Monday, February 27, 2012

5 Reasons Jesus Condemned Homosexuality

You often hear the odd remark that Jesus never condemned homosexuality. This is rather strange for many reasons. For one, what people really mean by this is that Jesus in the Gospels never condemns it (supposedly); but the Gospels don't tell us everything Jesus had to say on every subject. It's not like they're a list of what He thought was right and wrong. They're presentations of Christ's teaching concerning salvation in regard to His work and our trusting in Him as Lord. He doesn't explicitly condemn pedaphilia or worshiping Zeus in the Gospels either. That has nothing to do with whether He implicitly condemns them both through general condemnations of the sinful categories under which they fall and by way of affirming the rest of the Bible. The Gospels, however, do give us a representative example of what He confirmed and condemned, and this is why we know what He believed on the matter. So here are the top 5 reasons we know that Jesus condemned and condemns homosexuality.

1. Jesus is YHWH God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. And YHWH God condemned homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22. Hence, Jesus, who as God does not change, condemned and condemns homosexuality.

2. Jesus affirmed the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture (it cannot be broken), and thus affirmed that what it says in terms of moral issues is absolute and rather than be diminished to specifics, should be expanded upon to include a rejection of all aspects of the evil against which the Old Testament speaks and a much fuller embrace of the good in all of its applications. Hence, Jesus would not, nor does, do away with the command that condemns homosexuality.

3. The word porneia in Second Temple Judaism referred to all forms of sexual immorality that included homosexuality. When Jesus condemns porneia as evil, He condemns homosexuality with it.

4. The apostles continue to speak for Christ, as Jesus reveals to them His teaching and His Holy Spirit guides them to write what He wishes to teach that becomes the New Testament. Hence, what is found in the rest of the New Testament as condemnations of homosexuality are condemnations made by Jesus.

5. Jesus confirms the Genesis narratives in terms of their teaching that God intended one woman and one man to come together as one, and that this is the only model we have affirmed by Him. Furthermore, a confirmation of the Genesis narrative is a confirmation of the larger teaching of Genesis that condemns all non-procreative, and therefore chaotic toward human life and existence, sexual acts, which would then include a condemnation of homosexuality.

So the next time you hear that Jesus never condemned homosexuality, you should be able to assess the superficiality of that comment. One may enter a debate concerning the specific passages, but it is clear that as Creator, Jesus would not have run counter to the idea that sexual acts that do not work toward allowing God to create human life through them by obeying the command to become one in the male-female union are evil, as the rest of the Bible indicates.

The good news is that if one humbles him or herself and allows God to correct him or her, forgiveness and life can be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we obey His words, "Repent and believe the good news," we can enter a salvific relationship with God whereby we will no longer receive any condemnation, but begin a journey toward holiness in the Lord.

Updated Post

As I have been working on my thesis, I noticed a lot of errors in my post on 1 Cor 11, so I updated it here:

It's far from done, but at least this is more in the direction I'm going with this chapter. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Christology Month @ RDTWOT

Nick is doing a theme each month, where he reviews books on a particular subject. I think this month is Christology month, as he has been posting some really great reviews on books concerning that subject. Again, this is Nick's subject. He is widely read in this area and knows his stuff really well. We would be wise to listen to him on the matter. The common claim among cults and within a lot of scholarly circles today is to follow an evolutionary model of Christology, where the view of the historical Jesus develops into a Jesus of faith who is eventually seen as divine. Hence, there has been an attempt to date books that present Christ as divine as much later works and the idea of Christ as God as either something that arose in later times or something that is evidence of a divine inclusivism in the first century. But there has been a lot of scholarly study in this area that has pushed back at this idea in recent years, and Nick is right to bring them up here. Here are a couple of his recent posts.

Why Boys Like Guns

We personally don't allow our kids to play with toy guns. I don't mind laser guns as much, but a gun that actually mimics firing a bullet at someone is not permitted. However, it becomes increasingly clear that even though we don't usually let them have actual toy laser guns, they are continually turning objects into laser guns. I remember playing guns as a kid. We played with laser guns, cowboy guns, army guns. Boys just like guns. They like weapons. They like wrestling. They drift toward violence. And that's a good thing.

