Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reep takes a second crack at a Triathlon

Don't ask me why I decided to do a triathlon last summer, I have no rational explanation. I ended up being very dissatisfied with my performance and it left a bad taste in my mouth (and I'm not just talking the cotton taste from sucking wind). So I decided to try one more time this summer and then be done with it, kind of a "bucket list" thing. So I signed up for a triathlon in Denver that was today, and I am going to do one more in two weeks- the one in Springfield, Missouri I did so poorly on last year. Then I will be retired from triathlons.

Actually there is a semi-rational reason for why I decided to try these. I figured it would motivate me to be more disciplined with my eating as I really struggle with gluttony and am too often a poor example to my children in that area. It would also motivate me to exercise more. My wife runs 4-5 times a week and needs no goal to make her do it, she's just a very disciplined person. I seem to need goals for motivation. I usually do jog throughout the year so I can play soccer with our church team without dying, but not intensely and as far as training for a sprint triathlon requires- not to mention bike riding and swimming.

So with my sabbatical meaning 8-10 hours in a chair reading and writing each day, I thought I would ride my bike in the morning and run at night, then the last two weeks do some block training, riding my bike 10 miles, then immediately running 3 miles. It was brutal at first because Westcliffe is right at 8000 feet elevation. But once I acclimatized and shed some pounds it felt better. This morning's triathlon in Denver was at a paltry 5000 feet and I felt great. Well, all except for the 525 meter swim to start. I stink at swimming and there's no hope for me to get better, so I just know that going in. The key is to be in good enough shape to survive the ridiculous amount of energy I have to expend swimming with such awful form. Today it worked out well, I recovered on the 12 mile bike course with lots of hills, and actually enjoyed a leisurely 5k run to finish the thing. All in all, it was actually kind of sort of enjoyable. It helps that I've dropped 30 pounds since May. Funny how that works.

As for what place I came in or my time, I don't know either. I don't care. I turn 39 in less than a month. I'm just trying to stay alive. I'll let the younger skinnier folks fight it out for a trophy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

I reckon I make a fair enough cowboy?

So I got my first real cowboy hat today in Colorado...

I decided to try my "Schofield Kid/Will Munny" (from Unforgiven) imitation in front of the mirror.

The Schofield Kid: [after killing a man for the first time] It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.

Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.

The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.

Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.

Should Reep change the font? What say you?

I have a friend who is a marketing guru of sorts. He hates the font I use on my blog and has ripped me for using it a few times. He says I should use an Arial font instead. He even says, and I quote- "They've done a bunch of studies on readability and Arial fonts pretty much take the cake. Much cleaner and no swirlz."

I'm not a marketer, I don't know what swirlz means, so I really don't care if I lose readers over the font...nevertheless, if this Arial font I'm using in this post pleases you, the faithful readers of Reepicheep, let me know. I'll switch.

I've switched the font to Arial...Give me your feedback by way of the poll on the sidebar.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

INCEPTION should be called DECEPTION

The run away summer movie blockbuster is Christopher Nolan's "INCEPTION". I saw it a few days ago.

The basic story line given by Warner Brothers is this:

Dom Cobb is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb's rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible-inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.

Now before I say what I thought of the movie, I will say Christopher Nolan is a movie-making genius. His work on the new Batman installments and a few other recent flicks have established him as a big-time up and coming director. Still, Inception was a two hour exercise in visual and mental manipulation. LOTS of people like such a thing, but not me.

The movie had such a positive buzz I was sure I wouldn't be disappointed. All sorts of "smart" people were saying how great it was. As I watched the movie I had trouble following was lost pretty soon after the thing started. I understood the concept of getting in to people's heads and planting thoughts (I think), but the movie didn't play out in a way that made the premise in any way believable. I kept thinking to myself, "Why can't I understand this? Am I stupid? Why does everyone else get it? " Then I thought of the friends and acquaintances who were giving two thumbs up and I realized most were of the "Matrix is the greatest movie ever" ilk. But I "got" that film (the first one anyways)...comprehending Inception was a different story for me. About 45 minutes in I would have been happy to see NEO come and shoot everyone up and end the thing.

Bottom line about Inception- Little of it made any rational sense or was in any way realistically coherent. Total manipulation from start to finish. Every once and a while they'd throw a little something you would "get" leading you to think you're not as stupid as you feel and they're total cinematic geniuses...only to throw it all away with the dumb ending. People who say they understood INCEPTION are probably lying because they think cool, smart, hip people should get it.

It's totally uncool to say what I'm saying. Cool people understood Inception, right? I'm sure Steve Jobs totally tracked with Inception. I don't expect anyone to comment in favor of my analysis, but secretly- and you know who you are- this blog post makes many of you feel better because you didn't "get" Inception either.

Now where'd I put my Dumb and Dumber DVD? Oh, there it is...under the Nacho Libre disk...

I hope my son has as much fun at summer camp as I did...

You know I'm getting old when my kids are old enough to go to summer church camp. My oldest man child, AJ, left for camp this morning.

The nostalgia of it all is sweeping over me...what great times I had at summer camp as an adolescent.

I hope A.J. has as much fun as I the time pictured below when my friends and I tackled one of the pastors, who was our cabin counselor, and shaved his mustache off (I'm doing the shaving)! His own children didn't recognize him! Apparently the other counselors took a vote about sending me home after this little incident...

Ah yes...I hope AJ is having great fun at camp this week!!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reid on Powerful Preaching

Reading about Puritan pastors can be a touch depressing (as per the last post), but it is also challenging. As I contemplate a return to the Redeemer pulpit after 12 weeks of not preaching, I have grabbed hold of something James Reid said about preaching-

And powerful preaching, calculated to command a reverent attention, to strike the conscience, and to warm and affect the heart, well becomes ministers of the glorious Gospel of the Son of God. They ought to speak with dignity and holy boldness, not fearing the face of man.

Reid is right.

I'm a relative Schmuck...

William Gouge

During my studies these past three months I have been working on profiles for each of the 130 plus Divines that made up the Westminster Assembly. The Assembly was convened in 1643 and lasted almost 6 years. It was made up of pastors and doctors from England and Scotland primarily. Most of the Divines would be labeled as Puritan in that the believed in Sola Scriptura and reforming the Roman Catholic vestiges that remained in the Church of England. Almost to a man these Divines suffered for their convictions before the Assembly and after. If they were not fortunate enough to die before 1662 they were ejected from pastoral office when the "Act of Uniformity" was passed requiring ministers to practice various objectionable superstitious ceremonies in worship services. Many of these ministers were left destitute because of their convictions.

In reading biographies of the various Divines I have been continually stuck by their pastoral diligence, faithfulness to the Word of God, love for the truth, and deep care for the flocks they shepherd. Indeed, in comparison to many of these pastors of the mid 1600's, I am a total pastoral schmuck.

Consider William Gouge for a moment. Biographer James Reid writes-

Mr. Gouge's ministry was highly beneficial to many souls. After he had finished his public labors, on the Sabbath day, some neighbors, who were without helps in their own families, came to his house, where he repeated his sermons to them in a familiar manner, which they found to be highly useful. Afterward, he visited the sick in his parish, or such as could not attend the public ordinances. And he knew well how to avail himself of the advantages of their circumstances. He also carefully examined his parishioners, especially before they were admitted to the sacrament of the Lord's supper. He considered himself as the devoted servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of his church; and he highly esteemed, and greatly delighted in, the service of his Royal Master. He lived in all humility, and in singleness of heart unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

Consider also Reid's account of Joseph Caryl-

His labors were great; his studies incessant; his conversation unspotted: his charity, faith, zeal and wisdom gave fragrant smell among the churches and servants of Christ. His sickness, though painful, was borne with patience and joy in believing; and so he parted from time to eternity under the full sail of desire and joy in the Holy Spirit. He lived his sermons.

Joseph Caryl

The Puritans are often caricatured unfairly and inaccurately. Those Puritans who were part of the Westminster Assembly were pious, faithful, humble, scholarly, and diligent. Each was willing to suffer greatly for biblical convictions, and most did. To be honest, reading about these ministers makes me realize how little I am like them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A.A. Hodge on Marriage

Look what I just read from A.A. Hodge in his commentary (1869) on the Westminster Confession-

Marriage was ordained of God, and is therefore a divine institution. This is so -- (1.) Because God created man male and female, and so constituted them, physically and morally, that they are mutually adapted to each other and are mutually helpful to each other under the law of marriage, and not otherwise; and (2.) Because the law of marriage, the conditions of its contract, continuance and dissolution, are laid down in the Word of God.

Hence it follows that marriage is a religious as well as a civil contract. No State has any right to change the law of marriage, or the conditions upon which it, may be lawfully constituted or dissolved, as these have been ordained by God. Neither has any man or woman a right to contract any relation different in any respect, as to its character or duration, from that which God has ordained as marriage. Hence marriage is a human contract under the limits and sanctions of a divine constitution, and the parties contracting pledge their vows of truth and constancy to God as well as to each other and to society.

But it is also a civil contract, because every State is bound to protect the foundations upon which social order reposes, and every marriage involves many obvious civil obligations and leads to many civil consequences touching property, the custody of children, etc. The State must therefore define the nature and civil effects of marriage, and prescribe conditions upon which and modes in which it shall be publicly acknowledged and ratified or dissolved. It is of the highest importance that the laws of the State do not contravene the laws of God upon this subject, but be made in all respects to conform to them.

Bahnsen on Canonicity

Continuing a series of posts about Canonicity (how we know which books belong in the bible), the late Greg Bahnsen penned a helpful essay a few years back. View the entire essay here.

In the essay Bahnsen comments on the historic settlement regarding canon-

The Canon Historically Settled Under God's Providence

Those works which God gave to His people for their canon always received immediate recognition as inspired, at least by a portion of the church (e.g., Deut. 31:24-26; Josh. 24:25; I Sam. 10:25; Dan. 9:2; I Cor. 14:37; I Thess. 2:13; 5:27; II Thess. 3:14; II Peter 3:15-16), and God intended for those writings to receive recognition by the church as a whole (e.g., Col. 4:16; Rev. 1:4). The Spiritual discernment of inspired writings from God by the corporate church was, of course, sometimes a drawn-out process and struggle. This is due to the fact that the ancient world had slow means of communication and transportation (thus taking some time for epistles to circulate), coupled with the understandable caution of the church before the threat of false teachers (thus producing dialogue and debate along the way to achieving one mind).

Historical evidence indicates that, even with the difficulties mentioned above, the Old and New Testament canons were substantially recognized and already established in the Christian church by the end of the second century.[3] However, there is adequate Biblical and theological reason to believe that the canon of Scripture was essentially settled even in the earliest days of the church.

By the time of Jesus there existed a well-defined body of covenantal literature which, under the influence of the Old Testament prophets, was recognized as defining and controlling genuine faith. When Jesus or the apostles appealed simply to 'the Scriptures' against their Jewish opponents, there is no suggestion whatsoever that the identity and limits of such writings were vague or in dispute. Confirmation of the contents of the Jewish canon is found toward the end of the first century in the writings of Josephus (the Jewish historian) and among the rabbis of Jamnia.

