Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why Blog?


I am often asked why I blog. Although I am not a professor, Fred Sanders attempts to answer this question as it realities to those in the academy. His article can be found here.

James White on the John 3:16 Conference


Our readers know that we are not a blog that just posts videos and links all the time, but when a good link or video presents itself, we like to post them. I think this video is one of the good examples.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top 10


I think it would be appropriate that, on Thanksgiving, I post a list of the top 10 things I am thankful to God for:

10. Warm socks
9. Loving parents
8. A wonderful Church
7. My beautiful and smart wife
6. A place to live and food to eat
5. My Greek Reader's New Testament
4. Great teachers at Reformed Theological Seminary
3. True Friends
2. Did I mention my beautiful and caring wife
1. The life and death of Jesus Christ for me

It would be good for your soul to take a moment today and list at least 10 things that your are thankful to God for.

Book Review: Matter by Iain M. Banks


His first Culture novel in 8 years, Iain M. Banks' Matter begins on a Shellworld known as Sursamen, and its central narrative is a story of revenge. After witnessing his father, the King of the Sarl people, being murdered by his own second in command, young Ferbin flees Sursamen to enlist the help of his sister, Anaplian. Anaplian left Sursamen as a child to become a part of the Culture, and is now an amazingly equipped killing machine working at the employ of the Special Circumstances division of the Culture. This Special Circumstances division bears a striking similarity to our own CIA, since the mission of Special Circumstances is to covertly do whatever is in the best interest of the Culture, throughout the galaxy. Most of the novel revolves around Ferbin's own quest to escape Sursamen and then to return with Anaplian to vengefully remove his father's betrayer, Tyl Loesp.

The title of the novel is derived from a conversation that takes place midway through the book. During his journey to find help, Ferbin meets with a former adviser to his father, Xide Hyrlis who is, himself, an agent of the Culture who is now carrying out death and destruction on another world.

"You know there is a theory...that all that we experience as reality is just a simulation, a kind of hallucination that has been imposed on us." He then goes on to say, "If we assume that all we have been told is as real as what we ourselves experience - in other words, that history, with all its torturings, massacres, and genocides, is true - then, if it is all somehow under the control of somebody or some thing, must not those running that simulation be monsters? How utterly devoid of decency, pity and compassion would they have to be to allow this to happen, and keep on happening under their explicit control? Because so much of history is precisely this, gentlemen."

Hyrlis goes on to say that the reason he gets up each day and takes part in wars and sends people to their death is so that he can continue to convince himself that all this is "real" - that we really are simply matter and nothing more - because if it isn't real, and it is a hallucination, then those running the simulation of the universe are far greater monsters than even we ourselves. "We are information, gentlemen; all living things are. However, we are lucky enough to be encoded in matter itself, not running in some abstracted system as patterns of particles or standing waves of probability." Another character, however, responds that "[o]f course, sir, your god could just be a bastard." Hyrlis' response is correct: "Those above and beyond us might indeed be evil personified. But it is a standpoint of some despair." Quite an understatement!

And so, the novel itself is really a nihilistic treatise on reality, as well as a real life example of it. This is certainly obvious once one sees that the Deus Ex Machina (literally) at the end of the novel forces the entire narrative for 95% of the book to be thrown away in its dramatic and exciting conclusion. In the end, this demonstrates an ironic twist, in that the book's own creator favors the dramatic ending over answering any of the questions about the main characters one might have by novel's end. This is either bad writing, or an object lesson about the agony of life. If this is true, then in Banks' own words, he would be "evil personified," but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume he's a thoughtless writer, since the other option would be "a standpoint of some despair."

So the book is nihilistic. But is it good? My answer is "maybe." If you like excellent writing that is exciting and amazingly composed, this may not be the best book to read. The book itself is over 600 pages, and is filled with page after page of the complexities of the galactic political scene. A massive amount of the narrative, as well, involves discussion the technological innovations which the Culture enjoys. For me, this is the most rewarding and interesting factor in reading this book, because I really delighted in the imagination and thought processes which must have been involved in thinking of all the things which an alien race as advanced as the Culture could actually create. The complexity of the world of the Culture provides almost more pleasure than simply reading the narrative of Matter itself. As such, I find myself very interested in reading Banks' other Culture books; though I would be surprised if I pick up another fiction book for a long time. This one took me 6 months to finish, and its even a miracle that I finished it.

Overall, I have no regrets about reading this book, and I do recommend it to the more patient readers out there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Walker!


If I may, I would just like to take a moment to pay tribute to my good friend Josh Walker on his birthday. It seems we've known each other for a very long time, but we only met a couple of years ago while attending GCU together in what is now the probably defunct Department of Philosophy. I am honored to write alongside of such a like-minded individual. We never fight about politics, we never fight about religion, and we never fight about where we're going to eat (because we live in different states). And that is a rare treat to find in any friend.

So may I wish Josh a very happy birthday, with prayers for many more. Anyone who wants to send Josh a gift may take a glance at his Amazon wish list.

Lookout Providence!

Tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. I will be heading with a fellow RTS student, Jonathan Kiel, and one of my professors, Dr. Miles Van Pelt, to Providence, Rhode Island to attend this year's annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. I am looking forward to this meeting. It will be great to see some good friends I have not seen for awhile. I also have a few important meetings with prospective Ph.D. advisers (scary and exciting). There are a few key papers I am looking forward to hearing. One is Dr. Van Pelt's paper on the days of creation. And another is Andrew Pitts' paper on word order in biblical Greek.

It is also worth noting that there is a movement that is trying to expand the doctrinal bias of ETS. There are many helpful links about this issue on the Founders Blog which can be found here. I am not a voting member of ETS so I cannot vote on this issue, but I would encourage all voters to look into this issue and give it serious consideration. As it stands right now, a person can be a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and have a horrible view about the evangel (the gospel). This seems very odd to me. Anyway, I will try to blog about the conference while I am there, but I do not know how busy I will be, so I cannot make any promises.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek: Part 1


As a seminary student I have spent quite a bit of time studying Koine (biblical) Greek. I have taken about 4 semesters of Greek in my education and I plan on doing further studies in New Testament, specifically Greek. So, it is no surprise that I was thrilled to receive a free review copy (thanks Jason!) of Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine Campbell. This book is great. I am not an expert on the subject of verbal aspect in Greek, but Campbell is a eloquent writer and seems to introduce this subject in a fair and balanced approach. I have read the introduction and the first two chapters, so in this first review I will cover those sections.

So what is verbal aspect and why does this even matter? These are great questions and Campbell does an excellent job answering them. In the introduction he gives an apologetic for why verbal aspect is important. Lane Keister picks up on this theme in his review on Green Baggins. The main thrust of why verbal aspect should be studied by any serious biblical student is that it will enable him to understand the different nuances "encoded" in the verbs of the New Testament. Many commentators misuse and misapply verbal aspect and Campbell points out a few places where commentators have gone astray. Thus, if the subject is grasped New Testament students will not be lead astray and will have a fuller understanding of the text of the New Testament.

Once Campbell sets the stage for why verbal aspect is important, he then moves on to discuss what verbal aspect is in chapter 1. Put simply verbal aspect is "point of view." That is, from what point of view is the action taking place. In Greek, Campbell argues, there are basically two verbal aspects--perfective and imperfective. Perfective aspect is aspect that is viewed from the outside; whereas imperfective aspect is aspect viewed from the inside. Campbell offers the helpful illustration of a parade to illustrate the difference between these two types of aspect. If the parade is viewed from a helicopter it is perfective and if it is viewed from the street it is imperfective. This seems simple enough, but here is where the debate begins.

In chapter 2 Campbell gives a brief but helpful overview of the debate surrounding aspect. The gist of the discussion is the role aspect and tense play in Greek verbs. Is one more predominate than the other? Are they both important in understanding Greek verbs? Campbell argues that both tense and aspect are important to understand Greek verbs, but that aspect takes center stage and is predominate. Others would disagree with Campbell's conclusion at this point. For example, according to Campbell, the Greek scholar Stanley Porter argues that Greek verbs are exclusively aspect based and are not tense based.

After reading these three sections, I am looking forward to reading and mining all the treasure that is in this terrific work. The only critique I have thus far is that the book seems a bit short. I would not want this book to be doubled in size, but at times I would like more examples and for Campbell to spell out his arguments a bit fuller. However, to Campbell's credit, he does give helpful footnotes that point the reader to places to look for further arguments and points of view.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Exclusive Psalmody Debate



Listen to part 1 here and part 2 here

New Covenant Hymnody

I. A Survey of The Regulative Principle of Worship
A. The RPW in the Old Testament
1. Edenic Covenant (Works)
2. Adamic Covenant (Promise)
3. Noahic Covenant (Dominion)
4. Abrahamic Covenant (Royal Land Grant)
5. Mosaic Covenant (Typological Kingdom)
6. Davidic Covenant (Messianic)
B. The RPW in the New Testament
1. New Covenant (All covenants fulfilled in Christ)
- We are now in the semi-theocracy with the Word and the Spirit
- No longer the typological kingdom
- But we still have the RPW
2. New Covenant, New Acts of God, New Songs
- The Psalms instructs us to sing new songs when God does something new
- The New Covenant is new act of God and therefore warrants new songs (Isa 42:10)
C. The New Covenant commands the following elements of worship:
1. The Word (Preached and Taught)
2. Ordinances (Communion and Baptism), Church discipline
3. Prayers, fellowship, offerings
4. The sing of psalms, hymns and Spiritual songs

II. What does Col 3:16 and Eph 5:18 command/Teach
A. We are to meditate on the Word of God to be filled with the Spirit
1. The Word of Christ in Col is the mystery of Christ (Col 1:26-28)
2. In Eph the infilling of the Spirit is be under the influence of the Spirit not infallible inspiration of the Spirit(Eph 5:17)
B. We are then to teach, admonish, and speak to one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.
C. The context is private not public
1. instruction to Christian households
2. instruction to slaves
3. instruction to inter-personal conduct

III. Exegesis of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
A. All wisdom is needed when giving instruction
B. It is in the imperative, so we are commanded to do this
C. Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs are all in the dative; however Psalms and Hymns are masculine, whereas Spiritual Songs is famine.
1. Therefore it is either (a) speaking of different kinds of songs
2. or (b) the same kind of songs having Psalms and Hymns and songs as all spiritual
D. Regardless Spiritual songs in context Col 1:9 means doctrinally pure songs as opposed to worldly songs
E. Therefore Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs is a Triadic expression for New Covenant songs (Col 1:26-28)
F. Psalms are normally personally, Hymns are normally doxological, Spiritual songs are normally both.

IV. The extension to public worship
A. This now can be applied to public worship as a corporate means of fulfilling the same command
B. The New Testament is the full revelation of Christ. Heb 1:1-3 We therefore are to sing the propositional truth found in the New Testament, hence the Word of Christ in Col 3:16 is the lyrical content of the Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adam Watches Too Many Movies


Our very own Adam Parker is featured over on Reformation 21. This is the second time that Adam has been featured on Reformation 21 and I am sure it will not be his last. His most recent article, "Watching Movies to the Glory of God," can be found here. I highly recommend this article to anyone who would like to understand how their Christian worldview impacts the way they watch movies. Adam has a great gift in this area and offers some solid practical insights.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Quintessential Undecided Voter


Elections can be emotional. For me, this election is more confusing, really, than anything else. Since voting for George W. Bush both times around, I have gone through a lot of different phases. For awhile, I was die-hard Republican Adam with righteous neo-con tendencies. From there, I rebelled and became pacifist Adam, and defended the exclusive use of non-violence from a philosophical and ethical perspective for several years. Now, here I am: Neo-Libertarian Adam. I abhor the use of violence in international situations, I want the government to leave me alone, and I just want the U.S. to have an army to keep Iceland from coming in and taking away all of our popsicles.

So I've been through a lot of positional changes. When this election came around, the question arose as to who I should vote?

What about war? When it comes to international violence, everyone seems to make it sound like Obama wants to end wars. But he's perfectly willing to engage in war, just like the Republicans are. Democrats are only opposed to war, so long as Republicans are the ones who start them. McCain seems a good choice from a pragmatic perspective, since it sounds like he'll tow Bush's international policies for a few more years. But even then, is an internationally interventionist policy really going to help spread freedom by example, rather than coersion? Hardly. It will engender bitterness and harden the enemies of the U.S. even further.

What about health care reform? I'd like the government to stop tinkering and just let everyone take care of their own medical expenses (I'm paying for my son's birth from my own pocket [$8000]), but both candidates want to bring health care to everyone. So I have no horse in this race.

What about Social Security? I can see that in 30 or 40 years (perhaps sooner), it will literally be un-sustainable unless everyone kills the whole army of baby-boomers about to start drawing retirement checks. Both candidates are in denial and won't touch this hot-button issue, and because of this, as a working young person, I will be the one who suffers when the time comes that this whole system collapses.

What about taxes? Currently, my boss gives half the money he makes back to the government, and I'm having a hard time getting him to give me a raise, since he thinks Obama's going to raise his taxes even more. John McCain doesn't seem willing to raise taxes, but he's not willing to cut spending in any major ways. So both candidates are big spenders. McCain wants to increase federal spending by $150 billion, and Obama wants to increase spending by $200 billion, so I'm screwed on this one, too.

So I really AM an undecided voter. I have three options:

1. Vote as an idealist for Bob Barr and the Libertarians (this is my current plan, but it is tentative, once I get IN the actual voting booth).
2. Vote for John McCain because (a) He stands a realistic chance of winning, and every little vote helps, (b) I'd hate for Obama to win, since he is the BIGGEST of the big government candidates, and (c) I'd hate to see riots and "blood running in the streets" as democrats keep threatening if McCain wins the electoral but not the popular vote.
3. Vote Obama (a) to punish Republicans for their big government policies and their near doubling of U.S. federal spending since Bush took office, or (b) to cure my "white guilt" (I'm told I have plenty to feel guilty for).

I'm also tempted to vote for McCain just because I absolutely without a doubt know for a fact that the news media is pulling for Obama, and it makes me sad that there is no objective news media anymore. It is sad to think that for the last month every major news outlet has been declaring Obama the winner, and not even one vote has been counted. So either way, I won't vote for Obama out of spite against the media elite who think they can have the nerve to tell me who I should vote for. They're about to make me decide NOT to throw my vote away on Bob Barr, so they'd better watch it; I'm not as stupid as I look (debatable), and there HAVE to be other people out there who think the same way as me on this one.

A Word About Once The Election Is Over:

No matter who wins this election, it will be a disaster. I've already come to terms with this fact. A McCain win will be a sorrowful day full of defeat, and the same is true for an Obama win. As I said before, I literally have no horse in this race. Once the election is over, the new President elect will line up his cabinet, and we'll be in for another couple years of government bloating and new programs before ANOTHER annoying election cycle.

When Jesus spoke to Pilate, he explained that he is a King. However, he made clear that His kingdom is not of this world. Too many Christians THINK that they're building the kingdom here and now. They believe that this planet and habitable land in which we dwell must resemble heaven as closely as possible. Few things could be further from the truth. As Christians, we live in both kingdoms - as our own Master Stellman is has made abundantly clear. Besides - from a spiritual perspective, what is a greater impediment to spiritual activity than material gain? Perhaps a spell of failures would reinvigorate our sleepy and dead churches, motivating us to once again invest in the long-lasting realm of evangelism.

Whatever happens - whether McCain takes us to war with the entire world, or whether Obama turns our country into a communist police state where it's cool to be gay but not to evangelize - I, as a Christian, will persevere in my faith. I will follow God, fight to make disciples, and worship God, no matter what the situation (even if it someday became ILLEGAL, I would still worship Him!).

My faith transcends the corrupt political world in which we live, and Jesus is the King of the Earth; not our political leaders. That won't change, even when America does abandon its libertarian roots once and for all. I hope the rest of you will join me in acknowledging that Caesar is not Lord, and he cannot save us.