Friday, September 29, 2017

Scriptural Macroevolution (modified)

Sorry, the title is crass click-bait. Or is it?

The Septuagint is the common (Koine) Greek version of the Old Testament. It was translated from the Hebrew during the inter-testament period. It was revered, to say the least, with many Jews believing that the translators were inspired by God. Let us call this species of zealots Septuagint-Only-ites.

Jump ahead a half a millennium. In the early fifth century, Jerome and others, using Hebrew texts rather than the Septuagint, translate the Old Testament into Latin as part of the overall Latin translation known as the Vulgate.

Septuagint-Only-ites included in their ranks the usually level-headed Augustine. The Bishop of Hippo saw the riots in Tripoli that erupted following the introduction of the Vulgate as a sign that Jerome’s translation was attempting to usurp the True Word of God, i.e., the Septuagint.

So in the fifth century we have Septuagint-Only fundamentalists decrying the ultra-modern, heretical, commie-pinko, gender-challenged, feminist, National Anthem Disrespecting, Vulgate.

Here we also see the effectiveness of mutation in the evolutionary process. We see this in the case of the Vulgate’s mutation of the Greek word “repent,” metanoeite, as "do penance". This aberrant recessive gene still lingers in the pool, often skipping generations before being expressed:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 4:17, Douay Rheims) 
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17, ESV)

Eventually, from survival of the fittest (aka he with the biggest stick wins) the Vulgate took over. Over the next millennium, a new species of only-ites evolved, for they surely were not intelligently designed, and those were, of course, the Vulgate-Only-ites. The Vulgate-Only-ites were just as certain that their translation was inspired and inerrant as their least universal common ancestor, the Septuagint-Only-ites. In fact, with evolutionary novelty, they one-upped them: Vulgate-Only-ites argued that the Vulgate’s Latin New Testament was inspired and inerrant, and superior to the Greek from which it was translated! The preface to the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament argues the Latin Vulgate "is not only better than all other Latin translations, but than the Greek text itself, in those places where they disagree." (Preface to the Rheims New Testament, 1582).

The Council of Trent (1545-1563), called in response to the Reformation, declared, regarding the Vulgate:
Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.
Now around this time, just a bit before, we have the almost-Reformer Erasmus, influenced by the Renaissance, thinking that it would be a good idea to go back to the oldest sources and, with modern standards of scholarship, do a new translation from the extant Greek texts. Erasmus’ translation went through several editions, ultimately to be known as part and parcel of the “received text,” or the Textus Receptus.

So at the time of the Reformation, we have Vulgate-Only-ites. And we have the new modern interloper, the destroyer of tradition, the Textus Receptus.

The Textus Receptus is the basis of the Authorized Version, or the King James Bible.

Of course we now have a new speciation event: there now litters the landscape a peculiar hominid known as the KJV-Only-ite. Like the Vulgate-Only-ites, many KJV-Only-ites also believe that their One True translation is superior to the documents from which it was translated.

To review this sad tree:
  1. The Septuagint-Only-ites believed that their beloved translation was inspired and inerrant. The fiercely fought the heretical newcomers…
  2. The Vulgate-Only-ites, who believed that their beloved translation was inspired and inerrant. The fiercely fought the heretical newcomers…
  3. The Renaissance translators who are responsible for the Textus Receptus which forms the basis of the King James Version which, obeying the law of Unforeseen Consequences or “no good deed goes unpunished” resulted in…
  4. The KJV-Only-ites, who we see as merely the latest in the phylum Fundamentalicus Textular Extremicus.
What will come next? With evolution such as this, who can predict? I suspect it will be the "Okay-Google-Only-ites."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Humorous Scripture Remix

It is time to revisit the theologically important topic of humorous scripture. Please feel free to add any that we missed!

Here is an oldie but goodie, although I guess they are all oldies:

But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16)

Woe to the unbeliever who dares to invoke the name of Jesus! The very evil spirit you are attempting to combat will beat you and rob you of your dignity.

More assaults on dignity and modesty (why is that always funny?)

51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. (Mark 14:51-52)

The authorities clearly lacked competent police training--grab the arm, not the sleeve.

There are plenty in the Old Testament. One of my favs is rather gruesome I'm afraid:

20 And Ehud came to [the obese King Eglon] as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; (Judges 3:20-22)
I love the image of "Here you go dude, here's a personal message straight from God!".

