Russell and Duenes

Archive for August 2010

Directions for the Acquisition of Christian Knowledge

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I was re-reading Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, God Glorified in Man’s Dependence, when my attention was diverted to the final section of another of his sermons, entitled Christian Knowledge. Here exhorts his listeners as to how they may best acquire the knowledge of God in Christ. We would do well to follow his directions.

Directions for the acquisition of Christian knowledge

1. Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!

2. Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different; parts, casts great light upon itself.–We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.

3. Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.

4. Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other’s knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.

5. Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice.–If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii. 1. ” Knowledge puffeth up.”

6. Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle’s direction, James i. 5. ” If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: Prov. ii. 6. “The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Labour to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: 1 Cor. iii. 18. ” If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”

7. Practice according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100. ” I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”



Written by Michael Duenes

August 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Keep Flying Till It Won’t Fly Anymore

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I was reflecting today on a very dark and low period in my life, and something that my wise father said to me back then hit home again. He, having been an airline pilot for some 35 years and knowing a good deal about aircraft emergencies and crashes, told me that the first and primary rule for a pilot is the same rule we should have in life, no matter what the circumstance: “You keep flying that thing until she absolutely won’t fly anymore.”

I share this to encourage any of my readers who may be facing very difficult circumstances right now. Keep flying till the plane won’t fly anymore. Or as our Lord Jesus exhorts us, “Keep seeking, keep seeking, keep seeking!…and you will find.”


Written by Michael Duenes

August 29, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

The Objective Character of Scripture as Truth Validates My Subjective Experience of Its Truth.

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One of my regular readers and I have had some exchanges about the “objective” historical data in the Scripture and the necessity of such data for anyone to have true Christian faith. I have argued that historical facts – the death of Jesus on a Roman cross, his bodily resurrection from the dead and appearances to his disciples, and his ascension into heaven – cannot be jettisoned without also jettisoning the gospel. We have also discussed the necessity of the Christian’s having an existential “encounter” with the living Christ. Along these lines, I found this thought from Philip Edgcumbe Hughes from his chapter, The Problem of Historical Relativity, in the wonderful book, Scripture and Truth (ed., D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge). Hughes writes,

We may readily acknowledge that the message of the gospel, as it is read in the Scripture and heard in preaching, is thoroughly existential. There is indeed such a thing as a dynamic moment of encounter, when the message meets with faith and becomes truly and transformingly present and the Bible leaps to life in the experience of the believer as the authentic Word of God. But this is not the same thing as the illuminism of Karl Barth, according to which a fallible word of man may at a given moment become the veritable Word of God to me; nor is it compatible with the humanistic egocentrism of Rudolf Bultmann, which tears the heart out of the gospel record and makes the value of the Scripture dependent on the judgment of my experience of its worth. What is at stake is the actual truth of the biblical witness; not in the first place its truth for me…but its truth as coming from God. In other words, the objective character of Scripture as truth given by God comes before and validates my subjective experience of its truth. A person may willfully shut his eyes and deny that the sun is shining, and in doing so he is truly in darkness, both physical and intellectual; but once he opens his eyes, the sun’s brightness will transform his outlook. Though it is at that moment that his darkness is dispelled, the sun has never ceased objectively to be the sun and to radiate forth its brilliance.


Written by Michael Duenes

August 29, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology

Thank God, It’s Friday

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I started back to school this week, teaching three classes I’ve taught before (New Testament Epistles, Apologetics/ Ethics, and Special Ed Bible), and one new one (Koine Greek). I’m very grateful to be teaching these classes, especially Greek, which I’ve been studying since 1995. I’ve worked quite diligently to improve at it over the years, and so it is with thanks that I am now able to pass on this gift to others.

I’m very thankful as well to be able to work each day with such dedicated, diligent, and faithful people. I was particularly encouraged today by my fellow Bible Department teacher, Steve Gillette. He has been teaching at Redwood Christian High School for some 30 years now, and his love for the kids and joy in being able to train them up in the Lord is unabated. He throws himself into serving the students, not only as a teacher, but also as a coach, advisor, and mentor. He comes to sporting events and concerts and dramas in which the kids are involved because he loves them. He clearly has a special love for our foreign students who come to us from China, Korea and elsewhere. What a privilege it is to work with him and be a partner with him in the work of the gospel. I’m humbled by his example. Thank you, Father, for such a precious gift.

I’m also grateful for the many ways that God sustains us each day, particularly when doubts and questions creep into our hearts. We all have them, but when they come, it’s good to remember other saints who have gone before us in the faith, knowing that they wrestled with the same questions we do. It’s also good to consider our current brothers and sisters in the faith, who hold on to hope despite all manner of trial. And thank God for the saints in the Scriptures: King David, Moses, Paul and Peter, who wrote of their encounter with the living Christ with such power and genuineness. Thank you, O Lord, for your saints, who help to keep us in the faith.

I’m most thankful for the grace of God that comes to me every nanosecond of my existence. I do not keep myself in the faith; God holds me in it. Without him, all is lost.


Written by Michael Duenes

August 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Duenes, Thank the Lord

Living Well Just Now

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Clyde Kilby, former professor of Literature at Wheaton College, but now deceased, wrote a series of resolutions (HT: John Piper) which have proven encouraging to me at various times. Recently, I was meditating on this particular resolution:

I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, “fulfill the moment as the moment.” I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

This “living well just now” is a great word. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to Jesus’ similar words for reassurance over the years, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself; each day has enough trouble of its own.” Sometimes when I think about “the end” and life in heaven, I get paralyzed by my own fears. But I am helped when I think about trusting Jesus “just now” and asking him to help me obey at this moment, and then the next and the next. His grace comes new each new moment, and then my life does not seem unmanageable, and by God’s empowering presence, it’s not. Praise be to you, O Lord!


Written by Michael Duenes

August 24, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections