Archive for September, 2007

Weekend Fun

Who is the “Seed of Abraham”?

In Genesis 12:3 the foundation is laid for the concept of blessing the seed of Abraham. The LORD tells Abram, “. . . And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Not using any sort of hermeneutical principle employing grammatical historical exegesis but speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:8 that this was a pre-cross (“beforehand”) promise of the gospel.

The NT usage of the concept “seed of Abraham” (sometimes translated “descendents ” as in the NASU or “offspring” in ESV) is not used in one exclusive way in the NT. A common fallacy among some interpreters is to exalt one usage of “seed” to the exclusion of the other usages as if one canceled out the others. John Feinberg has warned of this when he writes, “no sense (spiritual especially) is more important than any other senses.”

So how is this concept used in the NT?

  • In can refer to biological descendants of Abraham such as in Romans 4:13, 16.
  • It can refer to the Messiah, who is uniquely the individual seed of Abraham as in Galatians 3:16.
  • It can refer to the righteous remnant of Israel (cf. Isaiah 41:8 with Romans 9:6).
  • It can refer in a spiritual sense to believing Jews and Gentiles in the faith as in Galatians 3:29.

Sunday: The Best Day of the Week

Our friend Sean Higgins has penned a thoughtful series on “The Best Day of the Week.”

Part One: The Lord’s Day
Part Two: The First Day
Part Three: Caveats and Clarification
Part Four: The Best Day

What not to do when reading the Scripture

Could I offer any examples of reading Scripture backwards that could discombobulate the meaning of OT texts? Yes, but first a warning. When we quote someone here by way of disagreement it should not be read that we are pronouncing Ichabod on a man or his ministerial work. The man I am about to quote is right-on in just about everything he set his quill pen to. However he offers the following example which I think is misguided. Another caveat: I understand that we don’t start with Genesis 1:1 every time we preach or read Scripture. This discussion concerns which Testament informs the other. Thus far we have been arguing that priority goes to the OT. In the year 1592, William Perkins argued the opposite in his classic The Arte of Prophesying:

” Read the Scriptures in the following order, Using grammatical, rhetorical and logical analysis, and the relevant ancillary studies, read Paul’s Letter to the Romans first of all. After that, the Gospel of John. These are the keys to the New Testament, Thereafter, the other books of the New Testament will be more easily understood. When you have completed this, study the doctrinal books of the Old Testament, especially the Psalms; then the prophetic books, especially Isaiah. Lastly, the historical books, particularly Genesis.”

UPDATED: Are we rationalist?

(Thanks to Mr. R. Scott Clark who has responded to this post.  After reading his post my initial concerns and objections remain. For further explanation, see my comments to our friend Colin Adam here below. I have given about as much attention to this as I can at the moment. Matt will be back at the end of the week and can then give a follow-up to his post. Thanks to all and especially Mr. Clark for the interaction.)

R. Scott Clark has responded to Matt’s post with the following:

“It’s isn’t that complicated. Pay close attention here: The Apostolic hermeneutic is to see Christ at the center of all of Scripture. We’re not reading him into
Scripture. We’re refusing to read him out of it. There, I said it.
That’s what it is. Perhaps the reason our dispensational friends cannot
see it is because they are blinded by their rationalism.”

His response is as misguided as it is seemingly uncharitable. Clark has used the classic red herring that this is a “dispensational vs. reformed” theology dispute. History and the facts could not be more opposed to such lines of thought. My concern is not that the world put their faith and trust in dispensationalism or the Westminster standards for that matter. I will be the first to admit that many classic dispensationalist have erected mountains where there should be smooth plains but I will also point out that many reformed interpreters have flattened the text and are quick to excuse elements of discontinuity. I really don’t care about labels such as these because, more often than not, they merely confuse or misdirect where simple clarification can be more helpful. If a label has to be qualified a thousand times before it can be understood then it may be more helpful to simply explain your perspective.

Additionally, those who are currently writing on these issues from more dispensational vantage points would have no problem saying that Jesus the Messiah stands at the center of Scripture. Clark needs to do better than pull out fifty year-old third-hand negative quotes from Dwight Pentecost to bolster his supposed argument. I have no problem saying that the anticipation of the OT was the Messiah and that the NT is the realization of that expectant hope. Don’t most Christians say this? To suggest otherwise is slight of hand meant to confuse or belittle those raising dissenting questions.

Clark also drops the “R” word saying that his dispensational friends are blinded by rationalism. Really? Did he actually read Waymeyer’s post where he stated in albeit, rational terminology: “Of course, any principle which cannot be proven clearly from Scripture would not be allowed on the list and should not be used by the one committed to using the apostles hermeneutic.” This does not sound like a plea for interpreters to rest on their reasoning or enlightenment posteriors.

Last time I checked, christology is a branch of systmematic theology and not a branch of hermeneutics but don’t get everything bunched-up just yet. Please do not conclude from this that we think Jesus the Messiah is somehow absent in the OT, no far from it! Kaiser (not a dispensationalist mind you) rightly notes, “To reject the Old Testament as the prior, authoritative revelation of God is to reject the Bible’s own basis for determining who is and who is not the Messiah.” So the question still remains: if “the Apostolic hermeneutic is to see Christ at the center of all of Scripture” then how do you do that without resorting to a subjective approach or worse a hyper-allegorical approach to the OT? Additionally what are the specific principles in this regard that can be objectively applied to every passage of the OT?

Jude 14-15 application

Apostates come in all shapes and sizes.  In Jude 15, Jude talks about the coming judgment of Christ (during his 2nd coming).  The text says Jesus will come “to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds and…of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

MSNBC records a recent example of sinful speech in a recent news article. 

 ‘Oct. 1, 2007 issue – Some stories are best told straight. On Sept. 8, Kathy Griffin, a bawdy, foulmouthed comedian, accepted an Emmy Award for her reality show, My Life on the D-List, and in her acceptance speech she explained that while other actors might thank Jesus for such an honor, she wouldn’t consider it. Suck it, Jesus,‘ she exuberantly added, waving her statuette in the air. ‘This award is my God, now.'”

Jude 4-16 makes a very sobering point: Sin and judgment go hand and in hand! 

With that said, praise God for his grace and his forbearance!  Perhaps Kathy will repent and embrace this Jesus as her Savior and Lord one day?  For her sake i pray she does!!!

What Exactly is the “Apostles’ Hermeneutic”?

In a recent blog post entitled “Dispensationalism and Modernism,” Tom Hicks writes that one of the biggest problems with dispensationalism is its refusal “to accept as paradigmatic and normative the NT’s own hermeneutic of the OT.” According to Hicks, the hermeneutic we use should be derived from the Bible itself.

This criticism of dispensationalism is often articulated in terms of an exhortation to imitate the “apostles’ hermeneutic.” In other words, rather than coming up with our own hermeneutic, we should seek to discern the hermeneutic modeled by the apostles in the way they handled the OT, and then we should use that same hermeneutic to interpret Scripture.

As often as this argument is repeated, it is interesting that nobody actually sets forth exactly what they believe the “apostles’ hermeneutic” to be. I find myself waiting for a list of hermeneutical principles, each one with biblical references from the OT and NT which show clearly where this specific principle is modeled by the NT writer’s use of the OT. Something along the lines of this:

  1. Principle #1: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  2. Principle #2: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  3. Principle #3: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  4. Principle #4: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  5. Principle #5: _______________________ (OT/NT)

And so on. Of course, any principle which cannot be proven clearly from Scripture would not be allowed on the list and should not be used by the one committed to using the “apostles’ hermeneutic.”

In case you can’t tell, I’m not very optimistic that such a list could be produced. As I wrote in a previous post here at Expository Thoughts, whenever I hear about the need to use the “apostles’ hermeneutic,” I find myself with questions like these:

What exactly is the “apostles’ hermeneutic”? What exactly is this pattern that modern-day interpreters are to follow? What specific hermeneutical principles are modeled by the NT writers that should guide contemporary interpretation? Can they be stated propositionally? If so, what are they? If not, why not? Should these hermeneutical principles be applied consistently to all of Scripture, or only certain parts of it? If only certain parts, which parts, and why only those parts?

I realize that these questions may seem designed to badger more than inquire, but I think they highlight part of the problem with exhorting people to avoid the evils of dispensational modernism in favor of a “biblical hermeneutic.” After all, if we’re going to use the so-called “apostles’ hermeneutic,” we need to know what it is, don’t we?

Doug Pagitt apologizes on behalf of John MacArthur

Between reading Listening to the Beliefs of the Emergent Church and Preaching Re-Imagined I feel like I have a fairly good grasp on Emergent/emerging/emergentising/emergentologist/emergentherapist Doug Pagitt. I agree with Mark Driscoll who responded to Pagitt in Listening to the Beliefs that “I am left to wonder if his pleading for love is something he also believes should be ‘ever-changing,’ and some future evolution of Christianity could embrace violent injustice yet remain faithful?” (146-47).

In case you missed it, Doug Pagitt has also taken on a new role, that of spokesperson for John MacArthur and Pagitt has issued an apology for John. (HT:His royal Philness).

FOOTNOTE: Some of you may be wondering why I would even mention this kind of rubbish on a blog that is for preachers and preaching. Well, Doug Pagitt is talking and writing a lot about preaching and the bottom line is that he hunts preaching down, cuts out its heart, mounts it on his wall and then takes his picture by it (in the form of his book Preaching Re-Imagine).

For those wanting to interact further allow me to suggest that a recent edition of The Master’s Seminary Journal (vol. 17, Num. 2, Fall 2006) should be required reading for expositors if for no other reason than Rick Holland’s article on “emergent preaching” entitled: “Progressional Dialogue & Preaching: Are They the Same?” Rick takes on the growing trend that has turned the pulpit into a place for “progressional dialogue” resulting in “intentional interplay of multiple viewpoints” which has been part and parcel of the emerging church dialogue. The chief proponent of this view has been Doug Pagitt who has authored the provocative Preaching Re-Imagined. Holland argues (persuasively in my mind) that Pagitt’s counsel has more footing in Fosdick than Scripture. Surrounding the whole “emerging church” debate there has been little shortage of thoughts and ideas from a plethora of viewpoints but relatively little has been written specifically dealing with the preaching style of the movement. Rick’s analysis is a great place to start and will certainly balance-out the presently vapid tone of discussion that has permeated this overlooked area.

Imitating the illimitable and illustrative (i.e., learning to write)

Zinsser says, “If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”

Obvious but good advice. I would also add that ones ability to write increases with consumption of actual books rather than blogs. I am learning to turn off that thing in my brain that says I need to speed-read everything that comes across my plate. When it comes to productive reading which is meant to shape, change, convict and conform it has been better for me to read and digest before moving on. Also, all those stories that we hear about our theological heroes (both ancient and contemporary) and “how many books they read” everyday or every week are not helping anyone. Should the measure of a man really be how many ideas he has read or how he has been shaped by a few of those ideas? It seems that the latter of the two usually have more to say and if they write, their books seem to have a more lasting value.

And another thing, I love to peruse second-hand book stores. You may have noticed like I have that many of the same old books appear in these stores (I’m thinking of their theology/religion sections). It’s as if there were some books that were meant to only be sold at dusty little stores in downtown areas. Have you ever wondered why this is the case? My theory is that folks want to get rid of bad books and tend to hold on to works that have made a lasting contribution. This is why finding good books in these stores can be quite a chore yet rubbish is plentiful. It also should be a warning to every would be writer to try and write something that won’t be relegated to the dusty shelves of the Booklegger in Huntsville, AL or Books on Brand in Glendale, CA.

“Suffer the children” or suffering children’s ministries?

One of our savvy readers posed the following questions:

“AWANA. How do you view their position on salvation? What is your approach in teaching children about salvation? How is the best way to evangelize children?”

AWANA: As to the first question about AWANA I have no first-hand experience in our church as we do not use the AWANA program. However, I have been a part of churches that use it successfully with great benefit to the parents and children involved. That being said, I know that many have voiced concern as to how the curriculum seems to encourage “bottom-line” style evangelism for children (i.e., working to seek a “decision”). However, any such program can be fine-tuned for a church’s needs and doctrinal persuasion. Programs like this will be as strong or weak as the leadership that oversees such ministries in each church. Some of our other contributors actually use the program so I’ll let them weigh-in on this one.

Approach to salvation: I grew up in what might be called a distinctively man-centered children’s ministry. I came through it in the late 70’s and into the 80’s and our church was one of the first mega-churches to “explore” children’s ministry possibilities. There were over 1,000 children in that ministry at its peek. I learned a ton of information including many gospel basics but week in and week out I was pressed with a heavy hand to make a decision for Jesus. What kid growing up in church would not raise his hand when asked if he loved Jesus? Looking back it is clear to me that the entire ministry was designed to do what parents should have been doing all along.

Now there are some (many of whom I count as friends) who have in my opinion over corrected this problem and have called for what they deem family-integrated churches which means the children are never separated from their parents for any ministry. When I started here at the church there were a few families that had been drinking from this cistern and they encouraged me to cancel all Sunday schools and even women’s Bible studies in an effort to unite church and home. Those families are long gone and now they each have “churches” in their homes which no one attends but their children (for now anyways). See here for an excellent interview about “family integrated churches.”

At our church we have tried to steer clear of these extremes by coming along side parents in their God-given roles. In fact we state that “The Children’s Ministry at Grace Community Church is designed to come along side the normal parental training and help further equip children to learn about God through teaching, games, crafts and various activities.” This all assumes that parents are the ones responsible to evangelize their children. So we encourage our parents to read to their children, to talk openly about Christ and to lead their child to see their greatest need. This takes patience, faithfulness, and boldness on the part of parents. We have SS and activities for children but it is all designed to help the parents and continually point the children to Christ without the pressure to report “decisions”. All of this means that we spend a lot of time (publicly and privately) encouraging our parents to fulfill their responsibility to evangelize their children. We also remind one another that some will plant, others will water but it is God who causes the growth.

On the practical side of things, my wife and I read with our children everyday. This helps us to lay a foundation of truth in their hearts. With our little ones (2.5 yrs and 10 mo.) we read to them from The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible. With our five year old we read from the classic The Child’s Story Bible which was written many years ago by Catherine Vos, the wife of Dutch-Reformed theologian Geerhardus Vos. We also try to show our kids that following Christ is not something we do merely at set times but is an all day everyday pursuit. So we find ourselves always talking about Jesus even at the most unexpected places and times. As a pastor I give out lots of copies of Dennis Gundersen’s excellent little book Your Child’s Profession of Faith and also Jim Eliff’s article on Childhood Conversion. I would also mention that I do not consider my unbelieving children as members of the New Covenant simply because they are under my household. We pray that they will repent and then be baptized and that their faith will grow as they live for the glory of Christ. What a great responsibility and an awesome privilege we have as parents. May God strengthen our steps and show His favor!

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