Thursday, May 30, 2013
The narrative-historical approach differs from purely narrative theologies (e.g. Frei) principally in that it emphasizes the historical groundedness and orientation of the story that is told about Israel and the early church. Scripture is not merely a “drama of doctrine” (Vanhoozer)—that is a very modern perspective. It is first and foremost an account of—and an attempt to make sense of—the historical experience of a community.
On the other hand, the narrative-historical approach differs from the historical-critical method in that it is interested primarily in the relationship between the text and the historical community which produced it, much less in the relationship between the text and a supposedly objective historical reality that might be constructed by other means. For example, we ask why the early Christian community told a story about Jesus calming a storm, what they understood by it, not whether the event is believable or actually happened. In this regard, the narrative-historical approach is closer to canonical or biblical criticism.
Perriman’s disagreement with Vanhoozer is not an argument, nor is it a disproof. It is a mere statement. This is like one child saying the Reds are the best team in baseball and the other one retorting that the Red Sox are the best team in baseball without putting up normative facts by which we measure a team’s talent. In addition, Perriman’s use of the adjective “merely” has the effect of polarizing Vanhoozer’s perspective. The problem is that Perriman does this without telling us why it should rightly be casted with that adjective in the first place.
Is God’s revelation really an attempt on God’s part to help us understand the historical experiences of ancient Israel? One is tempted to ask, “Why do I care?” If that is really what Scripture is, if that is the summation of it all, why do I care about what happened to the ancient community of Israel? What is that to me? Perriman seems obsessed with stopping at the community of Israel. Repeatedly he argues that Scripture revolves around Israel. Over and over he tells us that Scripture is given to help us understand the experience of Israel. But is this really the right subject of Scripture? Is Scripture concerned to teach us all about the experiences of the ancient tribe of Abraham? Did God give us the text so that we could travel back in time to experience what the tiny nation of Israel experienced?
It is one thing to say, as the grammatico-historical method does, that understanding the experience of that community is critical to our understanding of God, but it is quite another to say that this is that Scripture is “first and foremost an attempt to make sense out of an ancient community’s experience. Scripture is given to inform our faith. What faith seeks is not rich understanding of the experience of an ancient community. Faith seeks to understand her Author, finisher, and perfecto.
Perriman hammers away at theological interpretation as if it were possible to purge interpretation from theology altogether. I have pointed out that such a task is impossible. Surely Perriman can see that the very suggestion itself stems from a theological perspective. Doctrines are less propositional statements or static rules than they are life-shaping dramatic directions.” [Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine] Doctrine provides the melody to which we dance God’s dance in a life filled with both, light and darkness, joy and heartache, peace and upheaval, hope and despair.
Perriman admits that his method is close to the canonical method of Childs. This does seems to emerge in his views. However, part of the problem with Childs' canonical process is that he locates the canon, not is Scripture but in the interpretive community. The community reads the text from a community’s rule of faith. But this begs the question: whose rule of faith? As I have said repeatedly to Perriman, if we are going to follow the community’s rule of faith of some “canonical intent,” then whose do we follow? It is not as though the Jewish community had achieved perfect harmony in her understanding of Scripture. That Jesus and Paul’s interpretive method was radically different is plain for any reader to see.
That Childs' approach requires a great deal of theological perspective is clear. Yet, this is one thing that Perriman seeks desperately to dissolve. How he can claim to be so close to a method that is unapologetically theological in so many ways is confusing to say the least. As Vanhoozer rightly points out, “The gap between biblical studies and theology remains, however, for it is unclear what the human witness (canonical form) has to do with the divine disclosure (revelatory content). [Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine]
Contrary to Perriman’s hypothesis, Israel is not the primary subject of Scripture. Everywhere this tiny tribe or nation appears, YHWH appears. In other words, at a minimum, two characters are always present in the text: God and Israel or later, the Church. Moreover, God is present from Genesis one to Revelation twenty-two. In other words, YHWH is present when Israel is not. The center of Scripture is YHWH. He is the primary subject of Scripture. The text is about Him. Every character, including Israel, appears in the text to reveal something about YHWH. These characters are present but they all point upward to the God who is revealing and disclosing Himself to men that are anything but deserving of such a wonderful, magnificent, and often times, mysterious unveiling of His majesty! The Scripture gives us more reasons than we need to stand still and behold the wonders of the God who made the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, the God who sent His unique and only begotten Son to redeem men from the curse of sin.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The article can be found HERE
Apparently the United States Department of Justice recently sent out an email instructing its employees that it is NOT enough to keep silent about the issue of homosexuality.
“Don’t judge or remain silent,” the brochure read. “Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.”
They were also told to post “DOJ Pride” stickers in their office to indicate “that it is a safe place.”
One gay DOJ employee is quoted in the directive; “Silence seems like disapproval. There’s still an atmosphere of LGBT issues not being appropriate for the workplace (particularly for transgender people), or that people who bring it up are trying to rock the boat.”I have been arguing all along that homosexuals are not looking for the same legal rights as married couples under the law. This has NEVER been about THAT. Rather, THAT is been the perfect instrument by which to bring about THIS! What is this? Homosexual affirmation! Homosexuals are not looking to be treated with the dignity and respect every human being deserves. That is the NOT the issue. This DOJ policy brings the issue into clear focus: homosexuals want, no, rather they are demanding affirmation. It is not enough for Christians to be silent in the workplace. Now, if a homosexual sees silence, they recognize it as disapproval. And that will just not do! You must come out and verbally affirm the homosexual lifestyle or else.
This train is picking up steam. The Church needs to recognize that most of these homosexual complaints about how we don't love them enough or that we treat them badly, etc, are nothing more than tactics to break down the barriers. We can see this playing out in secular society before our very eyes. The same strategy is at play in the visible church. It seems that many, if not most in the homosexual movement indeed want to destroy any religion that will not affirm their lifestyle. Romans one informs us that this group of people have been especially turned over to degrading passions. Homosexuality is the judgment of God on humanity because of sin. This is undeniably the teachings of Scripture. What is the Church to do?
