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Theological Term of the Week

Citing a passage or passages of the Bible to support a particular theological assertion; or, negatively (as this word often—usually?—is used), citing a biblical text to to prove a theological assertion without regard for the context of the passage cited.

  • From The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame:

    A proof-text is simply a Scripture reference that is intended to show the basis for a particular theological assertion. The danger in proof-texting is well known: proof-texts are sometimes misused and their contextual meaning distorted in an attempt to use them to support teachings they do not really support. But it has never been shown that texts are always or necessarily misinterpreted when they are used as proofs for doctrines. And after all has been said, theology really cannot do without proof-texts. Any theology that seeks accord with Scripture (that is, any theology worthy of the name) has an obligation to show where it gets its scriptural warrant. It may not simply claim to be based on “general scriptural principles”; it must show where Scripture teaches the doctrine in question. In some cases, the theologian will display this warrant by presenting his own contextual exegesis of the relevant passages. But often an extended exegetical treatment is unnecessary and would be counterproductive. The relationship of doctrine to text might be an obvious one once the text is cited (e.g., Gen. 1:1 as proof of the creation of the earth), or it may simply require too much space to go over the exegetical issues in detail. In such cases the mere citation of a Scripture reference, with no extended exegetical discussion, may be helpful to the reader. To forbid proof-texts would be to forbid an obviously useful form of theological shorthand. I can see no argument against this procedure, except one that comes from an extremely rigid and fanatical anti-abstractionism. Furthermore, the Bible itself uses proof-texts as I have defined them, and that should settle the matter.

    Obviously, we should not cite proof-texts unless we have a pretty good idea of what they mean in their context. We do not, however, have an obligation always to cite that context with the text, and far less do we have an obligation always to present an exegetical argument supporting our usage of the text. Scripture can, and often does, speak without the help of the exegete (page 197).

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Linked Together: Plugging Audio

I’ve listened to a lecture, a debate, and a sermon recently and recommend them to you. You’ll need your thinking cap, but they’re all worth the effort.


Heidelberg Catechism

Question 39. Is there anything more in Christ’s being crucified than if he had died in a different way?

Answer: Yes there is. Thereby I am assured that he took on himself the curse which lay on me, (a) for someone who is crucified was cursed by God. (b)

(Click through to see scriptural proofs.)

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Sunday's Hymn: Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
To his feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me, his praise should sing?
Praise him, praise him,
Praise him, praise him,
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise him for his grace and favor
To our fathers in distress;
Praise him still the same for ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless;
Praise him, praise him,
Praise him, praise him,
Glorious in his faithfulness.

Father-like, he tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame he knows;
In his hands he gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes;
Praise him, praise him,
Praise him, praise him,
Widely as his mercy goes.

Angels, help us to adore him;
Ye behold him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Praise him, praise him,
Praise him, praise him,
Praise with us the God of grace.

—Henry F. Lyte

Other hymns, worship songs, sermons etc. posted today:

Have you posted a hymn (or sermon, sermon notes, prayer, etc.) today and I missed it? Let me know by leaving a link in the comments or by contacting me using the contact form linked above, and I’ll add your post to the list.


Faith Itself Is a Blood-Bought Benefit

From the very last chapter of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, “My Glory I Will Not Give to Another,” by John Piper:

[O]ne of the promises made in the new covenant is that the condition of faith itself will be given by God. This means that the new covenant people are created and preserved by God. “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:40). God puts the fear of God in us in the first place. And God keeps us from turning away. He creates his new people and keeps his new people. And he does this by the blood of the covenant, which Jesus said was his own blood (Luke 22:20).

The upshot of this understanding of the new covenant is that there is a definite atonement for the new covenant people. In the death of Christ, God secures a definite group of unworthy sinners as his own people by purchasing the conditions they must meet to be part of his people. The blood of the covenant—Christ’s blood—purchases and guarantees the new heart of faith and repentance. God did not do this for everyone. He did it for a “definite” or a “particular” group, owing to nothing in themselves. And since he did it through Jesus Christ,1 the Great Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep, we say, “to him be glory forever and ever.” This achievement is a significant part of the glory of the cross of Christ.

If saving faith is a blood-bought benefit of the new covenant (Piper argues from scripture that it is.), then the atonement must be definite. There’s really no way around it.

Previously posted quotes from this book:

1See Hebrews 13:20-21 where it says God is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ… .”