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March 05, 2015

Sadly, my time at the Inerrancy Summit has drawn to a close. Because of other commitments, I was only able to give it two days, but I am very grateful for the time I was able to spend there, and was delighted to meet so many of those who attended. As I wait for my flight home, I wanted to close out my time with a few reflections.

First, I think this summit came at the right time. The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy took place almost 40 years ago. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was the most enduring legacy of that council and it remains today as a thorough description of inerrancy as well as a compelling call to it. Here, four decades on, I don’t think we are at a point of true crisis—I do not see a lot of conservative evangelicals wholesale rejecting inerrancy. However, why I think this summit came at the right time is that we may be at the point of assuming inerrancy. The current generation of pastors have been able to take ahold of the legacy that was given them and have not had to do the same kind of work in establishing what they believe and why they believe it. I trust that by the end of this conference their understanding and confidence will be that much deeper and that it will work itself out in their minds, in their preaching, and in their churches for many years to come.

Second, I think this summit drew the right people. It was fascinating to stand outside yesterday and to speak to a pastor from India, followed by a pastor from Poland, followed by a pastor from Germany, followed by a pastor from Russia—and all these talking to a pastor from Canada. In every case I was able to ask about the state of the church in their countries and to hear that there, too, they need to reaffirm the absolute supremacy and authority of the Word of God. This event drew men from 70 countries, and I trust that they will return to their countries with a much better and deeper appreciation of God’s Word and why it matters so, so much.

Which leads me to my third reflection: John MacArthur is an exceptional individual. I don’t say this (I hope) as a breathless fan, but as an observer. I have met him on only a couple of brief occasions, but here is what I have observed: He always owns the room. In a room full of people, everyone will look at him and gravitate to him. Is he just a particularly gregarious individual? Sure, he is. But it’s more than that. I think it must be a kind of spiritual gifting—God has gifted him to be a leader, and he has taken hold of that gift. The sheer quantity of people he has influenced through the sheer quantity of things he is involved in is simply incredible. He is a once-in-a-generation kind of leader. Yesterday in my hotel lobby I ran into a well-known Christian leader (whom I will not identify since I did not think to ask if I could quote him)—one who was not a keynote speaker at the conference but who was there anyway—and he said, “John MacArthur is the godliest man I have ever met.” I can’t disagree with him.

The Summit continues today. Here is what you can see on the livestream:

  • 1:00 PM EST - Steve Lawson
  • 2:45 PM EST - Gregory Beale
  • 7:30 PM EST - Derek Thomas
  • 10:30 PM EST - Albert Mohler

March 05, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals: B&H has put their “Perspectives” series on sale for $2.99 each (each offers multiple perspectives on an issue): Christian Worship, Our Struggle With Sin, Family Ministry, Tithing, Church Government, Spirit Baptism, Children’s Spiritual Formation, the Doctrine of God, Your Child’s Education, Sabbath, Election, the Ending of Mark, Christian America.

Three Christian Misconceptions About Muslims - “When the average Westerner hears ‘Muslim,’ a number of images come to mind—mostly negative. But most Muslims would be just as horrified as we are at the assumptions entertained about them.”

We Are Called to Be Irritating - “The writer of Hebrews is emphasizing an intentional provoking or promoting of ‘love and good works’.”

The Internet Is Public Space - Mike Wittmer offers some thoughts on the Internet.

What Scares the New Atheists - “The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing.”

Do Women Look at Porn? - Covenant Eyes shares some stats.

Guard and Repair - Here are 7 ways to guard and repair relationships.

Morality may damn as well as vice. A vessel may be sunk with gold as well as with dung. —Thomas Watson

Watson

March 04, 2015

Why should you care about the Inerrancy Summit? There are, after all, hundreds of conferences every year, and it can be difficult to distinguish between them. Well, if for no other reason, you should care about this summit because there are almost 5,000 people here this week, most of them church leaders, representing 70 different countries. This is a major event that will influence many people, including current and future leaders. Not only that, but the conference brings together many of today’s most notable Christian leaders to teach, discuss, and affirm one of the most important theological issues: the inerrancy and authority of God’s Word.

John MacArthur opened the conference yesterday morning by addressing the question of why he called for this summit. He recounted attending the 1978 conference sponsored the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, and how he listened as the theologians there formed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. (He also recounted his flight home in which he sat next to Robert Schuller, of all people.)

The heart of his opening address was a list of four reasons he called for this summit.

First, the Scripture is attacked and we are called to defend it. Any reader of the Bible understands that Satan will always threaten to undermine the Word of God. What continues to surprise us is that these threats more often come from within the visible church than outside of it. Yet before God there is no greater offense than to cause people to question the veracity, inerrancy, or authority of Scripture. He went on to do a brief historical survey in which he pointed out the major challenges to the authority of the Bible through sacramentalism, rationalism, liberalism, cultism, experientialism, pragmatism, and several other damaging philosophies. His point was this: Whenever the church abandons its commitment to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the results are catastrophic. With eternity at stake, it is no surprise the Bible reserves its harshest condemnations for those who take away from God’s Words or who add to it.

