The heresy of worshiptainment

Mike Livingstone

The great heresy of the church today is that we think we’re in the entertainment business. A.W. Tozer believed this to be true back in the 1950s and 60s. Church members “want to be entertained while they are edified.” He said that in 1962. Tozer grieved, even then, that it was “scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction was God.”*

More recently, David Platt has asked: “What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for his people to come together?” (Radical)

Would it be enough?

Tozer got it right: “Heresy of method may be as deadly as heresy of message.”

HALLOWEDNESS, NOT SHALLOWNESS

Like Tozer, we…

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The Canonicity of the Scriptures

The term canon, which comes from the Hebrew term qāneh and the Greek term kanin, refers to a measuring stick or standard (cf. Ezekiel 40:3). 1  Canon is the standard used to determine which books God inspired and are therefore authoritative and orthodox.  Canon does not make the Scriptures inspired.  As well, at no time has a church council ever made a book inspired.  At best they could only acknowledge which books were inspired.

The Scriptures were inspired by God, the moment they were written and were immediately recognized as inspired by the original recipients.  For example, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi were the last Old Testament books to be penned (460-425 BC).  According to Josephus, “the boundary of the accepted books [of the  Old Testament] is marked by the time of Artaxerxes (465–425 BC), after which no authorized books were issued.” 2  The dating of Malachi and the testimony of Josephus demonstrate that the Scriptures were immediately recognized as inspired by the original recipients.

The first five book of the Bible known as the Torah were penned by Moses.  The Torah is the standard by which all other Biblical writings are tested.  There are three reasons why the Torah formed the standard.  First, God, the divine author, spoke His revelation directly to Moses, the human author, as witnessed by 600,000 men (Exodus 33:11a; Deuteronomy 5:4; 34:10b).  Second, Moses was a prophet equal only to Jesus (Deuteronomy 18:18; 34:10a).  Third, God specifically stated that nothing could be added to or taken away from the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32).  The term add (yāsap) means to increase the size or scope. The term diminish (gāraʿ) means to take away or reduce. Thus every book that came after the Torah, had to be in agreement with God’s truths as revealed in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

Jesus, Himself, acknowledged that the Torah, as penned by Moses, was the standard by which His own words should be tested (John 5:39, 46-47).  In other words, Moses’ words (i.e. the Torah) was the standard by which everything which Jesus said could be tested.  The implication of this is that Jesus could not speak anything contrary to the Torah (cf. Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; 18:21-22).  Jesus, Himself, testified to this fact (Matthew 5:17-19).

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  1. Randall Price, Searching for the Original Bible (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), 139
  2. D. Guthrie, “Bible” in Merrill C. Tenney, ed., The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 1:560.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

The Perspicuity of Scripture

The perspicuity of the Bible means, “that Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person, deep enough for highly qualified readers, clear in its essential matters, obscure in some places to people because of their sinfulness, understandable through ordinary means, understandable by an unsaved person on an external level, understandable in its significance by a saved person through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and available to every believer whose faith must rest on the Scriptures.” 1  The Scripture must be clear or understandable if it is the source of saving faith (2 Timothy 3:15b), a light to one’s path (Psalm 119:105; 2 Peter. 1:19a), and profitable for equipping the saints (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The Scripture must be clear enough that common people (Mark 12:37b) and children can understand it (Deuteronomy 6:6-7a; 2 Timothy 3:14-15a).

This does not means that all of the Bible is equally clear or understandable.  Some passages are more clear then others.  Even Peter acknowledge that some of Paul’s writings were difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16).  Any difficulties one may have in understanding the Bible is due to their own finiteness and/or sinfulness.  The Bible cannot be blamed for one’s lack of understanding.  Never once did Jesus say that the Scriptures were not clear or understandable.  In fact, when the religious leaders tried to make the Scriptures less than clear or understandable, Jesus’ accused them of either not reading the Scriptures or simply not knowing the Scripture (Matthew 21:42; 22:29).

As well, just because something is clear, does not mean that it is simple.  Sometimes, due to the gaps of time, language and culture, an explanation is warranted. 2  Philip helped the Ethiopian eunuch understand Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:30-31).  Even the disciples needed the Scriptures explained (Luke 24:44-45).  These gaps that exist between the original readers and today’s reader necessitates the ministry of teaching.  This is why Jesus gifted the church with apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers and why one of the qualifications of the bishop of the church is the ability to teach (Ephesians 4:11; Timothy 3:2).

It should also be noted that since the Holy Spirit employed common people to write the Scriptures using the words and grammar of the people, then even the modern student of Scripture, following the ‘laws of language’ and relying on the work of the Holy Spirit, can determine the clear meaning of Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).

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  1. Larray D. Pettegrew, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 15, Number 2 (Fall 2004): 209
  2. Bernard Ramm states, “Words and sentences occur in the context of a culture. Their meaning depends in a large part to these contexts in which they occur and without that context it is either difficult or impossible to know the meaning of the words or sentences. It is therefore no great thing nor something out of the ordinary that we should have words, concepts, and sentences that puzzle us in Holy Scripture.” Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 99.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

The Preservation of Scripture

Today, there are no original manuscripts (i.e. autographs) of Scripture in existence.  This is due in part to the passing of time, in part to the wear and tear of use, and in part to the tendency of man to worship religious relics.  God intended though that His Word be preserved.  He accomplished this by employing His people to make copies (i.e. apographs) of His Word.  Since God employed people to copy His Word,  He placed a severe penalty upon those who would add to it or take away from it (Deuteronomy 4:2a; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18-19).

