Thursday, January 18, 2018

Resurrection as the Love of God for Creation and Created Human Beings

"One of the distinctive doctrines of the Christian faith is the resurrection of the body—both the raising of Jesus three days after his crucifixion and the expected resurrection of believers at the end of the age. Indeed, it was the centrality of the resurrection that served to distinguish orthodox Christian faith from gnostic interpretations in the first centuries of the early church. Whereas the variant ancient traditions that came to be called “gnosticism” are suspicious of materiality (thus denying God’s direct creation of the cosmos, as well as the importance of the incarnation and the resurrection), orthodox faith wholeheartedly affirms that God loves this world he made, became flesh in the man Jesus, and is committed to redeeming the created order, with resurrection being central to that redemption" (J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 131).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Biblical Theology XV: Psalms

The Psalter is a compilation of psalms written by various authors. Seventy-three psalms are attributed to David, 12 to Asaph, and 11 to the sons of Korah. Other psalms were written by Solomon, Heman the EzrahiteEthan the Ezrahite, and Moses (Psalm 90). The book is traditionally divided into five sections, but functions as one unified whole. The Greek word psalmos, with which we name the book refers to a plucking of a stringed instrument and is expanded into the idea of singing to an instrument. This name likely comes from the numerous psalms that are introduced by stating with what instrument they should be sung.

Theology: 

The Psalter is filled with the theological themes found throughout the Hebrew Bible, and presents them into a unified theology where YHWH is the ultimate King of all creation, and He rules through His Torah and His Messianic King to whom is given the inheritance of the ends of the earth. The temple also plays a central role as that which unites the two kingships. The messianic king plays a role as the intermediary for the nations. His prayers are accepted by God. The nations must acknowledge him if they are to submit to YHWH. The Word of God functions as the means through which God preserves His people from death. Together they unite all creation in worship of God and restore the world to the righteous. All of this is for the glory the God and brings praise to Him from every part of creation. In this way, the psalms are a natural result of the theology contained therein. Since God’s great works in creation, through His Word, and through His Messiah are cause for His people to glorify and praise Him, they do so in song.


Ethics:  

What we end up with is an interactive theology book, where the reader prayerfully contemplates the theology of the Bible. In essence, Psalms is theology in the context of doxology. Both the law and the messianic king are necessary means through which YHWH reigns as King of the earth. In order to submit to YHWH as king, therefore, a person or nation must submit to the law and the messianic king. The first two psalms set up these themes by dividing the wicked from the righteous in terms of their commitment or rebellion against Torah. In Psalm 2, the messianic king becomes the central figure representing YHWH’s rule upon the earth, and the nations who are in rebellion against YHWH and His messiah are called to repent and submit to him. God is completely for the righteous and completely against the wicked. There is no room for compromise. He does ḥesed to the righteous and seeks to establish them, but hates the wicked and will remove them, and their posterity, from the earth. Psalm 11 provides an example of this.

The Lord favors the godly, but he hates the wicked and those who love to practice chaos (ḥāmās). May the Lord rain down burning coals and brimstone on the wicked! A tornado is what they deserve! Certainly the Lord is just; he rewards godly deeds; the upright will experience his favor” (11:5–6). 

God’s sovereignty over all things, and His ultimate reconciliation of all things, causes even those who are in despair due to their present situations to worship and praise Him. The theology of God’s work directs our prayers and singing to God. If God will remove the wicked, we pray and sing for that. If God will establish the righteous in goodness, we pray and sing for that. It inclines our hearts and minds toward His, and the book, therefore, reorients not only our thinking, but our desires as well. The psalms position righteous mankind as the representatives of God upon the earth. They are, therefore, to participate in God’s work both in their deeds and in their prayers and singing. This gives them not only a knowledge about God, but an understanding and love for who He is.


Monday, January 15, 2018

On Biblical Interpretation and Enthroning the Ignorant Self

Our culture has a real authority problem in that people tend to see themselves as the ultimate authority of any given subject. I think this impression is perpetuated by the vast amount of knowledge offered to the individual by the internet. There is a difference between pseudo-knowledge and real knowledge. One who is given information has a pseudo-knowledge, but one who has spend the time to understand that information has true knowledge.

