Sunday, February 22, 2004


This is ski vaction-week in New Hampshire, and we are off to Killington Vt. Probably no posting this week.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Can charges of anti-Semitism foster anti-Semitism?

There are two things that make my blood boil.
  • Declaring that the gospels are anti-Semitic, when they're not.

  • Declaring that the gospels are not anti-Semitic, when they are.

Let us deal with the second issue first. Of the two, it is the theological plank. It refers to worshiping on the altar of ecumenicalism. It's the rancid spew from Bishop Spong, and the heresy of certain Catholic Bishops. It is arguing, that in spite of Christ’s own plain teaching, there are many paths to salvation. That in fact, Christianity is not even needed. We all could have remained as Jews. Not so. The saved are members of an exclusive (though ultimately large) club. To say otherwise is heresy. God can save whomever He chooses, but the only method He reveals to us through His word is a saving faith in Christ. To argue that that saving faith can be present in someone who denies Christ (a Jew) is taking apostate liberty with the New Testament. So in this sense, as we all know, the gospels are anti-Semitic. Jews should be proselytized.

The first issue is related to charges of gospel anti-Semitism we read about almost daily. These charges are not theologically based, but cultural. They come in variations of the theme that the gospels are anti-Semitic because they teach that the Jews killed Christ. This is clear in the response to The Passion of the Christ.

Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said "The film unambiguously portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob as the ones responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus…We are deeply concerned that the film, if released in its present form, will fuel the hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism that many responsible churches have worked hard to repudiate."

ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs Rabbi Eugene Korn has stated, “Sadly, the film contains many of the dangerous teachings that Christians and Jews have worked for so many years to counter… this film may undermine Christian-Jewish dialogue and could turn back the clock on decades of positive progress in interfaith relations.”

Both statements are equivalent to saying that World War II movies should not be made because they might incite violence against Germans, Italians, or Japanese.

First of all, the Gospels don’t teach that the Jews killed Christ, but that among the literal murderers of Christ, Jews are numbered. If The Passion were a Law and Order episode, some Jews would be arrested, tried, and convicted.

Appeasement pressure of this sort apparently caused Gibson to remove a portrayal of Matthew 27:15: And all the people said, His blood shall be on us and on our children!"

(Related to this, some argue that this passage is fulfilled in a positive manner, i.e., that it is a good thing that the blood of Christ is upon his murderers. This is true for those who repented, but clearly that is not what the passage means, and to try to force that interpretation is to do violence to the scriptures. This passage is a challenge from some Jews for the wrath of Christ to be poured upon themselves, easy to make given that they did not fear Him as the Son of God. This challenge was answered within the generation when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, killed over a million Jews, and enslaved almost a million others. Likewise “we all killed Christ” is glossing over the fact that actual human beings actually murdered Christ, and there is no point denying it. It was, in fact, a good thing—ordained by God, but the murderers are still accountable for their crimes.)

Criticisms of this sort boggle my mind. It seems to me that any thinking Jew should conclude that Yes the Christians believe that some Jews and some Romans killed Christ. That is what their bible teaches. If I were a Christian, I would believe the same thing. Instead, the argument is quickly becoming you, Christian should not even believe your bible, because it is anti-Semitic. Toss it out. And the ecumenical movement caves to this appeal by either teaching that the scriptures have been corrupted, or that Mathew 27:15 has become a blessing on the Jews, or that the idea that Christ saves pietistic Jews in spite of their apostasy is not in violation of orthodox Christianity.

So now to my question. Can relentless attacks on one’s beliefs from a group (the Jews) affect in fallen man a shift against that group? Will Christians, for long the best friends of the Jews, modify their stance after endless polemics that their gospels are, in effect, evil and racist?

I’m just posing the question. What do you think?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Mode of Baptism

[Note: Joel Garver has recently posted on this topic.]

I believe that baptism by immersion is a perfectly fine, perhaps because of its resurrection symbolism, even the preferred method.

However, those that argue that it is the only acceptable method of baptism are wrong. Not to mention that there is a nebulous inconsistency to the following view point:
  • Baptism is purely symbolic. It is not a means of grace.

  • You must do it in this precise manner and say these precise words. Even though there is nothing supernatural that occurs.

The main reason for arguing this way is a shaky etymological analysis of the Greek words bapto and baptizo which translate into English as immerse, sink, drown, go-under, dye, dip, bathe, or wash.

Immersion-only proponents like to argue that all these meanings signify total submersion. They don't (as we shall see.) However even if they did, the question would remain that if every account of baptism clearly indicated immersion was used, does that prove that it is the only acceptable mode? Before you answer yes let me ask two isomorphic questions:

  1. If every biblical account of baptism related that immersion was used, would that prove that immersion is the only acceptable means?

  2. If every biblical account of the Lord's Supper related that actual wine was drunk, would that prove that grape juice is a no-no?

This is not an open and shut case. (Early Christian art depicts people standing in a river, with water being poured over their heads.) In arguing against this view, that immersion is required, I would like to frame the debate as follows.

Does the use of the word baptizo convey a sense of cleansing or a sense of being submerged? If the word is used in the sense of washing, then we see that the true meaning of baptism is its serving as a sign (and a means) of washing away sin.

The best place to answer this question is, surprisingly, in the Old Testament. Specifically, we compare where the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) uses precisely the word in question baptizo (or a variant form of the same word) and look at how those passages have been translated into English. Do they mean immerse? Let’s take a look.

In all these passages, a form of baptizo is used in the obvious place.
Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean." (2 Kings 5:10)

"Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws. (Dan 4:33)

and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, in front of the veil. (Lev 4:17)

"As for the live bird, he shall take it together with the cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slain over the running water. (Lev 14:6)

At mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left. (Ruth 2:14)

and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), (Josh 3:15)

But Jonathan had not heard when his father put the people under oath; therefore, he put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. (1 Sam 14:27)

Notice that many (all?) of these passages are related to priestly cleansing. Some indicate a situation where the "immersion" translation is physically impossible. In Lev. 14:6, there is not enough blood in the first bird with which one could submerge the second. In fact the only passage where one might argue for immersion is the cleansing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5, but even there the key is the washing, not the getting wet.

Finally, it is worth noting that documents from the early church indicate that the order of events for an adult convert was:

  1. Assent to the gospel
  2. Be baptized (more or less immediately, if possible)
  3. Receive instruction
In the modern era, evangelical churches have reversed steps (2) and (3). They require a convert to be catechized before being baptized. It would be as if Philip had instructed the Ethiopian eunuch to spend a few months studying and then, if he passed an oral exam, he could be baptized.

Early church liturgy would pose the question to the body, "Does anything hinder this (convert) from being baptized?" Modern day practice is closer to "Has this convert passed an exam?"

Man. I guess am now a Reformed, partial-preterist postmillennialist sprinkling-is-OK paedobaptist teaching adult Sunday school in a Baptist church. Is this a great country or what?


My template was trashed. If I delinked you, it was by accident. Let me know.

Welcome Back

Craig Schwarze's blog Thinking Out Loud (the first blog to link to this one) has returned after a one year hiatus. Welcome back!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Infant Baptism

I have been thinking a great deal about baptism. What it means. Who should be baptized. When should they be baptized. Do they have to be baptized.

I have always approached this subject the wrong way. I looked for rules in scripture. I lamented that scripture is never clear about the composition of "the households." (Taken as purely circumstantial evidence, the household passages favor the infant baptism position. The scripture identifies the head of the household as the believer, and never mentions that every adult member of the household made a credible public profession of faith.)

Credobaptists will understandably point to verses that teach the sequence: believe and be baptized. These verses, on the surface, support the practice of credobaptism.

Of course, it is always true that one can never be certain that the professing adult is sincere in his testimony. Even more insidious, he might be sincere (actually believe) and still not be saved. Such is the case, for example, of Simon the sorcerer.

Nevertheless, we can accept that scripture teaches: believe and be baptized.

What it does not teach is that a public profession of Christ is necessary at the time of baptism.

And, more importantly, and what took me a while to appreciate, but which now seems obvious is: scripture does not teach that infants, even those in the womb, cannot be believers.

After all, as the case of Simon the sorcerer demonstrates, as well as the demons in the book of James, and the rocky soil types, that simple intellectual assent (belief) is not enough. One must be regenerated. One must be given a saving faith in Christ.

Such a person, one who has been regenerated, believes and should be baptized, regardless of whether they can articulate their belief.

If we believe that any children who die in the womb or in infancy are saved, then they must have been regenerated. They were "qualified" for baptism, and yet many churches would deny them that privilege.

Would there be children baptized who were not and would never be saved? Of course. Just as there are adults who are not believers and yet are baptized.

If you believe children should not be baptized, I wonder how you deal with the following situation. In the next age, you meet a fellow saint. She tells you that she died at five days old. "How were you saved?" you ask. “By faith in Christ, just like you, of course,” she replies. Then she adds, "By the righteousness of Christ I was reborn before physical death, sanctified, and made perfect. Though a sinner for the short time from conception to death I was able to stand blameless before a holy God. But, apparently, I was never qualified to be baptized in your church."

Believe and be baptized is correct. Assuming that infants can not be believers is wrong.

Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts.
(Ps. 22:9)

Monday, February 16, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 13)

No Faith on Earth?

I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)

This ending of the parable of the Persistent Widow is used to indicate a gloomy state of affairs that Christ will encounter upon his return. This is, of course, a refutation of the postmillennial view. We quote several dispensational writers:

This is 'an inferential question to which a negative answer is expected.' So this passage is saying that at the second coming Christ will not find, literally, 'the faith' upon the earth. 209

In the original Greek, the question assumes a negative answer. The original text has a definite article before faith, which in context means this kind of faith. 210

The end times will not be days of great faith. 211

Here is a thumbnail of the multi-faceted postmillennial response. 212

  1. It might be that Christ is not asking will he find faith (as in 'saving faith in Christ') upon his return, but will He find faith as manifested by persistent prayer as alluded to by the parable. As such, this can be viewed as motivational, much like the postmillennial view of Matt. 7:13-14. Think of a coach of highly favored team trying to motivate his players, perhaps after a lackadaisical practice, with "will anyone even show up ready to play tomorrow?"

  2. Jesus asks "pessimistic" questions elsewhere, and explicitly positive responses are provided:

    66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
    67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
    (John 6:66-68)

  3. The terminus of the prophecy is debatable; Christ might not be speaking of the end-of-time at all. Just a little earlier in Luke?s gospel (Luke 17), Christ is speaking of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and Luke 18:8 may also refer to that coming in wrath rather than the Second Advent. This is especially favored in light of the fact that Christ speaks of quick justice: I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly, indicating a near term fulfillment. Christ might be advising fervent prayer in light of the events that will unfold in that generation.

  4. A technical argument can be made that the Greek does not require nor even imply a negative answer.

  5. It is a straw-man argument, because no eschatology literally expects a negative answer to the question of Luke 18:8. Dispensationalism does not teach that Christ will find no faith at all, at either second coming: the rapture or the Glorious Appearance.

209 H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice, Dominion Theology Blessing or Curse? 1988, p. 229.
210 Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust, p. 48.
211 W. Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary, 1989, 2:249.
212 Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 494.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Protestant "Sacred" Tradition?

Jay at the Catholic Apologetics site DeosOmnisGloria has posted on Protestant Tradition. He begins with this statement:

Protestants are quick to suggest that all traditions fall under the condemned “traditions of man” in the Bible. However, what protestants don’t realize is they also trust in tradition. There are some key beliefs they hold to that are actually not Biblically-based (which suggests they are based on tradition). We’ve discussed this multiple times within the comments section of this blog, but I thought I would point out a few of them and see if any of our protestant readers can explain how and why these are believed.

Before we look at Jay’s examples, it is important to point out just what tradition means to a Protestant. Jay is correct if he is saying that many evangelicals have a hairline trigger when it comes to the topic of tradition, instantly denouncing it in a misguided guilt-by-association with Catholic sacred tradition.

Protestants should and in many cases do regard tradition with high esteem. In short:
  • Protestants do not (or should not) deny tradition.

  • Protestants find traditions to be valuable.

  • Protestants have many traditions.

The difference between Protestants and Catholics is that we do not believe that a church has the authority to bind your conscience to a tradition. The last church I attended was a Reformed Baptist church that had the tradition of teaching the amillennial position. It even put "amillennial" on its church sign. But you were not considered to be committing a sin if you did not affirm that end-times view.

Jay continues, giving a list of examples:

Here's a quick list of the "traditions" or unBiblical beliefs protestants hold to (feel free to add more as comments):

  • ”God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit make up the Trinity”. No where does the Bible explain the Trinity.

  • ”We attend church on Sunday”. In the Old Testament we are told the Sabbath is Saturday and the Bible never changes this policy. Why then do protestants attend Sunday services?

  • ”The Bible was ‘compiled’ by God”. Often protestants don’t realize (a) the Catholic Church compiled the Bible and (b) Martin Luther is the only person to add and/or subtract from it (he did both).
  • ”Sola Scriptura is Biblical”. This is the big one: protestants hold that the Bible is our sole source of truth. Of course, this is not Biblical. For example: if Sola Scriptura is valid, where does the Bible list the books that should be included?

  • ”The Jews accepted Sola Scriptura”. You can’t even recreate a sin offering using the Old Testament, so it would be impossible. Secondarily, there were three versions of the Old Testament during Jesus’ day; different groups trusted in different books.

  • ”Pastors should be elected by church members”. Again, no Biblical basis for this. In Acts, the remaining 11 apostles fill the “seat” of Judas by drawing straws.

As for the Trinity, I am amazed when a Catholic claims (not all Catholics do) that the Triune God is not clearly revealed in scripture. While I have blogged about a scriptural proof of the trinity (a relatively minor exercise) I won't belabor the obvious. A simple search should reveal any number of straightforward exegeses.

Sola Scriptura that has been argued so many times, including on this blog, that I have little stomach for doing it yet again. We can save some time. Here is how the argument would go:

  • You'll say that Sola Scriptura is not in the bible and therefore refutes itself.

  • I'll point out the verses from which one can plainly deduce the doctrine. You'll disagree, or perhaps argue that deduction should be outlawed under the ground rules of Sola Scriptura. It isn't.

  • You'll probably argue that it was unheard of until the Reformation. I'll point out where it appears in the writings of early church fathers. You'll point out how some of those fathers also wrote about tradition. I'll counter as to how I wasn't trying to show how they were consistently following Sola Scriptura, only that the doctrine was not invented in the sixteenth century.

  • At some point, if not by then, Sola Scriptura will be completely misrepresented, and I'll have to provide a list of what it is not. For the record, Sola Scriptura, does not say

    • That every thing that Jesus or the Apostles taught was recorded.

    • That anything that wasn't recorded was not edifying or valuable. I have heard many edifying and valuable sermons that are not in the Bible.

    • That the Bible contains everything.

    • That you can't believe something that isn't in the bible.

So the bottom line is that we would get nowhere, because the Catholic will claim that Sola Scriptura is a tradition because it is not taught in scripture, and Protestants will say that it is demonstrably biblical.

As for electing pastors, that is indeed a tradition. No argument. Like I said, we have lots of traditions. Nobody should deny otherwise. Many if not most issues of church order and government are also traditions.

The most interesting of Jay's points concerns the canon of scripture. And in this case I agree with him.

Catholics view their canon as an infallible collection of infallible books as designated by an infallible church.

Many Protestants view the sixty six books of a Protestant bible also as an infallible collection of infallible books. This is not correct. If you hold this view as indisputable, then you are elevating a tradition to a revealed truth, and the source of that revelation is not biblical and is, in fact, councils of post-apostolic men. You then have a Protestant sacred tradition.

No, the correct view of the canon is that it is a fallible collection of infallible books. This is the only position consistent with our denial of sacred tradition. Now just because the potential exists for having say, omitted a book that should have been included, it doesn’t mean that an error was made. But, however unlikely, it is possible. And of course you can believe in your heart, as I do, that the Holy Spirit guided the process, but that belief is a tradition.

(Having said that, Jay does not give historic service to the reasons for excluding the books known as the Apocrypha. That debate centers around whether they were viewed as canonical or secondary by Judaism. The Catholic Church says the former; the Reformers and many other who preceded them, such as the Jewish historian Josephus, hold to the latter. Jay unfortunately makes it sound like a willy-nilly edict from Luther.)

Now many of my fellow Protestants might want to argue against me, but unfortunately unless you can find somewhere in the bible where it says that the book of Jude should be in the canon, you are forced to acknowledge that a decision was made to include Jude.

