Posts Tagged With: interpreting the Bible

Music for the Soul’s Delight

Presbyterianism for the 21st Century

“Music is the handmaiden of theology,” said Martin Luther, and theology is the key to the cosmos (says me). We ought to deeply enjoy good music with our whole mind and heart-we ought to seek out and promote the music of men and women who have a true gift. As some of you know, I haven’t been shy about my enjoyment of secular, even dark music like the Doors, but when it comes to fresh, talented, and richly theological music, there is no comparison.

Through Hymn is like a Thanksgiving dinner for the mind and heart-like a lyrically luscious foray into a seminary classroom. Even if you are not a fan of hip hop, you will find yourself maximally edified in hearing this album. Seriously. There’s even an accapella harmony piece which will make you want to stand to your feet and worship:

Please listen to these free tracks from this talented brother, and support him with a purchase if able. Soli Deo Gloria!

Thanks for reading,


Categories: Artistic Creations, The Arts, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wretched TV Video Clip: Christianity Responsible for War and Violence?

Good wrap-up to our posts on the Crusades.

Happy interpreting!


Categories: Interpreting Christian Hypocrisy, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts: Atonement MIA?

A question was posed to me by a pastor in Indonesia: If the atonement of Christ is so important to understand, why don’t the Apostles preach about it in the book of Acts? See here:

@Doulos2Christou I don’t know Christus Victor, but the gospel according to Acts never included atonement. If so crucial why not? Thoughts?


Implied (consciously or not) is the idea that the detailed meaning of the atonement is not a necessary part of the preaching of the gospel – or rather people don’t need to get those details nailed down before they can be saved.*

First of all, I disagree with the premise, i.e. that the atonement was not included in the preaching/teaching in the book of Acts. Perhaps it is not discussed explicitly and in detail, but the assumption of the Apostles was that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – their preaching and teaching was based on the completed work of Christ.

Chapter 2:22-24 is a glimpse into the meaning of the cross, but then see verse 40 where Luke summarizes by saying “with many other words he testified and exhorted them…” all that Peter said is not written in vss. 14-39; beyond that Peter was preaching and exhorting them according to the whole truth about Jesus and His work. We can safely assume that in speaking with Jews as a Jew, Peter took time to explain the greater passover, the greater sacrifice, and the propitiation of the Father’s wrath – all heavily foreshadowed in the Old Covenant and Old Testament writings on which the Israelites of Peter’s day were raised.

But that aside, we also must not assume that for something to be a core part of the gospel that it has to be explicitly written about in the book of Acts.

Think of it this way: Acts is the “video tape” of the first generation of Christians. We see

1) The Holy Spirit fall on them at Pentecost and enliven the mission they have been given by Christ. They go instantly from being a scared little huddle to a powerful cadre of preachers willing to be imprisoned, mocked, and killed.

2) The church of Jerusalem is formed, grows in number, and gets persecuted.

3) Saul is converted and becomes Paul – and his ministry as an Apostle begins,

4) The persecutions intensify and as a result, the Christians begin scattering, which in God’s plan has the effect of spreading the word to the Gentiles.

5) All of these circumstances give rise to the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, to both Jew and Gentile. Many churches are established throughout the Roman empire.

In watching this video tape, we get snippets and summaries of the preaching and teaching of the gospel. The goal Luke has in mind is not to lay down a systematic theology of the cross, but rather to record how the Holy Spirit moved in the first generation of believers. This is done by, among other themes, the record of the general preaching and teaching of the Apostles. In other words, Acts is descriptive rather than prescriptive; demonstrative rather than normative.

In contrast, the epistles are like the commentary and “behind the scenes footage” for the video. Herein the Apostles take the time to detail the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In the epistles, the gospel is examined  in detail from the Old Testament, the life and work of Jesus, and the direct revelations received as God revealed the mysteries kept secret in ages past.

In the epistles, (especially Hebrews which I bet was written by Luke), we get the fuller picture of the cross work of Christ, and therein we derive our doctrines of the atonement. The epistles are surely no less authoritative than Acts in demonstrating the theology of the early church, right?

Thanks for thinking,


*I would agree that of course God can save someone by the hearing of a summary of the gospel – of course. The full, infinite, glorious details of penal substitutionary atonement are not even fully explainable – it is well beyond the reach of even the greatest minds; we are all of us little children in our earthly understanding of what He has done for us. I would not, however, say that the doctrines of the atonement are unnecessary for a Christian to be a good disciple/learner. Once a Christian has begun to read the Scriptures, the truth will filter in, and error ought to filter out. I believe the mark of antichrist is to be confronted with Scripture concerning who Jesus is and what He has done, and to yet persistently, obstinately remain in error long-term.
Categories: The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Salvation by Grace Alone: Reformed View pt. 2

The Joy of Sharing the Gospel – a Thanks to the Readers

In part 1 of this title, I attempted to give a biblical, glorious, joyous overview of man’s condition in sin and God’s role as initiator, Savior, and majestic, merciful, gracious, loving Lord of salvation.  My Roman Catholic opponent Letting Smoke Out diverted the discussion back to issues of where doctrine comes from – which is understandable. He cannot get past the different assumptions we have in starting out in order to then discuss salvation, and so our dialogue has come to a stand-still of sorts.

That, as unfortunate as it is, has not stopped me from being filled with the overflowing desire of joy to share the gospel with him, and with all of you other readers. It has been a fulfillment of a great pent up energy in me to begin this blog – and by the grace of God, to His glory, I have seen around 2,000 visitors since January come and read these posts. What a great privilege and responsibility I have been given! It is my humble hope that the Lord would be pleased to use something written on this website to bring great honor to His Name. This dialogue between the Roman Catholic perspective and my own of the Reformed has been perhaps somewhat amateur, but all the while a privilege and joy. Thank you to everyone who has read, responded, and/or prayed for me in this venture. Please continue to pray for our Roman Catholic friends who have visited and interacted with me here. No, seriously – please stop and pray for them before you continue 🙂

God the Judge – God the Initiator – God the Path – God the Destination – God the Savior

My first post laid out our need for salvation – and how it is initiated by the very One who is our fearful Judge. This is the great mystery of the Christian faith – that God is both our greatest enemy because of our sins, but also our only hope and salvation because He is gracious and merciful. Every false religion or philosophy cannot reconcile these things – and every false religion, Roman Catholicism as chief, reconciles sinful man with God through man’s response, effort, and cooperation.

The stand-alone truth out of all religions is found in the Bible: that God the offended Judge initiates the reconciliation of Himself with His sinful, rebellious creatures… but not only does He initiate and make a way for us to “get right,” He then Himself becomes the path of that salvation in the Man Jesus Christ. LSO (my Roman Catholic opponent) had named our proposed debate “the path to salvation,” which is wonderful since then our focus would be squarely on Christ who said of Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life”! Wonderful! See, there is not “a path to salvation” except if we are talking about the Person Jesus the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. So far Rome would agree…

We begin to radically depart from one another from here – God the destination and God the Savior. The (inspired, inerrant, infallible) writing of Paul in Ephesians 1 begins to cut through the surface of religion, way past the man-centered doctrines of Romanism, and into the unfathomable depths of God… look:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Did you see that? Read verses 3 – 6 again slooooooowly and with all of your mind engaged with what is being said – go on! Let’s answer a few questions to get us to the point:

1) Who is doing the blessing? Answer: God the Father.

2) Who is getting the blessings? Answer: us.

3) What are the blessings? Answer: every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.

4) How is He blessing us? Answer: in Christ, having chosen us in Christ before the world began.

5) What is His goal for us in all of this? Answer: that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love!

6) What was God’s motive in all of this unspeakable kindness and power and glory and love? Answer: the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

7) Why was all of this done by God? Answer: For His glory, by His grace, for our good.

8) How did He bring us into Christ while satisfying justice? Answer: stay tuned for my next post on the cross 😉

Listen friends, no religion in history can touch these truths. Roman Catholicism comes so close to these truths, but basically in word only, not in practice. When we begin to inspect the meanings and dogmas underneath their words, Romanism could not be further from the Apostle Paul and the rest of the Word of God. Look further:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Who is the worker in all of these things so far? God – and God alone. This defines “grace.”

which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

His grace for His glory and for our good…

10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

This is the interpretation of the cosmos: all things by Christ, for Christ, and ultimately back to Christ.

11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

According to verse 11, who is working our salvation? Us, or God? Whose will is determinative in our salvation? By His grace, for his purposes, because of love, for our good. Yes!!!

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.(NKJV)

Can a person walk away from salvation once God has applied it to us? Paul? What say you, dear Apostle? “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” And why has God done all of this? Paul? “To the praise of His glory.”

God is the destination of salvation – He has begun it, worked it out, He is working it out right now, it was His covenant, His initiative, for His fame and glory, because He is good, because He is love, because Christ Jesus is worthy… for the praise of His glorious grace.

But what does Rome say?

From the Roman Catholic catechism section 2010:

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (emphases mine)

Sly, slick, almost true. That is always Satan’s best move – the truth with a twist… a little something extra, a little poison in your milk… and billions have been captured by it. It sounds so good – “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace…” Great! Wow! One problem: the Judaizers of Galatia were saying the same thing, and what does Paul say to them?

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (NKJV)

The gospel is a gift of grace, a love gift which is not merited in the start of it, the middle, or the end. It is all of grace, thank You Jesus my Lord!

This gospel is good news for you, dear Catholic friends. Not against you, never! Don’t be ashamed of having to repent of your religion and good works – they will not save you and it is not worth it to trust in them. I love you because of Christ’s grace and mercy – and I call you in the name of Jesus to repent of your religious works and trust Christ for the righteousness He alone has earned, and receive His forgiveness of sins. He is enough, He is enough for your salvation.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. My next and most likely last post on this subject will be focused on the cross of Christ.

P.P.S. I realize many of you would take the time to deconstruct the basket full of logical, historical, biblical fallacies presented by LSO. I would like to do that too, but I do not want to only post and write on Roman Catholicism on this blog… but perhaps I will return to it someday. Feel free to pay him a friendly visit and interact with his ideas.


Previous posts in this series, starting at the first:

Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?“- Interpreting the Cosmos

Apologetics” – Letting the Smoke Out

Dialogue with a Roman Catholic – Introductory Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Bible Only” – Letting the Smoke Out

Roman Catholic Opening Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

A Word on Interpreting Scripture and Church Authority” – Interpreting the Cosmos

What is the Biblical Path to Salvation? Reformed View pt. 1” – Interpreting the Cosmos

On Clarity and Authority” – Letting the Smoke Out

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Sola Scriptura Stalemate” – Letting the Smoke Out

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Reading the Cosmos to Read the Bible to Read the Cosmos to Know Truth to Know God to Know Self

Let's begin at the beginning...

I want to be a good reader – don’t you? How does one learn to read? That depends on what it is we are reading. If you are learning to read words, you first figure out how to sound out the letters and then whole words, sentences and off you go, you’re a reader… but you’re not really reading until you understand what is being said.

We are bound to look for meaning in all we read and observe. Why do you think we see ponies, castles, and witches faces in the clouds as we lie on the soft summer grass? That brings me to the other type of reading. We learn to read the world. Hence, the interpretation of the cosmos. The object of my writing this for you is to awaken in us both a wonder and excitement to understand the world. Yet if we step back a little more, we have to ask why – why are we drawn to read the world? The answer is that we were made to do so. The Creator of the world has hard-wired us to wonder and search and seek for answers to where we came from and why we are here.

aaand begin here too...

The point of that wiring is to bring us to Him. Anyone in their right mind will conclude that there is God and that He is good. This is where we need to read the Word. We cannot read the world without reading the Word of God, yet we cannot read the Word without understanding the world and its literature – most importantly the Bible.

I admit I am riding the literary coattails of someone I consider to be a genius author and thinker, Pastor Douglas Wilson, who would readily admit he is riding the coattails of the many who thunk our thoughts before we were born.

Here is the post from which I am borrowing heavily for this post of mine. You will be entirely edified by reading it – Pastor Douglas Wilson, Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho is giving a book review about Mark Driscoll’s new marriage book “Real Marriage,” but the content is so rich and applicable for the life of our minds… you just gotta read it. And then maybe you’ll read the world with a bit more literacy.

I’ll leave it at this for now: Let’s be excited to know we can find eternally significant reality in Reading the Cosmos to Read the Bible to Read the Cosmos to Know Truth to Know God and Self.

I’m really thankful to know how to read. Are you?

Thanks for reading,

-Justin (looking into the clouds)

Reading God's world and Word = fullness of knowledge

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Meaning Woven into Nature, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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