Issue #86

Expose Your Kids to Hard Truths, Don't Fear the Book of Revelation, Why Unity Is Still Worth Pursuing, and more...

Issue #86
Photo by Cytonn Photography / Unsplash

Family Focus 🏡

Expose Your Kids to Hard Truths | Leslie Schmucker 📃 →

Does softening the Bible equip children to defend the faith or even help them grow in it? After all, the Bible vividly depicts the darkness of sin, even as it presents the contrasting Light that overcomes the darkness.

In a culture that scrapes against the grain of Christian principles, how can parents help children grow into adults who will “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” (Titus 1:9)?

Schmucker offers three things parents can do to help their kids build a resilient faith.

1. Expose children to the entirety of scripture2. Expose children to grit3. Tackle difficult questions head-on

These all require wisdom and age-appropriate understanding of our children. Scripture is not clean and sanitized. Presenting it to our children as if it is will lead to harder questions and the feeling that Christians try to hide the hard parts of scripture.

Challenge Your Brain 🧠

Should Protestants Read the Apocrypha? | Peter Gurry and John Meade 📃 →

The Apocrypha—the books accepted as scripture by the Roman Catholic church but not Protestants—are commonly confusing and misunderstood by Protestants. This article by Gurry and Meade, the authors of a new book about how the Bible was formed, looks at those misunderstandings and gives us the history of these books.

Gurry and Meade move from how the apocryphal books were handled in the early centuries of the church to how they were handled by the early Protestants in the middle ages. Some of these reactions may surprise you.

In 1519, at the debate over purgatory and indulgences in Leipzig, Martin Luther clearly referred to 2 Maccabees as “outside the canon” and “apocryphal,” yet still affirming that it could be acceptable and approved for him, but it might be open to rejection by the obstinate. Thus, 2 Maccabees 12:46 could not be used as evidence for praying for the dead or purgatory. When the complete German Bible was published in 1534, the Apocrypha were included between the Old and New Testaments with this preface: Apocrypha, that is, books not considered equal to Holy Scripture, but which are still useful and good to read. In Zurich, Zwingli had already included 3–6 Ezra and 3 Maccabees along with the others in the Zurich Bible.

In England, the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 clearly followed Jerome’s opinion in retaining the Apocrypha, “And the other books (as Jerome says) the Church doth read for example of life and instructions of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.” This view was expressed in the King James Version (1611) which contained English translations of the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testament and also the Book of Common Prayer (from 1662) with its numerous readings from the Apocrypha.

The final paragraph gives us a sense of their conclusions:

…A similar approach is illustrated by John Bunyan, the famous English Puritan who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. At a spiritual low point, Bunyan recalled a promise that said, “Consider the generations of old and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?” This promise comforted him because, from Genesis to Revelation, it was found to be true. Be that as it may, Bunyan could not locate the actual verse in “the books we call holy and canonical”—that is, the Protestant canon. Upon finding it in the Apocrypha (see Ecclesiasticus 2:10), he was troubled. But eventually he realized that “forasmuch as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take the comfort of it.” Bunyan was taking the earlier Protestant view, which valued the apocryphal books only insofar as they agreed with the canonical books. Likewise, Protestants today should feel neither fear nor obligation about reading the Apocrypha. But there is certainly benefit from reading the apocryphal books, since they contain stories and wisdom that agree with doctrine in the canonical books.

For More:

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Listen and Learn 🎧

God, Genocide, Biblical Interpretation | Charlie Trimm, Sean McDowell, and Scott Rae 🎧 →

Did God sanction genocide in the Old Testament? The biblical passages concerning the Israelites and Canaanites are some of the most challenging texts in all of Scripture and have been a major stumbling block for people interested in Christian faith and a difficult one for followers of Jesus to answer.

I liked Trimm’s approach, which is to just lay out the four options he sees. There are other books, like Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God | Paul Copan 📚 (Affiliate Link) or Jesus Loves Canaanites: Biblical Genocide in the Light of Moral Intuition | Randal Rauser 📚 (Affiliate Link) that argue for a specific position in detail. Trimm lays out these approaches and two more as charitably as possible.

This is the book’s description:

How can a good God command genocide?

In this short, accessible offering, Charlie Trimm provides the resources needed to make sense of one of the Bible’s most difficult ethical problems—the Israelite destruction of the Canaanites as told in the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges.

Trimm begins with a survey of important background issues, including the nature of warfare in the ancient Near East, the concept of genocide (with perspectives gleaned from the field of genocide studies), and the history and identity of the Canaanite people. With this foundation in place, he then introduces four possible approaches to reconciling biblical violence:

1. Reevaluating God—concluding that God is not good.

2. Reevaluating the Old Testament—concluding that the Old Testament is not actually a faithful record of God’s actions.

3. Reevaluating the interpretation of the Old Testament—concluding that the Old Testament does not in fact describe anything like genocide.

4. Reevaluating the nature of violence in the Old Testament—concluding that the mass killing of the Canaanites in the Old Testament was permitted on that one occasion in history.