Second, Scripture is authoritative and we are called to declare it. He went to 2 Timothy 3:16 and then several other texts to show how Scripture consistently claims to speak with the authority and voice of God. God’s Word is consistently pure and authentic, and not a word of it will ever be nullified or taken away.

Third, Scripture is accurate and we are to demonstrate it. While we can prove the authority of the Bible from within the Bible, we can also look outside of it to general revelation. MacArthur showed how the Bible accurately describes the universe and Creation and that it offers the only logical and compelling explanation as to why the world is the way it is. The Bible is always found to be accurate when it intersects with modern science. Everywhere you look in the Bible you will find consistency since, after all, this Author knows the way things really are in his world.

Fourth, the Scripture is active through the power of the Spirit and we are called to deploy it. The Bible is the means by which people are saved. The power is not in the presentation of the preacher, but inherent in the text. The Bible is sharp and powerful—more powerful than anything else. So we are saved by the Word, but also sanctified, edified, comforted, and instructed by it. There are lots of books that can change your thinking, but only one that can change your nature and your eternal destiny. The simple fact is that when we preach the Word we deploy the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to do his supernatural work.

MacArthur’s final call was to the pastors attending, telling them “You cannot be an expositor of Scripture if you have a weak view of the Bible.”

So why does this conference matter? Because I trust and hope that it will raise a new banner for the absolute importance of the doctrine of inerrancy. We are a long way from 1978, and this event will bring the issue to front-center for a whole new generation of leaders.

While the livestream experienced significant difficulty yesterday, you should have more success following it today. If you would like a session by session liveblog, you can find it here at the site for The Master’s Seminary. Today you will hear from:

  • 1:00 PM EST - Miguel Nuñez
  • 2:45 PM EST - Carl Trueman
  • 7:30 PM EST - Ian Hamilton
  • 10:30 PM EST - Mark Dever

March 04, 2015

You Don’t Need a Bucket List - Randy Alcorn explains that because of the resurrection you do not need to have a bucket list.

Everything a Child Should Know About God - Westminster Books has a great sale on an excellent new book meant to teach the basics of theology to young kids. I read through it a while ago and am glad to recommend it.

Lord, Make Me a Generous Father - “It takes my breath away to consider that, whether they know it or not, the primary way my kids are learning about their Father in heaven is through their father on earth.”

10 Ways to Hate People - It’s a quick, bulleted list, but each of them merits some thought.

MereChurch - MereChurch is a new company that wants to help good churches have good and cost-effective web sites.

Worship Is More Important than Your Small Group - I completely agree.

How We Study the Bible - This is helpful: 5 people offer a short explanation as to how they read the Bible day-by-day.

Man was never meant to be a god, but he is forever trying to deify himself. —Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Lloyd Jones

March 03, 2015

John MacArthur’s Inerrancy Summit begins today, and I couldn’t be more excited. Yesterday I hopped a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles so I could be a part of it or, at least, so I could do a bit of writing about it. While I do not intend to provide live-blogging, I will certainly be sharing some updates and reflections on what promises to be an historic event. (Note: You can watch the entire thing online, beginning today at 1 PM EST.) (Another Note: For those who are here, I will be leading a panel discussion at 1:30 on Wednesday.)

One of the very first Christian books I ever read was by James Montgomery Boice who said that, as far as he could see, the battle for inerrancy had already largely been fought and won. He was writing almost two decades ago and at that point it certainly looked as if he was correct. Boice and others were turning their attention to subsequent doctrines of the Bible such as the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. But, as is often the case, the discussion about inerrancy has resurfaced, which means it is time for believers to renew their understanding of the doctrine and reestablish their confidence in it. And that is exactly my hope for this week’s conference, which features quite an impressive list of speakers.

As the week proceeds, I intend to look for specific things that I think will be especially helpful to me.

  • I would like to see a common, simple, and established definition of inerrancy. I assume we will be directed to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy from 1978, but am eager to see whether the theologians here suggest improving or updating it.
  • I would like to see a common understanding of what it really means to deny inerrancy. What the consequences and implications are for those who cannot affirm the truth and whole truth of Scripture? Do we need to break fellowship with these people? Or can we peacefully co-exist even within the same local churches?
  • I would like to learn how to speak truth with love to those who are wrestling with issues related to inerrancy, and how to show them the cost of their theology.
  • I would like to hear the theologians here deal carefully with some of the challenges to inerrancy and to look honestly at the best arguments against inerrancy (which will be the theme of the panel discussion I will be leading on Wednesday).

For those who cannot be here, please let me know what would be helpful for you to know or to learn. What can I find out, or what can I write about, that might be helpful to you? And, if you’d like to pose a question for the panel I will be leading, what do you consider some of the most significant challenges to inerrancy?

Stay tuned to the blog and to the live-stream, and I will update again either later today or first thing tomorrow.

March 03, 2015

I’ve got just a couple of new Kindle deals for you today: Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior ($3.99 - Note: It is a very highly-regarded and relatively new biography); The Cell’s Design by Fazale Rana ($2.99).

Tabletalk Magazine - You may be interested in reading the columns from this month’s Tabletalk magazine. The theme is inerrancy.

Your Facebook Gender - I hope to have more to say about this in the future: Facebook now allows you to define your own gender and gender pronoun.

Josh Hamilton and the Monster that Hunts Us All - “I whispered a prayer under my breath: ‘Father, lavish your mercy on Josh Hamilton and his family. And have mercy on us. Let us never forget what hunts us.’”

The Worst Ever Honeymoon - Sometimes it’s fun to laugh at someone else’s misery: Like when David Murray recounts his honeymoon.

The Dangers of Pet Sins - “Pet sins are those sins we believe we have domesticated. We view them as small and insignificant.” And that’s just never good…

3 Muslim Misconceptions about Christians - J.D. Greear looks at “a set of misconceptions that most Muslims have about Christians that keep them from even considering the gospel.”

Worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange. —Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung

March 02, 2015

Nancy Pearcey’s bestselling and award-winning book Total Truth made quite a mark on my life. It was, to my memory, the first book I had ever read on worldview, and its explanation of the way our world divides the sacred and the secular has not only stuck with me, but has helped me better understand and explain the culture around me. Though Pearcey has written another book between then and now, I consider her new work, Finding Truth, the true sequel to Total Truth.

In Finding Truth, Pearcey offers 5 principles meant to unmask our culture’s endless worldview alternatives to Christianity—secularism, atheism, and the like. There are all kinds of books that make a similar promise, but this one has a noteworthy difference: Pearcey looks to Romans 1 to find a kind of apologetics training manual for identifying and challenging any other worldview.

At the start of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he claims that all humanity has access to evidence for God’s existence, and then describes what happens when people refuse to acknowledge him. As people turn away from God, they suppress the truth that God makes known to them through creation and through human nature. People hide from God by creating idols, God substitutes. These are not merely idols of wood and stone, but also ideas, any idea that provides an alternate explanation for the meaning and purpose of life. Idols have consequences, and God gives up those who worship them to a debased mind, so that they become futile in their thinking and dishonorable in their behavior. While most explanations of this text dwell on behavior, Pearcey focuses on the mind, showing the ways in which the unbelieving mind is affected by sin so that an entire worldview becomes completely opposed to God.

In Romans 1 she finds five strategic principles that “provide a basic game plan for making sense of any worldview across the board—even the cutting edge ideas of our day—and then to craft a compelling positive case for Christianity.” Here is a brief explanation of each.

Principle 1. Identify the Idol. Every non-biblical worldview begins with some kind of a God substitute—an idol. If human beings will not worship the God who created them, they will still worship something—something that provides an alternate explanation of the world’s origins or that provides an understanding of the meaning of life.

Principle 2. Identify the Idol’s Reductionism. Once we identify the idol, we need to look for its reductionism, the way in which it leads to a low view of human life. When one part of the creation is deified or idolized, every other part will necessarily be denigrated. Why? Because one part is always far too small to explain the whole thing. Reductionism is always dehumanizing.

Principle 3. Test the Worldview: Does It Contradict What We Know About the World? The third step is to test the worldview against the facts of experience, which is to say, the truths of general revelation. Though people will continue to suppress the evidence of God’s existence, what God has created continues to challenge them, because physical nature and human nature constantly provide evidence of a Creator. Therefore every idolatrous worldview will fail to fit the evidence and will, instead, contradict the facts of general revelation. 

Principle 4. Test the Idol: Does it Contradict Itself? Every reductionistic worldview is, on some level, self-defeating. It commits suicide by reducing reason to something less than what is reasonable. We need to look for the way in which it contradicts itself and collapses internally. (An example is the relativistic claim that there is no universal truth even though this statement is, itself, meant to be a universal truth.)

Principle 5. Replace the Idol: Make the Case for Christianity. By focusing on the points where reductionistic worldviews fail, we can offer a better and more compelling alternative. We can do this by finding those inevitable places where other worldviews borrow from the Christian worldview and expose themselves to critique.

Finding Truth has many commendable strengths. For one, Pearcey shows again and again just how far people will go to suppress the knowledge of God. They will go to any length to deny what is right in front of their noses and—even closer—right within their own hearts and minds. She shows this in a broad range of alternative religions and philosophies, pointing always to the consistency of the Christian faith.

While she shows that all other worldviews are insufficient and illogical, she does not discard them altogether. Instead, she shows how they do contain some genuine insights, and then shows how their best insights are inevitably and illogically stolen from the Christian worldview. 

She also provides a compelling intellectual argument for the Christian faith. I appreciate what Gregory Koukl says in his endorsement: “This is one of those books that not only challenges the critics; it also gives a huge dose of confidence to the Christian who will catch himself walking away from its pages saying, ‘Gosh, this stuff really is true.’”

Pearcey promises that the principles she lays out will “provide you with the tools to recognize what’s right and wrong with any worldview—and then to craft a biblically informed perspective that is both true and humane.” She makes the promise and she delivers on it. Finding Truth is, all-in-all, a worthy successor to Total Truth.

Finding Truth is available at Amazon.