Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Covenants

"Without a covenantal understanding of the Bible, you will travel through life in what seems like a practical way, but when the storms come or when you get lost, you will have no solid framework to go to or to lean on in those times. Even for those who say “I lean on Jesus,” which we all should, you can’t lean on Jesus if you don’t understand who he is, and that comes from a correct understanding of Christ through covenant. You can lean on your own construction of Jesus, you can lean on your modified Jesus who suits your wants, needs, and personal beliefs, but you cannot lean on the true Jesus of Scripture apart from understanding who he is as the Federal Head and Mediator of the New Covenant. To grasp this understanding, all you have to do is read through the letter to the Romans and the letter to the Hebrews."

--This is comes from Zachary Brian Lee over here on his blog. The emphasis is mine. Apparently is a a baptist who "likes" covenants (I say that tongue in cheek), pretty much the category I find myself in, as with all the best historic baptists.  

I was originally attracted to this post because of the title: "It’s More Than a Relationship: It’s a Religion"

But he's exactly right about "covenant," its a concept that often goes missing but is foundational to Christian thinking. It gives meat to bones of doctrine and an anchor to so many Scriptural ideas. Yet it is far too often missing in our practical conceptions--particularly if you are outside of Presbyterian circles.

As they say, read the rest: http://zachsmanifesto.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/its-more-than-a-relationship-its-a-religion/

Here's his conclusion:
We must move beyond this pagan understanding of a nebulous spirituality that we slap the Christian label onto, and we must move back to the understanding that has been present in Church history for 2000 years and for thousands of years beyond that, going all the way back to Adam. We must return to the objective, substantive, true understanding of God through covenant. It is the only way to preserve the true Christian faith and guard it against false teachings and heresies that wolves attempt to bring in and devour us with. To understand that Christ is King, Prophet, and Priest, we must understand those roles as determined by Scripture in their covenant relationship. If we do not understand the covenants, how will we know in what way Christ is the High Priest? Why does he need to be a priest and who does he need to be a priest for outside of an understanding of covenant demands and laws? The covenant is a precious truth that God has not just given us to think about or dwell on intellectually or in abstract philosophy; God has actually reached down into time and space and has established a covenant that all who believe may partake in and that covenant has real implications for every single area of our lives; the way we treat our neighbor, the way we do business, the way we vote in elections, the way we raise our kids, even the way in which we dispose of human waste! God has graciously revealed himself to us and offers himself to us in the form of covenant relationship. Without the covenant, we do not have a true picture of God’s love. You do not understand love and you cannot understand love until you understand God’s covenants. Let us look to the Scriptures and seek that covenant bond that God graciously and freely establishes with a people who were once not his, but now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, belong to him in the New Covenant, which supersedes all other covenants in promise, power, glory, and finality.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bruce Metzger on the Ascension

Michael Bird has a great post on the Ascension. He quotes Bruce Metzger:

“Ascension Day proclaims that there is no sphere, however secular, in which Christ has no rights – and no sphere in which his followers are absolved from obedience to him. Instead of it being a fairy tale from the pre-space age, Christ’s ascension is the guarantee that he has triumphed over the principalities and powers, so that at his name ‘every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:10-11).”

Almost sounds Kuyperian...and this coming from a Princeton man... perish the thought.

Bird goes on to highlight three important aspects of the ascension.
  1. Jesus ascends to heaven so that he can send the Holy Spirit to his followers. 
  2. Believers embryonically share in the reign of Christ by virtue of their union with Christ. 
  3. Jesus’ work of mediation continues in his heavenly session.

And for those who want to "sermonize on the ascension for hours" (as Bird puts it) I offer this, with the audio,  also check the tag for the blog too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NEW! Cloth Bound Vos' Biblical Theology

I just found out that Banner of Truth is publishing a cloth bound version of Geerhasdus Vos' Biblical Theology. It is selling for $26.10 on their site.

(1) If you have never read this book, you should pick up a copy of it.

(2) This looks like a great edition to get. Banner of Truth cloth bound books are general well made and sturdy.

This is the perfect edition for you fans of Biblical Theology and Vos is arguably the father of conservative/evangelical & Reformed Biblical theology.

Even if you don't fall into those categories yourself, Vos is well worth reading and has gone on to influence a number of Bible scholars today.

In a day and age when their is a rush to be trendy, it is important to read quality books that have stood the test of time. Here's one.

And for those uber-Vosian geeks, no word of when Banner of Truth is publishing it's leather bound gold embossed edition, stay tuned.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Scripture & Inerrancy

When it comes the debate inerrancy I would propose the real question is two fold: 
  1. Is Scripture God's Word? As in does he bare the final authorship and authority for what is said? 
  2. And then does God lie?

Often times detracts want to claim the Bible is not inerrant because it isn't scientifically accurate. But it throws up inaccurate understand of inerrancy means.

