What the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scripture IS NOT, a unqualified interpretive license over scripture

30 Oct

From Matthew Block (a rather Lutheran perspective):

A new survey on American Evangelical beliefs reports grim news, according to an article published yesterday by Christianity Today. The first line says it all: “Most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.”

The story goes on to highlight widespread confusion among Evangelicals on core doctrines like the Personhood of the Holy Spirit and the divinity of Christ. A full 51 percent of Evangelicals apparently deny that the Holy Spirit is a Person, instead conceiving of Him as “a force.” An additional 7 percent aren’t sure what to think on the subject. At the same time, 16 percent of Evangelicals think Jesus is a created being (another 11 percent were unsure), while 22 percent further believe He is less divine than the Father (with 9 percent unsure). The survey also suggests a large portion of Evangelicals hold Pelagian thoughts when it comes to the doctrine of salvation.

These are not small problems: there’s a reason these views were condemned by the early Church. So how are theologies condemned well over 1500 years ago finding a resurgence in contemporary Evangelicalism? The Christianity Today article suggests a failure in adult Christian education as one cause. Let me suggest another: these heresies are finding a resurgence because too many Protestants misunderstand the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. Too many Christians mistake “Scripture alone” as if it were a license for them to read the Bible alone—to read it apart from other people. You know the idea: “All I need is me and my Bible.” But that’s not what it means. It means that Scripture is alone authoritative, not that your personal (“alone”) interpretation of Scripture is authoritative.

While Scripture itself is clear on matters of salvation, it nevertheless can be (and often is) misinterpreted by sinful people. Jesus Himself faced this danger when the devil suggested to him misinterpretations of the Word of God (Matthew 4:5-6). We fool ourselves if we think we are somehow exempt from this danger. Christ, of course, did not fall for the devil’s suggested misreading. Unsurprisingly, the Word of God made Flesh knows the written Word of God better than does Satan. But we on the other hand can and do fall into such error—be it error suggested by our own sinful minds, the errant teachings of others, or, indeed, by the devil himself.

Personal piety and a desire for truth are not guarantees that we always read Scripture aright. Consequently, we must rely upon our brothers and sisters in the faith to correct and rebuke us when we err, demonstrating our errors by Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). And this reliance on brothers and sisters refers not merely to those Christians who happen to be alive at the same time as us. Instead, it refers to the whole Christian Church, throughout time. We rely on those who have gone before us. They too get a say in the matter. As G. K. Chesterton has wonderfully put it, this sort of tradition is a “democracy of the dead.”

Of course, doctrine is not itself a matter of democracy per se; we don’t (or at least ought not) vote for dogma in the Church. Dogma is a matter of truth, not popular opinion. But Chesterton’s words remind us that it is arrogant to ignore the teachings of our forefathers in the faith. They faced many of the same theological questions we do today, and their answers have stood the test of time.

Regrettably, too many churches—and this criticism applies not just to Evangelicals—operate as if the history of the Church were unimportant. Our individualistic society no doubts feeds into this “just the Bible and me” mentality. But Scripture was not given for the benefit of you or me alone. Instead, it was given for the benefit of the Church, throughout history and throughout the world. Consequently, we ought to read Scripture together as a Church. The Church as a body has centuries of experience of reading the Word, of immersing itself in the language of God. We should take it seriously, therefore, when it suggests our own individual readings of Scripture are straying from the mark.

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Is feminism partly responsible for catcalling? That is, what are the costs if feminism wins out over chivalry?

30 Oct

From Sabrina Schaeffer (excerpt):

If You Want Sameness, Don’t Expect Chivalry

Well, our brave new world of gender equality—in which we scoff at gender differences and men and women are encouraged to act the same—often proves harmful to women and girls. While the modern feminist movement won women tremendous freedoms educationally, professionally, personally, and sexually, it often leaves women feeling anything but empowered.

The reality is these freedoms have too often come at the expense of all values and traditions. We’ve in effect thrown the helpful social mores out with the old-fashioned bathwater. But it’s the modern feminist movement, which ushered away any hint of traditional chivalry and gendered expectations, that’s in part to blame. Certainly few want to return to an age when gender roles were excessively rigid, but feminists have gone to extremes and encouraged a culture that undermines healthy gender relationships. Men who hold doors are now viewed as part of the patriarchal society. And girls are expected to just “be one of the guys.”

But gender roles helped men and women and in times past allowed the sexes to better navigate the sometimes-rough waters of romance, courtship, marriage, and sex. Feminists view the chivalry and social mores of previous generations as anachronistic. But the reality is these traditional customs of giving up a seat for a woman on a train, or accompanying a woman in public, weren’t all rooted in sexism. They were social structures to help make men more respectful of women and to curb this kind of inappropriate behavior.

It might not have been perfect, but it had a purpose. Today’s dismissal of gender differences instead creates confusion, disappointment, and often more opportunity for harassment.

The conversation about street harassment has revealed once again that feminism has come with a cost, and women are usually the ones who bear the real price. Society has never been perfect, and I’m not advocating for a return to a time when women’s choices were more limited, but in years past men and women both had a better framework to determine what was acceptable behavior and what was not.

Certainly a woman should never be made to feel uncomfortable while just walking to work or picking something up at the store. We all want to encourage a healthier and safer society for both men and women. But instead of focusing on the faux sexism lurking on every street corner, we’d be better to consider the limitations of modern feminism and ask ourselves how we can better navigate this new world of gender relations.

Sabrina L. Schaeffer is the executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum.  Full article here

Is your epistemology a sufficient basins for genuine reliable knowledge of anything?

30 Oct

Jason Lisle defends the exclusive adequacy of Christian epistemology as the basis for genuine knowledge (presuppositionalists will like this post):

Epistemology is the study of knowledge – how we know what we know.  When a person has a belief, it is reasonable to ask the person “how do you know this?”  The way in which a person responds to this kind of question will reveal his or her epistemology.  All people have an epistemology because they have some beliefs, and they have reasons for their beliefs.  But not all reasons are good reasons.  And if the reason isn’t very good, then there is a good chance that the belief is wrong.  So epistemology is very important if we want our beliefs to correspond to reality.

Most people have not consciously reflected on their own epistemology.  They haven’t stopped to ask themselves, “How do I ultimately know anything?  What are the standards by which truth is determined?  And are these standards reasonable?”  It is obvious that all people do have an epistemology because it would be impossible to know anything without some kind of system of knowledge – and people do know things.  But most people are not aware of their own epistemology.  They are not epistemologically self-conscious.

Some might say, “Who cares?  I’m not a philosopher.  So why should I be concerned with epistemology?  It is enough that I do know things.”  But in fact, our epistemology is crucially important because if it is wrong, then many of our beliefs derived from that faulty system will also likely be wrong.  If our epistemology is wrong, then we could be wrong about everything we think we know.

The reason for a belief must itself be believed for a good reason – and so on.  Suppose Jenny says, “I understand they are building a new apartment complex down the street.”  We might ask, “How do you know this?”  Jenny responds, “Bill told me.  He said he talked with the construction crew.”  Is this a reasonable answer?  It depends.  The reason for Jenny’s belief is Bill’s statement.  But is Bill’s statement reliable?  If it is, then Jenny’s belief is reasonable.  If not, then Jenny’s belief is irrational.  So we must know something about Bill in order to know if Jenny is being rational.

For example, it could be the case that Bill is a notorious liar.  If Jenny knows this, then it would be irrational for her to believe his statement without additional reasons.  But let’s suppose that Bill has shown himself to be trustworthy.  Even in this case, Bill could still be mistaken.  Maybe he has a mental disorder that causes him to hallucinate from time to time.  Bill may honestly believe that he talked with a construction crew, when in fact it never happened.  So Jenny’s belief is contingent upon both Bill’s honesty, and the reliability of Bill’s mind and sensory organs.

Jenny’s belief also depends upon the reliability of her own mind and senses.  Perhaps Jenny hallucinates on occasion and only thought that she talked with Bill.  Perhaps Bill does not actually exist, being only a projection of Jenny’s delusion.  How can Jenny know that her own mind and senses are reliable, such that she can know that she really talked with Bill?  Most people just assume that their senses are reliable without thinking about whether or not this belief is reasonable; they are not epistemologically self-conscious.  But these questions must be answered if we are to be confident that we have knowledge of anything at all.  If we are to be considered rational, then we must not continue to act on unsupported assumptions.

Christian epistemology makes knowledge possible.

The Christian worldview alone makes it possible for us to answer these questions and have genuine knowledge.  This is because knowledge stems from the nature of God (Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:3).  God has revealed some of His knowledge to us.  Some of this knowledge is hardwired directly into us, and other knowledge is revealed by God through tools that He has given us – like logic and reliable sensory organs.  The Christian worldview gives us rational justification for all the things that we rely upon in order to have knowledge.

For example, consider the rationality of the mind.  If we had no reason to believe that our mind is rational, then we would have no reason to trust any of our own thoughts.  In that case, we couldn’t know anything!  In the Christian worldview, we can have some degree of confidence in our mind’s ability to be rational since human beings are made in the image of God.  God’s mind is perfect by His nature.  And God has given us the ability to pattern our thoughts after His.  In fact, for our benefit, God has commanded us to pattern our thoughts after His, so that our thoughts will be truthful (Isaiah 55:7-8, John 14:6)

As another example, we can trust that our senses are basically reliable because God has created them (Proverbs 20:12).  What our eyes see and what our ears hear do correspond to reality.  Of course, on occasion our senses fail us because we are finite and also because of the curse.  An optical illusion is an example of this, and so is a mirage.  But God has given us several different senses and the rationality to compare data from different senses so that we can discern these rare instances.  So we can be confident that our senses are basically reliable.

As a third example, consider the laws of logic.  We use these laws instinctively to rightly judge certain kinds of truth claims.  We know that the statement, “My car is in the garage and it is not in the garage (at the same time and in the same way)” is false because it violates a law of logic.  But how do we know that laws of logic are reliable?  Even if they work sometimes, can we have any confidence that they work all the time, or in future situations that we have never experienced?  In the Christian worldview laws of logic are a reflection of the way God thinks.  Hence they will necessarily be right because God’s mind defines truth.  Laws of logic will be true everywhere in the universe and at all times because God is omnipresent and does not change.  We can know laws of logic because we are made in God’s image, and can think in a way that is consistent with His nature.

As a fourth example, we can have knowledge of morality – “right” and “wrong.”  God has revealed to us how we should behave according to His will.  And God will hold us accountable for our actions.  Hence, all people have an objective reason to behave according to the standards laid down in God’s Word.  We are morally obligated to our Creator.

[What about alternative, secular epistemologies?]

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We know of its alleged benefits, but we never hear of the costs of sex education… undermining marriage

29 Oct

Excerpt from Cassandra Hough:

Although classified as education in sexual “health,” the comprehensive sex education offered at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels reflects a very limited understanding of human health. There is no discussion of the emotional and psychological effects of sex before marriage and of sexual promiscuity and experimentation. These programs also aim at teaching something else besides avoiding health risks. The author of You’re Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child, Miriam Grossman, M.D., argues that comprehensive sex education courses do not actually aim at preventing disease and risk so much as they are a social movement for moving society in a certain direction.

That direction is not the proliferation of healthy, high-quality marriages.

Sex Education Does Not Prepare Students for Love and Marriage

The comprehensive sex education of today’s primary, secondary, and collegiate institutions may purport to aim at sexual risk reduction, but it effectively instructs young men and women in sexual risk-taking. It sets up abstinence as an unrealistic ideal and neglects adequate discussion of the importance of sexual restraint and the attitudes, behaviors, and environments that best enable young people to practice that restraint. It encourages condom use as a means of reducing risk while simultaneously normalizing behaviors that make the incidence of sex more frequent and that create environments of increased vulnerability. In reducing sexual safety and responsibility to the use of a condom and the acquisition of consent, comprehensive sex education sends the inaccurate and dangerous message that these two precautions allow one to have lots of sex without consequences.

As if this weren’t bad enough, comprehensive sex education programs like HiTOPS and Teen PEP regularly disconnect sex from the context of a committed, loving, exclusive relationship (i.e. marriage). This saturates the young imagination and whets the appetite not for a relationship but for sex itself, disconnected from any person or commitment of love. It is no wonder that the hookup/friends-with-benefits/anything-goes sexual culture has become normalized among today’s emerging adults. Contemporary sex education prepares young men and women not for the fullness of friendship, intimacy and love, but for casual relationships and recreational sex.

This is not simply inadequate education in sex and relationships. This form of sex education is definitively anti-marriage (and this, without even considering how such programs define marriage itself). As Rhoades and Stanley found, the quality of marriage is adversely associated with having sex with someone other than one’s spouse, with having multiple sex partners, and with having a marriage begin as a hookup. Other studies have shown these or similar premarital behaviors to be associated with other adverse marital outcomes such as higher incidence of divorce and infidelity and lower quality of health and happiness. Although marriage may be far in the future for a twelve-year-old or even a twenty-year-old, comprehensive sex education programs at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels do young men and women a disservice by training them year after year in attitudes and behaviors that undercut their chances of future marital success.

It is encouraging that the pre-marriage courses typically offered engaged couples seem to have a positive effect on early marriage. However, if these courses follow the trend of comprehensive and abstinence programs alike, their effects will fade over time. What then? Probably, these young couples will fall back on the understanding of intimacy and relationships that was taught to them for over a decade.

For my own part, learning to live out a commitment to abstinence brought with it an education in something much greater: chastity. It was this education that best prepared me for married life; for it established an understanding of and appreciation for the unique relationship that is marriage—and it cultivated habits that directly support marital fidelity and selfless love.

Comprehensive sex education provides none of this, instead offering a most disappointing and weak foundation for any committed relationship, least of all marriage. Our educational institutions would do well to consider how comprehensive sex education jeopardizes young men’s and women’s futures and launches them into greater, not less, risk.

Cassandra Hough is Founder and Senior Adviser to the Love and Fidelity Network.

Full article here

Personal Freedom and Sphere Sovereignty; responding to the “choice-enhancement state”

28 Oct

From Dr. David Koyzis:

More than half a century ago, Roman Catholic philosopher Yves René Simon observed that authority has come to have a bad reputation in the modern world. Our western societies value personal freedom so highly that any intervention by an authority outside our own wills is deemed an imposition at best and outright oppression at worst. The French Revolution of 1789, perhaps more than any other event in recent history, has implanted in western consciousness the myth of the heroic popular revolt against oppressive authority. So thoroughly did the Revolution succeed in this that the default position for many of us today is to be suspicious of authority’s claims from the outset, whatever their content.

The cultural shifts of the 1960s further exacerbated this prejudice against authority when the larger liberal tradition took the form of what I have elsewhere called the “choice-enhancement state.” By the turn of the last century, the state had expanded to check the private economic power of trusts and monopolies and to preserve market competition. By the 1930s, the state had expanded further to secure equality of opportunity for everyone, which necessitated the development of the welfare state. During the 1960s, however, professed progressives concluded that the principal threat to individual freedom was not the state, big business, or economic privation, but traditional customs and social mores that claimed authority over people’s lives and actions. Only if we can manage to liberate individuals from the authority of the past, they reasoned, will they truly be free. This movement from authority to autonomy called for a new ethic based on John Stuart Mill’s harm principle: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

The problem was, and is, that there has never been a society for which this harm principle forms the primary, much less the sole, basis of freedom. In a mature differentiated society, there is a multiplicity of non-state communities, each of which has its own identity and its own standards for membership. These standards are intrinsically related to the mission and task of the communities and necessarily impose constraints on those subject to them. But because the homogenizing worldview of liberal individualism exalts individual autonomy over all standards outside the will, adherents regard with suspicion all communities based on non-individualist assumptions, especially those such as marriage, family, and even the gathered church which are not obviously reducible to private contract.

All of these factors together have tended to reinforce the notion that authority and freedom are at least in tension with each other, if not altogether opposed. If freedom expands, then we assume that authority must proportionately diminish. If we seek to advance freedom, we must concomitantly try to decrease the role of authority.

But what if it turns out that personal freedom, far from being opposed to authority, is simply another manifestation of authority? If this is true, and I believe it is, we must change the way we view our society. When a child is small, she is directly subject to her parents’ authority in the minutest areas of life. They keep a close eye on her, feed her, clothe her, house her, and generally take care of her. But as she grows to maturity, her parents increasingly pull back, allowing her to take on more and more responsibility for the direction of her own life. And that is as it should be. As Simon observes, parental authority properly aims at its own disappearance. Yet as parental authority continually recedes, the adolescent, who is now free to set her own life goals, is simply assuming more authority for the direction of her life.

More than a century ago, Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper coined the term “sphere sovereignty” to account for the diverse forms of community found in the mature society. Families, business enterprises, states, labor unions, and schools each have their own proper sphere of authority, as ordained by God. But so does the individual as individual. The freedom that individuals legitimately claim for themselves is another manifestation of authority which other authorities are bound to respect. Although it may seem counterintuitive in our post-1789 world, I strongly believe that respect for the human person and his status as image of God is dependent on a general respect for authority in all of its pluriform manifestations.

David Koyzis teaches politics at Redeemer University College in Canada and is the author of We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God. This post is cross-listed at Capital Commentary.

Original Link

Belgic Confession: Jesus Christ True and Eternal God

28 Oct

ARTICLE 10 – JESUS CHRIST TRUE AND ETERNAL GOD

We believe that Jesus Christ according to His divine nature is the only-begotten Son of God,1 begotten from eternity, not made, nor created – for then He would be a creature – but of the same essence with the Father, equally-eternal, who reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature (Heb 1:3), and is equal to Him in all things.2 He is the Son of God, not only from the time that He assumed our nature but from all eternity,3 as these testimonies, when compared with each other, teach us: Moses says that God created the world;4 the apostle John says that all things were made by the Word which he calls God.5 The letter to the Hebrews says that God made the world through His Son;6 likewise the apostle Paul says that God created all things through Jesus Christ.7 Therefore it must necessarily follow that He who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time when all things were created by Him. Therefore He could say, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58), and He prayed, Glorify Thou Me in Thy own presence with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was made (John 17:5). And so He is true, eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.

1. Mat 17:5; John 1:14, John 1:18; John 3:16; John 14:1-14; John 20:17, John 20:31; Rom 1:4; Gal 4:4; Heb 1:2; 2. John 5:18, John 5:23; John 10:30; John 14:9; John 20:28; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Titus 2:13; 3. John 8:58; John 17:5; Heb 13:8. 4. Gen 1:1. 5. John 1:1-3. 6. Heb 1:2. 7. 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16.

- See more at: http://www.scripturezealot.com/belgic-confession/#sthash.GGDe6ugh.dpuf

What makes a wife happy in her marriage?

22 Oct

From Sociologist of Marriage, Brad Wilcox:

The happiness or otherwise of women is one of the great sociological themes of the last five decades and it is not clear how the balance sheet currently stands. But, for anyone interested in the happiness of married women, a study of American wives by University of Virginia sociologists W Bradford Wilcox and the late Steven L Nock is highly instructive.

Their research, first published in the journal Social Forces under the heading, “What’s Love Got To Do With It? Equality, equity, commitment and women’s marital quality”, is here summarised by Professor Wilcox as a resource for women and men interested in learning more about successful marriages.

The top predictors of women’s marital happiness, in order of importance:

A husband’s emotional engagement

Women who are married to men who make an effort to listen to them, who express affection and appreciation on a regular basis, and who share quality time with them on a regular basis (date nights, frequent conversations focusing on mutual interests and one another) are much happier in their marriages than women who do not have emotionally-engaged husbands.

Fairness

Women who think that housework (and other family responsibilities) are divided fairly are significantly happier than women who think that their husband does not do his fair share. Note, however, that most wives do not equate fairness with a 50-50 model of equality. Only 30% of wives in this study think their marriage is unfair, even though the vast majority of wives do the bulk of childcare and housework. Why is this? In the average marriage, husbands devote significantly more hours to paid labor than do wives—especially when children come along. So, in the average marriage, husbands and wives devote about the same amount of total hours to the paid and unpaid work associated with caring for a family.

A breadwinning husband.

American wives, even wives who hold more feminist views about working women and the division of household tasks, are typically happier when their husband earns 68% or more of the household income. Husbands who are successful breadwinners probably give their wives the opportunity to make choices about work and family—e.g., working part-time, staying home, or pursuing a meaningful but not particularly remunerative job—that allow them to best respond to their own needs, and the needs of their children.

A commitment to marriage

Wives who share a strong commitment to the norm of lifelong marriage with their husband—e.g., who both believe that even unhappily married couples should stay together for the sake of their children—are more likely to have a happy marriage than couples who do not share this commitment to marriage. Shared commitment seems to generate a sense of trust, emotional security, and a willingness to sacrifice for one’s spouse—all of which lead to happier marriages for women. This shared commitment also provides women with a long-term view of their marriage that helps them negotiate the inevitable difficulties that confront any marriage.

Staying at home

Wives who stay at home tend to be happier in their marriages than wives who work outside the home. This is particularly true for women who have children in the home. Women often find it difficult to juggle kids, a career, and a marriage all at the same time. In fact, the study finds that working women are less likely to spend quality time with their husbands. They are also more likely to report that the division of housework is unfair. So time pressures and role overload help to explain why working wives are typically less happy in their marriages.

Shared religious attendance

Wives who attend church or some other worship service with their husbands tend to be happier than wives who do not share religious attendance with their husbands. Religious attendance may give wives a sense that God is present in their marriage, a sense that their husband seeks to please them by attending church with them, and/or access to other married couples who value marriage and can provide them with guidance and moral support for their marriages.

Traditional gender attitudes

Wives who hold more traditional gender attitudes—e.g., who believe that wives should focus more on nurturing/homemaking and husbands should focus more on breadwinning—are happier than wives who hold more feminist attitudes. One reason this may be the case is that traditional-minded wives probably have lower expectations of what their husbands can and should do for them emotionally and practically. We also find that more traditional-minded wives spend more quality time with their husbands, perhaps because they are less likely to argue with their husbands about housework and childcare.

Four Key Questions:

Does this study apply to more feminist-minded women?

Yes. In a companion study I looked at marital happiness among women who had more progressive gender attitudes about the division of work and family, and who expressed support for working wives. Even women in this sample tended to be happier if they did not work outside the home, had a husband who took the lead in breadwinning, and/or shared a strong commitment to the norm of lifelong marriage.

Does this study apply to less-educated women?

For the most part, yes. Married women who have a high school degree or less are happier when their husbands are emotionally engaged, when they think housework is divided fairly, when their husbands take the lead in breadwinning, and when they share church attendance with their husbands. However, less-educated wives’ employment does not affect their marital happiness nor does a shared sense of marital commitment.

Does this study apply to every married woman?

The study’s findings are averages and they do not apply to every married woman. There are, of course, feminist-minded women in egalitarian marriages who are very happy, just as there are traditional-minded women in traditional marriages who are very unhappy. For instance, 41% of working wives in our study report they are “very happy” in their marriages. So just because a woman does not have one or two or even three of these predictors does not mean she is necessarily unhappy in her marriage. But if she is missing all of these predictors, she is much more likely to be very unhappy in her marriage.

Are wives likely to be happier if they have more of these predictors?

Wives who have more of the above predictors tend to be the happiest wives. So, for instance, 61% of married women whose husband’s earn the lion’s share of their income and go to church with their husbands and share a commitment to lifelong marriage are very happy in their marriages, versus 45% of women who do not have all of these predictors.

W. Bradford Wilcox is Director of the National Marriage Project  at the University of Virginia, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, and a member of the James Madison Society at Princeton University. 

- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/who_shall_find_a_happy_wife#sthash.HGL0hKaH.dpuf

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