We continue to love the homosexual like any other sinner. We stop being naive about their real agenda. We continue to preach the gospel, make disciples, contend for the faith and do good works, looking for that blessed hope and the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ who will Himself put an end to all wickedness. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Homosexuality: The Major Impetus for Impending Religious Persecution
A physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio has lost her job as an educator because she is a lesbian. Carla Hale has been a teacher at the school for approximately 19 years now. Recently, the school discovered that Ms. Hale was a practicing lesbian. After an investigation in the matter, Bishop Watterson High School gave her her walking papers. You can read the story HERE.
I have been arguing for some time that the homosexual movement will be the likely impetus for religious persecution in America. The world needs to pay close attention to how this goes. For years America has been the champion of liberty and freedom around the world. But when something as basic as religious freedom is removed from the culture, the dominoes are sure to fall fast and the rest of the world should be very nervous about the consequences. You see, Americans have been willing to die for the greater good. A man has been willing to lay his life on the line, not only for this country, but for others from foreign countries as well. Up to now, Americans have had a higher value system instilled in them from childhood years. They have been raised with the conviction that these values are greater and more important than all of us individually and even collectively. These values are so important and sacred that we have been willing to die to protect them here and abroad.
Stand up and pay attention. With the pervasive crumbling and collapse of American morality, and the destruction of her age-old value system comes an entirely different set of values. And those values are not transcendent. They are the values of the individual. This value system erodes freedom at the foundation. There is no freedom more basic than the freedom to worship God as the individual sees fit. But American culture is on the brink of abolishing that freedom in the name of homosexual tolerance. Imagine that! So that 2% of the population can engage in unnatural sexual desires we are on the verge of destroying the religious freedom of hundreds of millions. In order to promulgate the sexually deviant behavior of approximately 7 million people, we are willing to take away the religious freedom of over 200 million. Somehow, in the American mindset, that makes sense.
A petition has been signed by nearly 55,000 people on behalf of Ms. Hale. The community is demanding she be reinstated. The problem is that Ms. Hale has known all along that she could not be gay and teach at a Catholic High School. She has know that if the truth ever came out, she would be fired. The school's policy on the subject is not ambiguous. It is not honorable nor noble to make a conscious decision to deceive your employer. Yet Ms. Hale has for done so for some 19 years now. Yet, even though she has lied and been dishonorable and lived in breach of contract for 19 years, she is being defended as an honorable person and the school vilified as an intolerant, bigoted institution. Who knows where this will go, but this is precisely the kind of thing I have been talking about for a while now.
Religious institutions are on the verge of being persecuted for their religious beliefs in the name of discrimination. Sooner or later we will begin losing our tax exempt status. Eventually our seminaries will have to forfeit their accreditation if they refuse to admit gay students and hire gay faculty. It is merely a matter of time.
What should the church do? What can she do? She should refuse to change course. She should continue to preach the gospel, love the unbeliever, obey the civil authorities where she can, and never compromise. She should NOT get side-tracked with gay marriage politics. She has a gospel to publish, people to disciple, missionaries to send out and service to render. She should busy herself with these sacred chores, waiting and watching for the return of her blessed Savior, the hope of all humanity. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Andrew Perriman's Second Rule: The main controlling structure is the story of Israel and the nations
The main narrative structure, from Genesis 12 to Revelation 20 is the story of Israel as a people struggling to make sense of and maintain its relationship with God under circumstances of conflict with other more powerful nations and empires. I have suggested that we might condense the “message” of the Bible into a single sentence as follows:
The long conflict between the one true creator God and the pagan nations, culminating in the victory of Christlike communities over Rome, has fundamentally transformed the nature and status of his “new creation” people in the world.This narrative contains countless individual stories but cannot be reduced to them or rewritten as merely incidental background to the personal narrative of sin and redemption. People find salvation or condemnation, life or death, insofar as they engage with this story.
I agree with Andrew on the point that all of Scripture is one continuous story with a central theme, a central subject, and a central truth that it expresses. However, by dislodging theology from his hermeneutical method, he risks arbitrariness in identifying that theme. Andrew’s contention in his second rule is the result of a prior methodological decision that does in fact require theological influence. In other words, it was not narrative-historical criticism that led Andrew to rule # 2; it was his theological prejudice. In fact, when pressed on the subject for rules of interpretation that form our theology, history itself cannot provide conditions necessary to form normative structures for theological understanding. Historical narrative gives us an account or record of a past event. It is unable, on its own, to provide the components necessary for theological framework. On the other hand, it is invaluable to our understanding those components that are necessary for a theological framework.
To be sure, Israel plays a large part in how God’s unfolding plan of redemption. God called Abraham from among all the other men He could have called. He made of one man a great nation. He interacted with the one nation while passing over all others. It was indeed an act of profound grace. However, it would be a mistake of cataclysmic proportion to think that God’s redemptive plan for humanity was focused on or centered around Israel. In every drama, there is always more to the story than the main characters. The main character is used to illustrate a deeper more profound meaning. The danger of focusing too much attention on the main character of the drama is that in so doing, we may miss the plot. For example, in the contemporary movie, “Warrior,” the main characters were two brothers who were MMA fighters and their father, a reformed alcoholic. If one pays too much attention to any one of those characters, they could miss the point of the movie. The movie is not about MMA per se. It is about forgiveness. Without a theological grid of some sort, all one would could do is piece together one historical fact after another without being able to assign significance to any of them.
I am not at all suggesting that Israel is the main character of the story of redemption. I am stating the obvious: Israel was one of the main characters in God's story of redemption. You see, it is impossible to understand Israel and her movements in history apart from the involvement of the actual main character of that story: YHWH. The LORD Himself is actually the main character of Scripture. He makes promises, He calls, He elects, He provides, and He protects. He created man, He called Abraham, He promises to redeem, He came to us through the virgin, He walked among us, He died for us, He resides in us, and He is coming for us. Perriman, by focusing on the wrong character, misses the wonder of the glory of the grace found in the story of a God who redeems and delivers, not just one nation from among men, men from among all the nations. What a wondrous story that is!
Notice also that Andrew leaves out the entire first eleven chapters of Genesis. Why would he not mention them? Based on what rule can he cut those chapters out, along with Revelation 21-22? I am going to suggest that the reason Andrew leaves these chapter out is because they do not fit within his program. They are irrelevant to his interpretive paradigm and may introduce problems rather than support his cause. Additionally, one has to recognize that Andrew’s second rule is in fact an exaggeration of the facts. Israel plays a significant role in God’s story of redemption up to the passion of the Christ. In fact, the significance of the nation is diminished beginning at Matt. 23:37-39. The nation fades into the background with the temporary rejection of their Messiah. By the time we move into Acts, we see God’s plot working out perfectly as His redemption explodes and salvation expands to all nations of the earth. While Israel remains an extremely important character in God’s program, she no longer occupies the position she once did. Moreover, we now discover that God’s main purpose in selecting Israel was to display His own glory in the plan of redemption in that one, small, tiny, unimpressive nation. This being the case, we can say that Andrew’s rule should be trimmed to perhaps Genesis 12 to the gospels or the first few chapters of Acts. Secondly, we recognize that focusing too much on the characters of the drama can encumber our goal of understanding its larger purpose. Finally, we must confess that we must do some theology if we are to make since of historical events. We recognize that athological historical investigation is just as impossible as aphilosophical historical investigation.
“What is the correct criterion, method, or standard for picking out good beliefs or bad ones? It seems as if we need such a criterion or method for sorting out our beliefs. But how will we know whether or not we have the correct criterion, unless we already know some actual instances of good beliefs or bad ones so that we can check our proposed criterion against these known cases?” [Robert P. Amico, The Problem of the Criterion]
Everything in Scripture centers on the incarnation of God Himself. The story of Scripture begins with the promise of redemption, pointing us to Immanuel, and ends with the culmination of that redemption, with all things owing their existence and being subjected to Immanuel. This redemption points to a higher, doxological purpose in Scripture. Man is redeemed for the glory of God! Hence, the main thrust of Scripture is not historical but rather, doxological. Andrew’s inordinate emphasis on narrative-historical interpretation leads him to emphasize the character of the drama rather than the Play Writer, and as a result, he fails to notice the real meaning of the drama behind its characters.
I want to make one final comment about the phrase “merely incidental background.” It is as if all historical details carry the same degree of significance. However, we know intuitively that they do not. This fact is not a small challenge for Andrew’s hermeneutic. What makes historical phenomena significant in the first place? Andrew is left with the dilemma of eliminating any distinction in degree between historical phenomena, or, of arbitrarily determining the significance between one historical event and another. Andrew, on the one had destroys any distinction between historical phenomena, or he arbitrarily assigns more significance to one event over another. If theology has no bearing on our understanding of history, it is impossible for us to distinguish more meaningful events from those that may be more or less incidental to the story.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
In any commentary on the subject of hermeneutics I am always tempted to pontificate and hence beat the proverbial dead horse. I am trying to do better. Hermeneutics is the meticulous process by which we bring to bear rigorous principles of human communication in an effort to appropriately exegete the text of Scripture in order to arrive at the meaning of that text for the purpose of appropriation, sanctification, edification, and proclamation. A first principle of biblical hermeneutics has to be; do no harm. Because we love God and seek to obey His every command, we seek to understand His written revelation. Additionally, because we love the Church, we seek to proclaim with accuracy the teachings and commands of God situated in the sacred text. Hence, the initiative for a sound hermeneutic is love for God and others.
Before I begin to interact with Andrew Perriman’s narrative-historical hermeneutic, a few items are begging attention. In case you want to access Mr. Perriman’s post and read it for yourself, it can be found HERE.
First things first, I must confess I was wrong when I said that Andrew did not respond to me request for comment on Col. 1:16-18 in my previous post. Andrew responded HERE. Andrew asserts “How do I understand Colossians 1:13-20? It says that Jesus was the image of the invisible God, that he was firstborn of every creature, that all things were created by God through him and for him, etc. It is said similarly of Wisdom:” In other words Col. 1:13-20 does not teach that Jesus was God or that He created all things, only that all things were created through Him. Andrew then connects this text with Jewish wisdom and implies that Paul was expressing common Jewish beliefs about wisdom’s role in creation. He also seems to think that Paul may have hinted at Christ's deity but only in contradistinction to the deitized pagan ruler. While I understand Andrew's argument, I must confess that I cannot begin to arrive at such a conclusion within the literary context of Paul's letter.
Andrew attempts to make much out of non-canonical Jewish writings about the role of wisdom in creation and he seems to think this idea shapes much of the early Church’s thought on the ontological nature of Jesus Christ, or at least that is what comes through in his comments. In fact, Andrew is convinced that non-Canonical Jewish writings had a significant influence on the NT authors. I must confess that I have not seen Andrew’s argument for this conclusion and this places me at a disadvantage when it comes to evaluating his specific approach. So far, what I have seen are not as much arguments for Andrew's claims, but rather statements. I admit that I am highly skeptical of Andrew’s hypothesis for a number of reasons that I hope to show throughout my critique of his narrative-historical hermeneutic. Andrew argues that wisdom had a hand in creation. We now turn to the text that Andrew's points regarding this claim to determine if his understanding of wisdom's role in creation is correct.
