Think Biblically! edited by John MacArthur

Most Americans, I believe, want to be served when given the chance. Some greasy spoons stay open despite their mediocre food because they have enough people in the area who simply want to tell someone else to set a meal before them and clean up after them. Sure, relationships play a leading role for some restaurant patrons. Those friendly faces at the diner may be the people they know best. Still, I believe most of us have a strong desire to be served–perhaps for pride, perhaps for comfort.

That desire may have been part of the motivation behind the disciples’ argument over who would be the greatest in kingdom of heaven. During the last supper in Luke 22, we have this record:

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (24-27).

God the Almighty lived with us as one who served us. Incredible. If we are to follow this charge to serve others, “to consider others as better than ourselves,” then how should we live day to day? Simply put, we must think biblically.

Published in 2003 by Crossway Books, Think Biblically! Recovering a Christian Worldview is a collection of essays written by the faculty of The Master’s College in Southern California. The writing is uneven, which I suppose should be expected, and I thought some authors backtracked on the ones before them; but this book would make a good a text for a class on worldview, even a Sunday School class where people don’t want to read the book.

It begins teaching basic Christian doctrine, such as the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, understanding creation and sin, the gospel, and perspectives on people around the world.

When Jesus prayed for God the Father to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17), he was relying on the fact that Scripture is sufficient to reveal “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Not only is the Bible free of error, but its teaching is comprehensive, “so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

“For anyone to claim that human philosophy must augment the simple truth of Scripture, or that Scripture cannot deal with certain societal issues and individual problems, is to contradict Paul’s divinely inspired testimony in that verse,” MacArthur writes in the open chapter. “Too many people in evangelical churches and schools today simply assume that certain difficult problems they encounter are beyond the purview of Scripture. The real problem is that they are not really devoted to Scripture.”

On that basis forms a Christian worldview. To renew the mind after this fashion, Master’s College Provost Richard Mayhue suggests we cycle our thoughts through the grounds of God’s Word. He argues, “Whatever the subject, one must begin with God’s perspective from Scripture rather than with man’s opinion from observation, research, and logic. Harry Blamires sums the matter up succinctly: ‘To think Christianly is to think in terms of Revelation.'”

Understanding the Genesis of Everything

So how are we to understand creation in light of Revelation? Simply put, the heavens and the earth were created in six days. MacArthur says, “Nothing about the Genesis text itself suggests that the biblical creation account is merely symbolic, poetic, allegorical, or mythical.” If your reply is to ask about the evidence, then you’ve touched on the heart of a Christian worldview. The Bible is the highest authority and the basis for a philosophy of science. Just as Darwin’s naturalism is the philosophical basis for many scientists’ interpretations, so the Bible should be the interpretive basis for those scientists who hold to it. If we give the current observations of fallible men more weight than the infallible Word of God, then we are not thinking Christianly.

It is essential to understand that the third chapter of Genesis is an accurate historical record, not a fable. Some argue that the presence of a talking snake clearly marks it as a fable, but that is an example of the unchristian thinking addressed in this book. No one has ever heard a snake talk, but why should our experience or conceptions of reality have higher authority than the Scripture? They shouldn’t. Where Scripture and experience or observation conflict we must doubt the latter by faith in Scripture’s authority. Adam and Eve were the first humans to live, created by God as he describes, placed in a type of paradise, and told to enjoy all of it save the fruit of one tree. That’s historic fact, and the foundation of human nature. Because the first men sinned against the Creator, we, their offspring, and all of creation live under a curse in hope of redemption.

Have you ever asked how we can stop wars; why can’t we have peace on earth like we sing about in some of Christmas songs? We can by being reconciled to God. To be reconciled, we must accept that we do not and cannot appeal to the Lord God on our own because of the original sin described in Genesis. All our good works are stained by it; all our bad works stem from it. Thus Jesus Christ, who was not stained by the original sin, suffered the penalty for that sin so that anyone who submits to his authority by faith in what he did will be redeemed from the curse. This is the truth that sets us free.

Biblical Thinking, Christian Living

Think Biblically! builds on that foundation in its remaining chapters. Whereas Darwinian thinking gave us the idea that men and women fall into different races, the Bible teaches that everyone was created by God for his own glory. Cultural differences reflect some natural creativity and some natural rebellion against the Creator. No one should believe that modern American or European society is the way the Lord says life ought to be, an error many missionaries have committed over the centuries. But the truth is real, outside of individual perspectives, and applicable to all of life no matter the culture.

So we live in a post-modern world with buckets of pop-psychology books: what are the errors and the insights? We live under the thumb of radical feminism: what does healthy masculinity and femininity look like? Our churches argue over music more than anything else: how does the Lord want to be worshipped and what part does music play? How should the Bible inform science and government or should they be segregated? What is an honest view of history? How should we glorify the Lord in literature and art?

It’s a good book with many sound principles and discussion starters, but some chapters may leave you wanting more detailed application. Biblical thinking produces godly servanthood, but how to serve isn’t always clear.

About the author

Jeff Grim

Jeff Grim has been a reader all of his life. He has had a particular interest in military history, any war at any time. His fascination with military history has brought him to an interest in historical fiction where the history comes alive with fictitious heroes and villains. Recently, Jeff has become interested in historical mysteries set in various time periods.

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7 Comments

  • Phil,

    Thanks for the review of this timely book. I have to take issue with one assertion. I think forcing the first chapter of Genesis to be a literal six day exact recording of history is to ask more of language than is possible and risks missing the point.

    Given the limits of language and knowledge over time, it is unlikely God could have given us a description of creation that was scientifically accurate and made sense through time. People’s views and understanding of time, science, and a host of other issues change radically over time and through history.

    Given this, it makes a lot more sense to me to see the creation story not as a “fable” or as a historical record in the technical sense, but rather as a broad outline of God’s work. In this way no matter who the reader is or where they live they get the big picture: God is the creator and sustainer of all things and that he acts with a deliberate plan.

    IMHO, arguments over creation all to often ignore the spiritual issues at its heart to argue semantics and politics.

  • MacArthur’s key point here is that the Bible trumps all observation and research. It is a statement of faith, especially since we can’t experiment with the origin in the manner of God. Even if we study proto-planets and watch stars form in distant galaxies, that shows only what exists now, not how it came into existence by the word of the Creator.

    So the question isn’t what we believe God could have communicated to men 4000 years ago. The question is how does the Bible read. If we believe the Bible is God’s Word completely true, then when it says the world was created in 6 days, that’s what it means. It is far more likely that we, as 21st Century Americans, read the Bible incorrectly than it is that God simply couldn’t express himself in understandable terms.

    Look at Exodus 20. That’s straight history. And remember many of the prophecies. They weren’t understood in full when they were delivered either, not even by the prophets who spoke them.

  • It is one thing to say the Bible trumps all observation and research except that the Bible itself is a product of observation and research. The Bible was not handed to us in its current form directly from God via some sort of divine transcription service. Finite and fallible men have been involved in its translation and communication.

    When you say:

    “So the question isn’t what we believe God could have communicated to men 4000 years ago. The question is how does the Bible read.”

    The text is not so clear cut that questions don’t arise. There is no verse as clear as “I created the world and everything in it in six literal days exactly as it appears to be – God.”

    What MacArthur risks, again IMHO, when reverting to such dogmatism is asserting that we know exactly what scripture means in every particular. If taken too far this lacks the kind of intellectual humility and honesty that I think is required of fallible men.

    What I am trying to get at is the problematic nature of language and communication. Remember this is a book that has been read in various forms for millenia and across untold cultures and languages. By its nature it must be problematic – that is why it requires faith.

    I don’t see Genesis as requiring all of creation being brought into being in six literal 24 hour days. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe the Bible is true I just see the passage differently than MacArthur.

  • It is one thing to say the Bible trumps all observation and research except that the Bible itself is a product of observation and research. The Bible was not handed to us in its current form directly from God via some sort of divine transcription service. Finite and fallible men have been involved in its translation and communication.

    When you say:

    “So the question isn’t what we believe God could have communicated to men 4000 years ago. The question is how does the Bible read.”

    The text is not so clear cut that questions don’t arise. There is no verse as clear as “I created the world and everything in it in six literal days exactly as it appears to be – God.”

    What MacArthur risks, again IMHO, when reverting to such dogmatism is asserting that we know exactly what scripture means in every particular. If taken too far this lacks the kind of intellectual humility and honesty that I think is required of fallible men.

    What I am trying to get at is the problematic nature of language and communication. Remember this is a book that has been read in various forms for millenia and across untold cultures and languages. By its nature it must be problematic – that is why it requires faith.

    I don’t see Genesis as requiring all of creation being brought into being in six literal 24 hour days. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe the Bible is true I just see the passage differently than MacArthur.

  • I agree that believers disagree on this, but I wouldn’t say “the Bible itself is a product of observation and research.” That seems to undermine the preservation of the Word that the Holy Spirit. “All Scripture is God-breathed” and not even a jot or tittle will fall away from it according to Jesus.

    I think the Biblical text is much clearer than you say. Take Exodus 20:11. God repeats that he created everything in six days. If it didn’t happen in six days, he could have said so. Now, I know that young earth creationists say that’s six 24-hour days, but I’m open to the hour count being off. When Genesis was written by Moses in 1200 BC (was it?), they didn’t have 24-hour days, and just as Jesus was the grave three days but not 72 hours, perhaps creation occurred in six days but not 144 hours.

    As far as the Bible’s account compares to modern scientific theory, the Bible clearly relates a young earth and short creation, not eons of slowly developing evolution.

  • I agree that believers disagree on this, but I wouldn’t say “the Bible itself is a product of observation and research.” That seems to undermine the preservation of the Word that the Holy Spirit. “All Scripture is God-breathed” and not even a jot or tittle will fall away from it according to Jesus.

    I think the Biblical text is much clearer than you say. Take Exodus 20:11. God repeats that he created everything in six days. If it didn’t happen in six days, he could have said so. Now, I know that young earth creationists say that’s six 24-hour days, but I’m open to the hour count being off. When Genesis was written by Moses in 1200 BC (was it?), they didn’t have 24-hour days, and just as Jesus was the grave three days but not 72 hours, perhaps creation occurred in six days but not 144 hours.

    As far as the Bible’s account compares to modern scientific theory, the Bible clearly relates a young earth and short creation, not eons of slowly developing evolution.

  • The Bible says very little in most areas of science, including the age of His creation. It does say in Rom 1:19-20 that his divine power and divine nature are CLEARLY seen in his creation. Because of this statement, I don’t know why anyone, especially Christians, would want to deny the ancient nature of His creation when it is proven hundreds of times by multiple branches of science that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the universe is about 13.7 billion years old. To say that God just made it to appear that way makes God a deceiver and we know that is not true. Why not use what God’s creation shows us through direct, God-given scientific observation to bolster our faith and our apologetics? The big bang is powerful evidence for the God of the Bible. That’s why atheistic scientists were so reluctant to accept it at first. Let’s not, as Christians, view science as the enemy of the Bible, but as the powerful advocate that it is!

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