“Knock, knock.”knocking

-“Who’s there?”

“The Nazis.”

-“The Nazis wh—” [SLAP]

“Vee vill ask de questions!”

Many a debate about ethical systems gets illustrated by the Corrie Ten Boom conundrum posed as Nazis knocking on your door to enquire whether you are hiding innocent Jews in your home. You can either tell the truth and sacrifice the lives of your refugees, or you can lie and, assuming you have the world’s most gullible Nazi at your door, spare the lives of those you have committed to protect.

This scenario captures a classic question of which sin is the greater, and it presumes that there is no other option.

There are three main ethical systems by which people try to attack the problem…

1. Graded Ethics – Shades of grey

This is the most common layman’s ethic. It holds that life is not black and white, but includes shades of grey between right and wrong. You can identify graded ethics easily from catchphrases like “lesser of two evils” or “necessary evil” and “greater good” or “white lie.”

Employing graded ethics, you don’t ask yourself “Is telling the truth right or wrong?”— but rather “Is telling the truth better or worse than selling out innocent lives?”

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inquisitionsHow Many Protestants Were Killed in the Inquisition?

A friend asked me that question earlier this week. And so I thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts, from a historical perspective.

Opinions about how to answer the question vary widely. Some suggest that just a few thousand people were executed during the Inquisition, while others project that there were tens of millions of victims. So how can the estimates be so widely divergent?

There seem to be several explanations:

1. First, the imprecise nature of the historical records means that contemporary historians are forced to extrapolate on the basis of the limited information they possess.

One of the first accounts of the Inquisition came from a former Spanish secretary to the Inquisition named Juan Antonio Llorente (1756–1823). According to Llorente, the total number of “heretics” burned at the stake during the Spanish Inquisition totaled nearly 32,000. Llorente adds that another 300,000 were put on trial and forced to do penance (cf. Cecil Roth, The Spanish Inquisition [W. W. Norton, 1964; reprint, 1996], 123). Continue Reading…

Inerrancy SummitIt’s hard to believe that Shepherds’ Conference is next week. For those of us who have the privilege of being around Grace Community Church all year round, it’s difficult to capture the sense of anticipation that’s been brewing over the last 15 months or so. It really is like Christmastime over here, and it’s such a privilege to witness that enthusiasm—from the leadership to the nearly 1200 volunteers (!) that will be serving the men who attend this historic event.

And historic it will be, as the 2015 Shepherds’ Conference is, more precisely, the Inerrancy Summit. Sixteen—count ‘em: sixteen—of the most trusted voices in evangelicalism will join Pastor John MacArthur for an unprecedented marathon of eighteen sessions of devotion to the inerrancy of Scripture. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. If you’re not able to join us next week, do make sure to watch by livestream. It’s an event you won’t want to miss.

In the spirit of next week, then, I wanted to post something today on the topic of inerrancy. Several months ago, I read the then-recently released Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, intrigued to know what the other three views (i.e., besides inerrancy and errancy) would be. Turns out there really aren’t more than two views, but such is the nature of things.

I thought the book was really helpful in singling out key issues that need to be addressed today. As you might have expected, I most appreciated Al Mohler’s contribution, in which he presents and defends the church’s historic position on the inerrancy, infallibility, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture—i.e., the view most clearly articulated in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Today, I want to share some quotes and notes from that chapter, with the hope of priming the pump for next week’s Summit.

Some are just direct quotes from Mohler that are helpful and incisive. Others are my own thoughts as I spring-boarded from what I read. They’re broken down by the chapter headings and page numbers are provided. Quotes are indented, with any of my comments below, flush left.

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February 26, 2015

Worry & Happiness

by Wyatt Graham

It’s pretty easy to worry when choices confront us. Worry can cripple, wound, or otherwise prevent us from experiencing the joy of our salvation. And sometimes there are no clear answers in the murky world in which we all live.

In 1931, Montagu Norman, the head of the Bank of England, had to decide how to save the economy: would he drop the gold standard and adopt bill economy or keep the gold standard and risk running out of it? Both options were possible, but the stress got to him and Montagu had a nervous breakdown. While vacation, his office made the decision and killed the gold standard. While none of us will have the same responsibility, we can easily fall into the sways of anxiety and depression due to stress, to the crippling effect choices have on us.   Continue Reading…

Wallpaper_CalvinWe are only a few days away from what is shaping up to be a historic Shepherd’s Conference. The reason being is that this year’s focus is on one most important issue: biblical inerrancy.

And with the conference on the horizon, there have been some good conversations surrounding the nature of Scripture. One in particular I was in recently involved the idea of having a reverence for Scripture. You may have seen one of the conference graphics which quotes John Calvin from his commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16: “We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone.”

In response to that quote, an insightful friend asked, “If we owe Scripture reverence because it proceeded from God, would this imply that we owe the same reverence to creation, as it also proceeded from God”? (By reverence, we assume that Calvin means something like, “To revere or show deferential honor due to the nature of the thing.”) It’s a great question that needs answering, especially in our day.

Both the Bible and creation did proceed from a perfect and holy God. So, which do we hold higher, if any, and why?

