Wilson: You say, incidentally, that this kind of law was bringing coals to Newcastle—Moses came down from the mount and told people that murder, theft, and perjury were wrong, and all the assembled rolled their collective eyes. “We already knew that!” But the problem is that ancient man didn’t know that, and modern man still doesn’t know it. To state some of the issues that are subsumed under just one of the three categories you mention is to point to controversies that continue down to this day. Consider some of the issues clustered under the easiest of these three to condemn—murder. We have abortion, infanticide, partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, genocide, stem-cell research, capital punishment, and unjust war. Murder is the big E on the eye chart, and we still can’t see it that clearly.
Christopher Hitchens, and Douglas Wilson. Is Christianity Good for the World? Canon Press, 2009. 39.
Wilson: “God knew that we were going to need to pick up dimes, and so He gave us fingernails. He knew that twilights displayed in blue, apricot, and battle gray would be entirely astonishing and beyond us, and so He gave us eyes that can see in color. He could have made all food quite nourishing, but which tasted like wadded up newspaper soaked in machine oil. Instead He gave us the tastes of watermelon, pecans, oatmeal stout, buttered corn, apples, fresh bread, grilled sirloin, and 25-year-old scotch. And He of course knew that we were going to need to thank Him and so He gave us hearts and minds.”
Christopher Hitchens, and Douglas Wilson. Is Christianity Good for the World? Canon Press, 2009.
The sum total of all useful exegetical knowledge did not reach the apex during the Reformation, or even in the past century. As much as we can must learn from our theological forebears, we face the harsh realities of this century; and neither nostalgia nor the preferred position of an ostrich will remove either the threats or the opportunities that summon our exegetical skills to new rigor.
D. A. Carson. Exegetical Fallacies. 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 1996.
Careful handling of the Bible will enable us to “hear” it a little better. It is all too easy to read the traditional interpretations and invest them with a false, even idolatrous, degree of certainty. Because traditions are reshaped as they are passed on, after a while we may drift far from God’s Word while still insisting all our theological opinions are “biblical” and therefore true. If when we are in such a state we study the Bible uncritically, more than likely it will simply reinforce our errors. If the Bible is to accomplish its work of continual reformation – reformation in our lives and our doctrine – we must do all we can to listen to it afresh, and utilize the best resources at our disposal.
D. A. Carson. Exegetical Fallacies. 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 1996.
This study is important because exegetical fallacies are painfully painfully frequent among us—among us whose God-given grace and responsibility is the faithful proclamation of the Word of God. Make a mistake in the interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s plays, falsely scan a piece of Spenserian verse, and there is unlikely to be entailment of eternal consequence; but we cannot lightly accept a similar laxity in the interpretation of Scripture. We are dealing with God’s thoughts: we are obligated to take the greatest pains to understand them truly and to explain them clearly.
“I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will; to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground ; but because even were there no dangers. I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success.¦ But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God.”
Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 313-314.
Then there’s the reality that holiness is plain hard work, and we’re often lazy. We like our sins, and dying to them is painful. Almost everything is easier than growing in godliness. So we try and fail, try and fail, and then give up. It’s easier to sign a petition protesting man’s inhumanity to man than to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s one thing to graduate from college ready to change the world. It’s another to be resolute in praying that God would change you.
Kevin DeYoung. The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Crossway, 2012. 19.
“It is easy to think of other polarities under this heading that sustain relationships that are more complex yet. For example, the Bible urges Christian unity (think John 17), and the Bible insists on the non-negotiability of sound doctrine (think Gal 1), even if this means the most fundamental disruption of unity, namely, excommunication. The two desiderata are not quite parallel: one, the truth of the gospel, is always non-negotiable; the other, the virtue of unity, is often presented as something eminently desirable, but sometimes as an act of compromise (e.g., the alliances of Jehoshaphat). In other words, to achieve balance in polarities of this sort, one must study how Scripture holds them up, if and how each relates to the other, whether both are equally non-negotiable, and so forth.”
– D. A. Carson, “The Beauty of Biblical Balance“
Some pollsters and pundits look at the worldliness of the church and conclude that being born again doesn’t make a difference in how people live. We should come to the opposite conclusion; namely, that many churchgoers are not truly born again.
Kevin DeYoung. The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Crossway, 2012. 18.
Holiness is written on everything in heaven. And nothing unholy can enter into this heaven (Rev. 21:27; Heb. 12:14). Even if you could enter heaven without holiness, what would you do? What joy would you feel there? What holy man or woman of God would you sit down with for fellowship? Their pleasures are not your pleasures. Their character is not your character. What they love, you do not love. If you dislike a holy God now, why would you want to be with him forever? If worship does not capture your attention at present, what makes you think it will thrill you in some heavenly future? If ungodliness is your delight here on earth, what will please you in heaven, where all is clean and pure? You would not be happy there if you are not holy here.
Kevin DeYoung. The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Crossway, 2012. 15.