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Christians and Education

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Fred Butler over at “Hip and Thigh” has a good rebuttal to Josh Sowin’s “coming out” blog post against Young Earth Creationism.  In reading Josh’s various statements, what most struck me was his thought processes — simplistic ideas and a lack of critical thinking skills.  Both his statements regarding his background, and his overall sentence structure and reasoning, reminded me of what I have observed in some Christian homeschool students:  inferior general education combined with a simple zeal that parrots the words of adult Christians — followed in his case by a rebellion and rejection, yet still following along the same simplistic thought patterns of someone who lacks ability to reason on his own.  I later googled and learned that Josh Sowin is indeed associated with homeschool websites, so my initial impression appears correct, that Josh Sowin is a product of Christian homeschooling.

I’ve often heard Christian parents say that they would prefer their children be saved and loving the Lord, than for them to have a good education… in other words, the most important thing to impress upon a child is good Bible teaching and the gospel message.  If you fail to give them a good education, at least they will be saved and that is far more important.  Certainly as an overall precept that is fine, in the sense of recognizing eternal salvation as greater than anything this world has to offer.  But the above case illustrates a weakness in this lazy-education attitude.  We are commanded (Mark 12:30) “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Aside from the fact that over-protected and under-educated Christian children will never attain the status of functioning adults with good employment skills and adult responsibilities (and will always be more or less dependent on their parents), such individuals are more easily swayed from their beliefs (whenever the desire towards independence from adult authority arises), since those beliefs are not grounded in the depth of understanding produced by an educated mind.  Their beliefs are shallow at best, and often incorrect in the specifics.  A case in point: Josh’s ideas about what six-day creation actually means, his lack of understanding regarding the difference between different types of evolution, and his simplistic, faulty understanding about presuppositions.

Not to pick only on Josh … some time ago I reviewed essays written by an 11th grade Christian home-school student with college aspirations.  The essays were written at about the level of a 6th grader.  Basic spelling and grammar mistakes aside, the underlying problem was a lack of experience with real world problem solving.  The essays included statements “of fact” that really were not so but only things commonly heard though untrue (such as the oft-repeated saying that 50% of all marriages end in divorce), and stated briefly without any supporting, underlying reasons — and then going on to another statement:  acceptable for a 5th grader, perhaps, but not by the 11th grade.

Granted, God will work in each person’s heart as is appropriate, and if He gave to one person a more feeble mind, that person cannot be held to the same standard of understanding as others.  But from my own observations and experience, I would suggest that an individual is better off with a solid, grounded education — even one in a public school, that bastion of secular ungodliness — than an inferior, over-protected education situation that produces limited reasoning abilities.

A contrasting case:  the public school I attended was very godless, one that promoted evolution and secular humanism.  It actually was rather weak academically, with movies for teaching; and the 11th grade English class included a unit in which we watched the anti-creation film “Inherit the Wind” and discussed higher thinking and how “backward” and “uneducated” those people of 1920s Dayton, TN were.  At the time I bought into all the evolutionist propaganda and remained in that condition for several years.  However, the basic general education was there — ability to write well, read and reason, and some experience with real world problem solving (at least in comparison to the Christian homeschool students mentioned above).  Several years later, when God did work in my life to bring me to saving faith, those circumstances included some good Christian apologetics, such as a good presentation of creation including the complexity and design, and the truth about evolutionary claims.  When I first believed and was saved, I still had atheistic ideas such as an old earth; but when I picked up a good book about the evidences for a young earth, that information enlightened and strengthened me in my faith, and over the years since, such additional reading has only strengthened my faith, to truly take God at His word, literally, at every point from beginning to end.

The person who lacks the basic education on the front end is obviously not going to understand the more complex thoughts regarding any belief, whether that be evolution or creation, or in-depth Bible study.  And as John MacArthur has well said, one’s capacity to understand God affects the ability to worship God.  We can only worship God so far as our understanding takes us.

