Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eugene Peterson's Apostasy

EP: "I haven’t had a lot of experience with it [i.e., homosexuality and same-sex marriage]. But I have been in churches when I was an associate pastor where there were several women who were lesbians. They didn’t make a big deal about it. I’d go and visit them and it never came up for them. They just assumed that they were as Christian as everybody else in the church.
In my own congregation — when I left, we had about 500 people — I don’t think we ever really made a big deal out of it. When I left, the minister of music left. She’d been there ever since I had been there. There we were, looking for a new minister of music. One of the young people that had grown up under my pastorship, he was a high school teacher and a musician. When he found out about the opening, he showed up in church one day and stood up and said, “I’d like to apply for the job of music director here, and I’m gay.” We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation. Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any questions about it. And he was a really good musician.
I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned."
In other words, he, and the churches in which he resides, have been in open rebellion and unrepentant sin for years by not disciplining those who claim to be Christians and are in open rebellion and unrepentant sin. It is no wonder he, and they, are given over to deception and further lawlessness.
Can you imagine if someone said this of something we actually still consider sin? "I knew of a couple serial killers in our church, and would just visit them and not make a big deal about it." Um, then you're a broken minister and should not be teaching anyone anything, much less a highly idiosyncratic paraphrase of the Bible. 

RNS: "A follow-up: If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?"

EP: "Yes."
We are all sinners, but we do not endorse sin, our own or that of others. If we do, we are not of God, but of the adversary who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning.
I never understood why Reformed folk would interview Peterson as though he was one of us (the White Horse Inn comes to mind) when it was always very clear to me, both from the Message paraphrase and his theological leanings toward postmodern/emerging religious tendencies that his spiritual and intellectual makeup was made more out of the zeitgeist than the Heilige Geist. 
"But he is a Presbyterian," some might say. To which I would respond, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing." This man can believe anything he wants, but he is not a Christian minister.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why the Sacraments Are Only Pictures: Evidence from the Gospel of John

Throughout the Gospel of John, John uses three sacraments (not two), as a substructure to the narrative, to represent the stages of the Christian life. I say “substructure” because John uses each to talk about what each represents: baptism = regeneration, communion = sanctification in receiving Jesus’ death as a sacrifice to cleanse from sin in the Christian life, and marriage = consummation at the second coming of Christ.

Baptism
In 3:5, water is used to refer to the birth of an individual, and an analogy is made with the new birth by the Spirit. Water turns to wine in 2:1-11 (i.e., allegorically speaking, one’s rebirth, using the ceremonial water for ritual cleansing, turns into cleansing by the blood sacrifice of Christ in his daily life). In 4:7-15, there is a great deal of talk about water and its representation of Jesus giving an eternal water that causes one to never need a drink again. In 7:37-39, the text states:
On the last day of the feastthe greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirstylet him come to meand let the one who believes in me drink.  Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” (Now he said this about the Spiritwhom those who believed in him were going to receivefor the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

The regeneration of the Spirit is represented by the water, but the water does not produce the regeneration of the Spirit. This is the point I want to make with all of this. These sacraments are pictures and nothing more. Jesus isn’t talking about the water at all. He’s using the water as a picture of what the Spirit does.
Jesus is predicted to be the one who baptizes not with water but by the Holy Spirit, the water being used again as an analogy to what the Spirit does, i.e., baptizes/cleanses in justification. Likewise, John contrasts the inability of the cleansing pool in Chapter 5 to heal the lame man with Jesus’ ability to heal him. The water again represents the cleansing, but is not the cleansing itself.

The Eucharist
In 2:1-11, Jesus is presented as the God of the Exodus account who turns water into blood, but the blood here is represented by wine. Likewise, in 19:34, both blood and water flow, and although this is often thought in modern medicine to refer to the piercing of the pericardium, it likely is stated by John as a picture of the communion that consists as wine mixed with water.
The eucharist is used in 6:53-58 to represent Jesus’ sacrifice.
Jesus said to them“I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal lifeand I will raise him up on the last day For my flesh is true foodand my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in meand I in him Just as the living Father sent meand I live because of the Fatherso the one who consumes me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heavenit is not like the bread your ancestors atebut then later died The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Again, Jesus uses the eucharist to represent His death that must be accepted as the sacrifice for sins. His death, not the bread and wine that only represents it, produces life. Hence, it is presented as eating His flesh and drinking His blood that produces life in the believer, and is done as a picture of his abiding in Christ (a term used to refer to sanctification in John, e.g., 15:1-10).

