The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

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10 Bread Symbols In the Bible You Should Know

By Steve Macias

A post about bread? You butter believe it. No bun intended. It’s a Manna-festo. 😉

Bread

Both the Old and New Testaments include lots of references to bread: Jesus was born in the “house of bread” – Bethlehem, bread is central to the ritual Jesus himself prescribes to the church, and even takes a clause in the Lord’s prayer. We “knead” to be familiar with the Bible’s use of bread. (Last pun, I promise.) Symbolism is important because it shapes how we understand God.

“The universe and everything in it symbolizes God. That is, the universe and everything in it points to God. This means that the Christian view of the world is and can only be fundamentally symbolic. The world does not exist for its own sake, but as a revelation of God.” [2]

Read more…

Pages: 1 2 3

What does it take to write well?

Though it is most often attributed to the great sports writer Red Smith, no one knows for sure who first bled this great insight- “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” Like all great metaphors, this one invites us to slow down and examine its many facets.

First, writing hurts. It hurts in part because you are giving up for public view that which courses through your veins. Though we likely all do it to one degree or another in whatever line of work we do, precious few lines of work have such a clear and immediate connection between the product and the producer. It is my own life-blood, and when it is rejected or despised, I am rejected and despised.

Second, it’s just me. Sure it may in involve paper and ink, or cyber-paper and ink, but no one reads for either the paper or the ink. The raw material is me. I am the one manipulating the raw material. I am the one polishing the raw material. It all starts with a blank page and the writer. The page doesn’t bring much to the table.

That said, there is raw material that feeds the raw material.  I like to think of myself, in terms of my writing, as a pig.  (No doubt I have plenty of critics who would agree.) What I mean is this. A pig takes in copious amounts of stuff, some of it fairly expensive and fine, like pig feed, much of it cheap and base, like scraps from the family table. In God’s good providence, the pig then turns that stuff into something profoundly treasured and dear- bacon. But it takes more than just the consuming to get that done. The pig has to die. In like manner I consume copious amounts of stuff. I read fancy books written by theological giants, and I read blog posts and magazine articles by acerbic wits. But I also take in my surroundings and my circumstance. I am always watching or reading (consuming) or mulling (digesting) or bleeding (giving up the bacon.)

We are often told to write what we know. I would add that writing as bleeding requires that we write what we care about. We can’t expect our readers to invest in that which we are ourselves only mildly interested in.  When we describe our favorite sports team we affirm, “I bleed black and gold.” (Everyone’s favorite teams wear black and gold, right?) When we write we need to be pouring out of us what matters most to us.

Finally, bleeding, or the circulatory system, comes naturally to us. In like manner we should write as we speak. You don’t need to “discover your voice.” You need to understand that your voice is “your voice.” The scary thing about writing is it’s just you. The easy thing is it’s just you. Fake you, affected you, no matter how charming, can never be as good as real you. Use your rhythms, your vocabulary, your diction, your blood.

OK, finally finally. The moment your blood stops flowing you die. With writing it is the same. Write as often as blood is flowing through you. Or to be more clear- write always. On the other hand, know when to stop.

Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr. teaches at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida where he also serves as a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He is a contributing scholar to Kuyperian Commentary.

This article was originally published here.

Bill O’Reilly, Robert Jeffress, “The Bible,” and the Truth of God’s Revelation

Bill O’Reilly had on Pastor Robert Jeffress of The First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX. Jeffress gained a lot of attention during the 2012 presidential elections when he opposed Romney—in favor of Perry—on the grounds that Romney was a Mormon. Jeffress argued that we needed an evangelical in the White House.

O’Reilly’s segment focused on whether the Bible should be understood literally or allegorically. The unstable Fox News host began the segment with an irresponsible remark:

“The Bible,” which was co-created by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, “highlights fundamentalist Christian beliefs.”

The History Channel show can be debated (at another time), but the opening assumption already triggers the insult of ignorance of anyone who believes such events to be literal. “Fundamentalist Christian beliefs” is the media’s way of perpetuating evangelical Christians as theological dinosaurs. Further, it carries on the abusive stereo-types usually addressed towards Islamic radicals. If you are a fundamentalist, you are in some way capable of doing things the typical enlightened human being would never do. Read more…

The End of the World as We Know It

We are a worldly people and we know it. Trouble is, we don’t know it well enough.  As the broader western culture sinks more deeply into the moral abyss, as even our anemic and apologetic Christianity is vilified and judged it becomes all too easy to awaken to the dangers of worldliness. And of course our worldliness is easy enough to find.

Consider the evangelicals at your local abortion mill. One study, referenced here-http://www.heartlink.org/prodevelopment/A000000409.cfm suggests that evangelicals represent one of every six procurers of surgical abortion. Why? Sometimes it’s an unmarried young lady who wants to put her shame behind her, or whose father wants to put it behind him. Sometimes it is a young married who fears the baby will cramp the lifestyle she would like to lead. Other times it’s a mom whose doctor has told her about a fetal abnormality. The baby may be suspected of having Downs, trisomy-13, or something rarer still.

Now if I posed those three circumstances at most evangelical churches I can count on disapproval in the first two instances. Murdering your baby due to shame or to avoid giving up your second car, data plan, cable movie package, vacation is wicked. But the third instance, that too many of us find at least understandable. That said, we like to believe that if we ever found ourselves in such a situation, we would bravely do the right thing and not murder the burden. We would stiff-upper lip our way to obedience because we know it’s wrong to murder babies, even ones we don’t want.

Which is just as compelling proof that we are worldly. The world murders its babies because they believe the baby will get in their way of having a good life. Good life is defined by financial freedom, peaceful relationships and health for ourselves and those whom we love. Too many in the church murder their babies for the same reason. And those who don’t, those who spare their baby’s life well, they just decide they won’t have a good life, if it requires killing their baby.

It’s a good thing to have a strong conviction against killing babies. But it is also a good thing to understand how the Bible, as opposed to the world, presents the good life. It’s not wealth and health, but joyful service, not receiving the respect of our neighbors, but giving love to our “neighbors,” those in need whom the Lord has set before us. The good life is less the triumph of our merit scholar, beauty pageant, volleyball state champ daughter, more gratefully wrestling your daughter’s wheelchair through the sand at the beach so she can smell the salt water and watch the seagulls. The world lies, but Jesus is the truth, and He says not just that we must lose our lives, but that in losing them we will find them.

The Christian faith is not pursuing the world’s ends the Lord’s ways. It is instead pursuing the Lord. And we find Him amongst the widows and orphans. Indeed when our Lord wanted to show us the goal, what the complete man of God looks like, when He wanted us to see what we are to strive for, what maturity, integrity and success look like, He put a child on His knee.

Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. is special contributing scholar to the Kuyperian Commentary. The End of the World as We Know It was originally published at RCSproulJr.com

A Prologue to Apologetics: A Layman’s Introduction to Presuppositionalism, Part I

Introduction

Both apologetics and evangelism have the same goal. Both witness to the truth of God’s word in Scripture to unbelievers. Both the evangelist and the apologist desire to be an instrument through which God powerfully draws a non-Christian to see and savor his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in distinction from evangelism, apologetics seeks to defend Christianity against various attacks from unbelieving thought, whether religious or secular. Apologetics is a term derived from the Greek word apologia. This word refers to a defense, a reason for holding some conviction. In 1 Peter 3:15 the Apostle states, “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” An ever-present danger in this field of study is that of defending or ‘proving’ the existence of a generically defined God, what I’ll call ‘theism in general.’

We need to allow the conclusions drawn from biblical study and exegesis to set the parameters of how we go about defending our faith. We must present to those whom we wish to evangelize God as He testifies to Himself in the Bible. God has given us valuable, life-giving, information, and we shouldn’t edit his word. Any God other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is an idol. So, if the Bible teaches a Trinitarian God, then we should settle for nothing less than persuading our listeners of that conviction.

In this introduction of apologetics we should cut the ‘apologetic pie’ into at least two pieces: defensive and offensive apologetics. Defensive apologetics is the apologist’s attempt to respond to attacks against the truth or/and rationality of the Christian faith. Offensive apologetics seeks to demonstrate the rationality, coherence, beauty, and truth of the biblical worldview. It presents positive reasons, and not simply defenses, why our listeners should adopt the Christian worldview as opposed to all the other philosophies of life available to them.

In summary, we’ve quickly looked at three things. First, apologetics is the form of Christian witness that seeks to engage in both rational defense as well as present rational proof for the truth of Christianity. Second, Christian apologetics, in order for it to be worth its salt, needs to defend Christianity as it’s presented in Scripture, not a generic, or possibly watered-down fashion that makes it easier for the unbeliever to accept. And last, the practice of apologetics can take one of two forms, defensive and offensive apologetics. The former “blocks” attacks against the faith, and the latter constructively builds a case for the Christian worldview.

The message of the apologist

Now that we’ve drawn a quick sketch of the discipline of apologetics, let’s take a quick look at what Scripture says about “the big picture.” After all, we need to know what it is that we’re called upon to present and defend. Here are a couple of notable points:

The ultimate purpose of God in history is to display His own beauty, majesty, and glory throughout the nations for His own exaltation and the good of His people. While mankind was created morally upright and pleasing to God, the sin of our first parents (Adam and Eve) has destroyed the fellowship that was enjoyed in the Garden of Eden. When our first parents rebelled they lost, and therefore could not pass on to us, that which would promote peace and joy with God, that crucial aspect of divine-human interaction, namely spiritual life. The results of the Fall had cosmic repercussions. Sickness, decay, ‘natural’ disasters, and death have affected us all in one way or another. On the individual level sin has ravaged us at our very core, the image of God that we bear. Since in one way or another we reflect who God is in everything we are (this is what is means to be created in God’s image), a defacing of this image likewise taints every aspect of our being. Our mind, will, and emotions are all effected in such a fashion that we now are quite comfortable in exalting just about anything to the status of godhood, whether that be self, money, image, sex, or power.

God is not pleased. We were created in order to reflect and echo His beauty, to “love God and enjoy him forever.” As rebels against His purposes, slandering His character and using His image to misrepresent Him, we must be punished; and rightly so. Since God is an infinite being, the very fountainhead and supreme standard for goodness and love, then to despise, revile, and reject Him is an equally infinite crime; it is cosmic treason!

Yet (thankfully!) God has not left us in this dismal state. God chiefly asks but one thing of us, obedient childlike trust. As the One who created both us and the universe around us God knows exactly what it is that we need. We can liken God to a doctor who knows just what ails us and provides life to all who would follow His prescription. Unfortunately mankind has decided either 1) we’re not really diseased, or 2) we’re not really that diseased and can help ourselves. We can’t follow either one of these paths. We trust not only in God’s diagnosis but also His cure. We look to the perfect life, which demonstrated the truth of God’s supreme value and worth, and to the punishment-absorbing death of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Carpenter who walked the dusty roads of Palestine two thousand years ago.

It is our firm belief that in the Bible, God speaks to us of only one way of connecting our cancer to His cure, namely a loving and trusting reliance upon the completed work and guidance of God’s only unique Son, Jesus Christ.

Guest Post by Joe Torres. Mr. Torres earned an M.A. in Christian Thought at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He blogs at KingdomView

Political Education and the Future of the Republican Party

Pink Floyd’s monumental contribution to the world is found in this statement: “We don’t need no education!” Despite the political and psychedelic observation, our country needs a lot more education of the right kind. One of my greatest desires over the years has been to educate–imperfectly–friends and family on the virtues of the American view. I am under no compulsion to defend the perfection of the U.S. Constitution. I happen to believe that Patrick Henry’s skepticism is now well justified. At the same time, I am committed to the fact that we must use the tools that we have to fight the present intellectual war.

At this stage in American history, Christians have an important duty to educate the public by inculcating a form of transcendent morality. Politicians will not take this to be their main tasks. By and large they are concerned about their constituents’ response to their decisions and votes. This adds an immense amount of burden to politicians. They need greater burdens, but not the temptation to act even more unwisely. Naturally, I find this to be at least one reason for the vast inconsistencies we find in most of their voting records. Term limits, anyone?

As Republicans re-group, they are beginning to re-fill their savings for 2014. After suffering a loss of two seats in the Senate and a handful in the House, they are wondering what to do to restore those seats.

Is Constitutional education part of this reformation process in their minds? It is certainly not.

Out of the many tools, I believe the labors of the Institute on the Constitution could add tremendously to the general knowledge.

Christians need to be more strategic in their giving. After the tithe, where will our gifts be best used? According to The American Conservative, “Republicans spent $776 million this cycle…while the Super PAC’s put in another $296.5 million.” This is well over a billion dollars, which went mostly to Karl Rove and the “brotherhood of campaign consultants.”

Democrats are ideological in nature. They are seeking and proposing strategies that will genuinely change the make-up of the country–for the worse, we might add. But on the other hand, ideological Republicans are ridiculed. The reason for this–as Steve Deace observes–is that Republicans are seeking to control the party and not the country. When politicians propose tough transformations to the play-book, they are viewed as radicals.

While the GOP seeks to restore the White House to the next Republican candidate in 2017, will she seek this by more compromises or will she seek it through genuine education? We can’t promise immigrants more gifts as a way to secure their votes in the next election. We can’t promise welfare recipients more gifts as way to secure their votes in the next election. The Democrats have already won that fight. But we can go through the arduous task of educating a society. As Joel McDurmon states: “One County at a time.”

What role will Christians have in these next four years? Will we continue to seek another moderate candidate? Are Republican talking heads correct when they assert that we need an even more moderate leaning Republican candidate to reach the independent groups? Or will we pursue to train and participate in local elections and conversations, and thus influence the grassroots? Will we tap into this gigantic Tea Party and Constitutional storm that is brewing?

One thing is certain: Our political investments need to be in education, not enriching political consultants.

Culture-Changing Christians

By Kuyperian Commentary Special Contributing Scholar, Dr. Thomas Kidd

Many disappointed Romney supporters have suggested that his defeat spoke to an American culture in decline. For politics to change, they say, culture must change. Glenn Beck, for example, tweeted that “the time for politics is over. I’m doubling down on my efforts to shift the culture.”

Evangelical Christians are especially attuned to talk of changing culture. But what culture is, and just how it changes, is often less clear. Books such as Andy Crouch’s Culture Making and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World should be required reading for any Christian making plans to change culture. Both books show that culture, or “what human beings make of the world,” in Crouch’s words, is extraordinarily complex, and not susceptible to quick change, especially through politics.

We can certainly point to Christian politicians who have helped change culture in explicitly Christian ways. The great abolitionist William Wilberforce is an excellent example. But think over the past century: many of the culture-changing Christians that jump immediately to mind have not been directly engaged with politics. For example:

C.S. Lewis, the Oxford professor whose greatest influence came through writing children’s books.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian martyred for his resistance against Nazi tyranny.

Mother Teresa, the Albanian-born nun who devoted her life to caring for lepers and AIDS patients, who testified to the dignity of all human life, including the outcast and unborn.

Each of these heroes had things to say of political consequence, but they did not see politics as their method of Christian witness or culture change.

So before we plunge headlong into changing the culture before the 2016 election, let’s think about a few principles for how evangelicals can influence culture.

1) James Davison Hunter argues that culture is shaped most by institutions that have great “symbolic capital,” including universities such as Harvard and Yale, and newspapers such as the New York Times. Popular Christian books may sell millions of copies, but they do not have the symbolic capital or cultural influence of a Pulitzer Prize winner. Christians not only need to engage with institutions of high symbolic capital, but we need Christian voices to be present in those institutions, as professors, journalists, and artists. Christian parents and teachers need to cast a winsome vision of Christian cultural engagement for children and students.

2) Christians should worry as much about preserving orthodox Christian culture as they do about changing secular culture. Indeed, preserving traditional Christian culture is an essential precondition to any wholesome changes in the broader culture. If American Christian culture is infected by theological vacuousness and historical ignorance, by shallow consumerism, or by ethical corruption, then on what basis can we hope to transform the broader culture? As Christopher Dawson’s classic Religion and the Rise of Western Culture demonstrates, Christians have often found themselves having to preserve the heritage of biblical Christianity from a hostile surrounding culture. There’s nothing especially new in our situation today.

3) While some Christians may be called vocationally to institutions of high symbolic capital, all of us can take responsibility for the mini-cultures of our family, church, and neighborhood. I’m afraid that I can’t do much about the voting patterns of Ohio, but I can sure do something about the culture of my dinner table. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize, she was reportedly asked what we can do to promote world peace. She answered “Go home and love your family.”

Evangelicals can certainly participate in politics, but we should remember that politics tends simply to reflect culture. And culture is not easy to change, especially at the broadest levels. Christians can (and must) do more to bring a witness into institutions of high symbolic capital, but we should never underestimate the sanguine influence we can have, by God’s grace and prayer, on the little cultural spheres we inhabit on a daily basis.

(Article first published at Patheos)

Close of the Day Family Devotion

I’ve been working on coming up with a good model for family devotions for some time, and after much experimenting and many failures this is something that we have found works quite well, especially with small children.  It’s almost directly taken from Concordia Publishing House’s The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism, with only slight changes here and there.  Many of the other models we’ve tried, while good, have just proven to burdensome and at times bordered on violating the command not to exasperate one’s children.  I like this because it is fairly short and simple, yet incorporates a number of things I value and wish to teach my children including call and response, some simple prayers to be memorized, Biblical collects, sung or chanted Psalms, Bible reading, and a time of prayer for specific needs and thanksgivings.  Further, it allows for growth as children mature, having a place for more singing through moving from the simple Song of Simeon to working through the Psalms, and allowing for longer Scripture readings or the addition of readings from a Bible study book or devotional work.  It’s not perfect and I’d appreciate feedback or suggestions as I continue to work on it, but we’ve been more faithful to do devotions somewhat regularly with this model than any other we’ve tried.

——————————————————–

The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their baptism. (1, 2)

In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praise to Your name, O Most High;
To herald Your love in the morning,
Your truth at the close of the day.

 

READING

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Other readings: Micah 7:18-20; Matthew 18:15-35; Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 12:13-34; Romans 8: 31-39; II Corinthians 4:16-18; Revelation 21:22-22:5

Alternatively, a longer passage may be worked through night by night, one or two short section(s) at a time.  Examples include, the Creation account, the Ten Commandments, selections from the Wisdom Literature of Solomon, the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion (particularly during Lent or Holy Week), or even an entire book of Scripture such as one of the epistles.

Depending on the age of the children this may be followed (or preceded) by a reading from a devotional or Bible study book and/or discussion. (3)

 

CANTICLE

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word,
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
a light to lighten the Gentiles
and the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.  
(Luke 2: 29-32, The Song of Simeon or Nunc Dimittis) (4)

Alternatively, here may be sung or chanted another canticle such as the Magnificat (Song of Mary), or a Psalm. (5)

 

PRAYERS

  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Prayers for others and ourselves
  • Concluding collect:

We thank You, our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ , Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept us this day; and we pray that you would forgive us all our sins where we have done wrong, and graciously keep us this night.  For into your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls, and all things.  Let Your holy angels be with us, that the evil foe may have no power over us.  Amen.  (Adapted from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism)

  • Threefold Amen.

Then go to sleep in good cheer!

Footnotes:
1. Bold type indicates read by all, 
Regular type indicates read by one, Italicized type indicates instructions.
2. Adapted from the Close of the Day prayer (p. 474) in The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism published by Concordia Publishing House.
3. E.g. “A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament,” Peter J. Leithart.
4. A good tune for this canticle is that used by the Lutheran Church, a sample of which may be seen here.
5. Concordia Publishing House has also provided the Church with an excellent resource for chanting the Psalter using the ESV translation in their small volume, “Reading the Psalms with Luther,” which includes among other helpful things a set of chant tones and the Psalter pointed for chanting.  It is available here.

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