For More:

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Explore the Scriptures 📖

Don’t Fear the Book of Revelation | Nancy Guthrie 📽 →

“At the end of the book of Revelation, we see that Jesus, the second Adam, will not fail to lead us into a garden that will be even better than Eden—where we will enjoy fellowship with him for all eternity. So, don't be afraid of Revelation.”
Nancy Guthrie gives four common fears we may have when approaching the book of Revelation:

1. We fear that we’re not going to understand it and, if we’re teaching it, that we’ll get it wrong.

2. We fear the controversy that surrounds the book.

3. We fear the suffering and persecution Revelation tells us to expect.

4. We fear the judgment, blood, and wrath described in the book.

As Guthrie explains each fear, she also offers encouragement and wise, biblical help for reading the book of Revelation with joy. The central message of Revelation, according to Guthrie, is that we are called to patient endurance in suffering for our allegiance to Christ and that we are called to refuse to compromise with the world as we wait for the return of our King.

For More:

Church History Corner ⛪️

The Bitter Splinters of Marburg: How the Table Split Luther and Zwingli | Michael Haykin 📃 →

A few years ago, while I was leading a group of Christians touring various Reformation sites along the Rhine in Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands, our tour group took a day trip to Marburger Schloss, or Marburg Castle, to see the famous site of the encounter between the two titanic Reformers Martin Luther (1483–1546) and Huldreich Zwingli (1484–1531).

To reach the castle was a stiff climb through medieval streets dotted with houses that dated from the very time when the two German Reformers also passed through the town on their way to the castle. Both men were remarkable Christians whom God had used in spectacular ways to bring genuine reform to their respective lands of Saxony and Switzerland. Yet they were also both men, with the failings common to their kind.

We may think of the Protestant Reformation as a unified front, but it wasn’t. The reformers were still men, and the Lord’s Table was the primary place the enemy found to divide them. The story is fascinating and heartbreaking.

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Consider Another Perspective 🤔

The Blood and the Bread | Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle 🎧 →

I’ve linked to Francis Chan talking about the Lord’s Table / Communion / the Eucharist before in Issue #65. This is a short(ish) talk given by Chan on the topic and how his views have changed, followed by questions from Sprinkle and the audience.

I appreciate Chan’s passion for the Lord’s Table, and his sadness that the American church has broadly downplayed its importance (some pockets haven’t, of course). Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and other early reformers would be shocked at the low view of the Table that modern Christians tend to have (again, not all).

I encourage you to listen and study for yourself the history of how the church has viewed the Bread and Cup.

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

That They May All Be One? Why Unity Is Still Worth Pursuing | Ray Ortlund 📃 →

How essential is the unity of Christ’s church?

On the night our Lord was betrayed, he prayed “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). As his cross loomed before him, our unity was on his heart. And the unity he was praying for must be visible: “. . . so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Something glorious is at stake in our public unity as Christians: our witness to Jesus as the One sent by God.

Our diversity as Christians is also glorious. We rally around Christ our Lord as Anglicans and Baptists and Presbyterians and many others, with our wide-ranging musical styles and liturgical practices and missional emphases, with fascinating splashes of human color and variety, each enriching the whole body of Christ (Revelation 7:9–10).

But it is our unity — our surprising solidarity, our heartfelt oneness, our tenacious stick-together-ness, our shared beauty together — that makes it easier for others to believe in Jesus as sent from God. And I don’t think many of us prize our unity as much as we should.

Ortlund walks us through the passages of scripture that talk about the unity of the body. Still, I want to highlight two paragraphs that I think are vitally important today.

Is our unity as Christians a hill we’ll die on? I look at us on social media, in our churches and denominations, in our marriages and families and friendships, and I have to wonder, Do we revere our unity — or do we vaporize our unity as a creedal abstraction? In practical reality, are we “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)? Sometimes it appears we might even be suspicious that “unity” is theological compromise sneaking in to ruin us.

Let’s settle one thing right now. The unity of the church does not threaten doctrine; the unity of the church is a doctrine. The Bible teaches, clearly and emphatically, “There is one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4–6). Our unity bears witness to the gospel, because our unity is part of the gospel. Are we as doctrinally pure as we claim to be?

The unity of the church is a doctrine. So the heresy hunters, the “theologically pure”, all over Youtube trying to divide the church over second and third-tier differences, are themselves doctrinally impure by their conduct. Similarly, those who seek to divide the church on political grounds are just as guilty of denying the doctrine of the unity of the church. Ortlund quotes Francis Schaeffer:

We should never come to [differences] with true Christians without regret and without tears. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Believe me, evangelicals often have not shown it. We rush in, being very, very pleased, it would seem at times, to find other men’s mistakes. We build ourselves up by tearing other men down. This can never show a real oneness among Christians.

There is only one kind of man who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the man who by nature is unbelligerent. A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent; at least it looks that way.

This issue isn’t just Anglican vs. Presbyterian vs. Orthodox vs. Baptist. This issue is found in every church that has people in it because people have differences. How do we push differences within our local bodies? Do we argue over worship styles? The color of the carpet? Are we quick to give our opinion and slow to concede? Do we talk about our frustrations with those not involved?

I’m not talking about gospel differences. Sometimes what is being taught or modeled by a church denies the gospel in word or deed. Those situations may require a parting of ways.

How, today, can we better model unity? Can we lovingly talk about our differences and humbly walk with each other as the family of God? Can we choose not to air our opinions? We have a society filled with exactly how-you-want-it choices for everything. Sometimes we approach Christ’s church as if it doesn’t do what we want, we can go elsewhere rather than seeking reconciliation and humility.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
— Matthew 13:49–50 (CSB)

Joel Fischer

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