Saturday, May 27, 2017

When Scripture Loses It's Authority in the Seminary and the Church

I am taking a one-post break from my Battle for the Beginning series. However, I am convinced that this post is indelibly connected to the flawed views of those who are doing everything they can to make Christian doctrine conform to modern scientific philosophies surrounding the age of the universe along with evolutionary theory. Those who are desperately attempting to do all they can to make Christian doctrine less offensive to the modern senses ought to be fired from their posts, be they pastors or professors. They are not working in serving of the body as Ephesians 4 demands.
Christian-None ChartIn the year 2000, a gallop pole asked the question, "What is your religious preference?" 82% responded Protestant, Christian, or Catholic, and only 8% responded, none. In 1950, the response was 91%, Christian and 3%, none. In 2017, the response was 62% Christian and 18%, none. From 2000 (2) to 2017 (3) the percentage of nones more than doubled. To be accurate, nones increased 125%. That is an average of 7.35% per year. Based on that projection, over the next 10 years nones could reach 34.1%. If Christianity is dropping by 1.47% per year, then the corresponding numbers could reach 55% in 2022 and 47% by 2027. In a mere 15 years, there could be more, much more nones (52%) than professing Christians (40%) Now, it is important that you understand that I am NOT among those who believe Christianity is collapsing. I am convinced that these numbers have never reflected true Christians. They reflect mostly pseudos (fake Christians-Christians in name only). The overwhelming majority of "Christians" in American history have been much closer to what might be termed a therapeutic deism, embracing something very close to Christian values and principles at the most surface levels only. As the old saying goes, mile-wide Christianity but only an inch deep. Still, the trend in our culture is extremely significant and Christians should pay very close attention.
Christians to Nones 2017-2032
With the increase in nones comes an increase in changing values, changing worldviews, along with pressure and persecution. And we are seeing pastors and other leader-types (professors, educators, apologists, etc.) react to these pressures differently. Most of those reactions in recent years have been mostly negative where biblical truth and authority are concerned. To be sure, the real problem is the lofty level occupied by human reason and its ability to sit in judgment of all truth-claims. If human reason deems it so, then it is so. The cause of this problem is obvious to the serious Christian: sin. Man sits in judgment of everything. He occupies that chair for which he desperately aimed thousands of years ago in the garden: the place belonging solely to God.
Sin displaces God and in his place, inserts human reason. Man judges what can and cannot be known, what is and is not moral, what is and is not the state of affairs than have obtained. In other words, human reason dictates our metaphysic, epistemology, and ethic, as opposed to God through divine revelation. Whatever violates man's standard is dealt with harshly. Now, in American culture, man has extended a certain cognitive respect to Christian principles over the course of her short history. But that respect has always been determined, not by Christian principles themselves, but by what human reason has been willing itself to extend. And as one looks at the trends above, human reason in American culture is rapidly changing. It is my conviction that the primary driver of this rapid change is the professing Christian's view of Scripture. The visible Church has always served as a counter-balancing element in American culture. She pushed back on certain ideas and beliefs. And even if it was in word only, she upheld certain Christian principles that served to influence the external behavior of the culture at large. But that has been changing slowly over the years and as the numbers above indicate, that change as accelerated at an alarming rate. I blame this acceleration on an evangelical community that has been rapidly succumbing to the pressure of the culture. The problem if complex and it is beyond the scope of this post to get into the details. However, make no mistake about it; the subject of this scope is the only cure, the only hope that Church has for thriving in a culture that is obviously post-Christian at this point even if that "Christian era" was more pseudo than genuine where the majority is concerned.
The solution to this problem is for evangelicals to stop compromising every truth taught in Scripture that modern intellects, secularism, judges to be offensive intellectually or morally. Even when we state the truth, we find ourselves trying every way possible to take the stinger out of it. Isn't it true? How many times do you find yourself having to talk about God's truth knowing that the other participants in the conversation are going to find your position incredibly offensive and so you try your best to state it as softly as you can. Why? Why do we do this? We do it because we are desperate NOT to offend anyone. But what if such an approach offends God? Yes, what about that?
The purpose of this section is to provide an overview of the Christian doctrine of Scripture. One's view of Scripture will do more than anything else to determine how they think about and interact with modern culture. Churches that have lowered their view on Scripture find themselves becoming more and more irrelevant where true Christian living is concerned. From my perspective, nothing is more important in the American Churches today than ensuring that our people understand what the Scripture teaches about itself and what Christianity has always affirmed about the nature of God's Word set down in written form.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Battle for the Beginning – 7 of 12

