Don't Miss the Forest for the TreesLast week I wrote an as-condensed-as-possible version of the great story of redemption, tracing God’s gracious promise to provide the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent through the Old Testament. We looked at how that promise narrowed from the seed of the woman, to the seed of Abraham, to the nation of Israel, and to the line of David. We saw how Israel’s repeated failure to be faithful to the covenants Yahweh established with them all pointed to the One who would exemplify covenant faithfulness and fulfill all righteousness on behalf of His people. To put it another way, contrary to what some believe about dispensationalists and the Old Testament, we observed how the whole of the Old Testament finds its climax and fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the Israelite par-excellence, and the Son of David. If you’ve not read that post, I’d encourage you to do so.

I mentioned in that post that a great help for interpreting the Bible properly consists in keeping that big picture in the front of our mind so that we can interpret the parts in light of the whole. We don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. This is especially helpful in the Old Testament, where the increased historical, cultural, geographical, literary, and even covenantal gaps can make us raise our eyebrows at not a few passages, which just seem wholly unfamiliar.

Now, we need to be sure that we interpret each passage on its own terms, according to its context, always in search of the intent of the original author. But keeping this grand narrative of redemptive history in mind and locating at what point in the story of redemption that a particular passage finds itself, can often help us understand why some more obscure (or at least, seemingly-removed) passages are in the Bible. Passages that look like road blocks or obstacles in our Bible-reading plans can be transformed (at least in our perception, anyway) by relating them to the larger story of redemptive history.

Today I’d like to just share a few examples.

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2000_YearsThis post wraps up our list of 10 reasons why church history is important … and why you should care about it. To access the previous three articles (for the complete list) click here (Part 1), here (Part 2), and here (Part 3).

8. Because just as we can learn from the good examples of faithful Christians (see Reason #7), we likewise have much to learn from those who failed at various points.

It is an old cliché, but often true: those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

In church history, we see examples of all kinds of spiritual failure. There are those who fell into heresy, those who gave way to corruption, those who denied the faith, and those who fell morally. The lives of such individuals serve as a warning for us.

In 2 Corinthians 6:10–12, the apostle Paul uses the negative illustration of the Israelites in the wilderness to teach his readers an important spiritual lesson. Paul’s example sets a precedent for the way we think about both biblical history and church history. Continue Reading…

dispensationaismDavid Murray is a prof at Puritan Reformed Seminary who normally blogs at Head, Heart, Hands–a blog I often read and frequently recommend. Yesterday though he posted at Ligonier’s blog, and he gave seven reasons why preachers neglect the OT. Number four on his list was

…cue ominous music…

“dispensationalism.”

Now I don’t want to be a knee-jerk dispensationalist-blogger and over-react to a passing comment with undue defense or anything, but I couldn’t help but notice that dispensationalism appeared on his list with some uncouth company. In the case of the missing OT, here are Murray’s suspects, and you should read this list while humming the Sesame Street song, One of these things is not Like the Other:

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August 20, 2013

Becoming Like Children

by Joey Newton

smiling baby w momChristians think, feel, and act different from the world. Now, by the world, I mean – of course – the world system. The parts of this world that are what they are because they are not submitted to God and in love with all He is for us in Christ. The world that John describes in 1 John 2:15-17. This should not surprise us, for this world “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and this “evil one” has “blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who its the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Christians, by contrast, are those who have seen the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), who “have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), who have been made “new creatures” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), and are different from the world. Thus, to be in the kingdom requires nothing less conversion – to become as a child.   Continue Reading…

Airport security seems to have surrendered common sense as a weapon in the war against terror. In a desperate attempt to appear politically correct and unbiased toward Arab Muslims, the TSA eschews profiling techniques. Profiling is when a person is singled out based on certain traits that they have in common with previous terrorist attacks. For example, the 9/11 bombers were all young, single, Arab, Muslim, males.

sneaky terroristThe lack of profiling begets some silly scenarios, as when a soldier traveling with his platoon in full uniform had his nail clippers confiscated…but not his gun. Or, the case in February 2011, when Alaska State Representative, Sharon Cissna refused to allow the TSA to inspect the scars of her mastectomy surgery. She was barred from boarding the plane because common sense might look like bias, even though it is an undisputed fact that no lady’s prosthetic breast (or nail clippers for that matter) have ever been used in any assault on land, air, or sea.

On the other hand, if profiling had been allowed, perhaps they would have prevented what happened on Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas Eve 2010 when Umar Farouk Abdul-mutal-lab, a 23 year told, single, Muslim  male, who paid cash for a one-way ticket, and checked no luggage, cruised through airport security without any hassles. But when the plane was in flight, he promptly activated the explosives stashed in his underwear. Fortunately, instead of exploding, his underwear just caught on fire. Three passengers incapacitated him (while, as I imagine, children nearby chanted “Liar, liar…”).

Sometimes just a smidgen of common sense is needed to know that if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… it might just be a duck.hunter spotting

When evaluating a seminary on the spectrum of conservative to liberal, right to left, no one can know everything about all seminaries. So, here is a little toolkit of implements with which to diagnostically delve around in their doctrinal statement.

Unearthing the truth may take some CSI inspired sleuthing on your part. Some seminaries, who covet the sobriquet “conservative” without earning it, may surreptitiously conceal what they really teach for the sake of recruitment.

The clues to discover the species of poultry you are hunting for are to be found nesting in passages that have contentious interpretive conundrums with both a conservative and liberal solution. If a seminary’s faculty consistently falls on the side of the more liberal views, then that is a quacking sound which belies the presence of a duck. Let the hunt begin…

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Recently I had the opportunity to teach a condensed class on an introduction to hermeneutics, or basic principles of Bible interpretation. One of the things we mentioned was the importance of understanding the parts in light of the whole—of keeping the big picture in mind as we seek to understand the scenes frame by frame. Today I’d like to share with you what I celebrated with them.

Greatest StoryGod’s goal in all of His creative and redemptive work is to bring glory to Himself (Isa 43:7; cf. Eph 1:6, 12, 14).

This is expressed in His creation mandate to Adam and Eve, in which He commissions man, as those uniquely made in His image, to rule over the earth in righteousness (Gen 1:28). Man is to bring glory to God by their manifesting His presence as His vice-regent throughout all creation.

But immediately Adam and Eve fail in their commission. The serpent deceives Eve, Adam eats of the forbidden tree, and in that moment the human race is catapulted into spiritual death and damnation (Gen 3:1–7).

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Two weeks ago, we began a series articulating ten reasons every Christian should learn more about church history. So far, we have considered the first four on our list of ten. Today we will consider three more reasons why church history is important … and why it should matter to you.

5. Because sound doctrine has been guarded and passed down by faithful generations throughout history.

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul told his son in the faith: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” To study church history is to meet the generations of Christians who loved biblical truth and faithfully passed it on to those who came after. Moreover, it is encouraging to know that the truths we hold dear have been cherished by believers all the way back to the time of the apostles.

Apostle_Paul

The study of church history reminds us that we are standing on the shoulders of those who have come before us. The halls of history are filled with accounts of those who loved the truth and fought valiantly to preserve it. Thus, while we recognize that church history is not authoritative (only Scripture is), we are wise to glean from the wisdom of past church leaders, theologians, and pastors. Their creeds, commentaries, and sermons represent lifetimes of meditating on the text and walking with God. We would be unwise to ignore their voices and their insights — as we similarly seek to rightly divide the Word.

Furthermore, when we study church history we are reminded that some truths are worth fighting for (and dying for). We remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. And like those who have come before us, we too have a responsibility to faithfully guard the treasure of biblical truth and sound doctrine that has been entrusted to us, being careful to pass it on to the those who will follow us.

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A warning at the beginning: this post is a review of a book that costs $140, and will only be useful/helpful to Hebrew professors, Bible Translators, or Hebrew/seminary nerds. So, if this is you, welcome. If you manage a library frequented by those people, read on. Otherwise…well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Words have meaning in their context–that is obvious and self-evident. But why do authors choose certain words for certain contexts? Do words have unwritten rules that accompany them, and do these rules in-turn guide the author/speaker as he chooses which words work best in specific contexts? Daniel Leavins thinks so, and he lays out his case for that in the introduction to Verbs of Leading in the Hebrew Bible (Vol 11 in the series Perspectives on Hebrew Scriptures and its Contexts).

BibleLeavins surveys the current scholastic opinion on the role of syntax and semantics, and establishes the agreement that words function in classes, and that those classes follow patterns that convey meaning. He reviews the grammatical implications of that (such as the concept of cases), but then spends the rest of the book examining  one group of Hebrew verbs–verbs of leading (led, took, turned, brought, etc.). By placing these verbs into their own group, Leavins is free to look at what rules accompany that group. Namely, they require an actor (always a personal agent), an object, and a location.   Continue Reading…

August 13, 2013

The Suffering Son

by Joey Newton

Crown of ThornsHave you ever wondered why Jesus had to go through all that He did? I don’t mean just the suffering on the cross, where He bore the curse of the Law for us (Gal. 3:13) and drank the full cup of divine wrath for the sin of His people (Matt. 26:42). We understand that He was and had to be the propitiation – full satisfaction – for our sin (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). However, what I’m talking about is all the other stuff He suffered. Wasn’t the suffering of the cross enough? In one sense, yes, He paid the price in full and no greater sacrifice could be made. But in another sense, no, it wasn’t enough for Him to be our perfect Mediator. Now, that may be a shocking statement to some, but how about what the writer of Hebrews said: “He learned obedience through what He suffered … having be made perfect” (5:8-9). Yes, He “learned obedience,” and He was “made perfect” as our Mediator and High Priest. Continue Reading…

August 12, 2013

Faith in Æther

by Clint Archer

René Descartes (d. 1650) had some trouble trusting his senses. He coined the quintessential philosophical maxim: “I think therefore I am” because the only thing you can ever be sure even exists is yourself, since you are the one thinking that egotistical thought. Everything and everyone else in the Universe could be a figment of your imagination (or a product of the Matrix!) But that still proves that you have an imagination, and as the thinker you are thus the only one who certainly exists.

I find it both bemusing and amusing that Descartes also whole-heartedly bought into the implausible notion of luminiferous æther (or ether).space

Æther is a “substance” that was universally believed—by everyone from any literate third grader to the auspicious father of physics, Sir Isaac Newton himself—to occupy every nook and cranny of outer space. Since light behaves like a wave, it must have a substance through which to move from the stars to earth, which “proved” space was not a vacuum. Ether was described as invisible, weightless, causing no friction or any other effect that would prove its existence. Convenient.

And because the quirky quantum physicists hadn’t yet thrown their revolutionary curveball at all things Newtonian by proving light also has a particle nature, there was no way to disprove ether.

The scientific community lapped up the theory of ether like a thirsty, gullible puppy for centuries until in the 20th Century, when it was proven that ether simply did not exist. At all. Anywhere.

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