Saturday, August 29, 2009

Covenant Theology Part 8 Misc.

The Lord's day – Eschatological sign of the covenant listen here

What is the Lord’s day?
The day when believers gather to commemorate Christ’s resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week (Acts 2:42). Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).

Reasons for the observance of the Lord’s day:

1. The Sabbath is fulfilled and abrogated through by the finished work of Christ (The covenant works fulfilled, including the Decalogue) ( Col 2:16, Rom 10:4)
2. Christ rises from the dead on the first day of the week (Matt 28:1)
3. The disciples were together on the first day of the week (John 20:26)
4. The New Testament church was born on the first day of the week (Act 2:1-4)
5. The church in Acts came together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7)
6. The church in Corinthians came together on the first day of the week (1 Cor 16:1-2)
7. The John was in the Spirit on the Lords day, the first day of the week(Rev 1:8)

We therefore follow this approved example/pattern of coming together as the church on the first day of the week as the new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). This is eschatological sign of the covenant, in that it reminds us of our guaranteed future sabbath rest in Glory/Heaven (Heb 4:9-11)

Sundays After Passover

1st 1 (= Easter Sunday) To 10 disciples John 20:19f
2nd 8 (= 7 + 1st) To 11 disciples John 20:26
3rd? 15 (7 X 2 + 1st) To 7 disciples John 21:1-14
4th? 22 (7 X 2 + 1st) To 500 disciplesI Cor. 15:6
5th? 29 (7 X 4 + 1st) To all the apostles I Cor. 15:7
6th? 36 (7 X 5 + 1st) To the 11 disciples Matt. 28:16 40Ascension Acts 1:2-9
7th 43 (7 X 6 + 1st) None. Yet Sunday worship! Acts 1:14-15
8th 50 (7 X 7 + 1st) Pneumatophany Acts 2:1f
(Taken from "The Covenantal Sabbath" - Dr. Francis Nigel Lee [Book])

Theonomy Pros and Cons listen here

What is Theonomy?
The school of thought that believes scriptures teaches that the Law of God is two fold; moral/ceremonial, and that all moral aspects of the law are binding upon all societies today; including the judicial laws of the Old Testament with their penal sanctions.

Pros of Theonomy
Promotes the doctrine of Christ’s Ascension.
Seeks to see Christ’s Lordship over every sphere and activity of life.
Seek to have all human institutions governed by special revelation.
Has an optimistic view of the future.

Cons of Theonomy:
Fails to see the unity of the Law (holy theocracy) (Heb 8:13-9:6).
Fails to see Christ as the end of the Law of righteousness, including sanctification (Rom 10:4, Gal 3:24-25, Rom 7:1-6).
Fails to see the typological nature of the Old Testament Kingdom, i.e. judicial law of Israel are theocratic in nature and foreshadows judgment day. (Heb 2:1-3, Heb 10:26-29).
Fails to see the dissolving of the Old Covenant in AD70 through the finished work of Christ (Heb 8:13).
Fails to distinguish between crimes and sins. All crime is sin but not all sin is crime.

Society is still obligated to govern itself according to special revelation (2 Tim 3:16). But that special revelation concerning ethical conduct is a confirmation of the works of law already written already on the hearts men (Rom 2:14) Therefore the state must have laws that punish crimes. (Rom 13:1-5) Crimes are law-breaking deeds against society. Punishment must therefore be commensurate to the crime. (Exodus 21:22-27)

Examples of punishment for crimes:
Murder is a capital offence because it’s the unlawful taking of someone’s life; therefore your debt to society is your own life. (Gen 9:6)
Rape is to be treated as murder and is therefore a capital offense.(Deut 22:26)
Theft is taken someone’s property or goods by force or without permission; therefore you pay back the sum total of what was stolen before re-entry into society (Matt 5:26)

Examples of sins that are not crimes:
Teaching false doctrine is a sin but not a crime, therefore direct punishment is delayed until judgment day. (Jude 10-13)
Private or consenting sexual sins of adults are sins but not direct crimes against society and therefore direct punishment is delayed until judgment day. (Rom 1:32)
Worship of idols is grievous sin but not a direct crime against society and therefore direct punishment is delayed until judgment day. (Rom 2:4-5)

If You Are Late to the Discussion

Back in June Christianity Today posted a primer on the current justification debate, particularly the one going on between John Piper and N.T. Wright. This primer is a great introduction to the main points of contention between Piper and Wright. If you are new to the "New Perspective on Paul" controversy, this is a great place to start. Some of the issues addressed in this article are the problem, the righteousness of God, the Gospel and the future justification. It is these last two issues, the Gospel and future justification that are of particular interest to me.