At one point Luther attacked the book of James. He was not denying that scripture was infallible; he was arguing that James was not scripture (he later recanted his objection.) However it points out that Luther did not regard the canon as infallible, but he did regard scripture as infallible.

If that makes you nervous, it shouldn't.

First of all, there always was a bible, even in the New Testament. The Christian church was never without a bible. The New Testament refers to itself in places and it was clear that scriptures were already used by the apostles (2 Pet 3:16, 1 Tim 5:18).

Secondly, you should study the process. It was not a chaotic Iowa caucus of people arguing which books should be included. Criteria were established, the three important requirements being:

  1. Apostolic authority. This meant that either it was written by or authorized by a living apostle.

  2. It was accepted by the early church.

  3. It did not conflict with "indisputable" books such as the gospels.

With these criteria, there was only serious debate about a handful of books, including Hebrews and James (because of uncertain authorship), Revelation, and a few others.

The bottom line is that concerning the canon, Jay is correct. Many Protestants do have a "sacred tradition" regarding the table of contents of the bible. It shouldn't and needn't be so. It is actually just a church tradition, but one in which we can be confident.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Here we go again...

One of those Calvinism debates, this time in the comment section of Mark Shea's blog. It started when I commented in one of Mark's posts making fun of James White. I mentioned that I like James White, and ultimately I was asked by one of Mark's readers:

Does God Love me?

Now in reality, witnessing never begins this way, but I was being baited, which of course I knew. If I said yes, then the line of questioning will go down the path of "well then I can be sure to be of the elect, right?" (Actually, I would agree with that conclusion.) Anyway, though I knew from painful experience what would happen, I gave my honest answer to the question:

I don't know.

I added that, if you believe in Him you will be saved, but that was lost. Immediately everyone zeroed in on the fact that I don't believe the Bible teaches that God loves everyone. (He exhibits a benevolence to all, which you might call love if you choose to, but clearly not the same kind of love toward all, and scripture does say He hates certain people or types of people, so I don't why it pushes so many buttons to say He doesn't love everyone.)

That then resulted in this post, and the fight took off.

If you like this sort of thing, enjoy. The only thing missing in this round is my friend garver hasn't joined in apologizing and explaining how I represent the crazy-aunt-in -the-attic lunatic fringe of the Reformed, Karl hasn't called me a heretic, Wayne hasn't said I am no better than the god-hates-fags nazis, and Josh S. hasn't labeled me a crack head!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Passion and the 2nd Commandment

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.

Here is an article that argues Mel Gibson's movie may be a violation of the Second Commandment.

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 12)

Few are Saved

Another criticism against postmillennialism is based on passages that suggest few will be saved, such as

13"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt. 7:13-14)

We could stop here, but this is interesting enough (I suspect) that we should see how postmillennialism answers this.

This and similar passages (Matt 22:14) must stand side-by-side with passages that indicate vast multitudes in heaven:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Rev 7:9)

And, shortly after he uttered the words of Matt. 7:13-14 above, Jesus said:

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 8:11)

The word polus for "many" (who will be saved) in Matt. 8:11 is the same word translated to "many" (on the path of destruction) in Matt 7:13. Elsewhere Jesus promises that His father’s house has many rooms (John 14:2).

How can this be? First of all, that the path is narrow is not relevant. A mountain pass can be narrow and treacherous, yet a competent guide can lead the majority of his charges safely through. Nobody denies the path is narrow: Jesus is the only way to eternal life. Still there is the aspect that few will find the narrow gate.

There are two possibilities of reconciliation. One is that the verses don't mean what a plain reading would indicate. That seems unlikely. The verses quoted here and others relevant for this debate are straightforward. The better explanation is, propose by Warfield and others: some of these verses are prophetic, some are contemporary and ethical. Postmillennialists believe that verses such as Rev. 7:9 and Matt. 8:11 are prophecy. Matt. 7:13-14, on the other hand, is a call to the apostles to get to work—do not sit back and rest on God's Sovereignty. So few in those early days chose to follow Christ, but that does not imply that such will be the case in all ages. Matt. 7:13-14, in this perspective, is the initial ethical motivation of the Great Commission, similar to Paul's call to witness in Rom. 10:14-15.

