You Can’t Kill an Arrow-Hating Dragon by First Asking Him if He Believes in Arrows

In Peter Jackson’s apocryphal The Hobbit trilogy of films, which were almost based off of Tolkien’s single, short children’s book by the same name, we see Bilbo Baggins negotiating for his life with the wily, dangerous dragon Smaug.

Bilbo is able to escape the Lonely Mountain with the object he was sent to steal from Smaug, but the result was a very angry, rampaging dragon who flew directly to Lake Town to wreak his fiery havoc. Continue reading

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What is a Sacrament?

From Core Christianity, a Reformed ministry branching from The White Horse Inn:

The sacraments are means of grace.

The sacraments are means of grace, not personal pledges of obedience. Theologian Louis Berkhof explains that the means of grace are ordinary means “by which the Holy Spirit works and confirms faith in the hearts of men” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 605). It is easy to think of the sacraments as things we do as a pledge of obedience to God or a sign that we’re giving our life to him. But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of a sacrament. Sacraments are not things we do for God but are ordinary ways the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of salvation. In addition, it is only by faith that a person receives these benefits.

While not the means of salvation itself, the sacraments serve to really and truly nourish and sustain a Christian’s faith. It is important to note that the sacraments are signs and seals of what Jesus did, not what Jesus does to save. By themselves, being baptized and eating some bread and wine do nothing. It is when the Holy Spirit works through them and the participant has faith that the person is renewed and refreshed and has communion with Christ himself.

Notice the nuance employed here: the sacraments are “not what Jesus does to save,” but yet “the Holy Spirit works through them” to affect the faith of the recipient. I would use even stronger language than the author here did, but nevertheless, this is the Reformed, catholic religion which Jesus founded. Amen.

Read more here.

My Spiritual Autobiography, part 1

This will be the first of a series where I explain the journey of religion that I have followed thus far, and where I am ending up. To many, this may be a waste of time, but to those who appreciate an intimate look through the window into another’s soul, I aim to please. No promises on how long between posts. I pray this benefits many.

I Write Because I’m Working out the Kinks

It seems fairly egotistical to set out to write of one’s own spiritual journey, expecting others to read it. In this case, I had thought to write for the benefit of my wife, daughter, parents, and other family and near friends who would be impacted by where I am headed, but in the interest of the Church catholic, that ancient and enduring body to which I forever belong, I thought to offer this to anyone who would read.

I am slowly moving toward embracing the Reformed faith in totality. Having been a credobaptist my whole Christian life, I know how this seems to us when someone else “goes paedobaptist.” I’ve watched other men move from credo to paedo and often wondered “how could they do that? Haven’t they read the Bible?” And yet, here I stand on the threshold. Follow along, don’t tune me out, dear friends. Your readership will be a blessing to both of us.

Seeking the Church

This is a story of seeking for the rock which does not move in the storms. I am not referring to Jesus, exactly, for He has already found and sealed me in His name. I speak of the Church catholic,[1] that ancient, enduring, and elusive body, for which our need is great. We need the Church, and in one sense, I am searching for Jesus, for He is found wherever one finds His Church. In another sense, I am seeking to follow Him, to lose my ego-centered American individuality in Him, and to somehow land among His people while walking with Him. Continue reading

Confident Evangelism: Meekness

Recently I began teaching a class at my local church, which I titled “Confident Evangelism without a PhD in Apologetics.” This is Week 5: Confidence in our Faith Leads to Meek Apologetics. I think you’ll really resonate with this one, my friends. In this lesson we hit on some key points regarding God’s sovereignty. Continue reading

I Think 1 Corinthians is the Hardest Book in the Bible

Over the past half decade, my study focus in the Bible has been in the field of biblical theology, as opposed to systematic theology. In the latter, we ask a specific question about doctrine, like “What is the trinity?” or “What is baptism?” and then search all 66 books of the Bible for relevant passages. The goal of systematic theology is to say “this is what the Bible says about X.”

Biblical theology, on the other hand, asks “How do all the different, little parts of the Bible fit together into a whole?” This question (like with systematic) presupposes the divine, inerrant nature of Scripture, and as such you won’t be taught biblical theology outside of a Bible-believing church or seminary. When we do biblical theology, we are seeking to trace the common theme and unifying principal of Scripture from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.

Well, I love biblical theology, but as I run my fingers along the whole vessel of unified Scripture, I always get splinters in 1 Corinthians. Other books and chapters of Scripture are very difficult to reconcile with the whole, but in my opinion, 1 Corinthians is in a class of its own. It seems Paul comes out with insights unique to this letter – and hard to reconcile with the whole of Scripture. This is a fearful thing for an inerrantist. (We can be honest with each other, right?)

I recently took a poll on Twitter to see if anyone else agreed with me – and although some did, the majority fell into my Revelation trap:

Of course many Christians see Revelation as the tough one – a book of riddles and puzzles. I pitted these two against one another because my theory was that most Christians do not know their Old Testament very well – and that translates into confusion about Revelation. If we know our Old Testament, and if we read Revelation keeping in mind the second-century church would have gotten direct application and comfort from Revelation, then it unravels into semi-easy, understandable interpretation.

Yet 1 Cor is a belly flop of a letter. Paul is not addressing any one issue (like in Galatians or Colossians), and he isn’t writing a splendid overview of biblical theology and gospel (like Romans and Ephesians), and he isn’t giving apostolic guidance to a stable brother in Christ (like 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon), but rather he’s attempting to corral a group of borderline wackos who had asked him a basket of difficult questions.

1 Cor begins well enough – in fact, I understand and enjoy everything pretty well up to chapter 7. From there on, Paul loses me, no matter how many commentaries I consult for guidance. Check out some of these gems of biblical enigma:

Because of the angels, Paul? Really? That’s all you’ve got for me? And what do you mean about the believing spouse “sanctifying” the unbelieving spouse? And please, Paul, tell us why you had to say all that stuff about speaking in tongues – I wish you could have seen all the fallout we’re suffering because of it. Couldn’t you have clarified that all that stuff expired with the closing of the canon?

And why, brother Paul, oh why did you have to say “I, not the Lord, say…”? That one is an apologetics nightmare, my dear father and apostle.

But are these questions just mine? How about you all – does anyone out there find 1 Cor equally confusing? In case you’re still feeling strong, looking down on this poor Adam as a confused, well-meaning saint, I deliver my final blow in 1 Cor 15:29

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?”

If you know what on earth he was talking about, I’m all yours, teacher. What’s my point in all this? I’ll be straight with you: I’m a teacher of God’s Word, I play a strong supporting role in my local church, and I teach multiple Bible studies in home meetings. When I write a post like this, it’s because I want to be vulnerable and open with my family in Christ. I want to have the credibility of admitting that this is not an easy book (the Bible as a whole), and there are some questions I cannot answer. I struggle in my faith just like anyone else, and even have days of heavy doubts at times.

I’m confessing publicly that I’m made of flesh and blood, and no matter how much confidence I have in teaching the Bible, it is still my master, and God is still its final interpreter.st-augustine No man or church can be the master of this divine library, we are forever its pupils and in submission to its wisdom.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m writing this blog post to celebrate a book like 1 Corinthians. Maybe it gives me a bit of comfort to know that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25 ESV). You see that? He put it right in the hardest book in the Bible – “Not everything here will appeal to your human wisdom and understanding. Not everything in My book will be fully comprehensible. That’s OK – you know the center and foundation of Scripture (Jesus and His gospel) – you can let some of it be over your head.” (No, God did not say that to me. I’m imagining that would be something like what He would say to me about 1 Cor.).

I will always try to understand 1 Cor better, but I will be content in my personal faith and in my apologetic endeavors if these things remain an enigma to me.

What about you?

Thanks for reading,

Adam

 

The Sacramental Grace of Baptism

Update 6/1/18: I’ve changed in my views on the sacraments since writing this post. I believe in paedobaptism, but will leave this post up as a way mark in the journey I took from credo to paedobaptism.

In my work of discipling fellow Baptists and evangelicals, I have the joy of often introducing them to the concept of sacramental grace. I am currently writing up a little lesson on baptism for some friends, and so I thought I would share it here. For further reading, see here and here.

baptism pool

Here are my notes:

Adam’s perspective on baptism:
  • The NT speaks of baptism as an event by which God gives a kind of grace where we are bound to Him.
  • – Acts 2:37-38 baptized for the remission of sins
  • – Matthew 28:18-20 baptism as entrance into the life of discipleship
  • – Romans 6:1-4 baptism as incorporation into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ
  • – Colossians 2:11-14 baptism as circumcision (which was both a symbol and a reality of what it symbolized EVEN IF ADMINISTERED AFTER THE REALITY BEGAN – see Romans 4) & (notice how baptism and the gospel blend right into each other)
  • – Ephesians 4:5 one baptism
  • – Ephesians 5:26-27 washing of water with the word (cf. Titus 3:5)
  • – 1 Peter 3:21 baptism now saves you

Continue reading