28 March 2007

Proverbs 15 and Reproof

I’m reading Proverbs right now and pondered today the 33 proverbs that comprise chapter 15. Several times throughout this chapter the writer speaks of the wisdom which welcomes reproof, rebuke, correction (vv. 5, 10, 12, 22, 31, 32).

I thought: the difference between the wise person and the fool when it comes to reproof is not that the wise does not need it and the fool does. The line of distinction is not that some need reproof and some don’t. All need it. The line of demarcation is who accepts it.

In a strange way, the one who welcomes a rebuke is wiser than the one who thinks he does not need it. It is paradoxical. It is the very admission of failure and acceptance of help that automatically diagnoses one as wise; whereas it is the resistance to admitting failure and rejection of help – that is, thinking one does not need it – that proves that one does.

This is the gospel, is it not? The one who admits failure is pardoned; the one who maintains a self-generated righteousness is lost.

SBTS This Week

Dr. Piper's message in chapel at Southern Seminary yesterday (Tue) on 2 Cor. 1:24. He speaks again tomorrow (Thu).

26 March 2007

Tomlin in St. Louis

This weekend my wife Stacey and brother Gavin and I went to a Chris Tomlin concert here in St. Louis, the second-to-last stop on the How Great Is Our God tour. Matt Redman also led worship, and Louie Giglio, founder of Passion, spoke on the greatness of God.

Words don't describe what it is like for Chris et al to lead us into God's presence with loud, God-centered music. I loved it, and pray for more of this in the PCA and across the Western Church.

Feathers and Mountains

Archibald Alexander on the differences of external circumstance and living conditions between this world's rich and poor:

"Indeed, so short is the time of man's continuance upon earth, and so infinite the joys or miseries of the future world, that to make much of these little differences would be like estimating the weight of a feather, when engaged in weighing mountains."

23 March 2007

Treasure in a Field

Matthew 13:44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

I noticed something today I never saw before. I've always focused on two elements of this short parable: the value of the kingdom, and the joy of the one who found it. Those come through strongly.

But a third element is this. Upon finding the treasure, the man does not pick it up and take it with him. (I suppose we could suggest it was too big to be moved, but the fact that he covers it up indicates otherwise. Covering it up seems to say he wanted to buy the field before anyone else discovered the treasure and staked a claim on it.) Instead he goes and sells all he has and comes back and buys the field in which the treasure had been buried. My observation is that we adjust ourselves to the Kingdom, we do not expect the Kingdom to adjust to us. The man didn't take the tresure with him, he left everything behind and came to the treasure.

We give up all we have hoped in and counted on, and leaving it all behind we bank everything on the Kingdom. I wonder if much of the Church here in America, which is all that I'm familiar with, has tried to retain their lives with all its values and securities, instead of adjusting themselves to God.

19 March 2007

Psalm 84:11

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

God is above me, illumining - 'a sun'
God is before me, protecting - 'a shield'
God is for me, dignifying - 'bestows favor and honor'
God is with me, lavishing - 'no good thing...'

Food for a hungry heart.

Archibald Alexander: Free Grace

In Thoughts on Religious Experience, Archibald Alexander (founder of Princeton Seminary) asks why spiritual growth is so slow in us. He gives 4 reasons; here is the first.

First, there is a defect in our belief of the freeness of divine grace. To exercise unshaken confidence in the doctrine of gratuitous pardon is one of the most difficult things in the world; and to preach this doctrine fully without verging towards antinomianism is no easy task, and is therefore seldom done. But Christians cannot but be lean and feeble when deprived of the proper nutriment. . . . the doctrine of free grace, without any mixture of human merit, is the only true object of faith. Christians are too much inclined to depend on themselves, and not to derive their life entirely from Christ. There is a spurious legal religion, which may flourish without the practical belief in the absolute freeness of divine grace, but it possesses none of the characteristics of the Christian's life. . . . even when the true doctrine is acknowledged, in theory, often it is not practically felt and acted on. . . . Here, I am persuaded, is the root of the evil; and until religious teachers inculcate clearly, fully, and practically, the grace of God as manifested in the gospel, we shall have no vigorous growth of piety among professing Christians. (201-02)

15 March 2007

The Hermeneutics of Faith

The key argument, as I understand it, of Francis Watson's Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith is that Paul did not have his own free-floating, independent theological system, which he then went to the Hebrew Bible to validate; rather his theology was itself generated by Scripture, especially Torah. Pauline writings are in fact an interpretative venture (interpretation of the Torah). The direction is OT to Paul, not Paul to OT.

Specifically, Watson argues that Paul was an interpreter of the Torah just as his Jewish contemporaries were, but they read the same Scripture differently. Hence to read Paul is to pursue his hermeneutics - the Pauline theological task is fundamentally a hermeneutical one - and Paul specifically operated with a hermeneutics of faith, particularly rooted in Hab 2:4. The task of understanding Paul therefore involves a threefold field of intertextuality, as Watson calls it - involving Paul, his contemporaries, and the OT.

