"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Unique God - Micah 7:18-20

18Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity

And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?

He does not retain His anger forever,

Because He delights in unchanging love.

19He will again have compassion on us;

He will tread our iniquities under foot.

Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins

Into the depths of the sea.

20Thou wilt give truth to Jacob

And unchanging love to Abraham,

Which Thou didst swear to our forefathers

From the days of old.

I have argued previously that Micah is waiting on God for salvation from sin. I need to acknowledge that many (most?) commentators see Micah's statements in this chapter as being representative of a national confession (representing the remnant), not a personal confession. While there may be an element of that (see v.20 above), Micah continual uses the first person in his confession. There is more that could be said here, but I want to focus on v.18-19 above.

Micah acknowledges here at the end of his book that God is unique among all supposed gods. The uniqueness that Micah focuses on here is God's mercy/grace/love. Yahweh is not like the idols of the people. He pardons and passes over. He does not retain anger but delights in unchanging love.

Notice that sin is an offense to God. Anger at sin is present, but not retained. Instead Yahweh delights in a love that is unaffected by our actions. We may bear indignation for sin, but final deliverance will come to His people.

Why? Because He will cover our sin. I don't know that Micah understood fully how this would happen. Certainly his contemporary Isaiah has more revealed to him about this (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). But Micah knew enough to understand that God would "tread our iniquities under foot." This act causes our sin to be removed from His presence as if covered by the sea.


Like Micah we should wait expectantly for God's deliverance from not only the penalty, but even the presence of sin. Like Micah, we must willingly bear temporal chastisement for sin. But like Micah, , and even more so because we have seen Jesus on the cross, we should see that our sin has been buried in the sea of Christ's righteousness. Yahweh loves us with an unchanging love that has provided the Lamb so that our sins might be passed over. Truly, truly, there is no other god like Him!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Piper on Objections to Pursuing Joy

"Delight yourself in the Lord." Psalm 37:4

The following quote from the John Piper's Desiring God is in response to comments to Dan Phillips post Worship, Feelings and What If?.
Some may object, No, you should not pursue joy. You should pursue God. This is a helpful objection. It forces us to make several needed clarifications.

The objector is absolutely right that if we focus our attention on our own subjective experience of joy, we will most certainly be frustrated and God will not be honored. When you go to an art museum, you had better attend to the paintings and not your pulse. Otherwise, there will be no delight in the beauty of the art.

But beware of jumping to the conclusion that we should no longer say, "Come and take delight in these paintings." Do not jump to the conclusion that the command to pursue joy is misleading while the command to look at the paintings is not.

What would you say is wrong with the person who comes to the art museum looking for a particular painting because he knows he can make a big profit if he buys and resells it? He goes from room to room, looking carefully at each painting. He is not the least preoccupied with his subjective aesthetic experience. What is wrong here?

He is a mercenary. His reason for looking is not the reason the painting was created. You see, it is not enough to say our pursuit should simply be the paintings. For there are ways to pursue the paintings that are bad.

One common way of guarding against this mercenary spirit is to say we should pursue art for art's sake. But what does this mean? It means, I think, pursuing art in a way that honors art and not money. But how do you honor art? I would answer: you honor art mainly by experiencing an appropriate emotion when you look at it.

We know we will miss this emotion if we are self-conscious while beholding the painting. We also know we will miss it if we are money-conscious, or fame-conscious, or power-conscious when we look at the painting. It seems to me therefore that a helpful way to admonish visitors to the art museum is to say, "Delight yourself in the paintings."

The word "delight" guards them from thinking they should pursue money or fame or power with the paintings. And the phrase "in the paintings" guards them from thinking the emotion which honors the paintings could be experienced any other way than by focusing on the paintings themselves.

So it is with God. We are commanded by the Word of God, "Delight yourself in the Lord." This means: Pursue joy in God. The word "joy" or "delight" protects us from a mercenary pursuit of God. And the phrase "in God" protects us from thinking joy somehow stands alone as an experience separate from our experience of God himself.

- from the 10th Anniversary edition of Desiring God, pp. 243-244

Also see my previous post.

Dan Phillips, John Piper and Christian Hedonism

I first heard John Piper speak at a Ligonier Conference in Dallas during the early '90s ('93, I think). He opened up his session by taking issue with a message from the night before (by Chuck Colson). In that message, we had been told about our duty. The objections Piper raised to that message led to a rather interesting Q&A.

I bring this up because, while I should be in bed (tomorrow will be a long day), I sat down to check a few blogs, and read this from Dan Phillips. Then I read the comments. Then I wanted to respond to what seems to me to be a misinterpretation of John Piper's theology.

Many of the concerns raised about "Christian Hedonism" in response to Dan's post were raised at the Ligonier conference. One reponse of Piper's that stuck with me was the illustration of what do I do if I don't feel like giving to God on Sunday morning? Do I just do my duty of writing a check and go on? No. Do I say I don't feel like giving so I will not? No. First, I confess to God that some sin in my life has prevented me from finding joy in worship (through giving). Then I write the check. Hopefully, in this process, I will find joy in the act then, but regardless, I write the check. Piper said duty was not bad. It is mere duty that is the problem.

During the Q&A session, Dr. Sproul noted that Piper sounded a lot like John Gerstner. Piper noted that this was because they (he and Dr. Gerstner) were both students of Jonathan Edwards. What Piper was teaching is not an innovation with him.

