Friday, November 30, 2007
Nero reigned from 54AD to 68AD. Not only was he infamous for his torture and hatred of Christians who refused to bow down and worship him as God, but he also killed the Apostles Peter and Paul, and he instituted the first large-scale persecution of Christians. If Nero were alive today, doing these things, these acts alone would have Pat Robertson and Hal Lindsey speculating that Nero is the Antichrist (contemporary events have a way of seeming more exciting and immediate than history, don't they?). Additionally, there is an interesting reference in the book of Revelation to a number, by which the beast could be identified by his contemporaries: 666.
Now, I am no Hebrew scholar, but I will do what I can, here. Every letter in the Greek and Hebrew alphabets also has a numerical value.
The Name "Neron Qe[i]sar" transliterated, in Hebrew as נרון קסר adds up numerically in this way:
I might touch on the textual variations of 666 (namely 616) as further evidence, but I don't want this post to be all numbers. So chew on this one for awhile. Also, I was tired of using the word "contemporary" and feared I might use it again.
PS: An amazing resource I just came across offers not only a good overview of Preterist Eschatology, but a decent exegetical apologetic for the position.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
With regard to the atonement and Amyraldianism, I believe that Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, absolutely secured the salvation of an innumerable host, each member of that host being known by name to God before the foundation of the world. I believe that the number of those so known and numbered by God can neither be increased or diminished by anything conceived by the mortal mind of man. With regard to the atonement and Arminianism, I believe that when Christ died to pay the penalty for someone, the penalty for that someone is actually paid. As a result, there is no one in hell for whom that redemptive penalty was paid.
It is good to see that Doug Wilson still is holding to, what seems to be, a traditional understanding of particular redemption.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
A brief historical background for this change would be helpful. The Book of Mormon taught that the ancestors of the Native Americans were a group of Jews named the Lamanites that left from
But due to the advance in DNA testing, it has been shown that the Native Americans are not descendants of the Jews. Thus, the
Please pray, everyone, for my wife and I. We have been attending an independent Bible church which is dispensational in its theology for some time, now, and we are looking for a good reformed church (not Baptist) in the central Kansas area to begin attending. We'd love any suggestions, as I have a strong desire to exercise my gifts in a theological environment where my positions aren't necessarily controversial (understatement).
Also, I know I'm about 2 years behind the times, but I started reading Hank Hanegraaff's book The Last Disciple, and I'm not exactly impressed by the writing, but I am impressed with the novelty of demonstrating the validity of the preterist view of the end times by recounting historical events (particularly dealing with Nero and his identity as the Beast of Revelation) alongside of the Scriptures. I think that someone who finds preterist eschatology to be challenging or inexplicable may just have an easier time if they read this series of books. After all, not everyone has their Ph.D. in hermeneutics.
Also, on a sad note, we at Bring the Books have decided to drop Theolax as our sponsor as of today. Sadly, it turns out that our own Adam Parker has been taking Theolax for about a year and a half and it hasn't worked out well for him. Only after reading the side-effects listed did Adam realize that Chinese food had nothing to do with his inverted spleen symptoms. Apparently it is safe to eat dog and study soteriology after all.
How disheartening it is to see both of these saving doctrines misunderstood or even denied in the evangelical church today. I refer in part to evangelical leaders who embrace a doctrine of justification that is hard to distinguish from the Roman Catholic position that we are accounted righteous by infusion rather than imputation. I refer also to advocates of the New Perspective on Paul who believe that the Reformation doctrine of justification was mistaken in fundamental ways. To use J. I. Packer’s analogy, Atlas has shrugged.
These distortions take a number of different forms, which I mention only briefly. Some evangelicals are simply saying that justification is by grace, and leaving it at that. By avoiding saying that justification is based on grace alone or received by faith alone, they are able to make common cause with Catholicism, which has always said that justification is by grace. Other evangelicals want to say the same thing about Judaism at the time of Christ. It was not a religion of legalistic works-righteousness, they say, but a religion of grace. Therefore, the Reformers were mistaken to see Paul as standing against a religion of works rather than faith. Others are saying that justification is not so much about our standing before God as it is about our relationship to the church as a covenant community. Or they say that justification does have something to do with our standing before God, but our real and ultimate justification will only take place on the last day, when our good works will serve as part of the basis for (and not simply the evidence of) our righteousness before God. Thus our present justification is only provisional, which has the unhappy result of turning salvation into probation.
It is sad that these misunderstandings of biblical justification are having an influence on the church, especially at the seminary level, where any theological confusion will be multiplied many times over. It is sad but also strange—strange because these theologians are setting justification in opposition to union with Christ, whereas the Reformation position has always been that these doctrines are inseparable.
As a case in point, consider John Calvin, who said that our union with Christ “makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him. For this reason, we glory that we have fellowship of righteousness with him.” In other words, for Calvin it is the doctrine of union with Christ that provides the very context for justification by imputation. Calvin made this explicit when he said that God does not absolve us “by the confirmation of our own innocence but by the imputation of righteousness, so that we who are not righteous in ourselves may be reckoned as such in Christ.” John Owen said the same thing more succinctly, but equally emphatically: “The foundation of imputation is union.”
This is taken from Justification and Union with Christ by Phillip Ryken.
Monday, November 26, 2007
There was a time when matters of doctrine and theology caused division and difficulty in churches around the world. But now, with Theolax, no one will ever question the pastor's sermon again. There will be no more "difficult conversations" with curious congregants. Yes, you can speak from the pulpit about any topic you want.
Really enjoy Wednesday's episode of Lost? Just recount the episode during your sermon. Take the whole 20 minutes if you want; your congregation will eat it up. Are you really enjoying that show on the TV Guide Channel where they dress ordinary people up like celebrities? Tell your people about it! Was last night's Funniest Pets and People the unfunniest yet? Talk about it!
You see, with Theolax, your congregation will practically stop caring about theology at all (and haven't we all wished for that?).
There are some important pieces of information to keep in mind when administering Theolax to your congregation:
1. Theolax is best taken with coffee or some other stimulant which can counteract the sedative effects of Theolax. This means that you may need to get creative. Most pastors have found that Theolax is best dispensed in your church's coffee shop. Just put one teaspoon of theolax in the coffee maker and congregational life will be smooth sailing!
2. Theolax's effectiveness is substantially increased by moving images. Try video of flowing water or kids skateboarding on the overheads during worship time. Not only will your people have trouble grasping what little theology is in your music, but they will be entertained and distracted.
3. Theolax should only be taken weekly. An overdose of theolax can lead to a condition known as "Lucado-ism." You don't want a bunch of mindless zombies out there, so don't over-do it!
Theolax has been successfully used in hundreds of congregations, each of which now number in the trillions. Don't believe us? Just try counting all of the people who leave Saddleback church each Sunday. It literally cannot be done. Still don't believe us? Well, Willow Creek used to only have one member in its congregation. After using Theolax for only 6 weeks, even the Superdome was too small to contain the congregation.
Theolax. You deserve a big church. You deserve the best church.
Theolax does have a few side-effects. They're so minor that it's almost unnecessary to mention them, but Theolax's legal division says we can get sued if we don't mention them, though, so here goes:
Drymouth, diarrhea, vomiting, inverted spleen, body acne, greasy hair, sleepiness, propensity to talk slowly, sausage fingers, rectal fissures, watery eyes, runny nose, flag-waving, hair loss, dry eyes, enlarged nostrils, watching Desperate Housewives, bloody stool, heresy, heart murmur, flawed soteriology, love of everything Tim Lahay has ever said, exploding eyeballs, and most importantly, did we mention heresy!?
I was shocked! After all, Waters is often called a TR. You know a 'TR', it stands for 'Totally Reformed' or 'Truly Reformed.' This is used by some as a chide remark for people who are far to the right theological of where they are and usually carries with it the idea that the person holds strongly to a certain confession of faith. In other words, this term is used in a negative way to put down those among the Reformed faith who take their tradition seriously and have the nerve to actually hold to the doctrinal standards of their faith. (At this point I am being sarcastic. I needed to say that because many today in the Reformed church actually think it is a bad thing to hold strictly to, say, the Westminster standards. This is far beyond my understanding. I am a Presbyterian precisely because it holds to the Westminster Standards.)
Back to the hot news, after Waters referred to himself as a 'liberal,' he followed up his comments with, "liberal in the 18th century sense of that word." At this point I wiped the sweat off my brow. I was relieved to find out that Water's was still my favorite TR, after all liberal in this sense means broad or wide.
Also, in this vain, Dr. Waters has a great new book out, By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justifications. Guy Waters and Gary Johnson co-edited this book. I hope to have a review of this book up in the future. But this book, among others, is one of the reasons that Dr. Waters is labeled a 'TR'. I would like to be the first and hopefully not the last to thank Dr. Waters for being a 'TR.' The Reformed faith needs more men like this. Men who are willing to stand up to those who are distorting the historic Reformed faith. So, Dr. Waters, THANK YOU!
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I wonder if Arminians find these sorts of occurrences encouraging or discouraging. On the one hand, having a secular TV show where a character believes in free choice must reinforce their conviction in libertarian free will. But on the other hand, how encouraging can it be that a non-Christian, secular character (I think he is Buddhist) has the exact same notion of human autonomy as 80% of evangelicals today?
For me, it simply reinforces a long-standing conviction that libertarian free will is a philosophical, unbiblical construct which is not derived from close examination of the Scriptures, but from a humanistic philosophical system which demands human autonomy.
It should be noted, for the uninitiated, that Calvinists do believe in free choice, but not in the sense that the world or arminians who believe in libertarian freedom do. We define "free choice" as "the ability to do whatsoever one wants at any given moment." As long as you are able to do what you want, you have free choice.
It should also be noted that just because an unbeliever agrees with something an Arminian believes does not render the Arminian position untrue. I just think it is very interesting to see a form of Arminianism being advocated and agreed with by non-Christians and humanists (Rousseau comes to mind).
As important as justification is, it is not the only fundamental doctrine of our salvation. And if there is any doctrine I love as much as justification, it must be the magnificent doctrine of union with Christ.
For me this doctrine was one of the marvelous discoveries of my seminary education. I had at least some familiarity with the several doctrines of soteriology—the so-called ordo salutis, or order of salvation. I had certainly heard of election and regeneration, of justification and sanctification, and perhaps of adoption and glorification. I had also read—or at least skimmed over—those two little words that appear so frequently together in the New Testament: in Christ. Yet no one had ever articulated for me the doctrine of union with Christ, the spiritual and theological reality that holds together the various benefits of salvation.
Many theologians view this doctrine as one of the keys to understanding the message of salvation. John Murray called union with Christ “the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.”...
To summarize, the great doctrinal realities of justification and union with Christ are closely inter-connected. Justification is one of the leading benefits of being united to Christ. The faith that justifies does so only and precisely because it also joins us to Christ. The very people who are united to Christ are the ones who are also declared righteous. This is part of what prevents justification by faith alone from being merely a legal fiction, as it is so frequently and so inaccurately alleged. Union with Christ is logically prior to justification by imputation. The declaration of our righteousness has a proper juridical basis in our true and covenantal connection to Jesus Christ. Indeed, union with Christ is the matrix in which imputation occurs. It is on the basis of our spiritual and covenantal union with Christ that our sins are imputed to him and his righteousness is imputed to us.
This is taken from Justification and Union with Christ by Phillip Ryken.
1. Matthew 24
Not to be too simplistic, but lets be obvious here, everyone. Jesus is talking to his disciples, and he is talking about the judgment Jerusalem is going to receive from God, and Jesus actually gives a timeline for when the judgment will happen.
"Then Jesus went out and departed form the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.' " (v. 1-2)Could Jesus be any more plain? He tells his disciples, "Jerusalem is going to be judged. This temple you are looking at right here will be completely leveled, as a matter of fact.
"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place" (v. 34).Let me put it plainly, for those in Rio Linda: "When will all this crazy stuff happen, you ask? Well let me put it this way, 'Alot of the people who are here right now are going to live long enough to see this baby go down.' "
I realize there are several nuances to this position, and perhaps I've over-simplified things here, but the truth is, Jesus predicted that his judgment would come very very soon, and it did. No one disagrees that in 70AD the temple was totally destroyed. The dispensational position creates a scenario where a temple has to be constructed all over again only to be torn down a second time, but such is unnecessary. The preterist view is far simpler, in this respect.
2. The Author of Revelation says that the Beast of Revelation is someone whom his readers could immediately identify. (I have Josh Walker to thank for this little nugget, by the way.) In Revelation 13:18, the author writes the following:
"Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666."The more I think about this line of argument, the stronger the case for its efficacy seems to be. The argument is that a plain reading (dispensationalists are huge fans of literal readings of Scripture) will make obvious that John, as he wrote Revelation wrote this message - almost as a parenthetical note for his readers - revealing the identity of the one he had been identifying as the beast. I'm not even sure if it is contested, anymore, that 666 is the numerical transliteration of "Nero Caesar" from the Hebrew. Perhaps there are some who contest this, but I'm not aware of any. I'm also not omniscient, though, either.
