#18 – Inspired by God and Applicable Today: Remaining under the authority of scripture in our cultural setting ft. Kristal Toews & Iain Provan

 In

People could not understand Jesus in John without knowing the Old Testament. Like, he talks about being the ‘bread of life’ and the ‘light of the world’ and the ‘living water’ or ‘providing living water’ and the ‘vine and the branches’ and the ‘good shepherd’ and all that is Old Testament imagery. And so if you throw that all under the bus, you’re left with a picture of Jesus that you don’t understand. ~ Kristal Toews

 

Yes. I mean, wisdom is very important, reason is very important, experience is important, these are things all important. The question is, though, when it comes down to where do you go to really settle the question? ~ Dr. Iain Provan

 

With a wealth of access to a diversity of opinions and teachings on the Bible and its role in our lives, we are tasked with the tough job of sorting through the information and discerning what the truth truly is.

Is the Old Testament saying the same thing as the New Testament and is it outdated or applicable today? Where should our focus be in our preaching? What do we do when we find apparent “contradictions” in the Bible? How can we lead people to make Godly decisions about issues that are not directly mentioned in scripture?

Well I think the central guideline is that if we’re reading the New Testament as saying things different from the Old Testament, we’re doing something wrong already and we ought to stop and think. ~ Dr. Iain Provan

Join Kristal Toews, Dr. Iain Provan, and Rob Thiessen as they discuss some of the current questions and topics facing our pastors and churches today with regards to the Word of God. Listen as they hash through some of the language being used, warn of some dangerous paths to avoid, and as they speak about some of the challenges that pastors may face in interpreting the Bible and in helping others to understand it faithfully.

Topics Include

  • The impact of the Gospel
  • Relevance vs. Felt Needs
  • Focus on Jesus OR the Bible
  • Old Testament vs. New Testament
  • Re-imagining God
  • Wrestling with current issues where we lack a proof text

Show Notes

 

#18 – Inspired by God and Applicable Today: Remaining under the authority of scripture in our cultural setting ft. Kristal Toews & Iain Provan
BCMB Pastor to Pastor Podcast

 
 
00:00 / 44:34
 
1X
 

 

Transcription

BCMB 018 - Kristal Toews & Iain Provan.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

BCMB 018 - Kristal Toews & Iain Provan.mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Iain Provan:
Well I think the central guideline is that if we're reading the New Testament as saying things different from the Old Testament, we're doing something wrong already and we ought to stop and think.

Kristal Toews:
People could not understand Jesus in John without knowing the Old Testament. Like, he talks about being the 'bread of life' and the 'light of the world' and the 'living water' or 'providing living water' and the 'vine and the branches' and the 'good shepherd' and all that is Old Testament imagery. And so if you throw that all under the bus, you're left with a picture of Jesus that you don't understand.

Iain Provan:
Yes. I mean, wisdom is very important, reason is very important, experience is important, these are things all important. The question is, though, when it comes down to where do you go to really settle the question?

BCMB Intro:
Welcome to the BCMB podcast. Pastor to Pastor, this is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 18, the scripture with Kristal Toews and Iain Provan.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, welcome, everyone, my name is Rob Thiessen. This is the BCMB Pastor to pastor podcast, and we're very excited this November morning to have with us here at the Northview studio, Dr. Iain Provan from Regent College and a Regent College student and pastor here at Northview, Kristal Toews. So welcome to you both.

Kristal Toews:
Thank you.

Iain Provan:
Nice to be here.

Rob Thiessen:
I really appreciate you making the trip. And Dr. Provan was sharing that he just got off a flight from San Diego yesterday for the Evangelical Theological Society meetings there and so we're really, really grateful that you've come out to Abbotsford and we're super excited about the topic today. We're going to be talking about the scripture, about the Word of God, the role that it plays in our lives, in our communities, and just some of the challenges that we face in interpreting the Bible and in helping to understand it faithfully. So it's so important for our communities. And I just thought maybe we'd start with the question, talking about the scripture, can you share with us - maybe I'll start with you, Kristal - about how your life has been shaped by scripture and especially in community? Like, what were the people or the community that first drew you to the Bible?

Kristal Toews:
Well, I was really privileged to grow up in a Christian family who valued the scriptures. One of my earliest childhood memories or favourite childhood memories is when my mom would disappear, kind of, in the house. I would know where to find her. There was a spot in her bedroom where she read the Bible, and that was where I would often find her if I couldn't find her in the kitchen or working around. So I had a family that valued the scriptures. My grandparents were all Christians. Both my grandfathers were involved in pastoral ministry, either in like paid pastoral or as a volunteer I guess, whatever that word would be.

Rob Thiessen:
Lay Pastor.

Kristal Toews:
Lay pastor, Yeah, at the time. And so it was just modeled to me growing up. So I think that would be super significant. I went to Bakerview MB Church and had a community there, of really faithful people who loved me as a kid and followed me and prayed for me, encouraged me in my study of the scriptures, and then really kind of called me into leadership when I was in my 20s and 30s there. And then, since coming to Northview here on staff, I've just been shaped by my own study of the scriptures, as well as the preaching and teaching here and the preaching and teaching that I get to do, because that forces me to be in God's word. And then recently at Regent College, I've been there - I just had to actually ask for an extension because they give you six years to get your degree done, and I'm in my seventh. So getting it done this year, hopefully. But that has just been a great opportunity for me to see, kind of, the tradition of scripture that I've grown up with in light of other traditions as well, because it's such a broad teaching base there and broad student base. And so that's been a really neat opportunity for me.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's fantastic. And actually it was through chatting with you that I thought to invite Dr. Provan because I asked you, well, who's your favorite professor there? And you said, "Dr. Iain Provan." And so it's great to have you with us as a guest now, by your accent we know that you're not local, at least, you know, years ago. So tell us a little bit about your journey and the word of God as it came to you.

Iain Provan:
Yes. So I grew up in Scotland, in the Presbyterian Church, and the whole country was essentially Presbyterian, for the most part. The Bible was very important. I grew up in a church where the Bible was central, where there was always an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading in the morning service and in the evening service for that matter. Preachers were expected to preach in a way that brought those two passages together and would generally get into trouble if they did not do a good job of that. And at university I was introduced to a wonderfully deep tradition of expository preaching by some wonderful, rather famous preachers in our context. So that's where it began for me and then, from there, I went on to Bible College and so on afterwards.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, that's interesting. So, as a university student, hearing someone articulate carefully, like, an exegesis of scripture, you found compelling and attractive?

Iain Provan:
Well, deeply compelling, because I remember vividly as a teenager when my own faith 'woke up' as it were. I remember going back after this - this was a very personal experience of God - and finding the Bible remarkably relevant. It suddenly, just, it was speaking about ME, whereas as a child, it wasn't really, you know, so personal. So, expository preaching, what it did was, it persuaded me of the vast range and depth and height of scripture and that everything that you needed, really, for life was there. And, you know, when you've heard preachers preach wonderfully for 45 minutes on a single line, it does something to you. You're living in a different world at that point.

Rob Thiessen:
That's interesting. And maybe today that's one of the things that we can already, right out of the gate, say that's an important take home: that when the word of God is preached and illustrated, magnified and focused on accurately and carefully, with respect, it impacts people very profoundly. And so a lot of, you know, for preachers and pastors who may be listening and leaders, it's really tempting just to, you know, talk out of your own experience, worry about maybe, you know, do I have good illustrations do I have a funny joke? And rather than doing, you know, what you've represented, where the first order of business is to understand the text to faithfully and relevantly communicate it.

Kristal Toews:
I think sometimes as preachers, pastors, we think we want to meet the felt needs of our congregation and not realizing that scripture taught well will meet all the needs of the congregation. There is a woman, Nancy Guthrie, I went to one of her breakouts a couple of years ago at a Gospel Coalition conference and she talked about just having the trust that God's word would do its work everywhere we are, when we're teaching, preaching, leading something and not setting aside study of the scriptures in order to meet the felt needs of our group. And she just really convicted me on that. And it helped me change things that I was doing here. But I think that's a main conviction we need to have, that the word of God is living and active and it will do what God's Spirit wants it to do. What he'll accomplish through it. And so if we focus on that, eventually those felt needs will kind of come in line with what scripture is teaching.

Iain Provan:
I think we live in a culture that's almost cursed with this demand for relevance. And the trouble with demands for relevance is they're always focused on where you are right now and what you're thinking and feeling and what you know. But it begs the question, what are all the things you don't yet know? And so the problem with the relevance kind of line is that - and I sympathize with pastors, because I think this is what their congregations may also be looking for - but I think to give in to that, rather than to preach the entire massive canopy of scripture and invite people into it rather than allowing our sense of relevance to dictate the nature of preaching and church life. It really is inevitably going to lead to shallowness, I think, if we give in to that.

Rob Thiessen:
There is just, on the other side to be an advocate for relevance, you know, I've so often heard, you know, a pastor and maybe I've done this myself, saying, "Well, you know, I'm just going to preach the scripture and I'm going to exegete it." But really, they make no connection between what they're reading. So the pastor, who maybe has studied and heard religious language, thought theological thoughts, he circles around those, rehashes them, speaks them in theological language, and then thinks he or she has been a faithful exegete of scripture, but left the people really, you know, either confused or unimpressed with, you know, with what was said and just thought, "Well, there goes just more religious talk that I don't understand."

Kristal Toews:
And not knowing how that relates to their lives today.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. So how do how do we build...

Iain Provan:
But that is also a problem. That's the other side of the problem. And of course, we are creatures of extremes. We tend to swing from one to the other. We're in reaction the whole time. But I just don't think these things are, or should be kept separate from each other. I think if we are driven by relevance, we're going to make mistakes. And if we are simply living in a kind of - what you would you call it - an 'intellectual bubble', and we're not able to explain the scriptures in such a way that they make sense to people's lives, that's also a problem. So it's not so much relevance that I'm against, it's a particular perspective on the beginning point and what the point of the exercise might be. I don't think the point of the exercise is to make people feel happier, for example. I mean, some scriptures don't immediately make us feel happy at all.

Rob Thiessen:
I think one of the questions that I've asked - and I just, you know, picked this up in a preaching class - but, was to ask the question (I mean, we are often trained to ask relevant questions, you know, what's the relevance?) But the question of, so if the scripture is communicating truth, where does the truth of the scripture that I'm wrestling with, where does it engage the lies of the world that people are believing? And so it does ask a relevance question, but it's not, you know, a felt need relevance. It's more again asking, you know, where's the rub going to be? Where is the confrontation of truth and lies in this text? And that's been helpful for me. I don't always ask myself, but I think that raises the bar for the pastor or the preacher.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, I'll just shift gears here with a question. This is a question, or way of talking, that typically people who call themselves Anabaptist - which I'm not going to try to define Anabaptists anymore, it seems to be a difficult label to really clarify - but I hear people say this phrase, you know, "We're people focused on Jesus, not the Bible." And so let's just talk about that. What is it that people mean to say? And is there a problem with saying that we are people who are about Jesus, not people about the Bible?

Iain Provan:
Well, I'm sure we all, I hope we all, want to be focused on Jesus. I think that that should go without saying. But the trouble with the kind of view you're describing there, is that it is our Lord himself, who gives us the scriptures. And so it's very clear in the gospels, that he is constantly referring to the Old Testament as scripture, the law and the prophets, that he constantly goes back there to ground what he's saying. He says these are the scriptures that speak of me and then he commissions his apostles to go and do their job and that also involves the creation of scripture. So, I don't understand the dichotomy that people are drawing there. It is part of our discipleship, I think, to receive as a gift the scriptures that Jesus has given us. That's how I would put it.

Kristal Toews:
I've been confused by that question, too, because I've seen it come up. I've heard Bruxy Cavey and others talk using that language. And so when we had those podcasts before the, or the webinars before that Canadian M.B. conference, Tim Geddert had brought that up in his book as well. And so I asked him specifically, what do you mean by that? And he was cautioning against people kind of holding to the words on the page of scripture and arguing doctrine in a way that wasn't Christlike, that didn't kind of have the scriptures affecting them. And so he was saying there is a danger, I guess, in his mind, of holding to kind of this set of beliefs about it actually pointing you to who who is speaking about. I don't necessarily... I guess if you go on Twitter and other places, you see lots of people defending the scriptures in an unchrist-like way and so I think that's maybe what he was talking about. But in terms of if we think we can get to know Jesus outside of the scriptures, that's a complete like fallacy, and if that's what people are saying by it, then that is not what the scriptures would teach, not what Jesus would have taught.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's a good point. Tim also spoke at the convention and he used the phrase "the bible is the Word about the Word." And what we write is words about the word about the word. And it was interesting for him. So he was drawing, you know, a distinction, but also continuity, saying, you know, these are not - there's no bifurcation between these things. The Word and the Word are together. We don't know one without the other.

Iain Provan:
Yes. And personally, I wouldn't say our biggest danger of the moment lies in people talking too much about the Bible, as it were. I think the problem lies in the opposite direction, that there's a almost antagonism towards the Old Testament anyway, in many Christian circles. And so the whole question is, you know, Jesus rather than the Bible, which I think is exceedingly dangerous. You end up with a Jesus of your own imagining, the Jesus that you're comfortable with and who endorses your moral decisions or whatever. So that's the real danger of our time. I don't think the real danger of this moment lies on the other side of that equation.

Rob Thiessen:
So that question that you touched on in the Old Testament and just brings up, you know, a popular book - I don't know how popular it is, but a popular author, Andy Stanley - that a lot of us have, you know, read his leadership books and books on the church and of course, he's been an innovator and a popular teacher across North America. But in his, I think it's his last or latest book, he really draws a radical discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament almost. I think not almost... Like, quite frankly, just relegating the Old Testament to sort of the dust heap of irrelevance for us as Christians. And so that idea, it does gain traction with people, because we notice that Jesus presents an ethic that feels different than we read of in the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament will do things or command things or allow things that, in the New Testament we say, "Well, you know, the New Testament teaches a different path or shows us more light," however we want to say it. Dr. Provan, how do we wrestle with... What are some guidelines in helping us? Why is the Old Testament important and how do we read it carefully and consistently?

Iain Provan:
Well, I think the central guideline is that if we're reading the New Testament as saying things different from the Old Testament, we're doing something wrong already and we ought to stop and think, because Jesus presents himself and his teaching as lying entirely on the same trajectory of the Old Testament. It's the God of Abraham and so on, that is the God being revealed also in Christ. And so there's something already problematic there. And we could discuss, of course - perhaps this podcast doesn't give us time to discuss everything we would need to about what some of the issues, specifically, that arise would then be - but I simply don't believe we can say that the God of the Old Testament is a different kind of God from the New. In fact, that is an early heresy of the church called 'Marcionism' that was explicitly rejected by the early church. So that's where I would begin with this; that it's our understanding, I think that has to be questioned here, not scripture that has to be questioned.

Rob Thiessen:
So, you know, one person points out the differences. And what's your approach, generally, when someone says, "Well, this seems inconsistent, I mean, Jesus says turn the other cheek and in the Old Testament says an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." How do you...?

Iain Provan:
Well, that's a specific example we could discuss. Of course, in the Old Testament teaching, that is a law limiting people's revenge against each other in a blood vengeance culture and it's saying, you know, legally speaking, we're going to place restrictions on this blood vengeance. That's a restriction on practices, if you like, whereas Jesus is actually talking about a moral ideal and those are not the same things at all. So, already in the Old Testament, people are told not to take personal revenge, which is what Jesus was actually talking about. So think about King Saul. Remember, he has two opportunities to kill David, who will later be king - rather, the other way around - David has two opportunities to kill Saul and of course, he says, "well, no, I can't do that. This is the Lord's anointed." So this is not an area where there's actually a contradiction. These are different things that are being talked about. So that would be a good example of the kinds of questions we have to ask when we come up against these things.

Rob Thiessen:
So what I hear you saying is, just don't take a surface response to a difference that you perceive, dig deeper and seek a deeper understanding of what's going on. And that works to reconcile scripture or to see it as a unity.

Iain Provan:
Yes. Every scriptural text has a context. More than one context, actually, but the largest context is within the flow of the whole story. And God is not always doing the same things in the story and the same subjects are not always being addressed in the same way. And so reading everything within the entire flow of the story is crucially important, not just picking out text in a kind of proof texting kind of a way.

Kristal Toews:
We've been studying the gospel of John this year with our women, and every week we have, like, an observation of the actual John passage. Then we have a passage called 'Whole Bible Connections', which brings in, kind of, the Old Testament background to John and people could not understand Jesus in John without knowing the Old Testament. Like he talks about being the "bread of life" and the "light of the world" and the "living water" or "providing the living water" and the "vine and the branches" and the "good shepherd" and all of that is Old Testament imagery. And so if you throw that all under the bus, you're left with a picture of Jesus that you don't understand. And so we need all those images and pictures and that whole story. It's like walking - if you just start at the New Testament - you're walking into a movie when it's halfway done and you don't know the start and what has kind of been the plot line and what has instituted this whole story, what's got it going, what the conflict is, who the characters are. And so you lose a lot if you don't bother studying the Old Testament.

Iain Provan:
I think if as we read the Gospels, I don't think there's any reason to think that Jesus himself is teaching us that he's teaching us new things. I think what he presents himself as doing is exegeting Old Testament scripture properly over against the scribes and the Pharisees who are not exegeting it properly. So he is giving us the authoritative exegesis of scripture. He's not replacing scripture or saying, you know, the old scriptures are wrong or whatever. I think that's just a fundamental misunderstanding of what's going on.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, that's helpful. And leads to another question that I wanted to pose for you, and that takes us from Jesus into the apostles. And you know, the way I think that you're teaching and the way I was taught to interpret scripture was with careful attention to genre and culture and grammar, etc. But, you know, in some of the recent writings that's out there about the Bible, you know, popular titles like 'How the Bible Actually Works' and authors are highlighting that, you know, the apostles themselves, they took liberties, so to speak, and, you know, they re-imagined - actually this is how the authors write it - they re-imagined God for their time. And so we're faithful Christians if we follow their example and re-imagine God for our times. What do you say to that?

Iain Provan:
I would say that the Bible would call imagining God idolatry. It's not our job to imagine God. Our job is to pay attention to God's revelation to us as to who God actually is. So, again, there's a fundamental difficulty here. The idea that the apostles are re-imagining God, I just think is wrong. I see no justification for such an idea. And quite a bit of what people say about the way in which the apostles read scripture, for example, is unfortunately based on a very poor understanding of what the Old Testament itself is doing. So I simply don't I don't even understand that way of putting it, it seems to me to be just wrong headed.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. You used the word 'revelation', which is the word that we as evangelicals have associated when we're looking at scripture, we're not looking at imaginations. We're looking at revelation.

Iain Provan:
Yes. I mean, of course, the ideas expressed are indeed human ideas as human beings who are writing them down. But the question is, what is their status, though? How are we to receive those? And the apostles are not just a bunch of people with interesting imaginings of opinions. They are delegates of our Lord Jesus Christ who are commissioned to bring the church into all truth. And that is fairly explicitly clear, I would have thought, in the New Testament. So I find this both baffling and troubling when people speak in this way.

Kristal Toews:
There's a book that I'm reading for the class I'm currently in, which is New Testament seminar class called I Reverberations of Christ Throughout Scripture. And it talks about the way that the gospel writers showed Christ as a culmination of scripture. And so they may have reinterpreted the scriptures to show how he fulfilled it, but not reinterpreting the meaning of it. You know what I mean, just talking about the Old Testament texts being fulfilled in Christ. And so that's a really good book that goes through all four gospel writers and talks about how they worked with the Old Testament scriptures to present a picture of Jesus that was still faithful to the Old Testament scriptures.

Rob Thiessen:
And what I hear you saying, and Iain as you describe, you know, sort of the starting place, I hear you describing a starting place assuming the authority of scripture, that you're a person under that authority. And just talk a little bit about that. Why is our posture important? Where does it come from? Is that is that truly a fundamental Christian posture?

Iain Provan:
I believe it is. And I fundamentally believe in the authority of scripture because I believe in the authority of Christ. I don't see how we get to separate those things. I said earlier on, I think it's just an aspect of our discipleship that we receive these scriptures as our canon, which of course, originally is a Greek word, meaning 'a measuring stick'. So when we say canon of scripture, we mean these are the scriptures that Christ has given us to measure our faith and our life against. S,o if we want to know whether what we believe is true, if we want to know whether this particular way of living is right, the ultimate measurement of that is not some other book on the subject, although there may be very many good books, but nonetheless, all of them must be measured against scripture. This is fundamentally important and many mistakes follow from not grasping it. So, when people say to me, "why do you believe in the Bible?" you know, "why do you hold to the Bible?" My answer is, well, I receive it from Christ and that's why.

Kristal Toews:
A lot of people get hung up on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. They kind of, as Wesley talked about scripture, tradition, reason and experience, all kind of giving us spiritual truth. But they don't realize that Wesley himself said, like, scripture is the highest authority, all those other things should be subject to it. People see those four as being equal. And so experience can be as equal as scripture or tradition can be equal to scripture and Wesley himself would say, no, scripture is the first and the others come under that. So, I think that's where people go wrong when they think all four are equal opportunities to understand God and truth.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, calling it a quadrilateral sort of makes you think that it's, you know, four equal corners making a square. And it's a misrepresentation, right?

Iain Provan:
Yes. I mean, I don't see the apostles, for example, saying, you know, dear Christians, trust your experience. Go with your gut. I mean, these are modern, post-modern ways of thinking about how we discern truth and right. But there, the apostles actually say, quite frequently, say entirely the opposite to that. Do not trust your gut. Your experience is not a reliable basis for your life. So...

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. And yet the other points, the reason the experience and tradition are all factors that guide our interpretation. They're significant issues for us. We ask questions. It's how we think. But they are not on a par with the scripture. Peter Enns, in his book 'How The Bible Actually Works' is one of his later books, he's come out describing... He uses the paradigm of wisdom and says, you know, that to faithfully read the Bible, you must apply wisdom. And he refers to proverbs, which are books of wisdom and the role of wisdom there, and why you would even find, you know, seemingly contradictory verses in Proverbs say, you know, don't listen to a fool or, you know, listen to him and rebuke him or something like that and saying, well, it just, it takes wisdom to read those things. And then this becomes the paradigm for reading all of scripture. You know, I'm reading that, though, and wondering, you know, if wisdom becomes our paradigm for reading all of the Bible, it again feels like it's setting my interpretive wisdom above God's revealed wisdom.

Kristal Toews:
And then you end up like Thomas Jefferson. He just took his knife to his Bible and took all the parts he didn't like because it talked about miraculous things. Right? He thought that was not cohesive with his world view. And so, if you go to Smithsonian, you can see his Bible with his parts taken out. And that's what we end up doing to scripture if we put our wisdom or our reason above it.

Iain Provan:
Yes, I mean, wisdom is very important, reason is very important, experience is important, these are things all important. The question is, though, when it comes down to where do you go to really settle the question? That's the really big issue in the church at the moment, I think, in the post-Christian West. Where do you go in the end? And so, yes, it's true to say that - you mentioned a couple of my favorite verses in Proverbs, actually, "Answer a fool. Don't answer a fool." But I think the point there is not then to just open up the entire question of how you handle fools to your own imagination. What those verses are saying is that, you know, there are some circumstances under which it's better to deal with a fool in this way. And there are other circumstances in which you need to deal with the fool in a different way. That's not offering us a general theory of hermeneutics. That's just saying the wisdom on fools. As you know, it's a complicated business dealing with fools and you know, think about that. But to then use that us as a kind of permission to just use your hunches or your intuition in reading the Bible, I think is a mistake.

Rob Thiessen:
So, when we think about reading the Bible and answering questions of the day, there are a whole lot of questions and seems like more coming up all the time that, you know, you just wouldn't find - you go to your concordance, you're not going to find, you know, a passage on cannabis or, you know, genetic engineering or gender dysphoria. So many questions like that. What are some guidelines that, you know, a pastor or theologian that, you know, is working to keep grounded in scripture, addressing the issues of the day? What are your thoughts about all those issues, Kristal?

Kristal Toews:
Oh, give me the hard question right off the bat. Well, I - you had graciously sent us these questions ahead of time. So I thought about that one bit - I think, first of all, we need to realize that scripture is something that will renew our minds the more we're in it. And so Romans Twelve talks about the fact that we should let our... Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you will know God's will in some of these disputable matters. Right? So, I think having our minds and our imaginations shaped by scripture helps us to know how to apply God's wisdom, I guess, into these situations. But then I would say as well, there are lots of good people thinking about these things and resources that are available for us to actually think through some of the nitty gritties. So I think of Apologetics Canada, who works out of our office here. They're dealing with a lot of different things, like artificial intelligence and how that works with human value, and all these different pieces. There's organizations like that all over the world that are faithfully trying to exposit or, kind of, apply biblical truth to our modern day questions. And so I think there's a lot of research that can be done and people we can rely on who are thinking through these things really well. Christians have always thought through, historically, philosophical questions and scientific questions really well. So we shouldn't be scared to wrestle with them.

Rob Thiessen:
That's good. Thanks.

Iain Provan:
Yes. I mean, if all scripture is to be useful for us, which is what Paul says in second Timothy 3:16, then you would expect it to be useful for even quite modern things, not because it directly mentions them, but because the principles that we have been working with and all the other issues morally and so on, can now be extrapolated into these new areas. And that, I think, is what it means to be paying attention to scriptural authority when it comes to fairly new questions. It so happens, if I just may mention this, it so happens, I'm writing a book on biblical ethics just at the moment. And so I begin with Andy Stanley, funnily enough, just saying why we can't start where he starts and why the Old Testament is important. And then I go through history showing how people have, in fact, read their Bibles in order to deal with the questions of their time and what we can learn from that. And at the end, then I come to what we might call 'hot button issues' for us that sometimes have been issues already in church history like abortion, say, or suicide, but sometimes not, like artificial intelligence would be a great example. But just because the Bible doesn't have a proof text on artificial intelligence doesn't mean it doesn't have a huge amount to say about how Christians should process these questions or what the limits and caveats might be.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah. I remember we were talking, I was actually with a group of Christian leaders and pastors and the issue of transgender, gender dysphoria came up. And I remember people saying, well, the Bible doesn't really say anything about that. And I thought, I think it says something right in the beginning about that. And it's not a long section, but it's pretty crystal clear. And it forms a foundation for our thinking then, you know, that in the beginning he created us male and female. So, you know, that's a starting point for us then to look through, now, what would this script how would the scripture guide us as we think through this issue?

Iain Provan:
Yes. I mean, if you remember Jesus himself, when being asked about something like divorce, he said, yes, Moses allowed for divorce, but in the beginning, it was not so. I think he's signaling to us there that this is precisely what we ought to do. Begin at the beginning and reach forwards from there, and you will be able, then, to know where to place the different bits and pieces. And so, yes, Moses gave permission for people under certain circumstances to divorce, but that doesn't mean that divorce is a moral ideal, for example, or something that God's people should be aiming for or whatever. I think that so this "in the beginning it was not so or it was so" I think is very important. It goes back to the reading every passage within the context of the whole story, essentially.

Rob Thiessen:
I want to wrap up our chat going back to a basic question about the role of scripture in our lives. Now you're both - Ian, you're a professor. You're writing books and teaching constantly on the scripture and the Old Testament. I have a copy here, of your book on hermeneutics in the Reformation, which addresses a lot of the questions even we've been chatting about today and Kristal, your training here in hermeneutics with the church, a biblical interpretation - So, you're involved in academic study of scripture. Talk a little bit about the role that scripture plays in your own lives, in feeding your soul, providing meaning and guidance and maybe even, you know, does that function of scripture intersect with the academic work that you're doing? And if so, how? So, Kristal, why don't you just chat a little bit about that?

Kristal Toews:
Sure. When I started my studies at Regent, I was getting very sidetracked with all my Bible reading I had to do for school and I kind of put that in my devotional category in my mind. Steve Wiens, who was our executive pastor at the time, he was checking in on me all the time and he said, "Kristal, that doesn't count. You have to have your own time with God." And I really appreciated that rebuke that he gave me about six or seven years ago, because it is easy as a teacher or someone that's prepping, to always think of "what does the audience need to know about this?" Or "what do I need to learn academically about this?" And so that started me on a trajectory of having my own scripture reading every morning in something that's completely different to what I'm teaching or prepping for or so that I'm listening to what God speaking to me today about what I need to hear through his Word. And so that would be my morning routine would be coffee and a fireplace and my Bible. And then it's just a matter of really seeing it, as it says in scripture, as a light to your feet. Right? As food. We can't live on bread alone, but on the word of God and just seeing its necessity for my sustenance and for my direction and for, yeah, that guide for everything that I'm trying to do.

Rob Thiessen:
That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that. That's a beautiful picture of - because you've both in sharing a lot about the importance of the whole sweep of scripture, reading passage in its context in redemptive history and understanding that history, is so important. And now you're just giving testimony to another way that scripture functions where you're just sitting down with a portion and encountering God in it, which is like an amazing thing. It's really, really beautiful. Iain how about for you?

Iain Provan:
Yes. I'd like to begin to answer your question just by entering a caveat about the word 'academic', if I may, which in some contexts, is not a word I like much, and this is the reason - that it tends to automatically put a distance between certain categories of person and certain other categories of person. "Oh, well, you're an academic".

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Iain Provan:
Whereas, I think what we're actually talking about is intellectual engagement with scripture, which every Christian ought to be doing because God has chosen to reveal himself in such a way that it requires our intellectual engagement, among other kinds of engagement, precisely because of what we've been saying. You have to think about what you're reading. Just sticking your finger on a verse is not going to do the job. So I would prefer to say that we are all called to intellectual and all kinds of other sorts of occasions with scripture, and some of us have been called to give particular attention to the intellectual aspects and to help people with those. But of course, for all of us, is ought to involve more than intellectual engagement, not less than, but certainly more than. And so, of course, for me, scripture is not simply an interesting set of ancient texts or the means by which I make my living, which would again be idolatry, I think. Scripture is the living word of God, the canon of faith and life. It's where I go - It's the story in which I understand myself, right? So, I mean, I have one family history and tribal history and national history, but beyond all that and beneath all that, this is the story of which I find myself a part. These are the fellow travelers from whom I learn my most important lessons. That's what scripture is, I think, for the Christian. And that ought to be as true for the Christian academic as for anyone else.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, that's good. Hey, there's one other question that I forgot to - We...just, while we were chatting before the podcast, Iain, I talked a little bit about the Anabaptist thing and you said, "Well, is it okay for me to give a critique of it?" And I don't want to miss the opportunity to have you share that with us. That's, you know, so we have an Anabaptist perspective - we always highlight Jesus as the center of scripture. And I don't think that's exclusive to our, you know, to our family. But it's something, you know, sometimes we take pride in it and say, "Oh, you know, this is really the center for us." What would be your caution - and I know, you know, I mean, be gentle with us, you can pick on any number of fringe movements in the Anabaptist history.*laughter*

Iain Provan:
No, I know. As Kristal knows, I always strive in my teaching to speak not just the truth, but also my appreciation for all aspects of our Christian tradition. There's a lot to be proud of in the Anabaptist tradition. I mean, all of that sort of - the kind of perseverance in the face of persecution all the way through the 16th century and beyond and all of that. And the focus on Christ is not wrong, of course, it's absolutely right. But my caveats on the - every tradition has dangers and every tradition has weak spots. Every tradition has, you know, paths that have been explored which turn out to be cul-de-sacs. And we all ought to be, I think, willing to look at those straight in the eye and say, you know what, that wasn't great. And I think the tendency to diminish the authority of scripture, the real authority of the Old Testament scripture, to do more than simply nodding at it, the tendency to say we're New Testament Christians, which I have encountered in conversations with Anabaptist folks. I think that is for all the reasons we've been talking about. It's an impossible position. A New Testament Christian is a Christian who takes the Old Testament fundamentally seriously as active of living scripture for the moment and who goes there, as well as to the New Testament, for instruction on faith and life. And given the culture we're in at the minute, given the drift of the church away from scripture into these cultural domains of intuition and all the rest of that. It's very, very important that we seek actively to renew our commitment to being whole Bible Christians. All of us need to do that. And I would suggest that there are some emphases in anabaptism that are not helpful to that necessity. And that's what I would probably want to say about it.

Rob Thiessen:
That's good. Well, thank you so much, Iain and Kristal, for investing a time in our community by sharing what the Lord has been teaching you and being with us today. And I hope for our audience and listeners that this will inspire us all to be men and women of the scripture and to get to know the God of the Bible through his revealed word to us. So until next time, this is Rob saying goodbye.

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