Tag Archives: Bible

Deus in Machina: Reading (and Studying) the Old, Old Story on your Tablet

(Part 1 of 2)

by Kevin Hester

As a non-digital native, whenever I think of Scripture I envision my first “real” Bible. It was a red-letter, leather-bound, Old Scofield Reference Bible. I still have it and I still use it from time to time though its condition is in need of an update. Since then, I have added concordances, commentaries, lexicons and other translations. All of these things are necessary for any serious student of God’s Word.

When personal computers became commercially available, it wasn’t long until technologically savvy Christians began to see the potential of these machines for making such tools of Biblical study readily available. Early versions offered little more than a searchable digital text, but it still proved helpful. Soon thereafter, however, there was an explosion of digital software and programs to aid in exegesis and study. I missed most of this. I was in seminary and a graduate program at the time. Surrounded by libraries that had all the familiar study tools to which I had grown accustomed, and being a bit of a Luddite, I contented myself with playing along the shores of what was becoming a vast ocean.

When I became a professor at Welch College I was often asked about the best Biblical study tools. I was comfortable talking about the bound volumes I had grown to love, but when they asked, “what about for my computer?” I was unable to offer any advice. I began to look into what was available, but quickly became overwhelmed. There were so many unfamiliar terms, price packages, and statements related to system requirements that I had almost decided that if parchment was good enough for Paul, it was likely good enough for me.

This is why I was so excited when Mr. Allan Crowson, Welch College’s Director of Online and Adult Studies, showed me his paper entitled, “Some Thoughts on Scripture Study Software.” I had never seen such a simple presentation of these terms, packages, and their capabilities before. I also knew that he wasn’t trying to sell me anything.

While I am sure that most of you who are reading this know more than I do about what is available in the market, I am sure that some of you are also like I was. You see the potential, but you don’t know where to begin. Mr. Crowson has happily given me permission to share his article with you. I would suggest that you begin here. https://welchlibrary.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/software-study-tools-2013-11-07.pdf

 

 

Why Do They Take the Bible Seriously?

by W. Jackson Watts

 

Recently our church baptized and welcomed into membership a couple who had been converted earlier this year. They had attended the church for well over a year, during which they developed a clearer understanding of the Gospel. Eventually they realized that their earlier professions of faith had been rooted in something besides the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, and finally they trusted in Him.

All Christians should be overwhelmed anytime a person ever responds positively to the Gospel of Christ. Additionally, it is humbling that God chooses the foolishness of preaching to elicit faith and repentance in people’s lives. However, it is equally humbling (and surprising) to see what sometimes transpires in the earliest stages of discipleship.

In the case of the aforementioned couple, and in many more instances, we often discover that new believers seem to eagerly latch on to what are sometimes seen as contested and controversial truths. Some of these Christian teachings include the complementarian view of gender roles in the church and home, the penal substitutionary view of atonement, and the inerrancy of Scripture. Such teachings separate Christians and entire denominations from others. Yet it often seems to be the case that new converts embrace the teachings of the church family in which they have been saved, even if they are doctrines which do not enjoy uniform support across confessional Christian groups.

Social scientists would simply refer to this as “socialization” in which we find individuals that are new to a group tend to adopt the beliefs and mores of the herd. Others may reduce it to a naïve willingness to entrust one’s mind to the faith community simply to be filled with whatever is thought to be true. There may be other explanations as well, or some combination of factors which contribute to new converts’ ability to adopt contested doctrines.

Admittedly, my own view is anecdotal and not driven by empirical research. However, I’d like to focus on one key doctrine—the inspiration and authority of Scripture—and offer two reasons why I think new converts often embrace a high view of the Bible. This subject is worth thinking about as we try to develop a strategy for catechesis. How much time do you spend on each doctrine in a new believers’ course, for instance? By considering how this doctrine is received by new believers, we may receive insight into how it might be further developed and taught to Christians in their initial stages of discipleship.

  1. When Jesus is taken seriously, the Bible is taken seriously.

A new convert recognizes that they have been saved not by a generic belief in God or confidence in self, but in a total surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how basic their understanding of the Gospel is, they will have been presented with a biblical understanding of human nature, sin, Christ, and salvation. Often the evangelist, regardless of the setting, will have either held a Bible or shared verses directly from it. In instances where people attended worship services for a lengthy period of time before trusting Christ, they will have heard numerous sermons, songs, and prayers populated with biblical truths. Because of this, it’s very likely that upon being saved they would possess at least some of the mental and spiritual architecture necessary to embrace a high view of Scripture.

Intentional instruction on the Christian view of Scripture should still take place despite the pieces already in place in the new believer’s heart and mind. In no time, unsaved friends, family members, or a History Channel documentary will undermine their budding conviction of God’s Word. So for apologetic and the purpose of spiritual formation, it is wise and necessary that we help new converts learn the Bible (what it says and how it applies) and learn about the Bible (how we got it). But thankfully, people often make the connection between the Jesus who saves and the words from Jesus you can rely upon.

  1. When the Spirit works, God’s Word is at work.

As I noted in a previous post, “without the Holy Spirit, no human being will be saved.” The faithful Christian must regularly pray, teach, think, and live with this truth in mind. But it is equally significant that we apply this to the nature of conversion.

First Corinthians 2:12 reminds us that “now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” Later in verse 14, Paul asserts, “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

We find a link established in these verses between the Holy Spirit and the understanding and acceptance of truth that comes through His work in a believer. In the larger context of this passage, Paul demonstrates how the Gospel confounds all forms of earthly wisdom and power as it comes to us in the form of the suffering Christ. Therefore, we can see that the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to accept this Christ is the same Spirit who regenerates us when we profess faith in Christ. It is the same Holy Spirit who “carried along” the prophets and apostles (cf. 2 Pt. 1:21). And since the Word of God is inspired (regardless of whether a hearer knows or accepts this), it seems to explain why a truly converted person gravitates toward a high view of Scripture: The Holy Spirit intends to move them in that direction.

Conclusion

These reasons certainly don’t exhaust or completely account for this pattern that I and others have observed over the years. However, it should offer us pause as we praise God for the unity between the Triune God’s work in salvation, and His involvement in developing our convictions about His Word.