God is the one who does the heart-change, to put His spirit in one of His enemies, so that the saved sinner can understand and discern the things of God — things which are spiritually discerned and are foolishness to unbelievers.  But God also uses ordinary means, His providence, to bring about that purpose — and a good general education is one of those means that God uses in teaching us and bringing us to greater understanding, to give even greater glory to God by our worship of Him.

Great Words from Horatius Bonar

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

From Prophetical Landmarks, some great words of Horatius Bonar, concerning the wonder of the different Bible genres:

… the soul of man is not so narrow and simple a thing that the belief of one truth can mould it into the form desired. Every part, every principle, every faculty and feeling, must have truths presented to them precisely adapted to their nature and exercise, else they must remain undeveloped, or if developed, remain unsanctified. Our reasoning faculty must be addressed, or it must wither up by remaining uncultivated; and accordingly there is ample scope in Scripture for its energies to work upon.   Our propensity for imitation, observation, and acquisition of experience must be addressed, and it is met by the graphic narratives of Old and New Testament history. Our finer and higher feelings must be touched, and, we have the poetic richness of seer and psalmist to attract and improve them. Our prospective propensities must be guided and molded, or else they will grow rank over fields of their own luxuriant but unhallowed creation; and the prophetic Word must be spread before us that these cravings may be sanctified. Most mercifully, most marvelously, has God framed His revelation, that by its largeness and variety, it may compass our whole nature, and adapt itself to every part of our being.

Barry Horner and Future Israel

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently listened to Barry Horner’s Bible conference series on “Future Israel,” and I’ve looked at a lot of material on his website.  The conference series relates to Horner’s book, Future Israel, which I may purchase and read this year, as it comes highly recommended by John MacArthur and others including Fred Butler.

Much of the content I’ve learned previously, but it was still a good refresher on the basics of Israel and the error of Replacement Theology.  As he mentions, amillennialists confuse the issue by associating the land promise with the Mosaic (conditional) covenant.  They don’t study their Bible that much; the land promise came earlier, with the Abrahamic covenant.  Such critics also claim that the land is of the “shadows” and therefore replaced with the “reality” of the whole world and heaven.  Again, they don’t know their scripture:  the land is never referred to as being a shadow.  Some things in scripture are types and shadows, such as the sacrifices and feasts of Leviticus — but not the land.  Again it shows how important it is to really understand God’s word, and my regular re-reading and study through the different genres of the Bible helps to affirm this (not just taking someone else’s word for it).  The Old Testament does have types (examples), as brought out especially in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Typology in Leviticus” series — the five main sacrifices, the cleansing of the leper, and other items.  The land is never mentioned in such a way, either in the Old or New Testament.

Here is yet another (new) term:  restorationist premillennialist.  I don’t think it’s a commonly used term, but Barry Horner uses it to describe the premillennialist view that sees a future restoration of Israel.  He similarly defines historic premillennialist, as the view of many 19th century men including Nathaniel West, J.C. Ryle, Horatius Bonar, and Charles Spurgeon, the “true” historic premillennialists as distinct from Ladd.

Barry Horner especially points out the connection between good doctrine and good fruit, and specifically notes the bad Augustinian eschatology and its shameful fruit: over a thousand years of persecution of the Jews.  He suggests that someone who has their eschatology right will bring forth good fruit, proper treatment and consideration of Jewish people.  I would only add that the cause and effect are actually the reverse of his explanation.  A person who is already anti-Semitic will find an eschatology that suits their prejudice, to justify what they already feel inside. Augustine certainly did so when he came up with amillennialism in the first place.  I personally know someone who dislikes Jewish people (based on past experiences with a few), who after conversion to Christianity happily embraced Replacement Theology and amillennialism, ideas which agree with his pre-existing view.  I’ve also heard about recent Arab converts to Christianity, who are proclaiming that the land is not significant to today’s Jews — as taught to them no doubt by like-minded amillennialists.

As Paul says in Romans 11, the purpose of Gentile salvation is to make the Jews jealous.  But as Horner rightly notes, the Church in its persecution of Jews has failed miserably in this.  Jews are not jealous of Gentile Christians, but are fearful of them.  I think of Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s testimony as well as the incidents mentioned by Horner.  This made me wonder:  if Gentile salvation is supposed to make the Jews jealous, will that in fact occur — in contrast to the past 1,000+ years — before the end of the Gentile Church Age?  Horner later pointed out that biblically-minded Christians only began pro-Jewish missionary work starting in the late 19th century, and such efforts have had some success.  That fact suggests the answer, that Jews will become jealous (instead of fearful) by the time this age ends.

Romans 11 speaks of much more than a mere remnant in the Church Age, a small trickle of Jewish believers merged in with the Gentile Church.  The remnant of Jews throughout history is proof of God’s plan and future purpose (like a deposit on the full thing), but God is not satisfied merely with a remnant.  The first part of the dough is holy, but God wants all the dough.

I have now started reading Horatius Bonar’s “Prophetical Landmarks,” an online text available at the Future Israel website.

For further information:
www.futureisraelministries.org
www.bunyanministries.org

Luke’s Gospel and Eschatology

February 12, 2010 2 comments

I’ve been reading through Luke’s Gospel lately, up through chapter 19 today, and have noticed quite a few eschatological references.  At the same time I’ve noticed a few blog postings also in connection with these chapters.

As I read through Luke 17 I noted the commonly cited verse where Jesus says that the kingdom is spiritual and among you.  The verses immediately after this statement talk about the signs of His second coming.  Over at Dr. Reluctant’s blog, the latest posting addresses this very issue — “Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (17)“.

In reading through Luke 19 today, I also noted the kingdom references in Jesus’ parable about the minas and the servants (Luke 19:11-27).  Jesus tells the parable to the people as they approach Jerusalem, because “the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”  The main feature of the parable is the three servants and what they did with their minas.  But notice verse 15, which states that He did (later) receive the kingdom:  “He was made king, however, and returned home.”

Here I am reminded of a common practice among amillennialists and preterists:  expounding theology from a parable.  They do this with some parables, such as the Matthew 13 parable about the wheat and the tares and the harvesting angels, or the sheep and the goats parable in Matthew 25, to try to prove their idea of a simple, one event resurrection and judgement of everyone.  As many dispensationalists point out, using parables to such extent, is problematic — an approach that fails to consider the full context of the parable and its context and relationship to other passages of scripture, both other passages nearby in the text as well as other parts of scripture.  But if they really want to use parables to affirm a particular theological position, why not use the one in Luke 19:11-27?  That passage is very clearly talking about the future kingdom of God.  Just as in Acts 1:6-7, Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for asking the question but simply tells them it’s not for them to know the times or dates, so here in Luke 19, Jesus does not rebuke the kingdom idea itself but again emphasizes that it will come at a future time.  If the kingdom of God was really just a spiritual kingdom now, Jesus had plenty of opportunity, both in Luke 19 and Acts 1, to explain otherwise.  Similarly, if the kingdom is only spiritual and among us as said in Luke 17:20-21, then why bother adding the rest of that chapter?

Which brings me to a third interesting passage, though I admit I scanned over it at first and didn’t catch the significance right away.  Immediately after the Luke 17 passage comes the parable about the widow and the unjust judge — Luke 18:1-8.  The significant verse is the last one, where Jesus states “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Yesterday’s post at the “World and Church Trends” prophecy website, “When Jesus comes will there be faith on the earth? Yes, no and then yes!”   takes this very passage, notes the importance of verse 8:  “The major mystery that remains in this passage is why does Jesus ask if there will be faith on the earth when He comes?” and concludes that it’s a reference to the pre-wrath rapture: the rapture will remove all the believers, then during the Great Tribulation many more people will come to faith in Christ, and then when Jesus comes to Earth at the end He will find those believers.

While I agree with the basic sequencing of the Second Coming events, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Luke 18:8 is referencing the rapture.  Yet the matter intrigued me enough to look up what John MacArthur had to say about this parable, from his Luke series.  His sermon on this text, “Persistent Prayer for the Lord’s Return” does not propose the rapture idea, but does point out the very eschatological focus of the parable, noting its placement immediately after Luke 17, and the statement in verse 8.

Now you say, “How do you know this is a Second Coming section?” Well verse 8 is the key to that. It says at the end of verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” Will He find this kind of persevering faith? Will He find this kind of persevering prayer? Will He find this kind of enduring confidence? This is definitely eschatological praying. No one of us knows the time of the Rapture. We don’t know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched. We don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but two thousand years have passed by, believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners. Sin escalates, evil men grow worse and worse and worse. We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom. False teachers abound everywhere. We’re endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God. We have been promised that He will come. We believe that He will come. And here He says, “Keep praying for that event.” He will come but part of the means of that coming is our prayer life. Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming. He will come. He promises He will come. He will be faithful to His elect. He will bring judgment to the ungodly. He will vindicate the saints. He will exalt Himself. He will establish His throne on earth. He will reign in a Kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth. And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.

This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2. “When you pray, pray like this. Our Father who art in heaven, Thy Kingdom come.” This is Kingdom pray…praying. This is praying for the Kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises. So again I say, the key to the parable hangs at the front door, we know what this story is about. We are to be living our lives saying, “even so, come Lord Jesus. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”

MacArthur then points out the importance of Christ’s Second Coming as part of a Christian world view.  He’s right, understanding the future events and our blessed Hope makes such a difference in how we act in this world.  MacArthur:

I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view. I couldn’t find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You can’t even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends.

I suspect he was referring to the same group as http://www.worldview.org, a popular teaching and training site with worldview curriculum.  At any rate, I googled their site for several specific key terms related to the Second Coming (Second Coming, Rapture, Great Tribulation, Day of the Lord, Christ’s Return, return, rewards, Israel, etc.) and likewise found nothing.

The shallow teacher, who misses the significance of a proper worldview regarding how it all ends, comes up with very general teachings that might do well enough for superficial followers content to do a few minutes of devotional reading each day, but it does not satisfy the believer who earnestly studies God’s word as a great treasure.  That shallow view says that Luke 18:1-8 is about persistence in prayer, as in prayer for our daily, temporal needs of this life.  The same type of teaching, though, also says that the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is about our love for the brethren, how we treat fellow believers (same as taught in 1 John), and that Ezekiel 36-37 is (only) talking about spiritual regeneration.

Reflecting on the Horner Bible Reading Plan: Bible Reading as a Way of Life

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been almost a year since I began using the Horner Bible Reading Plan, a ten-list genre plan.

Officially I am on day 330, though at this point that number is meaningless. My list of readings now barely resembles what the actual “day 330” would be. As others have also noted, though, the plan is very adaptable and flexible. Most importantly, the Horner Bible Reading Plan helped me get “out of the box” of standard once-a-year Bible reading plans, to read the Bible much more frequently and to read it more naturally, like any other favorite book. Just as I tend to read several different books at the same time, going back and forth between them, so here I follow along with several different stories and doctrinal books, keeping up with each one while often finding parallels and similar themes.

For the first several months I kept close to Horner’s original plan (only exception: I split the history and prophets into two shorter lists, for 12 chapters a day) and read through Proverbs, Acts, and the Job-Ecclesiastes-Song of Solomon lists several times. Then, like others who have continued with this system, I began modifications to read through certain books more frequently for special emphasis: for instance, adding Revelation to the “Acts” list. After twice completing the 150-day Psalms list, I rearranged the wisdom lists to read the Psalms more frequently (two Psalms per day). After completing the Pentateuch list in 187 days, I shortened it for the next time by reading 2 chapters at a time.

