Category Archives: Other Authors

Behold Your Redeemer

 

Do you know your Redeemer? Do you know who He is and what He has done? I don’t mean that you vaguely have some knowledge about a cross and resurrection, but do you know what benefits he has purchased for you with his own blood? If the extent of your knowing Him is that you know Him only as a Savior who gets you out of hell, then I would encourage you to take a long look at your Savior.

In his person he is himself the sum of all those blessings: the light of the world (John 8:12), the true bread (6:35), the true vine (15:1), the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life (11:25; 14:6), our wisdom, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 15:45), the head of the church (Eph 1:22), the cornerstone of the temple of God (Eph 2:20); and for that reason there is no participation in his benefits except by communion with his person.

Yet from him flow all the benefits, the whole of salvation (Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:11; John 3:17; 12:47), and more specifically the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28; Eph 1:7); the removal of our sins (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5); the cleansing of deliverance of a bad conscience (Heb. 10:22); justification (Rom 4:25); righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30); sonship (Gal 3:26; 4:5-6; Eph 1:5); confident access to God (Eph 2:18; 3:12); God’s laying aside his wrath in virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, that is, the sacrifice of atonement (Rom 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10; Heb 2:17; […] the second birth and the power to become children of God (John 1:12-13; sanctification (1 Cor 1:30); […] deliverance from death and from the fear of death (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:55; Heb 2:15); escape from judgment (Heb 10:27-28); and finally, the resurrection on the last day (John 11:25; 1 Cor 15:21) [where we will experience] ascension; glorification; the heavenly inheritance; eternal life already beginning here with the inception of faith; and one day fully manifesting itself in glory; the new heaven and new earth; and the restoration of all things.

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids:Baker, 2006) 339-40.

To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

 

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Arminianism Shmarminianism

I was digging through my Complete Works of John Owen v. 10 today and found a very interesting work by him called A Display of Arminianism where it is his aim to show why Arminianism is silly, inconsistent, and not Christian. The great thing about John Owen, whether you agree or disagree with him, is that is unbelievably thorough in his analysis and treatment of views contrary to his. When he sat down to write, he did so as if the souls of men were on the line.

Owen explains the reason for his work in the preface:

The fates of our church having of late devolved the government thereof into the hands of men tainted with this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of praise and preferment, and quickly prevailed to beat poor naked Truth into a corner. It is high time, then, for all the lovers of the old ways to oppose this innovation, prevailing by such unworthy means, before our breach grow great like the sea, and there be none to heal it.

If it is not clear by this that Owen despises Arminianism, then that will become clear shortly. What strikes me is Owen’s lack of political correctness and “respect” for opposing views. He simply calls the view a poison to the church. A note of clarification is necessary here because like there are differing views within Calvinism[1], there are also different views within Arminianism. The strand of Arminianism that Owen is dealing with is something along the lines of the mutated baby of Classical Arminiamism[2] and Rationalism[3]. It was Arminianism with a very strong Pelagian[4] aftertaste. To be clear, Owen would oppose any form of Arminianism, however the predominant strand of Arminianism in his day was heavily influenced by Rationalism. In his work, Owen introduces his case against Arminianism:

The soul of man, by reason of the corruption of nature, is not only darkened with a mist of ignorance, whereby he is disenabled for the comprehending of divine truth, but is also armed with prejudice and opposition against some parts thereof, which are either most above or most contrary to some false principles which he hath framed unto himself. As a desire of self-sufficiency was the first cause of this infirmity, so a conceit thereof is that wherewith he still languisheth; nothing doth he more contend for than an independency of any supreme power, which might either help, hinder, or control him in his actions… Never did any men more eagerly endeavor the erecting of this Babel than the Arminians, the modern blinded patrons of human self-sufficiency…

From here on out I am only going to outline what Owen says about what Arminianists believe and what they deny.  Hopefully this will spur you on to read what he has to say.

1)  To exempt themselves from God’ jurisdiction,—to free themselves from the supreme dominion of his all-ruling providence…[so] to have an absolute independent power in all their actions.

1) They deny the eternity and unchangeableness of God’s decrees

2) They question the prescience or foreknowledge of God

3) They depose the all-governing providence of this King of nations, denying its effectual power in turning the hearts of men

4) They deny the irresistibly and uncontrollable power of God’s will, affirming that oftentimes he seriously wills and intends what he cannot accomplish

2)  To clear human nature from the heavy imputation of being sinful, corrupted, wise to do evil but unable to do good; and so to vindicate unto themselves a power and ability of doing all that good which God can justly require to be done by them in the state wherein they area proud Luciferian endeavor!

1) They deny that doctrine of predestination whereby God is affirmed to have chosen certain men before the foundation of the world… for this doctrine would make the special grace of God to be the sole cause of all the good that is in the elect

2) They deny original sin and its demerit.

3) They will claim that if you charge our human nature with repugnancy to the law of God, they will maintain that it was also in Adam when he was first created, and so comes from God himself. (In other words, it is God’s fault that we are in our corrupted state).

4) They deny the efficacy of the merit of the death of Christ.

5) They grant some to have salvation apart from Christ.

6) Having thus robbed God, Christ, and his grace, they adorn their idol free-will with many glorious properties no way due unto it.

7) They do not only claim to their new-made deity a saving power, but also affirm that he is very active and operative in the great work of saving our souls.

 


[1] Simply defined as a theological system that is centered around the Sovereignty of God. Basic tenants: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (TULIP)

[2] Developed mainly as a response to Calvinism. Where as Calvinists see predestination as an unconditional action of GOd in electing individuals to salvation, Arminianism teaches that predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge in seeing whether an individual would freely accept of reject Christ.

[3]  A reliance on reason, rather than revelation (Scripture) for the establishment of Truth.

[4]  Taught by British monk Pelagius (354-415) who emphasized human effort and merit as the means of salvation, thus divine grace was unnecessary (Strongly opposed by Augustine).

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Interesting and Irritating III

Dr. Joe Gibbs shares The Tragedy of Bioethics on the Western Seminary ThM website. I don’t pretend to understand it all, but it is encouraging to see godly men looking at their discipline Christocentrically.

When we approach people whose stories have taken a catastrophic turn and we wield only the calculus of good and evil, our bioethics is left lifeless, empty, and tragic.  According to Wernow, to address tragedy we must turn to mystery, to “Mystery-revealed:” Christ, in whom is Life.  The question we ask as Christians doing bioethics is not just, “What is good?” but “How do I bring eternal life into this tragedy?  How do I bring the mystery of Life into the abyss?”

A friend of mine (JT English) turned my attention to the following video and I think you will agree it is irritating.

I have to admit, seeing little Kanon open his Veggie Tales Bible made me laugh, but overall I think this is pretty sad.

A recent finding of mine, SAET (The Society of Advancement of Ecclesial Theology) has an excellent blog and Jason Hood writes about Love having a Context.

After citing Leviticus 19:18—So there it is. If I don’t reprove my neighbor, I myself will be guilty of lack of love. This requirement is obviously not a blank check to get “all up in others’ business,” even if the command requires an approach to community that would make most contemporary people comfortable. Gal 6:1 applies here: it’s when sin clearly arises that action is required.

It is shocking how many people I have heard abstain from the Lord’s Table because of their understanding 1 Corinthians 11:28, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Luke Stamps has contributed a post to The Gospel Coalition blog on this topic entitled It’s meant for Sinners.

Taking our cue from 1 Corinthians 11:28, we rightly wish to “examine” ourselves so that we do not take the Supper in an “unworthy manner.” But we distort this passage if we begin to think that it calls for worthy recipients, rather than worthy participation, at the Lord’s Table. Some might be so trained to think of the Supper as an occasion for introspection that they dread the meal… Surely something is amiss when believers in need of grace are hesitant to receive the sanctifying grace of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Examination is good. But being overly introspective is counter-productive, because it diverts us from the very gospel of grace that is displayed before us at the Lord’s Table.

Finally, Squidoo.com offers their take on the the Top 10 Movie Characters from 1960-Present. First they list 100 characters and then narrow them down to 10. My major problem with this list is the Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone didn’t even make the 100 list! Who would you add?

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Renewing Minds: Book Review

Higher education has taken a different shape in the past fifty years with the decline of modernity and the rise of post-modernism, which has resulted in a pluralistic worldview. In perhaps oversimplified terms, this means that virtually anyone can be an “authority” on anything. In a sense, education has become a free market society—all one has to do is start a blog or contribute to Wikipedia their voice and ideas are instantly being heard. The question is, how should Christians, especially Christian educators and institutions respond to this worldview? Should we simply buy in or should we seek to bring a Christian worldview to education? These are the types of questions that David S. Dockery attempts to answer in his work Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society through Higher Education.

The most respectable aspect of this work is the manner in which Dockery attempts to dismiss the false dichotomies that we set up. American’s are obsessed with time. We fill major portions of our day with school, jobs, activities, family, and friends. We compartmentalize the different aspects of our lives, and understandably so. When we are at work we are not acting as a father and when we are at home we do not act as an employee. The problem is, faith becomes another aspect of our lives that we compartmentalize. Dockery dismisses this by building a foundation of Christian faith, whereby everything else we do is viewed through a distinctively Christian lens.  So, when we are at home we view duties within the home through the lens of our faith as well as duties at work. The same principle works in the realm of education. The primary goal of the educator is not simply to get students through the degree program, but to teach them how to think and act Christianly in their respective fields. If a student desires to be a dentist, Christian education should not only teach him the sciences, but also how a dentist is to think and act Christianly.

Simultaneously, Dockery attacks yet another dichotomy, namely, faith and practice. Too long Christians have separated these two, pointing at the messages of Paul and James as their reasoning. However, these two ideas are not opposed to each other. Neither Paul or James would discredit faith or works. They would simply argue that faith will necessarily bring about works and where works are absent, genuine faith is absent. A variance of this argument is seen in the realm of orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right practice). The question has long been asked, which of these two is more important? Dockery claims that we should work on adding “both/and” into our vocabulary. We simply want to make everything either/or. This does not mean that some “either/or” questions do not exist. There is simply no room for either anti-intellectualism or the belief that education will fix everything. Dockery heavily presses on the absolute necessity for orthodox Christian belief; for example, the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ are nonnegotiable in the Christian faith. To neglect these or redefine them is to come up with some sort of pseudo-Christianity. As Christians seeking to be involved in Christian education, we must think rightly about God because only by thinking rightly can we practice rightly.

 As seen in the subtitle of the book, the integration of faith and knowledge, which is the goal of Christian higher education, is for the purpose of serving the community. Another dichotomy that Christian’s tend to recognize is the sacred and secular. We often act as separatist, holding tightly to the command not to be “of the world,” but as a result end up neglecting those who are “of the world.” Dockery does not come out and say it but he does tend to lean towards the belief that there is no sacred/secular divide. The church exists to serve society, yet the idea of the “Lone Ranger” is evident in our culture. Christians are saved, not to hoard the grace that God has given them, but to be conduits of grace in a fallen world. For Christian education, this means training servant leaders who do not recognize the sacred/secular divide, but as ambassadors for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their social setting.

So the question becomes, “How do we accomplish this?” This can seem like some sort of utopia that exists only in the mind, or in perhaps in scattered, miniscule expressions. It begins with unity under a common confession, namely the Scriptures, the Apostles, Nicene, and Chalcedonian creeds. The High Priestly prayer in John 17 records Jesus praying that all the saints would be united. Looking at the church today, one can quickly assess that the unity that Christ prayed for is not yet a reality. As a matter of fact, we seem to be drifting further into autonomy as we force secondary issues into primary issues. Here Dockery is defining orthodoxy much like a playing field: there are boundaries and rules for the game but within those there is room to explore. This unity also points to the necessity for interdisciplinary Christian thinking. As previously stated, the priority for Christian education is to integrate faith and learning. As a Christian institution, it is vital to integrate a Christian worldview within various areas of study. Upon graduation, students should know exactly how faith applies to science, mathematics, economics, art, literature, history, and the various other subjects. It is by this integration that students learn how to think about their respective jobs in a distinctively Christian manner.

            In conclusion, this is a fantastic primer on the necessity for Christian education to integrate faith and knowledge. This book would be helpful for someone within any field of study, although it does not gives specifics on every field of study, Dockery provides a bibliography in the last chapter that seeks to encourage interdisciplinary study. A shift in thinking is absolutely necessary in the realm of Christian education if we are going to fulfill the great commission and be conduits of grace in our various respective fields. Renewing Minds is thoroughly biblical, thought provoking, and passionate and is a great read for anyone involved in Christian education.

Interesting and Irritating II

A couple of articles that I found interesting… and irritating to get our week started.

First, Billy Cash, student at Western Theological Seminary has written a comparative post on the ThM website entitled Origen, Barth, and Bell: Theological Perspectives on Hell and Universalism. Through this discussion, Bell has reinforced the reality that he is not saying anything new—Origen and Barth are two guys that he either points to, or have been accused of being  universalists.

“Is Rob Bell saying anything different than what Origen and Karl Barth claimed?”  In the last month I have heard Bell’s view of hell likened to both of these men as well as C.S. Lewis… Ironically, if you Google image “Universalism” both Origen and Bell’s pictures show up.  Origen was excommunicated for some of his teaching, being accused of saying that even the devil might have a shot at redemption.  At the end of Barth’s life he often had to defend himself against the accusation that he was a Universalist.  Is there any correlation between these men?

Within the next few weeks we will see cover story after cover story about Jesus, his death, and resurrection. At this time every year, Christians celebrate the risen Savior, but we are also reminded how many people in the world think the Gospel is foolishness. In the darkness, men like Tim Keller are a light pointing to the true light. Relevant Magazine has posted an article by Keller entitled,  A Case for the Resurrection. It is an excerpt from his recent work, The Kings Cross:

Jesus had risen, just as He told them He would. After a criminal does his time in jail and fully satisfies the sentence, the law has no more claim on him and he walks out free. Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins. That was an infinite sentence, but he must have satisfied it fully, because on Easter Sunday he walked out free. The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it.

Donald Miller has written a blog post called Should the Church be Led by Teachers and Scholars? He questions why Jesus chose to start the church with fishermen, yet we have turned the church into academic institutions. I have to say, this is irritating. I simply disagree with Miller. It is not irritating because I disagree, however, his conclusions irritate me.  Granted, the Apostles didn’t start off teachers and scholars, but read the book of Acts—these guys knew their stuff. Then, read the next generation! Read Ignatius of Antioch and tell me if you think he is not concerned with academic pursuit. Now I don’t want to overstate the issue. Miller gives merit to academics, but I think he has created a dichotomy, where the guy in his study pouring over how to explain orthodox, Chalcedonian Christology, is some how not loving people like he should be. Perhaps we have lost sight of the fact that hard study and academic pursuit is virtuous. If academic pursuit is an end—it is absolutely empty and a waste of time. However, if academic pursuit is for the edification, genuine love and concern for the body, then it is necessary and virtuous.

Here is what I am NOT saying: I am not saying that academic pursuit is ultimate. I do not believe that all the problems within the church and society can be solved by education. I am simply not saying that.

* Let me ask you this: Aren’t you a little tired of scholars and psudo-scholars fighting about doctrine? Is it worth it that you are divided against other denominations because scholars picked up their ball and stomped off the playground? If you are tired, then be the church. I’m not kidding, you don’t know everything but you know enough. Be the church and be united. Let the academics go to an island and fight about the things that matter to them, and we will be united based on the things that matter to us.

To this I say: 1) There are times that we should fight. 2) One of the things that unites the church is our distinctive doctrine. Do we have to be mean about it? No, but if you want to define defending orthodoxy, “fighting,” then we should love to fight. 3) Miller seems to indicate that academics just want to sit around and fight. If this is an academic person’s goal, then they have misunderstood what it means to be a Christian academic, or in other words, a theologian. That is a straw man argument and disappointing. True academic pursuit results in a life that is sold out to the truth learned. I would have agreed had Miller gone this direction—but he does not seem to take this view.



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The Interesting and Irritating

This is my attempt to pull my findings around the web into one place, the good, bad, and the ugly. Most of it will be centered around theology blogs but I am definitely not limited to that. I hope to post articles that are helpful, and also those that I can’t help but mock. Not everything I post will be from my perspective.

Justin Taylor and Jared Wilson wrote an interesting and satirical letter from the perspective of a 1st century Christian in response to the Apostle Paul’s tone in the letter to the Galatians.

Similarly, we find your tone and resorting to harsh language not in keeping with the love of Christ. “Foolish Galatians.” “Let him be accursed.” “Emasculate themselves.” Really? Can you not hear yourself? You think this is Christlike? Does this sound like something our Lord would say? Do you think this flippant, outrageous, personal, vindictive manner of speech speaks well of God’s love or the church? It is clear you are taking this way too personally. Indeed, you ask the Galatians if you are now their enemy. Does everything have to be so black and white to you?

Along the same lines, Denny Burk has written about Doctrinal Controversy and the reality that, while some controversy is silly and unwarranted, sometimes it is necessary.

While it is true that controversy can be unchristlike and thus unhelpful to the kingdom, it is not true that all doctrinal controversy must be that way. Likewise, while there may be some responses to Bell that have been unchristlike and unhelpful, it is not true that all of them have been that way… To dismiss those out of hand without seriously engaging the substance of the matter seems to me to be an evasion.

From a very different perspective, the Red Collision blog, by Michael Manley gives Love Wins a review entitled, Safe Christians and a Dangerous God

The immediate negative reaction from good men and good pastors show something rather transparent in today’s religious climate. We aren’t to be trusted. We’re to be controlled. We can’t let “unorthodox” thought into the conversation for fear of what? What man might do with it or what God might do with it?… I don’t mean to imply some nefarious scheme on their behalves. But I do think there is something going on deep down that reveals an insecurity not only in their own rigid beliefs but in the Holy Spirit as well. It’s as if the headway made by Luther during the Protestant Reformation has somehow come back and circled around. We used to proclaim “priesthood of the believer” but now the new medieval Catholic Church has just become the modern day Christian.

Ed Stetzer gets in on the Love Wins action, not by necessarily offering critique, but rather instructing on how to rightly critique.

Before you criticize, be sure you understand the person and perspective with which you are taking issue. If you lack understanding you are essentially picking a fight with an opponent who does not exist. You’ll make a lot of noise, sell a few books, or attract people to your blog, but your criticism lacks wisdom and integrity.

Finally, and on a different note, Michael Horton shows How To Do Biblical Theology on The Resurgence blog. It is getting near the end of the semester and I have a Biblical Theology paper due soon—this comes along just in time.

To do biblical theology properly, we need to attend closely to the text, moving back and forth constantly between the whole and the parts. It’s not just systematicians who must be careful not to impose their system on the text; biblical theologians can just as easily “over-read” their sweeping surveys and miss the trees for the forest.

For my first attempt, there’s a lot of interesting and not much irritating, but I believe in total depravity so just give it time.


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Mommy, John Calvin is calling me names!

Billy Cash, a good friend of mine has written a brief article on John Calvin and infant Baptism. Infant baptism has a long and illustrious tradition and for a guy like me who puts a lot of emphasis on the history of the church, this subject is difficult for me. I was raised Southern Baptist and we typically are NOT down with infant baptism. As a matter of fact, I don’t know that I have ever met a Southern Baptist who would give the okay on this.

But its been around a long time—longer than Baptists have been around. Longer than Protestants have been around. We are talking second to third century here and maybe even earlier.

So check out Billy’s article and pay close attention to how “cordial” and “politically correct” John Calvin is. At the end Billy points out that Calvin, as brilliant as he was would not be allowed in theological debates today (see Rob Bell/Universalists controversy).

My Prayer for Today (and Everyday)

John Owen writes about the glory of Christ in this way:

“Oh to behold the Glory of Christ! Here in would I live, Here in would I die, here on would I dwell in my thoughts and my affections until all things here below become as dead and deformed things, and in no longer, any way, calling out for my affections”

May the people of God be filled with this angst!

When Should We Fight?

Kevin DeYoung has written an excellent article responding to many accusations that the Gospel Coalition guys are jumping the gun in their response to Rob Bell. I want to share this quote and I encourage you to read the full article.

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.

I love that DeYoung has said it better than I could ever begin to say it. When it comes down to it, many Christians today have no guts. A necessary aspect of being a Christian is being a guardian of truth, yet at any moment when one wishes to stand up for truth, he is labeled an arrogant jerk. Allow me to qualify this by saying Reformed guys can be jerks (Gospel Coalition guys are not jerks), but I have seen those in other camp be just as mean, especially a tweet I read from Drew Holcomb that said, “Rob Bell might be a universalist but John Piper is a pompous ass.” So let’s be honest, Reformed guys are not the only ones.

My response to the whole Rob Bell thing can take different shapes but my final feeling remains to be seen. Thus far, here are my thoughts:

1) If Rob Bell IS a universalist, my heart is saddened. He has redefined who God is by taking away his wrath and justice, thereby constructing a whole new god that is no god at all. I’m sad for him and for those who will follow him into this line of thinking. By doing this, Bell has departed from the community of faith by his unwillingness to submit to historic Christian orthodoxy.

2) If Rob Bell is NOT a universalist, his video is incredibly misleading. If this is just a marketing ploy, this makes me mad. Rob Bell is not just a communicator and author—He is a pastor and he should know better. Pastors have a responsibility to lead their people in truth and shepherd them, not confuse them. Ambiguity helps no one and in his ambiguity, he is teaching something about God (again, see DeYoung’s full article).

I’m not going to call Rob Bell a heretic simply because of his ambiguity, but I am going to call Universalism heresy. So I guess time will tell because he is not going to be able to dance around this forever. Sooner or later he is going to have to come out and be blunt with his position. If then he refuses to be corrected, then I will call him a heretic. I guess time will tell. Either way, false doctrine is worth fighting over. I don’t think we have to be mean or nasty, but telling someone they are wrong for holding a non-Christian belief is ultimately loving, not hateful. If the Gospel Coalition guys didn’t care about Rob Bell and other people, they would have kept their mouth shut and talked about something else. But they didn’t because preserving a correct view of God is worth fighting over.

Interpretation of Tradition

Kevin DeYoung’s recent article entitled “Tradition Still Requires Interpretation” is very interesting. He responds to the Catholic critique of Evangelicalism’s doctrine sola scriptura. Their accusation basically picks at the Evangelical claim that one person has the ability to interpret Scripture, rather than submitting to the interpretation of the Catholic Church. I encourage you to check it out as he clarifies the doctrine and responds by critiquing Catholic hermeneutics. DeYoung writes:

I respect Catholic theology for its intellectual history, its commitment to doctrinal precision, and for the many places it promotes historic orthodoxy. But I do not see how an appeal to authoritative church tradition, in its practical outworking, makes the interpretation of Scripture any more settled. In my experience, what it does is push the boundaries of the debate away from Scripture out to papal encyclicals and the like. This is fine to do as a means for establishing what Catholics have believed about Christian doctrine (much like I don’t think it’s a waste of time for Presbyterians to discuss the Westminster Confession of Faith). But here’s my point: just because you have an authoritative tradition doesn’t mean you won’t argue over the interpretation of that tradition.

For example, take the immigration debate. How should Christians view the ethics of immigration? Two evangelicals might both turn to the Bible and come up with a difference response. I’m not saying one answer wouldn’t be more right than the other (we’re not relativists or hard postmodernists when it comes to texts), but they could very well disagree even though they both adhere to sola scriptura. So do Catholics have an easier time giving a definitive answer? Clearly not.

Check out his post in its entirety by clicking the link at the top.