You see, violence is not all bad. Our culture pretends that it is, but no one, down deep, really believes that it is. Violence can be misused, and often is, by a selfish and sinful culture, but violence is a neutral action that can be used for good or evil. That's why, even though I don't allow my kids to have toy guns, or turn objects into toy guns (other than laser guns that will never exist), I don't think their affinity for guns is a bad thing. I think it is part of who they are as males. Men are the protectors of the household. They are the protectors of the community. They are the protectors of the country. They are built for war, but that war is meant to be against evil, not in service of it.

Now, you may say that boys like guns because they like power, and that is true; but boys like power because it gives them they ability to do what they want to do. Some like it because they want to do harm with it (and that is evil); but others like it because it allows them to fulfill their role better. They can now do the good that they felt less confident to do before. Power, as is violence, is a neutral thing.

When someone breaks into the household, or attempts to come into the community to do violence against the innocent neighbor, or innocent family member, the man has been crafted in such a way to counter that misuse of violence with a proper use of violence. His violence is to be a thoughtful violence that seeks to protect the innocent from the wicked. His is a good violence.

That's why I have no problem with my boys watching movies like "Lord of the Rings." My wife doesn't understand it, and thinks it will give them nightmares; but as they have gotten older, and can understand the contrast, I want them to see it. I want them to see that good men protect the innocent with violence after all else has failed to stop it. I want them to see the imagery of distorted looking monsters and creepily deformed creatures using violence to attack the innocent representing the distorted and deformed humanity that uses violence against the innocent when it was really made to protect them instead. I want them to understand that violence is sometimes needed, and is consistent with their role as men, to protect and guard what is weaker in physical strength. My favorite line in the entire trilogy is when the men come to Theoden and complain that they will not be able to defeat the evil forces that have come against them. Theoden replies, as all strong men who understand their role should, "No, we cannot. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless." The men instantly perk up at this. They are reminded of who they are and that their lives are to be given in service of others. They will use all that they have, with all the violence they can muster, to counter the threat and save innocent lives.

War isn't pleasant, and I don't want my kids to enjoy violence for the sake of seeing something hurt. That is the distortion of violence. That is the joy of evil, and that will lead them down the path of using violence to harm the innocent rather than to protect them. I want them to learn violence in a good way. I want them to role play, but to enjoy playing the heroes. I want them to even want the other side to win when they have to play the villains, so that the other "team" can role-play the hero. I want them to enjoy seeing biblical shalom "peace" that exists as a result of good violence setting things right when evil violence rears its ugly head. I want them to play the guardians of their families, communities, countries.

When I was in grade school and junior high, pretty much every fight I got into was with a bully. I hated bullies. They weren't usually bullying me (I was pretty big even as a kid), but they were bullying others. I would then stand up for the others and get into fights that way. Some I won. Others, not so much. But the bully exists because of a misuse of violence, and I have always seen my standing up for those who were bullied as a good thing, a good kind of violence. Was it pleasant? No, I hated conflict, especially the violence of fighting; and that's what I want my kids to learn: that violence is a good, and that they should seek to protect others and have joy in that, but that they should never enjoy the conflict itself. They should hate to fight, but always be ready to protect others from harm when all other avenues toward resolution have been exhausted.They should walk away if they can, as Kenny Rogers once advised in his song, "Coward of the County," but always have the courage to fight if they were unable to walk away with those who needed protection.

So we don't let our kids play with guns because I don't want them to enjoy the thought of firing a bullet into someone. But I do think teaching an older child to fire a gun, and why he might need to do it one day for the protection of his family and the securing of food in hunting (both examples of using violence to thwart chaos and secure safety, security, and order for the sake of human life) is a good thing. It's not an absolute to me that one should not let their kids play with guns, but I do cringe when I see so many kids who are let loose without any direction, who seem to enjoy doing harm to others. We are cultivating murderers rather than heroes when we fail to put violence in its proper context.

But I would say the same for those who cast all violence as wrong. Boys have an innate draw to their role. They know they are to use violence, and to attempt to feminize them in such a way as to inoculate their minds from ever seeing it as good will only lead to more confusion of who they are, and a misapplication of violence elsewhere. Let boys understand that violence is neither good or evil. It is the course one takes with it that exists as such. Let boys role-play. Let them wrestle each other. But let them understand why they desire to do so. Teach them that they are getting ready for life when they role-play, and to have self-control, so that, rather than being impulsive and reacting immediately in violence, a lack of discipline that will lead to harm toward the innocent, they are thoughtful and seek out all other alternatives before they are forced to engage another in a violent manner, having exhausted all other hopes to reach shalom without it.

We are so afraid of gender roles in our society, because we are so afraid of the abuses that come with it; but to suppress who we are because we've been indoctrinated that our gender distinctions are bad things is to suppress the divinely assigned vehicle through which our true humanity is to be expressed.

Boys aren't made for housework. Sorry Girls. I know that's what society, and you, want of them; but although there is nothing wrong with teaching them to be responsible in that area, and having them help out, they are primarily made to secure food for you and to protect you (which is why women are likely attracted to males who are physically strong and have good jobs).

I'm not saying that modern conveniences don't allow us to switch gender roles. A woman can use a gun, and should, if there is no man in the house (or if the man of the house has turned his violence against her and her children); and a man can cook and clean and do all of the household duties that exist for the woman to thwart chaos and secure order within her role (I'll talk more about this in my next post); but at the end of the day, we are only using technology in a way that is contrary to who we are in our respective genders. There can be some overlap, but it is likely not a good thing to "switch places" for too long, as one will likely have an identity crisis sooner or later over the matter just from the pure fact that one is trying to run against rather than with his or her distinct makeup.

In any case, we need to teach our boys honor, duty toward God and man, respect and love for human life, etc., and along with these, their respective roles within the family that express all of that. They guard the family from chaos, both physical and spiritual. In fact, their role also tells us why they are to be the primary spiritual teachers of the family. It is not that women do not teach their children about God. Of course they do and should. But he is there to watch over what is being taught. He is there to protect her from demonic ideas that seek to penetrate her mind and bring the family to ruin. He is the guardian of the household in that regard. He is the representative of God within that sphere. A man who understands his role doesn't view life as a vacation but as a war in which he must continually battle for the hearts, minds, and physical lives of his family. Nothing he does is to harm his family. Everything he does is to protect it from all harm. A man who shuns his role will soon find his family in ruin, but the man who saturates his family with love for their lives, physical and spiritual, will pray, teach, and guard them with his own life.

He realizes that he is the last defense from an ever growing darkness that seeks to take over and bring to ruin what is good. He is God's warrior. He is the hero of his family. He is guardian of the household. And he will use all that he has, even a properly directed violence, to fulfill his role because he loves his family, his community, and his country. And that is why boys like guns.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Praise God!

Thank you all for your prayers. God brought my mother safely through her surgery and the tumor was benign. God has had mercy on us. God bless everyone who prayed for her.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Urgent Prayer Request

My mother goes into surgery tomorrow for a cyst that they found in the middle of her heart. It is a serious surgery, and I would really appreciate all of the prayer you can muster on her behalf. Her surgery is scheduled tomorrow for 9am PST, so that's noon my time (EST) and will last for quite a few hours. Thanks. God bless.

Also: Justin Taylor posted a great sermon concerning prayer and the sovereignty of God for those who think that prayer is optional within that framework.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"The Vow" and Eternal Security

I saw the movie "The Vow" last night with my wife, Allison. It was OKish. I don't recommend it, since it has stuff in it of which we were not aware; but the story is interesting. I didn't personally find it to be the "tear-jerker" that so many others did, but I'm also not as wrapped in what I consider to be romantic narcisism, where two people are so into each other that they make each other into the idols they pursue to fulfill and please the self. But I digress.

The movie is about a woman who loses the memory of her husband, actually the past five years of her life that stretches back before she met him. She never regained her memory. Now, this got me thinking. What if this happened to a person who professed faith, had all the signs of faith, but then forgot their entire Christian existence? Let's say he or she became a Christian three years ago, and lost the memory of the last five years of his or her life. Let's then say that he or she has no recollection of that, and now continues on in life as though he or she had never become a Christian. Let's say now he or she reverts back to his or her atheism. What do we do with this? Well, as a Calvinist, I believe that if the individual was truly a Christian, God has been and will woo them effectually so that they will place their faith in Him again. In other words, if God holds that person in His hand, and no one, not even memory loss, snatches that one out of His hand, then He will gift that person faith once again. But what do "Middlers" do with this?

I spoke the other day about the "Middle" ground position that seeks to say that man cooperates with prevenient grace of some sort in order to make a decision for Christ, but once he or she has made that decision, he or she will continue to believe and is saved. But if this is meant to preserve some sort of idea that the individual must have his own free will involved, which includes the right to reject the faith, the person must cooperate with God's grace to make that choice. With what good within him he is cooperating with that grace is not known, since the Middler supposedly believes in total depravity ("T"). Isn't it then possible that someone who was saved, can lose his salvation by virtue of not deciding to cooperate this time? In other words, what if the person rejects it this time around? Now you have a scenario that man's ability to reject the grace that God offers both saves him at one point and then damns him at another, which means that he had salvation but then lost it.

Both groups can say that the person was never saved at all, but why would the Middler necessarily say this? He seems to be presupposing that God is the only factor in one's salvation, not the choice that man makes to "not reject" God's offer. He seems to be assuming that there is no needed cooperation with God, that we are drawn by God effectually and will always believe no matter what, so if someone doesn't, they were never effectually drawn by God. But that's Calvinism, not the "Middle" position. If the Middler truly applies his theology it creates a complete and real contradiction (again, not a mystery or paradox, a real contradiction, which means that one or more of the propositions is not true).

So, since we know from Scripture that a person who is truly saved cannot lose his or her salvation, as they will always be gifted faith and wooed by God to remain in that faith, the Middler position that one must cooperate with prevenient grace in order to "not reject" what is offered must be false. There is no prevenient grace. There is only effectual grace given to the believer that causes him to come alive and commit his life to Christ. He will never reject because God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, effectual wooer of His people. He gives them the love for Him that they did not have before. He causes them to be born again to a living hope through the gospel message. He teaches them, and all who are taught of God come to the Son and He raises them up in glorification on the last day.

The biblical evidence that those who are saved remain saved, and those who go out were never saved to begin with, seems pretty clear. We, of course, cannot judge it by experience, since there are a couple factors that tell us that some people will believe for a time and bear fruit for a time who are not really believers, but the servants of the devil who were planted for some time to undermine the faith of others, and they are also granted blessings by God, even though their faith is not eternal, in the moment, because God honors His promise to do such to those who believe. But it can't be both ways. It can't be that a person who is truly saved then becomes unsaved. Hence, either the person was never saved, or the person will always be saved; but this rationale is only available to the Calvinist, not to the Middler, since he must reserve the possibility of man's free will cooperation with prevenient grace.

This all may seem hypothetical, but it actually has serious implications for how we deal with Christians who suffer illnesses that cause memory loss like Alzheimer's or are in accidents that diminish brain function in some way. I have hope to offer all who might fear it. God will woo you through it, and He will woo you after it, because He has wooed you before it. He who holds you in His hand is greater than all things, and no one takes you out of His hand. No one. But the Middler can't offer you the same comfort. He can't say that. You could potentially lose your salvation if you choose otherwise this time around.

The subject of Christians and mental illness, of course, is much more complicated than all of this, and I think there is more to say about it than this, but it does get one thinking: If a belief in some extrabiblical doctrine of prevenient grace and libertarian free will conflicts with the teachings of the Bible, and one's own system that is supposedly supported by that Bible, why hold onto it? What are you afraid of losing? Let go. The truth will only harm the worst parts of you, but it will save more than it takes away in the end.

I, for one, am comforted by God's completed work of salvation for His people. It is not left to the whims or circumstances of men. If it was, who at all would be saved? You see, the vow to hold His people in His hand and never let go was made by God, and He never breaks His promises, for He is not a liar like men are. Nor does He deceive Himself about His abilities to keep that vow, as men often do. If He holds you in His hand, there is NO potential for you to be lost. It is simply unbiblical and bordering on blasphemy to say so.

So if you are a Middler, you really need to think again about what you're advocating, since only in Calvinism, i.e., a biblical understanding of God's work in salvation, can it be said that the vow doesn't need to be remembered by the one who lost his memory, because it is remembered by the One who first made it.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 
What then shall we say to these things? If God [is] for us, who [is] against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:29-39)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Calvinism and Arminianism: Why There Is No Middle Position

Having grown up and done ministery in an environment that held all positions concerning predestination and our free will to choose, I have experienced being a Pelagian, an Arminian, a supposed middle position between Arminianism and Calvinism, and now Calvinism. But I still move in circles where many of my friends are Arminian or "Middlers," which, as I will discuss below, are just Arminians who don't know what Arminian theology is. I've had good conversations with them for the most part, but it seems like they just don't get it for some reason. I don't mean that they don't get it in the sense that they don't accept what I believe to be the best explanation for all of the biblical evidence. I mean they don't understand the positions they say they reject or accept. They just plain don't get it. Because of this, there is just mass confusion that then goes on to create mass hysteria when one position is demonized to the point of heresy.

Now, of course, one position (Pelagianism) is heresy, but it is possible for many Pelagians to just have this view by default. Our society is Pelagian after all, so one should not expect novice believers or laymen who have not been taught correctly to hold something other than this necessarily. So it is a belief that needs to be corrected, and if the individual is in communion with God, it will be.

Of course, Arminian theology is often fine, unless you're in a Reformed Church. I think Arminian theology is heresy if its implications are implied, but only usually ever heterodox instead, as its implications are pretty much never applied. When they are, the person just moves over to semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism. But that's not what I want to talk about today. What I want to address today are "Middlers." What I'm calling "Middlers" are people who think that they can just take some of what they agree with from Arminians and some of what they agree with from Calvinists and create a middle position (after all, evangelicals are the kings of "balance" and that means that whatever is in the middle is more level headed than what is on one side of an issue--a truly nonsensical and self serving idea that I've addressed before on this blog).

Now, before I show that there is no middle position, that such a concept is only an illusion created by ignorance of the claims made by each position, I do want to say one thing about some "Middlers" I know. Some of them aren't attempting to teach one thing or another. They just want to teach the text. So if the Scripture emphasizes the sovereignty of God over man, that's what they teach. If the Scripture they're preaching next week emphasizes the choice that man makes, that's what they'll be teaching. In other words, they just follow the lead of the Scripture. I have no problem with that. HOWEVER, since one builds his theology of salvation, ministry, the role of the church in each of those, etc. upon one or the other, it is impossible to completely stay out of the debate. One side is always chosen. Don't think so? Let me ask you a question then, and show you why there is no middle position.

Did you choose God because He first chose you, or did God choose you because you first chose Him?

There it is. That's it. That's the real issue of these systems. Now, where is the middle position in this question? Answer: IT DOESN'T EXIST! There is no middle position. Either your choice was caused by God's choice, or God's choice was caused by yours. There's no "both/and" here. The question is simple, "Is God responding to you choosing Him, or are you responding to God choosing you?"

Now, here is where preaching the text to answer this question, if it were really being preached, would help the Middler; but what I fear is that Middlers are really just Arminians who don't realize that they are Arminians. But I'll return to that in a minute. My point about the text helping them has to do with the fact that when this specific question is the issue, that's when the Scripture talks about God's sovereignty in our salvation. The answer of Scripture is always, "God chose you and you responded by choosing Him." When the Scripture commands us what we are to do, or speaks of doing something to get something (i.e., have faith/believe and you will have eternal life), that question isn't the issue anymore. The question there is, What must I do to be saved? It's the human perspective versus the divine. But lest any man should boast, when the other question I posed above is asked, the answer is never, "Because you believed," since the very question is "Why did you believe, as opposed to others, in the first place?"

What Middlers do is usually agree with most of the TULIP, except for Unconditional election (i.e., the "U"), Limited atonement (i.e., the "L"), and Irresistible grace (i.e., the "I"). In other words, they accept TP, but not ULI. Of course, this is exactly what Classical Arminian theology accepts, so in what way are the Middlers not Arminian? I mean, they may not be Wesleyan Arminians, who think you can lose your salvation, but even most Wesleyan Arminians believe in Total depravity.

This, of course, leaves open the question for Middlers, as it does for Arminians (hint: because it's the same thing), as to how one can make any choice for God if God does not irresistibly draw him to Himself. This is where the idea of prevenient grace comes in, a concept held by both Arminians and, again (you guessed it), Middlers.

So really the only difference is that Middlers are Arminians who accept a form of P, which is not even P actually. They accept the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS), which is where someone cannot lose his or her salvation. Why? Where did free choice go, you may ask. I guess it's lost once someone chooses to follow Christ. So God wants us to freely choose to follow Him initially, but then to be forced the rest of the way. Yeah, I don't get it either. Of course, if one simply explains that God has so wooed those who are saved that their love and desire for Him now causes no one who has been saved to reject Him, then that would be a very biblical answer. Unfortunately, for the Middler, he has just given the biblical reason why anyone chooses God in the first place as well, so he can no longer cast Calvinism as a system that says God forces people to be saved against their wills. Uh Oh. No caricature is left, so why doesn't he just admit that it would be more consistent to say that this is the way God works with us and we choose Him in the first place (i.e., irresistibly, using our choice because God has so caused us to love and desire Him that we simply cannot think of choosing otherwise)?

