Saturday, December 29, 2007

John Flavel

I’ve begun reading the Works of John Flavel. They were recommended to me by Pastor Cliffe Boone, of Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church, who is working on his doctorate on the relationship between Flavel’s preaching and the Reformed belief in the effectual call.

The following was said of Flavel in the introduction given on his life:

“He was a zealous preacher, in the pulpit, but a sincere Christian in the closet, frequent in self-examination, as well as in pressing it upon others; being afraid, lest while he preached to others he himself should be cast-away…[followed by a lengthy transcription from Flavel’s own diary]…He preached what he felt, what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life, and they felt it also. We may guess what a sweat and blessed intercourse he had with heaven…He was a mighty wrestler with God in secret prayer, and particularly begged of him to crown his sermons, printed books, and private discourses, with the conversion of poor sinners, a work which his heart was much set upon. It pleased God to answer him by many instances…” [Flavel, Work, vol 1, p. x, xii].

The author goes on to tell of how Flavel counseled and saw the subsequent conversion of a man who failed in a suicide attempt.

Listen to how Flavel himself begins the dedicatory section of “The Fountain of Life”:

“If my pen were both able, and at leisure, to get glory in paper, it would be but a paper glory when I have gotten it; but if by displaying (which is the design of these papers) the transcendent excellency of Jesus Christ, I may win glory to him from you, to whom I humbly offer them, or from any other into whose hands providence shall cast them, that will be glory indeed, and an occasion of glorifying God to all eternity.” [Vol 1, xvii]

What a strange thought to think that in this general prayer, Flavel prayed from me a reader in the 21st century, even though he could not, I’m sure, fathom who fair God’s providence would take his work.

“But let me tell you, the whole world is not a theatre enough to shew [sic] the glory of Christ upon or unfold the one half of the unsearchable riches that lie hid in him. These things will be far better understood, and spoken of in heaven, by the noon-day divinity, in which the immediately illuminated assembly do there preach his praises, than by such a stammering tongue, and scribbling pen as mine, which doth but mar them. Alas! I write his praises by moon-light; I cannot praise him so much as by halves. Indeed, no tongue but his own (as Nazianzen said of Bazil) is sufficient to undertake the task. What shall I say of Christ? The excelling glory of that object dazzles all apprehension, swallows all expression. When we have borrowed metaphors from every creature that hath any excellency of lovely property in it, till we have script the whole creation bare of all its ornaments, and clothed Christ with all that glory; when we have even worn out our tongues, in ascribing praises to him, alas! We have done nothing, when all is done.” [Flavel, Work, vol 1, xviii]

Sort of give you goose-bumps.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sola Fide


Several weeks ago I read John Piper's new book
The Future of Justification.


It is well worth the read. I am not going to give a real review of the book here. However, I want to highlight two distinctions that we need to keep with respect to justification by faith.


1) We are not saved by believing in justification by faith alone.

Justification by faith alone is true and is in Scripture. However, the right understanding of the formula is not what saves us, rather we are saved by placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. We are not saved by our doctrinal precision and our orthodox statements of the creeds but rather by putting our faith and trust in the person they testify too. That being said, Scripture is quite clear that if you do not believe Jesus is truly God and that Jesus came in the flesh, you are an anti-Christ and not saved (John 8:24; 2 John 1:7). But with respect to justification by faith, we are not saved by putting our faith in justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone is a description of what happens when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. Piper quotes Owen and Edwards on pages 24-25.

Doug Wilson (who is in his own controversies with his Federal Vision views) says the following:
We are saved by the grace of God in Christ, plus nothing. The more clearly that grace is preached in its purity, the more potent it is -- how shall they hear without a preacher? -- but to make a certain accomplishment in the sinner a precondition for his justification is the work of Old Slewfoot.

Think of this way. Which work must a man do before he can be truly justified?
1. Walk to the Vatican on his knees;
2. Obey the Ten Commandments for a year;
3. Stay faithful to his wife;
4. Deny semi-Pelagianism;
5. None of the above.

