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While doing my short post on Facebook regarding the 10/40 Window, I googled articles that pertains to this topic and saw a link with an internationally recognized magazine. Of course, my first thoughts were, “hey this is a good source, this particular source is known for reliable journalism” – maybe….

The article has in its opening paragraph “the three Abrahamic faiths” and then another article writes “reconciling the three Abrahamic faiths”. At first instance, I am tempted to nod my head and give my approval to the term and the intention to reconcile.  However, a few moments later and after some thought it dawned on me that the term “three Abrahamic faiths” is some kind of an oxymoron (Merriam Webster definition: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words).  That’s it!  I find joining “three” and “Abrahamic faiths” contradictory.

The three groups referred here are Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Now, I do not profess to be an expert on the last two but I will try to put forward here how the Bible defines “Abrahamic faith”, in a briefest way possible, and then we will work out our conclusion from there.

Grammatically, we can understand the term “Abrahamic faith” as the “faith of Abraham”. It may also mean the content of faith which finds its root in Abraham. Let us therefore proceed with what the biblical Scriptures say:

The Promise: In Genesis 11, God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldea and made a unilateral covenant with him. By the time he reached 100 years old and with a wife, Sarah whose womb is past childbearing capability, it was an impossible for them to have a child.  God, with whom nothing is impossible, promised them a son. The Old Testament records that Abraham has 3 sets of children: Ishmael from Hagar their Egyptian servant, Isaac from his wife Sarah, and after Sarah’s death, six addtional boys (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah) from his last wife Keturah. Yet God calls Isaac as Abraham’s only son (Genesis 21:15). Each time God mentions the promise, it is always to “Abraham and his offspring” – not offsprings. Genesis 21:12 narrates to us what God spoke to Abraham, “…for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” God then promised that from this offspring shall all the nations be blessed (Genesis 22:18).  Clearly, not all of the 3 sets of sons mentioned above  was the term “offspring” meant for. Neither was it meant exclusively to Isaac as the final fulfillment of the promise. History proves that not all the nations today were blessed through all of Abraham’s sons.  The “offspring” here must refer to someone coming in the future from the lineage of Abraham and Isaac.

Not by Genealogy: Now if it were a matter of genealogy beginning with Abraham then Isaac followed by Jacob, then at this point the forgone conclusion would be to point to the Jewish nation as blessed – that is hardly “all nations”.  During one of the confrontation of the prophet John the Baptist with the religious elders of Israel, he rebuked them, saying, “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9: Luke 3:8).  They presumed to be inheritors of the kingdom of God by virtue of genealogy and national identity while rejecting the call to repent and be baptized as John prepared the way of the coming of the Lord as prophesied in the Old Testament. By extension, neither was the religion of Judaism, with all its modifications done by the Pharisees, the kind of faith that connects a person to Abraham’s faith. This is not to negate Israel and Judaism altogether for still, it is through this nation and religious system shall the promised offspring come. However, national identity is not the means to be linked to Abraham’s faith.

Through this Offspring: By the time the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write the Roman and Galatian epistles, the fulfilment of that promise to Abraham is revealed.  In his letter to the believers in Galatia, he wrote the following:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” – (Galatians 3:16, 26-29)

The enscripturated Word of God in the Bible streamlines the Abrahim faith to Christianity.  I do not refer to “Christianity” as a generic term but the kind that adheres exclusively the centrality of Jesus Christ as expressed in the whole counsel of God. Although the message is exclusive, the message is universally proclaimed – it is intended for all nations to hear and believe. Jesus is the promised offspring and all those who put their faith in Him becomes spiritually connected to Abraham.

In order for the Gospel of Christ to travel beyond the borders of one nation, the historian Dr. Luke, as carried by the Holy Spirit, wrote in the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ:

Then He said to them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” – (Luke 24:44-47)

Only One Way: Based on these, there are not three Abrahamic faiths nor are there three faiths that can trace their unity with Abraham. Rather, only the faith that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ is the true Abrahamic faith.  The remaining two major religions cannot accurately make their claim to Abraham’s faith. Otherwise, we will end with “one God, different ways” – now that is another oxymoron!

 

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This is a portion of a lengthy article on a highly important subject, entitled “A Layman’s Historical Guide to the Inerrancy Debate”written by William Evans and can be read in its entirety at Reformation 21 website. Please click this link . What can be read below are: the reasons for the authority of the Bible and what innerancy does not mean.

