Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Year in Review, MTV Style

This is the last day of 2008 and I thought it might be cool to post a few music videos that would sum up this last your for me. I hope you enjoy.

Book Review: Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek: Part 2

In the first review on Campbell's new book on aspect, I covered the introduction and chapters 1 and 2. In this review, I want to finish the first half of the book by giving a overview of chapters 3, 4, and 5.

Chapter 3 of Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek deals with perfective aspect, which Campbell calls the external viewpoint. The main tense form that Campbell defines as perfective is the aorist tense. After giving a few examples to illustrate his point, Campbell tackles the issue of whether or not the aorist tense-form is a past tense. He concludes that since the aorist is not always past tense, citing Mark 1:11 to prove this point, the context must be used to determine if an aorist verb is indeed past tense. Further, Campbell argues that "remoteness" is a better way of understanding the aorist than always past tense. This is the way, according to Campbell, the aorist is the back bone of narrative. The aorist gives the nuts and bolts of the story while other forms are used to give details of the story.

In chapter 4 Campbell discusses imperfective aspect. This aspect is to be understood as an internal viewpoint, as though the action is happening right before your eyes. The present tense is the tense-form that fits into this category of aspect. Further, the present tense gives a sense of "proximity." In narrative, the present is often found in discourse, this could be due to the fact that discourse is done when near another. The last feature of the present tense that Campbell addresses is the phenomenon of the historical present. In the New Testament, the present tense is often used to denote a past action. In other words, the New Testament often uses the present tense-form to speak of an action in the past. This is done to highlight the imperfective aspect of the verbal action.

Chapter 5, one of the more difficult chapters, deals with the problem of the perfect. The problem is that the perfect is difficult, if not impossible, to define. One solution offered by Stanley Porter to the problem of the perfect is to view the perfect as stative with regard to aspect, which is defined as a general state of affairs. However, Campbell does not like this solution because it is difficult to get a precis definition and it does not find a parallel in any other language. Instead, Campbell opts for the solution that states that the perfect is to be understood as imperfective in aspect, viewed from within. Further, he argues that the perfect is distinguished from other verb forms with imperfective aspect by stating that the perfect has a heightened sense of proximity.

Although I do not agree fully with all of Campbell's conclusions, most notably, his solution to the perfect problem, his book is outstanding. He is a great writer who is able to take a very complicated subject and make it very easy to understand and for that he and this book are to be commended.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just in Time for the Holidays

Anyone who visits Bring the Books on a regular basis will surely notice the new look. The face lift is my gift to the readers and staff of Bring the Books. Many thanks to the the staff at Tekeme for the hard work and the great design they gave us.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It Doesn't Get More Christmas-y Than This!

Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit like watching my favorite living author make a snow angel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Divided Ethic? That's The Price of Freedom

I am opposed to gay marriage bans such as prop 8, and have had many friends asking me why I would oppose such a law since I personally do believe that homosexuality is wrong. I wanted to briefly lay out the reasons why I would hold one position and yet oppose its being introduced into law.

I believe that marriage is meant to be between only one man and one woman, forever. I believe that marriage is permanent, so long as both partners are living; therefore I also believe that divorced couples who remarry are living in sin. I believe that homosexual behavior is wrong, in the same way that sex between unmarried people is wrong. I am indifferent as to whether or not people are born gay. I am open to that possibility, but I consider it irrelevant since people are still responsible for their decisions, even if their proclivities are to do wrong (after all, even straight people are lustful creature who must control their own urges). What I'm saying is that I have a very high view of marriage and a very conservative view of homosexuality. Another part of this is that I believe that any church who approves of homosexual marriage is making a GRAVE error and abandoning the Bible. But my opinion on this matter is religiously informed, and I will not kid myself that I get my beliefs regarding gay marriage simply from general revelation. Thus, I know that these beliefs will not be shared by someone who does NOT believe the Bible to be God's perfect Word.

Now, I could take the position that it is good to make a law against gay marriage right now since I am in the majority. After all, strike while the iron is hot, right? The problem is, people like us will not be in the majority forever (or for much longer, I fear). When this happens, we will have set a bully precedent, essentially setting a painful standard for dealings in this area in the future. The gay community does not forget its mistreatment, as we've seen with their unjust reaction to Prop 8. Do you think that once THEY are in the majority they will not also try to restrict the freedoms and activities of us as Christians? They will remember how they were wronged by laws like Prop 8, and when their time to strike comes WE will be the ones whose freedoms are restricted. Tit for tat.

Rather, I say, let people live freely as they desire, so long as it does not cause harm to another or restrict another person's freedom. After all, there are people out there whom I feel make great errors in theology and philosophy all the time, but I don't go around making laws against their mistaken beliefs. This is what it means to live in a free society. It comes with risks and rewards. The risk is that a gay guy might walk past your family holding his boyfriend's hand causing your son or daughter confusion. The reward is that you are allowed to disagree with his lifestyle, tell your children about this fact, and even speak against it if you like, but then you can freely go down the street to your church and worship God without external influences or coercion from the state because this world of disagreeable people has decided not to create laws against distastefulness or even against immoral behaviors.

So my opposition to laws restricting gay marriage are based upon my (hopefully) consistent belief in liberty. I believe that the function of government is not to make a series of laws restricting beliefs or actions which some of its citizens (including myself) find distasteful or sinful. Rather, government exists to preserve the freedoms of its citizens. This is the same reason why I oppose the government's extremely expensive AND unsuccessful "war on drugs." There are a lot of practical reasons for this as well, but that's for another time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Interesting Video From Penn Jillette

As someone who is a pretty big fan of Penn & Teller: B.S. I must say that I find this video to be very very interesting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Two Wills of God

In light of the current discussions that have been going on in the blogosphere concerning hyper-calvinism and the two wills of God I thought I would attempt to, in a very terse fashion, explain how I understand the two wills of God, especially as it pertains to the universal saving desire of God. I remember first being introduced to the two wills of God in John Piper’s work The Pleasure’s of God. I had by that time become fully convinced of the biblical teaching of sovereign grace and was seeking to harmonize scripture without negating or ignoring those scriptures that clearly spoke of man’s responsibility and inability do what is agreeable to God’s holy character. The two wills seemed to the most simplistic and most defensible position to hold to in order to reconcile this conundrum. I was almost satisfied until I came across Turretin’s works that spoke of the compound and divided sense of God’s will. Curiosity took over and I became increasingly intrigued with Turretin’s way of speaking of the will of God. It seemed to house both the perceptive and decretive will of God without making the two wills of God the entire house itself. In other words, the two wills became a subset of the more encompassing hermeneutic of the compound and divided sense of God’s will.

So what is the compound and divided sense of God’s will? Basically the compound sense is the will of God as it pertains to who God is essentially and eternally within Himself, and the divided sense is how he has communicated Himself to us; which would include all language of accommodation, metaphors, symbolism, anthropomorphism, anthropopathism etc. So how does this relate to the universal saving desire of God? Well it gives full affirmation to this truth without putting the decretive will of God in direct contradiction to perceptive will of God. I would argue that the compound sense of God’s will can house God’s desires for the salvation of man as well as His decree to save the elect only; the salvation of all man because God within Himself always desires what is agreeable to immutable holy character, and the salvation of the elect alone since He has eternally determined within Himself to display his justice in judging the reprobate, thus bringing satisfaction to immutable holy character. The difference would then be more of purpose and intention, not so much as desire or will, because desire and will can be spoken of in reference to both His precepts and His decrees.

Therefore by understanding God's will in the compound and divide sense we can logically make room for us to think of God as sometimes desiring things He has not decreed and decreeing things that He does not desire, thus avoiding direct contradiction since both His desires and purposes are satisfied and fulfilled in either the cross or the sinner.

Corrections welcomed, just be kind about it :-)

Gift Ideas and Christmas Wishes

As Christmas approaches, we figured our readers were eager to get the employees of Bring the Books a gift or two. So, I wanted to give you some help to ensure that you know what to get us. We are all very simple men. We have really one like in this world...Books!!! Since this is the case, our Amazon wish lists, which are located on the left side of the blog, would be the best place to look for gift ideas. When you get us a book on our wish list, Amazon ships the books directly to the person you are buying it for. Amazon makes it very easy!

On a more serious note, all the employees of Bring the Books would like to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas. Our prayer is that God will use this time of year to turn your focus to Jesus Christ. May we remember his humbling act of being born as a human baby. Our God is a great God. Let us all worship him this year in truth and spirit. Amen!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Hath Washington To Do With Northhampton (Or Bush With Westminster)?

In a back issue of Modern Reformation magazine, D.G. Hart reviewed two recent biographies of George Washington (George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Peter A. Lillback and Washington's God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country by Michael Novak and Jana Novak). Hart pointed out a bit of irony that a cynical Gen-Xer like me can really appreciate. After remarking that “Washington's conventional Anglicanism is the main reason for Lillback and the Novaks' joint conclusion that our first president was not a deist,” Hart says:

The effort to recover the orthodox Christian Washington has a remarkable unintended consequence…. In building a case for his exceptional character and integrity, [both authors] mention that “it would be a happy event if all presidents conducted themselves, to at least the extent that Washington did, as good Christians ... in private and in public.”
The argument of Lillback and Novak, then, is that Washington’s devout Anglicanism demonstrates the important and beneficial role his Christianity played in shaping his presidency. Yet there’s a problem.
But in recovering a place for orthodox Anglicanism in the formation of the United States, these authors have also unwittingly undermined the heart religion promoted during the revivals of the eighteenth century that continue to set the pace for American Protestantism. For if Washington's faith was sufficient to pass the litmus tests of orthodoxy and sincerity, then the extra credit demanded by revivalists that believers not simply believe but demonstrate faith visibly in their daily lives was unnecessary. In other words, if Founding Father’s faith was truly Christian, then revivalism’s criteria for true holiness was excessive. Proponents of the Religious Right have rarely seen that to have a Christian George Washington is to ignore an enthusiastic Jonathan Edwards, or that to retain born-again Christianity is to abandon the religion of the founding generation of American statesmen. This is the unintended benefit of these books, an outcome that shows again the curiosities that result from mixing politics and religion.
Darryl is absolutely spot-on here. The Religious Right can’t have its cake and eat it too, for if George Washington exhibited true Christianity then Jonathan Edwards was a fanatic, but on the other hand, if Jonathan Edwards described true Christianity then George Washington was merely one of those cold, dead, unconverted pretenders that Whitefield and Tennant made careers out of denouncing.

We see a similar trend in our own day, albeit in the opposite direction. Confessional Reformed types will argue until they’re blue in the face (or red, to be more precise) about the benefits of having a Christian president like George W. Bush, while at the same time their own confessions describe a Christianity that is churchly and covenantal, and that is characterized by such doctrines as infant baptism, Sabbath keeping, and a high view of the work of Christ (things which President Bush shows little sign of esteeming).

And to add to the irony, the same people who will go to the mat to prove the sanctified status of Washington’s soul stood vehemently against Barack Obama and overwhelmingly favored John McCain, though the latter clearly disliked the Christian Right and the former is a devout church-goer.

Maybe the fact of the matter is that we just like who we like, but we are too incapable of arguing for good earthly policies on their own terms that we need to find biblical justification for every extra-biblical preference we have. If we would only recognize two distinct but legitimate kingdoms, we could save ourselves the hassle of joining together what God hath put asunder.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Greek Resources

I ran across a couple of links by Lee Irons a few days ago and have found them very helpful. So I wanted to pass them along to our readers. The first one, which can be found here, is a tool for reading your Greek Bible everyday (which is the best way to keep your Greek up). Irons offers many wise suggestions that will aid anyone who wants to keep their Greek going.

The second link, here, is awesome. It has many of the books of the New Testament with Greek syntax and translation helps. I have found this tool extremely useful. For example, my pastor is preaching through John's Epistles right now, so I printed off the section on 1-3 John and bring it with me to church. It is very useful to have a concise help when looking at a passage.

Thus far I have found both of these tools very helpful and would highly recommend them. And the greatest things about the tools is the fact that they are free. Thank you Lee Irons for making these available to us. I, for one, am very grateful.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Defense of James White: Part 2

In the comment section of the latest post at Controversial Calvinism concerning Dr. White, Steve wants those of us who are defending Dr. White to provide a quote that proves that Dr. White has not changed his views with regard to hyper-Calvinism. . I find this very odd indeed. In the original post Steve asserts that Dr. White has changed his views. His argument is that Dr. White has moved from a hyper-Calvinist to what others are calling a "high" Calvinist.

The odd thing is that in his post he offers no quotes or citations where Dr. White changes his views, not one. You would think that Steve would have quotes from Dr. White from years ago that contradict what he is not saying. But there is nothing like that in his post. Further, Steve admits that he has not "read all of his [Dr. White's] work" on this subject. One wonders how much he has actually read. It seems odd to me that a person who gives no evidence of his assertion and has not read the author's works on the subject would expect those who have read all of Dr. White's works on the subject and who have listened to him teach on this subject for 12 years to give evidence. Everything in me wants to leave this post at that. However, to stop the mouth of the naysayers, I will provide a few quotes.

Before that, however, let us review. Steve is asserting that Dr. White has three new beliefs: "1) God loves all men, though God's love is not monolithic; 2) God's will (his revealed will) is that all men obey his commands to repent and believe the gospel; 3) In that context (revealed will and command) we can say that God desires the salvation of all men." Thus, if I can show a quote that affirms anyone of these three points in Dr. Whites written works, the case can be settled that Dr. White has not changed his view.

In his book on the subject of Calvinism, The Potters Freedom, Dr. White says the following in commenting on Acts 17:30, "Actually, the text says that God wills for 'all' to come to repentance, and of course, this is quite true" (TPF, 149, emphasis added). This one quote should be enough to show that Dr. White has held to Steve's second point from at least the time of writing this book. But there is more. On the same page Dr. White goes on to state, "Next Dr. Geisler confuses the prescriptive will of God found in His law, which commands all men everywhere to repent, with the gift of repentance given to the elect in regeneration. It does not follow that if it is God's will to bring the elect to repentance that the law does not command repentance of everyone" (TPF, 149-150). Again, this is a clear affirmation of the second point that Steve seems to think Dr. White has changed on.

While I disagree that the accused should have to provide evidence that he is not guilty, I have provided the above evidence in an attempt to show that, in fact, Dr. White has not changed his views on the issues at hand. Now, the right thing for Steve to do is apologize to Dr. White and rejoice that another person in the Kingdom of God has a proper understanding of the will of God for all to repent, even the non-elect. Will this happen, we will have to keep our eyes on Controversial Calvinism to find out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

In Defense of James White

I am no expert on who is and who is not a hypercalvinist. Sorry, I cannot be an expert on everything. I do not have to the time to parse out all the fine distinctions, but one thing I am an expert on (tongue-in-cheek) is the theology of James White. I have read everything he has written on the subject of Calvinism, even the hard to find out of print books like Drawn By the Father. Plus, I have been a faithful listener to his radio program for over 12 years. In fact, I listened to his show, The Dividing Line, before I was Reformed.

I give this background so I can say with much confidence that James White has not, in any way, changed his views on the subject of Calvinism (God's love for the non-elect and the free offer of the gospel). The reason I say all this is due to this article. The author claims that Dr. White has recently, because of "pressure," changed his views, "kicking and screaming," on Calvinism and by implication has moved from a hypercalvinst to a "high" Calvinist. Once again, I am not an expert on hypercalvinism, so James White may in fact be one (which I highly doubt) but one thing that I am certain on is that Dr. White has not changed his views on these subjects in the last 12 years. It is not Dr. White's fault if you just now understand his views. The right thing to do in this situation is so say "sorry" for the misunderstanding, move on and not to dig your heels in and place the blame at the feet of Dr. White. Many bad things could be said about Dr. White, but that he is unclear is not one of them. His theological views are clear and open to anyone who want to take the time and read his published works on the subject. So, "Steve," author of the article, I am suggesting that you read Dr. White's works on this subject before you blog about him again.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book Review: The Reason for God by Tim Keller

As a preliminary, I knew nothing about Tim Keller before reading this book except that he had spoken at one of Desiring God's Pastors Conferences. As such, I was intrigued to read a book which seemed to be gaining such national attention and yet was written from a theological perspective that was at least friendly to my own.

Keller initially approaches the book as someone who is writing to answer objections which he regularly encounters as a pastor in New York City, where he pastors Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The first seven objections he deals with are as follows:

1. There can't be just one true religion
2. A good God could not allow suffering
3. Christianity is a straitjacket
4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
5. A loving God would not send people to hell
6. Science has disproved Christianity
7. You can't take the Bible literally

I was pleased by Keller's responses to all of the objections except for the one on hell. I would have liked very much to see a more orthodox discussion of God's self-love as being his first commitment, and therefore God must send people to hell if he is to honor himself above all others; otherwise he would be an idolater. But alas, Keller seems to take the C.S. Lewis approach and deal with hell as more of a psychological place where we get just what we want after we die (he frequently quotes from The Great Divorce in this section), if we die apart from Christ.

I know that in the chapter on science and Christianity, many believers will take umbrage with Keller's acceptance of theistic evolution. For my own various reasons, this was less than a concern for me.

As someone who really doesn't consider himself a "full-on" presuppositionalist or a proponent of classical evidential apologetics, I felt that Keller's apologetic approach was both scattered and refreshing. There was no point at which you thought, "Okay, he's quoting Alvin Plantinga. He's an evidentialist," because in the next breath he would begin taking the presuppositional line that everyone already knows there is a God. In contrast to the Van Tilian school of thought, however, Keller merely argues that everyone knows there is a God, whereas the Van Tilian claim is certainly stronger; namely that everyone knows the Christian God exists.

After dealing with these objections, Keller goes on in the second half of the book to make seven positive arguments, rather than just staying on the defensive for the entirety of the book. His chapters include:

1. The clues of God
2. The knowledge of God
3. The problem of sin
4. Religion and the gospel
5. The (true) story of the cross
6. The reality of the resurrection
7. The Dance of God

The chapter on the clues of God, to my mind, was not unique; it was really meant to argue that probabilistically speaking, the existence of God is very likely where, again, I knew that presuppositionalists would want a stronger claim than just that. For my part, I thought this chapter on what was essentially classical apologetics did more good than bad for Keller's case since he really seems to be taking more of an "all things considered and being equal" approach, which still leaves certainty out of the picture. Most people think this way, rather in terms of certainty and knowledge, and on those grounds I appreciated what he was doing.

At the end of the day, Keller has given a strong contribution to the world of mainstream apologetics. The book is readable, it is understandable to almost anyone (it's written for the average person), and it contemporizes such heroes as Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis, putting them in a new and modern context. There are times when I thought Keller seemed to be chasing the rabbit hole a bit too far when he started dealing with some issues (especially near the end of the book), but in the end he always came out showing how his rabbit chase answers the subject under discussion.

A fine book that goes beyond apologetics to encourage people to have a solidly based worldview in an age of skepticism; I only wish I'd written it first.