Right Thinking In A World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response To Today’s Most Controversial Issues by John MacArthur (and the leadership team at Grace Community Church)

519Uw2Rl-fL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_I have not read a great deal by John MacArthur. But I was intrigued  with this book. It’s contents page tackles some great topics including Video Games And A Biblical World View, Making media Choices for You And Your Family, Euthanasia, Suicide and Capital Punishment, Illegal Immigration and Border Control – all from a Biblical perspective.

The book is divided into four parts and each part tackles a theme; Entertainment and Leisure, Morality and Ethics, Politics and Activism & Tragedy and Suffering.

These are solid, biblically based essays on important topics. This is a great introduction to these areas for people who want a relatively short introduction. If you have read some theology, then what is in here will not be new, but drawing together into one volume such topics will prove to be a useful resource. I will be tutoring a seminary level course in Christian Ethics this fall and several of these essays are already photocopied and ready to be given to the class as ‘further’ reading.

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The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

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With Dan Brown’s writing there is no finesse, subtleness, or creativity in revealing the plot lines/secrets. Dan Brown is like an Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator rather than a Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom.

Yet, like a Schwarzenegger movie, Brown is a good story teller and it is difficult not to enjoy his novels. Of course his views on Christianity and the Bible is ludicrous but they are now quite irrelevant. In fact in this book Brown simply blends in with the general view of our culture regarding Christianity and the Bible. He is obsessed with the world of suppressed secrets and religious freedom – freedom to have any belief and still be credible. The Lost Symbol focuses upon the Freemason’s and the search for the pyramid which will lead to a Masonic ‘map’ which in turn leads to the revelation of the all powerful ‘word’.  Washington DC is the  center of this plot. A city riddled with secret meanings. The main ‘bad’ guy is Mal’akh, a man who is intent upon discovering this all powerful ‘word’ and thus be given power beyond belief. He is violent, angry, clever and ruthless in his quest. Robert Langdon is drawn into the plot deceptively, as is the CIA.

I will not give away any plot spoilers, so you will have to decide whether or not to buy the book or borrow the book, and read it for yourself. Is it a profitable thing to spend a day or so reading this book? I am not sure. It depends if you refer an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Richard Attenborough classic.

Baptism: Three Views (Paperback) by David F. Wright (Editor), Sinclair B. Ferguson (Contributor), Anthony N. S. Lane (Contributor), Bruce A. Ware (Contributor)

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As a conservative evangelical and an Anglican priest, I have often been in discussions where I am asked how I can possibly defend infant baptism.

And it is a good question. I often have conflicted sense within me. I was brought up within a Free Church tradition, which baptized adult believers and dedicated babies. My transition into ministry within the Anglican church, first as a youth minister required to teach confirmation classes and then as a priest, required to baptize babies, I have had to spend some time thinking this through.

This book sets out the position for each understanding. Each chapter consists of the defense of one of the positions (Bruce Ware is for believers baptism, Sinclair Ferguson for infant baptism and Anthony Lane is for a mixed practice). Then the other two contributors give their response to that position, and the chapter concludes with a final response to the two other responses. Hence this book is just under 200 pages and three chapters long!

However, despite being under 200 pages, these are densely packed pages – filled with historical theology and exegesis of passages. Bruce Ware in defending believers baptism is somewhat aggressive, beginning his chapter with these words: …the sad fact is that our different views of baptism mean that in all likelihood significant portions of Christ’s church are failing to carry out what Christ has commanded, even if this failure stems from good motives.

For Ware there is no evidence of infant baptism in the apostolic or post apostolic period – not until the third century do we have any firm evidence for infant baptism practice. Biblically Ware argues that Paul, in Colossians 2:12 rules out infant baptism, for he says that new life becomes a reality through faith. Hence, for ware, baptism is a sign of regeneration. Also, Ware rejects any symbolic link between circumcision and baptism. He argues that if such a link was meant to be then why is it not stated as such in scripture.

Sinclair Ferguson disagrees. He argues (in a brilliant chapter) that circumcision and baptism share the same core symbolism which points to and is fulfilled in Christ. Ferguson, very interestingly asks whether baptism is a seal of faith or a seal TO faith. His belief is that it is TO faith. He writes:

Baptism signifies and seals the work of Christ crucified and resurrected and the communion with God which is ours THROUGH FAITH.

This was the point of circumcision; it was not a seal of Abraham’s faith response, but of the (covenant) righteousness which he received through faith.

What is Ferguson’s response to the silence of infant baptism in the apostolic and post-apostolic period? I am not sure he answered this as thoroughly, but for Ferguson, you cannot argue from silence and thus that is why the issue demands theological engagement. Also, he uses Acts 2:39, which says:

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you  in the name of Jesus Christ  for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive  the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and  for your children and for all  who are far off, everyone  whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Coming from a covenantal position, Ferguson argues that the phrase for the promise is for you and for your children means the covenantal principle remains inviolable. The children of believers receive the same promise as their parents and are therefore to be baptized.

Of course, Ferguson reminds the readers that infant Baptists are not against believers baptism and indeed practice believers baptism. The issue is never infant or believers baptism – but whether infants can biblically be baptized as well as adhering to the practice of infant baptism.

Without disrespect, the strength of the book is in the interaction between Ware and Ferguson. Anthony Lane’s position (that both practices are allowed in Scripture) is the weakest and it is clear from Ware’s response that he does not think it a valid view. Ferguson engages far more respectfully with Lane.

This book is worth the money simply for Sinclair Ferguson’s chapter defending infant baptism, but it is also a great way of seeing the issues involved between infant and believers baptism. While the chapters are dense, they are well written and engaging, giving a lot of information. Whether anyone will actually be persuaded by the arguments to the extent of changing their position is doubtful. But you will come away will a strong respect for the positions and maybe, for the believers baptism advocates, not quite as quick to dismiss or disregard infant baptism.

Grey Areas Of The Christian Faith?

The first chapter in a new book from the leadership team of Grace Community Church (Right Thinking In A World Gone Wrong) is by the Senior Pastor, John MacArthur. It’s entitled Glorifying God In The Grey Areas. What is our attitude towards movies, video ames, internet, ipod, music etc. The following are 7 principles for living a godly life in the grey areas:

1. The Edification principle: Will this activity produce spiritual benefit?

2. The enslavement principle: Will this activity lead to spiritual bondage?

3. The exposure principle: Will this activity expose my mind or body to defilement?

4. The esteem principle: Will this activity benefit others, or cause them to stumble?

5. The evangelism principle: Will this activity further the cause of the gospel?

6. The ethics principle: Will this activity violate my conscience?

7. The exaltation principle:Will this activity bring glory to God?

Acts – An Introduction…

After a year and a half in the gospel of John, we began a new book this fall for our men’s breakfast Bible study – Acts!

The following is the introduction to Acts study – they are my notes,  with the questions.

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Men’s Tuesday Morning Bible Study

Acts

Introduction

Today we start our study of the book of Acts.

Most Bibles entitle this book The Acts Of The Apostles, and this has the support of the early church fathers, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian. But interestingly, apart from listing the 12 apostles in the opening chapter, Luke discusses only the ministry of Peter and Paul. John accompanies Peter to the temple in Chapter 3 and to Samaria in chp 8 but Luke records no specific words or deeds of John. So maybe we should call it the Acts of Peter and Paul. But the problem to that is that this book also relates the ministry of Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, Silas and Timothy.

Maybe it should be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. While Luke does emphasis the outpouring of the spirit in Jerusalem, (2:1-4), Samaria (8:17), Caesrea (10:44-46) and Ephesus (19:6) the content of the book is much broader. And, as the first verse of Acts says, he is writing a continuation of the gospel. The emphasis then falls not so much on the Holy Spirit, but rather on what Jesus is doing through the HolY Spirit in developing the church in Jerusalem, Samaria, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy – the continuation of the ministry of Christ through those who are his servants.

So maybe we should just call it ACTS – the book which relates the history of the early church.

Acts is unique among the NT writings in that it’s main purpose is to record a selective history of the early church.

READ ACTS 1:1-2

To whom is this book written to?

Theophilus!

Anyone know what the name means?

It means the friend of God.

How does Luke’s gospel address Theophilus?

Most excellent – which seems to suggest Theophilus was a real person who was part of the ruling classes – and a gentile who was a god fearer. A God fearer was someone who might worship in the synogugue but objected to circumcision – like Cornelius in chp 10 – so he was not a convert to Judiasim.

Some commentators have argued that Theophilus is not a real person but symbolic for any Christian seeker or convert – but I think that is needlessly obscure for it to be valid.

Both Acts and Luke are anonyomous. The early church of the first and most of the 2nd centuries are silent on who wrote Luke and Acts. 175AD is the first mention of Luke being the author. In 185AD Ireanus talks of Luke as the author. Why Luke? The latter chapters of Acts (starting at chp 16) begins a first person narrative which happens throughout the later chapters. This strongly suggests that the author was a companion of Paul.

Luke is mentioned 3 times in the NT – Col 4:14 Our dear friend Luke the physician and Demas greet you. 2 Tim 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is a great help  to me in ministry. Philemon 24: Mark, Aristarchus,  Demas  and Luke, my colaborers, greet you too.

Also, Eusebius and Jerome testify that Luke was from Antioch. Out of the 15 times Antioch is mentioned in the NT, 14 of them are in Acts. For the writer of Acts, Antioch is important. If Luke did reside in Antioch then this is almost certainly where he would have met Barnabas (11:22 – A report  about them came to the attention of the church in Jerusalem,   and they sent Barnabas  to Antioch.). V26 of Acts 11 tells us that Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch, while Gal 2:11 tells us Peter and Paul were at Antioch at the same time. Luke would have undoubtedly have heard the gospel message and converted and became a disciple of the apostles.

This, along with the fact that in the ‘we’ narratives in Acts, the names of Silas and Timothy are referred to in the third person, Luke is most likely to the person who composed the books.

When was Acts written?

Some argue for 70AD. However, the book ends fairly abruptly – with Paul in Rome under arrest. We know that Paul was released before 70AD and Luke does not mention this, nor his subsequent journeys. A better date would be 62AD.

There are two major distinctive features in Acts.

First, are the Speeches and sermons. In fact they constitute nearly a third of the total text of Acts: Peter – 2:14-36, 3:11-26, 10:34-43 – Stephen – 7:1-53 – Paul – 13:16-47, 17:22-31, 20:18-35, 22:1-21, 24:10-21, 26:1-29.

Second, the frequent summaries where Luke provides broad generalization about the life the church, e.g:

READ ACTS 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 5:12-16

What are the Key Themes?

There are a number.

READ 1:8

What is a key theme from this verse?

The witness of the gospel is now worldwide.

READ 16:34

What key theme might come from this event?

The witness is inclusive of all kinds of people, Jews, Gentiles, physically handicapped, pagan’s and women.

READ ACTS 12:6-11

What key theme might come from this event?

The witness is guided by the providence of God

READ Acts 5:41-42

What key theme might come from this event?

Faithful witnesses must be prepared to suffer for their testimony.

READ ACTS 9:13-16

What key theme might come from this event?

The Christian witness of the church continues the ministry that Christ begun.

CONCLUSION

Here is a summary of the book of Acts:

After his ascension, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to empower the apostles as witnesses to spread the message of the gospel and to draw to himself people from all nations.