Minor prophets do humor:

If a liar and deceiver comes and says, 'I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' he would be just the prophet for this people! (Micah 2:11)
And of course the famous warning to street urchins:
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord . Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. (2 Kings 2:23-24)

There's always Balaam's Donkey

28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.” (Num. 22:28-30)

One of my absolute favorites is Gideon's exchange with the Lord in Judges 6:17-18, particularly when Gideon says, "Wait here, will you, while I go get a present for you?" And the Lord, whom I imagine is tapping his foot, says, "Yeah. OK, I'll wait until you get back." 

No bachelor or bridegroom can afford to forget the Greatest. Pick-up line. Ever:

You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem,  awesome as an army with banners. (Song of Solomon 6:4)
And we can find sarcasm done right: "No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you." (Job 12:2)  

And it's hard not to admire Paul's selfless afterthought in Acts 26:29, at the conclusion of his hearing before King Agrippa: "I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am--except for these chains!" 

And guys, don't get Paul angry. You won't like him when he is angry.

In everyone's top five: Abraham's bargaining for Sodom in Genesis 18:23-33.

Have anymore? I need enough so that I can write a book! Come on people!


Persis (which the biblically ignorant autocorrect keeps changing to "Press")  likes Aaron and his "I didn't do nuttin'" excuse:

My favorite is Aaron trying to make excuses for the golden calf. "So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” Ex. 32:24 
IOW, don't blame me, bro. It was the people's fault for pressuring me, and the fire's fault for making the darn thing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Faith/Science Challenge (modified)

I double-dog dare you!

Below you will find ten abstracts (or in some cases, introductions) of ten peer-reviewed papers published in tier-one professional journals. Five are from unbelievers, five are from believers.

The hypothesis: If science and religion are incompatible, one should be able to determine the polluting effects of religion and pick out the tainted papers. If so, then the following challenge should be a piece O' cake:  find the five written by believers. If you can't, then the science/faith incompatibility charge has no teeth and no effect; it is in fact unfalsifiableindemonstrable, and irreproducible, and is therefore meaningless. At least from a scientific standpoint.

Here are some caveats and tidbits:
  • In almost all cases they are single-author papers. In a couple they have two authors. In those cases, the "target" author is the first author.
  • Some of the formatting was lost--especially some Greek characters, but that shouldn't matter.
  • One of them is from a scientist named Darwin!
  • That same scientist, who sadly passed away, I loved dearly--and was related to me by marriage.
  • I would say at least two (one in each group) and possibly four (two in each group) are by world-class (as in NAS quality) scientists. (Not to diminish the others, all of whom are competent researchers.)
  • You could, obviously, easily cheat by Google.
  • One of them should be a dead giveaway--a freebie--to members of the faith/science blogghetto.
1) The Quantum Hall Fluid and Non–Commutative Chern Simons Theory

The first part of this paper is a review of the author’s work with S. Bahcall which gave an elementary derivation of the Chern Simons description of the Quantum Hall effect for filling fraction 1/n. The notation has been modernized to conform with standard gauge theory conventions. In the second part arguments are given to support the claim that abelian non–commutative Chern Simons theory at level n is exactly equivalent to the Laughlin theory at filling fraction 1/n. The theory may also be formulated as a matrix theory similar to that describing D0–branes in string theory. Finally it can also be thought of as the quantum theory of mappings between two non–commutative spaces, the first being the target space and the second being the base space.

2) A New Class of Solutions to the Strong CP Problem with a Small Two-Loop θ

While the Standard Model (SM) has been enjoying fantastic success, it does have many loose ends which are potentially our guidepost to the new physics of the future. Two of the most significant loose ends are strong CP problem and the fermion mass hierarchy. Within the SM, the Yukawa couplings give rise to the fermion masses of all three generations and their mixings including the CP violation. Indeed it was first observed by Kobayashi and Maskawa[1] (KM) that only two generations cannot support any CP violating phase.The fact that all three generations have to be involved to create a CP violating phenomena, makes KM model an extremely subtle and beautiful model for CP violation. It also makes CP violation tightly connected with flavor physics.

3. Development and axonal outgrowth of identified motoneurons in the zebrafish

We have observed the development of live, fluorescently labeled motoneurons in the spinal cord of embryonic and larval zebrafish. There are 2 classes of motoneurons: primary and secondary. On each side of each spinal segment there are 3 individually identifiable primary motoneurons, named CaP, MiP, and RoP. The motoneurons of the embryo and larva are similar in morphology and projection pattern to those of the adult. During initial development, axons of primary motoneurons make cell-specific, divergent pathway choices and grow without error to targets appropriate for their adult functions. We observed no period of cell death, and except for one consistently observed case, there was no remodeling of peripheral arbors. We have observed a consistent temporal sequence of axonal outgrowth within each spinal segment.

4. Isoperimetric Numbers of Cayley Graphs Arising from Generalized Dihedral Groups

Let n, x be positive integers satisfying 1 <>. Let Hn,x be a group admitting a presentation of the form ha, b | an = b2 = (ba)x = 1i. When x = 2 the group Hn,x is the familiar dihedral group, D2n. Groups of the form Hn,x will be referred to as generalized dihedral groups. It is possible to associate a cubic Cayley graph to each such group, and we consider the problem of finding the isoperimetric number, i(G), of these graphs. In section two we prove some propositions about isoperimetric numbers of regular graphs. In section three the special cases when x = 2, 3 are analyzed. The former case is solved completely. An upper bound, based on an analysis of the cycle structure of the graph, is given in the latter case. Generalizations of these results are provided in section four. The indices of these graphs are calculated in section five, and a lower bound on i(G) is obtained as a result. We conclude with several conjectures suggested by the results from earlier sections.

5. The Return of a Static Universe and the End of Cosmology

We demonstrate that as we extrapolate the current _CDM universe forward in time, all evidence of the Hubble expansion will disappear, so that observers in our “island universe” will be fundamentally incapable of determining the true nature of the universe, including the existence of the highly dominant vacuum energy, the existence of the CMB, and the primordial origin of light elements. With these pillars of the modern Big Bang gone, this epoch will mark the end of cosmology and the return of a static universe. In this sense, the coordinate system appropriate for future observers will perhaps fittingly resemble the static coordinate system in which the de Sitter universe was first presented.

6. Supramolecular structure of the thylakoid membrane of Prochlorothrix hollandica: a chlorophyll b-containing prokaryote.

Prochlorothrix hollandica is a newly described photosynthetic prokaryote, which contains chlorophylls a and b. In this paper we report the results of freeze fracture and freeze etch studies of the organization of the photosynthetic thylakoid membranes of Prochlorothrix. These membranes exhibit four distinct fracture faces in freeze fractured preparations, two of which are derived from membrane splitting in stacked regions of the thylakoid membrane, and two of which are derived from nonstacked regions. The existence of these four faces confirms that the thylakoid membranes of Prochlorothrix, like those of green plants, display true membrane stacking and have different internal composition in stacked and non-stacked regions, a phenomenon that has been given the name lateral heterogeneity. The general details of these fracture faces are similar to those of green plants, although the intramembrane particles of Prochlorothrix are generally smaller than those of green plants by as much as 30%. Freeze etched membrane surfaces have also been studied, and the results of these studies confirm freeze fracture observations. The outer surface of the thylakoid membrane displays both small (less than 8.0 nm) and large (greater than 10.0 nm) particles. The inner surface of the thylakoid membrane is covered with tetrameric particles, which are concentrated into stacked membrane regions, a situation that is similar to the inner surfaces of the thylakoid membranes of green plants. These tetramers have never before been reported in a prokaryote. The photosynthetic membranes of Prochlorothrix therefore represent a prokaryotic system that is remarkably similar, in structural terms, to the photosynthetic membranes found in chloroplasts of green plants.

7. Predicting the Ionization Threshold for Carriers in Excited Semiconductors

A simple set of formulas is presented which allows prediction of the fraction of ionized carriers in an electron-hole-exciton gas in a photoexcited semiconductor. These results are related to recent experiments with excitons in single and double quantum wells. Many researchers in semiconductor physics talk of \the" Mott transition density in a system of excitons and electron-hole plasma, but do not have a clear handle on exactly how to predict that density as a function of temperature and material parameters in a given system. While numerical studies have been performed for the fraction of free carriers as a function of carrier density and temperature [1, 2], these do not give a readily-accessible intuition for the transition. In this paper I present a simple approach which does not involve heavy numerical methods, but is still fairly realistic. The theory is based on two well-known approximations, which are the massaction equation for equilibrium in when di_erent species can form bound states, and the static (Debye) screening approximation. In addition, simple approximations are used for numerical calculations of the excitonic Rydberg as a function of screening length.

8. Relativity and the Minimum Slope of the Isgur-Wise Function

Sum rules based upon heavy quark effective theory indicate that the Isgur-Wise function ζ( w ) has a minimum slope ρ2min as w → 1, where ρ2min = 0 for light degrees of freedom with zero spin and ρ2min = 1/4 for light spin 1/2 .Quark-model studies reveal sources for a minimum slope from a variety of relativistic effects. In this paper the origins of the minimum slope in the sum rule and quark-model approaches are compared by considering hadrons with arbitrary light spin. In both approaches the minimum slope increases with the light spin jl, but there appears to be no detailed correspondence between the quark-model and sum-rule approaches.

9. Channel kets, entangled states, and the location of quantum information

The well-known duality relating entangled states and noisy quantum channels is expressed in terms of a channel ket, a pure state on a suitable tripartite system, which functions as a pre-probability allowing the calculation of statistical correlations between, for example, the entrance and exit of a channel, once a framework has been chosen so as to allow a consistent set of probabilities. In each framework the standard notions of ordinary (classical) information theory apply, and it makes sense to ask whether information of a particular sort about one system is or is not present in another system. Quantum effects arise when a single pre-probability is used to compute statistical correlations in different incompatible frameworks, and various constraints on the presence and absence of different kinds of information are expressed in a set of all-or-nothing theorems which generalize or give a precise meaning to the concept of “no-cloning.” These theorems are used to discuss: the location of information in quantum channels modeled using a mixed-state environment; the CQ (classical-quantum) channels introduced by Holevo; and the location of information in the physical carriers of a quantum code. It is proposed that both channel and entanglement problems be classified in terms of pure states (functioning as pre-probabilities) on systems of p ≥ 2 parts, with mixed bipartite entanglement and simple noisy channels belonging to the category p = 3, a five-qubit code to the category p = 6, etc.; then by the dimensions of the Hilbert spaces of the component parts, along with other criteria yet to be determined.

10. LASPE: a subroutine for generating straggling distributions for positrons and electrons

Computer codes used for analysis of data from high energy electron scattering experiments generally use the Rutherford cross-section based distribution derived by Landau to calculate the energy lost by electrons due to straggling. We have developed a FORTRAN program which evaluates straggling distributions incorporating Møller and Bhabha cross-sections. In e- scattering analysis, this program can be used to evaluate the precision of existing Rutherford-based distributions. In addition, the calculation of the e+ straggling distribution is relevant to the analysis of experiments such as those investigating dispersive effects in nuclear electromagnetic processes by comparing results obtained from e- and e+ scattering from identical nuclei. In addition to a full straggling distribution, the output includes the parameters which characterize the distribution as well as a table of integrals of the distribution.

Things I think I think: Church Membership

Well, I haven't been in an extreme minority position for at least 24 hours, and I'm not really enjoying my foray to mainstreamedness. It's disconcerting. Let's get me back to my comfort zone.

Here is my lunatic-fringe stance du jour: Churches and church leaders are attaching way too much importance to official membership and cleansing the roles.1 The latter is not a bad thing, but the importance of clearing the roles is greatly exaggerated. In the grand Christendom scheme of things, it truly is not all that important if the roles are up to date and accurate.

I will define church membership in the forensic sense. You have signed (literally or metaphorically) on the dotted line. You are on the roles. You have agreed to covenant 3 with the body.

Now don't go all ad absurdum on me: I understand there is such a practice as church hopping, and I agree that it is not a healthy sign at all. 4  I'm not advocating that church-hopping is acceptable.

The only reason I really find compelling to emphasize official church membership is not biblical at all: it is legal. A common example: Our church needs nursery workers. Our insurance requires that only background-checked official members be in the nursery. All other reasons aside, please join so that you can serve in the nursery. I buy that. It makes sense. It is honest appeal to modern life and its inescapable litigiousness.

Now if your (Baptist) church is even remotely concerned that it must report attendence vice role numbers to an umbrella organization, the SBC for example, I'd ask: why do you care what they think? And I'd remind you that if you really want to be accountable/beholden to an overseeing body then you might have forgotten what historic Baptist  congregationalist polity is all about. Go join the Presbyterians--if you want church oversight, well at least they do it right.

What about biblical reasons for official membership? To me those are the worst of arguments, for the simple reason that they do not exist. I've heard them all (well, I can't be sure I've heard them all, but I have heard many) and I find none of them satisfying. Verses that are without question about the irrefutable need/command to assemble regularly in a local body are extrapolated (which is never a good idea) to demand fealty (usually through covenanting 3 ) with a particular local body. There is no such teaching, and the inferences are, in my opinion, weak.

Members, pastors, elders, worship teams, staff: we all are sinners. And when we hurt one another we are obligated to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. But we don't do that perfectly, none of us. I believe, and this may be the most self-serving and radical position of this post, that there are times when you have offered and sought forgiveness and have taken all the right steps but nevertheless you, as a sinner, still find yourself facing a situation that becomes a stumbling block. At that point, in my opinion and not finding any biblical counter-argument, it is better to seek a different local body than to slip into a pattern where you view going to church as an obligation rather than a joy. May it never be, but in reality it happens.

I believe that, and I recognize it is a concession to sinfulness. But in light of that reality I view a commitment-on-steroids to covenanting with one another  3 and a marriage-like union to a particular church as unrealistic (and biblically unsupportable) and a sort of argument from intimidation. I know it sounds good--but lots of wrong ideas can be made to sound good. That ability is in our ecclesiastic DNA.

So, to jump from frying pan to fire:

Leaving serious legal questions (like insurance) aside--if your church looks at faithful (in terms of their visible walk), possibly long-term visitors differently than it looks at members, then I would say your church is making a mistake. There is no biblical basis for such a cast system. There should be no recognized difference between a brother/sister who appears to be of faith and a member who appears to be of faith. And this leads to, in my mind, absolutely bizarre outcomes such as: a relative stranger can be welcomed into the church to give a guest sermon or Sunday school, or even a series of lessons, while a long-term trusted brother/sister is prohibited because he/she is not a member. That makes, as my son likes to say, "zero-point-zero sense."

And, quite honestly, when I read articles from pastors, elders, and teachers arguing that breaking the covenant  3 with the local assembly is the equivalent of divorcing your spouse to pursue "true happiness", I immediately want to check their bio to see if they were ever "led by God" to leave one church to go lead another.

The end result of this is that it is entirely possible that no church will ever want me as a member!

1 To those that know me and know of my current church "homelessness" 2  then I want to say this: yes, this is a pressing issue for me, but I assure you that I am writing of these matters generically, with no actual person, place, or thing in mind. Because of my situation, I have been reading on this topic.

2 Of course I can climb on my high horse and and explain that the quotes around "homelessness" are there because in reality I have an eternal home in the only abode that really matters.

3 I don't really know what "covenanting" with the body means. Covenants among people are only as good as people are sinless.

4 Some might charge me with church hopping. I (like everyone else) would plead innocent, but for such charges guilt is in the eyes of the beholder. So be it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Drama of Redemption Part 4 (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
Part 3

Thr Trinity in Creation

The agreement and cooperation among the members of the Godhead should not be surprising. There are three major themes in history:
  1. Creation
  2. The Fall of Man
  3. Redemption

Cooperation among the persons of the Trinity is seen in that all three participated in the first, none participated in the second, and again all three participated in the third. Where you find one at work, you find all three.

Many agree that from all eternity God planned this drama of redemption. And the key is: he had only one plan. He did not, at halftime, switch to plan B because plan A wasn’t cutting it. There never was a plan B. Even in Dispensationalism, which teaches that the Church came as a surprise when the Jews rejected Christ, the dispensational scholars at least acknowledge that the “parenthetical” Church was not a surprise to God. It was, if you will, a surprise to the Jews and to the Jewish prophets, who did not foresee it, but not to God.

Furthermore, this single plan of redemption has no chance to fail. God does not “hope” that things will somehow work out, he knows and ordains whatever happens. God’s plan, scripture tells us in wonderful phrasing, “must needs come to pass.” Nothing in his plan can be thwarted by the actions of man: All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (Dan. 4:35)

We will talk a great deal about the cooperation in redemption among the members of the Godhead, the pact known as the Covenant of Redemption. However, it is interesting to take a moment and look at how all three participated in creation.