The primer summarizes Piper and Wright's understanding of the Gospel in the following way.

Piper: The heart of the gospel is the good news that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead. What makes this good news is that Christ's death accomplished a perfect righteousness before God and suffered a perfect condemnation from God, both of which are counted as ours through faith alone, so that we have eternal life with God in the new heavens and the new earth.

Wright: The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world. When this gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.

The primer concludes with the area that I am most concerned with in the New Perspective, that of future justification.

Piper: Present justification is based on the substitutionary work of Christ alone, enjoyed in union with him through faith alone. Future justification is the open confirmation and declaration that in Christ Jesus we are perfectly blameless before God. This final judgment accords with our works. That is, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation.

Wright: Present justification is the announcement issued on the basis of faith and faith alone of who is part of the covenant family of God. The present verdict gives the assurance that the verdict announced on the Last Day will match it; the Holy Spirit gives the power through which that future verdict, when given, will be seen to be in accordance with the life that the believer has then lived.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lee Irons on N.T. Wright's Doctrine of the Atonement

Lee Irons has helpfully summarized Wright's doctrine of the atonement concluding that in some ways Wright teaches an unorthodox doctrine of the atonement. The following is how Irons concludes his post.
So where does N. T. Wright stand on the atonement? I have a hard time being as charitable as Piper, who tries to believe the best and merely asks for clarification. To me, it looks more like a case of using orthodox labels to refer to a position that is not orthodox. At the end of the day, for Bishop Wright, sin is an impersonal evil force, not personal rebellion against God; sin has bad consequences, but does not elicit God's punitive wrath against the sinner; and the cross is to be understood as some version of the Christus Victor theory in which Christ defeats evil by letting it do its worst to him, not as a penal satisfaction of divine justice.
Be sure to read the rest of the post!

UPDATE: Here is a helpful reminder from Pastor Mark Jones on the atonement.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Christ the Center on The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes

About a month or so ago I had the privilege of joining the guys from Christ the Center to interview Thabiti Anyabwile on the life and thought of Lemuel Haynes. Rev. Anyabwile is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman (talk about suffering for the Lord!). He has edited May We Meet in the Heavenly World, a book of Haynes' writings which includes a helpful biography, as well as authored the book The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity. A little bit about Haynes, he lived from 1753 to 1833 and was an influential African-American pastor during the American Revolution. He was a devoted Calvinist who argued against slavery through the lens of God’s providence. Haynes was a well-known preacher and writer during his lifetime, but unfortunately, many have forgotten him in recent years. Our discussion of the life and thought of Lemuel Haynes can be found here. I also wanted to thank my good friend Chris Rehers who let me record from his house while my internet connection was down. Thanks!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Iraq War and Apostasy

It is not out of the ordinary for people in the church to abandon the faith and go their own way. What interests me, anecdotally speaking, is that it seems to be happening to personal acquaintances of mine in an increasing number. The question I keep trying to answer for myself is why it is happening so much and during such a compact space of time. It could just be that since I'm in my twenties and this is a time of great change and transition for so many that I'm just in that season when this kind of thing happens. This probably has some validity, but it doesn't account for the facts these people have in common.

There is one factor that all but one of the people I know who have abandoned Christianity had in common: skepticism about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, followed by interest and dabbling in Emergent theology. While the decision to abandon faith in God is surely complex and rife with propositional considerations, I am coming to believe more and more that the personal implications of opposing the war have been of some importance.

Ready or not, here comes my sloppy psychoanalysis of what the Iraq war could possibly have to do with my friends' decisions. Evangelical Christianity tended to support the Iraq war en mas; so much so as to create the illusion of a consensus. Initially, though these friends of mine (none of whom know each other) had some misgivings about going to war to one degree or another, they all eventually came to a unanimous rejection of the Iraq war (and for that matter, the Republican party).

While I can't say that this was the sole factor (that would be naive!), it was the moment for these people to allow their thought to break from the majority of evangelicalism. Essentially, I believe, they asked themselves, "If the Evangelical church can be so ignorant on something as obvious as the morality of a pre-emptive war, they are probably wrong in a lot more areas." I can also say, anecdotally (with the exception, once again, of one of them), that this skepticism about the American church's position on the war led them toward the Emergent brand of thinking, a rejection of the inerrancy of the Bible, and acceptance of other heterodox ideas (I also noticed that among many of them the writings of Brian Maclaren became admired). This was the last stage I was able to observe before these friends declared themselves to be either simply non-Christians, or in some cases agnostics.

One thing that can be said is that in none of these cases did my friends abandon Christianity in favor of a positive worldview. In all of these cases, my friends have not chosen to positively defend another worldview or religion. This chain of events created skeptics with nothing to defend, but (in their opinions) plenty to reject. Now, of course they have come to believe something but they will not come to acknowledge this.

Some may argue that the Emergents were mostly to blame; after all, they were the ones who told my friends that Hell and the Bible and Jesus weren't the central or most important things in life. My response to that is, I believe the Emergents found so much traction during the 2001-2008 season precisely because they spearheaded the American church's rejection of war. Their popularity was a symptom of a generation who opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet could not find a voice, because all their parents in the evangelical churches, by and large, thought that these wars were both necessary and good. Voiceless, they turned to leaders who would tell them the things they already secretly suspected ("We think the war in Iraq is immoral. Oh, and also, we believe that the Bible isn't inerrant, Jesus is not the only way to God, Hell is horrible and to be rejected on those grounds, etc.").

Others might say that I've over-simplified things. And on that note, I'll just end by saying I have no doubt that I have over-simplified things. All I'm trying to do is understand the connection between the opposition to the Iraq war and eventually leaving the church altogether. Maybe some of you have similar stories/chastisements/insight for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If You're Really Reformed.....

Shane Lems has an excellent post over at The Reformed Reader, which in many ways piggy-backs upon my last post. He writes:
In other words, Christian liberty (as with all true liberty!) has boundaries. Christian liberty is tempered with love for neighbor (think of him/her before our liberty) and self-denial (we don’t need to indulge in this liberty). If Christian liberty is not tempered with love for neighbor and self-denial, it is more like a high school fad (i.e. the brand of jeans you wear) than a Christian ethic.

For Whom Did Christ Die: Three Views

Michael Bird has a series of interviews on his blog that attempt to answer the question, for whom did Christ die. The three views represented in this series are: Arminianism (Ben Witherington), Amyraldianism (Michael Jensen) and Calvinism (Paul Helm). These short concise answers are helpful to give an introduction to the three main way Christians have atepted to answer this question. As most of our readers will know, the bloggers here at Bring the Books believe that the Calvinist view of the atonement best articulates the teaching of the Bible, as a whole. I would commend these posts for your reading.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thoughts on Dillahunty v. Slick

Per Wizard's request following our discussion, I listened to episode #593 of The Atheist Experience entitled "A Fallacy Model," while I was on vacation, and I do have a few thoughts with regards to the show.

In the episode (which aired on February 2nd of this year), Matt Dillahunty received a call from Matt Slick (of so that they could specifically discuss Matt Slick's formulation of the Transcendental Argument. I won't review the entire discussion, but I would like to make some comments on the conversation and its relevance to our own discussion we are having with our friend, Wizard.

The most relevant to our own discussion was, in my opinion, Matt Dillahunty's inability to present a positive statement of the nature of the laws of logic. In the discussion, Matt Slick pressed him to get him to admit that the laws of logic are physical. From a strategic perspective, Slick was doing this because if Dillahunty said that they are conceptual, then there must always be a mind to perceive and evaluate truth in order for the laws of logic to exist. If Dillahunty admitted that the laws of logic were physically based, then he would have had to admit that logic is nothing more than a social convention (not to mention a host of other problems that calling the laws of logic "physical laws" creates).

All that Matt Dillahunty would admit in the discussion is that the laws of logic are non-conceptual. Slick pressed him, however, arguing that you cannot say what the laws of logic are not without knowing what they are. Slick presented Dillahunty with two options: Either the laws of logic are (a) Physical or (b) Conceptual. In the conversation, Dillahunty repeatedly insisted that there must be a third option, though he was unable to present an accounting of what that third option might be (this is the same point we have been pressing Wizard on). In other words, what I drew from the conversation was exactly what I suspected when trying to think of the third option on my own: there is not a third option. If there is, I would like the atheists to offer it, because then my own claim that atheism cannot account for the laws of logic will face an obstacle. He uses these laws, he insists that everyone else conform to them, and his entire scientific enterprise is built upon them. But unlike the Christian, all the atheist can say is, "I don't know what the laws of logic are, or why they exist at all, but I do know that they are real and that they're not conceptual or physical." Precisely. That is the substance of the Christian claim. Our worldview can coherently account for what is, but given the atheist worldview, there would be no such thing as universal, invariant, non-physical laws.

Thoughts About the Thought Experiment
If anyone listens to the audio of the broadcast and decides to listen to the thought experiment they do at the beginning (somewhere around the 10 minute mark), they will find an excellent example of defining your opponents out of the conversation. In the broadcast, the co-host set out several jars. One had dice in it, and two others were "empty." For the purposes of the conversation, she informed the audience that one of the jars had existent dice, one was empty (she says it contains "non-existent dice"), and one had transcendent supernatural dice (she said they were "existent supernatural transcendent dice").

She then scrambled the jars up and argued that since there is no physical way to determine the difference between the empty jar and the jar with the transcendent supernatural dice, then there is no point in recognizing anything that is transcendent and supernatural. Now, Wizard asked me to comment on this, but I'm tempted to engage in ad hominem and just make fun of the argument. I won't do that, but does this immediately strike anyone else as a terrible argument?

The only way this would strike anyone as a good argument is if they were already committed materialists. But isn't that precisely the point under discussion? Let me put this another way: The claim that transcendent and supernatural entities exist entails the proposition that these entities cannot be measured with physical instruments. And yet, the claim that their existence can be identified through philosophical means or by means of revelation is completely rejected without a word of debate.

Two teams come to the field. One is dressed in red, the other team is wearing blue. A dad from the red team is reffing the game and moments before the kickoff he decides to tell everyone on the field that only teams wearing red are allowed to play today. Is anyone surprised, then, when the red team walks away with the trophy? It's not exactly the most fulfilling win of the red team's career, but a win's a win, right? I think you get my point.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Christian Fiction and... Pornography?

While on vacation in the hills of Nebraska, I happened across a really awesome used bookstore. While there, I procured three books:

1) A sudoku puzzle book. (I'm getting pretty good at it and recommend it to all as good mental exercise).

2) More Information Than You Require by John Hodgman (the PC guy from the Apple commercials). A very funny book full of non-factual facts. Through this book, I learned that "'The Teddy Bear' was named after Teddy Roosevelt because of his love of bear meat and the fact that he was covered in fur." Very useful stuff. This book will come in handy.

3) Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor. I consider this the more important find because it is a collection of essays written by her about writing. Since I find her fiction very difficult to follow (everybody always dies violently in her books!), I thought this book would shed some light on her very (to me) hard to follow literary style.

Curious mostly about how her faith interacted with her storytelling I skipped to the chapter entitled "The Church and the Fiction Writer." In it, I found the following passage very insightful; especially when thinking about a great deal of modern "christian fiction." When reading this, especially, I thought of the Left Behind books (which I read while a teen) and the fact that in every single one of the LB books, somebody always finds Jesus and gets born again.

"If the average Catholic reader could be tracked down through the swamps of letters-to-the-editor and other places where he momentarily reveals himself, he would be found to be something of a Manichean. By separating nature and grace as much as possible, he has reduced his conception of the supernatural to pious cliche and has become able to recognize nature in literature in only two forms, the sentimental and the obscene. He would seem to prefer the former, while being more of an authority on the latter, but the similarity between the two generally escapes him. He forgets that sentimentality is an excess, a distortion of sentiment, usually in the direction of an overemphasis on innocence; and that innocence, whenever it is overemphasized in the ordinary human condition, tends by some natural law to become its opposite.