While the autographs were free from error, this does not mean that all the apographs were errorless.  That there are copies or apographs which are in error is testimony to the fact that Satan has been trying to distort and destroy  God’s Word.   He distorted God’s Word to Adam and Eve in the garden and to Jesus in the wilderness (cf. Genesis 3:1-4; Matthew 4:6-7).  Also, he attempted to destroy God’s Word through King Jehoiakim (cf. Jeremiah 36:23).

In spite of Satan’s attempts, God has preserved a line of apographs which are exact copies of the inerrant, infallible autographs (Psalm 119:152; Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:24-25).

The term forever (`owlam – HB/ aiōn – GK) means continuous, perpetual, or everlasting.  While the autographs have long since deteriorated, no Scripture has ever been lost, nor is any Scripture waiting to be discovered.

God promised that the Scriptures will be preserved both in Heaven and on Earth (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 59:21).

That God preserved His Word both in Heaven and on Earth guarantees that it will not become extinct and that a line of apographs will be kept from corruption.  By using the Old Testament apographs, Jesus affirmed the existence of a line of errorless apographs in His day (John 10:35b).

Formation of the Bible

The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, written by forty different authors,  over a period of 1,600 years, yet there is not one  contradiction.  Choose any other subject matter, gather sixty-six books, by forty authors, spread over 1,600 years, on the chosen topic, and it will result in contradictions.

The Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  The largest portion of the Bible was written in Hebrew and the smallest portion in Aramaic.  While much of the Bible was written in Israel, it was also penned in Babylon, Arabia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

The human authors of the Bible were kings, priests, prophets, soldiers, statesmen, shepherds, fisherman, a tax collector, a doctor, a tent-maker, and a farmer.1     

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.21.06 AM

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 10.22.54 AMThe various occupations of the human authors account for the various literary genres of the Bible.  The Scripture contains a historical, legal, wisdom, psalms, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel and epistles.  In spite of the diversity of languages, locations, authors, occupations, and genres, the Scripture is unique in its harmony and unity.

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  1.  Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Nature of the Bible. (Ariel Ministries, 2005), pp. 8-9.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Inerrancy and Infalliblity of the Bible

The superintending, of the Holy Spirit, prevented the human authors from recording any distortions or falsehoods. To put it another way, since God cannot lie (cf. Romans 3:4) and the Scriptures are breathed out by God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16) then the Word of God is free from error or inerrant (Psalm 33:4a; 119:160a; Proverbs 8:8; 30:5a; John 17:17b).  Inerrancy means that, “the Scriptures possess the quality of freedom from error. They are exempt from the liability to mistake, incapable of error. In all their teachings they are in perfect accord with truth.1 Truth includes “approximations, free quotations, language of appearances, and different accounts of the same event as long as those do not contradict.”2

In other words, different writers might use different words to describe the same incident. For example, Luke 4:1 states “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,” while Mark 1:12 states “the Spirit driveth Him (Jesus) into the wilderness.” Luke and Mark depict the same event (the temptation of Jesus) but use two different terms (led and driveth) to describe how the Spirit was involved in Jesus going into the wilderness. Also, inherency allows the writers to record the same event from different points of view. For example, the Feeding of the Five Thousand is recorded in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15. Each of the authors wrote about the same event but each includes information not revealed by the other three.

Inerrancy includes not only theological issues, but extends to all issues upon which Scripture speak. “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives. […] Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything they teach, whether that teaching has to do with doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, or other disciplines or knowledge.3

When the Bible speaks on these matters, it must be inerrant; otherwise it is not trustworthy. If the Bible is not trustworthy on earthly matters, how can it be trustworthy on heavenly matters? Often times what the Scriptures teach about heavenly matters are uniquely tied to earthly matters. For example, Paul links the reality of a literal, historical Jesus to a literal, historical Adam (Romans 5:12, 17).  As well, the birth of Jesus is tied to the geographical location of Bethlehem. The same verse which prophesies of the location also teaches the eternality of Jesus (Micah 5:2).

Like inspiration, inerrancy applies only to the autographs. While the autographs were free from error, this does not mean that all the apographs were errorless. God, has preserved a line of apographs which are exact copies of the inerrant originals. Jesus did not have the Old Testament autographs, so He used apographs. By using the apographs, Jesus affirmed that a line of errorless apographs were existent (John 10:35b).

Infallibility means that the Scriptures are true and reliable in all that they teach. Since the Scripture does not contain error, than it is incapable of teaching error (Psalm 12:6a; Proverbs 30:5-6; 2 Peter 1:19a).  The term pure (ṭāhôr) means that God’s Word is free from fraud, falsehood, or deceit. The term more sure (bébaios) means reliable or trustworthy. Since Scripture is free from error (inerrant), it is incapable of teaching error (infallible). It is impossible for the Scriptures to mislead, though man’s twisting of Scripture could mislead.

Inerrancy and infallibility are the guarantors of the Scriptures profitability concerning doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. Because the Bible contains no errors and is incapable of teaching error we can trust it to: 1) lay a solid foundation for all of life and faith; 2) equip us with the ability to discern and confront false teachings; 3) discern and correct bad behaviors; and 4) develop right behavior.

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  1. E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), p. 113.
  2. Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About Inerrancy. (Chicago: Moody, 1981), p. 30.
  3. James Montgomery Boice, Does Inerrancy Matter? (Oakland: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1979), p. 13.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016