The strength of this reasoning, though, is not its complexity, but its simplicity. Nero Caesar not only transliterates as 666, but he just happens to be someone who was alive during the time of the writing of the book of Revelation, and a study of the life of Caesar bear out, I think, that he truly did fit all of the characteristics which Revelation attributes to the beast. The implication for this, of course, is that if Nero was the Beast, then the events surrounding the Beast in Revelation would also have been contemporaneous with Nero, as well. And of course, that means that most of the book of Revelation has already taken place.
It should be noted, in addition, that in order for this argument to stand, it is not exactly necessary for 666 to be the number for Nero, because the real issue is that John was writing to the seven churches of Asia minor, and when he wrote to those churches, he told them that if they were wise, they could (by using the code 666) identify who the beast was. Point blank, John was saying to the churches that the beast was alive (present day) and they could spot him. How can John say this, however, if the beast isn't going to emerge for another 2000 years? Not only is it counter-intuitive, but it really seems to make no sense.
I know some of this may be old for many of you, but for me (and for many, I would guess) it is very current, perhaps even something new, so I ask you to bear with me and help enrich this conversation. More on this tomorrow, perhaps.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
1. Eschatology (because only wierdos obsess over that)
2. The King James Only Controversy (because there is no point trying to reason with such people)
There were more on the list, but I can't remember them. But they rest of the list is inconsequential. Both of these two items have now become issues for me, for one reason or another, but I want to touch on one of them in my first post here.
For years, I have avoided the issue of eschatology, focusing primarily on soteriology, providence, and other Calvinist shorthand favorites. My primary reason for avoiding the issue was a form of agnosticism, in the sense that I didn't think it was possible to come to a solid, confident conclusion regarding what the timeline of the "end times" was actually supposed to look like.
The truth is, though, my framework for thinking about God and His plan for the universe had a big hole in it. Over the past several weeks, becoming consciously aware of this lack in my theological worldview, I borrowed the book The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views edited by Robert Clouse from Josh Walker.
I have frequently heard that every Christian comes into the world an arminian, and a dispensationalist. And this was certainly true for me. However, ever since becoming a Calvinist, I have leaned towards the preterist reading of "end times" portions of the New Testament. Anthony Hoekema's arguments for the Amillenial position in this volume almost have me convinced of the Amil position, as well. I don't feel that I've exhaustively researched enough to decide between the Postmil or Amil positions yet, but I am certain that there is no way that the Premillenial understanding of eschatology accurately reflects the teachings of Jesus or his Apostles. I am, however, confident enough in the truthfulness of the preterist reading of the New Testament that I think tomorrow I will begin a series of blogs offering the simplest reasons I can for why we ought to understand almost all of the prophecies in the Bible as having taken place.
But it's late, and my daughter is sleepy. Okay, I'm sleepy.
(I just wanted to make sure that I said "However" way too many times in this post. Mission accomplished.)
Josh and I both graduated from the same college, hold virtually the same theology, are both Libertarians (at least in the political sense), and love to smoke our pipes. However, we both agree that if we did not have Jesus Christ and a deep love for His doctrines in common, we would probably not be friends at all, because we are both so very different. This is good news for our readers, however, because it means that the readers of Bring the Books will get the same theology from two different perspectives. We have similar musical tastes as well. Our blog's tagline "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair, is a quote from a Relient K song, "Be My Escape," which is a sentiment that expresses our shared musical and theological flavor. But there is diversity here as well. On the one hand, Josh is a graduate student who tackles virtually any issue which is thrown at him. He's the one who keeps me in line, because I am the guy who watches movies, TV, and listens to tons of music (not that Josh doesn't like his rockabilly). Because we're so different, there should be something here for everybody.
A few things new readers should know, regarding our doctrinal positions:
1. We subscribe wholeheartedly to the entire Westminster Confession of Faith.
2. We believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures.
We will both seek to uphold these two primary convictions in all we do here at Bring the Books, but we want to make clear that any and all theological positions are welcome amongst our readers. Just be ready to back up your wacky ideas with facts. We hope you will all hang in here for the long haul, and thanks for reading our blog. Now with no further ado, pull up a Guinness, pull out your pipe, and as they say at St. Anne's, get ready to join in on the conversation.
This is taken from Justification and Union with Christ by Phillip Ryken.
N. T. Wright insists that if we maintain the imputation of righteousness in this verse then “we must also be prepared to talk of the imputed wisdom of Christ; the imputed sanctification of Christ; and the imputed redemption of Christ.”
This does not follow, however. Paul is simply listing the several benefits of our union with Christ, each of which bears its own connection to his saving work. We receive sanctification by the Spirit setting us apart for the holy service of God. We receive redemption by the purchase of blood. How then do we receive righteousness? To be more specific, How do we receive Christ’s righteousness? (for that is the righteousness in view). It is clear from the context that we receive this righteousness from God himself. And it is clear from other places in Paul that this righteousness is not something God works into us by infusion, but something he imputes to us on the basis of faith. All of that is not fully spelled out here in 1 Corinthians 1. What is spelled out, however, is that we have possession of the very righteousness of Christ
The very people who are united to Christ are the ones who are also declared righteous. This is part of what prevents justification by faith alone from being merely a legal fiction, as it is so frequently and so inaccurately alleged. Union with Christ is logically prior to justification by imputation.This is the abstract for Phillip Ryken's new article at Reformation 21.
The first paper I am going to post, lord willing, is my Greek exegesis paper. I wrote on Galatians 3:10 and focused on the Greek phrase e;rgwn no,mou . In addition to this, I interacted with the works of James D. G. Dunn. Dunn is a brilliant man! I rarely find myself agreeing with his conclusions, but he is still articulate and extremely gifted for academic studies.
I have not received this paper back from my professor, Guy Waters, but I am confident that it is of posting quality. Or at least it should be. I spent over 60 hours working on this paper, doing research, translating the Greek, doing word studies, diagramming the Greek text and on and on. The paper is over 20 pages, so it will not be posted all at once, but rather, I will post it section by section. I put a list of the sections below in order to wet your appetite. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labor.
e;rgwn no,mou in the Pauline Corpus
e;rgwn no,mou in the New Perspective
Friday, November 23, 2007
I am back from the 59th Annul Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. I had such a great time. Before I discuss the content of the meeting, I would like to thank some people that made it possible for me to be at this meeting: Dr. Derek Thomas, Dr. Miles Van Pelt, Young Bok Kim, and Jon Cochran.
Now to the content, there were three papers that I heard that are worth mentioning. The first paper I heard was by Preston Sprinkle (great last name for a Presbyterian). He spoke on Justified by Faith—But Whose? Another Option for the Pistis Christou Debate. In this debate there are two main options: 1) are we justified by faith in Christ or 2) are we justified by the faith of Christ. These to options have carried the day in the academy. Sprinkle wanted to set forth a third option—namely, that the Greek phrase Pistis Christou should be understood as the content of the gospel. Without getting into the merits of any of these positions, I would like to say that this paper was well done and very informative. Sprinkle did his research completely and presented his points very clearly.
The second paper that is worth mentioning is one that was given by Bruce Ware. Fully God, Fully Man: Revisiting the Impeccability, Temptations, and Sinlessness of Christ was the topic of Ware's paper. His paper covered the theological difficulty with the idea that Christ could not sin (impeccability) and that Christ was genuinely tempted. Ware offered a great analogy that did not answer all of the questions regarding this topic, but it did help shine light into this area of theology.
The third paper that I am going to mention was done by John Piper. His paper was on Justification and the Diminishing Work of Christ. This paper can be heard here. His topic was a condensed version of his new book The Future of Justification. The heart of his paper was the doctrine of double imputation. That is the concept that at the heart of the cross is the transaction of the sinner's sins to Christ and Christ's righteousness to the sinner. Further, he argued for that Christ's righteousness has two distinct aspects—his passive and active obedience. This passive obedience is Christ's death on the cross and this active obedience is Christ's life of perfect obedience to the law of God. Without getting into all that is at hand here, it is important to see that this doctrine is under attack on two fronts—those who say that Christ's righteousness has only one aspect, his passive obedience and those who say that we are not imputed with Christ's righteousness at all. Piper did a wonderful job of showing the doctrine of double imputation to be extremely biblical. Further, he, in normal Piper fashion, showed the pastoral importance of this doctrine.
After Piper's paper, I was invited by Dr. Miles Van Pelt, to a round table discussion on Pipers presentation. This round table included: Dr. John Piper, Dr. William Mounce, Dr. Michael Horton, Dr. Bruce Ware, Dr. R. Scott Clark and Dr. Michael Bird, to name most of the theologians present. In addition to these theologians, there were about 20 students present. This discussion lasted 3 hours, until midnight. After the round table was over I was able to have a conversation with Piper, then Dr. Horton and finally, Dr. Clark.
I talked to Piper about his new book and had him sign the free copy he gave out after his paper. I also talked to Horton and Clark about the Federal Vision controversy that is sweeping through all the Presbyterian denominations. They had many great, insightful things to say about this topic.
All and all, I had a wonderful time at ETS. I hope to go next year and I also have the aspiration of presenting a paper next year at the 60th annual meeting in