The New Testament church acknowledged the canonical authority of this Old Testament corpus, noting that '...not one jot or tittle' (Matt. 5:18) of 'the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms' (Luke 24:44) was challenged or repudiated by our Lord. His full submission to that canon was evident from the fact that He declared 'the Scripture cannot be broken' (John 10:35). As Paul later said: 'whatever things were previously written were written for our instruction' (Rom. 15:4).

The traditional Jewish canon was divided into three sections (Law, Prophets, Writings), and an unusual feature of the last section was the listing of Chronicles out of historical order, placing it after Ezra-Nehemiah and making it the last book of the canon. In light of this, the words of Jesus in Luke 11:50-51 reflect the settled character of the Jewish canon (with its peculiar order) already in his day. Christ uses the expression 'from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah,' which appears troublesome since Zechariah was not chronologically the last martyr mentioned in the Bible (cf. Jer. 26:20-23). However, Zechariah is the last martyr we read of in the Old Testament according to Jewish canonical order (cf. II Chron. 24:20-22), which was apparently recognized by Jesus and his hearers.

As for the New Testament, the covenantal words of Christ -- which determine our lives and destinies (e.g., John 5:38-40; 8:31; 12:48-50; 14:15, 23-24) -- have been, through the power of the Holy Spirit, delivered faithfully to us by Christ's apostles: 'But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you' (John 14:26; cf. 15:26-27; 14:16-17; 16:13-15).

The very concept of an 'apostle' in Jewish jurisprudence was that of a man who in the name of another could appear with authority and speak for that other man (e.g., 'the apostle for a person is as this person himself,' it was said). Accordingly, Jesus told His apostles, 'He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent me' (Matt. 10:40). And through these apostles He promised to 'build My church' (Matt. 16:18).

We know that in this way there came about a body of New Testament literature which the church, 'being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone' (Eph. 2:20), came to recognize as God's own word, being the canon of their covenantal relation with Him. This recognition traces from the days of the apostles themselves, who either identified their own works as canonical (e.g., Gal. 1:1, 11-12; I Cor. 14:37), or verified the canonical authority of the works by other apostles (e.g., II Peter 3:16) and writers (e.g., I Tim. 5:18, citing Luke 10:7).

But whether or not each was given particular written attention by an apostle, the individual books of the New Testament came to be seen for what they were: the revelation of Jesus Christ through His chosen messengers. It is in this body of literature that God's people discern the authoritative word of their Lord -- as Jesus said: 'My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me' (John 10:27).

To recapitulate: we know from God's Word (1) that the church of the New Covenant recognized the standing canon of the Old Testament, and (2) that the Lord intended for the New Covenant church to be built upon the word of the apostles, coming thereby to recognize the canonical literature of the New Testament. To these premises we can add the conviction (3) that all of history is governed by God's providence ('...according to the plan of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will,' Eph. 1:11). So then, trusting Christ's promise that He would indeed build His church, and being confident in the controlling sovereignty of God, we can be assured the God-ordained recognition of the canon would be providentially accomplished -- which, in retrospect, is now a matter of historical record.

To think otherwise would be, in actual effect, to deprive the Christian church of the sure word of God. And that would in turn (a) undermine confidence in the gospel, contrary to God's promise and our spiritual necessity, as well as (b) deprive us of the philosophical precondition of any knowledge whatsoever, thus consigning us (in principle) to utter scepticism.

U.S. National Debt

Seriously, you have to check this out:

The U.S. National Debt Clock

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wizards top Manchester United in historic friendly

So here I am in Colorado while my KC Wizards take on Manchester United at Arrowhead. Dang.

I knew I would be here months ago when I got my tickets for the big game (all season ticket holders got tickets to this HUGE event), so being the nice (humble) guy I am, I gave my tickets to Brian and Zach (RPC college 'kid' going to Moody).

While the game had no bearing on any league play, make no mistake, it was huge for KC to have 53,000 fans come to a game against the biggest English soccer club on earth. Then, to top it off, KC won. See the highlights below:

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Brian owes me...again.

New Heritage logo and mascot

There is less than a month to go before our first day of our new school- Heritage Christian Academy.

Here is the finalized crest/logo-
Here is the finalized mascot (very cool)-

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Presbyterianism: the worst form of Church government...except for all the others.

One of the goals of the Westminster Assembly, commissioned by the English and Scottish governments, was to provide a "Form of Church Government" to unify the three kingdoms (England, Scotland, and Ireland). The divines were tasked with outlining a biblical form of government. The form that emerged was Presbyterianism. To be sure, there was opposition to this within the Assembly- the Independents wanted no system of government that looked anything like a hierarchy (they had enough of the Popish system) and the Erastians thought the civil government should carry out the discipline of the church and thus were not interested in granting jurisdiction to local churches, presbyteries and synods. But in the end, the Assembly voted, by a considerable margin, for a Presbyterian form of government. Very simply, Presbyterianism refers to governance by courts of elders. The elders of a local church are the first level of governance, called a Session today but referred to as a Presbytery in the 17th Century. The second court is made up of the elders from various regional local churches and is called Presbytery today but referred to as Synod in the 17th Century. The final court is made up of elders from the various national churches and is called General Assembly today (Synod in some Reformed churches) very similar to the 17th Century.

Alexander Mitchell, lecturing in the late 1800's on the Assembly's "Form of Government", wrote the following about the Presbyterian form of government-

Here is a superiority without tyranny, for no minister hath a papal or monarchical jurisdiction over his own flock, far less over other pastors and over the congregations of a large diocese. Here there is parity without confusion and disorder, for the pastors are in order before the elders, and the elders before the deacons. Every particular church is subordinate to the presbytery, the presbytery to the synod, and the synod to the national assembly. One pastor also hath priority of esteem before another for age, for zeal, for gifts, for his good deservings of the Church, each one honoring him whom God hath honored, and as he beareth the image of God, which was to be seen among the Apostles themselves. But none hath pre-eminence of title or power or jurisdiction above others; even as in nature one eye hath not power over another, only the head hath power over all, even as Christ over His church...

And lastly, here there is a subjection without slavery, for the people are subject to the pastors and assemblies, yet there is no assembly wherein every particular church hath not interest and power; nor is there anything done but they are, if not actually yet virtually, called to consent unto it.

Such is presbytery in theory, and there is no reason why in practice it should not approximate to the ideal more nearly than some recent caricaturists represent it to have done, save that we who are intrusted with its administration, not excluding these caricaturists themselves, still come far short of what we ought to be as men, as Christians, and as the descendants of such noble-hearted Christians; and that is a shortcoming that would mar any form of government which God has instituted, or human wisdom has devised.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reformed and Ready

When the Church of England was formed many former Roman priests simply transferred to the Anglican practice. There would have been a dearth of pastors and teachers were it not for the Puritans who had endured much persecution at the hands of the Pope and Bloody Mary and even the Church of England under Elizabeth.

When the dust settled in the late 1500's, Reformed pastors had been ministering to people in the countryside for a few decades already. Reformed churches were established, several presbyteries had even been organized. Queen Elizabeth was in need of ecclesiastical sway with the people in order that a certain unity might be brought to the Church of England. Alexander Mitchell describes the slim pastoral pickings that existed heading in to 17th Century England-

"The men who at first presented themselves for ordination in the restored Church (Church of England) were generally men of mean condition and miserably qualified for sacred offices to which they aspired, and so limited was the supply, even of such men, that many churches were left without ministers for a time, or consigned to the charge of men with doubtful ordination as well as deficient education. The incumbents (Roman priests) of Queen Mary's days, who to so large an extent had nominally submitted to the new regime, were too often either popishly affected or grossly ignorant- dead to the living meaning of the changes which had been made, or unable to preach, at times even to read, in an edifying and impressive manner- clinging, as has been said, to the old forms, which they could repeat by rote, rather than taking the trouble of making themselves familiar with the new." (Mitchell, The Westminster Assembly: It's History and It's Standards)

This dismal ecclesiastical situation allowed for prepared, pious, pastors to exert important influence. Over the first 30 years of the 17th Century the Puritans grew in numbers and influence. It was the Puritans the English Parliament called to provide a statement outlining Church polity, doctrine, and government for the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Over 120 men gathered for almost 6 years to construct the Westminster Confession of Faith. The majority of those men were Reformed and Puritan.

It's important to be Reformed and ready.

The Darkside (spoof of The Blindside)

This is straight up hilarious:

Frame on the Canon of Scripture

Which books belong in the bible has been a heated discussion for the last 500 years in particular. It's an important matter for sure. I will post a series of articles from various scholars who shed light on this issue. The first post comes from John Frame. It's long, but worth the read.

The next logical question is, where may we find these written words of God? In what written texts? This is the question of canon. Canon refers to the body of writing that God has given to rule the church.

Studies of the historical process by which the church came to identify the canon certainly do reveal interesting facts, and believers can see the hand of God throughout this process. But inductive study alone is unlikely to show us with certainty which books God has given to rule the church. My purpose here, rather, is to present the teachings of Scripture itself relevant to the doctrine of the word of God, and now relevant to the specific question of canonicity.

As we have seen, it is God’s intention to speak personal words to us, words that have more authority than any other. These words govern our use of all other words, of all other sources of knowledge. For God’s words to have this kind of authority, they must be distinguishable from all other words, from words that are merely human. There must, therefore, be a canon, a body of divine words that God’s people can identify as his.

We have also seen that these words are not to be received as momentary experiences by individuals and then allowed to disappear into past history. Rather, they are to be kept permanently so that God can continually witness against the sins of his people (Deut. 31:24-29), both present and future generations. So, God places the Ten Commandments by the holy Ark of the Covenant and places other words beside them. Doubtless other copies were made as well, which circulated among the people of Israel. The people knew that these were God’s words, the words of supreme authority, clearly distinct from all merely human words.

So at every stage of Israel’s history, there was a canon, a definite body of divine writings, which spoke to the nation and its individuals with supreme authority. The first canon was the two tablets of the covenant. A later canon added to these the Deuteronomic law of Moses (Deut. 31:24). Still a third added words of Joshua (Josh. 24:25-28).

Scripture does not continue an explicit narration of each stage in the growth of the canon. But as we have seen it describes occasions in which prophecy was written down for future generations. There are also many places in the Old Testament where one writer indicates a knowledge of the work of another, either through quotation (as Jeremiah 26:18, which cites Micah 3:12), or through awareness of symbols, historical narrative, and themes found in previous books. 2 The New Testament indicates, as we noted, that during Jesus’ earthly ministry he was able to appeal to the law, prophets, and writings of the Hebrew Bible, which we call the Old Testament, as common ground with his Jewish opponents. We note that although Jesus and his opponents disagreed about a great many things, they never disagreed about what texts could be cited authoritatively.

Evidently, then, we should identify the Old Testament canon as consisting of those books acknowledged by the Jews, in the time and place of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We can determine that list of books by investigating the history of the time, verifying our conclusions by looking at what texts Jesus cites and doesn’t cite. In my judgment, the data indicate clearly that this canon is identical with the canon endorsed by Protestants since the Reformation.

Given God’s intention to rule the church by a written document consisting of his personal words, it would be anomalous in the extreme if he put them in a place where we couldn’t find them. Through Old Testament history, God has taken pains to put these words in an obvious place, the tabernacle, and later the temple. Josephus says that the books kept in the Temple, before its destruction in A. D. 70, were the books recognized as canonical by the Jews. Although the Jews read other books for edification, the Temple books were those with fully divine authority. So, there is no mystery about the extent of the Old Testament canon. God put the books in a place where they could function as he intended, where they would be recognized as his.

The extent of the New Testament canon is on the surface a more difficult problem, because in the nature of the case no inspired writer could refer to the New Testament writings as a completed collection. But we have seen that the New Testament writers speak of a "tradition" that was to be passed down from generation to generation and guarded against distortion. And we have seen that there is written revelation attesting the New Covenant as there was attesting the Old (Chapter 21). As with the Old Testament, we should note how anomalous it would be if this revelation were hard to find. Our salvation depends on our access to the words of Jesus (John 6:68) and to the gospel preached by the apostles (Rom. 1:16, Gal. 1:6-9, Eph. 1:13).

The problem with much current literature on the canon is that it does not take account of God’s expressed intentions. It seeks, rather, through autonomous reasoning to determine if any first century books deserve canonical status, and using that method it arrives at conclusions that are uncertain at best. But once we understand God’s use of a canon from the time of Moses, we must approach our present problem with a presupposition: that God will not let his people walk in darkness, that he will provide for us the words we need to have, within our reach.

So we reach out, and we find before us, 27 books—from Matthew to Revelation. God did not put them in the Jerusalem temple, for that temple is gone. He placed them in his temple the church (1 Cor. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:21, Rev. 3:12), that is, among the people of God, where, as in Deut. 30:11-14, the word is very near us.

The early church was divided by many controversies, concerning basic doctrines including the Trinity and the person of Christ. There were differences among them, too, as to what books were canonical. But it is remarkable how little they fought about this. Some of the differences had to do with geography: some books reached parts of the church before other parts. Some of them had to do with views of content and authorship. But remarkably, when in 367 A. D. Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria published a list of books accepted in his church, there was no clamor. From that time on, Christians of all traditions—Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant—agreed on the New Testament canon. Indeed, through the centuries since, agreement on the New Testament canon has been more unanimous than on the Old Testament canon, though on the surface it might seem that ascertaining the former would have been more difficult.

What happened? Jesus’ sheep heard his voice (John 10:27). Or, to put it differently, the Holy Spirit illumined the texts so that God’s people perceived their divine quality. Recall that in Chapter 14 I discussed a similar problem in connection with the divine voice: how can we be sure that the voice is God? The answer I proposed was that our assurance is supernatural. When God speaks, he at the same time assures us that he is speaking. 3 In Chapter 15, I proposed the same answer to the problem of identifying true prophets and apostles. In this case Scripture does give objective criteria (Deut. 18), but those criteria are difficult to apply in view of the relation between prophecy and historical contingency. Again, our ultimate assurance is supernatural. So it is, I believe, with the question of identifying canonical books.

In this case, as with the identification of prophets, the Christians used some objective criteria. Apostolic authorship was an obvious criterion. Jesus had appointed the apostles to remember his words and to lead the church into all truth. So if the Christians believed that a book was written by an apostle, they received it, without further argument, as canon.

But of course they also received books that were not written by apostles, such as Mark, Luke-Acts, Hebrews, James and Jude. The criterion of apostolicity was relevant to these as well, of course. These books were thought to have come from the apostolic circle, to have somehow been certified by the apostles. Mark was thought to have been a close associate of Peter, and Paul himself testifies in his writings that Luke was his associate (Col. 4:14, 2 Tim. 4:11, Philem. 1:24). See also the "we" sections of Acts, which indicate that Luke traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys, (Acts 16:10-24, 20:5-21:18, 27:1-28:16). Hebrews was sometimes thought to be the work of Paul, though most scholars deny that today. James and Jude were most likely blood-brothers of Jesus and part of the apostolic church leadership though not technically apostles.

The connection of these books with the apostles, even when indirect, is certainly in their favor. Since the apostles are the main recipients of New Testament revelation, we naturally look favorably on any text that they may have approved in some way. And we should grant that the first and second century Christians were closer to the writing of these books than we are, and they probably had more knowledge than we of who wrote the books and the grounds on which the church accepted them. But this is only a probable argument, if we look at the historical evidence alone. We cannot prove decisively that the apostles officially warranted all the books of the New Testament and withheld their certification from books that were excluded.

Other criteria used by early Christians were antiquity, public lection (those read in worship), orthodoxy of content. 4 But these criteria are also insufficient to prove that any book belongs in the canon, or to disprove claims to canonicity on behalf of other books.

Nor should we rest our conclusion on the testimony of the church alone, and certainly not on the testimony of a particular denomination, as in the Roman Catholic view of the matter. The Roman church has claimed that the authority of the canon rests on their pronouncement. But (1) the church’s conviction on this matter, unanimous since A. D. 367, precedes any statement by a Roman Catholic pope or council. (2) As we have seen, God intends to rule his church by a book, not a church authority. So the authority of the church rests on the authority of the canon, not the other way around.

