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Theology Matters Jan/Feb to Nov/Dec 2013

"The Trustworthiness of Scripture" by Josh McDowell
McDowell looks at:

  • The Wonder of Its Unity
  • The Wonder of Its Historical Accuracy
  • The Wonder of Its Indestructibility
  • The Wonders of Its Scientific Accuracy
  • The Wonder of Its Frankness
  • The Wonder of Its Predictive Prophecy
  • The Wonder of Its Christ-centeredness
  • The Wonder of Its Intellectual Integrity
  • The Wonder of Its Teachings
  • The Wonder of Its Transforming Power

Next McDowell examines the making of the Old Testament books and how they were accurately preserved.    McDowell then looks at the making of the New Testament gospels and epistles, the vast number of existing early manuscripts, and the accuracy with which they were copied.

Finally, McDowell discusses four perspectives on the nature of inspiration.  After examining each, he concludes that the view that Scripture is both divine and human is the one that best fits the evidence.  McDowell explains, “This view reflects the biblical teaching that the Bible itself, in all that it states, is a product of divine revelation, channeled through, but not corrupted by, human agency, by which the unique talents, backgrounds, and perspectives of the authors complement rather than restrict what God intended to reveal.”

Scripture itself claims to be divinely inspired:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.  (2 Timothy 3:16)

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)



"The Threefold Significance of Baptism" by Rev. Dr. Randall Otto. 
Otto examines the meaning of baptism as a sacrament of salvation, as a sacrament of sanctification, and as a sacrament of service.   Quoting extensively from Scripture and the Confessions, Otto shows that baptism is a "sign and seal" of "ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins."   It is a witness of our ongoing need for repentance.  "Salvation and sanctification are not ends in themselves, but the means by which those who have been born of God and empowered by his Spirit live in the worship and service of the Lord."  p. 1

"What, Who, Where, How: Reformed Perspectives on Baptism" by Rev. Robert P. Mills
Mills discusses practical questions surrounding baptism: Who should be baptized?  How? What do different traditions understand about baptism?  p. 7

"Abortion and the Sacraments" by Rev. Dr.  Elizabeth Achtemeier
Achtemeier looks at the meaning of baptism and the Lord's Supper and applies them to our relationship with one another as members of the Body of Christ.  p. 11


May/Jun 2013 Theology Matters

A Framework, Not a Roadmap" Christians Can Foster Peace, Justice, and Freedom in the Middle East
The Political Dilemmas of Arab Christianity   
by Alan F. H. Wisdom

What can we do to help Christians and others in the Middle East? Too often the debates in churches and society are exercises in finger-pointing. Pro-Palestinian advocates blame Israel. Pro-Israel advocates blame the Arabs. Is there a constructive way forward, not only for Israelis and Palestinians but also for all Middle Eastern peoples who suffer oppression and violence?

This is the challenge that Alan Wisdom addresses in the May/June issue of Theology Matters. Following on his survey of biblical teachings in the March/April issue, now he grapples with how we apply these teachings in the messy situation we face today. As Alan recounts the region’s history, we see how modernity came as a shock to the Middle East. People who boasted proud and ancient civilizations felt vulnerable in the face of innovations backed by the superior military, economic, and technological prowess of the West. There have been two main responses: nationalism, seeking to build up centralized authoritarian states to restore national glory, and Islamism, aiming to reconnect societies to their religious roots by making shariʻa the law of the land.

Both of these responses have so far disappointed the hopes that have been invested in them. Many Middle Eastern nations have found themselves submerged under corrupt and repressive regimes, trapped in economic stagnation, and embroiled in disastrous wars. The Middle East, by global standards, is a middle income area; however, human rights monitors classify it as the least free region of the world. The situation is particularly desperate for Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities.

Alan does not claim to possess a roadmap to Middle East peace, justice, and freedom. He admits that U.S. Christians have limited influence in the situation. But Alan does outline a series of “points of ready consensus” that might provide a framework for using that influence prudently in accord with our Christian convictions. He also notes several “unresolved questions” on which U.S. Christians would not agree, and on which we must await further experience. I invite you to weigh his analysis and see if you find it helpful.

Mar/Apr 2013 Theology Matters

Lands of Promise and Conflict: The Middle East in Biblical Context by Alan F. H. Wisdom. 
Wisdom carefully examines what Scripture says and does not say in both the Old Testament and New Testament about the nation of Israel.  God called Israel his own "treasured possession" and he vowed that he would curse those who curse Israel and bless those who blessed Israel.  Furthermore, God promised that through Abraham and his descendants all the nations of the earth would be blessed.  This historical review informs our thinking today about how Christians should understand Israel's role today in the Middle East.  By following the theme of God's call and promises to Israel through the whole of Scripture, we understand God's faithfulness, his promises, his discipline, his planned future for us and Israel today and most importantly, how Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham.  p. 1

Stretching Scripture Too Far: Apocalyptic Prophecy As Mideast Policy Guide by Alan. F. H. Wisdom
"Christians Look to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as God's authoritative revelation of his purposes for humankind.  But these sacred texts, written originally for Jewish and Christian audiences thousand of years ago, do not give detailed instructions for church or U.S. policy in the 21st century.  They do not identify which governments should be supported and which should be opposed.  They do not tell us which peace proposals should be advanced and which should be rejected. These are questions that today's Christians must decide prudently, as the Holy Spirit enables them to asses current situations and apply biblical principles to them. "  Wisdom looks at some of the apocalyptic prophecies of some Christians who hold a high view of Scripture yet are stretching Scripture too far concerning unfolding events in the Middle East today.  p. 12


Falling Short of the Solas by Rev. Carolyn Poteet 
Poteet examines the five solas: Sola Scriptura--Scripture alone, Solus Christus--Christ alone, Sola Gratia--Grace alone, Sola Fide--Faith alone and Soli Deo Gloria--to the Glory of God alone.  Poteet compares the impact these had on the message of the Reformers, how they are being rejected by liberalism and how we can restore their priority in the life of the church.

Centers and Boundaries by Rev. Robert P. Mills
Some people assume that if the church talks about the center of our faith while ignoring the boundaries of our faith, there might be great unity and less contention in the church.  Mills shows that the center and boundaries are linked.  Therefore when the boundaries are not protected, the center soon fragments.  To demonstrate his point, Mills quotes Frederick Buechner, "The power of sin is centrifugal.  When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything out toward the periphery.  Bits and pieces go flying off until only the core is left.  Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing at all is left."

Why Do We Draw the Line?  by Dr. Carl Trueman
Trueman also makes the argument that we must be attentive to the boundaries of faith or we will soon lose the center.  Trueman writes, "Centers and boundaries are ultimately dependent upon each other--one cannot meaningfully talk of one without assuming the existence of the other."  Trueman observes that most Christian doctrine is actually boundary-forming and not center-focused. "For example, to say that God is infinite is to say something negative about God: He has no limits.  This formulation sets a boundary; there are lots of things I might be able to say about God, but if at some point I say He has limits, I cross a boundary into error."  

Identifying Boundaries by Rev. Susan Cyre
Cyre examines the role of doctrine in establishing boundaries and then gives specific examples of places where theological boundaries are being crossed.  She looks at the Trinity, the authority of Scripture, God is the Creator, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the fallenness of human beings.