Unlike redemption, which we sometimes have a hard time accepting had been planned before the creation of the world, it is rather easy to accept that God intended to create a world prior to actually creating it. Creation, we readily accept, was part of God’s eternal plan. What we don’t always appreciate is that it was the work of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

God the Father’s role is the easy part. The very first verse of the bible tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But the very next very next verse tells us:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of waters. (Gen. 1:2)

In fact, we tend to see the Spirit closely associated with life, almost as if his role in creation is the master biologist. It is the Holy Spirit who quickens us. It was of the Holy Spirit by whom the Virgin Mary conceived.

As for God the Son, we know:
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3)
Scripture tells us, in fact, that the world was created by Christ, in Christ, and for Christ.

But the three persons of the Trinity didn’t just plan for creation. They had already planned for the redemption of that creation. We know that God (the Father) so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Scripture not only speaks of God giving the son, but also of God sending the Son. In this we see that the initial impetus for redemption lies with the father. The Father sent the Son into the world; the Son did not send the Father. And the Father and the Son both, scripture tells us, sent the Holy Spirit.

So it was the Father who was the initiator of the plan of redemption—but as in creation all three play active roles. It was the Son who, Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. And it was from before the foundation of time, when the covenant of redemption was established, that the Son agreed that, at the appointed time, he would empty himself of his glory and, as was necessary, humble himself in the form of a man and submit himself to the law of the Father, He would be temporarily subordinate to the Father.

This subordination of the Son is limited--limited, as far as we know, to the fact, as mentioned, that the Father sent the Son, and limited to the Incarnation. The Son is not eternally subordinate, for scripture is clear regarding the equality of their deity.

This is important. The decision to send the Son should not be seen as either a unilateral decision of the Father (or of the Son), but part of an eternal pact that included the Holy Spirit. Christ comes to the world voluntarily. And it is the Son who gives the oblation to the Father to satisfy his wrath and justice on our behalf. And he continues participating in redemption in the role of high priest, interceding for us.

What about the Holy Spirit? His role, too, is crucial. The Father sends the son, the son becomes incarnate, but, as we mentioned, his mother Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it is the Holy Spirit who anoints Jesus at his baptism:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. (Luke 3:21-22)
And when Jesus dies and is buried it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that he is resurrected:
regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 1:3-4)
In addition, the redemption that was design by God the Father, and carried out by Christ the Son is applied by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us, who gives us a second birth, and it is the application of the Spirit that sanctifies us, convicts us of sin, who helps us to pray, and anoints us for work in the ministry.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Deal With It

Every piece of scientific evidence, from disparate disciplines and reproducible observations, points to an earth and a universe that are billions of years old. Radiometric data from different isotopes. Geological data. Astrophysical data. Cosmological data. Spectroscopic data. Stellar evolution models. They are all in agreement that the cosmos is billions of years old.

The evidence  for evolution is overwhelming. Millions of fossils, and yes, including transitional fossils. Evolution in the lab (see the amazing video below). Ring species showing how micro-evolution leads to macro evolution, if by the latter you mean two sets of organisms that cannot produce fertile offspring. Spectacular confirmed predictions such as the fused human chromosome #2 and the Tiktaalik, whose discovery (including which geological stratum and geographic location!) was predicted as described in the best selling book Your Inner Fish.

How will you, Christian, deal with this?

Will you admit that while the bible is the Word of God, your interpretation is quite fallible and work to reconcile scripture with irrefutable scientific evidence? Or will you argue that all the evidence for old age is through appearances only? Or perhaps you'll acknowledge that the scientific evidence is clear, but in spite of that you are going to believe that the universe is young, because that is what you think the bible teaches, with no wiggle room?

Or will you take the utterly dishonest Answers in Genesis (tax manipulator Ham) and/or the Institute for Creation Research (tax evader and ex-con Hovind) approach and argue that scientists constitute an atheistic conspiracy with the goal to undermine the bible and that science, if only done properly, actually supports a young cosmos. (It doesn't. That's a bald-faced lie.)

You've got to deal with it one of those ways.

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.