Proverbs 8 presents wisdom personified, which is a common literary device in Jewish writings. Andrew asserts that wisdom had a hand in creating all things. However, nowhere does the author tell us that wisdom actually created anything or even assisted in creating anything. Great care and restraint must be exercised when reading Jewish wisdom literature. First, we must pay particular attention to the literary form. Second, we should read the text as if it were an impassioned plea to action. Third, we must capture its form and content. [Intro. To Biblical Interpretation, Klein, Bloomberg, Hubbard, Jr.] What is Proverbs 8 really doing? While it utilizes the literary device of personification, that is not the main thrust of the chapter. Andrew surely misses this when he emphasizes wisdom in the way he does. The chapter is bookended by the initial plea, “Listen to wisdom…to you O men, I call out,” and the closing entreaty, “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me.” Just as most of proverbs points us up to true wisdom and pleads with us to attain true wisdom and understanding, so Proverbs 8 is making the same impassioned petition. And what is true wisdom and understanding, but the fear of the Lord!
Contrary to Andrew’s claim that Col. 1:16-18 does not teach that Jesus created all things, the text clearly tells us ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα, for by Him were created all things. In this statement we easily see similar statements made elsewhere in the NT documents. Dan Wallace, in his highly esteemed project, “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,” says,
“It would be better to say that when ἐν + the dative expresses the idea of means (a different category), the instrument is used by an agent. When agency is indicated, the agent so named is not used by another, but is the one who uses an instrument.”
In other words, when an agent is indicated in the text, like we see in Col. 1:16-18, the agent, in this case the Son of God, is not actually used by another like an impersonal, passive shovel if you will, but is the one who uses the instrument. This points us to the view that Paul was asserting, quite clearly we might add, that Jesus Christ is the source of all that is. Another example is located in John: πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, by Him everything came into being. (Jn. 1:3) And again, σὺ κατʼ ἀρχάς, κύριε, τὴν γῆν ἐθεμελίωσας, καὶ ἔργα τῶν χειρῶν σού εἰσιν οἱ οὐρανοί· You, Lord, laid the foundations of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands. (He. 1:10) The G-H hermeneutic seeks to remain faithful to human communication and get to the meaning of the author. One of the most basic questions involved in biblical interpretation concerns the purpose of the text from the outset. What is the purpose of the divine author and what is the purpose of the human author. How should we read the biblical documents? To whom were they written? The answers to these questions will, to a large degree, shape our understanding of and inform our hermeneutical method in biblical studies. Should we see the Bible as a fine piece of literature, employing all the literary devices that a modern author might employ or is it something different, something much more than that? If it is more than just another piece of literature, how could that impact our methods for understanding it?
Andrew posits a hermeneutical method that he calls narrative-historical (N-H) interpretation. I, on the other, am a student of the grammatico-historical (G-H) hermeneutic. One of the first and most important questions we should ask about any hermeneutic (method for interpreting) concerns its theological and philosophical presuppositions. There is no such thing as a presupposition(less) hermeneutic. The idea that hermeneutics takes place outside the purview of theology is quickly fading into the sunset of really, really bad ideas. What we see now is the demand for a theological justification of the hermeneutic in use. I must be able to offer sound theological justification for why I am a student of the G-H hermeneutic and Andrew must be able to offer a sound theological justification for the N-H hermeneutic he proffers. The purpose of this post and likely the next is to examine Andrew’s method, compare it with the G-H method and measure both by sound rules of human communication, all the while considering that what we are dealing with is not only a human product, but a divine one as well.
Rule #1: The meaning of scripture is controlled by large literary structures
The narrative-historical approach brings into focus the larger narrative structures that hold scripture together and frame the parts. Since the patristic period the church has mainly used theological structures (creeds, doctrines, statements of faith, systematic theologies, the gospel of personal salvation, etc.) to hold together, frame and interpret the parts of scripture.
Before I say much about the clear non-sequitur that exists between Andrew’s Rule and the paragraph that follows, I admit that I completely agree with the rule, sort of. The meaning of Scripture is undeniably, controlled by literary units. This is a fundamental principle of sound hermeneutics. We understand a verse by reading the verses around it. Moreover, we understand sections of Scripture by reading the sections around them. This principle also applies to the Bible as a whole from a macro level. However, as we will see, this principle does little to address certain presuppositions that are brought to those large literary units or structures. And in many cases, these presuppositions serve to undercut the meaning of these structures by imposing the reader’s ideas and philosophies on a text that the writer never had in mind when he wrote to begin with.
As we read the first rule, notice how Andrew places this rule within the narrative-historical paradigm as if to imply other methods violate rule number one. Also, notice how Andrew establishes a dichotomy between narrative structures and theological structures that hold Scripture together. This way of framing the argument creates a logical disjunction where I am convinced one does not exist. Narrative contributes to our theology, and theology helps set the context for narrative. For example, Scripture is not just a book of historical facts or abstract theology. Such an approach leads to the aesthetic theology. However, while Scripture piques interest, and generates curiosity, that is not its primary purpose. Scripture has a purpose that transcends the historical facts it records and the theology it teaches. These help to frame out our theological structures. Failure to take this into account is poor exegesis and not in keeping with sound hermeneutics.
The basic problem with Andrew’s first rule is not the rule itself, but the presuppositions that guide how Andrew applies it. This is not at all surprising. It is how most of us get into trouble when interpreting the text. The problem for Andrew is that it gets in the way of the most basic teachings of the NT authors about the ontological nature of Jesus Christ. Regardless of who you are that kind of problem is a really big problem to have. The literary context of a text is critically important to understanding. But so too is the larger context of that literary unit. And finally, so too is the entire unit of Scripture itself. If we begin our journey on the study of Scripture with a wrong impression of the nature of the text in front of us, we are sure to end far off the course that God has laid out for us.
Perhaps there is a glimpse in Andrew’s presupposition, but perhaps not. I wonder if the logical disjunction between narrative and theology is set in place at the beginning because there is in fact an agenda in place. Time will tell as I move through the remaining rules of Andrew’s narrative-historical hermeneutic.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
I have been dialoguing with Andrew Perriman over at Post. The subject we have been debating is the presentation of the NT writers of Jesus as divine. On a number of occasions Andrew has refused to state plainly that he does not think Jesus is God. However, when asked repeatedly to affirm that he believes and confesses that Jesus is God, he has consistently declined. In addition, every text we have discussed that the Church has historically understood to point to the divinity of Christ, Andrew has consistently adopted an opposing interpretation.
For example, Andrew asserts that John’s prologue (1:18) is primarily the influence of Philo and that John is concerned to present Jesus as Wisdom incarnate, not God incarnate. When asked about his understanding of Phil. 2:5-11, Andrew categorically denies any hint of divinity in Paul’s words. When I asked Andrew to explain Col. 1:16-18, he never responded. Additionally, I have asked why it was the Jews manipulated the Romans into executing Jesus. On what legal grounds was Jesus put to death? Moreover, I has referenced John 10:30 and Hebrews 1:8-14 to understand why these texts do not clearly affirm the divinity of Christ. The responses have been summed up in Andrew’s narrative-historical method of interpretation. In my next post, I will provide a critique of Andrew’s method which you can read HERE.
I will attempt to keep this post as succinct as possible. To begin, I want to turn your attention to John’s prologue. The first response to Andrew’s view that John was writing under the inspiration of Philo is as follows: first, while I disagree that Logos in the NT documents is equivalent to reason or wisdom, for purposes of this discussion, I don’t think it matters that much.
The argument is as follows:
Jesus is the Word. The Word is God. Therefore, Jesus is God.
Or, Jesus is Wisdom. Wisdom is God. Therefore, Jesus is God.
From any of these premises, we must accept that the conclusion that Jesus is God is logically valid. In addition, since the alternative premises also lead to the same conclusion, the argument is strengthened. For those who believe like I do, the Word is God, Jesus is the Word, therefore Jesus is God. For those who think John is talking about wisdom, the same argument must conclude that Jesus is God. Either way, the argument is sound regardless of which one you choose. Verse 3 tells us that all things came into being through Jesus Christ. Andrew says through wisdom. He was in the world. He came to His own. His own did not know Him. To those who received Him, He gave them power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. His name is not wisdom. In fact, wisdom is nameless. A plain reading of John 1:1-18 cannot help but point us to the deity of Christ. In fact, in 1:18, Jesus is called the only begotten God, or the one unique God. While I acknowledge the discussion around the variant in that text continues, the evidence of the earliest and best MSS strongly support this reading.
Phil. 2:5-11 is another text disputed by Andrew to affirm the divinity of Christ. Jesus is said to be existing in the form of God present, active, participle, prior to emptying (kenosis) Himself by taking on the form of a servant and a man, both aorist participles. The present tense of this participle points us to the pre-existent state of Christ in the form of God prior to His taking the form of the servant. Secondly, the active voice indicates that Jesus Himself TOOK the form of a servant. In other words, here Paul says Jesus took an active part in becoming a servant. I did not make myself a human. I was born human. If Paul wanted to emphasize such a perspective, he would have used the passive voice. He did not! First, Jesus is existing in the form of God. He did not think being equal with God was anything to be held onto. He emptied Himself by taking on the form of a servant. In other words, Jesus moved from one state to another. This fits well with John 17:5 where Jesus prayed to the Father to glorify Him together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was. Andrew focuses on Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of God as if it were a place Jesus never occupied before. That is an unproven assumption on Andrew’s part. It is interesting to me that he has not addressed this point.
Additionally, I have requested that Andrew treat Col. 1:16-18, which states emphatically and in no uncertain terms that Jesus Christ created all things, that He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. There has been no interaction with this text from what I can tell at this time.
Concerning the death of Christ, I have asserted that Christ was executed on the grounds of blasphemy and that this charge was linked to the Jews understanding that Jesus was claiming to be God. This view is derived from John 5:17-18 where Jesus claimed that God was His own Father. The Jews saw this claim as a claim to divinity. In their mind, Jesus was claiming to be equal with God. In Jewish monotheism, the only way to be equal with God was to be God. Hence, they wanted to kill Him. John 10:33 records a similar incident. In v. 30, Jesus claimed to be “one with His Father.” The Jews responded by picking up stones to stone Him. Once again, they understood Jesus’ claim to be a claim to divinity. They accused Him of blasphemy and said He was making Himself equal with God. In John 19:7, this charge is repeated under more formal circumstances. In fact, every gospel records that Jesus was executed because the Jewish council equated Jesus’ claim to be the unique Son of God with a claim to divinity and hence made Him guilty of blasphemy. Anything that defames the image of the one true God is Israel would be blasphemy. Jesus’ claim to divinity would have been understood to mean that God is not one, but at least two. Such a claim would have been unthinkable to Jewish monotheism. Hence, Jesus is accused of blaspheming God and executed. A false claim to be the Messiah could not have supported a charge of blasphemy.
Hebrews 1:8-14 inform us that God Himself confirms that Jesus is God and that His throne of righteousness endures forever. In addition, God says that Jesus, as Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of earth and that the heavens are the works of His hands. Clearly this is an unambiguous reference to Jesus’ divinity.
Andrew turns to a narrative-historical reading of the text. What I am very interested in is the origin of this approach. I cannot find it anywhere. I am beginning to wonder if it is Andrew Perriman’s proprietary interpretive paradigm invented to prop up his desire to reject orthodoxy and secondly, his desire to firm up his preterism. Either way, I will work through Andrew’s theological and philosophical presuppositions that serve to support his interpretive paradigm in my next post.
The knowledge of the Son of God as God does not come through naturalistic interpretive paradigms. This knowledge comes only through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit on the human heart. Without that work, one can never know Christ as divine. They may mentally assent to His divinity, giving it lip service, but they will not truly know Him as God. Unless we believe that He is the One, God of very God, the unique Son of God who made all that is, we will surely die in our sins.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The word authentic is sadly one of the most overused words in contemporary Christianity. It has been hi-jacked by people who think that being authentic is giving yourself permission to doubt even the most sacred beliefs and practices in the Christian community. “I am authentic” has come to mean that I admit to doubting the divinity or resurrection of Christ. “I am authentic” if I challenge historic orthodox dogma in any way whatever. It is the hip thing to do. In fact, rejection of even the most basic, long-standing affirmations of Christendom has become a most sought-after virtue as of late. Admission of heterodox beliefs and practices is lauded in the visible Christian community (the false one that is) in much the same way that American culture lauds openly gay admissions.
The young know-it-alls who seek to usher in a tradition of their own construction tell us they read the text honestly and if that means that Jesus is not divine, the resurrection was just an analogy, the authors were a product of a homophobic and chauvinistic culture, that hell is a metaphor, and that there are many paths lead to eternal bliss, then so be it. After all they say; who are we, the establishment with our boring music and stuffy creeds to tell them otherwise? These young men and women know how to make the Church relevant and meaningful and it isn’t through doctrine, creeds, and ancient music. Tradition is an ideal whose day has passed and the only way to move forward, to progress, to make sure the Church doesn’t die out completely, is to annihilate tradition. It is as if orthodoxy is to be rejected a priori. In other words, as Michael Kruger recently wrote, orthodoxy has become heresy. In fact, what this young group seems to be saying is that the only heresy that exists, if it exists at all, is orthodoxy. Welcome to the age of inauthentic Christianity. It is a fake, false, counterfeit that is designed to appease the whims and desires of a radically narcissistic generation. It is, as one writer labelled it, moralistic- therapeutic deism. Inauthentic Christianity displaces God and Christ, the Church and Scripture and in their place it installs, me. It is the religion of pop-psychology, pop-culture, pop-music, and pop-faith. It is decrepit and bankrupt, empty and without root. It is specifically designed for the uncritical, the non-thinker who wishes to feel his or her way through life. They are in charge because, well, that arrangement just feels right.
John wrote his apocalypse some 2,000 years ago saying to one of the churches, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” That sentence would make it past the review committee for must Sunday morning sermons nowadays. But Jesus thundered it to the church at Sardis. It was a strong rebuke for a church that had lost its authenticity. This word means, conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief. Authentic religion is religion that conforms to the facts of reality. No religion that fails to conform to God’s reality can be an authentic religion. The only authentic religion is that religion that is revealed in Scripture. Moreover, that religion happens to be Christianity. However, it is not the Christianity with which most Americans or Westerners are familiar. In fact, most of the world is not at all familiar with Biblical Christianity. If you thought the message had got out, you need to think again. A message has indeed been spread, but that message is for the most part, a pseudo-Christianity that has millions oblivious to the fact that they really do not know or understand the Jesus of Scripture.
J.C. Ryle says, “If you want to know whether your religion is authentic, try it by the place it occupies in your inner man.” [Practical Religion] If God does not occupy the center of your very being, He does not occupy an ounce of you. If your religion is not more important to you than your very next heartbeat, then your religion is nothing more than a membership in a social club that probably isn’t very social.
If you want to know how authentic your religion is to you, examine your feelings about sin. Oh no, not sin in the life of your neighbor. Do not think about the sin in your culture. If you want to measure you authenticity, measure your hatred for the sin that still occupies a place in your own life: That sin with which you struggle, you fight, you wrestle day in and day out. A Church or an individual that does not struggle with sin, certainly does not struggle with righteousness. Can we love what God hates or be indifferent toward that which God loathes and be His friend?
If you want to measure your authenticity, measure your attitude toward others. Are we whisperers, backbiters, passing along juicy information about our brothers and sisters? Do we hate our brothers while claiming to love God? He that hates his brother cannot love God.
How wolves want us to see them.
How wolves really appear!
Authentic Christianity not only stands by God’s truth revealed in Scripture, it also does its best to live up to it. I am increasing confronted by people who desire to call themselves Christians, even evangelical Christians who want nothing to do with evangelical truth. There are hundreds of millions of people across the world that want to claim the label “Christian” but who want nothing to do with the truth and praxis of the Christian religion. They want to deny the deity of Christ and be Christian. They deny the nature of Scripture and want to be Christian. They wish to reject the exclusive claims of the gospel and continue to be Christian. They want to be gay and Christian. They want to have abortions and be Christian. They want to practice pre-marital sex and be Christian. They want to deny the triune nature of God and be Christian. Anything goes with an inauthentic religion. In our day, anyone can claim to be anything and by the claim alone, the rest of us are expect to go along with it. But that is exactly what we cannot do. It is what we have been doing for some time now, and yet, it has been demonstrated that such an attitude simply won’t do.
The Christian group can no longer afford to adopt an attitude of indifference toward those who impose themselves on the gospel, rejecting most of its message while insisting they be admitted into the community. Scholars have to be labelled as the wolves they are when they have clearly abandoned the faith in preference for higher-critical, naturalistic ways of understanding Scripture and interpreting God. Their seats at the table must be reclaimed and all interactions with them must be as with unbelievers. They must be viewed as targets of evangelism, not colleagues with whom we have superfluous disagreements.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. (2 Cor. 10:3-6)
Thursday, May 9, 2013
The state of the contemporary Church is nothing short of morbid. After decades and even centuries of shifts into feeble convictions about the most basic doctrines and praxis of clear Scriptural teachings, what remains hardly resembles anything remotely close to the ancient version of first-century Mediterranean Christianity. In addition, American Christianity in particular has become such a corrupt and perverse form of the Jesus movement, that one would be hard pressed to make the case for even the weakest connection between the historic form, with its roots in ancient Palestine, and what the overwhelming majority of American Churches call Christianity. It would be a far too kind to describe the condition of what men call Christianity, as nefarious. What passes for Christianity today, to be blunt is in fact an abhorrent abomination. Enter John Paulk and David Loveless.
John Paulk was the poster boy for the “Ex-Gay” movement for years now. He had supposedly given up his gay lifestyle for a conservative Christian one. He has announced that he and his wife will be divorcing and that he has been lying all these years. He has returned to the gay lifestyle, if indeed he ever left it to begin with. Critics of Biblical Christianity will use this event as a means by which to pepper the Church with criticism regarding its insistence that gay sex is an act of human will, and that it can be rejected, and that any Christian with gay temptations can reject those urges and channel them in a godly direction. My criticism with how we approach this subject is the form of our argument. We point to men like Paulk to make our point. And when they let us down, it looks like we are clearly wrong. We are not wrong. Our argument is wrong. The form of our argument is poor. We are using “proofs” that are not sound proofs. Why do we continue to allow ungodly men to set the standards and shape the criteria for rational argumentation? These arguments are mystifying in the least. We need nothing MORE and nothing LESS than Scripture to argue against the gay lifestyle. Why would we think we would ever need anything else? We are seduced into this way of thinking and for those who buy the product, they are left with a lot of explaining to do. If you pointed to Paulk as proof, well, I think you are getting what you deserve. My hope is that you will learn to make better arguments for why sinful behavior is sinful in the future.
Also appearing in the Christian Post is a story about David Loveless. Mr. Loveless has resigned as pastor of the Discovery Church in Orlando, Florida after admitting to an extra-marital affair. Usually, my initial response to a situation like this is compassion and grace. But that is reserved for someone who has been taken off guard by a sin that has sprung up and caught them. Think about David’s sin with Bathsheba. However, this does not describe Mr. Loveless’ behavior. Apparently, Mr. Loveless has confessed to an affair that has been carried on for years. I have no idea how it could be possible for one to carry on such sin for so long. I can imagine a short period of failure, but the conscience would certainly provoke one to repentance sooner than later. But to engage in such a practice for years defies comprehension.
No doubt, people will continue to point to the behavior of men like Paulk and Loveless to criticize Biblical Christianity. They will paint all Christians who have repented of same-sex behavior with the same brush as Paulk. That is, they will refuse to believe it. Sexual desire is a very powerful desire. Those who experience it and give in to it may find it impossible to believe that others could resist those urges. They will simply call these Christians liars and point to Paulk as proof. Paulk proves nothing in affirmation of biblical Christianity or in its denial. His behavior and Loveless’ behavior are irrelevant to the truth claims of Christian theism. We are not called to defend the behavior of people who profess Christianity. We are not even called to defend what we see in the visible, and mostly pseudo-Church.
Our message remains steadfast, immoveable, and unabated. God stands in judgment of sinful humanity. In an amazing act of grace, He sent His Son to bear His wrath for those whom He would call to Himself for His glory according to the purpose of His eternal plan. We must never lose sight of this truth. Our arguments around these social issues must always center on Scripture. Scripture is our authority for all we believe about how things really are, for how we know this to be true, and for how we order our lives. The minute we lean on experiences, like Paulk, they will surely let us down.
We pray for Paulk and Loveless, that God would grant both men repentance if He has not already. But we cannot, in the name of love and grace, excuse the behavior or soften the seriousness of the wicked each man has done. We must hold forth the high standard of truth, respect the reputation of the Church, and defend the honor of Christ by vehemently condemning these behaviors without hesitation while at the same time acknowledging our own sinful tendencies and seeking to restore two fallen sinners, realizing that but for grace, there we all go!
Saturday, May 4, 2013
To say that Tim Tebow has been a lightening rod is a gross understatement to say the least. The latest news on Tim is that he is no longer a New York Jet. I am happy that Tebow is no longer in an environment that, in my opinion is one of the most insulting, rude, and denigrating environments one could ever be in.
Recently I was leaving the gym and one of the staff asked me what I thought about the Browns draft. I thought it was sad and that is what I told him. I am a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and I suppose I always will be. They are, after all, the only football team that will be playing in heaven. At least that is how I understand the Scripture. Anyways, the conversation turned to Tim Tebow, since the Jets drafted Geno Smith from WVU. Smith had great stats until opposing defenses found a formula to beat him. Once that happened, he fell from the number one Heisman candidate to just another quarterback faster than Cheick Kongo under the crushing right of Roy "Big Country" Nelson at the last UFC event. But that is not the point.
You see, the fellow at the gym apparently doesn't like Tebow either. He said that Denver was successful under him because of their defense, not because of his quarterbacking. When I asked why that same defense was 2-6 prior to Tebow taking over, he had no response. Apparently Tebow did have an impact on the team after all. Yet, the one thing that some people, not most people, did not like about Tebow was His Jesus. Tim Tebow insists on putting Jesus out in front for everyone to see. He is going to practice his Christianity even if the entire country can't stand it. He goes on smiling in the face of criticism and does not revile. We could all learn a lesson from Tim in that respect.
Tim Tebow did the unthinkable. He stood up for biblical Christianity in an environment where it is despised. People cannot stand the biblical version of Christianity. They hate the biblical man, Jesus. He is too narrow, too judgmental, too serious, has too many rules. In short, He is too demanding. You cannot do whatever you want and still hang out with Him. He insists you do things His way. Jesus can be demanding like that. People have waited for Tim Tebow to trip up and prove he is not the Christian he supposed pretends to be. (As if tripping here or there is the same as living in outright rebellion against God). And Tim has held steady and the more he has done so, the more people do not like him. The numbers don't lie. The only chance he got in the NFL, he took a failing team from a dismal 2-6 record to the playoffs and won the first game.
Enter Jason Collins. Jason Collins is a professional basketball play that recently announced that he prefers sex with men, as opposed to nature's order and God's command. When we compare the national response to Collins with that to Tim Tebow; the contrast is remarkable. Collins garnered a call from the President, telling him that he was proud of him. Does it really take courage for someone to announce they are gay in 2013 America? Especially if that someone is in the national spotlight? How much support would anyone expect to get in our current environment? Collins is celebrated as a courageous hero because he has openly admitted to enjoying sex with other men. The acts that these men engage in behind the scenes is so reprehensible that I refuse to speak of it in public. Tim Tebow stands for a system of belief that is unsurpassed in its morality, in its virtue, in its courage, and in its purity. He is despised and hated and mocked by celebrities and the media repeatedly. Jason Collins announces how he likes his sex and he is elevated to the status of hero and almost worshipped. In modern America, to be a biblical Christian is to be hated and despised. To be sexually perverse, going against even the naturalist's prized doctrine of natural selection and the survival of the species, is to be a hero. We are not living in the age of enlightenment. We are living in the age of irrationalism. The arguments defending these ideas are very plainly some of the most idiotic ones I have ever witnessed. When man departs from biblical morality and reasoning, irrationalism and immorality are the inevitable consequences. We are witnesses to this fact today. This is undeniably the most irrational period that humanity has ever witnessed. I wonder what is next.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Few things are as remarkable as the love-fest that Americans have with homosexuality. To be a homosexual in America is praised, supported, and lauded as if having sex with someone of the same sex is one of the most virtuous things a human could ever do. Recently Jason Collins, an NBA player announced that he is gay. President Barak Obama told Mr. Collins that what he did was brave and that he is proud of him. Indeed, times are no longer changing, they have changed. Collins coming-out party, according to SI.com, was groundbreaking, epic, country changing. Collins’ Twitter followers swelled from 3,500 to 85,000. Steve Nash says the time has come for maximum respect. David Stern said he is glad Collins assumed the leadership mantle on this one. Charlie Sheen described at as transcending courage. Now we care about what Charlie Sheen says? Interesting. RuPaul called Collins a true American.
Contrast this with something Chris Broussard said about the situation. Broussard is a sports professional who covers NBA games for ESPN on Mondays. Broussard basically said that no one who practices open sin, such as fornication, adultery, or homosexuality is a Christian. They are walking in open rebelling against God, and therefore, they are not in fact, Christian. He references the Bible to support his viewpoint. What did the headline read in relation to Broussard’s comments? “ESPN’s Chris Broussard attacks Jason Collins.” Now, given the current love-fest in America that American’s currently have with the gay lifestyle, how courageous was it for Collins to come out of the closet. Who would dare criticize Collins for being gay in our culture? Anyone who would dare disagree with prevailing sentiment on the gay issue would surely be placing their career is serious jeopardy. Yet, enter Chris Broussard, a high-profile ESPN analyst that apparently values His Christianity more than he does his career.
Did Barak Obama call Chris Broussard to congratulate him on his courage or bravery? Did anyone else in the media praise Broussard’s tremendous act of courage to cut against the grain? If they did, I have not read about it. Annie Rose-Strasser over at ThinkProgress titled her lead in to the story, “ESPN Sportscaster immediately Trashes First Out NBA Player.” The amount of sheer ignorance bantered about in the comments section on that site is painful to the intellect. When it comes to the Bible, to God, to Jesus, to Christianity, to interpretation, these are truly some of the most ignorant comments I have ever read. The point is that America has become, for all intents and purposes, a gay country. Americans extol homosexuality as if it were a prized virtue. They can’t say enough good things about it, support it enough, or fight for its causes hard enough.
It is for this reason that the Church in America needs to come to grip with this fact: anything that gets in the way of what the homosexual group wants will be annihilated without one single critical thought whatever. After all, we are talking about a culture that embraces natural selection and the supposed normalcy of gay sex. And they don’t sense the blatant contradiction in that thinking, not even for a second. It is pointless to argue about the gay issue in our culture at this point. The Church simply must stand up and condemn it just like it does adultery, fornication, or lying or any other act that God clearly condemns in Scripture. Since when are we called to debate unregenerate men about the sinfulness of their sin? What a waste of time! Just preach the word men, preach the whole counsel of God, and let the seed fall where it may. It is God who gives the increase.
In the meantime, the Church needs to brace for increasing attacks against their practices. Tax deductions are sure to come under scrutiny, eventually being denied in my opinion. If make financial contributions to an organization that the government classifies as bigoted against homosexuals, guess what! No tax deduction. I believe that such changes are inevitable and only the beginning of persecution against biblical Christianity in this nation of hypocrites. Seminaries need to begin to prepare now for what is coming. Sooner than later, no accredited academic institution will be able to retain their accreditation if they have anti-gay policies of any sort. When that happens, good luck men, getting your loans and funding to pay for tuition. This is one area where the Church absolutely needs to act rapidly, starting now. Surely the gay community will be the community that Satan will use to attack the genuine Church more than any other tool at his disposal. Some would say that a bigger tool has been liberal theology, or deconstructionism, or postmodernism. Those ideologies have posed real threats to Christianity over the decades, to be sure. But most of those seduced by such movements have not been true Churches to begin with. The true Church is about to be tested on issues it knows it cannot compromise and continue to exist as the Church.