You don't have to believe that Scripture contains details scientific data on this to say that it is inerrant. Serious believers in inerrancy have always held that Scripture contains phenomenological descriptions "sun rises" and "four corners of the earth". Thus, you are not forced have a Bible with out expressions and figures of speech. E.J. Young classic work shows that the Bible is allowed to provide rounded numbers, phenomenological descriptions and even paraphrases and the like. To say the Bible does not err does not mean we force it to be precise where it is not or claim that when it is not precise it "errs". For example, two accounts in the Synoptics may emphasize slightly different elements because God uses the human authors. They are both accurate accounts without error but they not precise as say a video recording would be. Consider that even today, two newspapers can cover the same even and emphasize differing details in their account without (a) erring in their account and (b) contracting one another. In fact, we often acknowledge that events that at first glance may appear contradictory but a little though about them reveals they are not.

Another thing that often gets brought up against inerrancy is why would God have inerrant autographs but then allow textual critical errors over time in copying. This idea presupposes that if God is going to give His inerrant Word, we should dictate terms on what He must do after it is given. This strikes me a bit arrogant to tell God if He is going to give His Word without error then He must do something further. Instead, we should acknowledge that He has done. In short, textual transmission is not an argument against the inspiration and authority of Scripture and the inerrancy of the autographs.
 
Even today, a person can speak something without error only to have it be corrupted as it is transmitted.

As for the corruptibility of Scripture when in the hands of man-- we have no problem that the Word became flesh in Christ and thus was able to be killed by the hands of men. We still hold that Christ was without sin or error, if we are orthodox. Why have a problem that once revealed man can make mistakes over God's revelation even in the passing it along?
 
The bottom line over inerrancy is: Does God speak and when He speaks does He lie, mislead or err?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What is Real Manhood? Some Thoughts on Samson


The is a certain subset of the evangelical world that has taken upon itself to characterize true manhood as being macho, tough, and tough on bad guys. Sensitivity is often characterized as a lack of manhood and being brazen, a fighter, and confrontational is seen as manly.

There certainly are Biblical definitions of manhood and womanhood but rarely do they line up with our culture, our American cultural constructs. 

What is true manhood? Let me offer some reflections on the life of Samson.

1) From the beginning God's grace is evident in Samsons life.
  • His unique birth to a barren mother (Judges 13:2-3)
  • The angel of the Lord appears to his parents (13:3-23)
  • The LORD blesses Samon (13:24)
  • Samson set apart to God (13:5)
It should go without saying that if we are going to experience true 'manhood' or true humanity, regardless of our gender, we are going to need to be a product of the grace of God. We are going to need to recognize God's grace and gifts in our lives both saving grace and gifts but the "common" grace and gifts as well.

2) Samson, of course, had incredible strength.
  • Men, particularly in our culture, often see physical strength as a sign of manhood.
  • Samson was choosen by God to deliver Israel. His strength was supernatural not merely natural.
While God uses Samson's strength for mighty feats as a judge, Samson's strength is also his undoing because he consistently fails to rely on the Lord. He takes what he has for granted and acts as if he has established himself in his own strength.

3) Samson, however, show disrespect for God and God's laws.
  • 14:1-3-- Samson is willing to marry a Philistine. This was a violation of the Old Testament Law--cf. Deut 7:1-4. This issue of intermarriage was not specifically 'ethnic' but religious. Israel was not to be led astray from God, much like in the New Testament a believer is not to enter into a marriage with an unbeliever.
  • 14:8-9-- Samson ate honey from the lion. This is a direct violation of his Nazirite vow where he could not go near a dead body and eat unclean food.--cf. Num. 6:6-8. (I assume that killing the lion was not a sin (a) because it was self-defense and (b) there were provisions in the vow if someone dies suddenly in your presence (Num. 6:11ff).
  • Samson is easily seduced by women with his first wife and with Delilah.
  • 16:1ff--Delilah was a prostitute.
Samson had what men find desirable:
  1. Strength
  2. milatary prowless--victories. He was assertive and took action. Leadership (Judges 15:20).
  3. attractive to women (surmizing from his relationships with the Philistine women)
  4. Cunning--evidenced by the riddle.
  5. (*humorous) 'Mr. Fix-it' --takes down the city gates.
  6. (*humorous) Good with tools--killed men with a donkey's jaw bone
Samson displays an inability to trust and obey the Lord.

Samson's greatest victory, ultimately his own death, comes not through what humans desire but through a humbling on oneself before God. Judges 16:28, "O Sovereign Lord, remember me..." is repentent and humbling oneself before God.

Like Christ, Samson sacrifices himself to deliver his people.

Unlike Christ, Samson is a poor picture of manhood. He continually displays an inability to walk with the Lord.

We need to be careful that we don't let the temptations of manhood lead us away from the prize of manhood (walking with God). Where are our priorities?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Hope of the Resurrection


The Christian hope of the resurrection is distinct from all other hopes and all other religions. 

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?"

