Archives For theology

You will want to read the update by Dr. Mark McGinniss regarding the strategic changes to the Journal of Theology & Ministry that is published by Baptist Bible Seminary. Click here for the story.

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There is little doubt the Church today faces a culture that is very different than 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, the Church is to engage and minister to a culture that typically does not value biblical truth, does not accept biblical truth, and certainly does not live according to biblical truth. How does the Church engage a culture like this? Simple, . . . engage this culture with not our truth, but with God’s authoritative Word; and do so with all accuracy and relevancy.

Following the results of the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), Newsweek published a cover story in 2009 titled “The End of Christian America.” The ARIS results indicated a decline of 10 percentage points (86% to 76%) of self-identified Christians from 1990 to 2009. Another survey, from the Pew Research Study in 2012 published results that the self-identified Christians fell another 5 percent, and did so in only 5 years.

This looks to present a problem for the Church. Are there going to be any Christians to impact and engage this culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Ed Stetzer, in his blog titled “The Exchange” published in Christianity Today, states that the church is not dying, despite what others may report. The church is in transition, but not dying. Ed also states that the current cultural shift is bringing clarity that will assist in defining who we are as Christians; that is, potentially most of the 86% of those who checked the “Christian” box on a survey in 1990 were likely not genuine followers of Jesus Christ.

Being American and being Christian are NOT one-in-the-same. The Scriptures define Christian very differently than culture at large. It is quite possible that those people who checked the “Christian” box on a survey are no longer doing so; quite frankly because they no longer feel the societal pressure to be “Christian.” To them, shedding the label “Christian” makes sense.

What is facing the Church today? What crises present themselves as potential obstacles to the Church? Why is it important, and necessary, for the Church to be aware of them? While a faculty member at Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO I was asked by the President of the College to speak at the annual meeting of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International in May of 2014. I spoke to hundreds of pastors in order to help prepare them to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to an ever-changing, postmodern culture. I presented the Theological Crises Facing the Church Today. Since then, I have constructed some additional thoughts and resources in a paper (Preparing for Theological Issues) that I hope communicates the seriousness of what faces the Church today. May God provide us with the wisdom necessary to impact and engage today’s culture with the gospel.

Dated 2013, but presented in chapel by a surrogate reader April 2014

This is a controversial topic even among non-pacifistic Christians.

Due to the controversy and my failing health that prohibit moderating any comments, I have closed comments for this post.

One of my students just alerted me that CBD is currently selling Udo Schnelle’s Theology of the New Testament for only $5 (reg. $60 hardcover). This is a significant book in the field, though it alternately amazes and infuriates me! Despite some things that I disagree with (quite vigorously), anyone serious about NT theology beyond the generalist level could profit from this big book (almost 900 pgs.). I won’t try to write a review here. My PhD seminar this summer has recently finished wrestling with the book and we found it stimulating. I posted some time ago a summary of the SBL panel with Schnelle when the book was first released; those comments may be of interest. See also Don Carson’s review of the book: “Review Article: Locating Udo Schnelle’s Theology of the New Testament in the Contemporary Discussion.” JETS 53.1 (March 2010): 133–41.

A student pointed out to me today that my kenosis page is badly mangled. The first part of the page reads fine, but about half way through the text becomes illegible, due, I suspect, to a font coding problem introduced when my site was converted from FrontPage to WordPress last fall. I don’t have time to troubleshoot that at the moment, so I’m posting an updated pdf version of that article. The content is the same as the web page (or the original pdf that was also posted), but the font and formatting is revised, including being converted to a Unicode Greek font for the first time.


