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Author Archives: Dr. Larry Dixon

About Dr. Larry Dixon

Seminary professor, teaching systematic theology and other topics. Grandfather, wicked tennis & table tennis player, love playing chess on letsplaychess.com. Please check out the six books I've written. "The heart cannot rejoiced in what the mind rejects as false!"

How Does One Theologically Quench the Spirit? Let Me Count the Ways . . .

In his book Joy Unspeakable, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones FirefoxScreenSnapz448made the following comment:

“Our greatest danger, I feel today, is to quench the Spirit. This is no age to advocate restraint; the church today does not need to be restrained, but to be aroused, to be awakened, to be filled with a spirit of glory, for she is failing in the modern world.”

How do we theologically quench the Spirit?  I want to suggest five areas in which we are (or might be) quenching the Spirit of God and attempt to respond to each biblically.

The first way that we quench the Spirit is –

I.  WE FAIL TO BE BEREAN BELIEVERS!

We read of the Berean believers in Acts 17:

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

When we allow other fallible, fallen, finite men and women to do our theological thinking for us, we are failing to be like the Berean believers.  Notice that their eagerness to receive the message Paul was preaching was not eliminated by their commitment to check out his teachings with the Old Testament Scriptures.  It is always right to test what we hear, read, or see with what God’s Word actually says.

In a fascinating essay entitled “There Is No Substitute for Theology,” A.W. Tozer compels us to be engaged with the Word of God.  He writes:

“Whatever keeps me from the Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be.  Whatever engages my attention when I should be meditating on God and things eternal does injury to my soul.  Let the cares of life crowd out the Scriptures from my mind and I have suffered loss where I can least afford it.  Let me accept anything else instead of the Scriptures and I have been cheated and robbed to my eternal confusion.”

Confusion is a pretty good description of much that marks today’s contemporary church.  FirefoxScreenSnapz433We are often blown hither and yon by every new book advocating someone’s experience of visiting heaven or hell (or somewhere inbetween), by the latest video series which challenges us to our best life now (instead of being willing to suffer for Jesus), by the latest Christian celebrity de jour who is attacking Christian orthodoxy and never seems to lack a receptive audience.

Like the Bereans, we need to utilize the Word of God as our touchstone for all we believe, for all we teach, for all we embrace.  If the Word of God is the Spirit’s primary tool of sanctification (see John 17), then it must be our primary tool of evaluating all ideas, systems of thought, pronouncements of “truth.” (to be continued)

Questions:

1.  Why do Christians fail to test what they hear and read with the Scriptures?  Is it simply because it is work to do such testing?

2.  How central in your thinking are the Scriptures?  When you hear a new idea or a innovative thought, do you ask, “What does God’s Word say about this?”  Why or why not?

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Martin Lloyd-Jones

 

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Theology Really Matters! Opinions? Not so much.

How critical is right belief?  The term “orthodoxy” means right belief or literally “right praise.”
Our culture suggests that what one believes is on the level of opinion, and opinions are as varied as the people expressing them.  Opinions are what one thinks, and everybody FirefoxScreenSnapz443is entitled to his or her opinion, right?

Well, actually, NO!  I dare not have “a different opinion” about whether I will stop at a traffic light that is red, especially if a policeman is sitting at that particular intersection.  His “opinion” that I deserve a ticket for going through a red light is going to weigh heavier than my “opinion” that I shouldn’t have to pay a fine for ignoring a law of the land.
FirefoxScreenSnapz444We talk about “getting a second opinion” from another doctor or surgeon.  But the word “opinion” in that context can be a life or death matter.  We’re not just asking that second doctor what particular view he might hold about our condition.  We are seeking his expert advice, based on the best evidence available, how our medical situation ought to be handled.
And all opinions are not of equal value.  I’ve often had to apologize to my dear wife when I felt or thought that we should go a particular direction and I was wr . . . wro . . . wron . . .  [It’s hard for me to say the word].  I learned early in our marriage that my sense of direction, my opinion about how to get from Point A to Point B, was greatly flawed, worth only about a C- in academic terms.  I now defer to her on every occasion where my opinion would not be worth much.  “GPS,” I think, originally meant “Girl Pointing Straight.”

There’s plenty of room in our culture for differences of opinion, but we also affirm truths and laws and certainties that dare not be ignored or shrugged off or brushed aside.  We depend greatly on statements of fact, the price of gas, that the medicine in the bottle is really what is printed on the label, that we will be paid for work that we do.  We count on truth.  Opinions, in some sense, are luxuries . . .

Now, if we value truths and facts and certainties in science and directions and on bottle labels, why are issues of spirituality branded as “opinions”?  Is that realm of existence so indistinct, so undefinable, that we can only FirefoxScreenSnapz445express a preference, a “belief,” an opinion?  What if we have confused opinion and belief?  We are not saying that people should be forced to accept the Christian message.  But we are also not saying that one religion is as good as another.  I hardly think the Hindu practice of burning a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre (called “Sati” or “Suttee”) merits the same defense as the Bible’s teaching of the goodness of God or the reality of heaven and hell.  What do you think?

Questions:

1.  How do you differentiate between “beliefs,” “opinions,” and “truths”?

2.  What has helped you express the Christian gospel in a way that doesn’t come across as merely your own “opinion,” but also isn’t offensive and overly dogmatic?

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in theology matters

 

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What animals are thinking #4 (scroll down)

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Posted by on April 19, 2014 in humor

 

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“DAY OF HOPE” ON WMHK (Part 3 of 3)

Friends:

Our radio station on our campus, WMHK, had me answer a few questions this morning during their “Day of Hope” program.

These segments are quite brief.  I’ll post the third below.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Twenty-Nine Years Ago TODAY!

Friends:
It is hard to believe, but 29 years ago today I passed FirefoxScreenSnapz420my oral examination for my Ph.D.! I did my degree in historical theology at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

You might be interested in a little story preceding my oral defense. I had to take two years of coursework at Drew University, pass competency exams in French and German, and successfully complete four major exams in order to get to the dissertation stage.

The very first course I had to take was called “Theology in the Modern Era.” I distinctly remember the professor coming in and saying, “As we all know the four Gospels contradict each other in major ways.” The professor’s FirefoxScreenSnapz422name was Dr. Ryan, a man who had grown up in a theologically conservative home but had embraced Unitarian Universalism. As I remember, the class was composed of 39 women students studying for the Methodist ministry, and myself.

As Dr. Ryan made his initial statement, I heard a voice in the class say, “Oh, Really?” It was a deep voice. It was my voice.

For the rest of that semester Dr. Ryan turned to me when he knew that I, as a conservative Christian, would have a different perspective on theological issues. He would make liberal statements like, “We know that Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, but he has indeed risen in our hearts!” He would ask me my perspective, and I would refer to I Corinthians 15 and the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I remember the ladies in the course gathering around me after class and asking me, “Where did you get all this information?” My response was, “Have you heard of the Apostle Paul?”

At any rate I got through Ryan’s class okay, then had to take those exams and pass those language tests, and finally got to the dissertation (research) stage. The dean of the graduate school decided who the three professors would be on my dissertation committee. You guessed it! One of the members was Dr. Ryan.

As I began writing my dissertation chapters, Dr. Ryan approved each one  KeynoteScreenSnapz091but then we had a strange telephone conversation. He expressed his concern that I had remained a “Fundamentalist” or Evangelical during my years at Drew. He said “Evangelicals cannot do academic work!”

This comment, of course, terrified me. He was on my dissertation committee! I remember talking to one of the other dissertation committee members, and he said, “Did Dr. Ryan pass you on each of the chapters you’ve written?” I said yes, and he said, “Well, he has to play by the rules. In the oral examination, if he asks you a question about a subject that was not the topic of your dissertation, politely respond to his question and then point out, ‘Dr. Ryan, that, however, was not the focus of my dissertation.’”

The oral exam for a Ph.D. candidate can consist of 3 to 6 hours of grilling by the dissertation committee.  Their verdict is literally thumbs up or thumbs down. My examination took place on April 15, 1985. True to form, Dr. Ryan asked me several questions that were not the focus of my dissertation. I answered as best I could, but then pointed oFirefoxScreenSnapz421ut that those were not the primary focus of my research. I could see the other two members of the committee congratulating me for encouraging him to play by the rules. I unanimously passed my oral examination and received my degree.

Twenty-nine years.  Wow.  And, you know what?  God’s grace is still sufficient!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Evangelical

 

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“DAY OF HOPE” on WMHK (Part 2 of 3)

Friends:

Our radio station on our campus, WMHK, had me answer a few questions this morning during their “Day of Hope” program.

These segments are quite brief.  I’ll post the second below.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in taking Bible literally

 

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What animals are thinking #3 (scroll down)

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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in debate

 

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“Day of Hope” on WMHK (Part 1 of 3)

Friends:

Our radio station on our campus, WMHK, had me answer a few questions this morning during their “Day of Hope” program.

These segments are quite brief.  I’ll post the first below.  Would love your comments.  Blessings.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in reading

 

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What animals are thinking #2 (scroll down)

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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in humor

 

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Update on “Iron Sharpens Iron” Upcoming Conference at Emmaus Bible College (Part 1)

FirefoxScreenSnapz361I am honored to participate in this year’s “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference for church and assembly leaders which will be held on May 22-25.  Details on the conference may be found here.

I have the privilege of speaking to the conference as a whole twice:  My message at the beginning of the conference is entitled:  “Orthodoxy Under Fire:  Who’s Shooting and Why?”  My message at the end of the conference is entitled: “A Life of Living Biblically.”

I also get to do four workshops.  The titles are:KeynoteScreenSnapz081

I want to share a couple of details of these upcoming messages — and welcome feedback from my readers.

PLENARY SESSION #1:  “Orthodoxy Under Fire:  Who’s Shooting and Why?”

There are so many questions to deal with in this session.  Can “orthodoxy” even be defined?  Can it be achieved or attained?  There are those who say that no one has reached orthodoxy yet.  I will be sharing the results of my study of the use of the word “truth” by the Lord Jesus in the gospels and the expression “the faith” used in the New Testament epistles.

FirefoxScreenSnapz407To the question, “Who’s Shooting?”, I hope to touch on several critics of orthodox Christianity, both “the sons of the church” (meaning those who have been in the Evangelical environment and have turned away) as well as outsiders.  Brian McLaren, a friend of 40 years ago who has embraced classical liberalism, writes:  “I don’t think the liberals have it right. But I don’t think we have it right either. None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.”  (to be continued)

Questions:

1.  Where do you see orthodoxy challenged?

2.  What biblical principles guide you in dealing with those who are denying the Christian faith?

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in heresy

 

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