Archive for category Questions

Was Bonhoeffer Orthodox?

Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer orthodox? Specifically, did he believe in the literal birth, death, and resurrection of Christ? Was he evangelical: did he believe that Christ was the good news of salvation for all who believe by faith? I read selections from Bonhoeffer in college that, on the face of it, appeared to show a German liberal with neo-orthodox leanings. But reading The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics seemed to show another side. He didn’t buy into liberal theology. He defended the Bible against those who would assault it.

Then, in 2009, I read portions of Letters from Prison. My tentative conclusion: what Bonhoeffer wrote later in life was substantially different from what he wrote as a younger man. Perhaps the prison and concentration camps threatened his faith in God, or maybe even shipwrecked it?

So without pouring over a bunch of Bonhoeffer’s writings, what’s your take? Those of you that have read more than I have from Bonhoeffer: is the above formulation potentially valid? How would you explain the debate that’s arisen since Eric Metaxas’ biography was published?

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Why Christian Fiction?

Full disclosure: Christian fiction fascinates me. Not because I’ve read very much of it, but because of the place that it occupies in the conservative Christian subculture. I find most of it uninteresting, and occasionally find it disgusting. Some books masquerade as “Christian,” getting wide exposure and acclaim in the Christian community while doing little more than promoting sentimentality and titilating the senses.

My prejudices aside, this is how the thought was sparked: while at Barnes and Noble today, I was struck by the size of the Christian fiction section compared to the non-fiction section. Noting this phenomenon, I curiously perused through the other religious sections (as I often do), particularly looking for traces of fiction. No Bhuddist fiction, no Muslim fiction, no Hindu fiction. Just Christian fiction. “Perhaps merely an American phenomenon,” I thought. A quick perusal of British fiction bestsellers over the last few years added evidence; no “Christian” fiction on British bestseller lists.

The more I thought about it, the more it fascinated me, especially as I looked at religious fiction around the world. I spent about 45 minutes looking at big news sites and various versions of Amazon.com. Not a lot of religious fiction around the world.

Granted that a large swath of the population in the U.S. is at least ostensibly “Christian”, and granted that fiction is more popular than non-fiction. Beyond those reasons, why is there so much Christian fiction, especially in the United States?

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Downplaying Application?

Prior to going to Bible college, I had about a half-dozen opportunities to teach in my local church. In the first several, I went overboard on the application. It was all about what they needed to do, how they could be encouraged by doing, do do do, etc. With a lot of brainy stuff thrown in.

The last couple of times that I taught before school, I emphasized what was to be known about God, and basically told everyone that it was up to them and the Holy Spirit to figure out how to apply the teaching to their context. Fast forward two years, and I’m taking my first homiletics course at school. And what, at an independant fundamental Baptist college, would be emphasized? Application! There was a healthy amount of exegesis there as well, but we were told that it wasn’t truly expository unless the application was there and pointed.

As I continue to preach and teach, I find that this is incredibly true. My method in preaching and teaching is to provide hypothetical situations that people can relate to. This seems to be the best thing to engage people’s minds with the practical implications of Scripture. Doctrine becomes the spearhead for application, not the other way around.

More recently, I’ve heard quite a few teachers advocate a method of preaching that downplays application. Like I once did, they say that the Holy Spirit should apply the message as only He can, and we shouldn’t get in the way of that.

Is this a valid point of view? How do you present the application of Scripture in your preaching and teaching?

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Mediator in the OT?

Reading through book two of Calvin’s Institutes, something has struck a chord with me. Calvin seeks in 2.6.2 to show that Christ was always Mediator between God and man in the OT. I agree that Christ is ultimately the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), but many of the Scriptures that Calvin goes to seem to do very little for his proposition.

Calvin is saying that Christ was always the mediator of the covenant in the OT, when it was clear (at least to me) that Moses was properly the mediator of the covenant that commonly bears his name, and that’s some of the distinction that the author of Hebrews makes between the two covenants. Thoughts? Any insight to add to this?

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Which Edition of Calvin’s Institutes?

I’m considering purchasing Calvin’s Institutes. The question is, which edition? My two options:

The 1541 edition – The newest translation, done by Eerdman’s. I’m told it reflects more of a pastoral viewpoint, rather than the heavier systematic theology apparent in later editions.

The 1559 edition – Supposedly the definitive edition, containing both an excellent translation and all the theological content. 

What are the pros and cons of each?

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Study for the Summer

I’m considering what books to go over as part of a study group this summer, mostly for the guys that were part of the old Bible study, although others are welcome to come. I’m thinking an 8-10 weel study on one of two books: John Piper’s Battling Unbelief, or Rick Cornish’s 5 Minute Theologian. Reasons for each:

Battling Unbelief: this is a distilled version of Future Grace, one of Piper’s original greats. Essentially he goes about attacking common sins that come about in the Christian’s life because of unbelief: anxiety, pride, shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust. It’s an excellent book, and one that I can get a DVD and workbooks to go with. We’d have 8 weeks of content, with maybe one week of intro and one week of outro. 8-10 week study, meeting once a week.

5 Minute Theologian: basically a brief introduction to systematic theology. My home pastor recently preached through Titus, and in one of the sermons emphasized how young men need to have their doctrine straight. I amen that wholeheartedly, and would say that each individual in the church needs to have the basics of the faith down and should at least wrestle with some of the more important doctrines. We would go through nine weeks of content (over each area of theology), with maybe one week of intro. 9-10 week study, meeting once a week.

Of course, we could also do both. What do you think? Anyone else have any thoughts on these two books?

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Unlimited Limited Atonement?

Does Mark Driscoll’s declaration of “Unlimited Limited Atonement” amount to Amyraldism (i.e. 4-point Calvinism)? Or is it just a different way of stating Reformed soteriology?

Related blogs here (claims Mark is a modified Arminian on the atonement) and here (claims Mark could still be properly called Reformed in soteriology). Mark’s own stuff is here. Thoughts?

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