We should, however, join with the church of all ages (the early church and all Christian denominations since then) in the presupposition that God intended the New Covenant in Christ to be attested in writing, and that the apostles were charged with bringing the written word, as well as the oral word, before the world. Nor can we doubt that God’s intention to provide such written revelation was successful. Thus does Scripture attest itself, together with the witness of the Holy Spirit. Our assurance that these books are canon, like our assurance of the divine voice and of prophecy, is supernatural. So we can be sure that the canon of 27 New Testament books, now universally accepted in the church, therefore, is God’s personal word to us today.

Is the canon "closed," or should we expect God to add more books to the canon in our time and in the future? In one sense, the canon is always closed. God forbids people to add to or subtract from it (Deut. 4:2, 12:32; compare Prov. 30:6, Rev. 22:18-19). Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for putting their traditions on a par with Scripture and therefore making "void the word of God" (Matt. 15:6). We are to be satisfied with what God has given us, and not long for more. In every age, God has given his people all the written words we need to live faithfully before him.

Nevertheless, God himself has added to the canon, as we have seen. Moses added the Deuteronomic revelation to the original Decalogue. God accepted that revelation as worthy to be placed aside the Decalogue in the holiest place. Joshua added his words to those of Moses. God added the prophets and writings to the law, and the New Testament to the Old. Of course: God has the freedom to do this, though he forbids it to any mere man.

God adds revelation as needs for it arise in history. The revelation made to Adam would not have been sufficient for Noah, as he had to prepare for the flood. The revelation made to Noah would not have been sufficient for Abraham, to define God’s covenant with him. And the Old Testament, though sufficient to meet the challenges of the New Testament church after Paul’s demise (2 Tim. 3:17) was not sufficient to tell the whole story of Jesus.

The New Testament teaches, however, that with the coming of Christ, with his atonement, resurrection, and ascension, and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, redemptive history has reached a watershed. The work of Christ is final, in a way that the work of Abraham and Moses are not. In Christ, God has spoken (past tense, Heb. 1:2) a final word to us, attested (also past tense, Heb. 2:2) by Jesus’ original hearers. As the redemptive work of Christ is once-for-all, so the word of Christ and the apostles is once-for-all. For God to add more books to the canon would be like his adding something to the work of Christ, something Scripture teaches cannot be done.

So, the canon is closed today, not only in the sense that human beings dare not add to it, but also in the sense that God himself will not add to it. The closing of the canon does not, however, put an end to revelation in general. God still communicates with us in general revelation, in the Spirit’s work of writing the word on our heart, and of course in Scripture itself. The writing of Scripture is once-for-all; but God continues to speak to us through Scripture day-by-day.

Texas Congresswoman in need of a history lesson

This woman is a senior member of the House committee on foreign relations...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reep does a little church hopping...

Hope Lutheran Church in Westcliffe. The oldest Lutheran Church in Colorado (137 years old)

While on a study sabbatical I have tried to visit other churches. Over my 14 years at Redeemer I haven't worshipped too many other places, there simply isn't opportunity to do so. So far I have visited seven different churches. Here's a run down with some observations at the end.

Oak Hills Presbyterian Church is one of our sister PCA churches in the KC area. I was able to attend the last worship service of their pastor and my friend, Russ Ramsey. I know several people at Oak Hills so it was a blessed time of worship and fellowship. There was also a tinge of sadness as the Ramseys said their farewells before heading to a new church in Nashville where Russ will be ministering. Oak Hills basically practices a "contemporary" style of worship with a worship team primarily leading the service with an occasional elder or pastor leading a scripture reading. There is no pronounced liturgy, but the basic elements of a Christ-centered worship service are clearly present. Russ preached an excellent sermon doing and exposition of Philippians 1. Oak Hills is pretty informal, very friendly, and place I am praying for as they wait on God for a new pastor.

Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) is in Tacoma, Washington and is pastored by a liturgical mentor of mine, Dr. Robert Rayburn. As providence would have it, Dr. Rayburn was out of town the Sunday I attended, but the associate pastor did a wonderful job preaching in his stead. Faith's service looks just like Redeemer's (or maybe they would say Redeemer's looks just like Faith's!). Two differences I noticed- first, the congregation comes forward for communion. Second, on the last verse of every hymn, the whole congregation lifts their hands. The liturgical raising of hands...very interesting. Of all the churches I visited, I was probably most comfortable with the worship style at Faith.

Emmaus Mennonite Church is where my wife grew up. It's located in Whitewater, Kansas in the midst of a large farming community. Emmaus is close to 150 years old as a congregation. Over 2 years ago their church building (where we got married) burned to the ground. We were able to attend the opening service for their new building in mid June. The service was a celebration of God's faithfulness in the past and present with prayers asking for guidance in the future. The new pastor is solid, and dare I suggest, possibly even a Calvinist!!! I don't want to get the man in trouble with his Mennonite flock, but as I have talked with him twice and have heard from my in laws, he believes in the doctrines of grace. The service was like other services I have attended there, pretty traditional with hymn singing, "special music", and an expositional sermon. Emmaus basically functions like a congregational baptist church (though they do have a "board" that does most of the decision making). I have always found it interesting they vote on the pastor every three years-as to whether he should stay or go. That's how congregationally governed churches work. Let's just say, with all due respect, I'm glad to be Presbyterian.

Calvary Baptist is a reformed baptist church in Lenexa, Kansas pastored by my friend Brian Albert. Brian came to Calvary a few years ago and has guided them through a change in governance from congregational to elder rule. He has done a tremendous job wisely shifting this church to a more biblical form of government and place of spiritual health. The worship at Calvary is typically baptist with a singing team leading the hymns and songs, a few readings, and a sermon. I'll bet Brian would like a more liturgical form in the order of worship, but first things first, he's already made a huge change in the governance, one can't move too quickly. I have to say this- the morning I visited Pastor Brian preached one of the best sermons I have ever heard. Period. He was preaching through a series on the gospel and this particular sermon was concerning God's judgment against sin as outlined in Romans 2. Listen to his sermon here, it's well worth it.