"We lost our innocence in the fall of our first parents, and our return to it is through the redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite. Pornography, on the other hand, is essentially sentimental, for it leaves out the connection of sex with its hard purposes, disconnects it from its meaning in life and makes it simply an experience for its own sake."
Now, I'm a good Protestant, and I am quietly outraged by her statement that our redemption was brought about "by Christ's death and by our slow participation in it." But rather than practice quiet outrage, let's look at the meat of what she is saying. So the question I pose is, "Is Flannery O'Connor right that fiction ought not to be sentimental?" Please; no FV jokes; as tempting as it must be.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spiritual Oedipus Complex--Some Thoughts

I am back from a long drought of posting, largely due to summer Greek at RTS Jackson. I thought I would share some thoughts on one of the most helpful articles I have read. I read it over two years ago but it has still stuck with me. The article is by Carl Trueman titled The Freudom of the Christian and it hits on what I perceive is the chief problem with what has been called the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" movement. Carl Trueman notes, as others have, that although young people today in our churches may be in an uncanny fashion embracing the finer points of Reformed orthodoxy, it is many times more of a reaction to what they were fed in their bland-evangelical churches than a recognition of the Gospel and its need demand for Gospel obedience. What this machine-like-movement turns out is bunch of young people who are more concerned about not being like their old dispensational-fundamentalist-tee-totalin'-[insert "We don't want to be like that!" term here] Church family than being Christ-like.

Don't get me wrong, I was and still find myself doing this very thing, although my Spiritual parents weren't as Fundy therefore I suppose I'm not as reactionary. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches, was regenerated at a mega-church in the Dallas area, was a member of Matt Chandler's church and then a member of a Sovereign Grace Church in the Chicago area. Thus, I know what fundamentalism is (I graduated from Moody Bible)! I also know what the young Reformed movement looks like as well. Matt Chandler and Sovereign Grace Ministries are at the forefront of the movement and I was the typical feisty Calvinist who deserved a cage rather than a debate. Let me be frank, I just don't think that the Iain Campbell's of the world who want to defend the movement from those who criticize it are understanding that movement very well (FPC Jackson is hardly the center of the young Reformed movement, if anything, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and Al Mohler are much more near the center)! In fact, as John Macarthur has pointed out, Mark Driscoll is quite crude at times.

Now I must immediately make a disclaimer: Iain Campbell is right to point out that we ought not to proverbially "throw everyone under the bus." After all, John Piper, Al Mohler, and many others in the movement are extremely pious and emphasize holiness very much. However, when looking at those young people who follow these men, I find, by and large, a general lack of holiness and sometimes as Trueman's article acknowledges a vice-filled group of theologically savvy young people who sin under the guise of "Christian Liberty." Worse, if you call them out on it, they think you are being a legalist or even-worse "crusty." Of course, seemingly unaware of Eph 5:4 and 1 Tim 1:5. Well, I suppose the desire I have of myself, as with all of my other young Reformed brothers is for us to be committed, above all else to be God is holy. This is, by the way, something where the Puritans should be our examples!

If we can be more Christ-like than our Arminian-Dispensational-Whatever brothers, maybe they would find our theology more attractive. There is nothing more attractive to me (and an example for me to follow) than a brother or sister in Christ who finds the doctrine of election precious because it accentuates the mercy of God and who lives beyond reproach where glorifying God by being holy is one's chief aim!

The Best Chapter in the Bible...Perhaps

I wanted to point out this great sermon series that Dr. Derek Thomas has been preaching at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS on, what he calls, "The Best Chapter in the Bible"--Romans 8. Now it is arguable that Romans 8 is in fact the best chapter in the entire Bible (Ephesians 1 and 2 come to mind as an example of other great chapters), but nevertheless, the sermon on Romans 8:28-30 is outstanding, possible the best sermon I have ever heard.

Friday, August 14, 2009

DeYoung and Two Kingdom Theology

Kevin DeYoung just posted an article on his blog titled "Two Kingdom Theology and Neo-Kuyperians." His post is, on the whole, a helpful summary of these two views of the way Christians relate to culture and the government. In summarizing the Two Kingdom Theology DeYoung says the following.
In broad strokes, the two kingdom folks believe in a kingdom of this world and a kingdom of Christ. We have a dual citizenship as Christians. Further, the realm of nature should not be expected to function and look like the realm of grace. Living in the tension of two kingdoms we should stop trying to transform the culture of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and instead focus on the church being the church, led by it duly ordained officers and ministering through the ordinary means of grace.

This is a very good short summary of my view on the way Christians should relate to the secular world around them. The two kingdoms approach is one that takes into account of the different ways Christ is lord over all, but more on that below. In addition, I liked what DeYoung said about his reasons for finding some fondness with this view. "The two kingdom theology has better biblical support in my opinion. It seems to me we are more like the Israelites in exile in Babylon than we are the Israelites in the promised land."

In summarizing the other view, sometimes refered to as "redeeming culture," DeYoung says this.
On the other hand, neo-Kupyerianism (intellectual descendants of the Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper) argue that every square inch of this world belongs to Christ. Therefore, his Lordship should be felt and manifested in politics, in the arts, in education, in short, everywhere. Because the work of Christ was not just to save sinners but also to renew the whole cosmos, we should be at work to change the world and transform the culture.

On the whole, this is a good summary. However, DeYoung says that this view holds "that every square inch of this world belongs to Christ," which it does. But this seems to imply that the two-kingdoms approach does not believe this, which is not accurate. Two Kingdom Theology does hold that Christ is lord over every inch of the universe. This is not at issue in the debate between these two views. But what is at issue is how Christ is lord over both kingdoms. In other words, Two Kingdom Theology holds that Christ rules the church in a different way then he rules the secular kingdom. Christ rules the church with special revelation and Christ rules the secular realm with general revelation. But are given by God to mankind but for different spheres of existence. The neo-Kupyerian view seems to make no distinction in the way Christ rules. For them, Christ rules the church and culture in the exact same way.

To DeYoung's credit, he knows he is painting with a broad brush and in his conclusion he says so. He also invites his readers to continue the conversation, which I am doing here on Bring the Books.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Libraries

I thought our readers would be interested to checkout a few of the libraries of some of the contributors here at Bring the Books. You can find Michael Lynch's library here and my library is here. While you are checking out our books, you should also check out the great website, Library Thing, that hosts our catalogs. It is a great site that is easy to use.

Also, while I am at it, I might as well point out our Amazon wish lists in the left tool bar. You can find a list of some great titles that the authors here would enjoy to read and use. By using our wish lists you can order a book (or two) from Amazon for us and it is delivered to our doors. It is quick and easy to bless us with some great resources.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Red Beetle is Up to it Again

I was looking around youtube today and ran across the following video titled "A Van Tilian's Analogical Testimony Before A Calvinist Elder" under the label "The Heresy Of Van Til." Red Beetle, the creator of his and other videos we have posted, mainly goes after Van Till's emphasis on the Creator/creature distinction. He argues that unless we know the exact same way God knows, we cannot know anything, even the gospel. Of cource I disagree with him on this, as you would have guessed, but even if I agreed with Red Beetle, why this is heresy, I do not know.

(Also, I am not sure why one of the guys is in a cage when he is examined for church membership? My church does not practice this, does yours?)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Function of the Greek Imperfect

Dr. Rod Decker has an interesting post on the function of the Greek imperfect at his blog, which can be found here. Building off of Stanley Porter's and Constantine Campbell's work on verbal aspect, Decker summarizes his understanding of the imperfect tense with these words, "The substantive difference between the present and imperfect forms is remoteness. The imperfect is a more remote form than the present. The imperfect may be logically, temporally, physically, focally, etc. remote compared with the present form." This understanding of the imperfect does not undo the "classic" understand of the imperfect (translating ἐλυον as “I was loosing”), but rather makes it fuller and more flexible. Decker's post is worth a look, especially his examples, which help illustrate his point.

(As an aside, I have a review of Constantine Campbell's book Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Letter From a Skeptical Friend: Part 1

Josh and I received an email from a good friend of ours from college which caused us some alarm. In the email, this old friend of ours said that he was considering becoming an atheist and that he essentially wanted to see if his atheistic take on reality can stand up to the Christian approach. Since he desired to dialogue with us on this issue, we asked if he would be willing to discuss this issue publicly so that others could be edified by our exchange and he agreed. The only caveat is that, for various reasons, we will be addressing him under the pseudonym "Wizard." What follows is the first part of Wizard's argument which we received. Our responses to Wizard's arguments can be found in the comments section of this blog post.

When I consider everything that I regard to be real or true I do so upon certain standards of evidence. In regards to the physical universe we can use our senses and the scientific method in order to determine truth about the physical world. Truth claims of the physical world are reliable from our senses as well as the scientific method because they can be examined by multiple observers and are overall falsifiable. It is clear that for the most part people share the same senses which makes it easy to corroborate truth claims about the physical world if there is one point of reference e.g. if I see a cup on my dining room table I can have my wife confirm that she sees the same cup on the dining room table. In the case where the senses differ, then truth claims can be examined through demonstration. If I am with someone who is color blind, I can demonstrate color by placing different colored cups upside down with a marble under the blue cup. I can leave the room, have the color blind person move the cups around and find the marble 100% of the time no matter how many times the color blind person moves the cups. I think it should go without saying that in developing beliefs about the truth of reality differing truth claims demand differing amounts of evidence. If I were to tell someone my name is Moby Dick, they would be reasonable to accept that at face value because the actual truth of my name makes little impact one way or the other in that situation.

I came to realize that I was accepting different levels of evidence for my Christian worldview than I was for all of my other beliefs. Everyone reading this would agree that for something as simple as whether or not these words are on the Bring the Books is indisputable and that if someone in the same position as the reader were to dispute it we could conclude that there is something wrong with their thinking abilities. Yet, the existence of God (something at the core of reality) is very disputable. Christians cannot demonstrate God through the use of senses or the scientific method. Therefore Christians use reason, but in doing so they make logical leaps an unfounded assumptions. The arguments used by Christians to prove God are useless because they may be able to get to the point of what I call X but cannot connect the dots to the Christian God and X can generally be filled in with "Universe creating Pixies." I used to think that the transcendental argument (TAG) succeeded in showing that the christian God must exist but I have come to see that logic and morality are not dependent on the existence of the Christian God.

The X = Universe Creating Pixies problem. I do not have the time or the space to go through all of the so called classical arguments for the existence of God, but I will use the cosmological argument as an example of how the arguments in general fail. I will start with listing the premises with which I agree.

1.) Every effect has a cause
2.) The universe had a beginning and is therefore an effect.
3.) The cause the of the universe must be sufficient to bring about the universe (I think Christians would prefer "powerful enough" rather than sufficient)

At this point the Christian would bring in premises with which I disagree. I will list the premises and then explain why I disagree.

4.) The cause of the universe must be outside of time.

This would only be necessary if you assume time is something that exists as something in itself rather than something that only comes about in relation to other things (rotation of planets, degeneration of physical things).

5.) The cause must be personal

It seems obvious to me that premise five is an arbitrary jump. How could you possibly know that the cause of the universe was personal?

Even if 1-5 were true, it only gets you to an X from which one cannot connect to God without an arbitrary leap. Like I said, universe creating pixies could satisfy 1-5.

The Christian God is not the only explanation for logic and morality. Logic is a set of observations that is based upon the consistent physical laws that our universe operate under. Logical statements need minds, but the things logical statements describe would be true whether there were no minds at all. The Christian may argue that we would not be able to trust our minds if there were no creator. However Christians cannot know that the mind of God is trustworthy. If the mind of God is eternal without change, how do we know that the mind of God is not eternally misguided. Eternality does not guarantee trustworthiness. In fact it seems that an eternal mind like God's could not change or be modified, therefore if the eternal mind is flawed it is without hope of correction. Just because we do not know the exact workings of logic does not mean it is then reasonable to assert God.

The Christian God cannot be the foundation of morality. How can Christians claim that God is the foundation of morality when that God decrees that man sin against him. Am I to believe that this perfect God is righteous, demands righteousness from me, but is responsible for everything that I do which is unrighteous. This is not to mention all of the things that God does in the Bible that we would not tolerate from any other person or being i.e. send a bear to kill young men for making fun of somebody, Accepting a human sacrifice from a foolish judge etc.

Wizard's argument will continue after we have responded to the arguments he has here offered. As mentioned before, our response to Wizard follows in the comments section.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Pittsburg Gym Shooter's Theology

What I'm about to do is unfair. No doubt about it. But I'm going to do it anyway, because it's something that I've said for a very long time - for years, actually. I have long claimed that proclaiming a view of the atonement which says that Jesus died for each and every sin of every single person is destructive. Now, I have proof, plain as day.

Earlier this week, George Sodini fulfilled a year-long plan by shooting up an aerobics class and killing 4 women, plus himself. This was a horrible event. One disturbing aspect is the blogs that he left behind, detailing his mental state and even his plan of what he was going to do. The blog is a disturbing read because it is seemingly that of a rational (at least seemingly) man who lived a purposeless existence and knew it. Throughout his writings, one finds many of his self-justifying reasons for what he is about to do. At one point early on, he mentions that at his church they teach that God will forgive any and all sins - even mass-murder. A few months later, days before carrying out this despicable act, Sodini writes the following:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
I would say that the problem is that he never had the lordship of Jesus Christ preached to him, but he may have. The important part, which he latched onto was the proclaimation which he repeatedly received that Jesus died for all of his sins. When you tell people that all of their sins are forgiven, when you tell them that Jesus died for their sins, and you evangelize them based on the fact that Jesus died for their sins and that person decides not to respond to the message of the gospel, you stand a chance of them remembering someday that Jesus already died for their sins. The proclamation that Jesus covers your sins before they even respond to the gospel is, in my opinion, dangerous. Now, it's not the fault of the Hypothetical Universalists that George Sodini was a psychopath, I just found it profoundly interesting that he remembered Jesus' universal atoning sacrifice days before killing 5 people and then taking comfort in that. Let the hate-mail begin.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The NT Letters and the Political Jesus

In chapter 7 of The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder continues to back up his claim that Jesus was, in fact, a political figure by answering this claim by his detractors: "even if Jesus saw his kingdom in terms of social ethics, his first followers did not." On the contrary, Yoder argues, the epistles urge two ways of relating to Jesus:

A) Following (external) - this is discipleship; Jesus is followed around by his pupils.
B) Imitation (internal) - this is a person’s inner conformity to the nature of Christ.

I. The Disciple/Participant and the Love of God
A. Sharing the divine nature is the definition of Christian existence (1 John 1:5-7; 3:1-3; 4:17; Col 3:9).
B. Forgive as God has forgiven you (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; Mt 6:14-15).
C. Love indiscriminately like God does (Lk 6:32-36; Mt 5:43-48; 1 John 4:7-12).

II. The Disciple/Participant and the Life of Christ
A. "Being in Christ" is the definition of Christian existence (1 John 2:6).
B. Having died with Christ, we share his risen life (Rom 6:6-11; Rom 8:11; Gal 2:20; Col 2:12).
C. Loving as Christ loved, giving himself (John 13:34; John 15:12; 1 John 3:11-16; 13:34).
D. Serving others as he served (John 13:1-17; Rom 15:1-7; 2 Cor 5:14; 22 Cor 8:7-9)

III. The Disciple/Participant and the Death of Christ
A. Suffering with Christ is the definition of apostolic existence (Phil 3:10-11; 2 Cor 4:10; 2 Cor 1:5; Col 1:24).
B. Sharing in divine condescension (Phil 2:13-14).
C. Give your life as he did (Eph 5:1-2).
D. Suffering servanthood instead holding power (Mark 10:42-45).
E. Accept innocent suffering without complaint just as he did (1 Peter 2:20-21, 3:14-18, 4:12-16).
F. Suffer with or like Christ the hostility of the world, as bearers of the kingdom cause (Lk 14:27-33; John 15:20-21; 2 Tim 3:12).
G. Death is liberation from the power of sin (1 Peter 4:12; Gal 5:24).
H. Death is the fate of the prophets; Jesus was already following them (Lk 24:19-20; Acts 2:36, 4:10; 1 Thess 2:15).
I. Death is victory (Col 2:15; 1 Cor 1:22-24; Rev 12:10-11).

According to Yoder, readers (like me) who are unaware of the political dimensions of Jesus' ministry may understand the 'in Christ' references in the NT letters to be some sort of mystical, private process and the 'dying with Christ' references as a morbid psychological experience. However, if we believe that the apostles used their core memory of Jesus' earthly ministry to talk about social ethics, then the fact that they centered their ethics on the cross has to mean a social stance which is compulsory for believers and often costly.

Yoder is emphatic that the only place where believers are supposed to imitate Jesus is in the taking up of the cross. He does not want his arguments to become a blanket grounding for compulsory celibacy, for example. "Servanthood replaces dominion, forgiveness absorbs hostility" (131).

I'm still one of those old fashioned guys who thinks that only part of what Yoder is saying is spot-on when it comes to kingdom living. But I do not follow Yoder wholesale in his belief that every single thing Jesus did was to send a political message. Yoder seems to think that the characteristic which leads to persecution for believers is their nonviolence. I believe, on the contrary, that though this might be a characteristic of the faithful, it is their proclamation of the spiritual message of the Gospel, which is offensive to the natural man which can will result in persecution.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eisenbrauns' Deal of the Day

Eisenbrauns is having a back to school sale. Each day they are offering deals of the day. You can follow them on twitter to be updated everyday on the new deal. Today the deal is for a large print edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece, the Nestle-Aland 27 Greek New Testament, for 50% off. I have found a few great deals, some that I could not pass up. Hope you find something worth while.