15 Quotes from Foundations of the Christian Faith

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James Montgomery Boice was the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia until his death in 2000. He also wrote a book called “The Doctrines of Grace” which was heavily influential in my life.

To purchase a copy of Foundations of the Christian Faith, click here.

 

 

1. Knowledge of God takes place in the context of Christian piety, worship, and devotion (pg. 9).

2. A weak god produces no strong followers, nor does he deserve to be worshiped. A strong God, the God of the Bible, is a source of strength to those who know Him (pg. 12).

3. To know God would require change (pg. 19).

4. The church did not create the canon; if it had, it would place itself over Scripture. Rather the church submitted to Scripture as a higher authority (pg. 34).

5. The power of the living Christ operating by means of the Holy Spirit through the written Word changes lives (pg. 56).

6. A God who needs to be defended is no God. Rather, the God of the Bible is the self-existent one who is the true defender of His people (pg. 95).

7. Because God knows, believers can rest (pg. 134).

8. The blessings of salvation come, not by fighting against God’s ways or by hating Him for what we consider to be an injustice, but rather by accepting His verdict on our true nature as fallen beings and turning to Christ in faith for salvation (pg. 204).

9. The initiating cause in salvation is God’s free grace, but the formal cause is, and has always been, the death of the mediator (pg. 259).

10. In the act of propitiation, we have the great good news that the one who is our Creator, but from whom we have turned in sin, is nevertheless at the same time our Redeemer (pg. 322).

11. Only after we have come to appreciate the meaning of the Cross can we appreciate the love behind it. Seeing this, Augustine once called the Cross “a pulpit” from which Christ preached God’s love to the world (pg. 337).

12. To confess that Jesus is the Christ is to confess the Christ of the Scriptures. To deny that Christ, by whatever means, is heresy – a heresy with terrible consequences (pg. 445).

13. If we are secure in Christ, although we may stumble and fall, we know that nothing will ever pluck us out of Christ’s hand (pg. 464).

14. Living by grace actually leads to holiness, for our desire is to please the one who has saved us by that grace (pg. 492).

15. Perseverance means that once one is in the family of God, he or she is always in that family (pg. 534).

For more information on Foundations of the Christian Faith, visit Intervarsity Press here.


Evan Knies is from West Monroe, LA. He is married to Lauren and father to Maesyn. He serves as Minister of Students at Bullitt Lick Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, KY. He also serves as the Executive Assistant of the Nelson Baptist Association. He is a graduate of Boyce College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies

 

Luther’s “Three Walls”

by Obbie T. Todd

The Protestant Reformation was, in many ways, the product of manifold political, social, and religious forces crashing together at a God-ordained moment in history. Still, in other ways, it began with a man. In his 16th century German Reformation, Martin Luther stood defiantly against an institution that had pontificated for over a millennium. Yet, in his theological and moral challenge to the Catholic Church, he did not stand alone. In 1520, while lecturing on the Psalms, Luther wrote an Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation in order to gather support for his reform.

In his new biography entitled Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer (2015), Scott H. Hendrix explains Luther’s aim for the address: “The goal was not to foment a German uprising against Rome but to reform the practice of religion in Christendom. Because the clergy were shirking their duty, the only recourse was an appeal to laypeople in authority who could twist arms and force change.” (90)

Luther begins his open letter by identifying the “three walls” of the Romanists: (1) their decrees erroneously stating that no temporal power has authority over them, (2) their claim that interpretation of Scripture belongs to no one except the pope, (3) and their assertion that no one is able to call a council except the pope himself. The first section of Luther’s Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation is a an invective against these three walls.

1. Concerning the first “paper-wall,” Luther begins by eschewing the notion of spiritual elitism. For him, there is no “spiritual estate” for bishops, priests, and monks. According to Luther, “there is among them no difference at all but that of office, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12.” Through baptism we are all consecrated to the royal priesthood of 1 Peter 2:9. In cases of baptism, Luther reminds us, anyone could baptize. (or give absolution, as Luther held penance to be the third sacrament) After all, we share one faith, and we believe in the same Gospel: “For whoever comes out the water of baptism can boast that he is already consecrated priest, bishop, and pope, though it is not seemly that everyone should exercise the office.” This office is granted by the will and command of the community, not by one’s arbitrary whim. Therefore a priest, like any other temporal authority, is an office-holder. Just as spiritual authorities are charged with the administration of the Word and sacraments, the temporal authorities are to “bear sword and rod with which to punish the evil and to protect die good.” In Luther’s scheme, the temporal authority is not “above” that of the spiritual and may not punish it. However, it should be left to perform its role “without hindrance.” According to Luther, such tasks should be performed objectively and without discrimination, “regardless whether it be pope, bishop or priest whom it affects; whoever is guilty, let him suffer.” The freedom, life, and property of the clergy are no more important than the laity.

2. As to the second wall, Luther takes aim at those who deem themselves “Masters” of the Holy Scriptures: “For since they think that the Holy Spirit never leaves them, be they never so unlearned and wicked, they make bold to decree whatever they will.” To this Luther questions why there is even the need for a Bible! The Pope has “usurped” the power of the Holy Spirit. Luther further opines that the Romanists have misinterpreted Matthew 18 when they contend that the pope alone holds the “keys” to the kingdom. In reality, these keys are given to the “community” of the church. According to Luther, “the keys were not ordained for doctrine or government, but only for the binding and loosing.” When the pope claims supreme hermeneutical authority for himself and codifies his own man-made religion, he singlehandedly constrains the “Spirit of liberty” in the church. For this reason Luther calls together the church in this letter: to accuse the pope before the church.

3. Thirdly, concerning the authority to call together councils, Luther reminds his readers that it was in fact not Peter who convened the Apostolic Council in Acts 15:6, but rather the Apostles and elders! Luther thus contends that it is incumbent upon the temporal authorities to bring about a “truly free council” in order to restore Scriptural faithfulness and order. Luther likens the situation to a fire breaking out; the citizens have a duty to tell others. Citing 2 Corinthians 10:8, Luther heralds the edifying purpose of the Church. He then concludes that those who pursue destruction do so by “the power of the devil and of Antichrist.” Luther sees the Roman pope as the fulfillment of eschatological texts such as Matthew 24:24 and 2 Thessalonians 2:9. In the end, Luther’s only hope is Scripture: “Therefore we must cling with firm faith to the words of God, and then the devil will cease from wonders.” Luther contends that the Romanists have made the consciences of the people “timid and stupid,” and for this reason it is time to enact the power of the temporal authority in order to aid that of the spiritual.

In his Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther ripped down these three walls in order to shed further light upon the abuses of the Catholic Church and to rally the support of the educated laity in the Reformation.

Feasting for a Fast: Thoughts on Not Observing Lent

Yesterday (February 10th) was Ash Wednesday. Today, one pastor considers whether or not the practice of Lent (which Ash Wednesday begins) should be a priority for believers.

By Cade Campbell

Fasting really is a good, needed, genuine, beneficial, God honoring, and biblical spiritual discipline. So is the desire to prepare for the celebration of Easter each Spring. So is the desire to be connected to to an historic tradition that has been practiced by millions of believers throughout church history.

And yet I still believe it’s a bad idea to observe Lent.

Now, you might think that attitude is expected coming from a Baptist pastor, and maybe you’re right. My Roman Catholic friends would probably expect me to think the observance of Lent is a bad tradition. I’m just being a good Protestant after all.

Yet my views aren’t primarily motivated by a desire to be committed to a certain heritage, nor are they motivated by a desire to be either rebellious or cool. I don’t have a problem with Lent simply because I’m Protestant. Nor do I have a problem with Lent merely because I’m a curmudgeon. I have a problem with it because I believe there are some significant dangers that lie under the surface of its observation. We should be aware of these dangers particularly amid an evangelicalism where practicing Lent is back in vogue, especially among young, committed, well-meaning Protestants in lots of denominations. It’s actually the popular thing to do.

I’ve even observed Lent several times before. And early in my marriage I led my wife into observing Lent with me.

But the older I get the more I believe I shouldn’t have.

Why? What’s the big deal with Lent? What could I possibly have against fasting from something during the forty days leading up to Easter? If I believed what I said in the first paragraph then it’s obviously not because I don’t believe in fasting, or in Easter, or even in traditions. So why am I genuinely and intentionally protesting the practice of Lent in the most literal Protestant meaning of the word?

Well, I believe practicing Lent has four problems, four structural vulnerabilities that make it dangerous for discipleship:

1. First, it’s not mandated by Scripture. Fasting is assumed and prescribed. Weekly celebrating and marking Christ’s resurrection is required (hence Sunday worship), but Lent isn’t. True enough, the Bible’s silence on a particular practice is not necessarily an argument for it to not be observed. Just because Lent is not commanded does not necessarily imply that it must be rejected. And there does seem to be biblical warrant for extended fasts prior to significant religious observances and major life-decisions. Yet there isn’t a biblical practice with a direct correspondence to this practice, particularly as it is presently observed. Surely we can agree that there should be a serious amount of hesitation in placing a strong spiritual emphasis on a practice which was never observed by either Jesus nor by any of his apostles.

What I’m saying here is not merely that Lent shouldn’t be observed because it doesn’t have to be observed. I am merely making the point that if we are to take Scripture seriously as the foundation for our faith, then surely there should be biblical warrant for how we practice discipleship, how we practice our faith – personally and corporately. Yes fasting is biblical. Yes celebrating the resurrection is biblical.

A formal period of fasting from one particular activity in the six weeks leading up to Easter isn’t.

2. Second, I don’t know how to reconcile observing Lent with Jesus’ instructions not to practice righteousness before men. He forbids his disciples to practice overly outward displays of piety that make people think we’re super spiritual. He tells us to pray in secret, and he says that when we do fast we should take intentional steps to not let anyone know about it (Matthew 6:1-18).

And the truth is, nothing seems to be more public than a publicly observed and prescribed fast. Additionally, it seems from my experience that the only thing more popular than observing the tradition of Lent is an obsession in our social-media world to let everyone we know, know exactly what is being given up. Seriously, I’ve never known anyone who observes Lent who hasn’t told me that they’re observing Lent. There’s a whole cottage-industry of blogging about how much people love it. It’s the CrossFit of Christianity.

I know that we live in a world that loves to be overly transparent and share just about everything. But from a biblical perspective, personal spiritual disciplines are shy. They blush if they’re broadcasted.

Granted, there are corporate spiritual disciplines in Scripture – practices that are observed by a nation or a local church. Some might argue that Lent is one such corporate discipline. And yet everything else about its practice is geared toward the personal nature of its observation. It is almost always (particularly in Protestant evangelicalism) deeply individualistic, and if it’s individualistic then it’s personal, and if it’s personal then it needs to be between the believer and God – that is especially true of fasting, and it’s hard to be secret and closeted about fasting if the only way we can do it, seems to be by first telling everyone how serious we are about doing it. That’s a problem.  Fasting is about Jesus; it’s not about training for an iron-man competition.

3. Third, biblical fasting is defined and described as the giving up of something we genuinely need for the purpose of focusing our attention and affections on him whom we need more than anything else. Fasting is an intentional break from what we need physically as a means of relying on, loving, adoring, cherishing, and craving him who we need eternally. There’s a reason Jesus fasted from bread and water for forty days in the wilderness: The human body really needs food and water! But Jesus knew he needed fellowship with and obedience to the Father more.

Yet what I see far too often is a first-world habit of giving up nothing more than upper-middle class luxury items, not necessities. It’s hard for me to take an American Christian seriously who says they want to focus on Jesus’ trials of crucifixion in a world filled with poverty, starvation, warfare, and genocide by “fasting” from Twitter, Facebook, chocolate, soft drinks, or their favorite TV reality show. As much as we may want to convince ourselves otherwise, social media and video games are not synonymous with food and water.

We’re a long way from practicing spiritual disciplines like Jesus when we equate fasting with taking a detox from things we put way too much time, emphasis, and energy into in the first place. Only temporarily giving up something that may be a hindrance to our growth in godliness anyway is not an evidence of spiritual vitality. And there is no reward if after we’ve fasted we can still sing in the icy-melodies of Elsa that the fast “never bothered us anyway.”

4. Fourth, placing an overemphasis on Lent during the period leading up to Easter may have the unintended consequence of lessening an emphasis on Easter during the other 325 days out of the year. I love Easter. I love Good Friday services. I like sunrise services (mostly…after several cups of coffee). But the life of the believer  is to be the life of the gospel year-round, daily taking up a cross, especially by daily being entranced by His cross.

The forty days leading up to Easter are not a time-period that is holier than the June. All of life is to be lived in the shadows cast by a bloody cross and a stone sitting outside an empty tomb. That’s true of February and it’s true of all the other days of the year when I’m tempted to forget.

So what’s a believer to do? How are we to let Lent go and still observe the heart of what the tradition is meant to celebrate? Well, I gave four objections to Lent, so here are four short suggestions for putting some gospel-saturated spiritual disciplines into practice:

1. Leading up to Easter read gospel-saturated, God-glorifying books – books like Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, A Hunger For God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper, The Final Days of Jesus by Andras Kostenberger and Justin Taylor, The Cross of Christ, by John Stott, or The Mortification of Sin by John Owen.

2. Use the weeks leading up to Easter as an opportunity for forty days of focused servant-evangelism to your neighbors in your town or community. Use the time leading up to Easter as an annual observation of the servant-hearted heart of Jesus for those in your life. Display that to the families in your communities, neighborhoods, or apartment complexes.

3. Begin to take steps toward a biblical practice of fasting. Several of the books I listed above are a great place to start. Start simple. Start with actual things that are needed as things to fast from. Maybe begin fasting for short periods of time or over weekends. Start at different times throughout the year (maybe forty days spread out over eight workweeks throughout the year). And start by not telling anyone (other than those who just absolutely have to know, like close family, spouses, roommates, etc.) what you’re doing.

4. Use your time(s) of fasting as an ongoing meditations on the gospel. The good news of gospel disciplines is not that our actions make us more lovable or more more saved or more worthy of salvation…or more worthy of celebrating the gospel. The spiritual disciplines are not meant for us to marvel at our piety, our own strength and ability to not let go of Jesus. Instead, they’re means of sanctification by which we’re reminded that Jesus never lets go of us.

And that really is good news – huge, epic, feasting, banquet-spread, super-sized, gospel good news.


Cade Campbell is Associate Pastor for Preaching and Discipleship for First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana. He is a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @DCadeCampbell.