-EmmausTrekker

 

             
The Bible’s authority flows from its divine origin.  Note that 2 Timothy 3:16 moves from inspiration to authority (“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching . . .”). The Bible is not authoritative because of the sublime subject matter it contains, or because it is infallibly accurate (though it is that). It is authoritative because of its divine origin.  It comes from God, and the Bible has a good deal to say about this divine authority of Scripture.  For example, in the Old Testament, the prophets frequently invoke the covenant name of God himself in their oral and written messages (“Thus says the LORD”).  In the New Testament, the words of Christ in the Gospels ascribe an extraordinary authority to the Old Testament scriptures viewed as a whole. Not the slightest bit of the Law will fail (Matthew 5:18; Luke 16:17). The “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).  Moreover, the New Testament writers refer sometimes to the human author (e.g., “as the prophet Isaiah says”) and sometimes to the divine author of Old Testament scripture (Acts 4:25; Hebrews 1:5; 3:7; 9:8).  Finally, within the New Testament writings themselves New Testament documents were being viewed as “scripture,” that is, on a par with the Old Testament (2 Peter 3:15-16).  Thus, in obedience to Scripture the Church has historically held that the Bible comes to us with a divine and infallible authority, and that it is without error in all that it teaches.  Any attempt to restrict the authority of Scripture to an “infallible message of salvation” or the like fails to do justice to what the Bible itself claims.  Our task as Christians is to interpret the Bible properly and to obey it, not to sit in judgment upon it and decide what portions of Scripture are God’s word for us and what are not. 
             
Having discussed what inerrancy is, we also need to note what it is not.  That is, the doctrine is sometimes misunderstood, and all too often a caricature of the doctrine is attacked.  Five persistent misconceptions may be mentioned here. 

First, as we noted above, the Bible’s view of inspiration is not a sort of mechanical “dictation theory.”  Such theories we rightly associate with the Book of Mormon and the Muslim view of the Qur’an.  By contrast, the Christian view of inspiration involves a proper recognition of the genuinely human element in Scripture, and so as students of the Bible we strive to understand the historical context of the biblical writings and the characteristics of the human authors.  To be sure, there are isolated examples of dictation, such as the giving of the Ten Commandments, but that is not the usual mode of inspiration.
             
Second, the doctrine of inerrancy does not require that we impose upon the Bible standards of accuracy and evaluation that are alien to it.  That is to say, inerrancy does not mean that everything in the Bible has to be stated with scientific precision.  Sometimes the biblical writers have chosen to present truth in an impressionistic fashion.  For example, in John 6:1 we read, “After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.”  But at the end of John 5 Jesus is still in Jerusalem, and John does not bother to tell us how Jesus got to Galilee or which “other side” of the lake is referenced.  Moreover, it has long been recognized (since the second century AD, in fact) that the Gospel writers did not necessarily present the events of Jesus’ ministry in precise chronological order.  In short, we must allow the biblical writers to present the material in the way they deemed best under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 
             
Third, the doctrine of inerrancy does not require the Bible to have been transmitted without mistakes in the copying process.   Before the invention of the printing press manuscripts and books had to be copied by hand, and scribes sometimes made mistakes in copying.  Though in general the biblical manuscripts were transmitted with great care, we do see some evidence of scribal mistakes.  For the most part, these manuscript differences are inconsequential and even trivial, and no major doctrines of the Christian faith are placed in jeopardy by such findings.  The branch of biblical studies that deals with these matters is called “textual criticism,” and many Evangelical scholars with a high view of Scripture have made important contributions in this field.  Because of the issues raised by textual criticism, we speak of the inerrancy of the Bible “in the original autographs”–that is, as the books were originally written by the human authors and not as they were subsequently transmitted.  It is popular in some circles to mock this notion of “inerrancy in the original autographs.” Some claim that because we obviously do not have the original autographs available to us now, this doctrine presents meaningless claims that conveniently cannot be disproved.  But our reference to the “original autographs” is not an attempt to shield Scripture from scrutiny or to “prove” the inerrancy of the Bible.  Rather, it is simply a faith statement seeking to do justice both to what the Bible claims for itself and to the findings of textual criticism. That being said, we are also assured of God’s providential care for his Word and that the message has been preserved. 
             
Fourth, when properly understood the doctrine of inerrancy does not entail the necessity of rational proof that the Bible is without error.  It does not make the infallible truth of Scripture hang on our human ability to prove its veracity.  Though Evangelical scholars certainly may present solutions to so-called “Bible difficulties” (see, e.g., Gleason Archer, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties [1982]) such efforts are best understood as efforts at “faith seeking understanding”–we affirm the truth of God’s word on the basis of what Scripture teaches, and then we seek to understand and explain the form that inerrancy takes in specific passages.  At the same time, we also recognize in proper humility that we lack the data needed to solve all such apparent problems.
             
Finally, the doctrine of inerrancy does not close off interpretive discussion.  Some people reject the doctrine of inerrancy because they think it restricts us to particular disputed interpretations of Scripture, such as a literal interpretation of the days of creation in Genesis 1 or a particular view of God’s sovereignty.  But it is quite possible for people with equally high views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible to disagree on the interpretation of individual texts.  While there are certainly some interpretations that compromise the authority of God’s word (e.g., the suggestion that Paul’s views on women were those of a sexist Rabbi, and that we should reject them) and some interpretations that are simply mistaken, we must make a practical distinction between the authority of the Bible and the interpretation of the Bible.  The fact that the Bible itself is without error does not mean that our interpretations are inerrant.  Once again, an appropriate humility is essential. 

*     *     *     *     *
 

A self-described “paleo-orthodox ecclesial Calvinist,” William Evans is the Younts Prof. of Bible and Religion at Erskine College in Due West, SC.  He holds degrees from Taylor University, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University.   He is the author of Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology (Paternoster, 2008). He also served as an Assistant Editor of the New Geneva Study Bible/Reformation Study Bible and as Moderator of the 2005 General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  In his spare time he writes the ARP Adult Quarterly Sunday School curriculum for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

William Evans, “A Layman’s Historical Guide to the Inerrancy Debate”, Reformation21 (February 2010)

© Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Inc, 1716 Spruce St Philadelphia PA 19103 USA.

This article was originally published in/on Reformation21.org, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  The Alliance calls the twenty-first century church to a modern reformation through broadcasting, events, and publishing.

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Mark Galli | posted at Christianity Today

It’s really hard to listen to God when there are really interesting things to think about.

When I preach, I often quote the Bible to drive home my point. I think it more persuasive to show that what I’m saying is not merely my opinion but a consistent theme of Scripture. And to avoid the impression that I’m proof-texting or lifting verses out of context, I quote longer passages—anywhere from 2 to 6 verses.

When I did this at one church, a staff member whom I’d asked for feedback between services told me to cut down on the Scripture quotations. “You’ll lose people,” he said.

I understood the reality he was addressing, and so I scratched out the biblical references for the next sermon. But lately I’m beginning to question that move, and wondering, Why have we become so impatient and bored with the Word of God? I ask this not in a scolding tone, but in wonderment, not to point fingers, for I wonder at myself as well.

Another example of this phenomenon: Recently in an adult Sunday school class, I heard a detailed and persuasive lecture on a biblical theology of creation. Rather than reading Genesis 1 and just waxing eloquent from that point on, the teacher patiently read passage after passage to demonstrate how central creation is in the Bible even after Genesis, especially in the covenant God made with his people. After class, the moderator for the class suggested that, for the following week, the teacher make room for questions; he suggested the teacher cut down on the reading of so many Bible verses as this would save time and, it was strongly implied, would better hold people’s interest.

Anyone who’s been in the preaching and teaching business knows these are not isolated examples but represent the larger reality. We teachers and preachers are well aware of how easily listeners get bored. And we recognize that, when it comes to good teaching technique, extensive quoting of anything can become tedious, and that, yes, it is important to make time in one’s presentation for questions. Still, these examples reveal such a feature of current church culture that we might want to question ourselves.

*  *  *

It has been said to the point of boredom that we live in a narcissistic age, where we are wont to fixate on our needs, our wants, our wishes, and our hopes—at the expense of others and certainly at the expense of God. We do not like it when a teacher uses up the whole class time presenting her material, even if it is material from the Word of God. We want to be able to ask our questions about our concerns, otherwise we feel talked down to, or we feel the class is not relevant to our lives.

It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out. Don’t spend a lot of time in the Bible, we tell our preachers, but be sure to get to personal illustrations, examples from daily life, and most importantly, an application that we can use.

It’s easy to see how this culture has profoundly reshaped the dynamics of preaching and teaching. All the demands have been placed on the shoulders of the preacher, so anxious are we to meet needs and stay relevant. No longer are listeners asked to listen humbly to the proclamation of God’s Word, in all its mystery and glory. To be sure, we want the preacher to begin with the Word—we’re Christians after all—but only as a starting point, and only as long as he moves on to things that really interest us.

*  *  *

We often hear people say how difficult it is to hear God anymore, and I wonder if one reason is that we’ve forgotten how to listen to the Word of God when it comes to us in the sanctuary or the classroom. We listen like a husband and wife listen when they are in the middle of an argument: they listen only so they can have ammunition to mount a counterattack. That’s not listening. And when we listen to the sermon only to hear what seems immediately and directly relevant, neither is that listening. And yet we’ve raised a whole generation of Christians to listen like this.

Again: I do not claim that I have transcended this cultural impatience with the Bible. I’m as irritated as the next person when it comes to the public reading of Scripture. Doesn’t this person have anything original to say? I think. Isn’t he going to address this issue, or that concern? Get on with it! At least I hope he says something funny soon … .

I try to laugh at myself when I catch myself in such moods: bored with the very revelation of God! We have this extraordinary gift, this miracle book, from the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Mystery of the Universe, the Infinite One whom we (the finite) cannot begin to fathom, the Holy One whom we (blinded by our unholiness) cannot begin to comprehend. The One who can answer our deepest questions but could remain The Question, the One who can restore our broken humanity, but could remain a vague Hypothesis—this One has revealed himself in Law, Prophets, and Gospel—in the words of a collection we now call Holy Scripture.

Whenever the Bible is read, a hush should come over us. We should be inching toward the edge of our seats, leaning forward, turning our best ear toward the speaker, fearful we’ll miss a single word—the deeds and words and character of Almighty and Merciful God are being revealed! In a world of suffering and pain, of doubt and despair, of questions about the meaning and purpose of existence, we are about to hear of God’s glory, forgiveness, mercy and love, of his intention for the world, of his promise to make it all good in the end, of the way to join his people, of the means to abide with him forever! And there we sit, tapping our feet, mentally telling the preacher to get on with it.

But if we take the trouble to listen, really listen, to that Word, we’ll discover something else marvelous: that the One being revealed is as patient with us as we are impatient with his Word, and as enamored with us as we are bored with him. Ah yes, even more enamored.

*  *  *

 

Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today and author of A Great and Terrible Love: A Spiritual Journey into the Attributes of God  (Baker).

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Foreword:  It is also recommended here that articles linked below are read to get a fuller picture of what David Instone-Brewer and John Piper wrote in order to give additional light to what Andreas Kostenberger is responding to. It is my hope that this article by Kostenberger answers some, if not all, questions we have on the topic. – EmmausTrekker

*     *     *     *     *

by Andreas Köstenberger – October 22nd, 2007.

Thank you very much for your comments on my previous post on the CT article by David Instone-Brewer and the response by John Piper. In light of the many excellent questions and comments, I decided to follow up with another post responding to comments made both on Justin Taylor’s blog and on this one. I certainly don’t expect to convert everyone to my view, but hopefully my comments will clarify some of the things I left unaddressed in my previous post. Again, please remember that much of this is addressed more fully in Chapter 11 of God, Marriage & Family. Also, my first post here at Biblical Foundations addressed the topic of divorce and remarriage. Since I don’t know all your full names, my responses below are to the various questions you raised. You know who you are, and will have no problem finding where I addressed your particular question. Please understand that I will not be able to continue this dialogue indefinitely, though your questions and comments are always welcome, and will be incorporated in the second edition of God, Marriage & Family if and when it is published.

Before addressing your questions, let me draw your attention to two extensive notes in God, Marriage & Family that address Instone-Brewer’s inclusion of neglect as legitimate grounds for divorce. On p. 412, n. 76, I wrote, “To this some have added other extreme circumstances (such as persistent spousal abuse) when confronted through the process laid out in Matthew 18:15–17, though great caution would need to be exercised in this regard in order not to undermine the high scriptural view of marriage. … Others, such as Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, passim, postulate the permissibility of divorce more broadly for material and emotional neglect. Instone-Brewer maintains that Jesus’ silence on this point in Matthew 19 should be construed as tacit agreement with universal Jewish practice in this regard on the basis of Exodus 21:10–11 … and contends that Paul alludes to the same passage in 1 Corinthians 8:3.”

At this point I refer to an earlier critique of Instone-Brewer’s view in God, Marriage & Family, which is found on p. 355, n. 25, where I wrote, “Cf. Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, 99–110, who also documents the influence of this passage on Jewish divorce laws, which stipulated the permissibility of divorce for both material … and emotional neglect. … Instone-Brewer proceeds to argue that Jesus’ silence on divorce on the basis of Exodus 21:10–11 should be construed as his agreement with the Jewish consensus view at this point … and that Paul’s allusion to this passage in 1 Corinthians 7 should be taken to imply that Paul, too, allowed for divorce because of marital neglect. … We find Instone-Brewer’s arguments from silence precarious, however. In Jesus’ case, one would have expected him to add marital neglect to porneia as a second exception for divorce if he had approved of neglect as a legitimate ground for divorce. In Paul’s case, it is one thing to say that he alluded to Exodus 21:10–11 but quite another to say that this implies that he approved of divorce for marital neglect. Especially in light of the major ramifications of such a view (namely, that this would render divorce for marital neglect biblically legitimate today), it seems reasonable to require more explicit biblical warrant than the double argument from silence provided by Instone-Brewer.”

I think what these quotations show is that Instone-Brewer’s position as argued in his recent Christianity Today essay is only a popularization of the view he has argued for years in his scholarly work and that his position has already been addressed in scholarly treatments such as in God, Marriage & Family. Now to your questions.

Q: It seems you are distinguishing between abandonment and neglect. The former is a legitimate ground for divorce, the latter is not. What is the difference?

A: You are right, I am making this distinction, and you are also right that I believe the former is a legitimate ground for divorce while the latter is not. First of all, let me say that I used the term “abandonment” in my previous post only because this is the term Instone-Brewer used in his essay, and so I accommodated myself to his usage. The more conventional term in the literature, I believe, is that of “desertion by an unbeliever” or something similar. This scenario, of course, is dealt with by Paul in 1 Cor 7:15–16. Some, in fact, believe that Paul himself, upon coming to faith, was deserted by his wife, which is possible though hardly verifiable. What this “desertion by an unbeliever” (or “abandonment,” for short) involves is one marital partner’s coming to faith in Christ and the other spouse’s rejection of her partner’s Christian faith and their reneging on their marriage. In such cases, Paul says, the Christian spouse “is not bound” (1 Cor 7:15), which most interpret not only as establishing a legitimate grounds of divorce but also permission to remarry, in part on the strength of the parallel in 1 Cor 7:39, where a synonym is used in the Greek, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” In other words, verse 39 makes explicit (in the case of the death of a spouse) where is left implicit in verse 15: those left without a spouse (whether through the spouse’s death or desertion) are not only not “bound” (i.e. can divorce legitimately) but also free to remarry. As Instone-Brewer notes in his essay, this comports entirely with the standard Jewish formula for divorce, “You are free to marry anyone you wish.” So much for “abandonment” or, perhaps better and less ambiguous, “desertion by an unbelieving spouse.” Notice, then, that this scenario is very clearly defined and considerably more narrow than a broad “abandonment” category which may include abuse and neglect as it does in Instone-Brewer’s essay. Certainly, some cases of neglect and/or abuse may fall in the category of abandonment, but not necessarily in the sense in which Paul defines it in 1 Cor 7:15. As one of you said very well (so well that I simply reproduce your comments, rather than trying to improve on them), “I understand ‘abandonment’ to be referring to the case mentioned in 1 Cor 7, where one person comes to faith, but the spouse doesn’t and leaves them because of it. ‘Neglect’ would be more like a person not taking good enough care of the spouse (or not honoring, etc.). So abandonment would—they took off, am I stuck in this marriage or free to remarry? Neglect would be, we’re still married but I don’t get good enough [or any] love/food/sex/emotional support/whatever, can I divorce her and marry someone better?” (Incidentally, I also agree with your comment [slightly edited] that “in Instone-Brewer’s paper … he argues that Jesus only meant to slap down ‘any cause’ divorce, but then Instone-Brewer argues that divorce for a nebulous concept of neglect is legitimate—which is really close to ‘any cause’ divorce!)

Q: Would it not be better to understand the term “not bound” in 1 Cor 7:15 as referring to people’s right to live in peace rather than making this statement grounds for divorce and subsequent remarriage?

A: The entire chapter (1 Corinthians 7) deals with various instances of legitimate and illegitimate divorce. I believe the background is that some, for whatever reason, taught it was more spiritual to refrain from sex and/or marriage (incidentally, hardly a very common view today). If so, the implication was that single people shouldn’t marry and married people shouldn’t have sex or divorce their spouse altogether. Against this background Paul’s teaching makes perfect sense. He says, sure, being single is good, if anyone has that gift (see my interchange with Debbie Maken here, here, and here at this point), and even there, those who are unmarried but don’t have the gift should get married, because it is better to marry than to burn with passion (vv. 8–9). If you’re married, Paul says, don’t refrain from sex other than for a short time by mutual consent for the purpose of prayer (v. 5). Certainly don’t divorce your spouse, or if you do (disobeying Paul’s directive), certainly don’t remarry (vv. 10–11). To those who are married to an unbeliever, Paul says, continue in the marriage if the unbelieving spouse is willing to do so, but if not, you are “not bound” (vv. 12–16). In this context, it seems that Paul is not merely talking about living in peace but specifically about legitimate vs. illegitimate grounds for divorce and remarriage, a subject to which, as mentioned, he returns in verses 39–40.

Q: Exodus 21 says neglect is grounds of divorce for a slave, so certainly free women should have the same right.

A: The underlying problem is that Exodus 21 is not addressed in the NT by either Jesus or Paul, as far as I can see. So should we just assume it still applies because it is mentioned in the OT? That’s what Instone-Brewer does, largely on the strength of first-century Jewish rabbinical teachings. For most of us, this is not good enough; we need an explicit NT reference here. This, of course, entails important large theological questions regarding the relationship between the OT and the NT and hermeneutical issues bound up with this.

Q: What about cases of spousal abuse, then? What about cases where a husband beats his wife, or stops having sex with her, or fails to provide for her? What are the pastoral implications of these scenarios?

A: First of all, please see my comments in the introduction (i.e. the quotes from God, Marriage & Family) above. As a biblical scholar, my primary aim is to determine what Scripture actually teaches. I realize that there are many, many pastoral implications that must be dealt with no matter what one’s position is. I would ask us to remember that every case is different and must be dealt with on its own terms. I would also caution us against falling into the same kind of casuistry for which the Pharisees are known. We should not try to legislate what to do in every conceivable circumstance but apply known biblical principles to a given specific situation with which we are confronted. That said, certainly, cases of persistent spousal abuse may require at least temporary separation and a variety of means of seeking to stop the abuse and help restore the marriage if possible. Beyond this, I will leave dealing with this area and the numerous facets it raises to my esteemed colleagues in biblical counseling.

Q: If you allow for abandonment, why not see all the Exodus requirements as specifications of abandonment?

A: Please see my clarification on the distinction between abandonment and neglect above. I know what you mean, and I briefly toyed with the idea of subsuming neglect under abandonment, but in the end I believe that the scenario presented by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 (per my discussion above) is considerably more narrow and specific than a broad “neglect” and “abuse” category. What he had in mind, I am convinced, was a case whether one partner became a Christian and the other rejected him and left the marriage because of his spouse’s Christian faith. This is very different from a vague generic notion of “abandonment” or a variety of other types of neglect or abuse.

Q/Comment: One of the strengths of Instone-Brewer’s article is that he addresses spousal abuse, which is the most pastorally sensitive issue.

A: I agree, and address it he does, but without adequate NT support, in my opinion, and with the effect, as Piper says, of “tragically widening the grounds of legitimate divorce.” Beyond this, see my response to the previous question.

Q: Aren’t the things contemplated in Exodus 21 tantamount to abandonment? If someone lacks adequate food and clothing, and gets no sex from her husband, I’d argue she’s been abandoned.

A: First of all, let’s remember that it’s not what you or I or anyone argues but what Scripture says. We must not substitute clever reasoning for the plain teaching of Scripture. It’s not a matter how skillful a debater we are in trying to make a point but a matter of seeking to discern God’s revelation with a prepared to obey it no matter what it is and whether or not it agrees what we would like Scripture to say. It seems to me that there are some who really want Scripture to say that divorce for neglect and/or abuse is legitimate and others who really want to believe that Scripture does not allow for divorce under any circumstances. (I’m not judging anyone’s motives here, some of you have said so yourself in your comments.) I think it’s very healthy and important to acknowledge that as one’s presupposition in coming to the text of Scripture, but then we must allow the Word to come back at us on its own terms, no matter how painful that may be. That said, I believe reasoned exegetical and theological argument can be helpful in working toward a proper understanding of Scripture’s teaching on a given subject, or I wouldn’t be writing this post right now (and longer treatments as well).

We know that neglected children should be taken from parents.

I’m not sure if this parallel holds, just as I don’t believe Scripture says wives are to obey their husbands exactly in the same way children ought to obey their parents.

So do you think that Exodus 21:10–11 is irrelevant, misinterpreted by Instone-Brewer, or superseded by Jesus? If the latter, is that supersession also an argument from silence, or does it build on the exception clauses?

A: That’s a very perceptive question (or series of questions). Please read my introductory comments (quotes from God, Marriage & Family) above, which indicate the reasons for my hesitation in this regard, in part because of Jesus’ silence on the subject in places such as Matthew 19. Am I therefore employing an argument from silence, too? It depends on how to define “argument from silence,” I suppose. The way I see it, an argument from silence is saying something applies even though it is not stated in Scripture while what I’m saying is something doesn’t apply because it isn’t stated. To me, that’s just common sense, or at least proper hermeneutical caution.

Q: How do you account for the lack of exception clause in Mark and Luke? Does that not lend support to the “betrothal view”?

A: Ultimately, I don’t know why the exception clause is not in Mark and Luke. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you he does (he’s lying). I believe we’re left here with reasonable inferences. In God, Marriage & Family, on p. 242, I quote Instone-Brewer at length, who notes that there are times when it is reasonable to infer from scriptural silence on an issue that people commonly agreed on this issue. If this is true in the present case, Mark and Luke may have felt they did not need to state an exception that was commonly agreed upon, namely, that adultery constituted a legitimate ground for divorce, and Matthew included this only as a side comment, as it were. Having said that, I believe that even having the exception clause—not once, but twice in Matthew—only in one Gospel requires us to obey what it says, and we should be careful not to try to explain it away or “harmonize” it with Mark and Luke just because these Gospels do not include it.

Q: In your view, would a repentant adulterer put his or her non-adulterous spouse under biblical obligation to receive him or her back? Or would the non-adulterous spouse still have “grounds” for divorce even if the adulterous spouse repented and sought (with God’s help) to take every step necessary to be restored in the marriage?

A: Like I said above, every case is different, so it’s difficult to address this scenario in general terms. Certainly, Jesus’ statement to Peter comes to mind that Christians must always be prepared to forgive. If the adulterous spouse is repentant and willing to continue in the marriage, the victim, as a Christian, should, with God’s help, try to forgive and be willing to continue in the marriage, but there are a lot of factors that may enter into a given situation that are hard to deal with in general terms.

To recap, then, in my view Instone-Brewer is too permissive, while Piper is too restrictive. It is not my desire to start any new schools, along the lines of the “school of Hillel” or the “school of Shammai,” the “school of Instone-Brewer” or the “school of Piper”! Hopefully our discussions help us all clarify our thinking on this important issue. I genuinely value this dialogue with many of you in the spirit of “as iron sharpens iron.”

Thank you for your patience, those of you who read thus far, and for your excellent comments and questions. Unfortunately, my time’s up and I must return to other pressing matters. Please feel free to respond to my comments above, but know that I may not be able to reciprocate any time soon!

 

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by Andy Naselli

D. A. Carson preached on “The Purpose of the Parables” from Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 in chapel at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on October 29, 2009. Here are some notes:

Why did Jesus tell stories and use parables? Three answers are common.

  1. Jesus told stories because he used them as illustrations. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense of Matthew 13:11–12.
  2. Jesus told stories because he favored the enigmatic, thought-provoking, and open-ended rather than truths, propositions, and narrow-minded, modernist, foundationalist stuff like that. But it doesn’t take much reading of the Gospels to realize how many different genres Jesus actually preached in. For example, he preached using wisdom literature, apocalyptic, laments, exposition of OT texts, extended discourses, proverbs, beatitudes, one-liners, non-narratival extended metaphors, dialogue, and provocative questions. Further, Matthew 13:34–35 suggests that Jesus is trying to disclose something to them.
  3. Jesus used parables in order to hide things from the non-elect, to mask the truth. Yes, there is an element of that, but Matthew 13:34–35 suggests that Jesus is trying to disclose something to them.

So why did Jesus use parables? The text suggests two reasons.

  1. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, his message blinds, deafens, and hardens (Matthew 13:11–15). Matthew 13:14–15 quotes Isaiah 6:9–10 because Isaiah’s commission points forward and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus himself. There are some audiences to whom you preach where the preaching of the word guarantees that they will not hear. Cf. John 8:45: “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” Sometimes the truth itself elicits unbelief because people are so corrupt that the truth is repulsive. Cf. Acts 5:41. When people insult you, don’t get defensive. Don’t get angry. Don’t get even. Rejoice! You’re in! You’re in this long line, this trajectory, that culminates in Jesus himself. There are some people who will not believe, and if you speak the truth, you will cause them not to believe.
  2. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, his message reveals things hidden in Scripture (Matthew 13:34–35). Matthew 13:35 quotes Psalm 78:2. The Jews of Jesus’ day did not have a category for a crucified Messiah, but those categories are in the OT. Jesus refers to “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:11). A “mystery” in the NT does not refer to a “Whodunit?” It occurs 27 or 28 times in the NT and almost always is bound up with things hidden in the past in Scripture but now disclosed in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “They’re there, but I’m going to reveal to you what has been hidden. The pieces are already there.” Hence, Matthew 13:16–17, 52.

Three Pastoral Reflections

  1. We should gain wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp of how God has put the Bible together. The Bible is not a collection of arbitrary proof-texts. The more you dig into it, the more you unpack its simplicity and profundity.
  2. We should gain gratitude and humility for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and his gospel. We are just as perverse as others. We should never tire of being overwhelmed by the sheer privilege of grace in our lives.
  3. We should gain discretion in witness where there is a hostile environment.

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Book Review: The Truth About Man, by Paul Washer


At the beginning of his classic Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin heads his very first paragraph thus: “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God”. This observation is strikingly true, and if one would take the time to discuss the gospel in depth with the definite majority of American citizens living today, he would doubtless find that the one great obstacle preventing them from prizing and embracing the gospel of God’s grace is a faulty view of self. The gospel is not for people who are basically pretty good, but just need to believe in themselves, build up their self-esteem, and pick themselves up by their bootstraps. If there is one problem that consistently hinders my attempts at gospel-witnessing, it is that. Oh, for a tool that would give the true picture of man in his sin and helplessness, and so pave the way for a true picture of God in his holy justice and limitless grace! Paul David Washer’s biblical study, The Truth About Man, is just that tool, and I enthusiastically recommend it.

The Truth About Man, many of you may already know, is a sequel to another excellent biblical study, The One True God; the two of them are laid out in much the same way, not so much as doctrinal treatises but as guides driving the students to encounter and interact with God’s own testimony from the scriptures. But more than this, the two of them are complementary, each causing the truth of the other to shine forth with a more brilliant and stunning clarity. Without the biblical knowledge of the immense holiness and majesty of God, we cannot know the loathsome horror of our reprehensible rebellion; and without the knowledge of our immense sinfulness, we cannot appreciate the depths of God’s grace and the perfection of his justice in his response to sin, whether shown in Christ our substitute or upon Christ-less sinners in hell.

That is not to say, however, that The Truth About Man may only be used effectively with Washer’s other study. Anyone may benefit from The Truth About Man, from the seasoned and well-rooted Christian who wants to be overwhelmed once again by the staggering greatness of God’s grace to the average person who knows nothing of the content of the gospel, and needs to be made a sinner before he can be forgiven. This isn’t a book to be handed out on the street corner to anyone who passes along – it demands too much from the reader, its profitableness will be lost upon someone not willing to study, to think, to wrestle with the hard truths of the bible. It is designed that way intentionally, which in my estimation is a good thing. But for anyone who is genuinely willing to search for the truth, even if it means hard work and humility, the reward will be great. And that includes believers who long for a better glimpse of the gospel, as well as unbelievers who are willing to consider at length just what Christianity proclaims.

What scope of material exactly is covered in the book? Well, it is basically about man in his state of sinfulness – the “non posse non peccare” (“not able not to sin”) of Augustine. Beginning with God’s creation of man and his blessed estate in the Garden, it moves quickly to the devastating first sin, and the vast and universal consequences of that first sin for all humankind. The rest of the study lays out fallen man’s estate very biblically and accurately, ending with his final, certain destiny in hell. The topic of man in his redeemed or glorified state is beyond the scope of the book.

Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford

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Foreword: Here is another interesting article by Albert Mohler concerning R. Crumb’s project of cartooning the narratives in the book of Genesis.  You can reach the original article through this link.

My very first encounter with the Bible wherein I had very vivid memories has to do with a cartoon-style frame by frame presentation of main narratives of the Bible.  It was a thick book, colored cartoons and as a young boy then, just like any other kid, cartoons was a medium of learning things. In fact my first vivid memories of divine judgment was a cartoon frame in Noah’s narrative in that particular Bible. But, as again, I was about 7 years old then and was not concerned about the revelation of God but rather the pleasure of reading cartoons.

In this article below, we learn why cartooning God’s holy book is not a good thing.  Please read on.

EmmausTrekker

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Cartooning the Word — R. Crumb’s “The Book of Genesis” by Dr. Albert Mohler

In all likelihood, most people would never even imagine a cartoon version of Genesis. Nevertheless, the cartoon version has arrived, and it is attracting no small amount of attention.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated is by famed cartoonist R. Crumb. Famous among cartoonists for his work as far back as the 1960s, Crumb has always combined cartoons and a social/political agenda. As David Colton of USA Today explains, Crumb is known for “subversive, turn-of-the-century linework, untamed libido, and obsessive social commentary.”

Indeed, Crumb personally attributes aspects of his style to experiences with LSD in his younger years. He became known for his “Keep on Truckin'” and “Fritz the Cat” cartoons. Disillusioned with the United States, Crumb took his family to France, where they now live.

Somewhere along the way, Crumb decided to take on the Bible, starting with Genesis. That is no small ambition. But why?

Crumb seems attracted to the book of Genesis as a collection of narratives with deep influence in Western culture. “I’m a spiritual guy,” he told USA Today. “I’m not an atheist, more an agnostic. I don’t doubt the existence of God. I just don’t know quite what God is. It’s a question that will challenge me until the day I die.”

As for the Bible, Crumb does not take it as the Word of God. He said, “I don’t believe it’s the Word of God. I believe it’s the words of men.” He added, “I’m just another human interpreting the story.”

In other comments about the project, Crumb has been a bit more forceful. He told Peter Aspden of the Financial Times that working on the Genesis project “nearly killed me.” Working through Genesis “ruined my health. I’m in recovery.”

He also spoke straightforwardly about his view of the Bible:

“I am completely sick of the Bible. I began to hate it as I worked on it. I’ve had my fill. The idea that millions of people have taken it so seriously — it is totally nuts. The human race is crazy.”

His Genesis project did not lead him to admire the Bible. “It had the opposite effect on me. . . .  I saw what a primitive, backward morality I had to deal with. It was a good way of exorcising the power of the Bible.”

Crumb’s distinctive cartoon style plays out across the Genesis narratives. The front cover of the book promises “nothing left out.” Very little is. Readers will find cartoon depictions of everything from Creation and the Fall to the curse of Onan. Reading The Book of Genesis Illustrated does reveal the power of this artistic expression (as in the sacrifice of Isaac), but mostly its severe limitations.

Christians coming across the Crumb project may wonder what to think. After all, this is a project that is attracting significant attention. Millions of Americans buy comics and pay close attention to the world of cartooning. Crumb’s new work has gained the attention of the nation’s major newspapers and the digital world.

For one thing, Crumb’s work reminds us that God gave us words, not images, as His means of revelation. The prohibition against images is not just a divine preference, it is a command. Looking at Crumb’s work makes the force of this prohibition all the more clear. Crumb interprets (or misinterprets) with every image and characterization. His style dominates the narrative — which is precisely the danger. And Crumb insists that he tried his best to restrain himself. “I’m not ridiculing it, just illustrating the exact words that are there.”

Another key insight from the project is this: The Bible always demands a judgment of the reader. The Bible cannot be read simply as literature of historical importance. Any reader sees it as far more than that. In fact, the Bible presents such straightforward claims about both God and humanity that it is either loved or hated, seen as the Word of God or as a poisonous chronicle of the human religious imagination.

In that respect, Crumb’s declarations about the Bible make more sense. His experience of drawing the narratives from Genesis led him to hate the Bible. He is offended that so many millions have taken it seriously. “To take this as a sacred text, or Word of God or something to live by, is kind of crazy,” he told David Colton. “So much of it makes no sense. To think of all the fighting and killing that’s gone on over this book, it just became to me a colossal absurdity. That’s probably the most profound moment I’ve had — the absurdity of it all.”

R. Crumb reveals a great deal about himself in this project. His project also reveals once again why God gave us words, and not images. Crumb’s newest work may be described as a triumph of the human imagination — and that is precisely the problem.

The Bible always lays claim upon the reader. The Book of Genesis demands a decision. The God who reveals himself in these words is not only the Creator of the cosmos, but the judge of every human soul. Genesis not only begins the Bible, it reminds us of our need for Christ. Every single narrative Crumb depicts finds its ultimate meaning in the atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ.

But that great fact cannot be reduced to a cartoon. It was never meant to be.

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David Colton, “Illustrator R. Crumb is Drawn to God with His Latest Project,” USA Today, October 19, 2009.

Peter Aspden, “A Bad Boy and the Good Book,” Financial Times, October 4, 2009.

 

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