Marriage

The third, and lesser known and accepted, sacrament in John is marriage. It is somewhat remarkable that all of the sacraments are presented at the beginning of John in Christ’s first miracle: the water, the wine, and it is all done for the purpose of celebrating and establishing a marriage.

In 3:29, John the Baptist identifies Christ as the Bridegroom because He is the one who possesses the Bride.

In 14:1-3, Jesus states:

Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. OtherwiseI would have told youbecause I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for youI will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.

Here, Christ makes a wedding analogy, where the bridegroom goes to make a place ready in his father’s household to consummate the marriage. Marriage is the picture of the consummation at Christ’s return.

Conclusion

So there are three pictures/sacraments presented in John as representing the Christian life: baptism = justification, eucharist = sanctification, and marriage = glorification. What I want to say then is this. None of them produce what they represent, and the final sacrament, denied to be one by most protestants, would have told us that plainly, as marriage certainly does not produce glorification. It does not bring Christ again. It does not bring about resurrection. It does not produce eternal glory. The act isn’t even mandated for every Christian. It just represents glorification as a picture of it. It’s an analogy, as John has used all the sacraments as analogies throughout the book.

What this tells us is that the other two sacraments are just pictures as well. Like the third sacrament, they do not produce what they represent. They do not produce justication/initial cleansing from sin or sanctification/ongoing cleansing from sin. They’re just pictures of what the Spirit and the gospel do in the life of the Christian.

As marriage does not produce glorification when one does it, water baptism does not produce spiritual cleansing in justification and the communion does not produce God's favor and forgiveness in the continual cleansing of the Christian in sanctification. They all just represent a spiritual reality, but none of them produce that reality or have anything to do with it besides presenting a picture of it.

Hence, there is no magic water or magic bread and wine. That’s a medieval folk tradition that was adopted by the church due to its tendency to place mystical significance to anything religious, like relics, statues, corpses of martyrs, etc.


Like in the Old Testament, the rituals and sacrifices are pictures. They don’t actually cleanse or forgive for sins. They don’t actually produce the coming of the Messiah. They just represent all of these things. Likewise, the rituals in the New Testament do the same thing, and this would have been clearer if protestants had not removed marriage as a sacrament and Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox had noticed John’s own view of them.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Sermon on the Mount


1. Overview of the Argument of the Sermon Jeff Stackhouse

2. The Beatitudes and Its Contribution to Matthew's Argument Bryan Hodge

3. The Third Use of the Law in Matthew's Argument  Brent Foster

4. Righteousness of a Disciple: From the Root to the Fruit Jeff Stackhouse

5. The Source of True Religion in Matthew's Argument Jeff Stackhouse

6. The Treasure of a Disciple of Christ Bryan Hodge

7. The Disciple's Guide to Rebuking Sin Jeff Stackhouse

8. The Resources of the Disciple Jeff Stackhouse

9. You Will Know Them by Their Fruits Bryan Hodge


The Unmarked Meaning

Modern exegesis is plagued by word studies that have gone awry simply because the methodology employed by would-be lexicographers is seriously flawed. Yet, one's entire perception of what is being said by a particular bible passage is often directed by these faulty word studies. One of the consistently applied fallacies is to ignore the default of the unmarked meaning of a word for a contextual referent.

The unmarked meaning of a word is whatever the culture using the word thinks of when the word is spoken absent of context. For instance, if the word "dog" is used without any other context, inevitably one will think of the four-footed animal, even though species will vary until further context is provided.

Once contextual referents are provided, the word can be seen to refer to a particular species, a human being who is either in favor or disfavor, a Gentile, a popular reality show star, or even one's feet. It can be coupled in a collocation with fight to refer to an air battle between planes, or refer to a popular food by collocating it with the word hot.

Lexicons will often categorize the various uses of the word by the referents. This has often given the lay reader, as well as many a professor, the false idea that the word can actually mean the things to which it refers in various contexts. But the word does not mean any of these. It merely refers to them given the right context. The word actually just describes an animal in its unmarked meaning. The other uses are often etymologically derived from the unmarked meaning in some way, but the expanse of the semantic range is due to the contextual referents nuancing the meaning, not to something inherently present in the word itself.

