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Summer School Starts May 20

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 16:42

The first session of the DBTS Summer School begins May 20 and lasts for two weeks (till May 30). Two classes will be offered: 1 Thessalonians (Greek exegesis), taught by Dr. Bruce Compton, and Evangelism and Church Growth, taught by Dr. David Doran. The second session runs from June 3–13 and the class is Kingdom of God, taught by Dr. Sam Dawson. The final session, Old Testament Theology, taught by Dr. Mark Snoeberger, runs from June 17–27. Classes meet Tuesday–Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. The schedule with complete info can be found here. If you are interested in registering for any of these classes, you can call the seminary at 313-381-0111, or email to info@dbts.edu.

Categories: Seminary Blog

How Has the Church Responded to Theological Controversy?

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 07:00

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a new little book written by Justin Holcomb, titled Know the Heretics (Zondervan, April 2014). At the same time that book was published, a companion volume titled Know the Creeds and Councils was also released. While the volume I mentioned in the earlier post focused on famous false teachers in the history of the church, this second volume discusses a number of the most important creeds and church councils.

Creeds and church councils might sound like fairly boring topics, but for those who care about the Scriptures that should not be the case. The early councils were the places where key doctrinal issues were hammered out by the church, and creeds are simply summaries of Christian doctrine that a group of believers have agreed upon. Both subjects are actually pretty important and at times can be quite interesting.

Like the book on heretics, this volume is fairly short and very readable. If you are wondering about how the early church tried to refute false teachers who taught that Jesus was a mere creature, chapter two on the Council of Nicaea (325) provides the answer. If you are interested in seeing how the Catholic Church responded to the rise of Protestantism, chapter eight on the Council of Trent (1545–63) discusses this. And if you are curious about some of the key changes that took place within Roman Catholicism in the twentieth century, chapter twelve discusses the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Other chapters include discussions of the three great councils that took place in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), an overview of the doctrinal statement of the Church of England, and an introduction to the key doctrinal standard of conservative Presbyterians—the Westminster Confession.

Both this book and the book on heretics appear to be written with the potential for group study in mind. Each chapter concludes with a short list of discussion questions and a brief list of suggested titles for further study. Overall, both of these volumes are handy little introductions to key people, events, and doctrinal developments in the history of the Christian church.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Divorcing the Person from the Work of Christ?

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 07:00

Last week I read a curious piece that purported to identify the exact point at which Pilgrim was saved in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: was it at the wicket gate, at the foot of the cross, or perhaps even at some other point? I confess a measure of confusion on the matter. Like many before me, I’ve had the uneasy sense that the salvation event in Bunyan’s little tome is more a process than a point.

As uneasy as I have been with Bunyan’s allegory on this matter, I am more uneasy still with the explanation offered by Jim Orrick in his blog post. In Orrick’s understanding, Pilgrim is justified when he goes through the narrow wicket gate (i.e., he believes Christ and loses his forensic guilt), and then is relieved of his psychological guilt when he arrives at the foot of the cross and grasps the theological significance of what occurred there. Had Orrick stopped here, I might have been amenable to his theory.

Instead, Orrick goes on to support his theory with the emphatic statement that “the Bible proclaims that a person gets saved when he receives Christ, and the Bible does not say that a person gets saved through believing that Jesus died for him. Christ himself is the proper object of saving faith, not some part of his work.” He adds, “A person is saved not when he believes in right doctrine…but when he believes in the right person, namely Christ. So the object of saving faith is not a doctrine but a person.”

I find this troubling on multiple levels. Firstly, the Scriptures demand more than a mere reception of Christ. They demand that we affirm (1) certain theological facts about Christ’s person—he is Lord (Rom 10:13); he is God’s Son (1 John 5:1, 5); etc.—and (2) certain theological facts about his work—he died (1 Thess 4:14); he rose again (Rom 10:13); he will judge/reward (Heb 11:6); etc. Granted, we don’t have to know every theological nuance about atonement in order to be saved, but there are some basic facts that are non-negotiable: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3–4).

But secondly (and more importantly), I am troubled about the theological implications of divorcing faith in Christ’s person from faith in Christ’s work. If indeed an individual can “receive Christ” for true salvation without affirming even the most rudimentary details about what Christ did, then soteriology is effectively stripped of all but an existential Christ encounter: all else becomes optional. This door has been taken many times in the history of the church, and never to a good end. Let us hope that Orrick’s post is not opening up this door yet again.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Battle with Death

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 10:17

The Bible states that we have an enemy that plagues everyone—death. Though we may avoid this enemy for a time, we cannot escape it. Death is certain. No one can avoid death.

And Death is cruel. At its heart, death is separation. Death separates our bodies from our souls. It separates us from this earth and all that is on the earth that we love.

For much of our life we can make ourselves forget this enemy. We busy ourselves with the various aspects of life, never considering that life will end. Perhaps your life will be long, but perhaps yours will be short, like many others before you. However, there are times in our lives when we can no longer forget our enemy, death. We come face to face with it, in all its gruesome reality.

It is as though death stands before us, taunting us: “What is the value of your life? What is your purpose? What have you gained? What do you treasure? No matter what it is, I will take it in the end. You think you are fine now, but one day I will have the victory.”

And so often death does have the victory. Often people do lose all they have lived for at death.

Why is death so cruel? In 1 Corinthians 15:56, Paul explains what makes death so destructive.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

The Bible is clear that death is a result of sin. Death is not a natural part of the world, but is an intruder that has entered because of sin. Paul pictures this intruder as a hideous creature with a venomous sting. It is a dangerous enemy.

The heart of sin in the Bible is not allowing God to be God in our life but trying to replace Him. Perhaps we try to replace God with other things—other gods, famous people, family, wealth, work, etc. Often we simply make ourselves to be god—we decide how we should live our lives. In so doing, we go against what we were created for and find cheap substitutes that will never satisfy and will only end up hurting ourselves and others.

Sin ultimately hurts us most by separating us from God. Our greatest good and greatest joy comes in knowing and serving God—doing what we were made to do. But our sin has separated us from God. By our sin we have brought God’s righteous wrath against us.

Sin is magnified by God’s law. We may think that we can determine what is good and what is not, but God is the only one who has that right and the ability. God is the only true lawgiver.

God’s law is written on our hearts. Yet we do things we know are wrong. We do things that we know will be harmful to ourselves and others. And we fail to do things we know would be good, things that would be helpful to others. Thus, we willingly violate God’s law. This transgression magnifies our sin, giving even greater poison to death’s sting.

We rightfully feel as though there should be judgment against sin. We believe in our hearts that wrongs in this world should be dealt with. The problem is, when we are honest with ourselves we are forced to recognize that we deserve judgment for the wrongs we have done.

And the judgment for the wrongs we have done is death. We experience spiritual death in this life because we are separated from that which is truly life—the life found in Christ. One day, we will face physical death, the separation of our bodies from our spirits.

If we have built our life on anything other than God, we will be separated from what we built our life on. Our fame will fade, our possessions will decay, our careers will have ended, and our loved ones will be lost.

We will ultimately face eternal death—eternal separation from God. Instead of seeing God’s face, we will have His back turned to us and will experience all the horrible consequences that entails.

There is no greater enemy than sin and death, and yet we are powerless before them. We possess nothing with which we can fight against death. But are we left to cower before this gruesome enemy? Is there some way by which we can defeat death? Paul goes on to offer the glorious answer in verse 57:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Unlike every other person who ever lived, Jesus perfectly obeyed God. He always loved God and loved others. Because Jesus never sinned He did not deserve to die. His death was not for His sins, but for ours. He paid the penalty so that we would not have to.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” (Gal 3:13)

Jesus defeated death—demonstrating that He is God and that He made an acceptable sacrifice for sin. Jesus did not remain dead, but after three days he rose from the grave with a glorified body, declaring to all the world that He is who He said He is—the Son of God. And He did what He said He would do—pay for our sins.

“And was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 1:4)

“Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4:25)

How do we enjoy the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection? Paul hints at it in verse 57. We give thanks to God, for He is the one who has done all the work. Paul does not say that we thank God while congratulating ourselves on what we have done. We can do nothing for our salvation, because God has done it all. When we turn from our sin and trust in Christ, we are given a new heart that now wants to serve God.

We can do nothing—it is only grace. Of course there is a cost with any gift, but Jesus paid the cost, so there is no cost to us.

Through Christ our sin is removed so that we can have the true joy found in a relationship with Christ. We can have the satisfaction that only comes from knowing Jesus Christ.

With our sin removed, death no longer has any power. Through faith we are united with Christ, and his resurrection guarantees ours. No other religion or worldview has this claim. Only Christ has conquered death, and only Christ can offer the victory over death. For those in Christ, death is no longer loss—it is gain. For the Christian, death is not death.

So death is an enemy for the Christian, but it is a defeated enemy. Though it may appear as a hideous creature, ready to strike its prey with a venomous sting, Christ’s victory over death swoops in and swallows death up. (“Death is swallowed up in victory!”)

So now, when we come face to face with death, it is we who can stand taunting death: “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?

Categories: Seminary Blog

Life’s Like Conveyor-Belt of Chocolates: 5 Reasons to Read What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 16:54

(A Guest Post by David Doran, Jr.)

Every mother, pastor, roofer, and sanitation engineer in the Western world has felt the wrath of life’s relentless assault of tasks-to-be-done. You’re probably calling them tasks-to-survive by now. Western culture is drunk on going faster and faster and doing more and more. It’s no surprise, then, to see the huge market of books, conferences, and media teaching workaholics to drink responsibly from the fire hose.

Many of these works are helpful in managing the flow—or tidal wave!—of life. I, much like author Matt Perman, had not made use of systems or strategies or lists in getting through college. When ministry and seminary hit the gas peddle, however, I had to adjust and fast. Still, after writing lists and next actions, etc., etc., I found myself stuck in the iconic “I Love Lucy” scene at the chocolate factory. Ethel and Lucy begin their post at the conveyor belt managing just fine; however, before long, the onslaught of chocolates simply becomes unstoppable. (You really need to take 2 minutes and watch for yourself. Don’t worry; this quick dose of joy will help your productivity. Perman agrees, see, e.g., p. 248, where Perman argues that Facebook can increase your productivity.)

Many productivity resources become a designated driver for the workaholic. And What’s Best Next (WBN) answers the call for those feeling like Lucy & Ethel. Perman (former Director of Strategy at Desiring God) presents a savvy biblical approach to getting things done. WBN prepares readers to (1) launch right by making God supreme and by viewing productivity through a Gospel lens (Parts 1 & 2); (2) navigate right by following the steps summarized in the acronym D.A.R.E.: Define, Architect, Reduce and Execute (Parts 3–6); and, finally, (3) land right by living for the Great Commission and uplifting the downtrodden (Part 7).

I could say so much more about the usefulness of his book. However, here I’ll simply list 5 reasons why you should read WBN next.

  1. WBN prioritizes eternity. The only way to be truly productive in a lasting way is to do what God thinks is productive.
  2. WBN inspires. If students truly take a teacher’s passion more than anything else, WBN readers will come away with at least Perman’s heartbeat for God-exalting living through ambitious, creative service.
  3. WBN enhances the Greats. Perman isn’t starting from scratch. In fact, I found WBN’s ability to borrow, adapt and enhance the brilliance of others incredibly helpful. Perman draws Edwards, Wilberforce, Covey, Drucker, and Allen in together in a Gospel-shaped symphony for your benefit.
  4. WBN anticipates the struggle. Perman anticipates the challenges of becoming more productive. He provides helpful advice and pathways for better scheduling, delegation, time management, and more.

WBN frees you from the rat race. Perman consistently reiterates that our goal is to please, not appease, God. The only way to be truly productive is to realize we don’t actually have to be productive. The good news of someone else doing all the work for you is rarely heard in the halls of “do-more-faster-bigger-and-better-to-be-accepted.” WBN flies in the face of earning status and preaches a radical “more, faster, bigger, and better” flowing out from our accepted status. IOW, this is, to say it again, Gospel-driven productivity at its finest!

Categories: Seminary Blog

Do You Know Any Heretics?

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 07:00

Within American history the names of Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, and the Rosenbergs live on in infamy. These are people who rather notoriously tried to undermine the well-being of our nation for some kind of personal profit. We look back on such individuals with a mixture of interest and disdain. How could they do such things? How could they betray our country? Yet, the Christian church has had its share of notorious traitors or heretics as well.

What a man like Benedict Arnold is to American history, men like Arius and Pelagius are to church history. One might think that such heretics should be avoided at all costs, and in a sense, they should be. At least, their teachings should be soundly rejected by all those who profess Christ. But it is difficult to reject a teaching you have never encountered. And if one does not know where some professing “Christians” have gone astray in the past, one might begin wandering down a similar path in the present.

I recently came across a fascinating little book by Justin Holcomb, titled Know the Heretics (Zondervan, April 2014). In fewer than 180 pages, the author provides a concise and helpful introduction to some of the more notorious heretics in the history of the church. Divided into twelve short chapters, Holcomb introduces his readers to groups like the Judaizers and the Gnostics and to individuals like Sabellius and Socinus (the only post-Reformation character included). Each chapter is divided into four sections: Historical Background, Heretical Teaching, Orthodox Response, and Contemporary Relevance. That last section—Contemporary Relevance—is especially interesting. In many of the chapters, Holcomb points out that the error in question is still alive and well today. For example, he speculates that many otherwise orthodox Christians would probably describe the incarnation of Christ in terms that bear a strong resemblance to Apollinarianism (pp. 105–6). And he notes that the teachings of Socinus are still echoing within the walls of most Unitarian churches today (p. 152). Unfortunately, even the most egregious theological errors rarely disappear forever.

Holcomb’s book doesn’t plow any new ground, and it’s not intended to. But it does provide a good introduction to some of the more important false teachers in the history of the church. And studying such characters provides both a warning and a helpful perspective on the state of the church today. As G. K. Chesterton once said, “The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living” (Chesterton, “On St. George Revivified”).

Categories: Seminary Blog

Is Allah a God of Love?

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 07:00

It is common today to hear people talk about a God of love, often connected with the idea that all religions teach about a God of love. In a recent panel Q&A, I was asked “Can we call Allah a God of love?” My brief answer was no, since he is not portrayed that way in the Qur’an. For example, in the book God of Justice: A Study in the Ethical Doctrine of the Qur’an, Daud Rahbar, the late Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religions at Boston University, argues that the primary motivation for ethics given by the Qur’an is fear of God’s stern justice.

Though it is common to see fear as the essential motive for ethical behavior in Islam, it is uncommon to see that fear directed towards stern justice. “It is a fact well-recognized in scientific scholarship that Fear of God is the dominant sentiment in Qur’anic morality. But that the roots of this sentiment are in God’s stern justice and not in the preponderant malignance of the arbitrary will of a capricious sovereign is a fact scarcely recognized” (5). Thus, Rahbar sets out to demonstrate that the conception of God in the Qur’an is not of a capricious God but of a God who enacts certain justice.

Though I am unconvinced that Rahbar conclusively destroys the idea of a capricious God in Islam, I did find his discussion on the absence of love in the Qur’an and the prominence of love in the Bible fascinating.

Nowhere [in the Qur’an] do we find the idea that God loves mankind. God’s love is conditional (172).

In Christianity Love becomes the essential motive principle of virtuous conduct. Why? The answer is simple. In Christianity God is, before anything else, the Father. His Love transencds His Justice. In Qur’anic thought Fear of God becomes the essential motive-principle of virtuous conduct. Why?… The answer to why fear-motive prevails in the Qur’an is that Qur’an’s God is, before anything else, a strict judge. His justice is unrelaxing. He will forgive none but those who believe in Him and obey commandments….

The relationship of love…is a reciprocal one. The Qur’an never enjoins love for God. This is because God Himself loves only the strictly pious. To love God one must presuppose that God is reciprocating the sentiment. And to presuppose that is to presume that one is perfectly pious. Such presumption the Qur’an never allows. Even the most virtuous men as prophets are constantly reminded that they are sinful creatures who must ask forgiveness of smallest sins whether they are aware of them or not. Side by side with such a conception of God’s unrelaxing justice love for God would certainly be out of place (179-80).

In the Bible [the] central notion is God’s Fatherhood and his love for mankind. And so it is love between man and God on which all Christian morality rests… In the Qur’an the corresponding central notion is God’s strict justice. And so on fear of God’s strict justice of the judgement day depends the fulfilling of the law and the whole moral value of Qur’anic duty (223–4).

I agree that love is a central notion in the Bible, but I disagree that the Christian God’s love transcends His justice. Rather, His love leads Him to remain just while providing a way for unjust sinners to become just in His sight. God makes believers perfectly just. That’s why the Christian God performed the greatest act of love possible, and Christians in turn love God.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Categories: Seminary Blog

Evangelical Social Engagement: A Reprise

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 07:00

Last week in this blog post, I suggested that if the current surge of evangelical social attentiveness shares identity with surges that preceded it (as Joel Carpenter has affirmed), then we should look to history to accurately predict the course and end of the current surge of evangelical social action. I am no prophet (I’m a cessationist, after all), but there is a discernible pattern in play. So what is the historical pattern that emerges and what steps can we take to avoid it? Here goes:

  • First, in order to maintain “unity” and otherwise keep contribution levels high, the evangelical para-church social networks will feel an increasing need to make concessions. Some of these concessions will be confessional in nature, others socio-political, and others ethical. Last week we discovered through the World Vision fiasco that the evangelical majority was not yet ready for the homosexual concession (though a sizable evangelical minority certainly leaped up to applaud), but this line in the sand will eventually erode.
  • Next, there will be increasing tolerance of Arminianism and ultimately of Pelagianism. This is because, at its heart, organized evangelical social action, even when perpetuated by Calvinists (whether Henry, Mouw, or Piper), is evangelical—it either starts as or eventually becomes a pan-ecclesiastical, gospel-promoting effort. The social action at first paves the way for the gospel message, then morphs into an efficacious means of the gospel, and eventually replaces the gospel entirely as an end unto itself. Slippery slope? Perhaps, but I prefer to call this a cyclical pattern that we’ve seen time and again. Evangelicalisms of very age tend to revert to type.
  • As the ethical and confessional compromises mount, the conservatives will begin to peel away, one by one, from these compromised social networks until enough of them accumulate for another evangelical social surge in about thirty years or so. The machinery of the existing social initiatives, however, will remain in the hands of those who have long since lost sight of the gospel.

So what’s the corrective that might be implemented to keep this cycle from repeating and to prove me a false prophet? One suggestion is that we create smaller, more local, and more self-consciously confessional organizations for ecclesiastical social action, then police these ideals aggressively. Historically, such measures tend to give such initiatives a little bit longer shelf-life, but they do not stop the progression entirely.

I would suggest a solution that is far more radical, namely this: Churches need to excise evangelical social action from their institutional mission. Note well that I did not recommend that Christians stop being neighborly or to stop participating in and/or contributing toward social/civic enterprises. But such participation should be (1) the actions of individual believers living out their faith in the civil sphere and (2) actions that are non-evangelical in intent (i.e., not practiced as a means to gospel success, but as a result of God’s sanctifying work in our lives).

In a sentence (well, two of them), we need to resurrect what Presbyterians have long called the doctrine of the spirituality of the church and what Baptists have traditionally meant by the separation of church and state. But in order to do this, we first need to shake free from the relentless grip of evangelical Neo-Kuyperianism, which, based on the perceived presence of the future, requires that evangelism and social action be regarded as two sides of the church’s greater mandate of advancing Christ’s (singular) kingdom.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Chapter Note: Joel Carpenter, “What’s New About the New Evangelical Social Engagement?”

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 15:50

I just finished browsing through an engaging new title, The New Evangelical Social Engagement. No, it’s not an obscure book by a rock-ribbed fundamentalist who remains skeptical about the conservative resurgence in evangelical life (though it might cast a few of these skeptics in a more favorable light). It’s a carefully edited OUP title with contributions from an impressive list of heavyweights in sociology and church history. Its burden is to explain the edgy new countenance of evangelical social activism that has emerged in the last decade or so—a ‘new’ new evangelicalism.

The chapter of greatest interest to me was Joel Carpenter’s summary chapter, “What’s New About the New Evangelical Social Engagement?” in which he argues compellingly that the social concern of the ‘new’ new evangelicalism is actually a new iteration of the ‘old’ new evangelicalism—another in a series of “periodic eruptions” of the same evangelical mountain (276). The first formal wave,[1] centered on Carl Henry’s Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, began in the 1940s. A second and stronger wave came through in the 1970s, but this wave wasn’t quite so unified: it sported on the one hand a “sterner” moral majority centered around Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others of their ilk, and on the other hand a more “moderate” moral minority (to use David Schwartz’s clever appellative), centered about the organization “Evangelicals for Social Action,” led for nearly four decades by Ron Sider.

Today’s surge in evangelical social concern most closely resembles the last of these wavelets, Carpenter argues, but is ultimately cut from the same cloth—there is “not one trend or emphasis among them” that did not appear earlier (275). There are differences between the various new evangelicalisms, to be sure, but socially, not so much: the waves are largely homogenous. This consensus persists, Carpenter explains, because of a steady notion that “evangelism and social action are…two parts of a larger mandate, which is giving witness to God’s kingdom” (271). Take away this unifying mandate and the last century of evangelicalism, in all of its manifold expressions, dies a spectacular death. And so the answer to Carpenter’s title question, “What’s New About the New Evangelical Social Engagement?” is effectively this: not much, at least insofar as these new evangelical iterations are viewed as social and cultural constructs. And such constructs are, Carpenter suggests, what stands at the center of evangelicalism: “The heart of evangelicalism, in the end, is not theological,” he says, but the idea that “true religion [can be] made real to ordinary people” (277).

If this suggestion is correct (and I warm to the idea), then we may need to revisit the popular notion that “the” new evangelicalism is to be isolated in the non-separatist, anti-fundamentalist theological movement that flourished between 1942 and 1976, then convulsed and died during the inerrancy battles of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Further, we will do well to look backward to discover the likely course and end of the current new evangelical wave—and the next one too.

A very tantalizing read and well worth a closer look.

[1]I would argue that there was an earlier wave centered in post-WWI Europe, but it was less well-organized and involved “evangelicals” whose evangelical status would be questioned by many evangelicals today. Still, I think it’s safe to say that Henry’s new evangelical ‘wave’ was not without its own precedents.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Israel’s Hermeneutical Problem

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 07:00

In 2 Cor 3:13 Paul says that “Moses put a veil over his face to prevent Israel from seeing the end of what was passing away.” What exactly was it that Israel couldn’t see? The answer: Israel had a hermeneutical problem. She couldn’t see the purpose of the Mosaic covenant. Here I’ll try to prove this reading in two steps.

First, “what was passing away” is simply another way of talking about the old (or Mosaic) covenant. (1) In vv. 7–11, Paul says that the “ministry that brought death” (v. 7) was less glorious than “the ministry of the spirit” (v. 8) for two reasons. It condemned and was “transitory”; whereas “the ministry of the spirit” justifies and “remains” (see vv. 9, 11). The participle translated “what was transitory” in v. 11 is the same participle used in v. 13 and translated “what was passing away,” which, along with their agreement in gender (i.e., both neuter), suggests both refer to the same thing, namely, “the ministry that brought death” in v. 7. Or, to put it all this another way, I suspect that had Paul reversed the comparisons of vv. 9 and 11, v. 13 would have read like this, “We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of that which condemns.” In short, “what was passing away” in v. 13 was “the ministry that brought death” in v. 7. (2) This “ministry that brought death” is said in v. 7 to have been “engraved in letters on stone,” which is nearly identical to the description of the (implied) covenant in v. 6, which is there contrasted with the “new covenant.” Thus, the covenant “of the letter,” which “kills,” in v. 6 and “the ministry that brought death” and is “engraved in letters on stone” in v. 7 is the Mosaic or old covenant. This reading is confirmed by the parallelism of vv. 13 and 14, where “what is passing away” in v. 13 is parallel with “the old covenant” in v. 14.

Second, “the end” of the old covenant refers to the goal or point of the old covenant. (1) The veil in v. 13 is said to prevent Israel from seeing the “end” of the old covenant and, in vv. 14–15, this veil is said to remain whenever the old covenant is read, implying that the veil is equivalent to a hermeneutical barrier. (This barrier, Paul makes clear in v. 14, is, fundamentally, moral.) Thus, Israel, due to sin, is prevented from understanding the old covenant and, specifically, from understanding its goal or point. (2) In light of what Paul says in vv. 9 and 11, the goal or point of the old covenant that Israel was unable to see was the old covenant’s temporary, condemning function. Israel, in other words, was prevented from seeing the old covenant’s glory, which is precisely what the veil (implied) in v. 7 hid and what is revealed, according to vv. 16–18, when the veil is removed.

Thus, to say it again, Paul says here in 2 Cor 3:7–18 that Israel had a hermeneutical problem, owing to sin: she wasn’t able to see the purpose of her covenant. All this, therefore, is closely related to what Paul says in Rom 9:30–10:21 and Gal 3:1–4:7 and, moreover, is one of the key differences between the way Paul read Scripture before and after his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. (See here for a similar reflection.)

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Gospel, the Homosexual, and the Church: Recap and Reading List

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 07:00

This past Wednesday, Peter Hubbard, author of Love into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual, and the Church, delivered the annual William R. Rice lectures at DBTS. In his three lectures, Hubbard talked about how to understand and how to show biblical love to those who experience same-sex attraction (SSA).

In his first lecture, Hubbard explained the text of Psalm 36 and sought to provide a biblical framework for understanding SSA. He pointed out that every person’s biggest problem is not his or her sexual identity but rather his or her identity as a sinner. As fallen human beings, we are all sinners in need of Christ, and we all struggle with sin. Different people tend to struggle with different temptations. But we can all identify with the desire to do things that God has forbidden.

In his second lecture, Hubbard examined Romans 1. He noted that Paul speaks about a wide variety of sins in that chapter. Even so-called common or “respectable” sins like greed, gossiping, and disobedience to parents are things that Paul says make people worthy of divine judgment (Rom 1:32). God’s wrath has given all sinners over to sin, and yet God in his grace saves all sinners who come to Christ in repentance and faith.

In his final lecture, Hubbard talked about the church as a place that should be full of both grace and truth. He pointed out that grace without truth is a false grace while truth without grace tends toward self-righteousness. The church should be a place where homosexuals are loved as fellow-image bearers and are pointed to Christ as the only answer to all sin.

At the beginning of his book, Hubbard recounts the first time he counseled a man struggling with SSA. After meeting with this man on numerous occasions, Hubbard says, “The more I listened, the more I learned, the more I realized—we are not different. We are the same. Our specific battles and sins may vary, but our hearts are the same. And our daily need for the grace of Jesus is the same” (Love into Light, 11).

Both mp3s of the lectures and a pdf of the lecture notes are posted here. And if you are interested in reading more about this topic, here is a list of recommended resources that was provided by the speaker.

Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics

Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-Gay?

Mark Yarhouse, Homosexuality and the Christian

Denny Burk, What is the Meaning of Sex?

Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense

Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth

Melinda Selmys, Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism

James DeYoung, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature

Categories: Seminary Blog

Slouching Towards Salem

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 14:48

The worldwide web is a staging area for mobs. It offers us sound definitions of and warnings about mobs (Wikipedia calls them “individuals in a group to acting together without planned direction…in schools, demonstrations, riots, and general strikes, sporting events, religious gatherings, everyday decision-making, judgment and opinion-forming”), then supplies its users with the greatest forum for mob activity that the world has ever known. In the spirit of true democracy it has granted a voice to everyman, but in doing so, has also accelerated the inevitable collapse of democracy into anarchy. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Thankfully, the “republic” part of the democratic republic that we call America makes it a place where due process and jurisprudence, while perhaps weakening, remain strong, mitigating the effects of mob justice. A person is still presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, and the wheels of justice turn at an appropriately slow pace. These principles are biblical ones. Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15 insist that punishment be meted out only in the face of duly examined and clear public evidence from bona fide witnesses. Nothing else will do. Jesus and Paul further inform us that this idea was not set aside when Christ fulfilled the Law, respectively insisting that due process be exercised in local churches (Matt 18:16) and especially in the case of accusations leveled at the highly vulnerable class of church leaders (1 Tim 5:19). Society affirms such principles not to protect tyrants and elites, but to protect the innocent and to preserve social order.

Sadly, not all in society honor these mores, and when this happens, the greatest casualty is always the deterioration of leadership. The mob routinely lays siege against civil leaders, lawmakers, structures, guilds, and even against whole classes of people against whom the tide of popular opinion has turned. And the mob is never content to oversee the fall of such figures; instead they trample and brutalize with savage glee until their victims are exterminated. Such barbarism lurks in all of us; scarcely anyone is exempted. At one time or another we’ve almost all delighted, openly or secretly, in the spectacular collapse of a political figure, celebrity, organization, or even an ethnic/religious group that we dislike. This is a great evil, and the ubiquity of this evil bodes very ill for society at large.

But an even greater evil occurs when the mob is composed of Christians railing against their own. It grieves me that whole websites exist today surviving chiefly by the wholesale gathering of anonymous accounts and hearsay directed toward the destruction of unpopular and otherwise disenfranchised Christian leaders and groups (all cloaked in a veneer of piety, of course). Such sites are ever popular, but they are not right.

This is NOT to say that “Christian” tyrants and elites who think they stand above the law are to be protected by suppressing credible, public evidence from bona fide witnesses in matters of criminal and other violence. Nor is it to say that we have any right to silence victims and witnesses of such violence. When these injustices occur, we should duly examine the evidence and, having established guilt, mete out swift justice—not crowing our delight, but weeping at the injury done to Christ. But of all the people in the world, we as Christians should also be dismayed and horrified by the prospect of the OTHER injustice–the injustice of a mob poured out upon the innocent, and especially upon innocent leaders. And if we fail to contain this injustice—an injustice upon which the Scriptures are far from silent—we should not be surprised when the mob turns against us in our weakness, as it has so often in the history of the Church.

Categories: Seminary Blog

How Do Modern Muslims Interpret the Qur’an?

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 07:00

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with approximately 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. There are over 2.7 million Muslims in the United States. The percentage of Muslims in the U.S. population is projected to rise from 0.8% in 2010 to 1.7% by 2030. Yet most Americans, including Christians, are largely unaware of what Muslims believe and practice. This includes an ignorance of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. As part of a series of books by Oxford University Press (Very Short Introductions) intended to allow experts to help newcomers understand a variety of subjects, Michael Cook’s The Koran: A Very Short Introduction endeavors to alleviate some of that ignorance. Michael Cook is the Class of 1943 University Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Cook has written several works on Islamic thought and culture and uses his expertise to create an accessible introduction to the Qur’an.

After an introductory section in which Cook addresses the concept of scripture and a brief overview of the history and message of the Qur’an, he offers a backwards historical look at the book. He begins with the modern world, looking at the dissemination of the Qur’an, its modern interpretation, and the concept of scripture in the modern world. In the next section, he notes the role of the Qur’an in the traditional Muslim world, with chapters on the Qur’an as codex, text, worship, truth, and an object of dogma. The final part discusses the formation of the Qur’an, highlighting its collection, its form during the life of Muhammad, and some lingering doubts and puzzles with the traditional accounts of the Qur’an’s history.

The book provides a quick and easily accessible look at the Qur’an. As the title suggests, the book is a great place to start for those who have little previous knowledge of the Qur’an. Evangelicals may be bothered at times by the comparisons between the Qur’an and the Bible (along with comparisons to the Vedas and the Pali Canon), since Cook treats all scriptures or “classics” as important but ultimately man-made works. Further, some may wish that he was more critical of the Qur’an. But Cook strives for a balance of addressing issues with the Qur’an while still respecting its place in the Muslim faith.

Cook’s discussion of Qur’anic commentators might be of particular interest to North American Christians. Since Muslims view the Qur’an as an authoritative message from Allah, they strive for its proper interpretation. However, the modern world and its values often stand in opposition to the traditional understanding of the Qur’an. To illustrate how modern Qur’anic commentators address the tension between the modern world and the text of the Qur’an, Cook highlights “three characteristic, historically Western values of the emerging global culture: a scientific world-view; a tolerant attitude towards the religious beliefs of others; and an acceptance of women as equals of men”; and provides examples of Muslim responses (28-29).

Scientific World-view

Some Muslims have attempted to make the Qur’an into a scientific textbook—similar to the way some Christians have treated the Bible—arguing that it anticipates scientific truths like the modern understanding of an expanding universe or embryology. While not all Muslims have tried to read science back into the Qur’an, they do have to wrestle with passages that seem to contradict modern science. In Q7:163-6 (also referenced in Q2:65), Allah is said to have punished some ancient Israelites for fishing on the Sabbath by changing them into apes. Though traditionally the passage was interpreted as an actual change of humans into monkeys, modern commentators have argued that the change is metaphorical. They appeal to Q35:43, which states that God does not change his custom, to argue that the fact that God is not currently changing men into monkeys means he did not actually do it in the past. “Thus our modern commentators are engaged in a very traditional exegetical game: playing off one authority against another to get the result they want” (31). Conservative and fundamentalist commentators have criticized these efforts to remove the miraculous elements in the Qur’an.

Tolerance of Other Beliefs

Traditionally, Muslims have treated those of other religions in light of two verses in the Qur’an, one (the “sword verse”) calling for their execution unless they convert (Q9:5) and the other allowing non-Muslims to take a second-class place in society and pay a special tax (Q9:29). The second verse was largely applied to Jews and Christians, though at times other religions were included in it. Modern commentators have emphasized a third verse that states there is no compulsion in religion (Q2:256). While this verse was largely explained away by traditional commentators (see pp. 101-2), “for modern-minded Muslims…the verse is literally a godsend, scriptural proof that Islam is a religion of broad and general toleration” (34). Again, conservative and fundamentalist commentators still argue for the legitimacy of fighting unbelievers or taxing them, depending on the situation.

Equality of Men and Women

The rise of the feminist movement in the West stands in stark contrast to the traditional roles of men and women in Muslim society. For example, in Q4:34 “two things are hard to deny: the verse endorses male dominance, and it sanctions it by according to the husband a right, among other things, to beat a rebellious wife” (37). While modern commentators do not deny the reality of male authority, they argue that the verse is narrowly focused on husband/wife relations and that women are capable of incredible feats. Ultimately, though, they defend the right of a husband to use physical punishment as a way of dealing with a rebellious wife—stating that many other societies maintain the same practice. However, this is only to be used as “a last resort” (39).

Thus far, these attempts to reconcile the Qur’an with the changing values of the Western world have not gained widespread acceptance. Though most Muslims still hold to the traditional views, Christians in the West should not be surprised to discover that some of their Muslim neighbors and co-workers have embraced these newer interpretations in order to make Islam more fitting in their culture. Whether or not these modern views could be sustained in a country with a majority Muslim population is still to be seen.

Categories: Seminary Blog

What King David Said about Judas Iscariot

Tue, 03/11/2014 - 07:00

In Acts 1:12-26 Peter says that Judas Iscariot had to be replaced (see Acts 1:16, 21). The vacancy his defection (and suicide) created could not be left open, otherwise Scripture would be broken. After all, what Judas had done and what, then, the remaining apostles had to do was prophesied, according to Peter, by David in the psalms, specifically in Pss 69:25 and 109:8 (see Acts 1:20). The problem with all this, however, is that on a first reading, at least, neither of these psalms is obviously prophetic, much less “spoke[n] . . . concerning Judas” (see Acts 1:16), which raises the question: Why did Peter think—and his hearers agree!—that these psalms warranted his claims and, therefore, called the early Christians to action?

The solution to this puzzle lies along the following two lines: (1) The early Christians read Pss 69, 109 and other psalms of lament messianically. They did this principally, I suspect, because this is the way Jesus read these psalms (see, e.g., John 13:18 [Ps 41:9], John 15:25 [Ps 35:19; 69:4]; John 19:24 [Ps 22:18]). Alongside of this, the early Christians elsewhere applied to Jesus’ resurrection/exaltation psalms originally describing David’s enthronement (see, e.g., Ps 2:7 in Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; and Heb 5:6), suggesting they thought of Jesus as the greater and, indeed, true Davidic king. The psalms of lament were then likely drawn into this davidic ideology, this davidic typology, precisely because so many were already linked with David (i.e., “a psalm of David”) and, as well, because so many contained “forward-looking” elements—eschatological elements. (These forward-looking elements, moreover, probably explain the smattering of evidence suggesting that some of the laments were already read eschatologically—if not messianically—in the pre-Christian era. See, e.g., the interpretation of Ps 22 in 4Q88 or Ps 37 in 4QpPs37.) (2) If the early Christians read these laments typologically—that is, as prophesying about another, ultimate sufferer—then it’s not at all unlikely that they treated the enemies described in these psalms in a similar fashion. This indeed may explain why Peter changes “their place” in Ps 69:25 to “his place” (and, thus, “their tents” to “it”) in Acts 1:20a. Peter saw in the psalm’s description of betrayal the actions of the messiah’s ultimate betrayer, Judas Iscariot.

In short, Peter and the early Christians read Pss 69 and 109 messianically and, therefore, saw in them a description of Judas’ betrayal and a description of what should be done about his vacant post.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 07:00

Among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, there is a rather troubling document dated from the year 1 B.C. It’s a letter written by a husband to his wife. The husband is out of town, and the wife is apparently expecting to deliver a child in the near future. Here’s the text:

Hilarion to his sister Alis, many greetings, also to my lady Berous and Apollonarion. Know that I am still in Alexandria; and do not worry when all the others return. I am staying in Alexandria. I ask you and entreat you, take care of the child, and if I receive my pay soon, I will send it up to you. Above all, if you bear a child and it is a male, let it live; if it is a female, expose it. You have told Aphrodisias, “Do not forget me.” But how can I forget you? Thus I’m asking you not to worry.

The 29th year of Caesar, Pauni 23 (P.Oxy. 4.744).

This letter is somewhat well-known due to its striking content. Almost as an aside, Hilarion instructs his wife that if she gives birth to a daughter, she is to expose the girl (i.e., to place her outside the city to most likely die or perhaps to be found by someone who would raise her up for whatever purpose).

Unfortunately the practice of exposing an unwanted child was all too common in the ancient world. And we look back at such a letter as shocking for its heartlessness. Perhaps we breathe a sigh of relief that in the 21st century such practices are unthinkable. But are they really?

Someone recently brought to my attention an article written by two ethicists in Australia. The article, titled “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” was published in the online version of the Journal of Medical Ethics. In this article, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue that “‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled” (p. 1). They explain their rather unusual use of terms when they write, “we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child” (p. 2).

In the article, the authors present two reasons which they believe justify their assertion that after-birth abortions should be permissible. First, they argue that an unborn baby and a newborn baby are morally equivalent. This is so because “both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.” Second, the authors suggest that both unborn babies and newborn babies are “potential persons” not actual persons and that the interests of the actual people involved (i.e., the non-infants) should be the decisive factor in any decision about abortion or after-birth abortion.

Having presented their main argument, the authors attempt to deal with a possible objection to their proposal, namely, the idea that adoption would be a better alternative to after-birth abortion. The authors do not believe that such would necessarily be the case. They explain, “we also need to consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption…. After-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption” (p. 3). Having been present in hospital delivery rooms on a number of occasions and having watched many mothers interact with their newborn children in other contexts, I can’t help but think that the authors are incredibly naïve on this point. Would it really be less “distressing” or “damaging” for a mother to go through life knowing she had chosen to have her newborn baby killed than it would be for her to know that a family had been given the opportunity to raise that child? I am not discounting the challenges involved in making an adoption plan; adoption always involves tragedy of one sort or another. But the authors clearly discount the level of guilt which a mother would bear following an after-birth abortion.

In the end, Giubilini and Minerva conclude that “the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn” (p. 3). They wrap up the article with two final considerations. First, they are unwilling to state exactly when an after-birth abortion should no longer be permissible (i.e., how old is too old?). And second, they confess that early abortion is preferable to after-birth abortion. However, having made that confession they quickly follow up with a statement defending the practice of after-birth abortion: “if a disease has not been detected during the pregnancy, if something went wrong during the delivery, or if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford” (p. 3). In other words, the authors believe that if for any reason a mother does not want to raise her newborn baby, that woman should be able to have it killed.

When I read this article a week or two ago, one of my first thoughts was that this is just an echo of the 2,000 year old letter cited at the beginning of this post. The modern journal article might be dressed up in academic clothes, but its authors are essentially arguing for the moral permissibility of what was practiced in ancient Rome. These writers may have intended to prove one thing, but more than anything else, their article illustrates the fact that apart from the grace of God the human heart is just as depraved now as it was 2,000 years ago.

*The page numbers used for citation refer to the pages of the pdf version of the article.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Re: Rice Lectures

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 07:00

Just a reminder that the Rice Lectures are now just two weeks away on Wednesday, March 19. Pastor Peter Hubbard, who is the teaching pastor at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, SC, will be presenting three lectures based on his new book Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church.

The lectures will run from 8:30 a.m. till noon. A free lunch will be provided afterward. There is no cost to attend the Rice Lectures. However, for planning purposes, all guests are requested to register in advance so that adequate seating and food can be provided. Registration can be completed by calling (313) 381-0111, ext. 400, or sending an email to info@dbts.edu.

Categories: Seminary Blog

An Excellent Counseling Resource for Men

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 07:00

If you have spent time counseling men in the areas of purity and pornography, you have probably, like me, struggled to find a resource that is biblical, straightforward, pastoral, and pure itself. In my opinion, Heath Lambert has written such a book, titled Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Zondervan, 2013). This book is designed as a resource both for those fighting against the sin of viewing pornography and for those helping those who are.

I recently read through the book while preparing for a retreat, and found it to be extremely practical. Lambert has served as a pastor and now as a teacher, and is also the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly NANC–which, in my view, bodes well for this organization). Lambert is biblical, pastoral, hopeful, and straightforward in his counsel.

Here are a few quotes I highlighted from the Kindle edition I purchased to get you started:

  • “Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you” (28).
  • “Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness” (38).
  • “Employing radical measures is the path to life, while indulging sin is the path to hell. God does not forbid sexual immorality because he wants you to be miserable ; God forbids it because sexual immorality leads to brokenness, sadness, emptiness, death, and hell ” (62).
  • “The great call of your life is to be holy, as Jesus is holy. Pornography stands firmly opposed to that call. You must run from it and toward Christ” (154).

Lambert outlines through the chapters an eight-pronged approach to a grace-founded fight against pornography. Also, there is an appendix that provides practical counsel for those hurt by another’s struggle that I found to be valuable as well. If you are a pastor, you will want to get a copy of this as a resource for yourself and others.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Zero-Sum Economics and Church Planting

Fri, 02/28/2014 - 11:51

I’ve visited sub-Saharan Africa a few times and have started to get a handle on the grassroots economic theory that dominates the local villages: zero-sum economics. In brief, traditional African culture understands that there is a fixed amount of wealth available at all times, so if one villager becomes wealthy, he necessarily does so at the expense of others, who conversely become poor. In such a model, a man who works hard, earns money, and starts socking that money away in a bank account is immoral, because by “hoarding” this money, he is denying his neighbors the opportunity to prosper or even to survive.

The effects of this economic theory are manifold. Some of these are not entirely bad—the Africans I met tended to be relational, communitarian, less penurious than the average American, and even quite generous (of course they expected the same from me, so this wasn’t pure altruism, but there is a certain civility in African society that is rather pleasant). Still, the problems with this theory were glaring. People still hoarded, but deceitfully and hypocritically; envy often outpaced magnanimity. But the most obvious problem of zero-sum economics was that, absent the idea of wealth creation, almost all incentive for steady work, planning, investment, and advancement disappear. After all, if I may keep only my little sliver of pie, what reason do I have to earn more?

As Americans (and especially those of us of the Republican persuasion), we tend to have the opposite problem. We tend to see all wealth as created, and suppress the uncomfortable thought that my wealth might possibly contribute to the hardship of someone else…except when it comes to church planting. Here, zero-sum economics often flourishes. If a new church plant appears near the perimeter of an established church’s “turf,” worry sets in—worry that the new church will lure away members from the existing church and prosper at its expense. After all, there are only so many Christians to go around, so a new church means fewer Christians for all of the existing churches. And while no one would ever actually say this, a mindset begins to emerge that it’s actually better to eliminate churches than it is to plant them; after all, when a church dies, this means more ‘wealth’ to distribute among the surviving churches.

But here’s the problem. It denies the possibility of the creation of ‘wealth’—in this case the creation of new believers—and removes all incentive to work hard at evangelism, invest in discipleship, and advance the cause of Christ. Sure, the surviving churches often have a wonderful sense of community and belonging, but without ‘wealth’ creation, the community will never truly prosper.

I grant, of course, that some new church planters hold to a zero-sum economic theory too—they plant churches fully intending to populate them with stolen sheep rather than with new sheep, suppressing and eliminating  competition as their primary means of church growth. This is a problem that I recognize to be fully as serious as the previous. But in both situations, the solution is not to stop planting churches; instead, the solution is for all parties to recognize that the primary means to the establishment and growth of churches is by the creation and cultivation of new believers through the hard work of evangelism.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Is Jesus Presently Reigning?

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 07:00

In a handful of places the NT interprets Jesus’ resurrection (+ ascension) as his exaltation to God’s right hand, which is to say, as his fulfillment of David’s prophecy about the coming messiah in Ps 110:1: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” See, for example, Heb 1:13; 8:1 and 10:12–13. Despite all this, some still insist that it isn’t appropriate to say that Jesus is presently reigning as the davidic messiah, the davidic king (see, e.g., here). One problem with this reading is that it seems to contradict what Paul says about Jesus in 1 Cor 15:25. There Paul says that Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” The bit about the “enemies” recalls the end of Ps 110:1 and therefore suggests that Paul thinks that what Jesus is doing now at God’s right hand—the first part of Ps 110:1—can be summarized with the word “reign.” In short, if the NT says that Jesus’ exaltation fulfills the promise of Ps 110:1, then, according to Paul, we must say that Jesus, the davidic messiah, is presently reigning.

That’s the short version of the argument. Here, however, let me add one more note. Some may still wonder whether Paul’s language about “reign[ing] until he has put all his enemies under his feet” is indeed a reference to Ps 110:1, since Paul doesn’t indicate he’s citing Scripture and, as well, since Paul uses slightly different language than what we find in Ps 110:1. In this case, what Paul says here wouldn’t require us to say Jesus is reigning now, since the author could simply be describing something in the future, something different than what David prophesied in Ps 110:1 and, therefore, different from what the NT authors say was fulfilled at Jesus’ exaltation.

That sort of reading is possible, but unlikely. Just because Paul doesn’t use an introductory formula (e.g., “as it’s been written”) doesn’t mean he isn’t intentionally recalling Ps 110. He sometimes simply cites an OT text (e.g., Gal 3:6), often verbatim but not always. We call these latter instances allusions. What suggests that Paul alludes to Ps 110:1 here is that he uses language that is identical to Ps 110:1 and, moreover, language that is found only in Ps 110:1. That is, not only does he use language found in Ps 110:1 (“place,” “enemies,” “feet”) but this language is found together nowhere else in the entire Greek OT. What’s more, the parts of Paul’s presumed allusion that use different language don’t point away from the presence of Ps 110 but rather to the influence of Paul’s present context. That is, Paul’s changed the direct discourse of Ps 110:1 (“I will make your enemies a footstool for your feet”) into indirect discourse (“he will place his enemies under his feet”) to seamlessly incorporate the text into v. 25, and, as well, he’s substituted “footstool for…feet” for “under…feet” and added “all” before “enemies” probably because of the influence of Ps 8, which Paul recalls in 1 Cor 15:27. In fact, it is his certain allusion to Ps 8:6 in v. 27 that suggests, even more strongly, that Paul’s language in v. 25 intends to recall Ps 110, since everywhere that Ps 8:6 is discussed in the NT it is combined with Ps 110:1 (see, esp., Eph 1:20, 22 and Heb 1:13; 2:7).

Categories: Seminary Blog

Augustine’s Version of “Teach a Man to Fish”

Sat, 02/22/2014 - 07:00

Students in my Medieval Church History class recently read Augustine’s book, On Christian Teaching. As I was working my way back through this little volume, I was struck by a statement Augustine (354-430) makes which seems to have application to those who would be preachers and teachers of God’s Word in the local church. Augustine says,

The teacher who expounds what he understands in the Scriptures expounds it to his listeners like the reader of a text articulating the letters which he recognizes; whereas the teacher who teaches how to understand Scripture is like the teacher of the alphabet, one who teaches how to read (Augustine, On Christian Teaching, preface, 18).

Paul is quite clear that pastors are responsible to study God’s Word and to preach what they’ve studied to God’s people (1 Tim 4:13–16). But especially in a culture where God’s people have ready access to God’s Word, surely pastors should also invest some time in specifically teaching God’s people how to study the Scriptures for themselves.

Categories: Seminary Blog

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