It is, I think, found in the Scripture. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses is reminding the people of the curses that will come upon them.
45 “All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. 46 They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

In the passage, v.46-47 seem to parallel v.45. The curses are a sign and wonder. They come because of lack of obedience/lack of joyfulness and gladness. There is a link here that fundementalist forms of Christianity have been too willing to break. Obedience and gladness of heart go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. It is not either/or, but both/and.

What has become clearer to me after reading and listening to John Piper for over a decade now, is that the central question he is addressing with Christian Hedonism is what motivates obedience. He sees three possible options: (1) duty; (2) gratitude (a "debtor" ethic); or (3) joy/desire. His position (and I agree) is that the only effective "fuel" for living the obedient life long term is joy/desire. Duty and gratitude should be (must be) present, but if we only have them, we will not be the kind of Christians the Bible calls us to be.

Let me close with a caution. This is not about working ourselves up into emotional frenzies. If the joy/gladness does not come from God, through reading His word or reflection on His character or remembering the work of Jesus, then it is empty, and does not meet the intent of Deuteronomy 28:47. What is desired is a heart of flesh that loves God, and loves people as an outpouring of our love for God.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bearing Indignation - Micah 7:9

9I will bear the indignation of the Lord

Because I have sinned against Him,

Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.

He will bring me out to the light,

And I will see His righteousness.

In Micah 7:7, Micah says that he is waiting expectantly on God, the God of his salvation. I ended the last post asking from what Micah was expecting to be saved. Some might look at parts of the context here in Micah 7 and assume he was awaiting physical deliverance from his enemy. Micah even speaks directly to his enemy in 7:8. Add to that the fact that Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, and that a reading Isaiah will show that Judah suffered attack from various national enemies in this time-frame, an expectation of physical deliverance seems quite plausible.

But it really doesn't fit the context. Micah expresses real concern about the wickedness of his people in 7:1-6. But in 7:8, it is not there sin that is his focus. He will bear indignation because he has sinned. In other words, he doesn't expect to be delivered from the physical consequences of his sin. His sin will be upon him, not till he improves himself; not till, as some would have us believe, he becomes a faithful one; but until God pleads his case.

Micah's expectation is that his sin will be dealt with because God will "execute justice for me." This is not seen as deliverance from the enemy, but as Micah being brought from darkness to light. Micah's salvation is not having righteousness, but seeing God's righteousness. There's a wonderful lesson about God's sovereignty in salvation in these verses as well, but I leave that for you to draw out on your own.

Now, you might be thinking that I'm stretching a bit here. After all, in 7:10 Micah goes back to talking about his enemy. But who is this enemy? This enemy, I'm convinced, is the personification of sin. Notice that the enemy is feminine, so it is not Satan. Also notice that the enemy asks, "Where is the Lord your God?"

Need more convincing? If God so wills and I should live, I'm not done yet. We still have not discussed Micah's glorious conclusion.

[FYI. No quote this week, nor Bridges tomorrow. This will be a short week for me. I'm hoping for at least one more post tomorrow or Thursday, then I'll likely be off-line until Monday. If God should allow, I'll be in Minneapolis this weekend for the Desiring God national conference. And I'm not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but if Voddie Baucham isn't the surprise talk of the conference . . . well, I'll be surprised.]

Monday, September 25, 2006

Expectant Watching - Micah 7:7

7But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;

I will wait for the God of my salvation.

My God will hear me.

[If you have not read yesterday's post with the full text of Micah 7, I would encourage you to do so to get the context.]

Micah has been expressing concern for the lack of godliness among his people. Here, he purposes to look to God in spite of his culture. While others have rejected God, Micah will "watch expectantly". This expectancy is for the Messiah. Micah had declared earlier (5:2 NASB):

2“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

Too little to be among the clans of Judah,

From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.

His goings forth are from long ago,

From the days of eternity.

The promised seed of David who would sit forever on David's throne has existed "from long ago". Micah is awaiting the Messiah, God with Us, like Isaiah, his contemporary.

Micah waits for God to come and change the heart of the people. It is expectant, and it is confident ("My God will hear me"). God will save Micah. The question - from what will God save Micah?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Words of a Prophet

A few days back, Pastor Hatfield asked for favorite Bible chapters. I left two. This is the second.

Micah 7 (NASB)

1Woe is me! For I am

Like the fruit pickers and the grape gatherers.

There is not a cluster of grapes to eat,

Or a first-ripe fig which I crave.

2The godly person has perished from the land,

And there is no upright person among men.

All of them lie in wait for bloodshed;

Each of them hunts the other with a net.

3Concerning evil, both hands do it well.

The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe,

And a great man speaks the desire of his soul;

So they weave it together.

4The best of them is like a briar,

The most upright like a thorn hedge.

The day when you post a watchman,

Your punishment will come.

Then their confusion will occur.

5Do not trust in a neighbor;

Do not have confidence in a friend.

From her who lies in your bosom

Guard your lips.

6For son treats father contemptuously,

Daughter rises up against her mother,

Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.

7But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;

I will wait for the God of my salvation.

My God will hear me.

8Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.

Though I fall I will rise;

Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.

9I will bear the indignation of the Lord

Because I have sinned against Him,

Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.

He will bring me out to the light,

And I will see His righteousness.

10Then my enemy will see,

And shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?”

My eyes will look on her;

At that time she will be trampled down,

Like mire of the streets.

11It will be a day for building your walls.

On that day will your boundary be extended.