Here are a few thoughts on why we owe Scripture reverence, but not creation:

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AnselmAnselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) is most famous for (1) his ontological argument for the existence of God and (2) the satisfaction theory of the atonement.

But today, I’d like to share my favorite quote from Anselm. It is found in his “Exhortation to a Dying Man,” in which he consoles those who are about to face death by asking them a series of questions.

The first set of questions is aimed at fellow clergy and the second is for laypeople.

* * * * *

Question. Do you rejoice, brother, that you are dying in the Christian Faith?
Answer. I do rejoice. . . .

Qu. Do you confess that you have lived so wickedly, that eternal punishment is due to your own merits?
An. I confess it.

Qu. Do you repent of this?
An. I do repent.

Qu. Do you have the willingness to amend your life, if you had time?
An. I have.

Qu. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for you?
An. I believe it.

Qu. Do you thank Him [for His passion and death]?
An. I do thank Him.

Qu. Do you believe that you cannot be saved except by His Death?
An. I believe it.

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As a kid I wore around my neck a small, sterling silver disc with an engraving of St Christopher piggy-backing a youthful Jesus. It brought me comfort to know that the patron saint of journeys was vigilant for my mobile safety needs. After my conversion to Evangelicalism I dutifully replaced reformed my reliance on the amulet, and instead invoke the sacred Protestant privilege of praying directly to God for “journey mercies.”lost luggage

As legend has it, the presciently named Christopher (as in Christ-bearer) was an unusually tall and muscular guy who worked as a human ferry carrying people across a fast-flowing river. One day, in I’m guessing 6 or 7AD, he bore a small boy on his back whose weight became heavier and heavier with each laborious step. As the current swelled to dangerous levels the two exchanged some clever repartee about the weight of the world while Christopher resolved to keep the child safe or die trying. You guessed it, the kid was Jesus. And Christopher was rewarded for his service with a halo and a line of jewellery that has remained in fashion to this day.

The popular practice of wearing St Christopher charms is still clung to by many Coptics, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox commuters, fuelling the haughty derision of iconoclastic Evangelicals who tut-tut at the superstitious silliness of trusting a talisman for protection. And yet, I fear many of us ride our prayers into a parallel groove of error with our prayers for travellers to enjoy journey mercies.

Am I saying it is wrong to pray for travellers? May it never be. As a motorcyclist and frequent flier on budget airlines I am grateful for God’s physical protection in any situation where asphalt, human judgment, and combustible fuel are involved. But I wonder if my prayers aren’t sometimes less concerned with survival and tend more toward the vein of convenience.st christopher

For people who have not experienced real danger, travel is not as frequently life-threatening as it is stressful. Lost luggage, delayed flights, flat tires, and speeding tickets are these days more common that plane crashes and masked highwaymen.

So how, exactly, are we to pray when we boldly go where our itinerary takes us?

Here are three guidelines when praying for journey mercies…

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Now that Presidents’ Day is behind us we can be sure of one thing: “Fifty Shades of Grey” brought in a whole lot of green. According to box office analysts, the carnally erotic full length motion picture brought in $94.4 million over the extended Valentine’s Day weekend.Thanks to mass marketing visionaries, it seems as if the bedroom of society has been transformed overnight into a chamber of bondage. It seems as if the American culture has finally learned to normalize darkness.

But there is also one more thing that we can be sure of with the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey:” the black and white clarity of the Bible has strangely turned grey in the lives of many in the church. Perhaps the most visible example of this has been Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who hasn’t allowed his professed Christianity to stop him from “enjoying” the film. But he is only an example of a much larger problem within cultural Christianity. Somehow, someway, those who claim Christ have rationalized perversion as being normal. How does that happen? Through the slow and indiscernible process of cultural assimilation.

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Seeing that the Inerrancy Summit is coming up in just over a week, I’m tossing something up along those lines and will help get your fires stoked for Shepherd’s Conference 2015!

Growing up in the (hypothetically) conservative Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference, I didn’t learn about the concept of inerrancy until I was in Bible College. I was taught the standard Mennonite Brethren position that the Bible is infallible but not inerrant. In practice this was a way of pointing out that the Bible is meant to teach about salvation rather than science, which had the conspicuous side-benefit of giving Mennonites an easy escape from the need to…well…know anything outside of some sort of basic gospel presentation.

Bible Origami

The denomination that I grew up in used language taken from people like Harold Loewen, who addressed 2 Tim. 3:14-17 and wrote:

“Scripture here tells us to look for the knowledge of salvation in its message, that and nothing more. Biblical authority, therefore, pertains only to salvation matters. Thus the apostle speaks here of the functional authority of Scripture as it relates to salvation alone…”[1] Continue Reading…

pulpitFaithful Bible preaching is not always easy to find. In some churches the Bible is barely opened, much less preached. And even when it is preached, how do we know that what is happening is faithful and helpful by God’s standards? Things like our feelings or filled pews, for example, are not good barometers.

The following will make a few suggestions on where to start. This is not all that constitutes biblically faithful preaching, but a few things which we should observe as the Bible is opened and preached:

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