This is, precisely, why referential nuances of a word cannot be carried over from one context to the other, as the word itself does not contain the referent within itself.

Take, for instance, the word sōma in Scripture. Many people will attempt to argue that the word can mean "the church." This, however, is based on a faulty understanding of how words actually work. Absent of any explicit referent, or obvious metaphor due to the impossibility of the unmarked meaning, that links the word to the church or another referent in the context, the word should retain its unmarked meaning of "form" or "body." The attempt to carry referents into texts where they do not appear will lead to a complete twisting of what the text is saying (e.g., attempting to argue that 1 Corinthians 15 or Romans 6-8 is about the "body of the church" or "body of the old covenant community" is rife with this fallacy).

In other words, the unmarked meaning should be assumed unless there is sufficient reason to believe that the contextual referents involved are expanding its semantic range to refer to something other than that originally described by its unmarked designation. The alternative interpretations of the word are not on equal par with the interpretation that follows this general rule. The interpreter who follows it has likely come to the right interpretation, whereas the interpeter who does not has likely misidentified the meaning of the word and has ignored the passage in the process.

Collocations function also as contextual referents that may provide new unmarked meanings when stated together, but the individual words themselves do not carry this unmarked meaning when spoken in isolation.

So when one comes to a passage, the assumption of the unmarked meaning as a default is extremely helpful in determining the meaning and not falling into the bottomless abyss of context replacement that inevitably occurs when one begins to change the meanings of the words by illegitimately transferring the referents from one context to another. In order to supply the text with these new referents, the actual referents in the context must be ignored or also distorted, and this is where we needlessly land on many different wild interpretations of biblical texts.

We see, then, that good exegesis can lead to unity in the church, but bad exegesis can lead to disunity and discord. This is probably nowhere truer than in the area of word studies, so I hope these posts on exegesis and lexicography will aid the church in its knowledge of the Lord and its unity of mind as we seek to serve Him.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Context Replacement

One of the biggest exegetical fallacies committed by those seeking to support their theological paradigms is that of context replacement. If one needs a word used in a particular text to refer to something other than what it refers to in its context, he must give it another context with new referents. The interpreter will construct a new context for a passage, verse, or word by piecing together other texts of scripture, speculative background material, and his or her own reasoning and then replace the existing context with the reconstructed one. What this practice does is allow the interpreter to make the passage appear to say what he wants it to say, whether supporting his paradigm or simply allowing a passage that contradicts his paradigm in its current context to be consistent with it. Since context determines the meaning of the words used, this has the power of completely changing the text to say something different, and even the exact opposite, of what it originally said.

For instance, if I were to take a simple statement from a reading book, “the cat sat on a hat,” and give it a different context, I can make it say anything I want. I can do this by saying something like, “the word ‘cat’ was often used at the time period this book was made to refer to Sammy Davis Jr. He was ‘the cat’, and often used the phrase in reference to others and himself. The phrase, likely therefore, refers to him. The phrase “to sit on something” often meant to conceal something, as in the phrase, ‘to sit on a story’. The word ‘hat’, of course, often referred to one who played many roles in life, as in the phrase ‘he wore many hats’. This context, then, tells us that this sentence should be understood as, ‘Sammy Davis Jr. concealed the fact that he had diverse talents in life’.


The context, however, existing in pictures in the book, tells us that this is referring to a literal cat sitting on a literal hat. What I must do is ignore that context and replace it with the reconstructed one above. This happens quite a bit with lay interpreters of the Bible. In fact, it is the very reason that massive books, and even series of books, articles, and Youtube videos must be created to convince others of a reconstructed interpretation of a single passage. Pages upon pages, volume upon volume, video after video, consisting of all sorts of “context” from other texts and the interpreter’s own surmising, are created before he ever touches the text at hand. This happens because the interpreter must construct the context he is using from somewhere other than the actual text in front of him if he is to change what the text seems clearly to say in its actual context. Authorial intent is bypassed and the interpreter can now make the text say anything he wants it to say. This is precisely why it is called eisegesis. The interpreter is pouring a context into the text in order to reinterpret it. What he is essentially doing is rewriting the text by supplying another context for it. 

