Friday, September 22, 2017

Drama of Redemption Part 3 (Modified)

This series is largely based on R. C. Sproul’s audio series The Drama of Redemption, available from his website.

Part 1
Part 2

The purpose of this series is to develop an appreciation for the coherency of the Old Testament and the plan for redemption. Last time we discussed the Covenant of Redemption, a pact made among the persons of the Godhead before Adam fell--indeed before creation. It was an agreement that the Father would choose a people, the Son would perform the work required to redeem them, and the Holy Ghost would give them second life.

Christians tend to resist a coherent view of redemptive history that results from this first covenant. There is a tendency to think that matters were a bit out of control in Old Testament times, and order to God's plan was established only by the advent of the New Testament era.

As an example of this way of thinking in the extreme, let's take a look at the early Gnostic heretic Marcion.

Marcion: a useful heretic
Marcion was son of the Bishop of Sinope in Pontus (Asia Minor), born c. A.D. 110, evidently from wealthy parents. Around the year A.D. 140 he traveled to Rome and presented his peculiar teachings to the elders. They found his ideas unacceptable. Marcion’s response was to leave the church and form his own heretical sect.

Marcion’s heresy anticipates some that followed. Marcion (1) denied the authority of the entirety of the Old Testament and (2) denied the authority of all the apostles except Paul, because only Paul (according to Marcion) did not allow his faith to be defiled by mixing it with Judaism. Only Paul had not apostatized from the teachings of Jesus.

To the issue at hand, Marcion was perhaps the first of many to claim that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament. Jesus’ many appeals to the Old Testament notwithstanding, Marcion believed that Jesus Himself placed no authority in the Old Testament and had come to liberate man from the bondage to the Old Testament God.

Marcion taught, in effect: the God of the Old Testament is not my God—and the work of Christ, far from being the ultimate stage of a coherent plan, was a radical departure from the rather insane workings of the Old Testament mean spirited god.

Jesus, according to Marcion, demonstrating his Gnostic tendencies, was not the son of the God of the Old Testament, but the son of the superior God of goodness and mercy of the New Testament whom Marcion called the Father. Jesus, according to Marcion, did not redeem us in cooperation with God as revealed in the Old Testament; he redeemed us from that nasty and capricious being.

The sacred writings (including Paul’s letters), Marcion taught, had been corrupted by Judiazers if not directly by the Jewish sympathies of the apostles (excluding Paul). All scripture was in need of a cleansing under Marcion’s direction.

So Marcion deleted the Old Testament, and, again gnostic-like, developed his own canon consisting of two parts: The Gospel, a sanitized version of Luke’s gospel, and The Apostle, a similarly sanitized version of Paul’s first ten letters. Much good came from Marcion’s heresy and corruption of scripture: his distorted canon provided the impetus for the Church to redouble her efforts to establish a proper canon of her own.

The point is: there is a little bit of Marcion in most of us. It is quite easy to slip into thinking that the God of the Old Testament is “different” and that Jesus’ work fixes a broken plan. The Covenant of Redemption says otherwise: 1) God would choose, and God would, through the Jews, demonstrate why a savior was needed: if a chosen people with unprecedented blessings cannot achieve redemption, what hope is there for the rest of us? 2) Christ would redeem, paying the price for those God has chosen, claiming them as his own and intervening on their behalf, and 3) the Spirit would give second life and help them to work their salvation.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hate Your Enemies

Covenant theologians will point to this passage from the Sermon on the Mount:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt 5:43-44)
as a proof text that Jesus was correcting bad teaching and not, as I would contend,  introducing a new and better revelation of moral law.  Before addressing that, let's make one thing clear: Regardless of wether Jesus was correcting or revealing, there is absolute agreement that in the New Testament era we are to love our enimies.

The question at hand is whether in the Old Testament the Israelites were ever commanded to hate their enemies. If they were, then Jesus is changing, not correcting. Hold that thought.

The covenant theologian will say: Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find: "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." Therefore Jesus was not correcting sound biblical teaching, but all-out rabbinical inventions and distortions. This is their strongest argument, and the plank upon which it rests is true, the text of v43 is not to be found in the Old Testament. We never find them, the hate/love commands, joined at the hip. 

But if we find them separated, then anyone would have to admit that it is pedagogically sensible to join them to place them in contrast to the correct (or new) lesson of v44.  

So, do we find a command to love our neighbor in the Old Testament? Of course we do.

Now, were the Israelites were ever commanded to hate their enemies? It is my contention that indeed they were. And the onus, I would argue, is not on me to show that the Old Testament taught the Jews that they should always hate all their enemies, all the time. To make my case I am satisfied (whether anyone else is or not) that I only have to show that there is a solid example in the Old Testament where hating one's enemies is commanded. If the Jews were ever taught to hate some enemies, then Jesus is introducing new teaching that strictly forbids what was previously allowed.

So, where were the Jews taught to hate their enemies? The obvious place to turn is to the imprecatory Psalms where David clearly espoused hatred of the enemies of God, for example:
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LordAnd do I not loathe those who rise up against you?  I hate them with complete hatred;  I count them my enemies. (Ps. 139:21-22)
One could also give the circumstantial evidence of Joshua's campaign against the Canaanites. Now you could argue, as some do, that Joshua's genocide was not personal. However if the Jews were actually commanded to love the Canaanites, as the "corrective" view of covenant theology demands, then the horrific Canaanite incident becomes even more obscene as we imagine Joshua's army being commanded to slaughter men, women and children that they were also commanded to love. The mind reels.

That said, I won't rely on either the imprecatory Psalms or the conquest of the Holy Land. Instead I'll present this passage for your consideration:
You shall not seek their [the Ammonites and the Moabites] peace or their prosperity all your days forever. “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land.  (Deut 23:6-7)
Let us look at these two verses, using a sensible rule of interpreting commands due to Thomas Watson 1 (his rule 2),
2.1) When any duty is commanded, the opposite is forbidden
2.2) Where any sin is forbidden, the contrary is commanded
Take verse 7. Here a sin is forbidden, the sin of abhorring (hating) the Edomites and the Egyptians. 2 From Watson's rule, the opposite is to be commanded, namely that the Edomites and Egyptians are to be loved.
Now verse 6. We argue that to seek the peace and prosperity of the Ammonites and Moabites is tantamout  to loving these two people groups. This is what the Jews were forbidden to do. So again, by Watson's rule, the opposite is commanded. The Ammonites and Moabites were to be hated.

Well, I'm convinced. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm convinced.

1 Watson, Thomas. The Ten Commandments. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965.
2  The mere fact that the text singles out select groups by name that are not be hated but rather to be loved is further circumstantial evidence that other groups are to be hated, or at least "not loved." Otherwise the specification makes little sense.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Solomon, the (occasionally) Unwise One

At the time Solomon became king, there was no centralized place of worship for the people of Israel. Instead, many were worshipping indiscriminately in the “high places” in the mountains. And Solomon, instead of following the practices of his father David, who worshipped at the Ark, joined them. Ultimately, his worship practice and his insatiable desire for foreign women would be the undoing of the unified kingdom of Israel.

Before that, however, Solomon would complete his greatest accomplishment, the building of the temple. Remarkably it is accomplished through an agreement with the king of Tyre, who supplies materials and craftsmen:
1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram always loved David. 2And Solomon sent word to Hiram, 3"You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. 4But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. 5And so I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD said to David my father, 'Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.' 6Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians." (1 Kings 5:1-6
Alas, however, Solomon also makes an unwise decision:
King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men. (1 Kings 5:13)
He enslaves (more accurately a corvée, also described as a labor “tax”—wherein people were drafted into public works labor for specified periods) his own people to build the temple. God will use the fury created over Solomon’s use of forced labor to ignite the rebellion that will lead to a divided kingdom.

The interesting thing is the multithreaded nature of God’s sovereign plan. The dividing of the kingdom after Solomon’s death is ordained—but look how it plays out:
  • Back in the book of 1 Samuel, at the end of the era of judges, when the people were clamoring for a king, the prophet Samuel warns them that, among other negative consequences of their ill-advised request, they would be enslaved by their own king (1 Sam 8:12, 17).
  • Indeed, Solomon fulfills this prophecy, using forced labor to build the temple. (See also 2 Chron. 2:17-18)
  • This unwise choice by Solomon sets the stage for a rebellion.
  • Later, Solomon turns away from God (1 Kings 11) and worships, in those “high places,” the foreign gods of his 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines!
  • God is angered, and decrees that the kingdom would be divided.
  • After Solomon’s death, God uses the simmering resentment created by Solomon’s use of the corvée, as prophesied by Samuel, as the secondary means to accomplish his decree.
Very cool indeed, how it all works together.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Drama of Redemption Part 2 (modified)

This is a new Sunday School series which will be largely based on R. C. Sproul’s audio series The Drama of Redemption, available from his website.

Part 1

§1. The Eternal Drama

Sproul entitled his series The Drama of Redemption. His point is not that the story of redemption is dramatic fiction—but that it is a well directed, well crafted true-life drama—a reality show if you will. We all are actors, but some have leading roles. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Angels and men, men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the apostles. And there is unfolding action that spans history. This plan of God's is not a Rube Goldberg contraption—it is orderly, efficient and precise.

What we'll see, contrary to our view of the Old Testament as rather haphazard, is that this comprehensive story of redemption has a structure to it. And the skeletal framework of this structure is comprised of the biblical covenants. This does not mean that we must approach of God's redemptive plan through the eyes of what is called Covenant Theology. Both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism agree that there has been a series of biblical covenants referenced in scripture.

Now a covenant is an agreement or pact. It stipulates what two parties bring to the table, and what they receive. A covenant is usually of mutual benefit. Sometimes covenants are between equal partners, such as the marriage covenant. Other times they are between unequal partners, such as the agreement between an employer and the employee. In the case of covenants between God and man they are 1) between infinitely unequal partners, 2) acts of grace: God is not obligated to enter into any sort of contract with his creation, and 3) unlike human-human covenants that are negotiated, covenants between God and man are unilaterally imposed by God. Man does warrant a seat at the negotiating table,

However, none of that applies to the first covenant that we will discuss: the Covenant of Redemption which reformed theologians (most of them) state is inferred from scripture.

There are two unique features of the Covenant of Redemption:

  1. It doesn't involve man; the parties in this covenant are the members of the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  2. It was agreed upon prior to creation.

The Covenant of Redemption is an agreement among the three persons of the Trinity, established before the earth was created. It is the agreement that the Father would give a people to His son, the Son would perform the work necessary to redeem them, and the Spirit would sanctify them and give them second life.
18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (1 Pet. 1:18-20)

Peter teaches quite explicitly that Christ's role in redemption was not devised after the fall, or after the Jews failed in their obedience, but that it was already in place even before creation. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight, Paul writes (Eph. 1:4).

Wikipedia defines the Covenant of Redemption rather well:

The Covenant of Redemption is the eternal agreement within the Godhead in which the Father appointed the Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to redeem the elect from the guilt and power of sin. God appointed Christ to live a life of perfect obedience to the law and to die a penal, substitutionary, sacrificial death as the covenantal representative for all who trust in him.

This covenant is not appreciated by many Christians. Many view Christ's work not as a voluntary commitment from all eternity, but as a corrective measure. God made man, this way of thinking goes, and hoped that man would not fall. But fall man did: strike one. And after man fell, it is reasoned, God provided a way out for the Jews. But they were never able to respond with the required obedience: strike two. And so, to correct these mistakes, or perhaps to change the Father's mind, Christ had to come. A homerun off an 0-2 pitch.

This view is simply not true. As scripture clearly teaches, Christ knew he'd be coming to redeem a people before any people existed. His role was established prior to creation.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Old Testament Canon (modified)

Examining the table of contents of a Protestant and Catholic bible, we find that the Catholic bible contains seven extra books known as the Apocrypha. These seven books are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or, Sirach), and Baruch. In addition, Catholic Bibles contain an additional six chapters in the book of Esther and another three in the book of Daniel.

These books date from the period in between the old and new testaments.

These books are called "Apocryphal" not because the authors are unknown (for there are some canonical books whose authors are unknown) but probably, as Augustine says, because they are of an uncertain and obscure origin.

Why does the Catholic bible include the Apocrypha, while the Protestant bible includes only the part called "The Law (of Moses), the Prophets, and the Writings (Wisdom Books)?"

The answer comes from looking at the difference between two old testament canons that existed at the time of Christ: the Palestinian canon and the Alexandrian canon. The Palestinian canon did not include the Apocrypha; the Alexandrian canon used by that region's Hellenized Jews did include the extra books.

So the question is: which of these two Jewish canons should we receive as the Old Testament?

The Reformers rejected the Apocrypha because they were persuaded that it was the Palestinian canon that was recognized by the Jews of Palestine during Christ's time—and that Jesus himself would have used a canon that did not contain the Apocrypha.

It is something like an "it was good enough for Jesus so it's good enough for me" argument. But not completely.

The reformed theologian Francis Turretin (1623-1687—he is described by John Gerstner as "the most precise theologian in the Calvinistic tradition") wrote:
The Jewish church, to which the oracles of God were committed (Rom 3:2) never considered [the Apocrypha] as canonical, but held the same canon as us (as is admitted by Josephus, Against Apion 1.39-41)… They are never quoted as canonical by Christ and the apostles like the others. And Christ, by dividing all the books of the Old Testament into three classes (the law, the Psalms and the prophets, Lk. 24:44), clearly approves of the canon of the Jews and excludes from it those books which are not embraced in these classes. (3) The Christian church for four hundred years rec¬ognized with us the same and no other canonical books… The authors were neither prophets and inspired men, since they wrote after Malachi (the last of the prophets); nor were their books written in the Hebrew language (as those of the Old Testament), but in Greek. Hence Josephus (in the passage referred to above) acknowledges that those things which were written by his people after the time of Artaxerxes were not equally credible and authoritative with those which preceded "on account of there not being an indisputable succession of prophets"
Turretin's reference to Christ's words is worth examining:
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." (Luke 24:24)
As an aside, sometimes the debate over "the law" of the Old Testament is more confused than necessary because when a New Testament reference is made to "the Law" it not be referring to, say, the Ten Commandments but rather to the books written by Moses.

Thus, Turretin argues, Christ specifically mentions the three sections which we receive as canonical and omits the Apocrypha.

We also pay attention to Turretin's argument:
The authors (of the Apocryphal books) were neither prophets and inspired men, since they wrote after Malachi (the last of the prophets);
This is important. The first requirement for inclusion in the New Testament was that the writer was an apostle or carried the imprimatur of an apostle. (Exceptions to this rule not withstanding.) What applied to the apostles in the New Testament applied to the prophets in the Old Testament. The role of prophet in the Old Testament morphed into the role of apostle in the new. Prophets mentioned in the New Testament, in Acts, were given some future knowledge but were not at the level of prophets of old--they did not self-validate their visions with "thus safety the Lord."

So in summary: the Reformers arguments for excluding the Apocrypha are: 1) The Old Testament used by Jesus in Palestine would not have contained them, and he never quoted from them and 2) They were not written by a prophet.

Of course this does not mean that the Protestant view is that these books are garbage. On the contrary, they both interesting and informative. This is not like when formulating the New Testament canon when utter nonsense like The Gospel of Thomas was excluded--the Apocrypha were judged by the Reformers to be non-canonical, but not to be nonsense.

Friday, September 15, 2017

More Whining (from me) about the Law

Covenant Theologians, who want the Ten Commandments to be the consummate revelation of God’s moral law, 1 have a difficult task, though they are loath to admit it!.  It is not surprising 2—they want demand that in Jesus’ “but I say unto you” teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapter the fifth) are not new law but corrections of bad teaching from the authorities.

As I have talked about before, this has many problems including:

  • What comes before, in the same sermon, are the beatitudes. They are certainly new teaching. So we have to accept that Jesus segued from teaching something new into pharisee-correction mode. 
  • If Jesus is correcting the authorities he is being uncharacteristically mild. There is none of the “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, Yankees fans!” that we find elsewhere—so much so that “Woes of the Pharisees” has its own wiki page. 
  • There is that ginormous problem that one of the "corrections" (Matt 5:27) is "You have heard it said do not commit adultery, but I said until you..." The problem here is obvious: Do not commit adultery is exactly when God wrote on the tablets with his finger. If it is a correction, it is corrected God himself. May it never be. 

Then on the other bookend, it must be that Jesus segues again. For a few verses later Jesus teaches:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matt 5:38-39)
Here again Jesus appears to be replacing Mosaic Law (Ex. 21:24), not correcting faulty teaching. There is no way that you can morph the Old Testament passage into "turn the other cheek."3

But I have not heard a Covenant Theologian argue that Matt 5:38-39 is a correction. I believe they are willing to accept it as new teaching--because it is not one of "the" irreplaceable commandments.

So their (probably strawman)position regarding the Sermon on the Mount seems to me to be this:

  1. Jesus gave new teaching (the beatitudes) 
  2. He switched to corrective mode when talking about the Ten Commandments, even though he doesn't as was his custom, call out the religious authorities 
  3. After he finished discussing the Commandments he, though using the same "but I say unto you" format, was teaching new law 
 It seems, my friends, like such an unnecessary Rube Goldberg approach to the Sermon.

1 Which includes virtually everyone I worship with, admire, and am friends with, and who is into theology, and is not like all: "Eww, don't label me, I hate labels, I just love Jesus, that's enough!"

2 This would more or less leave God's moral law as the only item of theological significance that was more fully revealed in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. For if the Ten Commandments are supreme, then they are superior to Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.

3 Just like, in my mind, you cannot morph "Do not commit adultery" into "Do not lust", or "Do not kill" into "Do not hate". They are not corrections, they are new and improved replacements. (I know--you don't agree. That's cool.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Drama of Redemption (modified)

It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two. (Zech. 6:13)

This is largely based on R. C. Sproul’s audio series The Drama of Redemption, available from his website.


Many of us tend to view the Old Testament and the New Testament quite differently. Even though we know better, or we should know better, we see the Old Testament as mostly about God the Father. And our view of the Old Testament God, in spite of ourselves, leans toward the impression that he is, as often as not, reactive rather than proactive. We sometimes get the sense that God tries something with the Jews and when that fails he shifts gears and tries something else. Yes, in our heart of hearts we know and acknowledge that God is sovereign, and that he has an eternal plan that cannot be thwarted. But we act as if God’s desires for the human race are easily derailed.

Some time ago I was at a presentation about missionary activities of the Campus Crusade for Christ. He related the following story, variants of which are common. In fact, I’m not sure this is how he told it or how others told it or simply an amalgamation of similar stories. Anyway, it goes something like this:
There was a young missionary, a college student. He and his buddy were in Africa, heading to this remote village in Kenya. Before they set out, he was supposed to check the spare tire in the Jeep, but he forgot. Sure enough they got a flat in the middle of nowhere, and when they went to change the tire they discovered the spare was also flat. They ended up getting to the village a day late. Once there, they had a lot of success witnessing, and a lot of the natives came to Christ.

About a year later, the young man gets a letter from a young woman of the village, thanking him for his ministry and telling him how the faithful were doing. At the end, she told him that the only sad thing was that her grandfather died the morning the missionaries rode in. She wished he had lived another day to hear the gospel.

Now of course, this young man remembered that they lost a day due to his mistake of not checking the spare tire. It shook him up just thinking about it. That lost day, in his mind, might have cost someone his soul. To anyone who will listen he now warns: Be careful, don’t get lost, don’t get lazy, every day is crucial—once I was lazy and an old man may have paid a terrible price.

What’s wrong with this story? Everything is wrong. It paints a picture of a God who is not in control, a god who is little more than a cheerleader, a God that is shaking his head in heaven and saying “Man, I wanted to save that old guy, but those American college kids really screwed up. What a bummer.”

Now if the young missionary would state that his lesson learned was that we should behave as if a lack of zeal or as if a lack of preparedness could cost a soul, we’d not argue the point. But as stated we are compelled to object: No, that is simply wrong. God is sovereign. God’s plan for salvation cannot be derailed by human shortcomings—indeed God’s plan is designed with those shortcomings in mind.

Other than scripture, nothing states it quite as well as the Westminster Confession (Chapter 3):
  1. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
  2. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
  3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
  4. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
  5. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
  6. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

That’s how we must approach the study of redemption in the Old Testament. It was not trial and error with God finally giving up and sending Christ. It was all in God’s control, all ordained by God, all the time. Which gets us to the point of this series: a look at the unfolding of a perfectly executed and never deviating plan of redemption. It’s not a plan developed after man’s fall and later fine tuned in response to repeated Jewish national failures—it’s a plan that was conceived before man fell, even before creation itself.

The bible, Old and New Testaments, is the history of God’s plan of redemption. There are about 1189 chapters in the bible. Two deal with creation. One deals with the fall of man. The other 1186 deal, more or less, with redemption. Our goal is to come away with an appreciation of the continuity and integrity of this plan, to combat the view that after trying this and that and giving the Jews chance after chance God finally threw in the towel and sent his son as a last resort.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Go Captains!

Christopher Newport University continues its amazing journey toward national prominence. Here is how its ranking in USN &WR among Southern Regional Universities has improved (monotonically) since 2012:

CNU Rocks!

An Apology for Apologetics (modified)

The late John Gerstner gave the following reasons for apologetics:

1. People who argue against arguments (That is, Christians who claim that apologetics are unseemly, reason is unreliable, and only unquestioning faith is virtuous) are, in fact, making arguments. They are using their heads to justify not using their heads. To provide reasons for not using reason is simply not very smart.

2. You will encounter those who will, as they should, ask why. You need a because that is more substantive than just because.

3. When sane people appear to be against reason, they actually are not. When Tertullian said he believed (in God) because it was absurd (as opposed to logical) he was in fact saying that it was logical that the ways of an infinite, Holy God should (by reason) appear absurd to fallen creatures.

4. If Christianity claims to be true, then it requires prove. If we only needed to claim truth, the Christianity would be established, as would Mormonism, Scientology, Islam, and all other religions. Proof is not just for the atheist, but also the believer. As Chillingsworth put it:
I am certain that God has given us our reason to discern between truth and falsehood, and he who makes no use of it, but believes things he knows not why, I say, it is by chance that he believes the truth and not by choice; and I cannot but fear that God will not accept the sacrifice of fools.
Even when we jettison reason in favor of experience, we are actually reasoning. The very primitive reason is this: I have had an experience, and that experience could only come from God. But this reasoning is very weak, and requires the listener to take the speaker’s word for it. The apologist who has only experience is in a position of extreme weakness, like the Moody Bible student who witnessed about Christ in her life to a University of Chicago professor. The scholar, through probing questions that she could not begin to answer, eventually had her doubting her own salvation. She was right and he was wrong, but she didn't know her apologetics. She had the proof but didn't know how to express it, and ultimately believed she didn't have it.

5. Christ proved He was who He claimed to be.
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:11)

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." (Matt. 9:6)
Before healing the paralytic, Jesus forgave him of his sins, thus claiming His divinity. He then did not say: believe it or not. Rather he went on to prove His divinity by means that no rational person could deny.

6. The bible testifies to its own inspiration, but not through circular reasoning. The gospels have proven historically reliable, and they testify to a miracle working Jesus, miracles of which His enemies do not deny but rather attempt to attribute to Satan.

7. Through apologetics we demonstrate that the Creator is God, that God certifies His Son, that His Son certifies the Word, and that the Word certifies the gospel.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Shocker: Presuppositions lead to Different Interpretations

It is no surprise that the biases, baggage, and presuppositions (those are close to being synonyms) have a huge effect on our interpretations. My favorite example is from Daniel:
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Dan. 9:27)
Premillennialists interpret the "he (who) will put a stop to sacrifice" as the antichrist. Other millennial views interpret the "he" as Christ. The antichrist in some views, Christ in others, and in all cases reasonable given their presuppositions. Splendiferous!

The other day I listened as a brother used this verse to support his position that the Ten Commandments are still the definitive representation of God's moral law:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Rom 13:8-9) 
Simply stated his argument, which is more than reasonable, is that the dealing-with-people commandments are explicitly listed, therefore it supports his believe that the Decalogue is the representation.

I read that same passage, but with the bias, baggage, and presupposition that the Ten Commandments have been superseded by the Sermon on the Mount 1. So I see these commandments grouped with "any other commandment" and to me it sends a message (probably I am sending the message, round-trip) of their importance, yes, but also of their lack of supremacy. The supreme laws should not, I would think, be grouped with "any other commandment." And at the end of the quoted passage I see the supremacy of “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” which is not one of the Ten. It is from Jesus, not from Moses.

Same passage. Two people with a love for God and his Word. Two different people who would affirm the inerrancy of scripture. Two different conclusions. Biases, baggage, and presuppositions. We are right back to Daniel 9:27.

1 The debate over whether the Ten Commandments are (is?) the unchanging moral Law of God or a covenantal agreement through Moses and a foreshadowing of a new and better revelation is not a debate as to whether one is now free to, say, commit adultery. It is not a debate between moral living and antinomianism. The debate should not be couched that way--that is an entirely false dilemma and something of a slander. To express the debate fairly but crudely, if God told you to make poster of his most fully and completely revealed moral law, would you use Ex. 20:1-17 or Matt. 22:37-39 ?  I'd choose the latter, but given that I am viewed something of a left-wing lunatic that wanders at best dangerously close to the outer edge of the circle of Reformed orthodoxy, you better not take my word for it. Not that anyone would.

In my mind this debate has only one practical consequence. It is the fourth commandment. If you believe the Decalogue is the unchanging moral law of God (and you are consistent) then you have to treat the seventh first day in some unspecified but special manner. If you do not believe the Decalogue is the unchanging moral law of God, then you might, as I do, interpret a good portion of Hebrews as teaching that we are living in the eternal Sabbath day foreshadowed by the creation account (and the 4th Commandment) with a never ending rest possible because Christ finished his work. While some might argue that this degrades the seventh first day, I'd argue that it actually elevates the other six. Ha! However, remember again the penultimate sentence of the previous paragraph.