The answer is obviously the last one. A man must believe in Jesus, but his faith -- provided it is a genuine and God-given faith, a living faith, the only kind God gives -- can have all kinds of screwed up features. A man must believe in Jesus, which is not the same thing as affirming what believing in Jesus means, with the right level of doctrinal precision. To quote Piper, quoting Edwards and Owen respectively . . .
"How far a wonderful and mysterious agency of God's Spirit may so influence some men's hearts, that their practice in this regard may be contrary to their own principles, sxo that they shall not trust in their own righteousness, though they profess that men are justified by their own righteousness" (p. 24).
"Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny, and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which in opinion they deny to be imputed."
Piper points out, rightly, that this should not "make us cavalier" about guarding the purity of the gospel, but rather it is simply the recognition "that men's hearts are often better than their heads" (pp. 24-25). Men are often better Christians than they are logicians. There is a vast chasm between maintaining, as I do, that semi-Pelagians (and Pelagians too, for that matter) can be saved, and maintaining, which I do not, that semi-Pelagianism saves.

2) If we are trusting in something other than Christ for our salvation we are denying the gospel.

This is basically Paul's argument with the Galatians. They were turning aside from the gospel to trust in works of the Law to secure their ongoing status as part of the people of God. While we are not saved our doctrinal precision on the imputed righteousness of Christ, we are nevertheless saved by Christ's imputed righteousness.

If someone directs our attention away from trusting in Christ and their gospel teaching us to rely on some other means of mediating grace to us--then this is a false gospel.

As Christians, we should seek doctrinal purity and a clear unadulterated preaching of the gospel of justification by faith alone. We need to avoid judgmentalism against people who may not be as doctrinal precise as us--this is particularly true of new believers. Nevertheless, we should contend for the faith. There are people who deny the gospel with their head and their heart and are unsaved--they preach a false gospel. Then there are people who are real Christians who muddle their thinking about the gospel and their words are inaccurate or inprecise or even wrong when it their understanding of the transaction nevertheless they themselves are trusting in Jesus Christ.

As Edwards says "how far some may seem to maintain a doctrine contrary to this gospel-doctrine of justifciation, that really do not, but only express themselves differently from others; or seem to oppose it through their minuderstanding of our expressions, or we of theirs, when indeed our real sentiments are the same in the main--or may seem to differ more than they do, by using terms that are without precisely fixed and determinate meaning--or to be wide in their sentiments from this doctrine, for want of a distinct understanding of it; whose hearts, at the same time, entirely agreed with it, and if once it was clearly explained to their understandings, would immediately close with it, and embrace it." Nevertheless Edwards does say that teaching these things is "of a pernicious and fatal tendency." (Qtd. The Future of Justification, p. 24, n.30).

Yet we should not forget Paul's confrontation of Peter:

Galatians 2:11-14 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

Here Peter's actions stood contrary of justification by faith alone as he treated Gentiles as second class citizens because they were not circumcised. His action marked him as 'standing condemned'. Here was no minor imprecision of language but rather Peter was saying by his actions that faith in Jesus Christ is insufficient to make one a child of God. This false gospel was to be oppossed.

While we should press for precision in words and language in theological controversy, we should recognize that sometimes a person is trusting wholly in Christ but does not articulate it well or in according with the history of the church. Other times, as in the case of Peter and the circumcision party, the people know full well what they are saying and doing and their words and actions make clear that they are not trusting fully in Christ. While we can never in entirity know the condition of a person's heart, their expressions and actions do give us glimpses.

Sometimes we need plain and simple wisdom: is the person a immature Christian who does not understand all that Christ has done in the gospel for them? Then they need careful and patient instruction. Then there are the people like the Peter's and the circumcision parties, they were not theological ninnies, they know full well what they were doing and denying. Sometimes you have to unload the heresy canon on them and "oppose them to their face".

Conclusion:

In short, the requirement for salvation is not sola fide, (belief in Justification by faith alone) rather salvation is found in putting faith alone in Jesus Christ.

This should not excuse sloppy theology. Rather it should inspire us to deeper seeking of the clarity in God's Word. It should cause me to probe my own heart: do I trust Christ or am I inserting something else. Am I trusting in Christ or a statement of faith? We are not saved by 'faith in faith'--which is all too common among 'religious', 'spiritual people' and even 'evangelicals'.