Even "ambiguous" passages, such as the Dragnet parable:

47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 478 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. (Matt. 13:47-48)

and the famous book of life passage

If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:15)

Have, according to postmillennialists, a tone that suggests while evil is present until the end, it is the exception to the rule. The dragnet (kingdom of heaven) pulls in many fish, the catch is mostly good, but some are thrown out. It seems to be presented as the exception that a name is not in the book of life. And in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:14-29; 36:43), we find the angels harvesting a wheat field that contains some weeds, not a weed field with a smattering of wheat.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 11)

Biblical Arguments against Postmillennialism

As is often the case, passages that one side find supportive another side views as providing strong refutation.

The Kingdom Parables

The parables of the kingdom are believed by postmillennialists to constitute a substantive piece of that doctrine's biblical basis. Postmillennialists hold that these parables teach of a church that starts small and gradually grows to encompass the earth, although even at the end some evil will be present. Other viewpoints, especially dispensationalism, have an entirely different perspective.

The Parable of the Sower

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matt 13:23)

According to Pentecost, this passage indicates not an increase in the success of the gospel, but a decrease, contradicting postmillennialism and supporting dispensationalism:

During the course of the age, there will be a decreasing response to the sowing of the seed, from a 'hundredfold' to 'sixty' to 'thirty'. Such is the course of the age.202

[Editorial comment: I am not supposed to rebut the criticism but I can’t resist. The passage talks about multiplicative increases, so even the weakest one (thirty-fold) is quite impressive. And as more are saved, it would naturally be harder to increase multiplicatively. If everyone were saved, there would be no room left for growth. Even more inexplicable, Pentecost makes this argument despite the fact that the same parable in Mark’s gospel reverses the order of the increases (Mark 4:8)]

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

31He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." (Matt. 13:31-32)

The New Scofield Reference Bible states that "[this parable] suggests the rapid but unsubstantial growth of the mystery aspect of the kingdom." I do not know what "rapid but unsubstantial growth" means. Pentecost provides a more detailed exegesis:

As the age progresses, several factors are to be observed. (1) The age is characterized by an abnormal external growth. That which was to be an herb has become a tree—it has developed into a monstrosity. (2) The monstrosity has become a resting place for birds [which are types of evil].203

Pentecost views the parable as teaching of large but cancerous growth, not large spiritual growth as taught by postmillennialists.204

The Parable of the Leaven

He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." (Matt 13:33)

The New Scofield Reference Bible has an extensive commentary on this parable. In short, the flour is good and the leaven is evil, and so what is happening is pure church is ultimately corrupted by, once again, a kind of tumor of apostasy, a corrupting evil that begins small but eventually spreads throughout. Leaven, like birds, is said to be a type of evil, with reference to phrases such as "the leaven of the Pharisees." 205

Pentecost has this interpretation, which I am glad I din't make, but am happy to report:

The progress of the age is marked, according to this parable, (1) by the ministry of the woman. 206 This evidently refers to the work of a false religious system (Rev. 2:20; 17:1-8)….(2) The age is marked by the introduction of the leaven. This figure [leaven] is used in scripture to portray that which is evil in character… 207

In short, postmillennialists see the kingdom parables as promising slow but inevitable growth. Other's see them quite differently, with dispensationalists in particular arguing that they teach of the church being overcome by an unchecked increase of evil.

202 J. Dwight Pentecost. Things to Come, (Zondervan), 1958, p. 146.
203 Ibid., p. 147
204 Birds are not always types of evil, cf. Gen 1:20; Deut 14:20, Matt 6:26. And especially: Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will 'pass over' it and will rescue it. (Is. 31:5)
205 Leaven is not always a type of evil, cf. Lev. 7:13; 23:17.
206 Um…, women are not always types of evil. Even within the restricted domain of the Kingdom Parables, cf. Matt. 25:1-13; Luke 15:8.
207 Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 148.

Monday, February 02, 2004

New Perspective Article

Douglas Wilson has written a good article on the New Perspective on Paul. There. I said it.

I was amazed, being somewhat familiar with the literature on this topic, to discover that Wilson, in contrast to many others, wrote cogently while, at the same time, to my surprise and delight, he was gracious and humble—at least relatively so.