This is why people often think the Bible can be used to justify any position. It's not that it actually can be interpreted to support any position from a linguistically responsible standpoint. It's just that, as any piece of literature or any type of speech whatsoever, its context can be ignored and twisted by context replacement. Force someone to stay on the text without reaching for a fabricated context, however, and the many interpretations one can get out of a single text reduce quite drastically. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Inclusivism and the Postmodern Church

I think the real reason the postmodern church so easily accepts things like inclusivism, i.e., the idea that people can be saved outside of receiving the explicit gospel, is because it is essentially made up of Christless Christianity.

What inclusivism essentially argues is that one can be allied to Christ, not by receiving Him as Lord and King, and thereby cognitively receiving His death and resurrection as punishment of their sins and reward of salvation, but by doing the things that Christ commanded ("love your neighbor" etc.).

The problem is that "neighbor" means fellow covenant member, and we are to love them because they represent Christ and we love Christ. Explicitly.

Another problem is that this is a works-based system, where I become united to Christ, not by faith/confessional allegiance to Him, but by my works. This has the cart before the horse. One is first transformed and united to Christ, THEN he obeys Christ by loving others who are in Christ who represent Him, etc.

Again, it's simply bad theology and ethics that stem from bad exegesis that leads to this sort of Christless Christianity, where I follow Jesus by being loving (according to my own definition of love), rather than I follow Jesus by faith working through love.

Essentially, all of these churches removing Christ as the center of morality and love are setting people up to adopt inclusivism, universalism, etc.

All Dogs Don't Go to Heaven

One of the symbols of an unbeliever in Scripture is that of a dog. The dog, throughout the Bible, is seen as a mangy creature that scavenges off of society, living to please itself rather than contribute anything worthwhile to the lives of others. It is an outcast animal because of this behavior. Hence, those outside the covenant of God, rejected by God, are described as dogs.

It's interesting to read that the "Christian" blogger, Glennon Melton, a Rob Bell protégé, who divorced her husband and took up an affair with another woman, has now married that other woman. Of course, the world loves this; but I went onto her blog in order to read her theology from years ago on up to today, and what fascinates me is the ability to claim that one is a Christian because she somehow incorporates the name "Jesus" into her theology. We really do live in the postmodern garbage dump of ideas today. Her Jesus has nothing to do with the Jesus of the Bible. Her theology and ethics are completely divorced from any understanding of the biblical witness. It's clear that she has the same decontextualized understanding of shalom as Rob Bell does. Shalom is an ordering of all things, including one's sexuality, which would exclude all disordered sexual activity, like homosexuality. Order and disorder in the Bible have to do with what creates and preserves covenant human life. Homosexuality does not create human life. It is disordered. It is the opposite of shalom. Ironic, isn't it?

Yet, this progressive secular humanism that continually wants to identify itself as "Christian" sees order in terms of gender equality and the acceptance of what the Bible considers sexual immorality. In other words, we have a conflict of theology and ethics between real Christianity and this counterfeit.

I read a recent blogpost where progressives try to argue that progressive Christianity is all about placing orthopraxis above orthodoxy, but this is as shallow and dimwitted as one can get. Liberal "Christianity" doesn't place orthopraxis above orthodoxy because Christian orthopraxis logically comes from orthodoxy. What is clear is that liberals are actually attempting to place their orthopraxy over that of Christianity's biblical and historic orthopraxis. What this ends up being is simply an attempt to slip in the theological assumptions of liberalism that reject the historic and biblical faith by presenting itself as the ultimate Christian ethic of love. Talk about wolves in sheep's clothing. How about hate in love's clothing? After all, why bother with all of that debate about what is true and good if you can just throw out anything in the Bible and historic Christianity that you don't like as unloving? With one big swoop of an accusation, you can ride out an entire life of rebellion by saying that you're really just loving. You can undermine the entire exclusivity of the faith by saying that you're really just coming into a deeper understanding of love. So, really, liberalism is just love. No need to examine that claim any further. If you do, you're not being loving.

I find it humorous actually that whenever someone wants to engage in sexual immorality, something that rejects the glory of God in the act (a hateful move toward Him), rejects the symbolism of Christ and the Church in the act (a hateful act toward Christ and the gospel), denies the creation of human life (a hateful move toward children), and corrupts the entire community in its thinking of sex as purely man-centered and pleasure-centered, whether in terms of sensory or romantic fulfillment (a hateful move toward all those involved), as loving. It's pretty much nothing but hate. Hey Everyone, didn't you know, my hedonism is actually just my expression of love. LOL. Yes, uh, self love. And not even love for the self in the long run, as the Scripture states, the one who partakes in sexual immorality destroys himself both now and in the judgment to come.

But what I really want to say is that the Bible indicates that this acceptance of sexual disorder is a result of rejecting God's FULL revelation of Himself in the Bible. Romans 1 seems very clear that this acceptance is the manifestation of the wrath of God upon the individual and culture right now. If one wants to know whether he is a Christian in right standing with God, who is in submission to His revelation, he only need look at whether he justifies or condemns sexual immorality. I say, "justifies or condemns" because I am not arguing that if you are a Christian you will not struggle with these things. I am saying that the acceptance and even unrepentant practice of these things, i.e., seeking to justify the practice of these things, is one of the primary indicators that the individual is worshiping a false god and is not in submission to the true God.

When I read her blog from years ago, I see a false god, a false Jesus, a false gospel, etc., and all the bad ethics that stem forth from false religion/paganism. There is no real Christ in her "Christianity." Why would one think there was any real Christian ethic of true love in it either? I'm just waiting for the day when the world will argue that pedophilia and bestiality are just expressions of love too. Hey, you don't like those things? Well, you're just a staunch fundamentalist. Love wins. It's the empty rhetoric of the show, "Sister Wives." "Love should be multiplied, not divided." Do you hear that women? All those men committing adultery on you are just spreading their love.

Now, what would give people the impression that God loved in some sort of unconditional, all accepting of our rebellion, manner? What seems to be the center of all of this is antinomianism. It's why I think it is the biggest heresy of our time. This idea that grace means that we get to live whatever way we want, say whatever we want, do whatever we want (wasn't that a Miley Cyrus song?), and God accepts us no matter what is the biggest lie the devil has ever perpetrated on the human race.

What about the God who orders the execution of everyone who practices such things in Leviticus 18? What about the God who kills everyone on the planet in the flood for practicing these very acts of "love"? What about the God who condemns it from Genesis to Revelation and states that those who practice such things do not belong to Him, are and will receive His wrath, and rightly receive the eternal penalty of their sins?

Oh, well, that's the inconvenient God of the Bible. The One that actually reveals Himself to us external from my incredibly biased opinions as a criminal. The problem is that the Bible is what reveals to us who Jesus is as well, and it says that He is the God of the Bible. He's YHWH who killed the Canaanites for their sexually immoral practices. He's the One who states that Sodom and Gomorrah should have repented, agreeing with its judgment. He's the one who states that sexual immorality defiles a person. He's the One who says He's going to return to cut His enemies to pieces, specifically speaking of so-called Christians who are supposedly saved by that unconditional love and grace. Uh Oh.

So what Jesus are we talking about and where did we get this information about him? How do we know he's so accommodating and accepting of us in our rebellion? Where are we getting our ideas of this person? Where does Bell and this woman get her information about him? It can't be from the Bible, as the Bible doesn't present this Jesus.

Clearly, he's made up. Much of this antichrist is made up from taking verses out of context about love. Since love trumps all else, we can ignore what God means when He says, "love," and just place in our own definition. I call it "contextual replacement." Bad exegesis begets bad theology and bad ethics. It then becomes circular. If I define love as unconditionally accepting, then I can do and say what I want and still be accepted by God. If I'm wrong about it all, then God is loving, and so He'll unconditionally accept me even in my wrong thinking and lifestyle.

This is where Bell and others get this idea that everyone, or most people (at least all the people who are good in their estimation), will be saved in the end. After all, God is love and love is unconditionally accepting. All dogs (i.e., unbelievers/false believers) go to heaven.

Yet, of course, if you're wrong about it all, then He isn't unconditionally accepting and He has and will reject you. And how would we know if you're wrong? Well, that's what revelation is for. That's why we don't need to wait to find out. We already know what God has revealed, and He isn't an antinomian.

The last judgment scene of the Book of Revelation tells us that all dogs don't go to heaven. Instead, none do. Unbelievers (including false believers in the book), those who reject the biblical witness of God in theology or practice, are cast out. Interesting that hell in the Synoptics is often described as a fiery garbage dump. Maybe it's to indicate that the people who are going there, in a way, already live there now. So, you see, there was no Christian blogger who married a lesbian today. Just two dogs mindlessly pleasuring themselves in the garbage dump. There is really nothing beautiful and loving about it. May God lead them into true Christianity and true love through faith and repentance.