I may read a book about piloting a plane, but I would be a fool to go out and act like I could actually fly one afterwards. The same goes for people who use the biblical languages, but haven't put in the hours to actually understand them. People think that if they consult a lexicon or interlinear they somehow have the knowledge they need to speak confidently about a biblical text.

These same people think that someone like myself is arrogant for telling them that they should submit their understanding to the church and to others who actually understand those biblical languages because there is a lot more involved than simply looking at a bunch of glosses.

I, however, would argue that these people are the arrogant ones. It is not arrogant for a rocket scientist to tell layman to stop building rockets. They're going to harm themselves and others in doing so. The truly arrogant are the ones who do not know how to build rockets and go ahead and do so anyway.

It is the height of playing God to act like an expert when one is not. If one were to give confident medical advice and prescribe drugs and perform surgery because he can look it all up online, he is merely using others to exalt his self worth, but has no love for those lives with which he plays.

In essence, my seemingly elitist attitude stems from my concern for God's people. I see them led astray by these arrogant men. It is not about lifting up those who know as better. It is about lifting up God through what is true, and those who know are more qualified to say what is true. Only the arrogant would lift themselves up over the welfare of others in order to feel important. When I see a layman speaking confidently about Greek or Hebrew because he read an interlinear or a lexicon he doesn't understand, I see demonic hatred, not a love for God and His people. May God protect His people from such wicked and self-exalting wolves.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Daniel 9 Is Not Talking about Christ or the Temple in the First Century A.D.

Daniel 9:20-27 is traditionally applied to Christ and the first century A.D. Indeed, a surface reading of the text in vv. 24-25 sounds like it is talking about Christ in the first century A.D. Phrases like "to make atonement," "to bring in everlasting righteousness," "to seal up the prophetic vision," "Messiah, the prince," etc. all sound pretty cut and dry. Any first-time reader of this text would certainly conclude that this all refers to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, he or she would be completely wrong. This text actually has nothing directly to do with the Lord Jesus Christ or any event in the first century.

What has always astonished me is that people can read Chapter 9, see that vv. 1-19 consists of Daniel praying about the exile, and then see little to no connection to the exile in the answer he is given in vv. 24-27. Indeed, vv. 20-23 make it clear that vv. 24-27 are the response to Daniel's supplication in vv. 1-19, which is all about God forgiving Israel and bringing the exile to an end.

In fact, the text tells us that this is what it is all about:

 IDanielcame to understand from the sacred books thataccording to the word of YHWH disclosed to the prophet Jeremiahthe years for the fulfilling of the desolation of Jerusalem were seventy in number. So I turned my attention to the Lord God to implore him by prayer and requestswith fastingsackcloth, and ashes (9:2-3).

What this means is that the 70 weeks of Daniel is talking about the length of the exile. The 70 years of Jeremiah have been expanded due to the perpetual nature of Israel's sin, as the warning in Leviticus 26 states would happen if Israel kept sinning.

14 “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands,and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.
18 “‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. 19 I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze.20 Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.
21 “‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. 22 I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.
23 “‘If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, 24 I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. 25 And I will bring the sword on you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands. 26 When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.
27 “‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. 29 You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies[b] on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. 31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. 32 I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.
36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies.38 You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. 39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.
40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’” 46 These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the Lord established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.
Daniel 9 is not attempting to give some prediction of when Christ is going to come. It is simply arguing that the reason why the Jews are still be ruled over by Gentiles (e.g., the Seleucid Empire, and more specifically, Antiochus IV) is due to the fact that the exile has been extended because Judah's rebellion. 
The 70 weeks describes the time of the exile when the atonement for Judah's sins will be paid by Judah in the manner described above. This is the time frame when all of the prophecy dealing with Judah's exile will be "sealed up" or "confirmed." This is the time frame that will bring an end to their iniquity and establish perpetual righteousness because it will rid them of their love affair with other gods. It will also be the time frame in which the temple is rebuilt and consecrated. Read v. 24 now in this light.
Seventy weeks [lit. seventy sevens] have been determined
concerning your people and your holy city
to put an end to rebellion,
to bring sin to completion, 
to atone for iniquity,
to bring in perpetual righteousness,
to seal up the prophetic vision,
and to anoint a most holy place 

Notice also that it is within this time frame, not after it, that all of this will take place. Most evangelicals read this as though the time frame adds up to the time of Christ, which it does not, and then attempt to make it about Christ's atonement; but from this verse and the next that all of this occurs within the time frame. Again, I do not take the time frame as literal. It is a literary use of Leviticus 26 to convey the idea that the exile has been extended.