Nevertheless, we should contend for the faith and seek to proclaim an unadulterated gospel so that those who are muddled in their thinking might be presented the refreshing waters of Christ and Him crucifed so they might clearly know that salvation comes by putting trust in Him alone.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Baptists On the Covenant

I found this quote:
C. H. Spurgeon pointedly said, “The doctrine of the Covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scriptures are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and the covenants of grace. May God grant us now the power to instruct and you the grace to receive instruction on this vital subject.”

Also take a look at John Gill on the Covenant:


Here is an overview of Covenant theology with a longer list of Baptists (in history and contemporary) who are Covenant Theologians.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Doctrine of the Covenant in Baptist Life

What doth Covenant have to do with the Baptist?

Never the two shall meet? It is often supposed that Baptist theology and covenant theology are somewhat if not entirely antithetical to each other. This is often because covenant theology leads most naturally in Presbyterian and Reformed circles to infant baptism. It is then supposed that if one believes in credo-baptism by extension one will reject the notion of a covenant of grace.

Almost all acknowledge that there are covenants in the Bible. Even the dispensational understands that there are covenants like Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenant. The question is: is there a singular covenant structure through the Scriptures. Particularly centered around a two-Adam Christology, is there first a covenant of works and then a covenant of redemption that undergirds the various covenantal structures through the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenant. It is this structure that some find so antithetical to Baptist theology. After all, this covenant structure is what lends the Presbyterian to see circumcision replaced by baptism and thus make warrant for baptizing infants.

Where did Covenants go? Add to this the rise of dispensationalism within fundamentalism Baptist life, wanning historical awareness and an overall lessoning of the sovereignty of grace in evangelicalism and you have a sort of perfect storm. It becomes too easy for some to make the leaping assumption that covenatalism and Baptist theology cannot be brought together. It makes for an oddity for someone like me seeks to hold to a covenantal structure within a clearly delineated belief in credo-baptism. Ironically this perfect storm will encounter its rock of Gibraltar—Baptist history.

Contrary to the perfect storm, Covenant theology was important in Baptist History:

First, in the London Baptist Confession of 1644 we read:

Chapter X: Touching his Office, Jesus Christ only is made the Mediator of the new Covenant, even the everlasting Covenant of grace between God and Man to be perfectly and full the Prophet, Priest and King of the Church of God for evermore.

Chapter XII: In this Call the Scripture holds forth two special things considerable; first, the call to the Office; secondly, the Office it self. First, that none takes this honour but he that is called of God, as was Aason, so also Christ, it being an action especially of God the Father, whereby a special covenant being made, he ordaines his Son to this office: which Covenant is, that Christ should be made a Sacrifice for sin, that he shall see his seed, and prolong his days with the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper his hand; which calling therefore contains in itself choosing, foreordaining, sending. Choosing respects the end, foreordaining the means, sending the execution itself all of mere grace, without any condition foreseen either in men, or in Christ himself.

Note the covenant structure that goes back into the pretemporal covenant between God and Christ. This office that Christ is called to is threefold: Prophet, Priest and King (ch. XIV), the three office that have echoes in Calvin’s articulation.

Chapter XXIX: That all believers are a holy and sanctified people, and that sanctification is a spiritual grace of the new Covenant, and effect of the love of God, manifested to the soul, whereby the believer is in truth and reality separated, both in soul and body, form all sin and dead works, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant, whereby he also presenteth after a heavenly and Evangelical perfection, in obedience to all the Commands, which Christ as head and King in the this New Covenant has prescribed to him.

Second, the Second London Baptist Convention affirms a covenantal structure, particularly in chapter 7. Here the words repeat the Westminster Confession of faith (but omit several sections).

“The distance between God and the Creator is so great, that although reasonable Creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of LIFE, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express, by way of Covenant.”

“Moreover Man having brought himself under the curse of the Law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a Covenant of Grace wherein he freely offereth unto Sinners, Life and Salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them Faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal Life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.”

“This Covenant is revealed in the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of Salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the new Testament; and it is founded in that Eternal Covenant transaction, that was between the Father and the Son about the Redemption of the Elect; and it is alone by the Grace of this Covenant, that all the posterity of fallen Adam, that ever were saved, did obtain life and a blessed immortality; Man, being now utterly uncapable of acceptance with God upon those terms, on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.”

Third, Covenant was important to more than the Particular Baptists. The Orthodox Creed of the General Baptists also affirms a Covenant with Adam before the Fall and a covenant of Grace after the fall (Article XIII & XVI). Even its article of Election, “God the Father gave this his elected and beloved son, for a covenant to the people, and said, that this covenant shall stand fast with him; and his seed shall endure forever” (Article IX). While it fleshes this out without unconditional election, the Confession makes a clear two-Adam Christology centered on the theme—yes—the covenant. The plan between the Father and the Son is nothing less than a “covenant transaction” of eternal election. Even though this confession is not Calvinistic, it still maintains the priority of the Covenant. A first covenant with Adam and a second Covenant of grace mediated through Christ in the gospel. Ironically, most Baptists today, most especially those who are not Calvinistic, reject the notion of the Covenant.

Numerous Baptist Figures Affirmed Covenant Theology.

We will simply highlight a few Baptists who emphasized this covenant structure.

John Spilsbury. Tom Nettles says the following: “Spilsbury's presentation of believer's baptism by immersion of necessity engaged covenantal theology. He approved covenant theology and built his doctrine of the church on the infallible certainty of the eternal covenant of grace; he argued, however, that the spirituality of the new covenant in Christ eliminated the possibility of an infant's participation in it. The issue of the salvation of infants dying in infancy he treated as an area of mystery. One's answer to that question does not affect the revealed qualifications for those who may legitimately receive new covenant ordinances.”

Spilsbury affirms this is his personal confession, which is abbreviated.

And lastly, I do believe that there is an holy and blessed communion of Saints, that God of his grace calls such as belong to life by election, unto the fellowship of his Son by the Gospel, of which matter, God by his word and Spirit joins them together in his Covenant of grace, and so constitutes his Church, as I have before showed: And as God hath thus built for himself an holy habitation of such pure matter, and also after so holy a manner, even so hath he provided a way of preservation and safety for the same;

Benjamin Keach. Tom Nettles has said of the Particular Baptist Benjamin Keach “The covenant and all its accompanying blessings are the driving force in, and give coherence to, Keach’s entire theological scheme” (The Baptists, vol 1; 167) This is the notion of a eternal covenant of peace between God and Christ in eternity past. This covenant manifested and revealed the eternal Trinity. The work of God is nothing less than Covenantal in the sending of the Son and the Spirit we see glimpses into the ontological Trinity.

From J.L. Dagg’s Manual on Theology:

Book 4; CHAPTER II. THE FALL.

THE FIRST MAN, HAVING BEEN PLACED UNDER A COVENANT OF WORKS, VIOLATED IT, AND BROUGHT ITS PENALTY ON HIMSELF AND HIS DECENDANTS.

The narrative of the Fall, as given in the book of Genesis, is to be considered, not as a mythical representation, but as proper history. It is always so referred to in subsequent parts of the sacred volume; and its connection with other historical events is such as excludes the supposition, that is was anything else than simple fact.

The revelation of God's will to Adam, as recorded in the book of Genesis, is not there called a covenant; and some have doubted the propriety of using this term to denote it. If the word, in the Scripture use of it, signified, as it does in human transactions, a bargain made between equals, who are independent of each other, we might well reject the application of it to this subject. But in the sacred Scripture, it is used in a more extended signification. It denotes, 1. An immutable ordinance. Under this sense may be included an irrevocable will or testament. 2. A sure and stable promise. 3. A precept. 4. A mutual agreement. With this latitude of meaning, the word must be considered applicable in the present case; yet there would be no necessity to insist on its use, were it not that the Scriptures have used it in this application. See Hosea vi. 7, which may be more properly rendered than in the common version, "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." So the same Hebrew phrase may be understood in Job xxxi. 33; Ps. lxxxii. 6,7.

As the term covenant is sometimes applied to a free promise, in which no condition is stipulated; it is proper to characterize that which was made with Adam as a covenant of works. It was a law, with a penalty affixed. "Of every tree of the garden, thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." No promise was given, that Adam would continue to enjoy the divine favor if he continued obedient; but this may be understood to be clearly implied.

Book 7; CHAPTER II. COVENANT OF GRACE.

THE THREE DIVINE PERSONS CO-OPERATE IN MAN'S SALVATION ACCORDING TO AN ETERNAL COVENANT.

On a former occasion, it was shown that the Scriptures use the term covenant with great latitude of meaning. The propriety of its use in the present case, cannot well be questioned. We have three divine persons, who are parties in this covenant; and the doctrine of God's unity cannot exclude the notion of a covenant, without, at the same time, excluding the distinction of persons in the Godhead. We are not to imagine, as included in this covenant transaction, a proposal of terms by one party, and a deliberation, followed with an acceptance or rejection of them, by the other parties. These things occur, in the making of human covenants, because of the imperfection of the parties. In condescension to our weakness, the Scriptures use language taken from the affairs of men. They speak as if a formal proposal had been made, at the creation of man, addressed by one of the parties to the others: "Let us make man:" but this is in accommodation to our modes of conception. An agreement and co-operation of the divine persons, in the creation of man, is what is taught in this passage. This agreement and co-operation extend to all the works of God: "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his will." The idea of counsel in all these works, accords with that of consultation which is presented in the account of man's creation. In every work of God, the divine persons must either agree or disagree. As they alike possess infinite wisdom, disagreement among them is impossible. The salvation of men is a work of God, in which the divine persons concur. It is performed according to an eternal purpose; and in this purpose, as well as in the work, the divine persons concur; and this concurrence is their eternal covenant. The purpose of the one God, is the covenant of the Trinity…

That the covenant is eternal, may be argued from the eternity, unchangeableness, and omniscience of the parties, and from the declarations of Scripture which directly or indirectly relate to it: "Through the blood of the everlasting covenant." "His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus." "In hope of eternal life promised before the world began." "Grace given in Christ Jesus before the world began."…

According to the covenant arrangement, the Son appeared in human nature, in the form of a servant; and, after obeying unto death, was exalted by the Father to supreme dominion. The Holy Spirit also is revealed as acting in a subordinate office; but appears as sustaining the full authority of the Godhead, sending the Son, giving him a people to be redeemed, prescribing the terms, accepting the service, rewarding and glorifying the Son, and sending the Holy Spirit…

Dagg of course fleshes this out more, but it is clearly a covenant structure. We have a covenant between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the world. We have pre-fall covenant of works, followed by the revelation of the covenant of grace in Genesis 3:15.

James Boyce, the founder of Southern Baptist Seminary, also has a covenant structure to his theology. From his Abstract of Systematic Theology:

Chapter 22; III. THIS, A FALL UNDER THE COVENANT OF WORKS.

The fall of Man occurred when he was on probation under the Covenant of works.

Theologians are accustomed to speak of two especial covenants, the one of works, the other of grace. These do not embrace all the covenants between God and man, which indeed have been very numerous. The others most prominently mentioned in the Scriptures are that with Noah, Gen. 9:11-17; with Abraham, Gen. 17:2-14; (repeated to Isaac, Gen. 26:2-5; and to Jacob, Gen. 28:13-15;) with Israel in giving the law, Ex. 24:7; Deut. 5:2, 3; with Moses and Israel, Ex. 34: 27; with David, 2 Sam. 7: 1~16; with Solomon, 2 Chron. 7: 1~22; and that of Nehemiah and the Israelites with God, Neh. 9: 38 to 10: 39. The two covenants of works and grace are spoken of in Gal. 4: 2~31, and are called "the two covenants" in verse 24. That of grace is the covenant of redemption made by God with his elect, or more properly with Christ, the second Adam, as their representative. That of works, is the covenant of the law entered into between God and all mankind through the first Adam, their natural head and appropriate and appointed representative….

