bible

Three Ground Rules For Understanding Revelation

Posted on by Glen in bible, revelation | 4 Comments

As I prepare a sermon on Revelation 1 for this weekend it strikes me that three lessons from this chapter should be followed by any would-be interpreter.

1. The Bible interprets the Bible

Not the newspapers. Not modern resonances. There’s a reason Revelation comes at the end of the Scriptures. It picks up and weaves together themes and allusions from every other biblical book. We don’t need to go outside the Scriptures to interpret them. Very often we don’t need to go outside the chapter. Stick to the Bible. The Bible will interpret the Bible.

2. The context is suffering

In particular it’s the suffering of John, the seven churches of Asia and the other witnesses to Christ known to John. The context is not comfortable 21st century theorists, but suffering believers. And in the first instance, they are believers of the 1st century who need comfort there and then. If they somehow thought that the kings of Revelation 17 were the EU, how exactly would that be a comfort? And how would that be a comfort to the millions of non-western believers today suffering for their faith?

3. The point is Christ

It’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the Revelation of eschatological timetables. Jesus is the centre. Focus on Him and His comfort in suffering and you won’t go too far wrong.

 

 

Christ in the Old Testament – A Sermon

Posted on by Glen in bible, covenant continuity, sermons | 1 Comment

luther-preaching

We begin in John 1…

Go back to Genesis 1…

and Genesis 3…

and Genesis 15…

and Genesis 22…

and Genesis 48…

And Exodus 1-3.

We hear about Christ as Present, Promised and Patterned in the Old Testament.

And we finish at the burning bush with the great I AM – the One who has always met us in our affliction.


DOWNLOAD

Podcast: Interview with Barry Cooper

Posted on by Glen in bible, evangelism, podcast | Leave a comment

BarryCooperWe talk with Barry Cooper about his new book Can I really trust the Bible? Also joining in the conversation is Nate Morgan Locke from Christianity Explored’s Soul course.

We discuss Barry’s book – out now – and then talk about various objections raised to the Bible, like…

Can we really trust the transmission of the Scriptures through the centuries?

Can we trust the Bible in a scientific age?

What do we do with passages about war?

How can we trust the Bible morally when it was written by bronze age peasants?

SUBSCRIBE

DOWNLOAD

 

Book by Book: Job

Posted on by Glen in bible, videos | Leave a comment

Here are two of my favourite people in the world – Richard Bewes and Paul Blackham – and we’re discussing one of my favourite books: Job. Book by Book is a great resource for bible study groups – the videos prompt discussions and the study guides written by Paul are like a beefed-up Matthew Henry for the 21st century.

Programme titles

1 Have you considered my servant Job?
2 Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
3 Someone to mediate between us.
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
5 I know that my Redeemer lives.
6 If only I knew where to find Him.
7 Where can wisdom be found?
8 I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer.
9 God comes in awesome majesty.
10 Now my eyes have seen you.

I’ve only read the draft of Paul’s study guide but it’s easily the best thing on Job I’ve seen.

Go HERE to get the DVD and study guide for £9.99 or get the study guide on Kindle for just £1.99!

There are 22 other brilliant Book by Books to check out – so make use of these deals…

5 study guides for £15.99
10 study guides for £25.99
5 DVD/study guide sets for £39.99
10 DVD/study guide sets for £69.99

Go to Biblical Frameworks for more.

 

Interpretation is Theology All the Way Down

Posted on by Glen in bible, theological method | 1 Comment

Earlier today the great Andrew Wilson tweeted thusly:

Who knows the wealth and complexity of arguments that lie beneath the tweet – I don’t doubt that they are impressive. But here was my twitter length response:

Let me explain what I’m getting at.

It is very tempting to think of theology as a two stage process. First a pure biblical scholar simply reads off the meaning of the Bible through the use of objective interpretive tools.  Then a systematic theologian comes to co-ordinate these propositions into a logically cogent order. In this process, the Bible’s answers come first and then shape our questioning later.

But as Ben Myers says here: ‘It’s theology all the way down.’ Theological pre-suppositions and commitments necessarily guide and shape all Christian activity from exegesis to exposition to pastoral work, to evangelism to hospitality to everything.

And yet the idea that the Bible can be neutrally read is so tempting.  We would love to conceive of revelation as propositions deposited in a handy compendium simply to be extracted and applied.  Yet, eternally and most basically, the Word is a Person (John 1:1).  And His book is Personal (John 5:39).  It’s not something we judge with our double-edged swords – the Word judges us. (Heb 4:12)

Andrew is trying to honour this dynamic of Scripture judging us (not us judging Scripture) and that is vital. But precisely because Scripture judges us, we must allow it to judge our exegetical and hermeneutical presuppositions too. This involves a whole web of Scriptural interpretations and theological understandings that are not a one-way street – they are a complex web.

Let me point to an extreme example of where this goes wrong. It’s a million miles from Andrew’s position or intention, but consider the Socinians. They were “just being biblical” as they cast aside the creeds and became unitarians. They claimed to be clearing away the artificial edifice of trinitarian theology and getting back to the pure message of Jesus and the apostles. I don’t doubt that on some level they were sincere. I also don’t doubt that they were wildly mistaken about their own interpretive neutrality. They were children of their time (as are we all),  and instead of “just being biblical” they were “just being rationalists who were claiming to be biblical.” The trouble is that we’re all something-ists no matter how much we claim we’re only being biblical.

And that’s no bad thing. As I read Scripture I ought to be a believer, filled with the Spirit who confesses Jesus as Lord,  baptised in the triune name, a member of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church, reading the word in the communion of the saints – living and dead. Such dynamics are not the mere fruit of “Biblical Theology” – they are the result and the foundation of deep, christological and ecclesial reflections upon Scripture. It’s chicken and egg – and that’s the way it ought to be if I’m to read the Scriptures scripturally.

As I speak of the theological presuppositions inherent in Bible reading, I’m not trying to undermine the perspicuity of Scripture. After all, Jesus spoke of the Scriptures as absolutely clear. He never made excuses for theological error. He never gave even the slightest bit of latitude by conceding a certain obscurity to the Bible.  He never assumes that His theological opponents have just mis-applied an interpretive paradigm. If they get it wrong He assumes they’ve never read the Scriptures (e.g. Matt 21:16,42; Mark 2:25)!  

But we must go further. Jesus tells the Pharisees why they get it wrong: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matt 22:29)  And, again, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)  Those in error are are wrongly oriented to the Power of God and the One of Whom the Scriptures testify – Jesus. This is not simply a wrong orientation of the intepreter but of the interpretation.  Scripture reading must be oriented by the Power of God to the Son of God (i.e. by the Spirit to Christ). Within this paradigm – a paradigm which the Scriptures themselves give us – the Bible makes itself abundantly clear.

But this paradigm is an unashamedly and irreducibly theological one. It is the result of exegesis (e.g. studying the verses given above) but it is also the pre-supposition of such exegesis.  Theology is not the end of the process from exegesis to biblical studies and then to the systematician!

Methodologically, the Bible must come first. But that’s not at all the same thing as saying ‘Biblical Theology’ must come first. No, the Bible stands above both Biblical and Systematic theology. And the two-way interchange between both is what ensures that the Bible is read according to its true nature. If you’re a Biblical Theologian who wants the Bible on top – let systematics help you!

How Not To Read The Bible

Posted on by Glen in bible, pastoral theology | 1 Comment

praying otterA semi-imagined conversation

— Right.  Bible reading.  Here we go – Speak Lord, your servant is listening.  Ok, Matthew 11:28.  Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  Ok, good verse.  Well said Lord.  Now let’s get down to business.  What’s this verse really saying…  Well of course “rest” is theologically loaded.  Right from the seventh day of creation we see eschatological perfection modelled in Sabbath….

— Glen!

— Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

— You’ve already said that.  And I’ve already spoken…

— … Oh indeed you have Lord and now I’m allowing your word to inform and shape my theological precommitments that I might be transformed by the renewing… Well you know how the verse goes.  Anyway I find it fascinating that you say v28 right after v27 when you declare the trinitarian, christocentric dynamic of all revel…

— Glen!

— Speak Lord, your servant is listening

— Are you?

— Well trying to.  That’s why I’m deploying all the hermeneutical tools in my considerable arsenal.  It allows my whole theology to be shaped by these concepts…

— Concepts?  Glen, have you actually come to me for rest today?

— Well…  My plan is to get a properly nuanced theology of rest in place.  And once I have this understanding I imagine the experience of rest will sort of, I don’t know, umm….

— Glen?

— Speak Lord your servant is listening

— Maybe later…

 

 

Luther’s Theology of the Word – 3 Sessions

Posted on by Glen in bible, Luther, preaching | 1 Comment

Luther Preaching

Christ is completely wrapped in the Scriptures, just as the babe is wrapped in swaddling clothes. Preaching is the manger in which he lies and is apprehended, and from which we take our food.” — Luther’s Sermon on Luke 2

“Even if Christ were given for us and crucified a thousand times it would all be vain if the Word of God were absent and were not distributed and given to me with the bidding, this is for you, take what is yours.” (LW 40, 213)

I believe a return to Luther’s theology of the Word might be the most powerful catalyst for change our churches could experience. Luther would have us proclaim Christ with a confidence and liberty which would be utterly transformative.

I ran these seminars for the Staff Team of UCCF Wales. I discuss issues like…

Luther’s three-fold understanding of God’s Word

The Ministry of the Keys

The Real Presence of Jesus in Proclamation

Law-Gospel preaching

Christ-focused proclamation

 

HANDOUT

POWERPOINT

AUDIO SESSION 1

AUDIO SESSION 2

AUDIO SESSION 3

I also recommended this paper by David Lotz as preparatory reading

Luther’s Theology of the Word – 3 Sessions

Posted on by Glen in bible, Luther, preaching | Leave a comment

Luther Preaching

Christ is completely wrapped in the Scriptures, just as the babe is wrapped in swaddling clothes. Preaching is the manger in which he lies and is apprehended, and from which we take our food.” — Luther’s Sermon on Luke 2

“Even if Christ were given for us and crucified a thousand times it would all be vain if the Word of God were absent and were not distributed and given to me with the bidding, this is for you, take what is yours.” (LW 40, 213)

I believe a return to Luther’s theology of the Word might be the most powerful catalyst for change our churches could experience. Luther would have us proclaim Christ with a confidence and liberty which would be utterly transformative.

I ran these seminars for the Staff Team of UCCF Wales. I discuss issues like…

Luther’s three-fold understanding of God’s Word

The Ministry of the Keys

The Real Presence of Jesus in Proclamation

Law-Gospel preaching

Christ-focused proclamation

 

HANDOUT

POWERPOINT

AUDIO SESSION 1

AUDIO SESSION 2

AUDIO SESSION 3

I also recommended this paper by David Lotz as preparatory reading

Fear of Storms

Posted on by Glen in bible, gospel | Leave a comment

hurricane 2Part of the covenant curses…

I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a wind-blown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. (Leviticus 26:36)

Astraphobia (fear of thunderstorms) is the third most prevalent phobia in the US.

Emporer Caligula would hide under his bed during thunderstorms.

Horace, the poet, was reclaimed from atheism by the terror of thunder and lightning.

Mohammed was famously afraid of strong winds, fearing Allah’s judgement.

Pre-conversion, Martin Luther, in fear for his life, vowed to enter a monastry during a storm.

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

29 ‘Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’  (Matthew 14:22-33)

 

 

 

Can we trust the Gospels?

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, bible, evangelism | Leave a comment

bibleI’ve been asked to write brief answers to six thorny questions:

Hasn’t science disproved God?

Is God homophobic?

Why does God appear so violent in the Old Testament?

Are the gospel accounts trustworthy?

Why isn’t God more obvious?

Why has the Church caused so much pain?

I’ve got to keep these under 600 words. I’d love if you could help. What have I missed? What have I got wrong?

………………………

Can we trust the Gospels?

The Bible Proves the Bible

The Gospels are not free-floating. They fit into the symphonic story of Scripture. Therefore the way they fit is a wonderful testimony to the truth of the whole Bible. A book like Walter Kaiser’s Messiah in the Old Testament highlights over 60 detailed Old Testament predictions which Jesus concretely fulfils in the Gospels – these just scratch the surface. Josh McDowell cites 29 Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled on Good Friday alone. Perhaps take your friend to Genesis 22, Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53 then read Matthew 27 for the fulfilment.

The Gospels Present Themselves as History

Show the enquirer Luke 1:1-4 and see that the authors of the Gospels are not attempting to write fables but history. Look through the early chapters (e.g. 2:1-4; 3:1-2, 23-38) and see how Luke mentions scores of historical figures and places. This is not “once upon a time in a land far away.” Luke is doing everything in his power to convey to us that these events happened in real world history. At that point he’s either telling the truth or concocting an elaborate and wicked hoax. What do we think?

Lost in Transmission?

Bart Ehrman wrote a best-seller called “Misquoting Jesus”, alleging that today’s copies of the Gospels aren’t necessarily what the authors first wrote. We have nearly 25 000 ancient manuscript copies of the New Testament – a number that dwarfs anything else in ancient literature. Unsurprisingly, given they were all hand copied, there are discrepancies. Yet if we were worried that these differences were of any great importance, Ehrman’s attempt to make a sensational case should reassure us. The best he can do is point to Mark 16:9-20; John 8:1-11 and 1 John 5:8 which any decent Bible translation will itself highlight without any embarrassment. Then he points out that we have alternative readings for verses like Mark 1:41 and Hebrews 2:9. Your Bible’s footnotes will probably tell you the options and you can see for yourself how little hangs on the difference. This is the best case offered by biblical studies’ most prominent sceptic. Therefore any fears that Jesus’ real message is lost in transmission are unfounded.

Lost Gospels?

But aren’t there many lost gospels that were suppressed by the church? No, and you should really stop reading Dan Brown! Gospels like The Gospel of Thomas were written at least a century after the original four, in a language Jesus didn’t speak, in a completely different style (collections of sayings, not narrative) and proposing concepts of God, salvation, the body and women that are utterly alien to the Bible (and to sanity). If you want to see why the church always rejected them, just read them.

Defend the Bible?

Charles Spurgeon’s famous line is still the best on this subject: “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.” Our first priority is to get Scripture into people’s hands. I always challenge enquirers to pick up a Gospel (perhaps John) and shoot up a prayer: “Dear God, if you’re there, show me the real Jesus.” I tell them “You’ve got nothing to lose. If He’s not there, He won’t answer. But if He is, then you need to meet His Son. This book is the way to do it.”

Of course we can assure enquirers that the Bible is internally consistent, historically accurate, well attested, faithfully passed down, etc. But none of that makes it the word of God. God’s word vindicates itself when God Himself speaks through it.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   Next »
Rimons twitter widget by Rimon Habib