When I get to heaven, one of the big things on my list is to find John Gerstner. What a jewel. I just want to meet him.
I was introduced to him last year through a Ligonier video series he did in the 90’s called Handout Apologetics.
The kids and I just finished watching the series again as part of this year’s Apologetics course, and again I remember my plans to find his mansion when I get there.
I want to thank him. You might have noticed that the Sola series I have on my blog has a broken link for the Sola Fides section. This is due to John Gerstner. The picture I have on there is from Indiana Jones stepping out over the chasm in The Last Crusade. After the Apologetics course last year I rethought everything I believed about faith. So consequently until I redo that webpage I have taken it offline.
So I would like to recommend the same Handout Apologetics that changed my life.
You can watch the series for free on Ligonier.org. (click the picture below).
More on Apologetics later. Meanwhile, enjoy your visit with my (someday) friend, John Gerstner:
The first four lessons are REASONS AGAINST REASON that Christians tend to use. Wow! God bless you in your pursuit of FAITH.
COMMENTS: What about you? Do you think faith requires reasons? OR is faith an end in itself?
Update July 2017: In their discussion on Natural Theology, or evidence of God through the natural world and philosophy, White Horse Inn Podcast gave a significant hat-tip to dear John Gerstner. Please listen to this episode:
To say Grace Alone (Sola Gratia), we are saying that the CAUSE of our salvation is the Grace of God alone. We did not “do” anything to earn his favor. God did NOT “look down the corridor of time” and find that we pleased Him, and so choose us.
In fact, His selection of His own rests in the perfection of His will, His goodness, His Justice, His Satisfaction in Christ. Nothing about us, all about HIM.
The question is asked, “if you were the only person on earth, would Christ have died for you?” It’s a false dilemma, not worth even thinking about.
Before the creation of the World, God chose us in Him. Before he said “let there be Light” He had Himself a BOOK, and He wrote the names of His own in that book. WHY?
For some reason he chose a select few to not get the just consequence they deserve.
What does this mean for us?
There is a story of a servant who owed his master beaucoup bucks. His master called him in for payment. and he could not pay. His master ordered that he and his family be sold in lieu of the debt. The servant fell on his knees. “Please give me time,” he said. “I will repay you!” The master had compassion on the servant, and he took the books and crossed out the debt. For no reason except the compassion of the master.
Later that day, the servant goes out and hits up another servant. “You borrowed money from me. I want it paid back!” “I cannot pay, please give me time!” the second servant begs. The first servant puts his chin up and says, “No. I want it now.” He calls for the police to take the servant to jail until he could pay.
Now the other servants of the household, who had seen what the Master had done earlier, run to the Master and tell him what happened. So, again the first servant is dragged before the Master. “What have you done?” he asks. “I forgave your great debt just this morning! Why do you not have the same compassion on your fellow servant? Because you have failed to pass on this compassion, I rescind my forgiveness of the debt. I want you to either pay me off or be sold to pay the debt.” And he was taken out to who knows what end.
We must be very careful to deal with others with the same measure of compassion as Christ showed us. Turning the other cheek, loving our enemies, going the second mile, giving in secret. All of the “secrets of the Kingdom” are meant to turn the tables on the way this world does things. They are each ways to show generous, unexpected compassion to our fellow man. The Kingdom Way is approaching them with grace alone.
When we think of the GRACE of GOD, we should think of David. He was a shepherd of a flock. And yet when danger came against his sheep, he turned into a fighting machine. The Lord is our shepherd. He guides us in good things, and He taps us back on the road with his rod and staff. His compassion has two sides: prescriptive and preventative. His Grace is the way He brings us to Himself.
This is a big part of the picture. When He calls, we cannot but answer. “Lazarus, Come Forth!” He called to His friend. And Lazarus heeded and came. He did not consider one way or the other. “I am ALIVE! JESUS CALLS ME!” We cannot but come.
While Byziana and her family pursue the life the Scrolls speak of, they do not trust that God is their Shepherd. They do not truly rest in the compassion of God. When God shakes their world, they begin to walk toward a deeper understanding of the grace and mercy of God.
In the famous blockbuster Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, there is a poignant scene where Indiana Jones
1) reads there is a bridge,
2) hears that there is a bridge,
3) knows there is a bridge
4) cannot see the bridge. He has to cross the bridge to get to the “Holy Grail.”
It is through REASON that I have come to KNOW that GOD IS. Through plain old common sense I can see the WORLD was created by His design. I don’t need to have some invisible faith to use my brain!
The death and resurrection of Jesus are also plain to an historian. Only approaching it as I approach any other event in history, I can see he died and he rose. I know He died for the sins of the world, because I approach it through reason. Evidence.
Natural Theology is how reason, the intellect, common sense and science work together to show us these things clear as day. I don’t need to hide behind the Bible.
that Christ’s perfect life, and dying on the cross satisfied God’s righteous requirement for us, or
that the Holy Spirit imputes righteousness to those who have been effectually called.
That is not faith. These there are also clear through reason.
If you take the time to think about it.
Let my FAVORITE TEACHER walk you through it, without requiring belief in the Bible…
otherwise, read a bit more.
When we say we are saved by faith, Sola Fides, we mean…
It does not take WORKS.
We do not have to achieve perfection, or sinlessness before we can approach God. Not only that we do not have to, it means we couldn’t if we tried. We could never meet the righteous requirements of God’s law. Conscience and earthquakes prove that we’re broken and the world is broken. It’s not the way it should be.
and we mean…
It does not take INTELLECT.
If we could be saved through intellect, only the smart people would be saved. So God evened the playing field by having salvation through faith alone. A child or an adult. A genius or a mentally handicapped person. A reader or a non-reader. Salvation is free to all, based on faith alone.
But the phrase “Sola Fides” means that some volition is required. We must use our minds before it can reach our hearts.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
It does take thinking through a QUESTION: Was it FOR ME?
Objections to it being FOR ME:
It can’t be for me. What about Good People who never hear??
Many people deny that it was FOR THEM because they let go of reason when it comes to others. “If it is not FOR THEM too, I won’t have it,” they say. If God doesn’t let everyone in, he’s not fair.
Foolishly, they exchange REASON for an unproven faith in the inherent goodness of men. Do you really KNOW that mankind is inherently GOOD?? We WANT mankind to be good. But are we good at heart??
Everyone has conscience-pricks.
How do you explain conscience? Why did God put conscience into man? (If not God, where could such an immaterial alarm come from?) Why put a constant alarm when we cross the line? Why put an alarm unless there is a consequence for not obeying the requirements of God?
We are created equal. Very true. We all have equal access to Truth. Otherwise God’s judgment would not be fair or right. But unless persuaded by reason and common sense, people do not want the cross to have happened FOR THEM.
It’s a hard pill to swallow.
I want to live the way I want to live.
I want my goodness to be good enough. I’m as good as the next guy, so there you have it. I don’t need anyone’s help.
If you think about it, only perfection could be allowed eternal access to God (or his presence would be tainted). And justice requires condemnation of all sin (or he would by his disregard be accomplice-before & after-the-fact).
If God is God, Judgment Day is coming. No one is good enough. Conscience tells us this. Reason tells us this.
Will you be one who thinks it through to the end? Reason echoes it across time and space, and it so happens that the Bible agrees.
FOR ME holds in it the miracle of the incarnation,
the miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection.
FOR ME. To give me a way.
“For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast” Eph 2:8-9
I just came across this quote by Martin Luther where he says the same thing, in different and more eloquent words…
Who is this “me?” The beloved Son of God gave Himself for me, a most miserable and condemned sinner. If I could by means of any work or merit love the Son of God and come to Him, why should He given Himself as a sacrifice for me? …because there was no price under heaven and earth for my release except that of Christ the Son of God. Thus it was supremely necessary that He gave Himself for me. What’s more, He did it all from His inestimable love, for Paul says, “Who loved me.” Everyone who can say this word me and make it his with firm faith and confidence together with Paul will be a good lawyer against the law, for He did not give sheep, bulls, gold, or silver, but God Himself in all His divinity. He did it entirely and fully “for me.” Yes, this “me,” a miserable sinner under condemnation.
-Martin Luther, Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
Marcellus and Byziana struggle with what God requires from us. Does he want sacrificial acts, like standing on pillars? Is this what pleases God? In the story, they learn about faith, and how faith working with reason results in our actions and in our relationship with God. They learn this through the power of the Scrolls in their life.
Solus Christus. This means “In Christ Alone.” Only by Christ’s intervention. Only by the Coming-Between of Christ can we even hope for salvation. We cannot come on our own. We need that High Priest who has the right to come into the holy place, not by the blood of bulls, but by His own holy blood.
As are the other “Solas,” this stands in juxtaposition to the teachings of the Medieval Catholic Church.The belief then was that the Church (and in particular the new priesthood of the Pope and those under him) is the go-between for Man and God–the way that Moses was a go-between.
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim 2:5
What is it that Christ did? He took my place. His blood was shed for me.
1. I SINNED, and the consequence for that sin is swift, immediate DEATH.
Q-What is sin? A-Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the Law of God. (WSC #14) In other words, sins of omission and sins of comission. Sins of forgetting to do right, and sins of doing wrong.
Jesus upped the ante by telling how detailed God is in viewing sin. If you even CONSIDER doing it, it’s sin.
He lived a righteous life. Knowing how detailed God is in judging even the motives and intentions of the heart, it is amazing to know he “was tempted in all ways, but without sin.” (Heb 4:15) He died for those “given to him” before the creation of the world. He was resurrected, opening up the way to God. (Rom 8:11 ) Wow!
3. FAITH IN THAT ACT…
Faith alone brings about what is called “vicarious atonement,” which means “the death He died He died for me.” And faith proves itself through works. (James 2:14) Anyone who believes that Christ died for them, cares to live in a way conformed to that life and death. The Holy Spirit living in us brings about the holy life God desires.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim 1:9-10)
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
Marcellus and Byziana want to “please God.” Byziana soon comes to the dead end that “I cannot please Him,” and she acts accordingly. Marcellus, meanwhile, struggles with the big question of “How do I live a consecrated life?” He sees monks living on pillars, he sees vicious theological struggles between leaders of the church, he reads the Scrolls but sees the Church teaching things that do not match the simplicity of Scripture. The book is a story of Marcellus and Byziana both learning what it means that Christ was our Mediator. Why was it that he had to come to earth as man?
What would the world be like with no Scripture? Can you imagine, there actually was a time when God’s word was spoken into hearts only. From the time of Adam until the giving of the law on Mount Sinai (sometime between 1600-1300 BC), there was no written record of God’s testimony to Man.
And it changed after God spoke audibly to the Children of Israel, and then took a stone and wrote with His own finger the Ten Commandments. After this basis was written, Moses began writing the Penteteuch. Then we have the History books and Poetry books, and the Prophetical writings of the Old Testament.
When the time was right, God sent His Word to earth in the flesh.
Once a Bible professor asked our class, which is more important: Jesus or the Bible. What do you think?
Consider this. If Jesus is the Word of God, and the Bible is the Word of God, in a sense, they are equal.
It makes me cringe to think of the times I have put my Bible on the floor, or stacked things on top of it, or left it on the shelf gathering dust.
DIET OF WORMS
The year was 1521, Martin Luther, one of the lucky ones, knew Greek and Hebrew so he could read the Bible, and know what the Bible said. He found that over the years a lot of Church leaders had neglected Scripture for the traditions of Popes and decisions of Councils before them. His life was one big STOP SIGN held out to them. He wanted them to know that Scripture was sufficient. Scripture in its interaction with the common man’s intellect.
They took him to Worms, and held him on trial. “Do you recant?” they asked him. He looked at his books. They wanted him to deny that they were true. They wanted him to disown what he had written. He apologized for the ones in which he was rude and disrespectful to others. But regarding the rest he said,
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
When we say Sola Scriptura, we are saying that the Bible is our final authority, and it is enough. We don’t need other books, other people, other conferences, in order to KNOW truth. Other books, people, conferences can help us grow in our relationship with God. But our final authority and SOURCE for knowing God is the Bible Only.
What about the Creeds? What about the foundational doctrines of the church, like the dual-nature of Christ, like the Trinity? DId those not come from Councils?
Yes. We also believe in church–the importance of going, of encouraging each other, of praying for one another. We believe in the Preaching of the Word, that the pastor has a unique message for the church each time he preaches. We are intimately aware of the need for others involved in our lives to teach and instruct. But Sola Scriptura means that if it is not specifically taught in Scripture, it is not authoritative. Trinity is a word that is not in Scripture. But the triune nature of God IS in Scripture. The Councils that depended upon Scripture alone, through the reasonings of Biblical passages, are considered by Protestant Christians to be authoritative for our lives. The others are not. For example, if the evidence is extra-biblical–like some
Marcellus, Byziana and his family are some of the rare common people who actually know how to read, and who actually have Scripture scrolls that they can read whenever they want. When they depend upon the Scrolls, they find their relationship with God grows and their peace and joy in life grows. When Byziana reads Leo’s Tome, she understands from Scripture that the nature of Christ was dual–God and man.
Sola Deo Gloria means “All For the Glory of God.” It’s an attitude about life.
1) It’s not all about me.
2) It’s not all about mankind.
3) It’s not all about nature.
4) It’s not all about aliens, or something ‘out there’ that eludes us.
I exist for one purpose. That is, “I” exist for a purpose that God determined. As His creature, I am subservient to Him. So whatever He wants for me I can either DO or NOT DO. If I figure it out, and DO it, I’m sure it will go well for me. If I decide to NOT DO. Well, I would guess that if a creator makes something that “doesn’t work right” he’s going to decide to not use it.
A1-Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
The purpose of mankind is to glorify God. More than that, there’s a bonus. We get to benefit from that as well. We get to enjoy Him, and that eternally! Pretty good deal, if I figure it out, and if I DO it.
But of course, we can only start down that road if God Himself calls us, so it’s up to Him in the first place.
BUT IF IT*S ALL ABOUT GOD
Then the reason I live today…the way I work…the way I talk to my family…the choices I make…need to fall in line with what honors God, with what brings Him that GLORY that is due Him.
If it’s all about God, we are required to look at the world through the perspective of God. And so it’s essential that we read the Bible. It’s essential that we live according to it.
Marcellus and Byziana soon find out just how powerful God is, and how weak they are. What can they do to get out from under–what seems to be–the wrath of God? If all is for the glory of God, if it is all about God, then what role to the small insignificant people have on this earth? How can we know? These are some BIG QUESTIONS rattling the faith of our main characters in Trunk of Scrolls.