This is the ideal form of a covenant. Some parts of it may he wanting, and still it may he a covenant. Thus there may be penalties and no reward, or reward and no penalties. Also, the agreement may arise, not from mutual consultation, but from a command given and accepted. This may take place at the time it is given, and with the person to whom it is spoken, or the command may be given, or promise made, to be accepted and acted upon by any who may at any time choose. Thus, between a government and its responsible subjects, law becomes a covenant. Rewards also are promised, as for the killing of dangerous or destructive animals, or for the capture of criminals; or threats are uttered, for violation of the rights of others, either as to life, liberty, or property.

Boyce of course says more about the covenant of works, but the basic framework is there. He elaborates more on a clear federal headship of Adam.

CHAPTER XXIV. THE HEADSHIP OF ADAM.

THE Scriptures teach that the fall of Adam involved also that of his posterity. In the covenant, under which he sinned, he acted not merely as an individual man, the sole one of his kind, or one isolated from all others of his kind, but, as the head of the race, for his posterity as well as himself. The condition of mankind shows that they have all participated with him in the evils which resulted. The Scriptures teach that this is due, not merely to his natural headship, but to a representative or federal headship, because of which his act of sin may justly be considered as theirs, and they may be treated as though they had themselves done that act, each man for himself…

He closes out this chapter with a clear two-Adam Christology.

Conclusion

It is not inconsistent in the least for the Baptist to affirm a covenantal structure to God’s revelation. The covenant is a concept based upon God’s revelation to us. It is the covenant that unifies all of Scripture. It also moves to a climax as the shadow of the Old Covenant gives way to the New Covenant, the full manifestation of the covenant of grace. Behind of this is the covenant between the Father and the Son to redeem a group of people to themselves. As Christ purchases a people in the fullness of time on the Cross, we also ascends into heaven from where He sends the Spirit to effect the benefits of this covenant.

For those who think that the covenant is strictly a construct of Presbyterianism, one would do well to consider the early Baptists. Our survey is only introductory. Unfortunately, in our day Baptists are less aware of their history then say for example, Presbyterians. In one sense, one could argue that Presbyterian must keep the covenant central to uphold their view of Baptism. One could also point to the high priority of doctrinal fidelity in Calvinistic circles. Nevertheless, this is not excuse for the dismissal of the covenant within Baptist theology. The Church of God, wherever it is found, has the responsibility to preach and proclaim those doctrines contained in the Word of God.

The Covenant is not some doctrinal grid imposed upon Scripture but comes from reading the whole of Scripture in light of the office of Christ and understanding that all of God’s relationships to his people are covenant. If we would see in Scripture the unity of God’s redemptive purposes, along with a exegesis of key texts in the Old Testament, Paul’s two-Adam Christology, and particularly Hebrews—at the end of the day, I am convinced that we find a full-orbed covenantal theology.

Let us hope that in the coming generation of Baptists the covenant fairs better than it has in the most recent generation of Baptists. Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jesus is the Hero of Every Story

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

This Sunday, I preached through the genealogy of Matthew. It was exciting for me because in many ways it was a basic introduction to redemptive history. The passage focuses on Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Abraham and the Son of David. It is a reminder that Jesus comes to us a fulfills the covenant promises made in Genesis to Abraham and to David in 2 Samuel. It was a great place to go back and review the basic storyline of the Bible.

I am convince that this ‘redemptive historical hermeneutic’ is essential to reading the Bible. As Richard Gaffin Jr. has said "A redemptive-historical orientation is not some kind of dispensable exegetical luxury. At stake is nothing less than the right way of interpreting Scripture" (Redemptive History and Biblical Interpreation, xxi, xxii). Yet this understand of the Bible is not some sort of high-faluting theological technique that is reserved for a few. I firmly believe that this is something that children must learn to understand. Here is an excerpt of what I said in my sermon:

We should rejoice that Jesus fulfills the promises made to Abraham and David. We need to always remember how Jesus is ‘tied-in’ to the story of the Old Testament. We tend to read the Bible by chopping it up into parts. We need to see the whole Bible as one long story of redemption.

1. We tend to read ‘this story’ and ‘that story’ but the stories are all like beads on a string but we never see the string.