B. We do not just “move beyond” death but death is conquered. If earth is a battlefield between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan—then it does not good for all the players to make a strategic retreat to heaven. Satan who has the power of death (Heb. 2:14) has his greatest weapon destroyed. It is sort of like a judo move. I am told that in judo the goal is not to meet force with force but use the enemies own strength against him. So Christ makes a judo move: he uses death—His own death to bring life. He succumbs to death, exhausts its curse and then brings forth new life—first His own brought by each of the three persons of the Trinity. And then He brings our own life for those who trust in Him.

It is like the movie the Matrix. Remember at the end when the hero Neo is fighting Agent Smith. Agent Smith goes on this tirade of how all is lost and say “Why do you still fight”. New says, “Because I choose too.” And then Neo suddenly chooses to stop fighting. Smith hits the crushing blow—Neo is dead. But then suddenly the world they are fighting—dark and evil—breaks down and it is reborn into light and recreated. Neo defeats death by dying and everything is reborn. The parallels are intentional.

There is one fatal flaw. In the last seen Neo’s body is taken by the computers into a blinding light. And he is gone. The fatal flaw is that the matrix might be recreated in beauty and restored—but Neo never lives again. He goes into the light of glory disembodied—a soul with a dead body. Death appears conqueror but the one who conquered it remains dead---there is no hope. The friends of Neo say ‘well he may return’. BUT THE FATAL FLAW IS: Neo stays dead!

C. Christianity is a hope like no other. The Christian faith has a living hope because we put our hope in Jesus. The Christian faith is certain hope. Death has been defeated by Christ. We know exactly what is coming. We have proof positive. God has furnished proof of a judgment and that we can pass the judgment: he has done this by raising Christ from the dead.

1. The hope of Buddhism is Nirvana. Your being like a drop of water enters the ocean of eternity. It is not personal existence; it is not bodily existence. It is disembodied, but it isn’t even life real. It is the cession of individuality—it is like assimilation by the Borg.

2. I submit to you all other forms of hope are false hopes. There are no guarantees. Or they are substandard. They make a mockery of God’s creation as good. It is fake hope vs. a living hope.

3. We live in a world that brings all kinds of parodies to us. Parodies of hope… cheep imitations. Wishful thinking, silly platitudes. Those who live in this present evil age do everything they can keep us from seeing how almost 2,000 years ago “New Creation” began. There was the resurrection of a man! Yet we recognize the resurrection: it makes a difference. Our faith is not a leap in the dark but a certain hope of a sure future. The same power that raised Jesus from the death is guarding us in our faith for that same coming living hope.
1 Peter 1:3-5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
There is no hope—no salvation without new life! This new life is displayed in the King who has won it for us in His own resurrection.
Job 19:25-27 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!



Here is an interesting article that appeared in the Journal of Religion and Film on the Matrix, Buddhism and Gnosticism.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Is Inerrancy a Modernist Concept?


I am getting tired of hearing how the debate of inerrancy is merely a "modern" issue. Or that the idea that the Word of God is "certain" is a product of "modern Enlightenment", this is particularly common by some making arguments in the emerging/emergent church. A little exposure to church history might help us here:

I recently ran accross this section that I had highlighted in Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2 Prolegomena.

"The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture stood, in the systems of the great thirteenth-century scholastics, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, Albert the Great, and Thomas Aquinas, in a profound and crucial relationship to the emerging concept of theology as a science...Logically derived conclusions, no matter how experty and precise the logic, cannot be endowed with certainty unless certainty is known to reside in the principles from which they have been drawn. But theology, as Aquianas recognized, is a subalternate science, the first principles of which are not self-evident but are derived from a higher science--the scientia Dei--that is not immediately known to us. If theology is to have certainty that must belong to any legititmate or genuine scientia, that certainty must be inherent in its first principles and in the source of those principles. If theology is to be a divine scientia, it must rest on revelation. Thus, Alexander of Hales could argue, "what is known by divine inspiration is recognized as more true (verius) than what is known by human reason, inasmuch as it is impossible for falsehood to be in inspiration while reason is infected with many..." page 42-43.

Later:

"Albert the Great similarly argued the higher certainty of theological science on the ground of the inspiration of Scripture: theology and theologians derive their authority from teh books inspired by "the Spirit of truth." Even so, it is not possible to doubt a single word of Scripture. Reason itself may fall into contradiction but Scripture stands against error as a foundation of truth higher than anything present within the human soul. Bonaventure, somewhat more simply, declares that teh authority of Scripture arises "not by human investigation but by divine revelation"; the Spirit, who is the author of Scripture, speaks neither falsehood nor superfluity. Anyone who contradicts Scripture thereforecontradicts uncreated truth itself. The scholastics' testimony to the infallibility of Scripture was, moreover, intimately bound up with the literal and grammatical foundation of the medieval fourfold exegesis." p.44.

Check out Muller's work and not the extensive footnotes for where the Medieval writers actual say these things. Even Muller's summations are extensively documented by original sources.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...