am being vague on the timing and details as the conversation was a friendly courtesy to me.)

About an hour or so into our talk, I played my rhetorical trump card—the original word for Pharisee means separatist. It cut him deep. And for first time we moved from theory to life. I looked into the eyes of a godly, thoughtful man and recognized the truth of what he next said with tears welling up in his eyes, “I am not trying to be a Pharisee; I am just trying to serve Jesus.”

I backpedalled a bit and tried to draw out the sting of my words. We recovered the emotional balance of the conversation and moved on. Yet the Holy Spirit has used the conversation and the moment of deeply hurting a servant of my Lord as a helpful reminder to speak and write carefully on this issue. Read more about Aphorisms for Thinking about Separation: Setting the Stage

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Postmodernism 10 - Theological Declarations

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From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series.

Because there are no absolutes in postmodern religion, identifying a specific theology for the movement is essentially impossible. So rather than try to develop a comprehensive theology, here are some statements from emerging church leaders that might help at least give us an idea of where they are and where they might be heading.

God

“God can’t ever really be an object to be studied.”—Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian

“I am not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either…. I now incorporate a pantheistic view, which basically means that God is ‘in all,’ alongside my creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit.”—Spencer Burke, A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity

“The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not.”—Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis Read more about Postmodernism 10 - Theological Declarations

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A Review of Covenantal Apologetics

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Image of Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith
by K. Scott Oliphint
Crossway 2013
Paperback 288

K. Scott Oliphint is Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He has written several good books of apologetics and philosophical theology; most notably his Reasons for Faith and God with Us. He is, as far as my opinion counts, the main successor to Van Til and Bahnsen and their apologetic approach. This new book, Covenantal Apologetics, is his introductory textbook on how to defend the Christian Faith. But it is something else too. It launches the author’s project of re-conceiving Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics as distinctively “covenantal”—meaning grounded within Reformed covenant theology.

I shall not say much about the success of that project in this review, but it seems to me that even though Van Til would likely not protest, his particular apologetic stands on its own because it is clearly biblical; whereas covenant theology has slightly less going for it in that department. Read more about A Review of Covenantal Apologetics

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The Tightrope of Separation: False Starts

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From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission. Read the series so far.

False starts

There are several false starts that we can make in the matter of separation. There is no doubt that God has called us to a position of separation. The question is how and in what way? There are several false responses that have been devised by man.

The first response is asceticism.

There are those who have said that Christians are not of this world and so they must get away from the world completely. Those who advocated this are called ascetics and they became hermits, went to monasteries, caves, deserts, and the wilderness. They said they had to get away from man and pleasures in order to be separate unto God. That however was a complete distortion of Scripture because we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Scripture has told us to witness to, live before, and seek to reach men for Christ. After ascetics arrived out in the deserts and caves they discovered they brought the world with them because the sinful impulses exhibited in the world were also in them. Satan appealed to their pride, self, and false motives even when they were alone, and the world manifested itself in them. Wherever we go we take the sinful impulses exhibited in the world with us. Asceticism is not the answer. Read more about The Tightrope of Separation: False Starts

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Epistemological Foundations for a Biblical Theology, Part 2

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A biblical epistemology

The first epistemological statement in the Bible is actually made by the serpent in the Garden: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Satan prescribes knowledge through contradicting God’s design for knowledge. The fact that Satan chose epistemology as an early battleground underscores the strategic significance of epistemology in God’s design.

In this context Satan challenges Eve to consider a different starting point than God had prescribed, and if she does, Satan promises, Eve will have a better outcome—that her knowledge will be more complete, even to the point of making her godlike. While the actions Satan prescribed did result in particular knowledge (Gen 3:22), it was a distortion of God’s design for knowledge and resulted in tragedy and not blessing. These events invite the reader to inquire as to God’s ideal for human knowledge, and the answer is provided especially in the writings of Solomon, to whom it was granted to be exceedingly wise (1 Kings 3:12). Read more about Epistemological Foundations for a Biblical Theology, Part 2

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