The Bible and the Religions of the World

This post is an excerpt written by Harold A. Netland for the ESV Study Bible. The Intersection of the Bible and Other Religions Although the Bible nowhere discusses “other religions” as such, much in it is relevant to the subject. The OT includes repeated references to the deities and religious practices of the Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Babylonians. The NT world was populated with “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” (1 Cor. 8:5) and characterized by religious syncretism. But the religions of the ancient world have been replaced today by the so-called major world religions. Biblical Themes and Other Religions Even a cursory survey indicates that there are some similarities between Christian faith and other religions. Islam and Christianity, e.g., both believe in an eternal Creator God and a judgment to come after death. Both Jesus and Confucius taught a version of the Golden Rule, and both Christianity and Confucianism teach respect for one’s parents. Such similarities are not surprising and

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What Did Jesus Believe About the Scriptures?

Sam Storms: The question: “What think ye of the Bible?” reduces to the question: “What think ye of Christ?” To deny the authority of Scripture is to deny the lordship of Jesus. So what did Jesus think of the Scriptures (or at least of the Old Testament)? Consider the people and events of the OT, for example, whom/which Jesus frequently mentioned. He refers to Abel, Noah and the great flood, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, Isaac and Jacob, the manna from heaven, the serpent in the desert, David eating the consecrated bread and his authorship of the Psalms, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha,, and Zechariah, etc. In each case he treats the OT narratives as straightforward records of historical fact. But, say the critics, perhaps Jesus was simply accommodating himself to the mistaken beliefs of his contemporaries. That is to say, Jesus simply met his contemporaries on their own ground without necessarily committing himself to the correctness of their views. He chose

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The Qur’an and the Bible: Three Differences

By Ray Ortlund. Three significant differences between the Qur’an and the Bible are considered here: 1. Epic story versus topical instructions The Bible is written as an epic story on a grand scale, formed along a narrative arc starting in a glorious creation (Genesis 1-2), then a catastrophic betrayal (Genesis 3), then slow movement toward the Redeemer (Genesis 4 to the New Testament), finally resolved in a glorious re-creation (Revelation 20-22). The Qur’an is not structured as narrative with an overall plot. Its chapters are formed around topics, with snippets of stories here and there. But the Qur’an is primarily instructions, with promises of eternal reward and warnings of eternal hellfire. This makes a difference. The Bible develops its doctrines as it moves toward Jesus. For example, marriage is defined (Genesis 2), then disrupted (Genesis 3), then regulated by the law (for example, Deuteronomy 24:1-5), and finally unveiled as a picture of the gospel itself (Ephesians 5:22-33). But marriage in the

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How God Is Both Incomprehensible and Knowable at the Same Time

We cannot know God fully. We can know him truly. This post by Erik Thoennes is adapted from the ESV Study Bible: The Incomprehensibility of God Scripture teaches that we can have a true and personal knowledge of God, but this does not mean we will ever understand him exhaustively. The Bible is clear that God is ultimately incomprehensible to us; that is, we can never fully comprehend his whole being. The following passages show this: Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Ps. 145:3) Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:14) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your

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The Bible Is Not an Instruction Manual

Jared Wilson: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth Ever heard the Bible explained that way? It’s a handy mnemonic device that certainly has some truth to it. But does it get at the heart of what the Bible really is? The way so many of us treat the Scriptures—as God’s “how to” book—doesn’t seem quite right when we carefully look at what its own pages say. And I fear that the way we use the Bible in this way actually accomplishes the opposite of what we intended. If the Bible is not essentially an instruction manual for practical application, then, what is it? If it’s not mainly about what we need to do, what is it about? If it’s not about us, who is it about? The Bible Is about Jesus About Jesus? Well, duh,” you’re thinking right now. That goes without saying. And I agree. It has been going without saying. But we need to keep saying it. We don’t

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How to Use a Study Bible

Andy Naselli: A study Bible is a book that includes the full text of the Bible plus additional features that help readers better understand and apply the Bible. How should you use a study Bible? Here are some suggestions for what to do and not do. 1. Don’t use poor study Bibles. In general, it’s better to use an all-purpose study Bible rather than a niche study Bible, such as one that targets cat lovers or sixteen-year-olds who like skateboarding and grunge music. So as a general rule, if the title of the study Bible is something like The Winnie the Pooh / Thomas Kinkade Study Bible, take a pass. 2. Use quality study Bibles. I just finished about five years of work on a study Bible that recently released: the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. (Don Carson is the general editor.) As I helped to edit this study Bible, I consulted many other study Bibles. In my view, these were

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The Divisive Person Is the One Who Departs from the Truth

Jared Wilson: Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? — Amos 3:3 Christians who affirm the normative, traditional, historical, orthodox view of the Bible’s teaching on various sins are always accused of being divisive when in sticking to their affirmations they must disassociate with those who don’t. It’s a disingenuous claim, however, since unity could have been preserved so long as the agreement did. But when one changes a mind on such matters the division has begun with them (1 Corinthians 1:10), not the one who says, “Ah, you’ve changed the rules; you’ve changed the agreement.” It would be like the adulterer crying out after his wife as she’s walking out the door in anger and shame that she’s being divisive. The person who objects is often told they are “singling out” this particular sin as over-important, as more important than unity! But it is not those who protest who are singling out particular sins. It is those

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What Does Sola Scriptura Mean?

John MacArthur: The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth,” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority

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Why Study the Books of Colossians and Philemon?

Christopher A. Beetham: Why Paul’s letters to the Colossians and Philemon? Let me provide three reasons. First, Colossians is unrivalled in its portrayal of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the most exalted language concerning him is found in this short jewel of a letter we know today as the book of Colossians. Second, the gospel is robustly stated and demonstrated in these two letters. And third, Colossians taps into and develops the epic story of Scripture in profound ways. Christ Preeminent In Colossians, the preeminence of the eternal Son over all things is revealed. Christ is the exalted Lord over both creation and the inaugurated new creation by virtue of his unique role in God’s project of cosmic reconciliation (1:15-20). The preexistent Son entered history and became human. He reconciled his people to God by his death, that he might present them “holy and blameless and above reproach” before God on the last day (1:22). Christ

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The message of the Bible in 240 words

D.A. Carson: God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath. But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects. In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of

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The Bible is Not a Portrait; It’s a Window

Matt Papa: The Bible is not a portrait; it’s a window. It’s not wrong to come to the Bible to get doctrinal clarity. But it is wrong to come to the Bible mainly to get doctrinal clarity. That is idolatry. That is knowing God to sound smart. It’s not wrong to come to the Bible to get wisdom for your daily living. That is wonderful. But it is wrong to come to the Bible mainly to get wisdom for your daily living. That is idolatry — using God to get your best life now. You will never see Glory that way. You will never get outside of yourself that way. So how do we do it? A lot of people will make suggestions about the best ways to read Scripture. They will offer questions for you to ask as you read like: “Is there a command to obey here?” Or, “Is there an example to follow?” “Is there a sin to avoid?” These are

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Authority

  Tim Keller: Many years ago as a young Christian my attention was arrested by an article on ‘Authority’ by John Stott. Stott asked, “Why should people believe that the Bible is God’s Word written, inspired by his Spirit and authoritative over their lives?” (The Authority of the Bible, IVP, 1974,p.6) This was a big question for me. I had decided that I believed in Jesus Christ, but I struggled with the idea that I had to believe everything in the Bible.  Stott answered that we do not believe it simply because we want to be dogmatic and certain about our own beliefs, nor because the church has consistently taught this (though it has), nor because we just ‘feel’ the Bible is true as we read it. “No. The overriding reason for accepting the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture is plain loyalty to Jesus…Our understanding of everything is conditioned by what Jesus taught. And that includes his teaching about

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It’s revelation

  “‘But wait a minute,’ says somebody.  ‘Are you saying that the passage of the years makes no difference?  Are you asking me to believe that I have got to go back nearly two thousand years, and that the truth is what these men taught then?’ . . . Yes, I am, and this is why.  There can be no development in this truth, and there has not been, because this is not truth that man works out for himself, but is truth which God reveals.  Not one of the apostles was a discoverer of truth.  The mighty apostle Paul never discovered the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. . . . It is a revelation; it is something that is given by God, something that has been revealed by him supremely in the person of his only-begotten Son.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Love So Amazing: Expositions of Colossians 1 (Grand Rapids, 1995), pages 63-64. (HT: Ray Ortlund)

Truth grounded in revelation

  D.A. Carson: The revelation has come to us in the natural world, in great events of miraculous power attested by witnesses, in the personal work of the Spirit of God, in the enormously rich variety of writings that make up the Bible, and supremely in the person of Jesus Christ. These are not mutually exclusive channels. For instance, most of what we know propositionally about Jesus is found in the Bible, including those parts that preserve the testimony of witnesses – so here we have Jesus himself, witnesses who have left words about him, and the Bible that preserves them and conveys them. First, the content can be indeed, has been- put into propositions, creeds, catechisms, statements of faith. It has substance. Of course there is an interpretive element in all our confessions, for finite beings cannot know anything without interpreting it. Only omniscience can escape the limitations of perspectivalism – of looking at things form a limited perspective.

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Primer on Reading the Bible

  By John J. Hughes: The Bible is not an ordinary book, and we will never taste its choicest fruits if we approach it in an ordinary manner. Here are seven short pieces of counsel, from a lifelong Bible-reader, to help you make the most of your own study of the Scriptures. 1. Exalt God’s Word God exalts his word and name above all things (Psalm 138:2). His words are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). They are perfect (Psalm 19:7). Because the words of the Bible are “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), they are living, active, able to penetrate our hearts (Hebrews 4:12) and to give life (John 6:63, 68). Therefore, Jesus prayed: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Bible is not just true; it is truth itself — God’s divinely revealed standard of truth. 2. Live by God’s Words Jesus said we are to live by “every

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The Fuel For Missions

  Without the Bible, world evangelization would not only impossible but actually inconceivable. It is the Bible that lays upon us the responsibility to evangelize the world, gives us a gospel to proclaim, tells us how to proclaim it and promises us that it is God’s power for salvation to every believer. It is, moreover, an observable fact of history, both past and contemporary, that the degree of the Church’s commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible. Whenever Christians lose their confidence in the Bible, they also lose their zeal for evangelism. Conversely, whenever they are convinced about the Bible, then they are determined about evangelism. – John Stott in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, p.21 (HT: Zach Nielsen)  

What is the Bible?

Here’s a great summary from the introductory matter of a Gideon bible: The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a

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Take God at His Word: Kevin DeYoung on the Character of Scripture

Matt Smethurst: Your Bible is evidence that the Maker of the universe is a God who initiates, who reveals, who talks. There are, after all, only two options when it comes to knowledge of one’s Creator: revelation or speculation. Either he speaks, or we guess. And he has spoken. The Lord of heaven and earth has “forfeited his own personal privacy” to disclose himself to us—to befriend us—through a book. Scripture is like an all-access pass into the revealed mind and will of God. By virtually any account the Bible is the most influential book of all time. No shortage of ink has been spilled on writings about it. But what does Scripture say about itself? In his new book, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway) [20 quotes], Kevin DeYoung cuts through the fog of contemporary confusion to offer a readable and constructive defense

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Red Letter Nonsense

Kevin DeYoung: An excerpt from Taking God at His Word on the implications of 2 Timothy 3:16 for the authority and unity of the whole Bible: Just as crucially, if all Scripture is breathed out by God, then there is a unity to be found across the pages of the Bible. Without minimizing the differences of genre and human au­thorship, we should nevertheless approach the Bible expect­ing theological distinctives and apparent discrepancies to be fully reconcilable. The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this “red letter” nonsense, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses. An evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize instructions in the gospel more than instructions elsewhere in Scripture. If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans, it has no less weight or relevance than if we

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