For searchability:
Phil 2
Phil 2:5-11

Phil. 2
Phil. 2:5-11

Philippians 2:5-11

Christmas peace

December 22, 2012

The carol printed below came to mind as I read John 14:27, Εἰρήνην ἀφίημι ὑμῖν, εἰρήνην τὴν ἐμὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν· οὐ καθὼς ὁ κόσμος δίδωσιν ἐγὼ δίδωμι ὑμῖν (Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you). I do not know the hymn writer’s meaning of “peace” in this context, though I assume, given its historical origins (only months after the Battle of Gettysburg), that it refers to political/military peace. Those are certainly valid sentiments, both then and today. I think, however, that Jesus’ words have a different reference, one made explicit by his statement that his peace is οὐ καθὼς ὁ κόσμος δίδωσιν (not as the world gives). Though there will one day be “world peace” when the Prince of Peace reigns, that is not what Jesus promises as our experience in this world before that time. Here we live in a world where evil is all too real as the events of our recent history make all too clear. But despite life in a fallen world, we can have peace with God, knowing that sin may be forgiven—and that’s the reason for celebrating Christmas, the reason why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior who came to die to provide forgiveness.

Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ), Rom 5:1. Yes, there are other aspects of peace spoken of in the NT, but they all begin with the peace of justification; without that, no other peace is possible.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Historical Note: This hymn was written during the American civil war, as reflected by the sense of despair in the next to last stanza. Stanzas 4-5 speak of the battle, and are usually omitted from hymnals:

(The words of the carol was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863 and are long in public domain. I copied them from along with the “historical note” included there and moved the 4th and 5th stanzas to what I assume is their original place.)

The background of Longfellow’s writing the original poem

For a nice adaptation by Casting Crowns, see this YouTube video.

Music for preschoolers

November 30, 2012

If you have preschool children (or grandchildren), here’s a great resource that my daughter just discovered:

Songs for Saplings

Questions with Answers, Vol 1: God and Creation
by Dana Dirksen

You can play the entire album from the link just above to see what it’s like.

Read a review and get a coupon code to download album 1 for only 25¢. Other albums are $5 downloaded or $9 on a CD. (Also available via iTunes or Amazon; see the link above for details.)

Just in time for Christmas!

The Bible and Self Defense

September 22, 2012

I just ran across an interesting article on “The Bible and Self Defense.” It is a reprint in one place of a series of short articles previously published in the Journal of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, 2008. The author is Richard Seim, pastor at the Trinity Baptist Church, Renton, WA.

Resurrection Sunday

April 8, 2012

Today we celebrate that which is the heart of Christianity. Without this message, then Christianity is nothing more than a social club, a party, pseudo-spirituality.

1 Cor 15:3, What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures … 11 This is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

These are not poetic aspirations, but a statement of fundamental realities. Jesus died as “really” as anyone else has ever died. His resurrection was likewise just as real as his death. Physical. Bodily. Yes, that’s called a miracle. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

The Trinity

February 24, 2012

There is a perceptive essay today in Kevin Bauder’s weekly Nick of Time. It does not focus on one contemporary issue, but points out that the orthodox doctrine of the trinity is being challenged from a myriad of directions today. His concluding statement:

The hour has come for renewed reflection upon the Trinity. We cannot claim to be gospel-centered while we are trifling with an important doctrine upon which the gospel depends. We are responsible to articulate the faith for at least the next generation of Christians. The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most vital aspects of that articulation. We must not leave it to dilettantes.

(If you do not access the link above with in the next week, you may have to check back issues. Try the bottom of the page first for the most recent essays, or if you run across this post more than a month of two, search the Nick of Time archives under today’s date, 2/24/12.)

There is a review posted on the Credo blog today by Brent Parker summarizing D. A. Carson’s chapter in a recent book:

“Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Yes, But . . .” in Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives, ed. R. Michael Allen (London: T&T Clark, 2011), 187-207.

Parker judges Carson’s comments to be “very helpful, timely, and important.” If his summary is accurate, as I assume it is, I agree. I’ve not yet seen this book and the Credo post is the first I’d heard of it. I will need to order this one.

Further notes from the review:

In canvasing the literature of TIS, Carson found that he could not affirm many of the points of TIS without also finding objections or questions. Hence, “it is not that there are good points and more questionable points in TIS, nicely distinguishable, but rather that along every axis the good and the questionable are almost inextricably entangled” (188).

In summary, Carson concludes that the most valuable components in TIS are actually not new and have been present in the writings of evangelicals. But “what is new in TIS varies from ambiguous to mistaken, depending in part on the theological location of the interpreter” (207).

Here’s a thoughtful post that’s worth reading and thinking about. (And the post linked there, though unrelated in content, is also good: The Best Five Toys of All Time.)

The Top 5 Technologies that Will Shape the Church in 2012

Don’t Eat The Fruit (blog)
Technology is Fast, but Redemption is Slow

by John Dyer

It’s another new year, one that is sure to be full of predictions about Mayans, American presidents, and technology. Below are the technologies that I think will be the most powerful shapers of Christian spirituality in the next 360 or so days.

I recently received the following query from someone reading my NIV11 review.

On page 430, you write: “The current rage in some circles of christological exegesis of the OT … is too often (though not always) misleading.”

Would you be able to unpack what you mean here and/or guide me to resources where I can better understand this?

My hunch is that you are referring to the ‘new Reformed’ lingo of ‘finding Christ in all of Scripture’ (from guys like Keller [and] others …).

Why is this wrong and what do you see as the better way?

The typically busy end of a semester and Christmas activities probably means that this isn’t the best time to begin a discussion on the subject here, but I will summarize my thoughts on the matter. And OT prophecies of Messiah are certainly appropriate subject matter for Christmas!

Let me begin by saying that I most certainly do not object to valid, predictive prophecy of Messiah in the OT which was later fulfilled in and by Jesus. There certainly is quite a bit of prophecy (Messianic and otherwise) scattered throughout much of the OT. There is not only prophecy, but also a fair bit of typology. The prophecy should be identified by careful exegesis of the *OT* text in its context. (By contrast, the typology, which I’m not discussing in this paragraph, is *not* identified by OT exegesis, but by *NT* exegesis—more on that below.) Unless it can be demonstrated exegetically that a passage refers to Messiah, then I do not think it legitimate to claim such a text as Christological. To qualify as “exegetical” I do not allow the NT to be read “backwards” into the OT. To do so is not exegesis, but isogesis—even if it is later biblical revelation that is being used to “discover” new meaning in older texts. Just because the NT is the culmination of biblical revelation and most clearly reveals Jesus and his role as Messiah and Savior does not legitimate changing the grammatical, historical meaning of OT texts. I do not read the OT with “Christological glasses.”

What I object to is the current fad of claiming that “OT text x” refers to/means/prophecies concerning Jesus/Messiah when the OT author would never have suspected that to be the case. Nor do I consider some form of sensus plenior in which the Author had a hidden meaning to be legitimate. Any such approach becomes very subjective, limited only by the creativity of the interpreter with no textual basis. I do not consider “creativity” to be a commendable quality in exegesis. Exegesis is not tasked with creating meaning, but in discovering the textual meaning intended by the author. Oh, it may “preach” well; I’ve listened to some amazing sermons that find Jesus everywhere. Rhetorically (and even poetically!) they are quite impressive productions that will stir an audience. But are they legitimate? As a preacher I am tasked with proclaiming “thus says the Lord.” Unless a preacher can demonstrate from a text that it does refer to Jesus, then one had best not blame that interpretation of God!

Now there is another angle to consider, though it violates none of what I’ve summarized above. That is the matter of typology. This is a subject that has been horribly abused (and in both directions: excess and avoidance). I have no time for the vivid imagination of “interpreters” who can find in excess of 20,000 “types” in the OT tabernacle (I’m not making that up!). But neither do I want to so limit typology that I miss legitimate, intentional types, though I’m more inclined to err toward the second than be guilty of the first! (I think it less dangerous to miss a few bits of God’s revelation that to attribute to it matters never intended.) The fanciful approach to typology is nothing more than crass allegory. To classify something as a type I insist on some substantive NT textual basis to authorize it. And note that by textual basis I do not refer to the interpreter’s creativity in making a connection; the NT text itself must make the connection.

Let me extract a few paragraphs (not all contiguous) from my notes on the subject.

I would propose the following definitions of typology, type, and antitype. Typology is the study of divinely ordained, repeated patterns in God’s sovereign working in human history to accomplish his purposes. In the course of the progress of revelation, the earlier historical situation (person, event, institution) comes to be seen as a pattern (type) that closely corresponds to a later historical situation in the life and ministry of Jesus that repeats (fulfills) the pattern (antitype) in a clearly identifiable, escalated/intensified way. A type is thus the initial instance of a repeated pattern of God’s activity that he intends to use in later revelation as an illustration of his work. An antitype is the escalated repetition in the person and work of Jesus of an earlier pattern of activity which demonstrates God’s glory, filling that antecedent type with additional significance for the purpose of enabling God’s people to better understand his sovereign purposes in history.

I think we should follow France at this point, who argues that, “a type is not a prediction; in itself it is simply a person, event, etc. recorded as a historical fact, with no intrinsic reference to the future…. There is no indication in a type, as such, of any forward reference; it is complete and intelligible in itself” (Jesus and the Old Testament, 39–40, 42). This is the key difference between prophecy and type: prophecy is known, understood, and intended as prophetic by the human writer; typology is a NT perspective that is not known by the OT writer. The NT does not change the meaning of the OT text (since typology is not intended as an exegetical treatment of the OT text). The parallel of the type/antitype is always in harmony with the meaning of the OT text and never denies the historical nature of it. France is emphatic on this point:

Typology may, indeed must, go beyond mere exegesis. But it may never introduce into the Old Testament text a principle which was not already present and intelligible to its Old Testament readers. Sound exegesis, and a respect for the sense of the Old Testament text thus discovered, will prevent typology from degenerating into allegory…

Thus the decision on whether a given use of the Old Testament in the New is typological or an appeal to prediction will reduce itself to a question of Old Testament exegesis. If a forward reference was intended in the Old Testament…, we are not concerned with typology, but with the appeal to prediction.
(Jesus and the Old Testament, 41–42 [I would prefer to replace the first sentence cited from France with a simple statement that “typology is not OT exegesis,” omitting any idea of “going beyond mere exegesis”] ).

Some recoil from such a suggestion, assuming that the alternative is eisegesis. The response is that the exegesis comes at the NT level, not at the level of OT text. Apart from the NT, the OT type could not be identified on the basis of OT exegesis.

“If every type were originally intended [by the human author] explicitly to point forward to an antitype, it might be correct to class typology as a style of exegesis. But this is not the case. There is no indication in a type, as such, of any forward reference.” In other words, “the fact that the NT sees an OT event as a type does not throw light on its interpretation in its OT context” (Jesus and the Old Testament, 41–42).

The Author, of course, knew and intended that the OT text would one day be used typologically, but neither the author or his subsequent readers would have any way to know that this was the case until the fulfillment in Jesus and the NT text makes the identification explicit because none of the typical significance is grammaticalized in the text. There can be no such thing as a type without an antitype. This is a point at which the aAuthors’ knowledge regarding the written text diverge. Although leaving open the question as to the possibility that a type may have been recognized before its fulfillment, Carson clearly agrees that God intended the type.

That means that when Paul (or, for that matter, some other New Testament writer) claims that something or other connected with the gospel is the (typological) fulfillment of some old covenant pattern, he may not necessarily be claiming that everyone connected with the old covenant type understood the pattern to be pointing forward, but he is certainly claiming that God himself designed it to be pointing forward. In other words, when the type was discovered to be a type (at some point along the trajectory of its repeated pattern? only after its culmination?)—i.e. when it was discovered to be a pattern that pointed to the future—is not determinative for its classification as a type (“Mystery and Fulfillment,” 406).

Typology is actually a specialized form of what Hirsch/Kaiser call implication. Typology is not an OT exegetical tool used to determine the meaning of the OT text. When the NT “creates” the type by depicting its relationship to the fulfilling antitype, this does not change the meaning of the OT text—though a new implication of that text emerges in the progress of revelation. It is the NT author, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, who draws an explicit connection between an OT situation and a NT one that parallels it in a unique, escalated way. It is, indeed, a form of analogy or illustration, yet one that is more formalized than these categories. The escalated relationship is such that the NT authors could describe it in terms of fulfillment (πληρόω). An OT situation is “filled up” in the NT situation as Jesus or some aspect of his work is seen to follow the same pattern, but due to the character of the person involved (Jesus) or the magnitude of his work which is described—both of which go far beyond the OT referents—is said to fulfill what is now called the type.

Now to return to my original subject, if the current fad of “Christological exegesis” were concerned with the sort of typology that I have just described, I’d have no objection, but that is not the way it’s presented. It is portrayed as a means of interpreting the OT text, and that, I am persuaded, it most emphatically is not. Nor do many such proposals limit themselves to instances which are textually warranted by the NT text. The identification proffered is grounded only in the creativity of the interpreter/preacher.

‘Nuff said.

BTW, I’ve commented on this briefly before:
There’s also a post or two on Marc Snoeberger’s blog on the subject.

My friend Kevin Mungons just sent me these words of an old Lutheran hymn. I thought them worth sharing.

What e’er My God Ordains is Right

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

Holy his will abideth;

I will be still whate’er he doth;

And follow where he guideth:

He is my God: though dark my road,

He holds me that I shall not fall:

Wherefore to him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

He never will deceive me;

He leads me by the proper path;

I know he will not leave me:

I take, content, what he hath sent;

His hand can turn my griefs away,

And patiently I wait his day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

Though now this cup, in drinking,

May bitter seem to my faint heart,

I take it, all unshrinking:

My God is true; each morn anew

Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,

And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

Here shall my stand be taken;

Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,

Yet am I not forsaken;

My Father’s care is round me there;

He holds me that I shall not fall:

And so to him I leave it all.

Samuel Rodigast, 1676
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863

Since Tim asked, here’s a pdf scan of the music for this hymn. Kevin sent it to me. I don’t know which old hymnal it’s from. Kevin also tells me that:

Bach was quite taken with this hymn and scored it several times in his cantatas–most notably #100, where he uses it throughout.

Whate’er My God Ordains.pdf

Cremation again

December 31, 2010

Dave Black posted this quote (12/31/10 @ 7:38 AM) and asked what his readers thought. He also added parenthetically that “I imagine our friend Rod Decker might have something to offer here.” Yes I do! (Of course he has no provision for feedback on his non-blog blog, so I have to respond here! 🙂 )

Wenn die Heilige Schrift für den Christen Richtschnur für Lehre und Leben ist, bleibt zu fragen, wie die Feuerbestattung aus biblischer Perspektive einzuordnen ist.

Alles in allem bleibt bei mir folgender Eindruck:

– das AT u. NT geben keinen direkten Hinweis zur Kremation, insofern können Christen zu unterschiedlichen Auffassungen kommen

– der Trend hin zur Kremation kann vorsichtig als Symptom für den Verlust eines biblischen Anthropologie in unserer Gesellschaft gedeutet werden

– die Apostel, die Kirchenväter und nachfolgende Generationen haben wegen der tiefen Verbundenheit mit Christus und der Auferstehungshoffnung (vor allem hier die Auferstehung des Körpers!) die Kremation verurteilt. Warum nicht bei dieser Tradition bleiben?

(This from a German blog, en kyriō.)

The gist of this is a question as to how cremation is to be viewed from a biblical perspective. The answer, as Dave cites it, is that there is no direct statement on the issue in Scripture. The trend to cremation (i.e., as a practice in Western society) is due to the loss of a biblical anthropology. The blog author argues that we ought to follow the tradition of burial that has been the practice of the church since the apostles.

Though tradition itself is not authoritative, it is significant in that there must be some basis for such a widespread practice. The key to the recent popularity of cremation is, as this blog post states, as a “Symptom für den Verlust eines biblischen Anthropologie in unserer Gesellschaft”–symptom of the loss of a biblical anthropology in our society. With that I certainly agree.

I’ve written extensively on this in the past. You can find several of my articles on the subject here. These were to have become a book in which a publisher had expressed an interest, but, unfortunately, my circumstances of this year have necessitated that such a project be postponed. I will be hard pressed as it is to finish the two I’m working on now by the publishers’ deadlines (Aug 2011 and Sept 2012), so adding a third would have been unwise. Perhaps at some later time…

(A book on cremation, as an adaptation of what I’ve already written, could be banged out in a month or two, but the other two are technical grammatical works that take a lot more time. The first is a grammatical handbook on Mark, the second is also a grammatical work, as yet officially unannounced, but under contract.)