One of the things I've appreciated as I read this book is the way Watson takes Luther seriously - and when he disagrees, he cites original Luther writings, not secondary sources or well-worn accusations about how Luther read a sixteenth century Catholic meritocracy into first-century Judaism and Paul. For example, he closes one chapter by saying:

[I]t is not part of my intention (conscious, subconscious, or whatever) to "rehabilitate Luther." Many of the reasons for the current anti-Lutheran climate in Pauline studies are good ones, and the retractations I would now make of things I said on this matter in an earlier book (Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles, 1986) are few and qualified. Yet there is a potential danger that certain exegetical possibilities will be ruled out in advance merely because of their apparent proximity to Luther. Such an attitude is more suited to some heresy-hunting orthodoxy than to a critical scholarly discipline. (29)

The only concern I register so far is that Watson at times attributes to the law what ought to be attributed to sin. That is, I believe at times he ought to attribute to human failure the impotence of the law to secure human righteousness, and not some defect in the law itself (e.g. 57).

14 March 2007

Romans 10:2

A few good links I've discovered on 'zeal according to knowledge':

"Zeal According to Knowledge," Shane Rosenthal (Modern Reformation 1991)

"Christian Zeal," J. C. Ryle (Tony Cappocia 2001)

"Zeal an Essential Virtue of a Christian," Jonathan Edwards (Works, Vol. 22, 1740)

"How to Submit to the Righteousness of God," John Piper (Desiring God 2003)
I don't normally include family stuff here--it just isn't the purpose of this site--but THAT is one cute kid!!

Wright : Barclay

Wish I could have been at this debate.

(HT: DR)

13 March 2007

12 March 2007

A Dragon in Job?

In Job 41 God describes "Leviathan" in what sounds more Arthurian than biblical. Evidently the creature breathes fire. Is this: a proleptic description of Satan, the "dragon" of Revelation? Is it God using human language to describe a non-existent creature with which Job and others would be familiar? Is it a real creature, described accurately and since extinct? Or is it a real creature (crocodile perhaps) described hyperbolically for rhetorical effect?

14 Who can open the doors of his face? Around his teeth is terror. 15 His back is made of rows of shields, shut up closely as with a seal. 16 One is so near to another that no air can come between them. 17 They are joined one to another; they clasp each other and cannot be separated. 18 His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn. 19 Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. 20 Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. 21 His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth. 22 In his neck abides strength, and terror dances before him. 23 The folds of his flesh stick together, firmly cast on him and immovable. 24 His heart is hard as a stone, hard as the lower millstone. 25 When he raises himself up the mighty are afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves. 26 Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail, nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin. 27 He counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood. 28 The arrow cannot make him flee; for him sling stones are turned to stubble. 29 Clubs are counted as stubble; he laughs at the rattle of javelins. 30 His underparts are like sharp potsherds; he spreads himself like a threshing sledge on the mire. 31 He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment. 32 Behind him he leaves a shining wake; one would think the deep to be white-haired. 33 On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear. 34 He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.

08 March 2007


I've posted before on the remarkable and free resources (class lectures by various evangelical profs) made possible by Bill Mounce at biblicaltraining.org. I received the following (mass-sent) email from BT, if anyone is interested.

Biblical Training is partnering with Reclaiming the Mind Ministries to sponsor a unique broadcast called "Converse with Scholars" (CWS). CWS connects you with the best in Christian scholarship, giving you opportunities to talk to top scholars in theology, biblical studies, and philosophy. Best of all, you can participate online from your own home. For more information on future guests and joining CWS, please visit www.conversewithscholars.org.

Reclaiming the Mind Ministries has been making wide use of BiblicalTraining. What they bring for us is the ability to periodically work with some of the professors who have given courses to BT.


Power up your computers for a special 2-hour Converse with Scholars program on Thursday, March 8th at 8 PM EST!

Our first hour will feature a special presentation on the Talpiot tomb by renowned scholar, author, and speaker Gary R. Habermas. Don't miss this opportunity to hear today's leading authority on the resurrection!

A bonus hour will feature three distinguished panelists--Michael R. Licona, Robert M. Bowman, Jr., and Daniel B. Wallace--who will respond to Gary's comments, share their own insights, and answer your questions about the latest media craze surrounding Jesus!