In this post we will examine Nathan’s seventh problem for the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2. So far, Nathan is 0-6 in his attempt to validate that the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 has any serious problems. Let’s see if he fairs any better here.

7) "These are the generations of" in Genesis 2:4... Hebrew "toledot" occurs 11 times in the book of Genesis as a literary device... as an introduction to a new segment of the book. A sequel. When combined with Genesis 1:1 that makes 12 literary introductions to the book of Genesis. How many tribes of Israel are there? 12. If Genesis 2 is a flashback of Genesis 1:26... it is THE ONLY time toleot is used as a flashback to provide more detail of something that has already happened. **The only time**. Toledot never flashes back to provide more detail about an event that just happened. “The literary formula ‘this is the account of x’ occurs here [Genesis 2:4] and ten other times in the book of Genesis. It stands out as one of the formal characteristics of the book. In all the other occurrences in the book, the x is the name of a person. The formula introduces either a narrative of that person’s sons or a genealogy of that person’s decedents. In other words, it tells about what came after that person (though it sometimes overlaps with the life of the person) and what developed from that person. In Genesis 2:4, it is not a person’s name. Using the same logic, we would conclude that the section being introduced is going to talk about what came after creation of the heavens and earth reported in the seven-day account and what developed from that. In other words, the nature of the introduction leads us to think of Genesis 2 as a sequel… Three of the examples (Genesis 11:10; 25:19; 37:2 can be identified as recursive. In each of these, the section before the transition follows a family line deep into later history. The introductory formula then returns the reader to the other son in the family (the more important one to tell us his story… in these cases… the text does not bring the reader into the middle of the previous story to give a more detailed account. There is no detailed elaboration even though there may be overlapping. The remaining six examples introduce sequel accounts." [Walton, p. 65-66, Lost World of Adam & Eve].

While it isn’t entirely irrelevant how often toledot functions as a sequel in Genesis, that fact alone is not enough to displace context as the single best determining factor for how it is functioning in Genesis 2. The first question is whether or not there are contextual differences between how toledot is used in Genesis 2 and how it is used in the other instances where it occurs in Genesis. Concerning this expression, Bill Arnold writes, “Although scholars disagree on its significance, each occurrence probably introduces a new literary unit of the book. This is the only time the expression is not followed by a personal name, and here it seems to serve as a narrative hinge, introducing 2:4b – 25 and summarizing 1:1-2:3. It is an exegetical fallacy to insist that toledot means the same thing in Genesis 2 as it does elsewhere in Genesis. Since there is obvious differences between the context of Genesis 2 and the other occurrences of toledot, it is only natural to expect there may be a nuanced meaning of this word in this particular context.

Nathan also claims that Genesis 2 is a sequel to Genesis 1. To be quite candid, I find that claim to be quite ridiculous. It is patently false and obviously so that Genesis 2 is not a sequel to Genesis 1. The creation of man is demonstration enough to refute the claim that Genesis 2 should any sense at all be understood as a sequel to Genesis 1. Nathan says that Genesis 2 follows what happened “after creation of the heavens and earth reported in the seven-day account. I find such a suggestion to be outrageous and without the slightest exegetical support. Clearly Genesis 2 does not follow Genesis 1 in chronological order. Man has already been created at the end of Genesis 1. Genesis 2:1 says that the heavens and earth were finishes and the host of them. And then 2:2 says that God rested from all his work. And then 2:4 begins the next literary unit which must be understood as a link but not a continuation. This verse serves both as a title to 2:5–4:26 (see previous section on Form/Structure/Setting) and as a link with the introduction 1:1–2:3.[1]

The problem is that to call Genesis 2 a continuation of the creation account is that it fails to understand the literary style of recapitulation. But actually this technique of recapitulation was widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature. The author would first introduce his account with a short statement summarizing the whole transaction, and then he would follow it up with a more detailed and circumstantial account when dealing with matters of special importance.[2] E.J. Young comments, “There are different emphases in the two chapters, as we have seen, but the reason for these is obvious. Chapter 1 continues the narrative of creation until the climax, namely, man made in the image and likeness of God. To prepare the way for the account of the fall, chapter 2 gives certain added details about man’s original condition, which would have been incongruous and out of place in the grand, declarative march of chapter 1.”[3] It seems to me then that whatever Nathan et al are looking at in Genesis 1-2 that poses problems for the traditional interpretation, they are not looking at the details of the traditional interpretation. It seems that they are looking at the interpretation of others on what the traditional interpretation actually is. And that is likely part of the problem. If one examines Walton’s work, there is seems to be an incredible reliance on ANE sources. There is no doubt some advantage to understanding the ANE background in our reading of Genesis 1-2. However, there is significant danger in reading into the biblical record too much influence from ANE literature. The ability to separate Scripture for what it is, a unified revelation of the gospel of God through Christ, is critical in properly interpreting Genesis 1-2. The atomistic approach to interpreting Scripture taken by higher criticism essentially ignores the distinctive characteristics of the biblical text and it should be avoided at all costs.

The story of Creation is the story about redemption. It cannot be rightly understood unless it is understood through the view of Scripture as a unified account, told by one author through many human instruments. Once that traditional understanding of Scripture is abandoned, confusion is unavoidable. Perhaps this is why the group at Faithlife involved in this discussion along with those attempting to adopt a piecemeal approach are so terribly confused.  

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 55.
[2] Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 135.
[3] Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 50.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Battle for the Beginning: 6 of 12

6) Days 1-6 involve creation through the spoken word. Mankind is created on Day 6 through the power of the spoken word. But in Genesis 2 Adam is formed from the dust of the ground. Think about that for a second. In one version, Adam is spoken into existence. In the very next chapter God uses materials to form him. Why? Now when you read ANE creation stories this is a common theme. No big deal. Genesis 1, 2, & 3 are dealing with and interacting with ANE creation stories in an epic polemic... Removing the creation from lower g gods and placing the glory of creation where it belongs on YHWH. But creationists that I've met want to read either science or history into Genesis 1&2 and insist Genesis 2 is reading back into Genesis 1... that Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of how Genesis 1 went down. The problem with saying that is A) there's no science in Adam being formed from dust of the ground anymore than people being created from clay in Babylonian and Sumerian creation stories, B) point number 5 above regarding the naming of every animal and dinosaur on earth + the creation of Eve in 1 twenty four hour period in unworkable,

The “sixth” problem for the traditional interpretation of Genesis seems a little more involved, at least on the face of it. At a minimum, it is verbose. First, Nathan claims that God spoke man into existence in Genesis 1 while Genesis 2 says that God created man from the dust of the earth. There a several problems with this claim. The first is that it is false on the face of it. Genesis 1says nothing about God speaking man into existence. Read it for yourself. Find it. I dare you. Now, I wonder if Nathan thinks that God took on a physical body and used that physical form to shape man from the dust of the earth. The real issue is that we do not know exactly what “God creating man from the dust of the earth” looked like because we were not there. God could have spoken to the dust to form this way and that, and the dust obeyed. Or, God could have used a heavenly being or angel to perform his work as he instructed him. However, there is no indication that God used an intermediary. The safest exegetical approach is to hold that God spoke to the dust of the earth in creating man. Hebrews 11:3 tells us that the worlds and the universe were framed by the Word of God.

Now, it should seem clear to any exegete of Scripture that Nathan is deliberately stretching the text in this situation. Who can blame him? If you are going to dispense with a position, you had better have more than one difficulty to point in with that position. So, Nathan manufactures artificial problem after artificial problem so that he can displace the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and replace it with a more modernized version. A version that unbelieving minds find less offensive, supposedly.

In addition to this artificial problem, Nathan reveals an assumption of his, but not as an assumption, rather, as a matter of fact. He says that Genesis 1-3 is interacting with ANE creation stories in an epic polemic. There is absolutely nothing Nathan can give us to demonstrate why we should accept that reading of Moses. There is some truth to the fact that what Moses is recording will ultimately set the record straight. But isn’t that what the truth always does, whether its intent is polemical or not? Of course it does. Truth always sets free from error. But to claim that Moses has in mind, the issuing of an argument against the competing creation accounts of ANE culture is a matter of intense debate and there is little to no evidence that might deliver it from the category of conjecture. More humility is certainly in order. When one looks at the Scripture as a whole, surely God had more profound reasons for Genesis 1-3 than simply getting the facts of creation straight. This seems lost on Nathan and some others over a Faithlife.

Nathan then points us to this imagined attempt on the part of the traditional method to read science into Genesis 1-3. He chides the traditional method for reading history into the account as well. However, the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-3 in no way seeks a scientific explanation for how God did what He did. Instead, the traditional method affirms that there is nothing in science, done rightly, to contradict the straightforward account in Genesis 1-3. That is a huge difference. Second, yes, Genesis 1-3 is indeed a historical account of how the universe came into existence. There is nothing in the grammar of Genesis to suggest otherwise. Moreover, there is nothing anywhere else in the biblical text to suggest that Genesis 1-3 be understood in any other way than plain history.
What we see in Nathan’s first six problems are not really problems for the traditional interpretation of Genesis. Many of them are simply artificial problems manufactured in a factory of philosophical presuppositions with the agenda of making room for deep time in the creation account. And this project is driven out of a desire to make Christianity and its beliefs less offensive to the modern intellect. Science is the holy grail of rational credibility in today’s culture. Anything that disagrees with or contradicts the untouchable presuppositions of the philosophy of science is immediately scorned and dismissed as superstitious legend. Since genuine Christian belief rejects scientism with its view of reality (chance and evolutionary theory) and the physical universe, then it only follows that Christian belief is guilty of being anti-intellectual, superstitious, backwards, and as we all know, hateful, bigoted, and unworthy of constitutional protection. It is harmful to society and ought to be purged from our ranks. So goes the agenda of secularism and the science it uses to advance this agenda. In addition to this, younger Christians are abandoning the faith when they get to university because of the discredited positions in Christian theology that many of them previous affirmed. The supposed house of cards crumbles under the weight of the biology and philosophy professor.

What Nathan and others fail to understand is that Christianity has always been viewed with contempt by the secular philosophers, the academicians, and others. The gospel of Jesus Christ was from the start and is to this day moronic to the world. (1 Cor. 1:18) No amount of compromise with anti-Christian philosophies, disguised as science or otherwise, will change that. What we need to show is how that science, logic, and morality are completely unintelligible apart from the Christian worldview. Nothing less than this will do. The secular worldview with all its different theories and forms reduces to irrationalism. Rather than compromise with the claims of a godless scientific model, Christians need to courageously stand opposed to it regardless of the ridicule and criticism we might face. Wherever he leads, I will follow! Wherever he is, there, let me be found also!

  1. All creatures of our God and King,
    Lift up your voice and with us sing,
    Alleluia! Alleluia!
    Thou burning sun with golden beam,
    Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
    O praise Him! O praise Him!
    Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
  2. Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
    Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
    Ye lights of evening, find a voice!
  3. Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
    Make music for thy Lord to hear,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Thou fire so masterful and bright,
    That givest man both warmth and light.
  4. And all ye men of tender heart,
    Forgiving others, take your part,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
    Praise God and on Him cast your care!
  5. Let all things their Creator bless,
    And worship Him in humbleness,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
    And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Does Ephesians Five Really Tell Wives to Submit to their Husbands? Responding to DTS Professor, Darrell Bock and Sandra Gahn

With all the rage over feminist issues going on as a result of the #MeToo movement, it isn’t shocking that pastors and professors holdi...