"To say that God’s Word is the foundation for all knowledge is to claim that Scripture must be the underlying basis or principle through which facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education are ultimately interpreted. This is the basis for 'thinking Christianly.'” - Acton
A Clear and Present Word is the 21st volume in the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series which now extends to 45 volumes. This volume is dedicated to the doctrine of perspicuity (or the Bible’s clarity). From Eve’s wicked interlocutor in the garden to the present day, there has been a reechoing “Has God really said?”
In recent theological debates, it is clear that inerrancy is often the bibliological battleground. However, as this book endeavors to show, even if the accuracy of the words is granted, their power can just as easily be neutralized though obfuscation as through denial. Mr. Thompson (Principle of Moore Theological Seminary, Australia. Evangelical Anglican) labors to unfold the importance of Scripture’s clarity as well as to defend it.
Perspicuity has not seen the scholarly concentration of other doctrines of Bibliology and the book is a welcome resource for anyone who desires to better understand it. The series aims to relate important biblical/theological themes in a way that is both scholarly and accessible to the layperson. The author succeeds in presenting a book that can be beneficial both to the studious lay person as well as the pastor.
Chapter one takes up the question of whether Christians can even claim to have a clear word of God. After all, we live in the postmodern era when truth is considered at least obscure, and often unknowable. The chapter outlines the arguments against the clarity of the Bible, first from church history and then more recently the post-modern view of truth.
Read the series.
The NT seems to say that the unsaved person does not know God. We see this in several places. Let us begin with Galatians 4:
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Galatians 4:8-9)
We are told that the Galatians once did not know God, and because of that they served false gods. But now they are known by God and therefore know God. Here Paul is plainly saying that there is a difference between those who know God, the saints, and those that do not know God, the lost or unregenerate.
Here is Ephesians 2:
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12)
Paul says that the Gentiles, by which he means the pagan world, were once “without God in the world.” If they were without God it is hard to claim that they knew Him. This is Paul’s view also in 1 Thessalonians 4:5 (“like the Gentiles who do not know God”; cf. 2 Thess. 1:8).
In our present “postmodern” ethos, laden as it is with deconstructionism and hermeneutical suspicion, Christians have to ask how the primacy of biblical revelation does in such an environment. Does it struggle for air or does it flourish? Maybe it is better to ask, can it flourish as an idea among ideas?
The biblical outlook has set against it three formidable foes. These enemies of God’s Word are constantly at work chipping away at the foundations upon which Christian theology, and therefore Christian truth, rests. Often working surreptitiously, these three foes are well-known.
In biblical shorthand they are the world, the flesh, and the devil.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16)
Any theology worth its salt will constantly engage these powers, correcting and seeking to undermine their challenges and influence. True theology is a corrective to false ideas wherever it is found.
The greatest advantage of the Nouthetic approach is that it truly attempts to exalt the sufficiency of Scripture. Further, it rejects mainstream, integrated, and Christian psychology. However, there are some significant disadvantages: Nouthetic is imbalanced, in that all counseling is considered to be admonishment; it is very behavioristic and sin focused; it abandons the discipline of psychology altogether; it is rooted in the B+t of contemporary Reformed or Covenant theology. Each of these concerns is significant enough to warrant discussion here.
In a Venn diagram illustrating this assertion, the two circles would be completely overlapping (Diagram A.), but this doesn’t square with the Biblical data. There are eleven NT instances of νουθετέω/νουθεσία. Five are descriptive.106 Six of these instances are prescriptive,107 and in several of these νουθετέω/νουθεσία is considered with other verbs, so there is no exegetical warrant for asserting that all counseling is simply nouthetic.
Paul encourages transformative learning in several contexts in 1 Thessalonians. In 2:11-12 he describes “exhorting (parakalountes), encouraging (paramuthoumenoi), and imploring (marturomenoi)” believers to walk appropriately. These three are modes of communication for facilitating transformation through mental processes that effect the spirit, engage the will, and are manifested in conduct—the believer’s walk. In 5:14-15 Paul exhorts (parakaloumen)80 believers to engage with one another in several particular ways: admonish (noutheteite) the unruly, encourage (paramutheisthe) the fainthearted, help (antechesthe) the weak, be patient (makrothumeite) with all, see (orate) that no one repays evil for evil, and pursue (diokete) good for one another and for all.
Read Part 1.
There are all kinds of philosophies which the Christian should avoid. The Apostle warns,
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)
The reference here is probably generic, referring to the various ideas floating around in Asia Minor in the day: eclecticism, syncretism, idolatry, superstition, and neo-platonic moralism. In the midst of it all there was and is a true Christian philosophy. In fact, anyone who is a lover of real sophia (wisdom), is going to love the philosophy of Jesus Christ, the Logos of God, the one who discloses God par excellence. Mature Christians become such, in part, by thinking biblically.
In one of his earlier books Francis Schaeffer made this pertinent remark about the reticence of Christians to think with their theology: