The Need for the Study of Theology

Why theology?

I would venture a guess that you are not here by accident. Chances are that you were told about this blog (probably by me or Justin) and you decided to check it out as a show of support. If this is the case, we sincerely thank you. Even if you happened across this page in your daily internet browsing, I still believe that is no accident. My hope and prayer is that the LORD has led you here and will use this as a means to encourage and educate you. Now that you are here, I want to take the time to let you know what to expect. To accomplish this, I will answer a few questions that you may have.

1. What is theology?

A fair question indeed as sometimes this word can be tossed around without much thought as to what it is actually referring. Some think theology is studying the bible. This is certainly part of it as good theology will first take its cues from the primary source, which is the Word of God. While the majority of the theologian’s work is done here, this does not fully capture what theology is. Some think theology is a study of religion. Once again, this is an element, but it does not capture the entire definition. Still others would say theology is something that seminary students pursue through rigorous research and writing. A completely true, but again lacking definition.    

In my opinion, one of the best definitions and explanations of theology is given by Dr. Millard J. Erickson in his volume on Christian theology. He writes, “A good preliminary or basic definition of theology is the study or science of God.”[1]I love this definition because it clearly and accurately portrays what is involved in theological study. It is centered on God and it is done to know more about God. Just as one might study more about biology or mathematics, theology is a discipline that requires time and effort. No one is born with this inherent knowledge. Most Christians usually first learn about God from someone else. At the point of conversion, it is then up to the believer to continue to grow in their knowledge of God. Theological study is going beyond only studying the bible, only listening to sermons, or only attending small groups. When done correctly, it is an intentional pursuit for more knowledge about God and His work.

2. How do we study theology “correctly”?

The caveat I placed in that last sentence was very intentional. The study of theology is a beautiful and wonderful undertaking; however, it must be done correctly. I would like to take some time to again point to Dr. Erickson’s work as he provides five key aspects of theological study.[2]

  1. Theology is biblical – I referenced this earlier, but theology must begin with the primary source. For Christians, that source is the bible. We believe the bible is authoritative and inerrant (without error or fault in its teaching) and has been revealed to humanity so they can know who God is and what God does.
  2. Theology is systematic – Theology is not reliant on one portion of the bible or one doctrine. Theology looks at the entire revelation of Scripture and sees how it is all connected and harmonious in its message. 
  3. Theology relates to culture and general learning – We can use theology to explain issues around science, humanity, and philosophy. God is present and sovereign in all things, so understanding God more leads to a fuller understanding in other areas as well.
  4. Theology is contemporary – Theology, when done correctly, always relates to modern times and issues. The language of theology at times will reflect contemporary concepts. The danger here lies in over contextualizing the biblical text to fit a specific issue or arugment. A good theologian will let the Word of God speak into these issues and not allow the issues to distort the message.
  5. Theology should be practical – What good is it if we study and study and study but do nothing with that knowledge. One of the primary purposes of this blog will be to call Christians into theological study so that they can apply it. This application will be in how they study the bible, how they pray, how they worship, how they serve, how they teach, and how they are connected to their church. We will engage the head while also calling on the hands and feet.

3. Why should we study theology?

While this may seem out of order as far as questions go, I think it is important that we understand what we are dealing with before we can answer the question of “why”. When you engage in theological study, it is not a dry academic pursuit. It is encountering our LORD in an intimate way. We are telling God that we wish to know him better and we will take the time and effort to do so. This should have far-reaching implications for our personal and public ministries. Engaging in a study of theology, when done correctly, will see you grow in your own faith and use that knowledge to serve the Kingdom of God.

Let’s take a brief look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20[3]to illustrate this. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Here we have Christ providing final instructions to the disciples. He is laying the blueprint for what the Christian life should entail. It involves the command to go (missions), make disciples (evangelize), and then teach (discipleship). The church today does a good job at the first two, but there appears to be a gap when it comes to true discipleship and teaching. This is where studying theology comes into the picture. It impacts how we can effectively and correctly teach about God from the bible. Dr. Wayne Grudem writes, “To effectively teach ourselves and to teach others what the whole Bible says, it is necessary to collect and summarize all the Scripture passages on a particular subject.”[4]That is the practice of theology! It is studying the Word, gathering sources, and being able to better explain something as it relates to God and His character. We need theology to help us articulate what we believe and in turn, teach others about God. 

Grudem also identifies three benefits that studying theology has to our lives. The first is that it “helps us overcome wrong ideas.”[5]The world of Christianity is often infiltrated with incorrect and harmful doctrine. Some of these are on secondary issues, but sometimes essential foundations of our faith are put to question because of poor theology. We must take our study of God seriously so that we are aligning our faith with what is true and good. Studying theology is how we can ensure our faith is robust and able to persevere through false doctrine. 

Grudem then writes that a proper study of theology “helps us to make better decisions later on new questions of doctrine that may arise.”[6]As important as it is to know correct doctrine against false doctrine, it is also beneficial for us to have a foundation of solid theology for what lies ahead. Challenges to our faith or new spins on Christian belief are not a thing of the past. Some may argue that Christianity is more scrutinized today because of cultural concerns. As new ideas surrounding our faith are placed before us, we need to study theology so that we can have the wisdom and background to critically look at them. 

Lastly, Grudem writes that studying theology “will help us grow as Christians.”[7]I have already mentioned this idea, but it bears repeating. When we study God, we will know Him better. And when we know our LORD better, we will grow as Christians. We should not shy away from studying theology because it seems too difficult. We should not think we do not need to study theology because we are not biblical scholars. We should want to know as much about God as we can and that is the primary concern of theology. 

4. Who is this blog for?

The seminary that I am currently a student at, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a fantastic slogan that I feel answers this question best. They hold that as an institution of biblical and theological education, they exist “For the Church.” That is exactly our hope for Mystery Revealed Theology. We want to encourage and challenge active lay members of Christian churches to become biblical and theological scholars. This type of scholarship is not reserved for those in seminary, it is something we should all take part in. While some of us cannot afford the time or investment involved in seeking out this kind of training in a formal environment, we hope that this blog can offer some tools and perspectives to bring basic theological training to you. From that point, we then hope you take this training and put it into practice in your own lives. That as you study and grow in your knowledge of the LORD, He would be faithful to show you how you can serve Him. We need Christians who have a solid grasp of basic biblical and theological concepts to be actively serving in their churches and their individual contexts. And we hope that we can help you discover these things through theological study.

As I was thinking about what we wanted this blog to accomplish, my mind went to the verse that is on our home page. Colossians 1:25-26 says, “I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.” The mystery revealed that Paul was talking about is Christ. Christ is the word of God fully expressed and fully understood. In his exegetical guide to the Gospel of John, Dr. Murray Harris says that Christ as the word of God is “both the inward and expressed Thought of God, the accurate expression of the Father.”[8]Because of Christ, everything else now made sense. Humanity could better know and understand God. What the Old Testament was testifying to, what the disciples witnessed, and what Jesus himself revealed was put into new light. The veil had been moved, the scales had fallen off the eyes, and the LORD had revealed Himself through Christ with us. 

Paul continues and explains the significance of this revelation in verses 27-29, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.” Because the mystery had been revealed to Paul and saints, it was then imperative for them to go and proclaim about Christ, teach about God, and give all their energy to it. For many, the Bible and theological study can seem like a mystery. We wish to help you discover how to approach that mystery. We wish to see it revealed to you. We wish to see you then go and reveal it to others. We are compelled to do so because it was Christ who did so first for us. 

We pray that this would be a blessing to you and that we could encourage you during your own journey of growing closer to God and serving the Kingdom.  

Written by Zach Stallings

[1]Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rded. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 8.

[2]Erickson, 8-9.

[3]Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this post are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989).

[4]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 27.

[5]Grudem, 28.

[6]Grudem, 28.

[7]Grudem, 29.

[8]Murray J. Harris, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: John, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 18.

Book Review: The Gospel and Abortion

“…every life – born and unborn – has intrinsic dignity…”

About the Author/Editor

The “Gospel for Life” series is a collection of books that has been commissioned and edited by Dr. Russell Moore and Andrew Walker in an attempt to educate churches how to engage with certain ethical and culturally relevant issues.  Dr. Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He has a PhD from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MDiv from New Orleans Theological Baptist Seminary.  He has been a professor and dean at the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Walker is an associate professor of Christian Ethics and Apologetics and associate dean of the School of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the former director of policy studies at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He has a MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a PhD from Southern Seminary.  His primary field of studies relates to Christian ethics and equipping churches is this discipline.  Based on the background of both editors, they are well equipped for this book and the entire series.  

Summary of Contents

This book is a collection of essays written by various authors on the subject of abortion and how it impacts the culture and how Christians ought to respond.  Additionally, the essays cover how the church and Christian leaders can become equipped to engage in the debate on abortion and understand the importance of strategy in becoming involved on a social, political, and personal level.  Dr. Walker best summarizes the book in the introduction when he writes, “This book is intended to be an introductory look at how Christians should engage this controversial topic from every angle of the Christian life – their place in culture, their engagement as everyday Christians, and their role in the body of Christ – the church.” (Moore, pg. 2)  It is clear from this introduction that this book is not just intended for information, but for practical application in one’s life.  These applications are brought forth through five essays covering the rest of the book, each written by a different author.  The essays are all framed around a question the authors then address through discussion around abortion and a Gospel-centered theology.  Each author brings in relevant history, data, or political concepts throughout the book. 

The first essay is written by Jim Hamilton, who answers the question, “What Are We Here For?”  This essay focuses primarily on the Biblical truth that all human life is sacred and offers a summary of how Christians arrive at this doctrine.  There is rich theology to be found in answering this essay that would support a pro-life ethic.  Hamilton explores various Biblical passages that affirm these theological concepts, specifically around the value of life and the beginning of life at conception. With this theology agreed on, there can be no argument that a fetus is anything less human, and as such, there can be no argument that an abortion is anything but the murder of children, as Hamilton will present.  This should be a convicting truth for Christians as “To keep a baby from being born is to rob God of the glory He deserves from that child.” (Moore, pg. 22)  Hamilton also answers questions to several pro-choice arguments that are posed by those in favor of abortion.  Each answer is supported by Biblical truth, primarily the truth that God loves His creation and His creation has intrinsic value.

 The second essay is written by Matt Chandler and looks to answer the question of “What Does the Gospel Say?”  Chandler begins his essay with an explanation of the Imago Dei and how that is special and exclusive to humans.  This is a theological concept that is explicitly in the text and as such, should be affirmed by all Christians. The Genesis narrative of creation clearly states,  “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV, Gen 1:26-27). Only humanity has this designation of being “image bearers” and that alone should be compelling enough to argue against abortion.  Following this, Chandler explains how the worldview of abortion since the Roe v. Wade case has led to a reality where “our consciences have been seared.” (Moore, pg. 37)  In light of the overwhelming Gospel and scientific evidence that should lead people away from abortion, it is still rampant in our culture.  Chandler concludes with a call to Christians and churches to engage in active ministry in adoption, support of pregnant women, and prayer for change.

The third essay is written by Karen Prior and answers the question “How Should the Christian Live?”  Prior explores the historical and social ideologies that have affected the abortion argument, particularly how women and children have been regarded. While intentional abortion permeates our history and society at different times, Prior notes how this is not the case in Scripture.  She writes that, “It’s as though such as thing is unimaginable in God’s Kingdom.” (Moore, pg. 52) The theological relevance of this is again tied to humanity holding inherent value by virtue of being created in the image of God. Because of this, God would never will or wish for the practice of abortion to take place. It was sin, which fractured the creative order that God had established, that led to the perversion of life in a way where abortion can prosper as it has. Prior also explains how at times, women who have had an abortion and now struggle with guilt afterwards, are often disregarded by those who are pro-choice.  She then calls for Christians to let their voice, resources, and vote speak for those affected by abortion. This call to action is related to the theology of being a good steward. Peter offers a succinct lesson on stewardship when he writes, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” (NRSV, 1 Pe 4:10–11) Here we see how all that we have been given charge of should be put forward for the glory of God. Prior’s call in her essay is for Christians to give of what God has provided them to a worthy cause of fighting against abortion. 

The fourth essay is written by Charmaine Yoest and answers the question “How Should the Church Engage?”  She spends the majority of the essay exploring the sorrow and loss associated with abortion, particularly to the women involved.  There are several excerpts of poems, song lyrics, and notes from other women that highlight the emotional toll that abortion has.  Yoest then challenges local churches to step up their efforts in ministry towards women when it comes to sexual ethics, pregnancy, and those who have experienced abortion. A ministry of hospitality, especially towards women, is found throughout the Bible. Christ offered mercy and protection to the woman who had committed adultery. He broke social, economic, and gender barriers by ministering to the Samaritan woman at the well. Paul calls the church to care for orphans and for the older women to disciple the younger women. And of course, we are to remember that the church is called the “bride of Christ”, which is a symbol for beauty, chastity, and honor. The Bible is rich with a theology that would call the church to love and care for women. This theology is directly connected to the topic of abortion because it most affects and impacts women. 

The final essay is written by C. Ben Mitchell and answers the question “What Does the Culture Say?”  Mitchell looks at the impact that abortion and contraceptive culture has made on society and family.  He argues that “Abortion on demand and voluntary childlessness through contraception are signs of a culture in the throes of death.” (Moore, pg. 104)  The theology of family is tied into his argument here. The Bible teaches what a family is supposed to look like, how it should function, and how it is related to the Gospel. There are roles carved out for Godly husband and fathers, mothers and wives, and children. The cultural acceptance and prevalence of abortion is evidence that a proper theology of family has become less and less accepted.  Apart from a Biblical ethic and understanding of how that should shape family, the culture has normalized a genocide of the unborn, and it only took a couple of generations to get to this point. Mitchell is pointing to this decline in cultural ethics as it directly relates to abortion. There is also a call to increased Christian hospitality towards those affected by abortion as a response to the current cultural climate.

Critical Evaluation

“The Gospel and Abortion” is a book that offers a comprehensive and Gospel centered view on abortion.  Each individual essay takes great strides to fully explore the facts behind abortion and the call on churches and Christian leaders to engage.  Upon completion of the book, one will find themselves informed and able to take part in the abortion discussion with powerful Scriptural and scientific evidence.  Dr. Moore and Dr. Walker did a thorough job of cultivating a group of individuals that could interact with the abortion crisis and also provide clear guidance in how Christians should respond.  The overall tone of the book shifts between that of compassion for those affected by abortion, to a tone of righteous anger at the indifference to the plight of the unborn and women.  One can clearly feel the emotional weight and impact this discussion carries with it.  Each word reflects a sense of passion behind it, which is appropriate for such a controversial topic.  The message is clear:  Christians should be fighting against the systematic murder of children.  They should be called into action and engaged on a social and political level.  There is a sense of urgency that is presented in each call for Christians and the church to act.  This type of boldness in calling out not only for Christians to do more, but the perceived lack of compassion in the church at times, can be abrasive to some; however, this accountability for churches and Christian leaders is necessary.  This book also does a great job of warning against the tendency to simply commit to not supporting or partake in abortion as “making a difference.”  Matt Chandler captures this sentiment great in his essay when he writes, “We must get involved.  Involvement isn’t all you think it is.  When all’s said and done, involvement must not shake its fist at the darkness, but be like light in darkness.” (Moore, pg. 41)  One can only conclude he is calling back to John’s Gospel in His description of Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (NRSV, John 1:1-5)

When confronting the issue of abortion, the church has to move beyond merely being outspoken. We must herald the light that pushes back the darkness, because the darkness will not overcome it. The light that we bring is Christ. Christ alone will stop the plight of abortion. Christ alone will redeem those affected back to Himself. There is no more critical theology than this: the saving, redeeming, and transforming Gospel of Christ.  

What is so unique about this book is that the reader is able to take in various approaches to the abortion issue, but all with the same viewpoint.  That viewpoint is “that God is the Creator, and that every life – born and unborn – has intrinsic dignity because of God’s imprint of His image upon them.”  (Moore, pg. 3)  Every essay in the book makes an argument for the sanctity of life.  Additionally, each essay argues that life is sacred because of God.  This is how the narrative of the book is connected by the Gospel.  The Gospel has overreaching implications for all of humanity, but it all starts at creation.  Man and woman were created in the image of God, to glorify God, and to have community with Him.  This means that his image is present at conception.  The content of the book hits on this point again and again.  Abortion is not just a social or political issue, it is a Gospel issue.  Because of this, the reader is challenged to rethink what they might have thought about abortion in the past.  It is no longer sufficient to simply decry it and hold a conviction that it is wrong.  The Gospel must be considered as well.  If one does this, the book argues that radical change will occur in how abortion is perceived.  This conclusion is both logical and Biblical.  The Gospel brings about change in one’s very soul, so it should bring about change in how the church and Christians engage the issue of abortion.  When the way Christians think about abortion changes, that is what causes action inside the church and out in the communities.              This book should be considered a great tool and resource for those in Christian leadership.  One of the most difficult things to do as a Christian leader is understanding how to approach controversial subjects.  Homosexuality, race, politics, and abortion are all very significant in culture today.  The church has to stay ahead of these issues and be well informed about them.  The worst thing a Christian leader could do is ignore an issue like abortion and find themselves with an equally uniformed or unequipped church at their feet.  A church such as this is not ready to fully engage in an issue like abortion and can often do more harm than good.  Just as this book navigates between being bold and compassionate, so too must the church walk this path.  The Gospel and Abortion” offers a great example of how to be loving and firm at the same time.  This book also does a great job of bringing together systematic theology and practical ministry.  What someone believes about the image of God, the creation of man, and grace of God will inform how one engages a subject like abortion.  An incorrect or misinformed theology can lead to a misunderstanding of how the church should engage with such a difficult topic.  “The Gospel and Abortion” is well written, well informed, Scripturally sound, and unashamedly bold in its call to action.  For those who have been impacted by abortion or those looking to understand how Christians should view abortion, this book would be a wise choice. 

Written by Zach Stallings

Moore, Russell D., and Andrew T. Walker, eds. The Gospel for Life Series: The Gospel and Abortion. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2017.

The Psychology of Apologetics, Part 3

Understanding God

“The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy’s own ground…By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences.” -C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters[1]

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (HarperCollins Publishers, New York: NY), 2.

God and the Table

In the previous post, The Psychology of Apologetics, Part 2: Understanding Ourselves, I covered the introspective relationship between complete confidence in a table, for example, and complete confidence in God. We trust the table that we set our morning coffee on because life experience and knowledge of tables gives us immediate confidence that tomorrow morning, when I set my coffee down, the table most likely will not fall to pieces. Could it happen? Of course it is plausible. Will it happen? It is highly unlikely, due the fact that the table was sturdy and held yesterday, and the day before, and the months before, and the years before, back since I’ve owned the table. Once again, my knowledge and experience lead to my confidence.

So then, if knowledge and experience can lead to trust, or confidence, in admittedly long-lasting, but ultimately finite items, such as a table, what mindset can they construct when they are applied to God? How would the choices we make, the action steps we take, and the plans we create differ from our present situation? Below, I want to explore some significant and well-known verses about God’s nature and character. (Please note: THIS IS NOT A ‘DRIVE-BY GUILTING.’ The purpose of this is to introspectively consider what could be, a dreamer’s landscape if you will, if our knowledge and experience of God were similar to the level of our knowledge and experience of, say, a table.)

  • Joseph speaking to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
    • Joseph had no idea of what his eventual future would be when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. For years, Joseph simply remained faithful to God, living as having complete confidence in Him. It wasn’t until years later, during Joseph’s reunion with his family, that the profound statement found in verse 20 is made. Joseph did not know that he would eventually be Pharaoh’s right-hand man, but verse 20 sheds light on what Joseph’s mentality was throughout the years. Verse 20 is not a new thought to Joseph, he was simply sharing his knowledge with his brothers. 
    • Consider: God is a good God, according to His nature and character as revealed in the scriptures, and therefore only has good purposes. If you had ‘Table-level Knowledge and Experience’ of this, in what ways would your mindset, or outlook on various circumstances change? Having this mindset, when faced with difficulties or undesirables, would there even be any room for negativity? Or would the light of the hope of God’s good purposes fill your mind, and direct your choices differently?
  • Jesus speaking to his disciples in John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Also, Paul writing to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:13b: “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
    • God, being omnipotent, or all-powerful, and sovereign, or having all authority, as the scriptures reveal to us, means that there is nothing more powerful than God. There is nothing that subjugates God, nor is there anything that supersedes His authority over all things. This knowledge is an absolute of the God of the Bible, as anything contrary is a logical impossibility for a God who is perfect in all things. Therefore, when Jesus, being fully man and fully God, states that “in me you may have peace” because “I have overcome the world,” our ‘Table-level Knowledge and Experience’ of this, our confidence in God, turns us into the house that was built on the rock, withstanding the breaking stream (Luke 6:48). When temptation comes, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 speaks of, our confidence in God allows us to endure unwaveringly, because we know He is faithful to provide an escape (Note: this may not always be a comfortable escape, nor one you would prefer, but there will be an escape). 
    • Consider: How do you react to tribulation, or great trouble and suffering? What is your reaction towards temptation? With complete confidence in God, does suffering become finite in your mind, lighter, and contain hope in God’s good purposes through it? With complete confidence in God, does temptation lose its strength, become obvious in your sight, thus being put to death through the escape that God provides, absolutely knowing you will endure because of God’s faithfulness?
  • Jesus speaking to the disciples after His resurrection in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
    • Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. He has defeated sin and death, showing His power and authority over it through the acts of living a sinless life, giving himself as a sacrifice, and then rising from death. In doing so, the Son of Man has come before the Ancient of Days and received the promised dominion (Dan. 7:13-14)[1]. The word ‘therefore’ in verse 19 reaches back to Jesus’ dominion, and so the following command to make disciples carries with it Jesus’ full authority, thus confirmed by Jesus’ final statement in the Book of Matthew, that “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is commanding his disciples to make more disciples, all of whom will carry with them Jesus’ power and authority. Accordingly, as disciples ourselves, we carry this same power and authority. If we believe this fully, with ‘Table-level Knowledge and Experience,’ then verses such as Matthew 17:20b[2] and Luke 17:6[3] take on a much more powerful significance. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus even makes the statement, “Nothing will be impossible for you.” 
    • Consider: If our God has told us that we carry with us His power and authority, and we have complete confidence in this, what enemy, challenge, or wall could even hope to stand in front of us? What would that do to your mentality every day as you faced various circumstances and people? Would fear ever again even be an inkling in your mind? What conversations would you have if you had no fear of what others may think?

Gaining Knowledge and Experience

Numerous other verses could be exposited and considered, and maybe another post in the future will do so. For now, however, I’d like to pause and clarify to wrap up. As I stated prior to the verses I chose, the “Consider” was not meant as a guilting, but instead, some questions about what could be possible. Understanding God’s nature and character is an inexhaustible study, but if we never even begin, or begin and quit, then questioning ‘What could be?’ becomes moot. Hope, itself, becomes moot, as hope is trusting in something that could be, or will be. If we never seek to understand, then we will never comprehend the hope available to us.

Therefore, just as our confidence was built about a table through knowledge and experience, we must build our confidence in God through knowledge and experience. Chances are, you did not read a manual of a table before you first ever used one. You most likely were shown by parents, or whomever raised you, that tables could be utilized. You were made to sit at one for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner (unless a good show was on). You experienced tables from a very early age, have continued to have experiences with them, and now have possibly grown in your knowledge of how a table is made, or the physics behind how one works. So then, how do we experience God from a very early age? How do we continue to have experiences with Him? How do we grow in understanding his nature and character, what makes Him the One True God, and what His good purposes are? Very simply, the revealed word of God, the Bible, is how we grow in the knowledge of God, and how we experience God. 

I suggest, that when finished reading this post, you immediately return to my colleague’s posts on the Theology of the Bible, wherein he expertly explains further the need for growing in knowledge and experience of God. In my next post, I will begin a series that coincides with my colleague, Mr. Stallings, and his Theology of the Bible posts, that will pose an apologetic of the Bible, beginning with an apologetic of Inerrancy. If our hope is to have complete confidence in God, and live as such, then we must have confidence in what we study, and how we experience God. For, if we cannot trust our source, then what hope do we have? But, if what the Bible says is true, if it is reliable, if it is the inspired word of God, then we have access to the greatest source material in history. Thank you for reading this series, and I pray that you would grow in confidence in our God who is steadfast and faithful to His good purposes.

Written by Justin Wendorf

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

[1] “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14; ESV)

[2] “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

[3] “And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Theology of the Bible – Part 3

Inspiration, part 1

If we were to say something is inspired, I think that a few different ideas would come to mind. The one that first comes to my mind is the picture of an athlete performing in a manner that looks inspired. There is something more to their performance than just their ability or execution. It is almost as if a larger force is at work to move them to greater heights. Their play is inspired

Some might go towards more of an artistic idea. Often great artists say they have a muse that inspires them to write, paint, or sing in an inspired way. A classic example is Andy Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick. A more modern one would be pop singer Sia and dancer Maddie Ziegler. Both of these popular artists saw inspiration in their muses, and it pushed them to artistry they otherwise might not have found.

Looking at a basic definition of inspired, it means to have an extraordinary quality that seems to come from an outside or external impulse. So, when we say that the Bible is inspired, what are we actually saying? Is it inspired like an athlete, and these are just human words outperforming their limitations? Is it like an artist, and it is finding creative ways to present the story of God? I think that the inspiration of Scripture can only be fully fleshed out by looking at the Scripture itself.

That is my hope for this post. I want dig into the text, dig into some writing around the text, and try and present an introductory theology of the inspiration of the Bible. This concept is no doubt foundational theology, because it helps to answer the question of how we came to have the Bible. Without understanding the inspiration of Scripture, one is left with an incomplete understanding of the Bible as a whole.

This series on the Theology of the Bible is looking at key concepts that are essential to formulating a full understanding of the Word of God. Inerrancy was discussed in parts one and two, while this will focus on inspiration. That being said, do not make the mistake of separating out these concepts and failing to see how they are connected. Inerrancy is only possible because we believe the Bible is inspired. R.C. Sproul wrote how inspiration of the text overcomes any tendency for error by the Biblical authors.[1] Other theological concepts of the Bible, such as authority and sufficiency, are also connected and reliant upon one another.

Back to inspiration, one theological author summed it up this way, “By inspiration of Scripture we mean that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers that rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[2] Inspiration is why we can confidently call the Bible holy, true, and God’s word. If the Bible were not inspired, it would just be another book written by human hands. One can see how important this concept is to not only understanding, but defending the Bible as a holy and sacred text.  

This apologetic implication is huge. I think it’d be best for Justin to touch on this more, but allow me to briefly comment on it. The entirety of the Christian faith is rooted in what we know, believe, and understand from the Bible. In this day and age, the Bible is what we must rely on to help us form our faith. Other things have been put in place by God to help, such as the church and the Holy Spirit, but we need the Bible as our primary source to understanding who God is and what God means for our life to be. If the Bible is not a divinely inspired and holy text, then everything we believe is meaningless. We must believe in the inspiration of the Bible and know how that informs our relationship to God and His word. 

As with any theological concept or doctrine, one must begin with the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NRSV) states:

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

From a purely linguistic/grammatical approach, the inspiration of Scripture is clearly seen in this passage. The very first thing to notice is the scope in which Paul is writing here. He states that it is “all Scripture.” Not “some” or “most of”, but “all” of Scripture. Sproul writes that “…inspiration extends not simply to a broad outline of the information communicated by the earthly authors but to the very words of the Scripture themselves.”[3] When we read the text, we have to consider that each and every word to be divinely inspired in form and function.

The next grammatical insight is the word for “inspired”, which is the Greek word “theoneustos” which literally translates to “inspired by God” or “God-breathed”. Thinking of the text as “God-breathed” can be helpful, as it calls back to when the LORD breathed life into Adam after forming him from the dust. Within the breath of God, is the essence of God, is life itself. That is the type of mindset we should have towards the Bible. It contains the essence of God and is living, breathing words which are also timeless. 

The rest of the passage could be discussed and dissected for hours, but I only want to point out that the focus of what Paul writes after he touches on inspiration is the usefulness of Scripture. Scripture can accomplish all these things in our lives that he lists out, but only if it is inspired. Apart from inspiration, the Bible would no longer be effective. Again, knowing that Scripture is inspired informs so much of our Biblical doctrine. 

A second passage of interest in the inspiration of Scripture is found in 1 Peter 1:20-21 (NRSV). Peter writes:

20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

This passage takes a direct look at one of the difficulties that some have with the doctrine of inspiration. That is, that the Bible was ultimately written by human authors. This is certainly a true statement and when one begins to study the Bible more deeply, one will even notice that certain authors have specific styles in how they write. Because of this, many often reject the inspiration of Scripture.

Two things on this before we look more closely at this passage:

  1. The inspiration of Scripture always refers to the original manuscripts in the original languages. Any doctrinal statement about Scripture, inerrancy, infallibility or authority are all in reference to the Bible in the Hebrew and Greek.[4] We believe that the copies we have today, contain the same message and power, but this would help account for the slight differences we see in translations and formatting. This is not an indictment against inspiration in what we have today, but more a call for Biblical study to always utilize original languages, good commentaries, and other reference tools.
  2. Just as with inerrancy, there are many different theories of inspiration. Some believe in literal dictation by God to the authors, whereas others believe God only inspired the message but not the actual words. These will be covered fully in the next post covering the theology of inspiration.

Back to our passage, Peter is reminding readers that the Word of God was one hundred percent a work of God. Even though human hands have recorded the message, it was God (specifically the Holy Spirit) who initiated and inspired the Bible to be written. This provides the believer with confidence that the Bible is written as the LORD intended and willed it to be. It is only because of the inspiring work of the Spirit, of God, that we can claim these things to be true.

The doctrine of inspiration is simply put as this: God is the source of the Bible.[5] Man is not the source, he is the instrument. God put His words, His message, and His essence into the Scriptures to give us a glimpse into His character and reveal to us His work. To believe in inspiration is to submit that the Bible holds power and truth within it. The Bible is unlike any other piece of writing in the history of mankind. No other text can claim to be the very breath of the God of the universe. 

Next week, we’ll look at different theories of inspiration and where most churches fall. These theories of inspiration are meant to be guides in helping us better understand the Bible. They are NOT the Bible themselves, but the work of men who are attempting to help us grasp a supernatural concept. I hope it is informative and encouraging to you. 

Written by Zach Stallings

Photo by 𝕷𝖚𝖈𝖗𝖊𝖆𝖙𝖎𝖛𝖊 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ on Unsplash

[1] R.C. Sproul, Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine, (New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2013), 135.

[2] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 169.

[3] R.C. Sproul, Everyone is a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, (Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2014), 28.

[4] Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson, An Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology, (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 2011), 579.

[5] R.C. Sproul, Everyone is a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 27.

The Psychology of Apologetics, part 2

Understanding Ourselves

Confidence is everything. It’s how you “know” that your favorite chair at your local coffee shop will continue to hold under your weight once you sit. Or, how you “know” that your dog will be excited to see you when you get home. Confidence drives every decision we make which, more often than not, we do not even realize we are making. I would be willing to assume that you most likely do not intentionally think about whether or not the bed will fall apart when you go to sleep at night. Your brain, due to your experiences and situational circumstances, automatically processes that the bed you slept in last night, and the nights before, will continue in its nature, and hold up to your sleeping tonight. You have confidence in that bed, a firm trust that it will do what it was made to do.

This post is titled “Understanding Ourselves,” but for lack of a breathy title and clarification now, this post is actually about understanding ourselves in the light of our identity in Christ. We often find that we have absolute confidence in a chair to hold us, yet will question God in His plan for us. Granted, the former is unintentional, and the latter we are usually aware of. However, that is exactly what this post will dig into: Why is our confidence and our trust often greater in something like a chair than our God? What effects does this have on our call to spread the gospel message? We will seek to explore what forms trust in things like a chair, and what makes it become so routinely comfortable that it slides into our subconscious, directing our actions accordingly. Then, we will attempt to apply that to our understanding of our identity as co-heirs with Christ, and ultimately, investigate for a bit of self-reflection and prayer.

Trust in a Table

Psychology Today, a world-renowned magazine and article publisher, denotes that confidence requires having a realistic sense of something’s capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge. Let’s use a table as an example, the table that you place your coffee mug down onto as you sit down. This particular table has stood time and time again, being sat at and having a coffee mug placed onto it over and over. You also acknowledge that this is in fact a table, one that was made to hold items such as coffee mugs, etc. Very similar to thin slicing (as was discussed in Part 1 of this pair), your brain, without intentionality, pulls from your subconscious those very two ideas: This is in fact a table made for setting things on, and it has done so repeatedly. Therefore, setting your coffee mug on it today should not be any different than the previous times before. You typically will not consciously consider every morning as you sit down, “Will this table hold today?”

Now, if we were to dissect the above situation, two facets of confidence stand out: Knowledge and Experience. You know it is a table, you’ve experienced it holding up various items, and thus, your subconscious makes the choice to place the mug down. If we were to change a variable, something that happens in every-day life, such as a leg on the table breaks, our knowledge would change and naturally, thus, so would our experience with the table, which could possibly lead to questioning the table tomorrow. However, an instance of this magnitude would most likely not lead to a complete mistrust in tables in general, nor might it lead to a complete mistrust of the current table if the leg were to be fixed. Why? Again, because of the knowledge you have about tables, and the experience you’ve had with this particular one.

Confidence In God, Not In Ourselves

As I stated previously, this post does not settle on understanding ourselves, but instead, seeks to understand ourselves in regards to our identity in Christ, adopted heirs into the family of God. Comprehending our positional status as sons and daughters of The Most High should carry with it a sense of absolute confidence in who our Heavenly Father is, and this confidence should drive our decisions. This idea should be so ingrained into our minds that we act subconsciously in a manner that is glorifying to God. However, “should”can be a very painful word. Of course, most of us know how we should act, the decisions we should make, so that through our words and deeds people see the love of God, and yet, often enough we act contradictorily. We may be in a conversation with someone where an opportunity to find out about what they believe presents itself, and we shy away for fear of upsetting them, or making things “awkward.” We shy away from opportunities to pray, or pray for others, because we don’t want to be seen as odd or different. We’re afraid to say no to things that we know will lead us into sin because of peer-pressure, or a fear of being alone if we were to stand our ground.

But if we shed light on the above difficulties, open the curtain to peer behind and find what’s really driving the above decisions (or those similar to), we will more than likely find that it is because we are putting our confidence, our trust, in ourselves. For example, we may feel that we don’t have the right thing to say, so we say nothing. We’re afraid that we do not know the best decision to make, so we do nothing. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we think we always have the right thing to say, so we speak without regard. We think we always have the best decision, so we jump in or lead others without considering what’s best for them. Ultimately, this confidence in ourselves to be the writer of the story, is fear versus arrogance. With that said, then where do we, as Christians, need align ourselves? If your answer is “somewhere in the middle,” let me offer a different point of view:

We are to live above.

To avoid lofty words without understanding, my suggestion that Christians need to live above means this: When we truly trust, have confidence that our God is the Author, that we are not in charge of what happens in various circumstances, and that He, according to His good purposes, will work all things for our ultimate good and His glory, arrogance has no room, no hold, in our lives. When we truly trust, have confidence that our God is working everything for our ultimate good, that whatever situation you find yourself in, God has a plan purposed for expanding the Kingdom which you get to be a part of, and that in difficult circumstances or situations, He will not leave us without the ability to endure struggle and strife, then fear can take no root. When we truly trust and have confidence in our God who loves us, then our actions and our words become subconscious results of our knowledge and experience of God. When there comes a time to defend your faith to whomever, even against yourself at times, we do no need to worry about having the perfect thing to say. Instead, we act and we speak without fear because we have a firm confidence that even in the mess of our befuddled words, God is at work through us, sowing seeds where He deems that they are needed. Simply put, no amount of words or actions can put a halt to God’s plan.


To wrap up Part 2, you may be asking, how exactly does this relate to the purpose of this blog? What apologetic lesson can the above example serve? It should serve as a reflection upon our own faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Challenging myself by writing this more than any potential reader, what does my confidence, my trust, in God look like? Is it representative of the table, where I act subconsciously because my knowledge and experience of God are firm, foundational, and strong? Am I able to apply the synonymous definitions of both confidence and trust as a lens through which I live my life as a Christian? When “the table leg breaks,” or more clearly, difficulties and uncomfortableness arise in my life to which I have to reorder my knowledge and experience, does my confidence in God fall apart, or does it stand firm, unwavering? These are the questions that we should be searching our minds and affections for. In the final Part, I plan to review the why behind trusting God and having confidence in Him, and subsequently finish with how that should affect our apologetic.

-“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” Psalms 20:7

Written by Justin Wendorf

Photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO on Unsplash

Theology of the Bible – Part Two

Inerrancy of Scripture – Part Two

This is part of a series on “Theology of the Bible”. For part one on inerrancy, click here.

In the first post on the inerrancy of Scripture, I wanted to focus on a high-level survey of answering what Biblical inerrancy is. I provided some Scriptural arguments along with theological implications as why the doctrine of inerrancy is so vital to Biblical study. For this post, my hope is to provide some additional context around the topic of Biblical inerrancy. I thought the best way to do this would be by briefly discussing several different theories of inerrancy.

As I am sure most of you are aware, not every person who reads the Bible can come to agreement on everything it says or how it should be interpreted. The same can be said about the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. There are different levels and theories of inerrancy that certain people hold to. These seem to fall on a spectrum of how inerrant one believes the Bible to be. Is it inerrant in literally everything it says? Can we believe inerrancy if the Bible was recorded by human authors?

These types of questions have led to the development of the aforementioned theories of inerrancy. The idea of different theories or levels of inerrancy may seem like a strange topic. Would there not just be two choices as far as inerrancy? It either is, or it is not. How can there be different levels of inerrancy? What we will see as we work through these theories is that inerrancy is applied to different aspects of the text. The way inerrancy is applied can affect how the text is understood.

Before we get started, let me briefly comment on how this impacts our theological study. This doctrine is moving from answering the question of if you believe in inerrancy, to what extent do you believe it. If you were to claim a belief in Biblical inerrancy, but only for certain things such as teaching on church or family, but you deny its inerrancy on matters about money, that is going to impact your application. 

Going a step further, how does Biblical inerrancy play a factor in our beliefs about Christ? We cannot deny certain aspects of inerrancy and expect our essential doctrines to stand firm. They are affirmed solely by the inerrancy of God, which is expressed through the inerrancy of the Bible. These brief examples help illustrate why understanding inerrancy is essential for proper Biblical theology. With that said, here are a few key theories of inerrancy.

  1. Absolute or Full Inerrancy – “The Bible, which includes rather detailed treatment of matters both scientific and historical, is fully true.”[1]This would be the furthest one can go as far as how they view inerrancy. The Bible is inerrant in ALL things, not just spiritual, but in empirical matters such as science and history. God fully provided His completely true and infallible message as it relates to humanity in every aspect. One should not separate out matters of faith and matters of science and history. R.C. Sproul wrote, “Though the Bible is indeed redemptive history, it is redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world.”[2]We can trust that what the Bible recorded happened and it happened as it was recorded. It is fully and absolutely without error, failing, or falsehood.
  • Limited Inerrancy – Limited inerrancy is the belief that the Bible “is infallible only when it speaks of faith and practice.”[3]Put another way, limited inerrancy would claim the Bible is only inerrant on matters of faith. Think of the foundational doctrines of Christianity: triune God, salvation through Christ, etc… This view of the Bible is not concerned with any perceived scientific or historical inaccuracies. That is not the reason for the Bible. The reason for the Bible is a matter of faith and how we live out that faith. This is not a denial of inerrancy, but rather a belief that inerrancy is reserved for what matters most. 
  • Inerrancy of Purpose – This view on inerrancy holds that the Bible “faithfully accomplishes its purpose, which is to bring people into personal fellowship with Christ, not to communicate truths.”[4]It is here we begin to really see a movement away from true inerrancy in the Bible. When compared to full inerrancy, which claims the Bible is true in all things, this claims there are not actual truths but rather a purpose the Bible is working towards. The language in the text is almost a means to the end of accomplishing this purpose. Those who hold to this viewpoint would most likely argue that stating “factual inerrancy” in Scripture is inappropriate in light of its purpose.[5]
  • Accommodated Revelation – With this view, any notion of inerrancy is stripped away as one works through the Bible. Accommodated Revelation theory places more emphasis on the human element of the recording Scripture, and thus assumes errors and fallible qualities. Wayne Grudem writes that proponents of this theory “would say that when the Biblical writers were attempting to make a larger point, they sometimes incidentally affirmed some falsehood believed by the people of their time.”[6]While the Biblical authors were attempting to write the Scripture as revelation by God, this theory assumes their own non-revelatory message or presuppositions were included. As such, the Bible cannot be considered inerrant due to the human element. It can though be considered as revelation in certain areas and matters.
  • Not inerrant/not revelation – The final theory of inerrancy is really no theory at all. It is the claim the Bible is not inerrant and not revelation. Millard Erickson described it this way, “The Bible contains errors, but these are not the Word of God, they are merely the words of Isaiah, Matthew, or Paul.”[7]In other words, the Bible is a book written by men with no special characteristic, either inerrant, infallible, or revelatory. This theory does recognize the “usefulness” of Scripture in certain aspects, but this is merely from a functional standpoint. 

I’m sure you could have guessed this, but what I provided is just a sliver of the discussion around the theories of inerrancy. Consider it a starter kit for entering into the conversation of Biblical inerrancy. There are even some additional theories that fall in between the ones presented, but for the purpose of this post, they were not necessary to cover. I would encourage you to refer to some of the readings I referenced for further independent study over the theories of inerrancy. It is a fascinating topic. 

Now though, we are left with the question of “What do we do this information?” I think that you must try and figure out where you fall. This may seem like a trivial thing to do, but it will greatly impact how you approach the text. In their volume on Biblical Interpretation, Andreas Köstenberger and Richard Patterson write, “…we are seekers of truthand…we realize that truth sets free while error enslaves.”[8]Understanding and interpreting the Bible properly is tied to how you view it. We either believe that is the Truth and full of truth or we doubt it. It’d be difficult to have one foot on both sides of this debate. 

To illustrate this, let’s briefly look at what happens when you deny inerrancy of the Bible.[9]

  • If we deny inerrancy, we inadvertently claim God has misled or provided falsehood to us
  • If we deny inerrancy, we begin to question whether God can be fully trusted
  • If we deny inerrancy, we make our human minds a higher standard than God’s truth and word
  • If we deny inerrancy, we must also say the Bible is wrong in minor details and in doctrinal issues. 

As you can see, when we try and pluck at the thread of inerrancy, it can make our entire faith unravel. We must stand firm in our belief that the Bible, in truth, word, action, practice, and all things, is inerrant. There is not a second option. The theories presented were created by men to try and comprehend what inerrancy looks like, but short of full/absolute inerrancy, they fail. And this is because ONLY God understands and is capable of truly inerrant character. He is never in error, never proven false, never failing. We see these same qualities in His word. 

The adherence to the inerrancy of the Bible is really a confession. It’s a confession about who God is and how God operates. It is also a confession about how that should impact our lives. R.C. Sproul wrote, “Confession of the full authority and inerrancy of Scripture should lead us to increasing conformity to the image of Christ, which is the God-ordained goal of every Christian.”[10]Understanding that the Bible is fully inerrant is an integral part of how we are sanctified. How we can better know and adhere to God’s design for our lives.

At this point, I think it is only appropriate we let God’s word speak for itself in regard to its absolute inerrancy. This passage is out of Psalm 19:7-10, NRSV:

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine fold; sweeter also than honey,and drippings of the honeycomb.

God’s word is perfect, sure, right, clear, pure, enduring, true, righteous, and to be sought after by us. Only something that is free from error, free from failure, and free from falsehood would have that kind of impact on our lives. A proper theology of the Bible begins with confessing its full inerrancy and letting that inform how you approach the rest of the text.

Next post, we will look at the theology of the inspiration of the Bible. This is tied closely to inerrancy, but it focuses on how we received the Bible. How did God move and act in the delivering of His word? As we look at inspiration, we’ll see how it connects to our belief in the doctrine of inerrancy. I am looking forward to continuing this discussion and thank you for taking part in it with me.  

Written by Zach Stallings

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

[1]Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rded. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 191.

[2]R.C. Sproul, Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine, (New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2013), 152.

[3]R.C. Sproul, Everyone is a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology,(Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2014), 31.

[4]Millard Erickson, 192.

[5]Millard Erickson, 192.

[6]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine,(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 97. 

[7]Millard Erickson, 193.

[8]Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson, An Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology, (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 2011), 59.

[9]Wayne Grudem, pgs. 99-100.

[10]R.C. Sproul, Scripture Alone, pg. 167.

The Psychology of Apologetics: Part One


It may be uncouth to begin a blog this way, and if it is, I apologize to any and every blog-lover out there, but I want to offer a genuine “thank you” to you, the reader. It is your choice to take the time to read this, so the mere fact that you have read even this far shows that you have sacrificed your precious, irreplaceable time by choice, and for that, I am sincerely grateful. These posts regarding Apologetics and the various issues surrounding it, though personally studied and backed by evidence, are still simply my views and opinions, with which you have the option to take or leave. Coincidentally, it is that same option that inspired this post. 

You see, originally, I had planned to launch into the history of Apologetics and where it is now for my second post on Mystery Revealed Theology. However, after considering my aforementioned gratefulness for you, I was reminded that Apologetics truly boils down to people, namely you and those God places you around (yes, the order of the last part of this sentence was intentional, as will be discussed). So, a request from the writer: as you read, I would urge you to remember that everyday, ley-level Apologetics is not about proving how smart you are, or that you’re a varsity-level Christian because you know some facts. Knowing who the leading apologists were in the 1700’s and 1800’s will not bring comfort or clarification to an unbelieving co-worker whose wife was just diagnosed with cancer. 

The heart of Apologetics is this: telling that co-worker that you are going to pray for them and their wife, to which the co-worker responds, “I can’t believe in a God that would let this happen to my wife,” and then seizing that opportunity to both comfort your co-worker and offer a reason for the hope found within Jesus. Understanding people’s thinking, the reasoning behind their beliefs, and the motivation behind their choices, though ultimately a psychological task, is also an Apologetic necessity and a tool for the intrapersonal examination of your own faith.

Unintentional Biases and Assumptions 

Psychology, as defined by the American Psychological Association, is the scientific study of the mind and behavior. I have long been drawn to the idea of studying why people think the way they do and behave the way they do, which thus led me to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. The idea of interposing myself in someone else’s mind to better understand them is, and has always been, intriguing to me. I’m unaware as to why, but can say with full certainty that God was preparing me, molding me if you will, for my future passion for Apologetics. You see, Apologetics is inextricably linked with Psychology because Apologetics requires interpersonal interaction. Both 2 Cor 10:4-5 (more of an offensive stance in Apologetics)[1]and 1 Peter 3:15 (more of a defensive stance in Apologetics)[2]assume, and thus require, that these apologetic actions are in response to a second party.

At this moment, you may be thinking that I have simply stated the obvious, and you would be correct. However, my motivation was simply to emphasize the importance of the actual interaction taking place. Apologetics aside, whenever we interact with another person, or group of people, our biases and assumptions are subconsciously painting the background from the very millisecond that we decide to interact. 

While reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, the implications of thin-slicing on Apologetics stood out to me like a red M&M in a bowl full of greens (psychological experiment: are you craving M&M’s now?). Gladwell refers to thin-slicing as making very quick, often subconscious inferences about the state, characteristics, or details of an individual or situation with minimal amounts of information.[3]If you’re anything like me, after reading that, I immediately begin attempting to dissect how I’m thin-sliced! What are the subconscious inferences that others make about me? But after reading slightly further, Gladwell begins to write about how our thin-slicing, due to the subconscious nature, is often predicated upon our own biases and assumptions. He discusses a time that he took the IAT (Implicit-Association) Psychological Test[4], expecting that, due to his self-proclaimed egalitarian nature, he would show minimal bias. However, to his surprise, it turned out that he showed a moderate bias, despite every current detail and circumstance of his life and mindset. See, the results of the Harvard experiment revealed the impact of our unintentional biases and assumptions on every interaction we find ourselves a part of, both on our end and the other party involved. Now, why would it be important for us to understand both our own biases and assumptions, as well as those of the other person (people) that we are interacting with?

The Doctor/Patient Efficacy

Coinciding with reading Gladwell’s Blink, my brilliant wife, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, affirmed that to truly treat a patient, the doctor must actually understand the patient. In one of our conversations, she discussed how understanding the medical history of the patient, their demeanor, their level of self-efficacy, and their current mental state, among other things, is absolutely necessary if any growth or healing is to occur. “I have to treat the whole person,” she told me. Now, I’m bringing this back around to meet the ley-Christian who may be reading this, but please avoid the notion that I am planning to refer to believers as “the doctor,” and unbelievers as “the patients.” Instead, I want to avoid an arrogant metaphor by finishing Part One on the whybehind a successful doctor/patient relationship and how that plays into our Apologetic experiences.

The healthcare professional that thin-slices their patient when first meeting is simply doing what every human-being does unintentionally when getting to know someone unfamiliar. That is all they cando, as for that instant, it is the only information their brain is disposed to. Meanwhile, the patient is doing the exact same thing. Their biases and assumptions color the initial interaction, sometimes helping, other times hurting, but ultimately providing essential information and a basis from which the interaction will either fail or succeed. If that were the extent of the information available, the doctor/patient interaction would have about a 50/50, maybe per the Harvard research, a 60/40 chance of success/failure. However, and unsurprising to most, the interaction does not end there. 

The healthcare professional begins collecting data on the patient, asking questions to better understand the patient as a whole. This information is then used, knowingly, to fill in the scaffolds underneath their thin-sliced biases and assumptions, proving them wrong or proving them right, determining which to get rid of and which to modify. Simply put, with their expertise, the healthcare professional is able to evaluate the whybehind their snap judgements.[5]As an exercise, let’s apply the concept of “thin-slice” to a brief example.

A patient slumps in their chair as they sit, therefore they must be tired. “How are you feeling today?” the professional asks. “I’ve been feeling bad for a few days now, so I finally decided to come in,” the patient responds, exasperated. The professional now safely allows their assumption that the patient is feeling tired, but has now also gained the knowledge that it has been a few days for this patient, which may direct the plan of care. Subsequently, the professional creates a new assumption that this person’s self-efficacy may be on the higher side, based on the fact that they waited three days before making an appointment. This example could be decomposed for pages to come, but it is time to bring Part One to a close.

Practical Application

The healthcare professional is able to apply their expertise because they simply investigated the patient, following the lead of their initial biases and assumptions. They listened, analyzed, responded, questioned further; rinse and repeat. How does this relate to the field of apologetics? As Christians, if we are to have any hope of a successful apologetic conversation with strangers, family, and friends, we must take the effort to apply these same concepts.

Stopping at simply thin-slicing a person out of an arrogance of having the “right answer” is dramatically ineffective, and often leaves irreparable damage. Responding to your struggling co-worker, whose wife was just diagnosed with cancer, with a typical, “God’s in charge,” or a friend that is having relationship struggles and is cohabitating with their partner with, “The Bible says that sexual immorality is wrong.” These types of responses are both unhelpful and uneducated. Please note: The statements themselves were not incorrect, but the way in which they were used was inappropriate. As proclaimed Christians striving to live a life that looks more Christ-like, getting to know a person and understanding the whybehind their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors should be paramount in our pursuit of meeting others where they are, with the purpose of spreading the gospel message. Consequently, if it is paramount in spreading the gospel, it must also be supreme in our apologetic undertaking. Understand the person, apply your expertise, respond wisely, ask further questions, repeat. Similar to how a healthcare professional compiles all the information and then responds with a plan of care, our apologetic should compile what we know about the whole person and respond with a plan of hope. The hope found in Jesus Christ.

Written by Justin Wendorf

Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

[1]“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

[2]“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

[3]Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005).

[4]For more information on the IAT, see https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/education.html

[5]Gladwell, Blink, 2005.

Theology of the Bible – Part 1

The Inerrancy of Scripture – Part One

A couple of weeks ago I was playing with my son in his room. We were sitting on a blanket on the floor and he had a few toys that he was interacting with. In the background I had on some “Veggie Tales” music for some wholesome encouragement through song. As we were playing, one of their songs caught my attention. Or rather, the lyrics caught my attention. Here they are:

The B-I-B-L-E Yes, that’s the book for me I stand alone on the Word of God The B-I-B-L-E

What a great foundational belief to instill in children at a young age! Here, in this catchy and simple song, we have a perfect little picture of how Christians should view the Bible. It was at that moment that I was inspired on what I wanted to do next for Mystery Revealed Theology.

As I tried to express in my first post, true theology is first and foremost Biblical. We cannot expect to get very far or be informed correctly about theology if we do not begin and end with the Bible. Wayne Grudem wrote in his systematic theology book, “Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.”[1]That definition indicates that unless you’re studying the Bible, you cannot actually engage in a proper study of theology. We need the Bible to be our primary source and guide as we navigate our pursuit of the knowledge of God. As someone who is passionate about teaching proper theology, I would be remiss if I did not allow the Bible to do just this. Establishing a Biblical foundation will allow us to enter into more robust Biblical and theological study.

With that in mind, I would like to spend the next few posts looking at our theology of the Bible. We will look at several characteristics and attributes of the Bible and how that impacts how we engage with it. All of these attributes stem from the belief that the Bible is the actual Word of God in written form. As evangelical Christians, we agree on this fact and it is how we then establish the rest of our theology about the Bible. Remember this as you read through these next few posts:  the Bible is the Word of God. Let us now take a look at the first attribute of the Bible.

The Bible is inerrant.

Inerrancy, in my opinion, is the most important attribute of the Bible that we need to understand. It is what allows us to enter into Biblical study with the right attitude towards the text. Before going any further, let me offer a couple of simple definitions of “inerrancy.”

If you were to look up the word in a dictionary, you’d come across something along the lines of lacking error, free from error, possibly the word “infallibility.” The idea of “free from error”, I think, captures the definition best. Now when you apply this definition to the Bible, you get the concept of Biblical inerrancy, which according to R.C. Sproul means the Bible is “free from falsehood, fraud, or deceit.”[2]That is an impactful statement on how we should view the Bible. Let’s break down that comment phrase by phrase.

Free from falsehood – In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. (Heb 6:17-19, NRSV).

This concept could be simplified by saying the Bible is only full of truth and there is nothing false in it. When we take this into account, we know that we can trust what it says. There would not be any reason to NOT trust it because we already know there is nothing false about it.  

Free from fraud – All scripture is inspired by God and is usefulfor teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NRSV)

What do you think of when you hear the word “fraud”. I think of someone who is misusing or misrepresenting information for selfish gain. We can be confident that the message and words in the Bible are not attempting to commit fraud against us. Re-read the passage out of 2 Timothy I referred to just now. God is not out to defraud us with His word. His words are meant for our benefit and to glorify Himself. 

Free from deceit – God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Num 23:19, NRSV)

I think this is just affirming that the Bible does not lie. The passage from Numbers is essentially stating that it is not even in God’s nature to lie, because He is not human. Therefore, we can be confident that the Bible, which is His word, is also incapable of lying. It is only going to give us the truth of God. Not only that, but when the Bible has been put to the test against skepticism and other forms of “truth”, it has endured. The Bible does NOT lie. 

Everything that we just looked at should inform the attitude and posture in which we approach the Bible. We must believe that it is indeed inerrant or else we try and strip some of its power away. The reason the Bible has so much relevance and impact on our lives is because of the fact that we can trust it and it is true. If the Bible were not inerrant, that would have far reaching impact to not only our theology, but to our foundational beliefs. We MUST agree on the inerrancy of Scripture before moving further in Biblical or theological study.  

Look at what the Bible says about its own inerrancy: 

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:6-7, NRSV). 

This is a passage near the very end of the Bible. It is an angel delivering a message to John, the author of Revelation. Just look at what the angel is saying and consider that he is referring to the entirety of the text up to this point. According to this angel, the Bible is:

  • Trustworthy
  • True
  • Should be kept

To me, that is a great picture of what inerrancy should look like. Something that we can trust, something we know is true, and something we should cherish through study and reflection (keep). God Himself wanted us to understand the importance of agreeing on the fact that we can consider His word, the Bible, to be inerrant. There is no sign of error or falsehood. We can put our complete faith in what it says. 

The inerrancy of the Bible is, for me, the key to properly engaging with the Scripture. If we are going to be informed in our faith through the words of this scared text, the Word of our LORD, we must hold to its inerrant nature. If the Bible were shown be in error, that would put into question the rest of what we believe. Again, this is why coming to terms with its inerrancy is so critical to not only theological study, but to the entire Christian faith. 

What I hope I have provided you with is a sufficient, yet non-exhaustive look at what Biblical inerrancy is. Truth be told, there is much more to dive into, which is where I’ll spend my next couple of posts. Next time I would like to look at theories of inerrancy and how they play a role in our understanding of the Bible. We will then look at the idea behind the inspiration of the text, and how that relates to our understanding of inerrancy. I pray you will be encouraged and enlightened as we continue to shape our theology of the Bible. 

Written by Zach Stallings

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

[1]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 1994), pg. 21.

[2]R.C. Sproul, Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2005), pg. 151.

Apologetics: A Writer’s Introduction


I went back and forth for a few days on how best to begin the first blog post I’ve ever written. Especially when it involves a topic that I am most passionate about, and wish to use to help others walk a way of life that can be very difficult at times. Ironically, that is the thrust of Apologetics, and, in having my internal argument regarding the level of captivation my introduction needed, this first post seemed to write itself.

 See, Apologetics is often viewed in various ways. In its simplest form, it is viewed as argumentation. Sometimes, the word ‘apologetic’ is taken literally, and is believed to be experienced by apologizing for wrongs done in the name of religion. On a more informed level, the Greek word apologia, meaning “a defense,” is seen as a Christian mechanism to thwart various other world-religious views. Similarly, others will take it to mean a logical invitation into proof that God exists, and as such, a conversion point that moves someone from non-believing into the Christian faith. Ipso facto, all of these are merely a facet of Apologetics, each deserving its own educated, explanatory exposition. Yet still, another very important facet has yet to be mentioned; one which has become this writer’s grateful revelation.

 Since Christianity’s beginning, a myriad of challenges has contended to “take down” one of the world’s largest known religions, both from within and from without. Due to these confrontations, if you will, Christian apologists arose to contend for the truth of the Christian faith. For example, the Apostle Paul can be seen regularly engaging in reasoning for, or defending, the Christian tenets, doctrines, and beliefs (Acts 17-19; 2 Cor. 10; Phil. 1; Titus 1). One of the most quoted passages for the purpose of Apologetics shows Paul explaining his apologetic strategy: “We demolish arguments and every pretensionthat sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thoughtto make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Another, read in 1 Peter 3:15, shows Peter expressing the need for apologetics, where it reads: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Finally, even Jude, the brother of Jesus writes: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faiththat was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). All of these instances are calling for a ready defense of the faith within, a defense of the hope that separates Christianity from all other world religions: hope in Jesus Christ.

So, what makes Apologetics so important? Why would its preparation be spoken of multiple times in the New Testament expressly, and its practice performed by Jesus himself (Matt. 4:1-11)? Because again, there is another facet that has yet to be mentioned, and in this writer’s purest, most humble opinion, it is the most important. To provide you a brief, miniscule road map to our ultimate destination, consider the words of Fr. Avery Dulles:

The goals and methods of apologetics have frequently shifted. The earliest apologists were primarily concerned with obtaining civil toleration for the Christian community – to prove that Christians were not malefactors deserving the death penalty. Gradually through the early centuries the apologies for Christianity became less defensive. Assuming the counteroffensive, they aimed to win converts from other groups. Some were addressed to pagans, others to Jews. Subsequently apologetics turned its attention to Moslems, then to atheists, agnostics, and religious indifferentists. Finally, apologists came to recognize that every Christian harbors within themselves a secret infidel. At this point apologetics became, to some extent, a dialogue between the believer and the unbeliever in the heart of the Christians themselves. In speaking to their unregenerate self, the apologist assumed – quite correctly – that they would best be able to reach others similarly situated.[1]

The unmentioned facet can now be defined: each of us, as Christians, need reasons, or answers, that are purposed for strengthening his or her own faith. As life becomes difficult, and as we are put in varying situations involving a multitude of different types of people, ideas, and actions, or as we experience joy, a faith that is not “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14) will forever be a bastion of light, a shining fortress that is immoveable and unshakeable because it is grounded in the firm foundation of the hope in Jesus Christ.

Thus, this section of the blog, with its Apologetic focus, will absolutely tackle difficult topics. The Christian messages and doctrines discussed will be articulated for understanding and then given a defense (strategies for actual discussion will be included), so that you do not need to affirm them out of blind faith. There will be evidence, logic, and reasoning that will aid in affirming their importance. However, insofar as evidence and arguments are helpful toolsin reasoning, even within one’s own heart and mind, they do not in-and-of themselves change the heart. My prayer for this blog, and for you the reader, is that all of what will eventually transpire on this site will be used as simply that: tools. In no way should any of these apologetics surmount the work of the Holy Spirit. Logic and reasoning, evidences and arguments can be powerful tools for removing strongholds or breaking through barriers in both unbelievers and believers alike. Yet, never forget that God’s work in the individual is what ultimately saves and transforms. It is my prayer that you would use this to further the Kingdom, that it would be an effective means of removing hindrances to faith in Jesus Christ, and that it would be utilized to bolster the faith held deep within your own heart. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a).

Written by Justin Wendorf

[1]Avery Dulles, A History of Apologetics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1971), xvi.