Thank you,
Your friends at BiblicalTraining

06 March 2007

Dever/Piper/Ware Discussion

A helpful discussion between Mark Dever and John Piper on the following topics:
  • Limited Atonement (the "L" in TULIP)(Bruce Ware participates in this, who has been misdiagnosed as a 4-point Calvinist; for further thought I suggest Packer's introductory essay to John Owen's Death of Death, which settled my mind on it once and for all)
  • N. T. Wright and justification
  • Jonathan Edwards (and what to read first)
  • being "missional"
  • the relationship between social action and evangelism
  • church structure (congregationalism vs. plurality of elders)
  • the role of the government and the Christian's civil responsibility
  • mega-churches
  • abortion

This was a discussion held at Dever's church in D.C. during the week of ETS last November.


05 March 2007

Watson: NPP

An excellent (and humorous!) 2001 article on the New Perspective from Francis Watson, professor of NT at Aberdeen, who argued for the NPP in the 1980s (in this book) but has changed his mind (in this book). He suggests a new 5 points of the NPP, using the acronym--you guessed it--TULIP. Humor aside, it is a brief but penetrating, to my mind, critique of the NPP. I am grateful for it.

Here's a fascinating excerpt (especially considering that the fundamentally sociological approach which Watson criticizes is the approach he himself took 20 years ago), which I think is right on. Italics are mine.

The law, it is said, functions primarily to assert and preserve the difference between the elect and the Gentiles, and that is why 'boundary markers' such as circumcision come to the fore as fundamental to Jewish identity. The terminology and conceptuality here are derived from the social sciences, and therefore bring with them the assumption that a social-scientific account of the phenomena in question will shed far more light on their reality than a traditional theological one.

Sometimes these social-scientific accounts of the phenomena of the New Testament appear to be simply misguided - as, for example, when we're offered massive over-generalizations about something called 'ancient Mediterranean culture', in its contrast to an alleged 'modern western individualism'. On other occasions, the problem is that the social-scientific terminology and conceptuality produces conclusions that are not so much wrong as superficial. Certain practices may indeed serve to differentiate an in-group from an out-group. We remain seated to pray, and this differentiates us from those others, who kneel to pray. We fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, whereas they fast on Mondays and Thursdays - to take an example from the Didache. Yet the functionalist explanation of these practices in terms of group boundaries leaves unanswered the question why the in-group should wish to differentiate itself from an out-group in the first place. Why is the in-group a group at all? The answer is that the so-called 'boundary markers' function internally within a far more complex network of practices and beliefs that constitute the group's particular ethos and are sanctioned by its core ideology. Identity is not to be understood only in negative terms, as though one could be something purely by not being something else. On the contrary, group identity must be constituted positively as well as negatively; it must have its own positive content, offering its members or would-be members a total framework or paradigm within which life is to be lived. Identity is necessarily clarified by differentiation from others, but differentiation in itself cannot constitute that identity. A functionalist account of certain practices as reinforcing group boundaries tends to abstract them from the group's internal economy, which cannot be adequately explained in terms of any functionalist reduction, but can ultimately only be described. But to describe the ideology, ethos and practice of a group, in terms of its positively and negatively constituted identity, one must give an account of its 'theology'.

Here’s another gem:

In interpreting the relevant Pauline texts, the new perspective repeatedly performs a characteristic exegetical manoeuvre in three steps. Here's how it works. Step one: we observe that a Pauline text appears to be contrasting the logic of the gospel with the logic of a Jewish or Jewish Christian understanding of the law. Paul speaks of grace over against law, faith over against works; he seems to set believing the gospel of divine saving action over against practising the law. Step two: we know, however, that the point of these Pauline antitheses cannot be to contrast the gospel's emphasis on divine agency with a Jewish emphasis on human agency. If we think we see this antithesis between divine and human agency in Paul, we're still held captive by the ideology of the Reformation, resulting as it must do in a hostile caricature of Judaism. But how do we know that an antithesis between divine and human agency cannot be present in Paul's texts? Because Sanders has taught us that Judaism was and is a religion of grace; and, on this matter, Sanders speaks not only the truth but also the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Step three: we must therefore read the Pauline antithesis differently, as an 'ecclesiological' statement about the nature of the people of God. For Paul, 'faith' represents an inclusive understanding of the people of God as including non-law-observant Gentiles; 'works' represents an exclusive understanding of the people of God according to which full conversion to the practice of Judaism is a necessary precondition of salvation. What Paul is propounding is, in effect, an inclusive, universal, liberal form of Jewish covenant theology. To summarize the three steps, then. Step one: observation of an apparent antithesis in Paul's texts between divine grace and human law-observance. Step two: rejection of the view that this amounts to an antithesis between divine and human agency, with an appeal to the authority of Sanders. Step three: reinterpretation of the antithesis as arising from debate about the scope of the covenant people. With a little practice, this three-step routine becomes almost second nature. It's simple enough to be taught even to first year undergraduates. Yet we need to unlearn this routine, and stop teaching it to others. It rests on an inadequate reading both of the non-Christian Jewish literature and of Paul.

Promised Good

The Lord has promised good to me
His Word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine