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Two Bearded Preachers

Listen as Justin Larkin and Martin Bender talk about everything without researching anything! We discuss life, ministry, and family from a uniquely Christian perspective without getting all preachy. Like the Two Bearded Preachers facebook page and follow us on Instagram @twobeardedpreachers.
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Now displaying: September, 2016

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Sep 29, 2016

In this week's episode, Justin and Martin talk about the trainwreck of a debate that went down Monday evening. Seriously, America? Is this the best you can do? Maybe one of our kids can be president one day, but who would even want the job by that point? 

In the second half of the show the Two Bearded Preachers talk about congregational take overs and wonder what the best course of action is in this age of churches eating each other. Church polity, ecclesiology, and methodology are all discussed in the most heart wrenching episode yet.

Did we forget to mention that this is our 52nd episode? That means this has been going on for an entire year. Take that, America!

Sep 27, 2016

Martin W. Bender

I was raised and educated within Classical Theism, but the more difficult questions it raises were never answered convincingly. If God really is atemporal and eternal doesn’t that necessitate a static nature? It’s a philosophical argument to be sure, but one that is also supported by divine revelation. When the idea of change is introduced to the nature of God his atemporality is rejected. Change demands an experience of time. A previous state and a potential state. To say God has emotional change of any kind is to abandon the entire Classical formulation of God for something new. Hence the rise of Open and Process Theism, both of which limit God in terms of atemporality, power, knowledge, and sovereignty. But to hold to Classical Theism, one must have an answer to the challenge of God’s apparent emotional change articulated in scripture.

The Old Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (II) Text on Immutability and Impassibility by Ronald S. Baines and Steve Garrick

Four texts are used to argue in favor of divine impassibility in this chapter: Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 28:63, 1 Samuel 15, and Malachi 3:6. All four are used to make clear the distinction between God and man. This Creator/creation distinction is vitally important to understand in light of the theological, philosophical, and practical consequences that result from one’s understanding of God’s nature. The argument is God is totally different from creation (but creation does resemble, though incompletely, its Creator). One of those differences is God never changes. This is called his immutability. All of the passages used in the chapter indicate the immutability of God. If God truly is immutable, such a trait would also apply to his passions or emotions, hence impassibility.

Tying the doctrine of impassibility makes perfect sense. The challenge is that many passages in the Bible, generally not speaking to his nature, seem to indicate some sort of change in emotion (repenting, regretting, what have you). If one follows the hermeneutic method discussed earlier it becomes clear indications of change on God’s part are in fact anthropomorphisms rather than didactic passages on the nature of God. Conversely, if one takes the passages that seem to indicate change on God’s part as illustrative of a true change something must be done with those passages indicating God does not change. The former seems to be a more reasonable understanding given all the texts thus far considered.

The Old Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (III) Texts on Apparent Passibilism and Conclusion by Steve Garrick, James P. Butler, Charles J. Rennie

In this chapter several of the passages where God is indicated to have change of emotions are considered. It includes such events as his regret prior to the flood, the testing of Abraham, God’s pity and endurance in Judges, His desires in Deuteronomy and Hosea, and the many expressions of emotional change in Isaiah. Throughout the chapter, explanations are given as to how the expression of emotion is used to illustrate the Creator/creation distinction rather than show a true change in the nature of God. Those who hold to an augmented understanding of impassibility state that God in his condescending is able to experience change in emotion without affecting his immutability. He essentially decrees his own change in emotion in much the same way he makes all his decrees: eternally.

This augmented view seems like a neat trick, but does it answer the question of God’s impassibility satisfyingly? I’d say no, but to be fair, I’ve only read the detractors of this position thus far. It seems to take the track as Molinism (a theological position that attempts to reconcile the disparity between human free will and divine sovereignty) by redefining attributes that define Classical Theism in order to develop a more humanistic understanding of God. This chapter interacts mainly with this alternative view of impassibility, rarely interacting with the arguments made specifically against the classical understanding.

Thoughts

The argument for divine impassibility seems to be far more convincing than the arguments against it. Those who reject the concept altogether have no basis for understanding God as a necessary being, rather they make him contingent upon man for his emotional state. Those who hold to an alternate view of impassibility have to redefine the terms and invent decrees of God without scriptural warrant. Thus far, it seems clear impassibility is a necessary element of Classical Theism whose rejection will inevitably result in the failure of the system. Keep in mind, I come to the book already accepting impassibility as it is traditionally understood and have yet to read alternative positions from those who hold them. I’m on the lookout for the best work on both the alternative understanding of impassibility and its rejection. If you have a suggestion let me know what it is.

 

Baines, Ronald S., Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, James M. Renihan eds. Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015).

Sep 23, 2016

Martin W. Bender

I recently listened to another set of lectures on iTunes U: Dr. John Frame’s Christian Apologetics from Reformed Theological Seminary. It was an explanation of presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics is a specialized method of arguing for the veracity of the claims of Christianity. It differs from other apologetic methodologies in that it bases all its argumentation on the presupposition that God exists and is the basis for all knowledge, thought, and communication. The most significant presuppositional apologists are Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark. Modern presuppositionalists typically fall under one of these two thinkers.

I really enjoyed the class. Dr. Frame quickly explains the majority of apologetic methods as well as the history of the field as it’s been used through the ages. He is able to explain fairly complex ideas in common language and argues convincingly for Van Til’s approach. It might be important to note Frame is a Van Til fanboy to a certain degree, but he clearly identifies minor differences in his own approach.

Dr. Frame argues the superiority of presuppositional apologetics is that it is fundamentally based on divine revelation. That isn’t to say scripture explicitly indicates how arguments for the existence of God are to be made, rather, that the idea of a personal, tri-theistic God is the basic presupposition for rationality of any kind. Every person builds their system of thought on the orderliness of God as seen in creation. Arguments against this are inevitably built upon the theist's presuppositions and therefore are self-nullifying.

Based on this series I will eventually get Cornelius Van Til’s Christian Apologetics to bone up a little more.

Sep 22, 2016

Do you have a personal vision statement for your life? When Justin reads a devotion arguing Jesus' success is rooted in such a statement he and Martin lose their minds. This extends into a greater conversation about the viability of vision and mission statements within the church context as well as some Christological thought. In addition to this Martin shares a story about a newly coined curse word while Justin says Ecclesiastes is boring. The Two Bearded Preachers definitely misbehave in this week's episode. Be sure to share it on a hand written note lovingly given to your sweetheart.

Sep 21, 2016

Martin W. Bender

I come from a religious tradition that sets itself firmly against creeds and confessions. A common saying among restorationists was, “We have no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no name but the name Christian.” Imagine my surprise when reading through a thoroughly confessional book I came across the exact hermeneutical paradigm I was taught in a restorationist Bible College. It really isn’t all that surprising.

Hermeneutics: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei by Ronald S. Baines

This book is going to be at least a little challenging because it openly questions some of my favorite thinkers. D. A. Carson, that crazy Canadian, is shown to hold a position somewhere in between impassibility and Open Theism. He dismisses the arguments for impassibility saying texts that seem to demonstrate a change in God’s emotional state is filtered out as simple anthropomorphisms. He also rejects Open Theism stating its adherents similarly dismiss passages that seem to indicate impassibility. Chapter two seeks to demonstrate Carson is incorrect in his glib treatment of those holding to the impassible God.

There are two foundational ideas in interpreting scripture. First, unclear passages should be understood in light of clear passages. This is called the analogy of scripture. It is clearly taught in the London Baptist Confession of the Faith (1.9) as well as in certain independent Bible colleges (wink). Second, clear passages of scripture should be used to create a sense of the theological meaning of the entire text. This is called the analogy of faith. These two principles are the foundation for the next several chapters which will articulate a biblical defense of impassibility.

The Old Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (I) Texts on the Nature of God by Steve Garrick with Ronald S. Baines

Does the Bible clearly teach the divine impassibility of God? Well, that’s up for debate. Certainly, there are passages that seem to indicate changes in God’s emotions, but wouldn’t such changes necessitate mutability as an aspect of God’s nature? In order to argue against this, the authors use passages that relate directly to the nature of God to establish his utter transcendence over all of creation including time.

The name of God spoke to Moses receives the greatest amount of attention. When the Lord says, “I am who I am” he is not merely naming himself, but revealing to the reluctant leader of the exodus a sense of his nature. The authors argue the name God gives to Moses indicates both his immutability and his interaction with creation. The idea of immutability seems fairly clear: “I am who I am” and by contrast, I’m not anything else. There is definitely an implicit rejection of becoming inherent in the divine name. The fact God reveals his name, and thusly a sense of his nature, reveals both his transcendence and his immanence. “Rather than seeing God’s transcendence as related to his essence and his immanent relations with his people stemming from covenantal properties, scripture portrays both as directly originating in the eternal God. Put another way, it is because God is transcendent that he is also immanent” (98).

Other passages are used to argue similar points but none are as convincing or as well developed as the nature of God revealed in his name. All the selections demonstrate the unchanging nature of God as a feature of his divine attributes. This sets the stage for a continued argument against the idea God is capable of change.

Thoughts

The hermeneutical argument used by the authors seems to be the primary basis for all they will write. I’m comfortable with this as it articulates the same hermeneutic principles I use and teach in my congregation. The challenge will be making convincing interpretations supporting their conclusion: God does not have changes in passions. Thus far, their argumentation seems a little lacking as their understanding of the nature of God is derived primarily from drawing quite a bit on a single text. I agree the Tetragrammaton is profoundly important as a baseline for understanding God but they may be drawing a little much from that single passage. Certainly, they are limited to what they can use effectively in their space but I hope for a little more fleshing out of the doctrine in upcoming chapters.

Thus far, I still hold to divine impassibility.

Baines, Ronald S., Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, James M. Renihan eds. Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015).

Sep 20, 2016

Martin W. Bender

When I want to learn about a new video game I usually watch a Let’s Play of the game on YouTube. In these videos, someone is commenting on the game as they play. I was thinking I’d do the same thing, but in blog format for heavier theological works I’m reading. So here are some thoughts on the introduction and first chapter of Confessing the Impassible God.

An Introduction to the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: Why is this Doctrine Important by James M. Renihan

This is a collection of essays on the concept of God’s impassibility. The idea is that God does not have passions or emotions in the human sense. He is without change in any way, form, or fashion and as such, does not experience emotion. This is an essential doctrine in Classical Theism and this collection comes from a Confessionally Reformed Baptist perspective. I don’t happen to be a Confessionally Reformed Baptist, but I do hold to Classical Theism and am interested in recent objections to the position.

The introduction includes criticisms of impassibility by the doctrine’s opponents. Jeff Pool rejects Classical Theism altogether arguing that divine immutability and impassibility are not biblical. Clark Pinnock is quoted at length from The Most Moved Mover and The Openness of God stating that many Calvinists reject impassibility and thus hold to an augmented immutability. Richard Rice points to the various occasions in scripture when God is said to be experiencing emotion of one sort or other.

The purpose of the book can be summed up in the quote, “A reformulation of the doctrine of God is underway within evangelicalism, and a trickle of professed Reformed confessionalists within the broader evangelical world are adopting the reformulations in whole or in part. This is deeply troubling, and has profound, far-reaching implications for Reformed theology.”

As an observer outside of the Reformed tradition, I am concerned about the growing influence of Open Theism, Process Theism, and Molinism. I’m not sure how the doctrine of impassibility fits into the discussion but hope my reading will clarify some of my thoughts on the subject.

Chapter One: Analogy and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility by Charles J. Rennie

If divine impassibility is denied the doctrines of God’s immutability, aseity, simplicity, and timelessness inevitably fall apart. The question then is whether or not the Bible teaches God is immutable, self-sufficient, simple, and timeless. As stated above, impassibility is the doctrine that God does not experience changes in his inner emotional state. Rather, that God is eternally constant.

Does God experience potentiality? Classical Theism posits God is an eternal actuality. He is in no way potential. This is different from creation that has actuality and potentiality. Man can change to be something other than what we are, but is it possible for God to become? Open Theists argue God does have potentiality and has an experience of emotional change in much the same way as us. This, of course, monkies with atemporality and calls God’s sovereignty into question.

It is important when reading scripture that God is wholly other than his creation. So when the Bible speaks of God’s love it is not the same experience as the love I experience as part of creation. The same is true of God’s other attributes. I possess life, but not life in the same category as God possesses. Such distinctions are important for us to make as we are attempting to describe a transcendent being. God sees, but not as man sees. So when the Bible depicts God having a change of emotion it is important for us to realize God is being described in terms of “visible operations” rather than his “invisible nature.” The reason for this can be broken down by the threefold way of knowing God.

God can be known by his creatures through three basic categories: causation, negation, and eminence. Causation shows what God is like through the effects. Creation is an effect of God. Creation is orderly, so we can know God is orderly. Causation states the effect is like the cause. Negation states God is not like his creation. The example of a stature is used. A statue of a dog has more similarities to an actual dog than an actual dog has with the statue. So a contingent being is like the necessary being that created it, but the necessary being is unlike the contingent being. Eminence is the idea that God is infinitely greater than creation’s conception of him. There is not a degree of difference between creation and creator that can be measured, the difference is infinite. Aquinas is quoted, “… the ultimate human knowledge about God is that one knows that one does not know God, inasmuch as one knows that what God is exceeds everything we know about him.”

The conclusion of the chapter states, “The doctrine of divine impassibility could be alternatively referred to as the doctrine of God’s absolute perfection; God is not undergoing a process of perfection, nor could he be. He is infinitely and incorruptibly perfect in his eternal essence.” While this assertion was by no means proven in the chapter it does show where later essays will take the argument. I hope the implications of the doctrine of divine impassibility will be discussed in depth as the book continues.

 

Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility edited by Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, and James M. Renihan

Sep 19, 2016

Martin W. Bender

The question of what the church ought to be doing is on the minds of Christians. Should the focus of the church’s actions be on evangelism? Discipleship? Helping the needy? All have a scriptural warrant, but which takes precedence? This is the question Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert attempt to answer in What is the Mission of the Church?

Their answer to the question is the Great Commission. The church ought to focus its attention on the communication of the Gospel to both itself and to the greater world. This seems like the obvious answer, but many see the church as God's means to demonstrates his benevolence. They are careful to point out that the church does have a responsibility to care for those who are in need. This is a common idea that pervades the Bible. When the church focuses on social justice to the exclusion of the Great Commission trouble occurs. 

Moral proximity is the concept that most resonated with me. It is the idea that an individual’s responsibility to help another person is limited by their relationship to that individual as relationship, time, ability, and location. One of the members of my congregation asked me how she should respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. I looked her in the eye and said, “Nothing.” It wasn’t the answer she was looking for, but there was nothing physical for her to do. Outside of prayer and sending cash there were no other options. Her moral proximity to the situation was so far removed there was no way for her meet this pressing need. Herein lies the problem for today’s Christian. There is no lack of opportunity for good moral action, but there are physical limitations.

My friend Todd is working daily to help flooding victims in Louisiana. Jeremy, an old army buddy of mine, was able to drive from Florida to Louisiana to do the same. They both have an incredible opportunity to help people in need and work for the good of others. Meanwhile, I sit in Georgia doing nothing physical to help their efforts. Should I feel guilty about this? Is my church failing in their God-given task of helping others by not responding to this disaster? I think not. We live in a particular context with real limitations on how to carry out God’s work in the world. The work of the church is the communication of the Gospel. Sometimes the best way to do that is by helping flood victims but for most of us, the best way is to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

This book is good if you are questioning what the church should be doing. It will be helpful for me as I attempt to move my congregation from a mainline, social justice mentality toward a Gospel focused evangelical paradigm. It reads quick and has many resources listed for further study. I did find it funny that on the same page where they said the book would not be footnote heavy there was half a page of footnotes. I liked the book and will recommend it to some of my congregants.

Sep 16, 2016

The Two Bearded Preachers love Major Payne and don't apologize for it. Killing is my business, ladies, and business is good! After discussing the finer points of the best film of 1995, Justin and Martin take on books like Heaven is for Real and other heaven tourism stories. They spend a little time on the deep-rooted materialism of American culture and even talk about the role of drugs in today's Christian mysticism. This episode has it all including references to Footloose and a lovely recipe for crystal meth. Can you guess which of the duo identifies with John Lithgow? Find out right here in episode 50!

Sep 10, 2016

Martin W. Bender

I have resigned myself to the fact that I’ll not be finishing 100 books this year. I kept up the pace for the first few months, but Spring and Summer took a drastic toll on the number of pages I was getting through. I’ve not given up on reading entirely, though. In fact, I just finished a book I received free from Ligonier Ministries: R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s a Theologian. I’ve got to say, I do enjoy a free book.

Everyone’s a Theologian is one of those short works of systematics specifically written to introduce the reader to the idea of organizing the whole of scripture topically. My favorite work in this little genre is John Frame’s Salvation Belongs to the Lord, but you probably knew that since I’m a Frame fanboy. R.C. Sproul uses his time in much the same way as Frame, sharing just a little bit of information on the main categories of systematics without getting terribly deep at any point. The book is easily accessible to adult readers but is probably a little advanced for high school students. I’ll likely use it for quick reference here and there but will look to larger systematic works for deeper study.

Dr. Sproul writes from a Reformed perspective (he is Presbyterian after all) and EaT follows that line of thinking very closely. Unsurprisingly, there are references to the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms as well as the Westminster Confession along with regular scripture references to support his theological positions. Those antagonistic to the Reformed tradition will find Sproul unapologetic and likely will find this book lacking sufficient grounds to support its claims. To them, I would point out that the book isn’t attempting to defend the Reformed perspective, but systematics as a way of understanding the Bible. In this it succeeds, but for those seeking a defense of the Reformed faith I’d steer toward another work.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book. I think it will work well for what it intends and accomplishes the goal of getting the reader to think about Christianity in terms of systematics. It would be a good tool to lead an adult Bible study through provided the readers understand the specific perspective from which the author comes. For the price I paid, I couldn’t be happier with the book.

Sep 9, 2016

Did you ever want to know how Santa gets his job of giving presents to the children of the world done in a single night? Well, Martin gives an explanation in this YouTube exclusive. Follow the link to end the mystery.

 

Martin Explains Santa

 

Sep 8, 2016

Why can't anyone take a joke anymore? Is there something so serious going on that we can't laugh a little at the congruency issues in someone's discography? This and other topics are discussed as Justin and Martin seek to solve every problem in life, ministry, and the world. Included in this episode is a crotch tracking video camera, a secret society of pastoral persons, and some of the greatest innovations the world has ever seen. By no means should you share it with your friends on account of all the secrecy. Shhhh...

Sep 7, 2016

Martin W. Bender

I recently finished listening to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Conference on iTunes U. It discussed the issues surrounding the complementarian/egalitarian debate taking place among evangelicals. The fundamental question being asked is whether there is a qualitative difference between men and women. I realize it seems boring, but it is an area that will increasingly need to be addressed by American Christians as the distinction between male and female is being questioned in our society.

The general answer is yes, there is a difference between the sexes. It seems obvious, I know, but at this point in history, one has to make definitive obvious statements. One of the lectures focuses specifically on this issue using the creation account in Genesis 1-3 to clearly point out men and women are different and have different roles in life. The rejection of gender roles is a rejection of the created order. Before the fall both Adam and Eve had particular roles to play in creation that had been given to them by God. They were dissatisfied with them then just as many still are today, but a rejection of God’s decrees doesn’t negate them, it just makes us look silly.

Another lecture of note discussed homosexuality. Oddly enough, the seemingly separate debate on the nature of homosexuality has many parallels to the question of gender roles between men and women. The most significant shared issue is the rejection of the created order as discussed above. The arguments created to allow for the rejection of the male/female distinction bear striking similarity to those used argue for the viability of homosexuality from the Bible. Essentially, the male/female distinction and the rejection of homosexuality are identified as specific issues for congregations Paul is writing to and are therefore not necessarily applicable to the church today. Such arguments fail to take into account the rest of the Scriptures’ teaching on these issues and fails to make a distinction between didactic and illustrative statements. The lecture goes into it a little bit further.

Perhaps the greatest reason for the debate as it stands is the question of whether or not women should hold authoritative or teaching positions in the church. This is best discussed when a panel of women is asked whether or not they are in violation of Paul’s exhortation that he does not permit a woman to teach a man in 1 Timothy 2:12. They explain that they do not see themselves as in a teaching or authoritative capacity, but are attempting to help explain the feminine perspective of biblical womanhood. This is significant because a panel at a conference is not the same context as the worship service at a church. The discussion of the issue is ongoing and perpetuated by the arguments of secular feminism which has heavily clouded the conversation.

For more information about the issue check out Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Sep 1, 2016

Are Martin and Justin really so heartless that they wouldn't help a duck in trouble? How can one describe the social impact of the middle finger to an eight-year-old? Is there a reason why adults are so untrusting? These questions and others are answered in this week's episode of the Two Bearded Preachers. Be sure to share with your bird loving friends.

 

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