The end of Sola Scriptura?

The title of N. Clayton Croy’s book, Prima Scriptura: An Introduction to New Testament Interpretation, is perfect because, instead of sola scriptura, he admits that what we actually do is prima scriptura. We go to the Bible first, but other dimensions enter into our interpretation. Too often sola scriptura means we go to the Bible alone, with over disregard for what others have said or without recognizing that other dimensions are actually influencing us. Thus, “nearly all Christian traditions employ one or more additional criteria such as tradition, reason, and experience. A more realistic motto, then, would be prima scriptura: Scripture as the primary authority, but in conjunction with and mediated by other authorities.”

What do you think of this “sola” vs. “prima”?

Croy’s book is a textbook for advanced college students but even more for seminary students but one that is not simply exegetical method but also involves sane engagement with hermeneutics. (Some discussions of hermeneutics get insane by getting so complex we forget we’re trying to interpret this here passage in Galatians!) And it takes us from the text into our modern world, in fact, smack dab into the middle of the local church, so he fits into the theological interpretation of Scripture model.

Everything that comes up in interpretation is here; the author somehow managed not to turn this book in to a 1000 page door stop and learned to summarize and simplify and move on. But interpretation is learned by doing, not by reading about it. But you need a good book to get you started, and Croy’s book is that book.

I highly recommend this book, which is broken into four major units:

1. Analyzing and Preparing the Interpreter, where he knows we have to reflect on our social and theological locations — as well as our life experiences.

2. Analyzing the Text, where he uses the basic [the right basic] method of observation and interrogation leading to more observation. And he expects the reader to use all the resources and methods and angles that are needed. The goal is to come to terms with the intention of the author conveyed in the text.

3. Evaluating and Contemporizing the Text — the Wesleyan quadrilateral is used (Scripture, tradition, reason, experience?).

4. Appropriating the Text and Transforming the Community. I like his use of the word “appropriate.”


ALSO read Blake Huggins


Jeff Cook on Francis Chan’s book

Dress it up however you wish, Erasing Hell is a response book to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, yet despite replicating Bell’s style in their cover art and promotional video—the primary problem in my mind with Erasing Hell is that the authors do not speak to the same audience.

Recall the motivation behind Bell’s book, “I’ve written this book for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter those resolute words, ‘I would never be a part of that’ You are not alone. There are millions of us.” (viii).

This is primary. Bell wants to speak to a large number of people who reject the Jesus faith because of the way Christians have interpreted and displayed hell.

Bell’s not alone in caring for such people. Many of us have personally rejected Christianity or have friends and family who will not consider our God because he chooses eternal conscious torment for the damned. The hell described by Chan and Sprinkle is not difficult to believe in conceptually (like the trinity); it is not difficult to believe because of apparent inconsistencies (like the inerrancy of scripture); eternal conscious torment is difficult to believe because it makes the character of God look repugnant—and that is a bridge too far for some. Many of us make the same move when rejecting Allah, Zeus, Vishnu, Aphrodite, or Mammon. We’ve decided such God’s are not worthy of worship—even if they were real. In the same way, Bell’s audience thinks that the God you love is not worthy of devotion—be he the creator God or not.

And something needs to be said to such people.

Lay out whatever faults you will, Rob Bell has stepped up for the sake of the person who might believe, but can’t. Does Bell get it right all the time? Arguments have already been made in multiple places (including this blog) objecting to some of his conclusions. However, Bell’s audience has not disappeared simply because a few PhDs stride forward and say, “You know that’s really not the best way to translate ‘kolasis.” Until those responding to Love Wins take the hard next step and—in an apologetically informed, evangelistically minded way—address Bell’s audience with a sensible, compelling portrait that makes hell attractive and rationally viable, they have not entered the conversation at hand. Though some of Erasing Hell is strong (I particularly liked chapter 2), this is the principle failure of Chan and Sprinkle’s book.

The authors primary message is easily identified throughout. It says, “I feel sick. I would love to erase Hell from the pages of scripture” (14). But “we need to surrender our perceived right to determine what is just and humbly recognize that God alone gets to decide how he is going to deal with people” (131). For “God is perfect and right in all he does” (133) even if his “divine actions don’t fit our standards of logic or morality” (135).  

My friends, if you care about those you think will burn forever—that kind of apologetic for hell fails. In the language of our skeptical friends, it reads, “The God over here can do whatever he wants (be it fiery torment), to whoever he wants (be it your 4 year old), for as long as he wants (let’s say, forever).  And when he does it, the rest of us will shrug confused shoulders and cry by your side.”

Instead of engaging in creative apologetics and evangelism, Chan and Sprinkle have chosen to circle their wagons, grip their reading of scripture, and pitch ideas they hope will keep themselves (and presumably the masses) holding to a belief that they consistently describe as nauseating.

Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado, pastors Atlas Church (Greeley), and is the author of Seven: the Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes (Zondervan, 2008) and Everything New (2012).

What? Women more likely to be perpetrators of abuse as well as victims?

Women are more likely than men to stalk, attack and psychologically abuse their partners, according to a University of Florida study that finds college women have a new view of the dating scene.

“We’re seeing women in relationships acting differently nowadays than we have in the past,” said Angela Gover, a UF criminologist who led the research. “The nature of criminality has been changing for females, and this change is reflected in intimate relationships as well.”

In a survey of 2,500 students at UF and the University of South Carolina between August and December 2005, more than a quarter (29 percent) reported physically assaulting their dates and 22 percent reported being the victims of attacks during the past year. Thirty-two percent of women reported being the perpetrators of this violence, compared with 24 percent of men. The students took selected liberal arts and sciences courses. Forty percent were men and 60 percent were women, reflecting the gender composition of these classes.

In a separate survey of 1,490 UF students, one quarter (25 percent) said they had been stalked during the past year and 7 percent reported engaging in stalking, of whom a majority (58 percent) were female.

Although women were the predominant abusers, they still made up the largest number of victims in both surveys, accounting for 70 percent of those being stalked, for example.

The reason more college men weren’t victims may be that women in the study did not exclusively date them, preferring men who had already graduated, not yet enrolled in college or chose not to attend college at all, Gover said. “It shows that students who are perpetrating these attacks aren’t just targeting other students on campus,” she said.

It also is possible that some of the physical attacks women claim they are responsible for are actually acts of self-defense, Gover added. “Maybe some of these women have been abused by their partner for some time and they’re finally fighting back,” she said.

Recent studies on domestic violence suggest that whereas in the past victims might have felt trapped in violent situations, today’s women are more likely to understand they have options instead of putting up with mistreatment, she said.

“I think we may also be seeing sort of a new dynamic in dating relationships in terms of women feeling more empowered,” she said. “They recognize they don’t have to be in a dating relationship forever. They can get out of it.”

Child abuse was the single biggest determining factor for men and women becoming perpetrators or victims of either dating violence or stalking, Gover said. Even if one never personally experienced abuse, witnessing violence between one’s parents as a child increased the likelihood of stalking or being stalked as a young adult and it made girls more susceptible to becoming victims of dating violence when they grew up, she said.

The survey found that men and women who were abused as children were 43 percent more likely than their peers who were not mistreated to perpetrate physical violence and 51 percent more likely to be victims of physical violence in a dating relationship. Violent acts included kicking or slapping, pushing or shoving, punching or hitting with a hand or object, slamming someone against a wall and using force to make a partner have sex, she said.

Sexual risk-taking – the age when survey respondents first had sex and the number of sexual partners in their lifetime – was another important risk factor, but surprisingly, attitudes toward women made no difference, said Gover, who did her research with Catherine Kaukinen, a University of South Carolina criminology professor, and Kathleen Fox, a UF graduate student in criminology. Some of the findings were presented at the American Society of Criminology annual meeting in November in Toronto.

The study also was among the first to look at psychological abuse. Examples included preventing partners from seeing family or friends, shouting at them and using threats to have sex. Fifty-four percent of respondents reported being psychologically abusive, and 52 percent said they were victims of this type of behavior. Women were more likely to be psychologically abusive, with 57 percent saying they were perpetrators versus 50 percent of males.

Shelley Serdahely, executive director of Men Stopping Violence, in Decatur, Ga., questions the validity of studies showing women are more violent. “Women might be more likely to get frustrated because men are not taught how to be active listeners and women feel like they are not being heard,” she said. “Often women are more emotional because the relationship matters a lot to them, and while that may come out in a push or a shove or a grab, all of which are considered dating violence, it doesn’t have the effect of intimidating the man.”


Francis Chan wrote a new book about what is wrong with another book

I am assuming he is talking about Rob Bell here, because his book is mainly about Rob Bell.

1. He is worried about the arrogance in this argument.  I agree, as most people who haven’t even read Rob Bell’s book have no problem labeling him something (universalist) he says he isn’t.  But Francis seems to be talking about something else, the arrogance to question why God would send people to hell.  He says there are many things he doesn’t understand about why God does something, but he is humble in understanding that God might know what he is talking about.  It seems to me that he is saying that is what Rob Bell is doing, trying to create God in a way he could handle.  I read the book very differently, where I saw Bell saying we are focusing on the wrong thing (in and out) and instead should be focusing on what the bible focuses on (Hell on earth as well as hell after earth).  It seems arrogant to me to assume someone’s motives, if that is what Francis is doing.

2. The tagline of this video is “we can’t afford to be wrong on this issue”.  I think that is where all the weird beliefs about hell come from.  The bible didn’t seem to make hell all that important compared to other parts of the bible.  It is our fear and need for answers that made it such an important thing.  If you say “how can our eternal souls not be the most important thing?”  I will summarize Francis in saying maybe God knows what he is doing.

Mark Driscoll Quote-God as an overprotective parent

“A loving God protects His children from sin and evil by separating them. In this way, God is a father who is tolerant of all who obey Him and are safe for His children. But He is intolerant of those who sin against Him and do evil to His children.”

The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality


The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality

August 19, 2009 | by: John Piper | Category: Commentary


I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.”

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.


Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.

1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.

The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.

Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)

5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.

Jesus: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)

6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

Two Thoughts on the Rob Bell Brouhaha by Kevin DeYoung

Well, my ruminations got the best of me. I think there is something more to say about the Rob Bell brouhaha. Yes, even before the book comes out.

Actually two somethings. Consider this an effort to clear the underbrush so we might see the forest and trees.

Good Verse, Wrong Time

One, it needs to be stated again that this is not a Matthew 18 issue. No one is obligated to respond in private to a promotional video that has been put out in public. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matt. 18:15). Rob Bell has not sinned against Justin Taylor or John Piper. This is not a personal offense or an interpersonal squabble that should have been left in private. The general rule of thumb, supported by Matthew 18 and sanctified common sense, is we should not make a matter more public than it has to be. But by definition, YouTube videos and Vimeo clips and books and blogs are meant to be public. That’s the whole point. The Love Wins trailer was not a private email correspondence intercepted by the Reformed Gestapo. It was deliberately made public and can be commented on in public.

Look at how the apostles handled false teaching in the New Testament. There’s nothing to suggest Paul sat down to talk with Demas (2 Tim. 4:20), Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 3:17), or Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20). And even when Paul opposed Peter “to his face” he made a point to do it “before them all” (Gal. 2:11, 14). No one is required to talk to me before they criticize my books, and no one was required to call up Rob Bell before commenting on his Love Wins video.

Not Might, But Did

Two, the bigger complaint is that Justin Taylor or I or any number of bloggers and tweeters have completely jumped the gun in criticizing Bell for a yet to be released book. This would be a fair critique had we attempted to write a book review for a book we hadn’t read. But our deep dismay and the reason for issuing an urgent warning is not based on what he might say in the book. It’s based on what he did say in the video.

Here’s what Bell says after the story about Gandhi and the piece of art:

Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?

Then there is the question behind the questions. The real question [is], “What is God like?”, because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?

This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies and they say, why would I ever want to be a part of that? See what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like. What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected, beautiful, that whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine.

The good news is that love wins.

This is not back cover copy from the publisher. This is not a promo blurb written by an intern at HarperCollins. This not what Brian McLaren gave for an endorsement. This is what Rob Bell said.

And he is saying something. Don’t think for a second the questions don’t communicate something. These are not “let’s explore together and see what the Bible says about these hard issues” kind of questions. Everyone agrees Bell is a remarkable communicator. He is not unaware of the effect of these three minutes. Words mean something and words do something. Whether the sentences end in question marks or not, the force of these sentences is to undermine—nay, to ridicule—the reality of eternal conscious punishment, the wrath of the God, and penal substitutionary atonement.

Imagine I do a video like this:

Will God save everyone? Does everyone go to heaven no matter how bad they were and no matter what they believed? Is Hitler there next to Bonhoeffer enjoying the same eternal bliss? What kind of God would that be? How would we make sense of Jesus’ strong language about hell or the chilling scenes in Revelation? Would that God still be holy and just?

And what would that do to our understanding of the gospel? Would Jesus’ death still be necessary? Would faith in him really be that important? Why would we still send out missionaries and evangelists? What would be so good about the good news if, in the end, there is no bad news? And if there is no hell, or we can’t really be sure anyone is there, why have almost all Christians in all of history believed there was such a place of eternal suffering? Have we found something that historic orthodoxy has missed all these centuries?

What if the things you’ve heard recently are not the truth about Christianity? What if the warnings in Scripture are real warnings? What if God is purer than we thought, we’re worse than we imagined, and hell is as real as the nose on your face? What if the “only way” means the only way? What if God is glorified in salvation and judgment? What if the God of love and the Father of mercies is also a righteous Judge, a holy Sovereign, and a conquering King?

Nothing but questions. Not a single indicative proposition. Yet who could think for a moment that I am not teaching something? This is not mere provocation. It is not an expression of searching inquiry or humble wrestling. My questions pack a rhetorical punch. They tell you what I think is foolish and what is wise. They suggest that some beliefs are noble and others are not. They tell you what God is like and what you should believe about him. My questions teach. And only a teacher with stunning naivete or remarkable cowardice would suggest they didn’t.

Please note, that last sentence is not about Bell. He has not stepped back from the questions saying they were only questions (maybe he does in the book, I don’t know). But some folks claim that the video cannot be critiqued because he’s only asking questions. Maybe he’s just trying to sell books? Maybe he’s just messing with us and in the book he will sound much more orthodox?

As to the former question, it doesn’t matter if it’s meant to be promotional, devotional, or confrontational, the fact is he’s teaching. And false teaching of this depth and breadth needs to be addressed. This is not a conflict of personalities or an intramural turf war. This is about the gospel–what it means, what it accomplished, and what’s at stake if we do not believe its good news.

I know many young evangelicals barely have any stomach for controversy, let alone strong words about a serious topic. But if there is no way to be simultaneously bold and humble; if there is no way to be a gentle, caring person while still speaking in clear tones about hurtful error; if there is no way to correct those who oppose sound doctrine without being a moral monster; if there’s no way to love truth and grace at the same time, then there’s no way to be a biblical Christian. Judgmentalism is a sin and Calvinists can be jerks. But not every judgment is sinful and not every truth is cruel just because Reformed people teach it.

And as to the latter question, if Bell ends up espousing a traditional view of hell, the wrath of God, and penal substitution, that would mean McLaren’s blurb was misleading, the publisher’s description was misleading, and Bell’s video was misleading. Love Wins can be the second coming of Jonathan Edwards and it still doesn’t change that what was communicated in the video was untrue to the Scriptures, inconsistent with historic orthodoxy, belittling of the cross, deceiving to unbelievers, and a tragic distortion of God’s character.

Chasing After the Wind, But Maybe Not

I realize this post will not make universalists, inclusivists, and non-Christians change their minds. But perhaps there are some Rob Bell fans who have enjoyed the Noomas and learned from the books and you aren’t quite sure what the fuss is all about. Why is everyone ragging on your favorite preacher? My exhortation is to watch the video again. Read through the words and see if they line up with the hymns you sing. See if the questions sound right next to Isaiah 53, John 3, and Revelation 20-22. Look into Gandhi’s Hinduism and see if that seems compatible with Christianity. Explore the giants of church history (e.g., Augustine, Luther, Calvin) and see what mainstream Christians have believed through the centuries. Read through some of the confessions or catechisms you may have grown up reading. Above all, search the Scriptures and see what God says. You may just conclude your old Sunday school teachers knew a thing or two.

Rob Bell is right about one thing: what you believe about heaven and hell says a lot about what you believe about God. That’s why theological error of this magnitude cannot go unchecked. The God of the Vimeo clip is not a God of wrath, not a God of eternal recompense, not a God who showed us love in sending his Son to be a propitiation for our wretched sins, not a God whose will it was to crush the Suffering Servant in an exercise of divine justice and free grace. Indeed, says Bell—even if he says it with a question—such a God could not be good.

We don’t have to guess if Bell will say something dreadfully, horribly, disgracefully wrong.

He already has.

for his full review of the book