Jan

17

2014

Justin Holcomb|12:01 AM CT

How Is God Working in the World? Understanding Miracles and Providence

The pages of the Bible are filled with miraculous acts of God, and those who believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture surely believe in miracles. Yet today, when someone claims to have witnessed a miracle, even evangelical Christians tend to chuckle inside, perhaps attributing the "miracle" to an overactive imagination or the advancements of modern science. We are faced with a difficult paradox: on the one hand, we long for miraculous signs and wonders like those in Scripture, but often when we see or hear of events worthy of being called "miraculous" we struggle to overcome our modern skepticism. Has God ceased to work in the world the way he did in biblical times?



In order to answer this question, we need to develop a theology of miracles that will help us rightly understand the way God works in the world today so...

 
 
 
 

Oct

31

2013

Justin Holcomb|12:01 AM CT

What Christians Should Know About Halloween

Halloween has become the second highest-grossing commercial holiday after Christmas. But this festive day also carries a lot of baggage. Scholars Ralph and Adelin Linton write:
Among all the festivals which we celebrate today, few have histories stranger than that of Halloween. It is the eve of All Hallows—or Hallowmas or All Saints' Day—and as such it is one of the most solemn festivals of the church. At the same time, it commemorates beings and rites with which the church has always been at war. It is the night when ghosts walk and fairies and goblins are abroad. . . . We cannot understand this curious mixture unless we go back into history and unravel the threads from which the present holiday pattern has been woven.


The brief account seeks to vindicate Halloween from its "Satanic" and barbaric origins. While the...

 
 
 
 

Aug

16

2013

Justin Holcomb|12:01 AM CT

Why You Can Trust Your Bible

Critics who doubt the reliability and trustworthiness of the biblical accounts of Jesus' life have issued a make-or-break challenge to the church. They ask us: "How can we be sure the Bible can be trusted as accurate?"

It's common to see the argument that the Scriptures we have today aren't the same as what was written by the apostles in the first century. Such arguments attempt to portray the Bible as unreliable and therefore irrelevant. As we will see, however, these challenges do not stand up to scrutiny.

What About Textual Variants?


The Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were probably written during the second half of the first century. We don't actually have any of the original documents (called autographs) in our possession today. Instead, we have copies, often handwritten by scribes to preserve and circulate the words...

 
 
 
 

May

16

2013

Justin Holcomb|12:01 AM CT

Why the Rising Social Awareness in the Church Should Encourage Us

Recently, we have begun to see an encouraging trend in Christian circles: a greater awareness of violence and oppression (such as human trafficking), as well as an increased concern for rescuing and caring for victims. We are seeing an explosion of attention to social justice issues in organizations like Passion, International Justice Mission, and the World Evangelical Alliance, and with the publication of books like God in a Brothel and The White Umbrella. Everywhere you look, churches, parachurch organizations, and individual Christians are waking up to the hidden world of injustice, violence, abuse, and slavery around us—and taking action.

The Bible does not hesitate to depict the harsh reality of violence and oppression, and in fact God's people are clearly called to fight for justice and mercy for all people. Throughout the...

 
 
 
 

Oct

18

2012

Justin Holcomb|10:00 PM CT

Theologian Hero to a Nation

How many theologians can claim a national holiday in their honor? The 19th-century Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper had such great influence in the Netherlands that the entire nation celebrated his 70th birthday in 1907.

Kuyper was a man of many hats: statesman, politician, educator, preacher, churchman, theologian, and philosopher. He was a modern-day Renaissance man who participated in the cultural conversation of his day. While Kuyper's influence has been felt throughout the 20th century in the Dutch Calvinist branch of the Reformed church, his influence has expanded as scholars continue to mine his writings for resources to deal with the challenges of a public theology for the contemporary world.

Life of Reform


Abraham Kuyper was born to a middle-class pastor's family in the remote fishing village of Maasluis, Netherlands, on October 29, 1837.

As a young boy,...

 
 
 
 

Oct

09

2012

Justin Holcomb|10:00 PM CT

Vast Learning, Ageless Wisdom


His name, until recently, would be unrecognized by most people even within the church. So it may be surprising that J. I. Packer would say about Herman Bavinck: "Like Augustine, Calvin, and Edwards, Bavinck was a man of giant mind, vast learning, ageless wisdom, and great expository skill." Any name put on a short list with Augustine, Calvin, and Edwards certainly deserves attention. But theologian Richard Gaffin goes a step further than Packer, calling Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, "Arguably the most important systematic theology ever produced in the Reformed tradition."

These are high praises, and to understand why they are not simply hyperbolic statements made to sell books, we need to examine the life and thought of Herman Bavinck.

Bavinck's Background


Bavinck was born on December 13, 1854, in Hoogeveen, in the Netherlands, and he died...

 
 
 
 

Oct

03

2012

Justin Holcomb|10:00 PM CT

Pillar of Faith in an Innovative Age

Not all theologians are innovative, groundbreaking, or revolutionary. Some, like Louis Berkhof, merely serve God, love the church, and teach theology to eager students. Yet as Henry Zwaanstra writes, "No theologian or churchman has made a greater impact on the Christian Reformed Church than Professor Berkhof." As a result, the life and work of Louis Berkhof deserves attention.

Louis Berkhof was born in Emmen, in the Netherlands, in 1873. His parents, Jan and Gessje, were members of the Christian Reformed Church, a denomination formed out of a split from the Netherlands Reformed Church in 1834. In 1882, the Berkhof family emigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when Louis was 8 years old.

While a teenager, Louis was the secretary of the Reformed Young Men's Society in Grand Rapids, an organization whose purpose was "to study Reformed...

 
 
 
 

Sep

24

2012

Justin Holcomb|10:00 PM CT

Two Major Streams of Reformed Theology

Have you heard of the "other Reformed theology"? Many in the Reformed resurgence only know one aspect of the broad historical stream of Reformed theology, and sadly, many stereotypes of "Calvinism" exist because John Calvin's legacy has been unknowingly truncated.



Too often, Reformed theology is defined merely by the "five points of Calvinism": total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. While this emphasis on how God saves sinners has value, it fails to capture the full breadth of the heritage of Reformed thought.

Two major streams of Reformed theology developed out of the work of John Calvin: the Scottish Calvinist stream and the Dutch Reformed stream. The Scottish tradition has a strong focus on doctrines of salvation and the ordo salutis (order of salvation). But the Dutch Reformed tradition also emphasizes worldviews, cultural engagement, and...

 
 
 
 

Aug

06

2012

Justin Holcomb|10:00 PM CT

Jesus' Church Is Here to Stay



The famously influential Nicene Creed contains a line that modern Christians sometimes misunderstand:  "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church." The word "catholic" can be a source of confusion for those who think it is referring to the Roman Catholic Church, but the word simply means "universal." This leads us, then, to consider the important theological concept of the "universal church."

The term commonly used for the church in the New Testament is the Greek word ekklesia. Jesus is the first to use the word ekklesia in the New Testament (Matt. 16:18), but it is used in various ways with various meanings. As theologian Louis Berkhof explains, ekklesia can have the following meanings:

  • A specific local group of Christians or a local church (Acts 11:26; 1 Cor. 11:18; Gal. 1:2).

  • A house church (Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 16:19;
...

 
 
 
 

Jul

08

2012

Justin Holcomb|10:00 PM CT

Our Father of Fathers

Most people are quite familiar with the concept of God as Father. The modernist progressive theology of the last few centuries popularized the concept of the "universal fatherhood of God" along with the "brotherhood of man." However, if we look at Scripture we might be surprised at what we find about the fatherhood of God.

The Father of Israel



God is rarely referred to as Father in the Old Testament. When he is, it is usually in the sense that he is the Father of the nation of Israel (e.g., Deut 32:6), a term that primarily conveys a sense of authority. As the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament explains,
In the Israelite family, the father has almost unlimited authority. He is master of the house; the children
...