Verse 25 is thought to seal the deal that this is somehow talking about Christ because it uses the words "Messiah the Prince" (note how a translation can bias a reading). However, what the text actually calls the figure is the "anointed ruler." Judah did not have a Jewish king under the Seleucids. Instead, their religious ruler was the high priest who also functioned as a type of governor. The priests, especially the high priest, were referred to as "anointed ones." This text just notes the combination of the two offices of priest and governor. What the verse actually tells the reader, then, is that this office will be established within the time period of the extended exile.

So know and understand:
From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild
Jerusalem until an anointed ruler arrives,
there will be a period of seven weeks [lit. seven sevens] and sixty-two weeks [lit. sixty-two sevens]
It will again be built, with plaza and moat,
but in distressful times.

Notice that the office of the anointed ruler will be established seven weeks after the decree. The fact that the sixty-two weeks is divided up is significant, since v. 26 will make it clear that either one of these priests or the office itself will meet its end after the 62 weeks. 

This all poses a problem for the traditional interpretation. For one, if the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks are added together to provide a time frame until Christ arrives, why is he cut off after sixty-two weeks? Why not after the entire time frame? Why split it up? 
And if Christ is arriving after the seven weeks but is cut off after 62, then this cannot speak of Christ, as He would have come seven years after the decree and then lived for another 434 years until His crucifixion. 
Of course, when added together, adjusting the years to be 360 day years, adjusting for the Roman calendar, picking one of three decrees that go out to rebuild Jerusalem (the one most convenient for the interpretation), and then attempting to get an exact date of that decree from historical sources that may not be accurate, one can get in the general time period of Christ in the first century. 

My point is that such an interpretation ignores the context that this is happening within the time frame of the exile, that it is not talking about the work of Christ in the first century but the atonement of the Jews in the exile, and that it is concerned with the establishment of Judah after the exile as it runs into conflict with Antiochus IV in the second century B.C. 

It also attempts to see the time frame as a literal period that leads up to the first century, which does not seem to be the intention of the author at all. In fact, this time period very clearly leads up to the time of Antiochus IV and his defiling of the temple, a temple that is afterward reconsecrated and the sacrifices therein resume (9:26-27 // 8:9-14 // 11:21-35).

Since that is the context of v. 26-27, vv. 24-25 cannot be speaking of Christ in the first century A.D., and the text most certainly cannot be speaking of the temple in the first century A.D.

 Now after the sixty-two weeks,
an anointed one will be cut off and there will be nothing for him. 
As for the city and the sanctuary,
the people of the coming ruler will defile them.
But his end will come speedily like a flood. 
Until the end of the war that has been decreed
there will be desolation.
He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. 
But in the middle of that week
he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt.
On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate until the decreed end is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

In the context of Daniel, this refers to Antiochus IV. The temple is not destroyed, but it is defiled and made desolate by Antiochus. It must be reconsecrated afterward and is back up and running after a time of consecration, which lasted 3 and a half years (8:14), i.e., the same amount of time that it had been defiled by the persecution/desolation of Epiphanes (7:25; 12:7).

Obviously, if the coming prince, which is clearly Antiochus IV in Daniel, comes after the anointed one who is cut off, then this cannot refer to Christ who does not come on the scene for another 170 years, and does not die for another 200 years.

Likewise, the persecution of Antiochus IV marks the end of the exile in Daniel. It is the time of release, the time of deliverance from death in more ways than one. It hails the ultimate end and can be spoken of as one with it, so the final victory of the saints, bodily resurrection from the dead (12:1-3), the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds (7:11-14, 25-27), and the destruction of all other kingdoms but God's upon the earth (2:34-35, 44-45) are seen as one with this event (. This is what the prayer is about because this is what the entire Book of Daniel is about. 

This does not mean that these things cannot be applied to other events and times. It just means that such is an application, not what Daniel itself is saying. Hence, when Christ talks about the abomination of desolation in the Synoptics, He is making an application of Daniel to a new, but similar, situation; and in order to understand what He means by it, Daniel must be interpeted rightly in its own context and in its own time.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

From the Third to the Second

Bruce Waltke has this thing where he gets a student, who the class does not know, to stand in front of the class without saying anything about himself. The students cannot say anything to him and he cannot say anything to them. They must start talking about him, his background, his likes and dislikes, etc.

The point of the exercise is to show that one cannot know anything about another individual without that individual communicating himself to them. This, in turn, is to show that one can know little to nothing about God without God revealing Himself to man.

Hence, God's communication to us in the Bible is vital in knowing God. Without it, we can know nothing about Him. Nothing is confirmed. We are merely guessing. Guessing cannot even produce an accurate description of another human person, and that is a being for which we have analogous knowledge to make our guesses. We have no familiarity with any being like God, so our speculation does not even have an analogy or shared experience around which it can throw a rope. This means without revelation one cannot know God at all.

However, Waltke also makes the point that the goal of this knowledge is not just to have knowledge about God. It is necessary to speak of God and theology in the third person. God and His revelation is the object of our study in the third person, and of course, this sets us at a distance from God all by itself.

The goal of third person knowledge of God is moving that knowledge to the second person. The goal is to move the "He is like this or that" discourse to "You are like this or that and I respond to you in such and such a way." The goal of studying God via His revelation, then, is not merely to have a knowledge of God, but to have a right relationship with the true God who has revealed Himself.

Many a seminary student has talked about the deadness of what they are learning at seminary, I think, because they do not realize that the third person is a necessary step to get to the second person, but that it is only the step to get there, not the destination of their learning.

One might say that all false religion is either talk about God without talking to God or talking to God without talk about God. We often forget that the former is just as much a form of apostasy as the latter.

Hence, if our discussions of God do not lead to a submissive relationship with God as our Lord, even if our knowledge of Scripture is complete, we will have failed to grasp the purpose of the Bible.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Andy Stanley's Evangelistic Approach

Moore and Stanley had a conversation about their approaches to preaching/evangelism that I think is very telling of the seeker movement and why it is so large in a culture of secular humanism. The exchange can be found here

In many ways, I understand Stanley's concern about removing the side debates about the Bible, but this is not the way to deal with that problem.

The interesting thing here is that Stanley thinks that nothing is lost in approaching the unbeliever this way. In fact, however, something very important is lost. 

Stanley's method removes the obstacle of God's authority over the unbeliever. What it does is attempt to get the unbeliever, who is being acknowledged in such an exchange as the authority, to grant authority to the Scripture. Since so and so is an eyewitness, you ought to listen to him. Since so and so is Jesus' brother, you should decide to give him a hearing. Since you would agree that these authors have something to say you should listen.

Moore's method, however, is one that retains the authority of God. You need to listen because God who has authority over you, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, has said this, and hence, you should listen.

One retains the authority of God and one attempts to get people to lend their authority to the Bible as authoritative over their lives.

This is essentially the difference between respect and fear, something about which I've often written. Respect is something a secular humanist who sees himself as the authority can give to some other entity as he agrees or disagrees with its position of authority. Ultimately, he grants authority to it as he pleases. 

Fear, however, is recognizing that something or someone has authority whether you grant it to them or not. It really doesn't matter if you would agree that Matthew is a good eyewitness. If it is the Word of God, it has authority and is true whether you grant it or not. 

This, in fact, is why seeker movements are so large. The primary obstacle for our secular humanistic culture, and for sinners in rebellion against God as a whole, is God's authority overriding their own. Remove that and you get a very big church. Retain that and your church often becomes very, very small. 

So I am positive this approach works, if by "works" we mean it gets more people to accept the facts about Jesus. It, unfortunately, never drives the person in rebellion away from his or her autonomous worldview, and thus, he or she never submits to Christ as the Lord of their thoughts and lives. What we save them with is what we save them to, and this "Finneyesque" method of convincing people to remain faithful to their own self-authentication of the Bible as God's Word is giving us very big churches with very few true believers who are told by the Bible that they must abandon the self to be His disciple.