2. I recommend to you “The Jesus Story Book Bible: Every Step Whispers His Name”. This is something that children can and must see in the Bible:

“No the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to try to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brace Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is—it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby. This is the Child on which everything would depend. This is the Child who would one day—but wait. Our Story starts where all good stories start. Right at the very beginning…”
The Jesus Storybook Bible p.17.


One of the ways you can understand this basic connectivity between the stories is read through the Bible in a year. Another thing would be to study how the New Testament uses the Old Testament. If you want to access my sermon, you’ll be able to find it here in a few days. You can all check out some of these books: Vos' Biblical Theology, Bartholomew and Goheen's The Drama of Scripture, Goldsworthy's According to Plan.

Check out this websight resource on Vos and Biblical Theology.

The basic Christological hermeneutic is so basic that a child can understand it. Yet so often we read the Bible story as if it is about me. The reality is, the Bible is not about me, it’s about Jesus—all of it is about Jesus.

My sermon should be online in a couple of days, look here for it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

December 7, 1941

Today is one of those days in history that we should never forget. On December 7, 1941 the Japenese bombed Pearl Harbor. It stirred a sleeping giant and drew America into World War 2. When Pearl Harbor was attack many of our American battleships were lined up on battleship row. If our carries had been in the harbor that day, Japan would have had free reign of the Pacific Ocean and the outcome of the war would almost certainly have been different. Early in the morning, Sunday morning, before many of the men had even gotten out of bed, over the horizon swarmed the Japenese fleet with their piercing stingers. Many of the men who died that day never made it out of bed. Several of the battleships actually tipped over trapping the men below. The merciless steal became their coffins, the bottoms of the battleship were too thick to cut through.

Sadly, today most will probably go through this day at forget what happened all those years ago. This was the 'September 11' of a previous generation, or better September 11 was the Pearl Harbor of our generation.

I have been to the memorial that is built over the hull of the Arizona. It is sobering. You can read the names of the men who died that day. While I was only fourteen when I was there, I can't help but look back now and think some of those guys were my age or younger. Some of them weren't even really men yet. I'm sure many of them anticipated having their whole lives ahead of them, some of them for sure left sweathearts and young children at home. If you ever go to the memorial it is haunting to look down at the rusting steal. You can see drops of oil rising to the surface--tears of the dead they say.

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be forever a child. -Cicero



Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wow, wow, wow

Check this fox news story out. Sherri Shepherd (left) needs to learn a thing or two about history.

Here is a sad commentary of American education:

"Keep in mind that probably when [Epicurus] was around, there was no Jesus Christ stuff going on," co-host Whoopi Goldberg said.
"They still had Christians back then," Shepherd interrupted.
"They had gods," Goldberg said.
"They had Christians," Shepherd insisted. "And they threw 'em to the lions."
"I think this might predate that," Goldberg said.
"I don't think anything predated Christians," Shepherd shot back.


The NY Post continues:

Behar then piped in.
"The Greeks came first, then the Romans, then the Christians," she said.
"Jesus came first, before then," Shepherd said.
"No, not on paper," Goldberg sadly said, meaning the Bible.
Barbara Walters was not there yesterday to see the latest bizarre moment for Shepherd, a 40-year-old comedian and actress who was hired last fall to replace Star Jones on the panel of the morning women's show.
Born in Chicago and raised a Jehovah's Witness, according to reports, she became a born-again Christian after moving to LA.
Last September, after saying she did not believe in evolution, Whoopi asked her rhetorically if also believed the earth was flat.
Taking the question seriously, Shepherd responded: "I don't know."
The following day she said she'd just been flustered by the question and did, indeed, know the earth was round.


Two things:
1) A basic knowledge of history is essential.
2) The article by the NY Post, no doubt seems to imply that those 'silly-born again Christians' are stupid when it comes to their basic history.

We should all know some basic things about history and when Jesus fits into world history. Why? Because if we are going to claim the historical truth of the events, we'd better know about history.

Ironically, Rosie O'Donnell on The View had said at one time about the gospels being written hundreds of years after Jesus and not eyewitness accounts. It appears she does not know any better either.

While Christian's will never be able to curry academic respectability so long as we are preaching the offense of the Cross, we also should work hard at not being idiots with respect to history.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...