12It will be a day when they will come to you

From Assyria and the cities of Egypt,

From Egypt even to the Euphrates,

Even from sea to sea and mountain to mountain.

13And the earth will become desolate because of her inhabitants,

On account of the fruit of their deeds.

14Shepherd Thy people with Thy scepter,

The flock of Thy possession

Which dwells by itself in the woodland,

In the midst of a fruitful field.

Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead

As in the days of old.

15“As in the days when you came out from the land of Egypt,

I will show you miracles.”

16Nations will see and be ashamed

Of all their might.

They will put their hand on their mouth,

Their ears will be deaf.

17They will lick the dust like a serpent,

Like reptiles of the earth.

They will come trembling out of their fortresses;

To the Lord our God they will come in dread,

And they will be afraid before Thee.

18Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity

And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?

He does not retain His anger forever,

Because He delights in unchanging love.

19He will again have compassion on us;

He will tread our iniquities under foot.

Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins

Into the depths of the sea.

20Thou wilt give truth to Jacob

And unchanging love to Abraham,

Which Thou didst swear to our forefathers

From the days of old.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

More Favorite Hymns - There Is a Fountain

I have already posted William Cowper's God Moves in a Mysterious Way. Cowper was a contemporary and friend of John Newton (Amazing Grace). Together they published the Olney Hymnal, one of the most beloved hymnals in the history of the church.

Today, this is the best known of Cowper's hymns, though God Moves in a Mysterious Way remains my favorite. More can be learned about the occasion for the writing of this hymn at Cyberhymnal. For more about Cowper, see my post on God Moves in a Mysterious Way and the link there to John Piper's message on William Cowper.

I think at one time and/or one church or another, I have sung all these verse but the last. I include it because I like the idea of an instrument that God has tuned to play Jesus' name. In many places, it seems to me, that the second verse has been changed to "And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away." Throughout the verse then "washed" is changed to "wash". I like Cowper's rendering better, in that it reminds us that once in Christ, all our sins are covered. However, it is good, after we have sinned, to come back to the gospel to be reminded of that truth.

There Is A Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

BoB's for the Week Ending September 23rd

Welcome to Best of the Blogs Saturday.

To start with, if you haven't already done so, go let Pastor JD Hatfield know which are your favorite Bible verses, chapters, and books. Inquiring minds want to know.

Next, Craver VII relates a story illustrating Malachi 3:3 which may make it one of your favorite verses. So go read it already (I promise his posts are shorter than mine).

Then, drop by Doulogos. Daniel has an interesting take on the story of the Good Samaritan.

Jason Robertson over at Fide-O has a great little piece on how successful his church has been in implementing elder rule.

For further discussion on the significance of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (see my post here), Matthew Sims posted an interesting look at the meaning of "face to face" in this passage. He does so by looking at a number of other Biblical passages that use this imagery. [In another self-promoting plug, this is a good example of the first principle of interpretation I discussed here.]

Kim Riddlebarger informs us that the U.S. government is sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. I'm especially concerned about the two cases in Texas where churches are being taken to court for exercising church discipline.

Tom Ascoll over at the Founders' blog comments on a recent study by Lifeway that shows that the number of pastors who profess to be 5-point Calvinists is growing in the SBC (up to 10%). He thinks this is genuine, and a trend that is likely to continue.

Are your practicing planned neglect? If you are not, this may make you ask if you should be. Also, while your at Challies.com, don't neglect to read about C.J. Mahaney's plan to find a successor.

Interestingly enough, other lighter fair this week comes from the Pyromaniacs. Pecadillo is concerned that parents have a maniacal need to damage the psyche of their children (and pets). Further evidence is provided by Phil, who tries to damage all of our psyche's with a couple of videos about Head-On.

Last Sunday at Truth Is Still Truth, Pastor Thomas Black continued his series on 1 Timothy, reaching the controversial 1 Timothy 2:12-15. Taking what is an increasingly difficult stand in our society, he defends the clear meaning of the text. In addition to showing that there are different roles mandated in the Bible for women, he notes:
The very fact that women are commanded and permitted to teach under appropriate circumstances is a death blow to the tired argument that women are somehow more susceptible to being lead astray than men. The teaching and authority issues have nothing to do with gullibility but rather proper understanding of gender roles within God’s created order.

Let me conclude with the following note and exhortation. Salon published a chapter from a book by Lauren Sandler that discussed Mars Hill Church. This was very critical of the church, nothing new for Driscoll. However, the book also paints a negative picture of some members (particularly women). Driscoll has published a statement about the chapter on the Resurgence blog. It's all worth a read, but I think this sums up the general tenor and direction of the comments:
I know a lot of people, especially idealists with blogs and small churches, think they know what we should teach and what we should do. All I can say is that we are working hard and trying to figure it out, but to be honest, it’s not an easy task. We’re all a bit tired, humbled, and honored that Jesus would use us.

While this attack on Mars Hill Church was from outside the (universal) church, many other ministries are being attacked as well, sometimes by those claiming to be Christians. You can find these if you want, but I don't think they are worth your time and this is a good place to practice planned neglect (this is not intended to say that those who have posted on this, particularly those defending these ministries, was wrong to do so). Also, if you are going to criticize Driscoll or some other pastor/church/ministry, please stop and do at least these things before you do: (1) pray; (2) ask yourself if you know that what you are about to relate is true; (3) even if it is, read Proverbs 10:12 and think about whether or not you will be acting in accordance with this verse; and (4) if you have done all those, and still think you should post, ask yourself, "Will relating this information glorify God and build His kingdom?" If not, I assume you know what that means.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Can We All Agree? (Interpretation Part 2)

An Almost Irrelevant Story

If you ever wade fish in the Flat Rock River, you need to be careful. It is a good place to wade fish. There are areas where the water is about thigh deep, with deeper pockets where, if God blesses, you will be able to hook a big one. However, you need to be careful not to step into these pockets, or you can find yourself in up to your chest trying to hold on to your equipment (don't listen to my brother's stories about me using my nephew to determine if the water got real deep; I intentionally don't remember that).

Even worse, there is one area called the blow-out hole. Many decades ago, an underground gas bubble exploded, and created a very deep hole. If you don't know the river, and walk into this area, you better be able to swim. Don't worry about the fishing equipment, worry about getting back to shallower water where you can stand.


Of course, I tell that story as a reminder about interpreting the Scriptures. There are many places where the Scriptures are shallow enough that a young child can stand in them. We call this the perpescuity of Scripture. On the main matters of who God is, what Christ has done, and how were are saved, the Scripture is clear. Even a child can understand enough of the gospel to be drawn by God through the Spirit's regeneration to saving faith in Christ.

What perpescuity does not mean, though, is that every passage in the Bible is clear and able to be understood without some effort. Parts of the Bible require that we have spent time to become more familiar with Scripture, and how to interpret it. Other passages are so difficult that even men of very similar theological persuasions will interpret the passage differently. If this is true of trained theologians and exegetes, how does the layman have a chance at understanding these passages?

Back to the Central Topic

As I cited in my previous post, Luke insightfully noted that "when it comes down to actually interpreting Scripture, we're going to need the help of some hermeneutic principles." One debatable point is whether or not we can derive those principles from the scriptures themselves. Some, looking at the New Testament authors, tell us to stand back and not attempt this at home; these guys are professionals. Others will argue that observing how the Old Testament is quoted in the New adds significant understanding to how we should interpret Scripture.

When we think about the rules by which we are going to interpret Scripture (hermeneutics), I think it should be obvious to us that if we do not agree on these principles, we are not going to agree on every interpretation. While I don't think this is the biggest reason for differing interpretations, it is a significant issue.

The link above citing A. W. Pink's principle of observing how the Old Testament is used in the New Testament is from his book on interpretation. Pink gives thirty (30!) principles for interpreting Scripture. His approach is not aimed at the lay reader. I want to discuss what I think are three critical principles for interpretation that can be applied by everyone.

First Principle

Recognize that the Bible is the word of God. If this is true, no one understands it better than He does. Therefore we should be dependent upon the Spirit to lead us into truth. This means Bible study should be accompanied with prayer. This is the most common application.

However, this also means that there is no better guide to what a passage means than other Biblical passages. Before we interpret the Bible, we must have some knowledge of the totality of Scripture. It is a poor interpreter who has never read the entire Scriptures. Not every verse deals with every other verse, but every verse is impacted by other verses (if there is an exception to this, which I doubt, then I would not want to establish a major doctrine on that verse). There are tools (verse cross references) that can help the Biblical student. But nothing substitutes for personal knowledge of the Bible.

Do you want to be a good interpreter? Start by saturating yourself with Scripture. This is easier today than ever before. You can read paper. You can read on a computer screen. You can read on a Palm Pilot or equivalent. You can listen via CD or MP3. What a great use of an iPod (and, as an aside, if you are a parent, start reading the Bible to your children when they are young; they not only learn Scripture, they learn that it is important to you).

I would trust the interpretation of simple, Bible saturated Christian over the an educated skeptic. I'd trust the Bible saturated Christian over a well educated Christian who has had a number of hermeneutics classes but doesn't know the Scriptures. One thing that seems clear to me is that Jesus, Paul, and the writers of the New Testament had a significant understanding of the Old Testament.

Second Principle

Context, context, context. Context has three aspects. First is grammatical context. Is this narrative? Is this poetry? Is this didactic? How does this verse or phrase fit in the paragraph? Second is the historical context. Understand what the author meant to his readers. What was he intending to convey? In these two senses of context, we look at the Bible essentially as we would literature. You'll want to put more thought into it than you do the latest John Sandford novel, the newspaper, or the latest must read business book, but the underlying principle is very similar.

The third is the context of Scripture. While we do not want to bring biases to the word, we have use "the analogy of Scripture". The Bible is not just another piece of literature. It is infallible, and therefore does not contradict itself. So if the Bible clearly teaches repeatedly that a true believer never loses his salvation, then you have to interpret passages that seem to indicate that a believer can lose his salvation in light of these other passages. Frequently, as in the case of Hebrews 6:4-8, there will be clues in the other passage that show that there is no contradiction (Hebrews 6:9). But even if not, what is clear, or dominant, in Scripture should be used to interpret what is unclear, or not well supported.

Third Principle

This principle may be disputed in some circles, but I think it is the essential conclusion. We must read Scripture within the community of faith. This is the quote from Michael Horton again:
"The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider 'communion of saints' down through the age."

Justin Taylor also quoted Larry Woiwode:
"There is rugged terrain ahead for those who are constitutionally incapable of referring to the paths marked out by wise and spirit-filled cartographers over the centuries."

What both of these quotes highlight is the need to look to how others have interpreted the passage. For those who are American (definitely) and those who are Western (very likely) we have a blind spot. We have a strong bent toward individualism. But the church is and always has been a community. God did not make us to be islands, we are grapes (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). One significant outcome of the doctrine of the Trinity is that existence is relationship. "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). We need the input of other believers (Proverbs 11:14) - particularly the Bible saturated kind.

Also, some of you may already be wondering where is the Holy Spirit in interpretation? He's in each of these principles. He inspired the Scripture. He illumines the student as he studies. But He has also provided a history of interpretation for us. If you come up with an interpretation that is novel, ask yourself how likely it is to be correct if no Spirit-filled men over two millennia have come up with that interpretation.

Some will say they don't need anything other than the Bible. Paul says in Galatians that he didn't consult with men and neither do I. Well, Paul was taught directly by Jesus. Despite what some might claim, I don't think that goes on much today. Also, the Bible makes it clear that we are to gather together for the preaching of the word. But that is listening to someone else interpret Scripture. Iron sharpens iron. We need interaction with other believers, including when we are interpreting Scripture.

I am not saying that we bow to a traditional interpretation with no thought. But we have to interact with those who came before us, and those who are with us now. It compensates for biases (cultural and personal) that we inevitably bring to our own interpretation. [Note: Remember above I said differing hermeneutical principles were not the primary cause of different interpretations? Well this is. The fact that we cannot put aside biases when we interpret the Scripture.] The first two principles are necessary, and should have priority in our studies. But this is the corrective. This is the compass that tells us that we've gotten off the true path. This is the Holy Spirit through a cloud of witnesses pointing to the truth.

This is not a majority vote. But if you are standing alone on an interpretation, or your companions are few, you better go back hard to principles 1 and 2 to before you defend that interpretation.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Perfect and the Prophets


The long discussion between Dan Phillips and Adrian Warnock over cessationism (Dan's position) and continualism (i.e. belief in the continuation of charismatic gifts - Adrian's position) continues. I want to revisit a subject I have blogged on before, specificly the nature of "the perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. I touched on the significance of Revelation 11:3 to determining what the perfect is in the previous post, but I want to develop the relationship further.

Let me post the significant passages so we have them in hand.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12 ESV)
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. (Revelation 11:3 ESV)

First Syllogism

A syllogism is a form of logical argument. A typical syllogism has two premises and an inference. In evaluating this kind of syllogism, you need to ask two basic questions. First, are the premises true? Second, is the inference valid.

Here's my syllogism about 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and Revelation 11:3.

Premise 1: 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 says that the coming of the perfect will end prophecy.
Premise 2: Revelation 11:3 says that prophecy will occur after the completion of the canon.

Inference: The perfect cannot be the completed canon.

Let's examine each part. Premise 1 is not, as far as I know, disputed by anyone. Premise 2 would be disputed by those that hold to some form of preterist (the view that some or all New Testament prophecy has already been fulfilled - see here) interpretion of Revelation. For the most part then, most will agree with Premise 2.

The remaining question then is whether or not the inference is valid. This is not a difficult inference to make. If we agree with Premise 1 (the perfect ends prophecy) and Premise 2 (prophecy occurs after the completion of the canon) then the perfect is not the completed canon.

Not So Fast

Another possible argument that would invalidate the inference is that the prophecy described in Revelation 11:3 is not the gift of prophecy which passes away at the completion of the canon. I would agree that if this were the case, then the inference would not be justified (it might still be true, but it could not be deduced from these two premises).

The problem is that most cessationists will say that the view of Wayne Grudem, et. al. that New Testament prophecy is different from Old Testament prophecy is false, because prophecy is prophecy. If you argue that the prophecy of Revelation 11:3 is different than the prophecy of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, then you cannot deny the possibility that the prophecy of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 is different than Old Testament prophecy. In fact, it would seem likely that the prophecy of Revelation 11:3 would be more like OT prophecy than the prophecy of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.

The Second Syllogism

None of the above disproves cessationism. But with the exception of preterists it makes holding to a "perfect = completed canon" position almost impossible.

Another claim made by cessationists is that continualists/charismatics have a "leaky canon". By this they mean that the continuation of prophecy (and tongues) endangers the sufficiency of Scripture. But does it really?

Premise 1: According to Revelation 11:3 God will send prophets after the closing of the canon.
Premise 2: God has closed the canon.

Inference: The existence of prophets does not impune the integrity of the canon.

As before, only a preterist would disagree with Premise 1. There are those who would disagree with Premise 2, but they are outside the scope of this discussion. As far as I know, every cessationist would affirm Premise 2. But if both premises are true, then the inference is the logical result.

Other Evidence

In my previous post on this subject, I mentioned Acts 21:8-11:
On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” (ESV)

Generally when this passage is looked at in this debate, it centers on Agabus. I want to note Philip's daughters, who prophesied. What did they prophesy? Is it written down? Is it canon? No, it is not canon. Not all prophecy is canonical.

There are Old Testament examples as well of non-canonical prophecy.
And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” (1 Kings 22:8 ESV)

Micaiah's prophecies were of God (read 1 Kings 22:5-40) but aside from this one prophecy, they are not recorded. Prophecies may be for a specific time, place, and person, without broader application that would warrant that they be part of Scripture. This is true of OT prophets, NT prophets, and is true of present and future prophets, if God should deem to grant such. It is not correct to assume that a belief in the continuation of prophecy de facto jeopordizes the canon. Prophets do not make the Scriptures leaky, and God apparently thinks there is a place for extra-Biblical revelation, based on Revelation 11:3.

Bounding My Statements

First, neither of these syllogisms, even if fully correct, disproves cessationism. I think they significantly weaken the cessationist case, but cessationists have other arguments for their position. I don't believe there is a strong Biblical case for cessationism, but I'm fallible and could be wrong.

Second, I am not a charismatic and I am skeptical of modern day manifestations of what are called the NT charismatic gifts (prophecy, tongues, etc.). I do believe that prophecy has to be infallible, contrary to the argument of many charismatics. However, I have been greatly impressed with many Reformed Charismatics, and I am not willing to say that their experiences are contrary to Scripture.

Third, from what I can tell from writings on blogs, Dan Phillips and Adrian Warnock both are Christians who desire to follow our Lord. I appreciate the passion with which they are willing to defend their beliefs, and the Christian love and humility that keeps them civil in that defense. This is not a personal attack on either man.

Why did I write this then? While I may not be as optimistic as Adrian about how effective this medium will be for bringing it about, I believe we must wrestle with the Bible as Jacob wrestled with God "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13 ESV)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thankful on Thursday - Fall

There has been a bit of chill in the air here the last few mornings (in the evenings too). The leaves have not yet started turning, but the birds seem to be migrating. One of the things I missed when I lived in Dallas was the changing of the seasons. Dallas had a long summer and an indescribeable couple of months of yuck. But here we get spring and fall (autumn, if you prefer).

Soon the trees will be vibrant with reds, yellows, and oranges (not the kind from Florida or California). Sweaters and sweatshirts, even a jacket or two will be seen. The farmers will harvest the corn (or whatever else they might plant in their rotation, soybeans, etc.). And the snowbirds (not fowls, but the human kind) will begin to make their way south to warmer climates.

Seasons change. Nature reflects to us the glory of God, though only dimly. I thank Him for the grace of another season, and fall reminds me that, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8 ESV).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WoW: Bridges on Hatred and Love

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12 ESV)


In times of honesty I will admit to you that I like to pick at sore spots. If I know something will get a rise out of someone, I want to bring it up. This is just jesting, you know; no blood, no foul (Proverbs 26:18-19).

But Solomon doesn't see it this way. Solomon says that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. That seems a bit strong to most of us, on both counts. Surely hatred does stir up strife, but just because I poke the fire to keep it burning doesn't mean there's hatred in my heart. Surely not! And if someone has done something wrong, it is only right that others know so that they can protect themselves, right? If I keep silent and someone else gets hurt, well, that's no good.

How wicked are our hearts? How evil our desires? We deceive ourselves, and we commit sin under the guise of being holy and righteous. I'm not speaking here of doctrinal error. I know that false teachers need to be rebuked (see this post on scoffers or this post on false teachers) and their errors exposed. The issue here is sin and perceived sin (in some cases, we and those around us will define "sin" as people not living up to our standards, when real sin is when we do not live up to God's standards).

What I find in my own heart is the tendency to want to justify actions that point out the sins of others. I may have godly sounding reasons, but the reality is a desire to cause conflict. Fallen man is drawn to the colosseum. While most today may be too refined for that blatant of conflict, we create strife at work, or in the home, or at church; particularly in situations where we can be spectators and not directly involved.

A Simple but Forcible Contrast

But this is not how we should live. If we have been born again, God's love should be present in our lives and flowing out to others. The more we understand the greatness of our salvation, the more love will characterize our lives (Luke 7:47). As Bridges notes, forgiveness and love go hand in hand.
A simple but forcible contrast! Hatred, however varnished by smooth pretence, is the selfish principle of man (Titus 3:3). Like a subterraneous fire, it continually stirs up mischief, creates or keeps alive rankling coldness, disgusts, dislikes, "envyings and evil surmisings;" carps at the infirmities of others; aggravates the least slip (Isaiah 29:21); or resents the most trifling, or even imaginary, provocation. These strifes are kindled (Proverbs 15:18; 16:27-28; 28:25; 29:22) to the great dishonour of God, and the marring of the beauty and consistency of the gospel. Is not here abundant matter for prayer, watchfulness, and resistance? Let us study 1 Corinthians 13 in all its detail. Let it be the looking-glass for our hearts, and. the standard of our profession. Love covers, overlooks, speedily forgives and forgets (Proverbs 17:9; Genesis 45:5-8). Full of candour and inventiveness, it puts the best construction on doubtful matters, searches out any palliation [something that makes an offense seem less serious], does not rigidly eye, or wantonly expose (Genesis 9:23) a brother's faults; nor will it uncover them at all, except so far as may be needful for his ultimate good. To refrain from gross slander, while abundant scope is left for needless and unkind detraction, is not covering sin. Nor is the "seven-times forgiveness" the true standard of love (Matthew 18:21), which, like its Divine Author, covers all sins. And who does not need the full extent of this covering? What is our brother's all against us, compared with our all against God? And how can we hesitate to blot out a few pence, who look for the covering of the debt of ten thousand talents (Matthew 18:22-35)? Oh! let us "put on the Lord Jesus" in, his spirit of forbearing, disinterested, sacrificing love—"Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."

So do we point out others faults to show how great is our discernment? Do we condemn those who stumble, when we should be restoring them (Galatians 6:1)? It was said of our Lord that "a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench." Is that the attitude you and I have toward those who are weak in their faith? What about those who have stumbled? Many need but a little correction and love to be back on the path of following Christ. Maybe one reason the church is failing in America is because we do not love enough to put an end to strife and cover offenses.

May it ever be so that my heart is willing to cover offenses, and does not in hatred stir up strife.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 ESV)

Monday, September 18, 2006

QT: Packer on the Fairness of God

(QT = Quotation Tuesday - at least that's what it seems to be becoming; I hope to get back to the Interpretation study no later than Friday.)

I posted a portion of this as a comment on Jonathan Morehead's blog on Friday. It seemed proper to set this in fuller context today. This is from an article J.I. Packer wrote for the current edition of Modern Reformation magazine. Packer's article is titled "Is God Unfair?" The article is seven pages long, so I'm only giving you a flavor of the entire argument that Packer makes [all emphases mine].

Is God Unfair?
"What do people mean when they say God is unfair? They mean, first, that he does not seem to take account of the worth of particular human beings and, second, that he does not appear to distribute or withhold benefits according to what people deserve. Behind this two-fold complaint lies the assumption that under ordinary circumstances God owes us the life that we think of as good - comfortable, pleasant, pain-free - and that no one should receive from him less than this (save those whom we recognize as socially obnoxious). That assumption, in turn, rests on the idea that as our Creator may tell us our duty to him, so we his creatures may determine his duty to us, and that as God may judge us in an executive way if we fail to obey his laws, so we may judge him intellectually by forming an opinion as to whether he has given us what he owes us or not. Luther chided Erasmus for thoughts of God that were "too human"; assessing God by creaturely standards of fairness surely merits the same criticism.

"Our positive argument against the claim that God is unfair is to be drawn from Scripture - the inspired, infallible, true, trustworthy, and authoritative Word of God, and in particular from Paul's letter to the Romans. . . .

"When all deserve to be rejected by the God who in love moves to reconcile them to himself and renew them in his own moral image, thus preparing them for a destiny of delight with himself, we are out of the realm of both fairness and unfairness. Grace trumps each of them. When the great good given is not only undeserved but contrary to our deservings, we should humbly receive it and give thanks for it, not stand back and complain that in this or that respect it ought to be greater than it is. There is no warrant whatever for the "ought to be" in such complaints. . . .

"So the complaint that God is unfair, which supposes itself smart, is actually shallow; Romans alone outflanks it at all points. Romans shows us the grace of God's wisdom, and the wisdom of his grace, and sets us praising: "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen" (11:36). May our praise never end."

Why Don't We All Agree? (Interpretation Part I)

From Whence the Question Comes

After our Tuesday night Bible Study two or three weeks ago, when we were sitting around discussing whatever was on our minds, someone asked why there are so many different interpretations of Scripture? We discussed it a little, but I must admit I was not overly satisfied with our answers.

Last week, Dan Phillips posted Of Strawmen and Slippery Slopes (part two). In the comments of that discussion I responded to Luke (Luke & Rachel) about Dan's statement about inerrancy. Luke offerred the following counter-response on the significance (or lack thereof) to the doctrine of inerrancy:
I guess I just don't see how it makes much difference. It's all well-and-good to say that we don't need anything other than Scripture; but when it comes down to actually interpreting Scripture, we're going to need the help of some hermeneutic principles. And I can't tell how to extract those principles straight-up from Scripture; there's just not enough to go on. Sure, our hermeneutic principles can and should be plausible on Scripture; they should be supported by Scripture in some way. But they're might still be room for honest and thoughtful Christians to disagree.

It was a busy week and I did not see this in time to provide a decent answer Luke (the thread was basically dead at this point). So I tucked the statement away somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

Further Thought Provokers

Then yesterday (Sunday), Justin Taylor posted the following quote from Michael Horton:
"The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider 'communion of saints' down through the age."

Later in the evening, I was listening to Dr. David Calhoun lecture on modern Roman Catholicism (lecture 36 on the linked page). In this lecture, he spends some time discussing why some Protestants have joined the Roman Catholic church. He cites three reasons that are consistently given by those who make this change, but the significant one for this discussion is "dogmatic certainty." That is, to paraphrase Dr. Calhoun, the proposition that Roman Catholicism offers not only an infallible record, but an infallible interpreter. Now, anyone who has studied the shifts that take place in Roman Catholic doctrine over the centuries (is Augustine in or out of favor this month?) would realize "infallible interpreter" is a stretch, but the Roman Catholic church does hold that out as a truth claim. And if true, the question with which I began would be a non-issue. What Rome teaches is the truth. Any other teaching is false and should be rejected.

So, What Now?

Rome is not, however, an infallible interpreter. Many Roman Catholics today would not embrace the infallibility of Rome's teaching, and, as I mentioned above, history does not bear out this doctrine. So for most of us, that is not an option in how we are to interpret Scripture and to reconcile our differences. How then do we interpret Scripture? And does inerrancy really matter if we cannot agree on interpretation? I've given a piece of the solution in the post above, but rather than a huge long post today, I'm going to come back to the other points in the near future (stall tactic). Same Bat time, Same Bat channel.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

About the Collections

Okay, I know there was probably an easier way to do that using those tag thingies (technical jargon there), but I knew how to do this.

So there.


I am nerdier than 71% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thanks to Thomas Black (who's nerdier than me, btw) for pointing this out, though I have to say I expected to score higher. I'm not saying I wanted to score higher, just that I expected to score higher. Now I'm not sure if I should be happy or not with these results.

