Scripture and History: Does the Bible Present Historical Events Accurately?

“For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” – 2 Peter 1:21

Recently someone reminded me that the Bible is itself valid history and should not be separated from what may be viewed as “secular history.”  In other words, although the Holy Bible is not a history book it does address historical events, and when it does it is accurate and valid and should be viewed as trustworthy just as the amazing works of David McCullough (1776, John Adams) are viewed as trustworthy.  In truth, as much as I admire the works of Mr. McCullough, the Holy Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16) and infallible since it reflects the perfection of God.  These facts put Scripture on a plane of trustworthiness to which no mere human writing can attain.

Allow me to offer one example of the many that could be examined. Historian Will Durant states that the ancient Greeks esteemed Cyrus (580-529 BC) as the greatest hero before Alexander (The Story of Civilization, [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945], I:352).  Cyrus succeeded in uniting the two factions of ancient Iran, the Medes and the Persians, and, like Alexander who would follow in history, conquered the known world of his day but did not live to organize the kingdom (Ibid, 353).

Lest we lose sight of the focus of our discussion let us turn to the fact that Cyrus was not ignored by the Holy Bible.  On the contrary, King Cyrus is mentioned several time in Scripture, but of particular interest are passages from the prophecy of Isaiah.  In Isaiah 44:28 God announced that Cyrus was His shepherd who would decree the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple.  Following on the heals of this description of Cyrus is God’s announcement that Cyrus would “subdue nations before him” (45:1).  And in the course of history, God’s word was proven true.  Cyrus came to power around 559 BC (depending upon your source) and went on to conquer Sardis and Babylon while he also “absorbed the former realms of Assyria, Babylonia, Lydia and Asia Minor into the Persian Empire” (Ibid, 352).  Around 548 BC, Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem to begin the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1:2) thereby doing just as God had said.  By the way, it should be emphasized that God’s words were uttered some sometime around 740 BC (Paul Benware, Survey of the Old Testament, [Chicago: Moody Press, 1993], 196) about 164 years before Cyrus’ birth (576 BC) and, if our dates are correct, some 202  years before Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the temple.  I’ve never seen a historian write history before it occurred.  What an amazing Book!

Truly the Holy Bible gives accurate account of history when history is described, which is much of the time.  That should not be surprising since the One Who wrote it is the One whose Divine plan is being carried out just as He decreed.  What is truly amazing is that man refuses to heed the message of it.  What is even more amazing is that those who the Great Author of Scripture has adopted as His own (Christians in particular) do not see this mighty work as sufficient for every area of life.  Instead so many seek further “wisdom” either through psychological ramblings and philosophies of men, or through further “messages” from the One who has already delivered His message to us.

I pray this helps.

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Apowhat?

Can Christians become apostate (to fall away or turn away from something, in our case the Christian faith)?  I think without a doubt they can.  In Paul’s letter to Timothy he explains that those whom Timothy is to teach will eventually “turn away” from the truth and “turn aside” (“to turn out of the course”) to myths (4:4).  He doesn’t clarify if these people are believers or not, which leads me to believe that they are both believers and non-believers.  In the flow of the letter it seems that those who turn away are those who at one time heard, understood and accepted the sound teaching that was being offered.  Through some undisclosed turn of events in the passing of time they eventually were to come to the point that they would no longer listen.  They will want a different message.

Being Calvinistic myself, I realize that this will be a touchy subject considering the “P” in TULIP, namely the perseverance of the saints.  I’m sure that it will become obvious that I do not hold to the classic view of perseverance, but instead I hold to what Dr. Andy Woods (College of Biblical Studies, Houston, TX) has termed, “the preservation of the saints” since it holds more closely to the teaching of Scripture (Eph. 1:5, 13).

It is indeed a sad fact that this truth has not been taught.  In particular, Hebrews 6:4-9 addresses this topic.  The passage is dealing with believers (Jewish believers in particular) who are on the verge of returning to the Levitical system and in doing so would become apostate.  The context makes this clear.  First are the descriptions of the hypothetical person in vv. 4-5.  1.) Enlightened – spiritually the word means exactly what is said; it is one who has been spiritually enlightened or enlightened by the Holy Spirit to the things of God (Eph. 1:18).  2.) Tasted – in this context is not tasting as in food, but “to have perception of, experience” the “heavenly gift” meaning either salvation or the Holy Spirit (since He is mentioned at the end I assume tasting the Holy Spirit). 3.) Made partakers – “made” is the same word as “become” and is in the passive voice – it is something that has been done to or for the person.  Partaker – “partner, companion, sharing in”.  Again, the context is that the hypothetical person is one who has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, has tasted (experienced or has insight to) the heavenly gift (salvation or Holy Spirit) and has become a companion in or made to share in the Holy Spirit.  Without a doubt that is a saved person.  Verse 6 states that if the hypothetical person has “fallen away” (Gr. “to apostasize,” “to abandon,” “to make a mistake”).  The example given in verses 7-8 refers to the ground having received rain is worthless if it yields thorns and thistles and is on the verge of being cursed.  Ultimately it will end up being burned.

If we were to continue in an examination of the book of Hebrews we eventually come to chapter 12 where the writer of Hebrews explains that what the readers were going through was actually an act of God’s discipline that He meets out on His children “for our good” (12:10).  The writer uses the idea of God’s discipline to encourage them to hold the course and not turn back to the Levitical system of worship and closes the section with verse 11, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

In all, the message that the writer is giving is an encouragement not to “fall away” from THE faith (Christian teaching, biblical truth) because of the tribulation they were going through.  Instead they were to view it for what it was, a tool of God for their (our) good that has as its goal the production of “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” in those who trust in Christ Jesus.

Can Christians become apostate?  I say that Scripture teaches that we can.

I pray this helps.

A Heavenly-Minded Theological Egghead: What’s in a name?

Some may have wondered why the subtitle of my blog is “random thoughts from a heavenly-minded theological egghead.”  I thought that I would answer the question regardless of whether or not it has been asked.

Years ago I was serving at a small church as the youth pastor/worship leader.  It was during my tenure there that I began my theological education.  The pastor under whom I was serving was a seminary graduate and I thought that he would encourage my studies, but I was wrong.  As I progressed in my studies and began correcting some views that I had held that were not biblical I began sharing the changes in my thinking and attempted to get input from my pastor, a man who I had considered a close friend.  Apparently my thirst for learning and my deep desire to study Systematic Theology irritated him.  It did not take long for him to begin to use certain phrases that seemed to be directed at me (I’m sure it’s possible that I was too sensitive), but one was used over and over again.  And that was the derogatory term “theological egghead.”  After his repeated usage of the term I began to believe that he was either calling me a theological egghead or he was attempting to discourage me from becoming one.  That should clearly explain the origin of the “theological egghead” portion of the subtitle.

Now, as to the “heavenly-minded” portion of the name.  I had heard that phrase many times over the course of many years in the Baptist college that I attended and in other ministry related settings.  The context would normally be something like the following; Don’t become so heavenly-minded that you are no earthly good.  At first glance it sounds very spiritual, at least it did to me.  However, over time people began to use it as a negative attack against those who held to a pre-tribulational rapture of the church and a separate time of tribulation yet to come.  Since I am unashamedly a Dispensationalist, or as some would rather be identified, a Biblical Covenantalist, the term became very offensive to me.  As a subtle way of showing my disdain for the usage of the term I included it in the subtitle.

Putting the two together – – Lest someone thinks that I am just being petty and vindictive (I would be lying if that weren’t somewhat true) allow me to share my biblical basis for rebelling against the terms.  First, in the pastoral epistles Paul continually exhorted Timothy and Titus to, “Speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 cf. 1 Tim. 4:15-14; 6:20; 2 Tim. 4:1-5).  Since Systematic Theology is a product of intense Bible study and the scientific organizing of all that Scripture says about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, etc. the necessity of its study can easily be deduced from Paul’s instruction concerning “sound doctrine.”  Therefore, I will continually study theology in my attempt to maintain a properly biblical worldview and to be obedient to Paul’s command to the shepherds of the Lord’s Church.  Secondly, the idea that one could be too heavenly minded is patently unbiblical.  Here are a few of passages that have led me to that conclusion.  1.) Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  2.) Ephesians 2:6-7, “And (God the Father) raised us up with Him, and seated us with HIm in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  The point is that positionally we are already there in Christ and that is where our hearts should be.  3.) Colossians 1:5a, “Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”  Finally, 4.) Colossians 3:1-3, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

These passages should be pretty self-explanatory and hopefully reveal why I chose to include these two somewhat offensive terms in the subtitle of my blog.  My life is centered around the word of God and it is my hope that I can be as biblical as possible in my thinking and my actions.  In other words I seek to maintain a purely biblical worldview.  That worldview includes knowing what the Bible says about everything and keeping my focus not on the things of this world (the devil controlled world system), but focused on “the things above” where my Lord and Savior currently is seated.

Hope this is helpful.