Hope Lutheran (Missouri Synod) is an historic church in Westcliffe, Colorado very close to Horn Creek family camp where I speak each year (twice this summer). The worship at Hope is liturgical and traditionally Lutheran for the most part. Apparently they have a more "contemporary" service every other week. As for this service, it was just the way I like it- sound liturgy (lots of responsive singing parts), communion, and a faithful exposition of several texts of Scripture from their lectionary. There is a picture of their building above and on their website. The building is gorgeous inside and out.

Village 7 Presbyterian Church (PCA) is in Colorado Springs and a pretty large church (I'm guessing 1500 members?). Village 7's basic ministry structure reminds me a bit of Redeemer in that it has a school and has part in a seminary (something we hope to see at RPC in the future). The worship was pretty traditional with a clear liturgy that included a corporate confession of sin (something tragically rare in today's evangelical landscape), quite a bit of singing, and a solid sermon by guest preacher and author Kevin DeYoung. My friend Nathan George is their guest musician for much of the summer, he led the congregation in a couple new Psalm arrangements written by Greg Wilbur (check out one he led here). Something really strange happened the Sunday I was there. Twice in the service a seemingly disturbed young man stood up and announced that he believed NY City would soon be victim to a nuclear attack. The second time he got up (in the middle of the sermon) ushers quickly and graciously ushered him out. Pastor De Young stopped his sermon to pray for the man and continued preaching. I was extremely impressed with how Pastors Mark Bates and Kevin DeYoung handled a very strange situation.

Rocky Mountain Presbyterian Church (PCA)is in the Denver area, Broomfield to be exact. I visited there yesterday morning. RMPC has a building that is less than three years old but was designed to look old, in a good way. Check out the picture below. It's a gorgeous design inside and out. RMPC's worship is liturgical in form but the music is led by a few guitarists and a pianist. The sermon was a faithful exposition of Jesus cursing the fig tree and throwing the money changers out of the temple preached by a pastoral intern from Denver Seminary. There was a mixture of hymns and contemporary songs sung.

Observations: Each of these churches possessed the biblical elements of singing, giving, bible reading, preaching, praying, and fellowship. Two of the churches celebrated the sacrament of communion, for which I am thankful. Each of the churches provided strong, biblical, expositions of a text of Scripture. While the style of some of these churches wasn't my preference, each were clearly trying to be reverent and God-centered in worship. On the whole the churches were friendly, with some much better than others. I have thus far been encouraged by what I have seen, although I'll be honest- I'm very thankful for Redeemer as I have never been more comfortable any other place.

Rocky Mountain Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Broomfield, CO. The building is just 3 years old.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Warfield on WCF Chapter 1 "Of the Holy Scripture"

I am headlong in to a study of the Westminster Assembly and it's theology so I haven't had much time to blog. B.B. Warfield made a statement in his book "The Westminster Assembly and It's Work" that is worth sharing with you.

The opening chapter of the Westminster Confession contains the clearest, most accurate statement on the Bible ever penned, in my opinion. I have long thought this to be the case. Warfield said it better than I ever could-

“There is certainly in the whole mass of confessional literature no more nobly conceived or ably wrought-out statement of doctrine than the chapter “Of the Holy Scripture,” which the Westminster Divines placed at the head of their Confession and laid at the foundation of their system of doctrine. It has commanded the hearty admiration of all competent readers.”

I have great admiration for the whole of the Westminster Confession, but chapter 1 represents the Assembly's finest work.

Read the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1 here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wild Glenn Beck program

I don't watch Glenn Beck but I did check out the clip below because I heard through Twitter my seminary colleague Anthony Bradley was on. Anthony hardly got a word in, but I was blown away by all Beck said. The dude's a Mormon but he basically laid out the biblical means for salvation through Christ albeit from an Arminian perspective. You have to watch this-

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is the pyschic power of Apple in danger?

Apple products are good, that much has to be granted. What is more impressive about Apple is the way it has managed to grip the loyalty of so many people. I'm not a computer-techno guy so I am not passionate about brands or companies. I like my stuff to work, if it doesn't, I get rid of it and replace it with something that does.

I had a Palm phone that ran on a Microsoft Windows platform and it was horrible. My Blackberry was much better and my new Android phone is better still. I've seen the iPhone 4 and honestly can't see it being any better than an Android. As for my computer, I have always had a PC. I did have a hard drive crash once about 5 years ago, but thankfully everything was backed up through an online service. Otherwise I have had no problem with PC's (knocking on wood) and don't really understand how Apple is so much better. Brian (an Apple computer cult member and loyalist) swears his Mac is so much better than my PC, but I have yet to understand how. Sure, I don't do that many things on my computer, so maybe he's right...or...maybe he has succumbed to a pop craze that has run it's course?

In an effort to counter the launch of the new Android phones Apple rushed it's iPhone 4 in to production. Immediately the phone had problems, most notably with the antenna. Make no mistake, a phone with reception problems is a big deal no matter how good the thing takes video. Apple responded by blaming everyone but itself. The list of issues with the phone seemed to mount, yet Apple and it's loyalists wouldn't seem to admit the flaws.

What a strange phenomena Apple is. Stranger yet are the drones who defend Apple no matter how bad one of it's products performs. Very weird in my techno-illiterate way of thinking. Just today a very interesting article came out that addresses some of what I am speaking of. Check out the article here. Note these quotations from the article-

The biggest problem with the iPhone 4's antenna isn't whether it's faulty or fine, it's Apple.

Apple has so far avoided the serious issue of whether the iPhone 4 has a legitimate hardware problem and instead obfuscated the issue by first telling users how to hold the new iPhone and then blaming a software glitch. As a result, Apple now has a big PR headache on top of an obvious hardware flaw

If Apple admitted the hardware flaw, its PR problem would start to go away. But it hasn't, and news organizations including Consumer Reports and Engadget continue to prove the antenna is faulty. Worse, countless consumers have weighed in on the matter ... and that's Apple's biggest problem.

The iconic computer maker is in danger of losing its grip on the public psyche, an incredible asset it has milked for the last decade to become one of America's most admired companies. Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, is beloved because of his singular vision and insistence that good design and computing hardware go hand in hand. Jobs utters, we listen. It is a unique power Bill Gates could never muster.

The article describes Apple's power well- "its grip on the public psyche". What will it take for said grip to loosen? People can be irrationally loyal about some strange things. You watch, I'll get a few comments from Applelites telling me what an idiot I am for not knowing how much better Apples are than PC's {yawn}.

Karlberg's warning about disregarding the creeds and confessions

Famous picture of the Westminster Assembly which produced the "Westminster Confession of Faith". A color replica of this portrait is strategically located near the Redeemer coffee table.

I am holed up in a small condo in immediate eye shot of the Sangre De Cristo mountains for the next three weeks endeavoring to complete a large portion of my doctoral studies. My awesome wife and kids have graciously allowed for me to do this as my sabbatical ends August 9 and I won't have another opportunity for this kind of concentrated reading and writing for another 7 years.

While reading an essay by Mark Karlberg addressing his perception of a recent erosion of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone in American Evangelicalism at large and the Reformed Church in particular, he issues a clear and helpful warning-

"The problem is all about us. Perhaps it is merely indicative of the age in which we live, an age characterized by individualism and by that unrelenting drive toward relativism, the gradual undermining of truth and authority. The great creeds and confessions of Protestant orthodoxy no longer carry the weight and respect they once did. More often than not they are viewed as relics of the past, as historic curiosities. Unchecked, the contemporary disregard for historic Christian dogma will only lead to the further erosion of evangelical witness in our generation."

I think Karlberg is right on. Creeds and confessions have long served to safeguard the Church. Minimizing or rejecting the need for such helpful instruments has left the Church vulnerable to relativism and the revival of various doctrinal errors that were dealt with effectively by the Church already in ages past. Of course such documents should be continually examined by Scripture, but jettisoning them all together has only served to weaken the Church and witness in this country.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vader takes a penalty kick

Now that you are thoroughly acquainted with the world's game, check Lord Vader's method for taking a penalty kick-

My first "14er"- Mt. Shavano

Today I climbed Mt. Shavano making it the first mountain over 14,000 ft I have summitted. Shavano is 14,229 (although some sources say 14,237) feet. It's the 17th highest peak in Colorado (with the highest being Mt. Elbert at 14,400). The tallest non-Alaskan U.S. mountain is Mt. Whitney in California at 14,505 feet. The Alaskan mountains are in a league of their own with Mt. McKinley reaching over 20,000 feet above sea level.

I didn't find it to be any harder than Horn Peak (13,450 ft), just different and grueling in it's own way. The last 500 feet were straight up and rocky. We (my brother in-law and some of his in-laws-6 of us total) left from the trail head at 6am, summitted at 10am, and where back at the trail head at 1:30. For me, that's making good time, but now I'm paying for it...very sore. It was surprisingly cold at the summit, around 40 degrees and super windy. My wife dissed me for my camo in my summit shot. Oh well.

It's sheer torture climbing these dumb things (coming down may actually be more painful), so now that I have climbed a 14er I may retire.

Here's a couple more pictures-
From the summit of Shavano

If you look close, you'll see some mountain sheep in the rocks. They live at 12,000 feet and run across the rocks like it's flat grass.

By the way, I don't post about these outdoorish achievements to brag in any way. Rather, I hope the fact that an overweight, aging, slow, and scared of heights person can do some of this stuff (by God's grace) might serve to inspire some of you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

AJ and Nico Summit Horn Peak

I'm happy to end my blog blackout with good news about AJ (11) and Nico's (9) climb of Horn Peak last Tuesday.

It took us 5 hours to climb the 13,450 foot Horn Peak, but we did it! I was very proud of both boys. Horn Peak is a grueling climb. The picture above is a shot I took with my phone camera. Nico was trying to find the biggest rock to stand on. AJ is just resting after a brutal climb.

Here's a picture of the boys resting about 500 feet below the summit.

I'm staying in Colorado for the next 4 weeks primarily to continue work on my studies. I will attempt to climb my first "14er" this Monday with my brother in law and some of his friends- Mt. Shavano. We'll see how that goes...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Heading West, To the Mountains called "Sangre De Cristo"

I'm heading west with my family for another week at Horn Creek Family camp so I'll be unplugged from the blogosphere until July 11.

Two of my sons and I will attempt to summit Horn Peak (picture above) early next week. I've climbed the 13,500 ft peak twice. It's brutal. This time I'll have AJ and Nico with me. The following week I'm going to try and climb Mt. Shavano with my brother-n-law. It'll be my first "14er".

I'll be staying in Westcliffe, Colorado until the first week of August to continue my studies...but fear not- Reepicheep will blog away from the beautiful Sangre's after July 11 from the Sangres. Stay tuned...