Grant Horner emphasizes using the same Bible, as a way to really get familiar with “your” Bible, to know where everything is on each page. Perhaps after several years of this system I will reach that point, but in this last year I explored many different reading techniques. I began with the NIV translation, the only version I then owned in print-versions, using a hardcover “NIV Topical Study Bible” with its somewhat larger print (as compared to my other Bible, the NIV Study Bible). Along the way I found the topical notes, interspersed throughout the pages, a distraction. Last summer I looked into Bible software programs, e-Sword and “The Word,” and for several months read the ESV, but on a computer screen and using software bookmarks. But on weekends, with limited access to the home PC, often I would switch back to NIV (the NIV Study Bible. Switching back and forth between the Bible software on two different PCs (one at work, one at home), and then switching to the NIV print Bible on weekends, meant more time keeping up with bookmarks. More recently, I purchased an ESV Large Print Bible, and now use it regularly; it is much simpler, one book and one set of bookmarks.

Horner also emphasizes “just reading” without any pauses for further study. I generally do so, yet often I read the footnotes. When I read on the computer program, the numerous small reference symbols (which show other scripture references when you mouse-over them) tended to distract. Though this is strictly a “reading” plan, the readings have prompted further study, and now the S. Lewis Johnson book study series provide a nice extension to several of my readings — such as the series I’m currently listening to, the book of Acts. Now as I re-read Genesis again (starting the third time through the Pentateuch) I remember many of his observations from that series, which I completed recently.

The continual reading and cycling back through each list brings more familiarity, and often I am only a few days or less than a month away from a particular passage. Earlier this month, for instance, I read Hebrews 10, which includes a quote from Psalm 40; less than a week later I read Psalm 40, and recognized the verses from the Hebrews passage. A guest speaker at church last night referenced 1 Peter 2 — which I had only read the day before.

God’s word is such a treasure, and I enjoy my reading time each day, in which I remember great treasures and find words of comfort as well as exhortation. Reading the Bible in this manner is just a part of everyday life, as I continue each selection from the previous day —
not a “task” to complete a certain reading for each day in the year. I could never return to the limited diet of such task-structured plans.

Acts 15: James’ words to the Jerusalem Council

February 8, 2010 4 comments

In my daily Bible Study time in S. Lewis Johnson’s Acts series, recently I listened to SLJ’s exposition of Acts 15, including the passage where James quotes from Amos 9.

It’s a familiar passage — and one often abused by amillennialists who claim that James is here claiming fulfillment of Amos 9 in the Church Age. As I learned through later study, and seriously looking at the actual words, James never makes any claim for fulfillment. He merely says that what is happening now is “in agreement with” what the prophets spoke of, about Gentiles being saved.

But S. Lewis Johnson brings up a few interesting things beyond what I had considered, as to why James is saying what he says in the first place. The context is the council, with an audience that includes believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees (verse 5). These evidently were true believers (unlike the Judaizers that Paul later contended with) who still had some confusion and error in their understanding. By this point in the chapter, Peter has spoken up, as have Paul and Barnabas. So now James speaks, with gentleness instead of a proud, sharp “I told you so” attitude. James does this by quoting from Amos, to point out that the prophets all spoke of a time of Jewish rejection; but the restoration will still occur. When James says “after this,” the “this” speaks of the current situation (the Jewish rejection of the Messiah), with assurance to the Jewish Christians regarding what is yet to come.

The next part, verses 19 – 21, relates to the matter of weak versus strong believers — also referenced in Paul’s epistles regarding meat sacrificed to idols, and Paul’s continual zeal to never offend a weaker believer. The whole point about the letter sent to the Gentile churches, telling them to abstain from certain things (meat sacrificed to idols, meat with blood in it, and sexual immorality), is based on the principle of not offending the weaker Jewish believers — and for consideration of Jewish unbelievers, matters that might hinder the spread of the Gospel. When James says in verse 21, “For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath,” that is a reference to the fact that Jews were spread about everywhere in the Gentile world — and thus to not damage the consciences of weaker Jewish believers.

I found these observations interesting, and a great example of how we can sometimes, just quickly reading through a passage over and over, without in-depth study and the commentaries of Bible teachers, miss the significance of the words of the text. I was well familiar with the passage itself, but had never delved deeper into “why” James and the others said some of the things mentioned here. Yet the greater explanation, regarding the weaker Jewish believers and their consciences, certainly fits with the text and makes sense.