Proverbs Posts

AND Ecclesiastes

I've posted several times interacting with Charles Bridges' commentary on Proverbs (now appearing fairly regularly on Wednesday's as "Wisdom on Wednesdays" or WoW). These posts have covered:

Proverbs 10:9 - Integrity

Proverbs 10:12 - Hatred and Love

Proverbs 15:12 - Scoffers

Proverbs 20:9 - Total Depravity

Proverbs 22:28 - Ancient Landmarks

Proverbs 27:21 - Being Tested by Praise

Proverbs 28:17 - Unforgiven

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 - Community


A Tuesday night Bible Study I'm involved in has been working through Galatians. Occassionally, topics from that study will spill over onto my blog.

Like what? Glad you asked:

Paul's Concern over the Galatians - primarily a link

Tongues, American Individualism, and Galatians (Galatians 2:6)

Legalists, Libertines, and Galatians (Galatians 2:11-3:3)

Recognizing False Teachers (Galatians 4:17)

Paul's Law (Galatians 4:21)

The Whole Law (Galatians 5:14)

Hymn (and Poetry) Collection

Election Collection

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Favorite Hymns - Holy, Holy, Holy

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3 ESV)

"Holy, Holy, Holy" was written by Reginald Heber, who served the last years of his life in India and Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). I have a link in that Sri Lanka was the government I studied for my Comparitive Politics class in college.

We also link because of concern for the doctrine of the Trinity. I know of no other major doctrine that gets as little attention today as does the Trinity. We talk about justification by faith, and rightly so. But we seem to talk only a little about the Trinity.

In preparing this post, I ran across a version of this hymn in my Bible software that has exchanged the line "God in three Persons, blessed Trinity" for "God over all, and blessed eternally." I'm sure Reginald Heber would be as disappointed by this as I was, since he wrote this song for use on Trinity Sunday, which occurs on the 8th Sunday after Easter (just in case you, like I, are not informed about liturgical calendars). However, in my mind, this is a great hymn for any Sunday.

Conversely to the general lack of emphasis on the Trinity, and as a reminder, there will be a conference at Grace Bible Church in Brandon, Florida October 12-14 devoted to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

BoB's for the Week Ending September 16th

What a week it turned out to be. There were a lot of interesting posts out there this week, and my schedule prevented me from reading everything I would have liked to have read. So let's get to it, shall we?

Already Mentioned: I linked to Justin Taylor's post about the Mosaic Law in last night's post on the law. Also, in Wednesday's post I linked to Adrian Warnock's challenges about blogging Proverbs. Besides these posts, Adrian posted on how to interpret Proverbs from Dan Phillips and posted on Piper on Proverbs this week. I'm just pointing you to his blog this morning so you can check them all out.

Pastor JD Hatfield accepted Adrian's challenge and posted (twice) on the sluggard. Of particular note is Friday's post on a lion in the street. JD also looked at a frequent error that is made when we try to interpret Scripture.

The "not necessarily theological" posts of the week go first to two of Frank Turk's sidekicks, Carla and Daniel. The sidekicks have been running Frank's blog while he's on vacation. Carla gave us 25 examples of "boys will be boys." And in what is probably the post of the week, Daniel recounted a fish story.

Second, Marty Duren over at SBC outpost let us know what his "Faves" are, and in the comments over there you can read how other people responded as well. I'll repost my favorites at the end of this post (maybe telling you more about myself than I should). I'd be interested in seeing the favorites of anyone who happens to visit this blog.

The Rebelution is aimed primarily at a younger audience, but their post on Baylor University's four American Gods should be read by everyone.

Mark Lauterbach reminds us that Jesus is not primarily to be seen as an example, He's to be seen as the Savior.

Tom Ascol discusses Rosie O'Donnell and Biblical Christianity.

Generally, I don't point you to Dr. Mohler's blog because you should be reading it already, but I want to give special mention this week to his post on preaching to felt needs. This is an excellent reminder for anyone who regularly preaches or teaches the Scriptures.

In a similar vein, Tim Challies posts on the veneration gap.

Having posted a couple of links that could be seen as critical of Rick Warren, let me note that Scott Hill over at Fide-O considers the recent Time article on the prosperity gospel and how rejection of this error makes strange bedfellows.

Finally, Frank Turk, during his vacation, took time to post again on the TNIV. Let me give you a flavor of Frank's approach by quoting his conclusion [emphasis is Frank's]:
You have to ask yourself: why choose such a soft and inadequate rendering when far better contemporary renderings were plainly available? That’s not about the limits of the modern reader: that’s about the limits of the translators.

What is my favorite

1. Movie in the last 10 years
Sixth Sense

2. Movie from the 40’s or 50’s

3. Movie of all time
Honorable mention - The Magnificent Seven

4. Current television show

4a. Television show of all time (I added this one)
Twilight Zone

5. Novel in the last 10 years
Black House - Stephen King and Peter Straub

6. Novel of all time
Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

7. “Secular” song of all time
Radar Love - Golden Earring (in the car)
(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding - Elvis Costello (out of the car)

8. CCM song of all time
Tie: Be Ye Glad - Glad
Man of the Tombs - Bob Bennett

9. Worship song of all time
God of Wonders - Paul Baloche

10. Hymn of all time
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

11. Theological/Christian growth book of all time
Tie: Knowing God - J.I. Packer
Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan

12. Sermon that you have ever heard
New Time Religion and Justification by Faith - II - Dr. S. Lewis Johnson (or just about anything else he preached)

Feel free either in the comments here or at your own blog to post your favorites.