Again, the Middler's adoption of P is curious, as is his constant caricature of Calvinism, and then his employment of the very reasons Calvinists would use to support, not only P, but also I. Of course, the L isn't necessary to be a Calvinist, so all he has left is the U, "Unconditional election."

For the Middler, U is very confusing, especially when he tries to explain it. On the one hand, he doesn't want to say that we are saved by something we did. It was because I made this decision, exercised this because of something within myself, and that's why I'm saved today and my nextdoor neighbor isn't. Yet, he also doesn't want to say that he is saved because God chose to do a work in him, giving him a love for God he did not have before, and not to his next door neighbor. This is largely just left up to "mystery" by Middlers. What it really is, however, is a real contradiction. It is not a paradox. It is not an apparent contradiction. That's where Middlers make the mistake. This is a real contradiction, which means that both of them cannot be true. Again, it comes back to the first question I asked that deals with the cause of your choosing God. If your choosing was not first caused by God choosing you to choose, then what you have left is that you, your circumstances, other great people around you, etc., caused you to choose God. But God receives no glory for that decision, only the work He did before, and does after, you make that decision. But if God chooses you and that is the reason you chose Him, the lack of Him choosing your neighbor has to be the reason for your neighbor not choosing Him. Which is it?

You can't just say that we can resist. We resist God all the time. The question is whether one who is given the love of God, and now sees God as the best possible choice out of that love that is given, will ever choose otherwise. The answer, as we are told in Scripture, is, No. All who the Father draws come to Christ and are raised up in glorification. He loses none of them (John 6:36-47). Those who are foreknown (the people, not their choices) are predestined, the same are effectually called by the gospel (the drawing/teaching of the Father that brings His people to Christ), the same are justified, and the same people are glorified (Rom 8:28-30). It's not one group that is predestined and a different group that is justified and yet another group that is glorified if they make it.

So, again, what is the reason we have chosen God? If you answer that it is all God, then you are simply stating a firm belief in the "U" and "I," even if you turn around and illogically say that people can resist. If it is all God, and not the human decision to "not reject," and yet all are not saved, but those who are predestined are saved, then that means that the election is unconditional and the offer irresistible.

So make up your mind. Don't be a Middler, because you think you're being balanced. Instead, you're just being dishonest with yourself and with others, and that never leads to something good. If you deny the U and I, you are an Arminian (note: Arminius himself never decided the matter of what would later be considered P, so he himself may or may not have believed a version of P as you do). If you essentially accept that everyone has made the choice to follow Christ because God first loved and chose them (Eph 1:3-12; 1 John 4:19), then you are a Calvinist. Own it. Man up. Who cares about the label? Follow the Bible. Be a Biblicist, but be one that is paying attention to the answers the Bible gives to the right questions that are asked in context, not one that has to ignore all of that to remain comfortable on the couch of the "balanced."

So there is no middle ground. Obviously, God chose us and we chose God. That's not the question. The question is what choice is a response to the other? And there is no middle answer to that. To say otherwise is dishonest to everyone involved.

The Gospel according to Disney

I remember sitting in Greek Discourse Analysis with Dr. Poythress, and studying narrative patterns, where we discussed that any basic narrative has the same elements within it. There is just something about our stories all needing to have these elements, and when they do not, we feel a sense of distortion and that something is just not right. He then made the comment that he thought that all of the world's stories that contain these elements, that we view as complete, have the gospel underlying them, as though God has written even the sense of the gospel on our consciences. I find this to be profound statement.

The problem is that we have divorced the narrative from the gospel to which it alludes. We have applied it to false religion. I was reminded of this again in watching an all day Disney fest with my daughter, who is currently sick. What got me thinking about it was the fact that so many villains, when they meet their end, fall. They fall from some peak, a high roof, a cliff, a tower, etc. My younger ones downstairs were watching "The Lion King," where the villain falls from a cliff into flames and is devoured together with his minions. My daughter upstairs was watching "Tangled," where the villain falls from a high tower and comes to dust. And we just watched "Beauty and the Beast" the other night, where the villain falls from an extremely high castle to his death. The idea here seems to be one where the villain descends, and descending has the idea of going down to hell. This is displayed even more vividly in "Sleeping Beauty," where the Satan character, after turning into a dragon as a display of "all the powers of hell" is then slain by the sword of truth and descends from the cliff to her destruction. We could also cite Snow White, where the witch falls from the cliff again. Of course, this idea is not exclusive of Disney. It's in a lot of our narratives ("The Fellowship of the Rings," where the demon falls into the abyss, and the "Two Towers," where Gandalf slays the demon as it falls from the mountain peak, "The Return of the King," where the Eye falls with its crumbling tower, "The Good Son," where probably the most wicked kid who ever lived falls to his death, etc.).

What is interesting, however, is not just the idea of hell in our stories, conveying the idea that an evil life lived descends rather than ascends; but also the means through which redemption is accomplished, and that means is always love. The presence of love is displayed either in the form of a kiss, or of a tear, or of an act of sacrifice; but it is through one loving another that redemption takes place. Hence, we do not see self-redemption in our deepest stories as the most endearing and true, but the redemption that comes from one outside of self, the love offered by one person to another who has fallen into trouble.

Now, here is where our narratives do not help us any further. They, like general revelation, can only get us to a point that does not bring us all the way, and because of our sin nature, we tend to distort and want to steal away the concept of love to fit our own self serving (non)religious ideas.

You see, the problem with our stories is not in the basic elements of the narrative. It's in their details. It's in their identification of what love is, its source, and the way in which it redeems. Our narratives allow us to see love in symbolic form, but if we do not apply those symbols to the truth, we miss its redemptive power altogether, because love is not merely a feeling, a display of affection, or a noble act. Love is a Person. Love is Christ. And Christ does not kiss us, for kisses can be gifted by friend and traitor alike. He does not merely show us love through tears, for tears are cheap sacrifices. Instead, He stretched out His arms in death and humiliation to take upon Himself the death we had acquired for ourselves. It took more than small gestures. It took everything He had. Hence, redemptive love is sacrificial. It does unite us in covenant as the fairytale kiss unites the Prince and the sleeping Bride-to-be, and when we were lost, His tears were bled for us; but it is through the giving of Himself, the giving up of His entire life, that redemptive love accomplished its goal.

The sleeping spell we were under, the fight we are in, the oppression we experience because of sin's desire to be master over us cannot be alleviated by us. We need our Prince to lift it, and He has, through love, real love, the kind of love that bleeds and loses itself for the sake of another. So none of these stories are wrong in their narratives, and that's why they ring true to our inner senses; but there is only one Story that we must hear in detail in order to correct the truth-suppressing details within our stories, be awoken from our slumber, and be redeemed.

Hence, we know down deep that the wicked are deserving of hell and that the love of another must redeem us, as we who sleep, are trapped, are killed, cannot redeem ourselves. And it is to us the gospel message of redemption from sin and hell comes, But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

And that is no fairytale.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why People Have No Fear of God

I've had quite a few run-ins with people who claim that they have no fear of God, or hell. My first was probably a pre-teen who told me there was no such thing as hell and that he had no fear of God or going there. He even said he didn't believe Hitler was in hell. This was back when I used to help out teaching the youth Sunday School at the Southern Baptist Church in Henderson, where I first began to enter into ministry. This was my first encounter with such a person, but it would not, by far, be my last. It almost seems as though no one has such a fear anymore. After all, fear in a postmodern context is just the bogeyman employed to get people to do what you want them to do. It's an instrument of legalism and oppression. Of course, there is no doubt that fear causes us to take action in the particular direction that would bring us out of harm's way; but apparently such an emotion, to our generation, is met with suspicion, especially to those who have been thoroughly indoctrinated in the cult of the postmodern atmosphere.

Of course, no one, but the biggest of fools, hesitates to use fear in order to call their children back from the street when an oncoming car is speeding toward them. Imagine the children turning to their parents and saying, "Oh Dad, We're not afraid. Your attempt to scare me is just a way to get me to do what you want me to do." Well, yes, and what the father wants his children to do is to live. What's the better option?

You see, fear does exist to get us to do something we may not consider doing without it, because it is an emotion that exists to SAVE OUR LIVES. It is a good thing. Yes, it can be used badly. What emotion cannot be manipulated for that purpose? What emotion cannot be misused even by us? In fact, in our culture, I would worry more about manipulation via our concept of love, infatuation, desire, etc. rather than the yucky emotion of fear that no one likes in the first place. And, of course, no one would like it. To be afraid is not a pleasant experience, and that is why I think many people seek ways to alleviate their fears that are just plain foolish.

In Romans 3:18, it says of all of mankind that exists without Christ, "there is no fear of God before their eyes." Now, it needs to be understood that the fear of God works in two directions. It is a fear that, if one is seeking God, will acknowledge His authority, be convicted, and run toward Him. It is, therefore, a fear that causes repentance, restoration, and life in the individual who acknowledges the authority of God's warnings toward him or her. However, as any double-edged sword, it is also a fear that drives the individual who does not seek to be restored to the One true God away from Him. This fear is a bad feeling. It leads to despair and depression, but never conviction toward repentance, restoration and life, because it is brought to an individual who loves him or herself and does not want to release him or herself to God.

This is the fear that leads to a sorrow that leads to death. But the individual who is given this fear does not wish to have it. Yet, he cannot do away with it by using it correctly in order to trust in what God has said concerning both warning and restoration, so his default plan is to simply reject the authority of what God has said. Of course, only a complete fool would reject what God has said, if it was a sure thing that God said it, so he approaches the subject by simply denying that God said it in the first place, an echo of the serpent in the garden. He casts doubt on either what is said or its interpretation so that he conveniently comes away with a message that alleviates any fears he might have, regardless of whether he seeks restoration with God by repentance from sin. Abracadabra. Instant alleviation from fear is born, and all of those who preach things that would cause fear are just less illumined than he has been made by the his new found insight that there is really nothing to fear but fear itself.

Imagine having no fear of consequences, no fear of judgment, no fear of accountability. We, of course, live in a world that screams to us the untruth of the idea that there is nothing to fear, and yet, we still love this myth, because it provides comfort to everyone who wants to hang onto the Self.

But even if hell is acknowledged, those who comfort themselves this way have no fear of it, I think, because of one major characteristic of the wayward man: his authority is in his experience. You see, if your authority is your experience then you have to live day to day. You don't live for tomorrow. You live in the moment. You're not experiencing being burned. You're not experiencing death. You're only experiencing whatever you seek in the moment, so the future is not yet a reality to you. Hence, the future is not a reality at all to you.

Do I think that these people will be afraid on judgment day? Of course they will. They're just not afraid now, because for many of them, today is not judgment day (although it could be). I do not fear an execution until the day of execution. I do not fear prison until I'm caught and go to prison. I talk about it in whatever casual manner I wish. I can laugh at those who are afraid and think of them as lesser fools, but in the end, I show myself to be the king of fools who was not wise enough to understand that reality is more than the moments in which I lived my life. Reality is past, present, AND future. Reality is eternity as much as it is the individual temporary moments that make it up. But they do make up that larger eternity. And what I decide to believe and do in those moments speaks to my future encounter with a Holy and Just God who hates evil, and not only promises to condemn it, but has, both by sending those who had no fear of Him during their lives to their fate and pouring out His wrath upon His Son who bore that terrifying punishment for those who would seek Him.

Like a child who has no fear of fire until he is touching it, living in the moment at the cost of eternity causes us to "forget" what lies ahead. It takes our eyes off of the day upon which all of us will give an account and fixes them on the devilish distractions of the moment. And that's why we like it. The moment, because it is not yet the time of judgment, gives us relief from that small voice within that says, It is coming. He is coming.

If we love Him, these are joyous words, because we have been restored to Him and want the day to come when evil is finally put away. But if we have lived in love of ourselves and others above Him, these words are words to deny or ignore, because they create unease and despair.

If all else fails, of course, this person just posits the idea that he or she is good enough to make it to heaven anyway--another myth that comforts the burning itch of conscience as it is pricked by the Spirit of God through His Word. But both of these myths rely upon one another as fail-safes for the individual.

So people don't recognize God's authority in His warnings, and hence the Bible's warnings, of judgment because they don't want to feel afraid. They are those who live for this world, concentrating on it to the exclusion of what is to come, because what is to come, if true, is a reality they wish to blot out of their minds. And such is easy to do so when you're not standing in the fire; but ignoring it is as wise as the child ignoring the semi speeding down the road. He can make all of the best or worst arguments possible, but at the end of the day, if he does not become afraid and act upon his father's authority, his arguments will be his epitaph, his enduring memorial for an age of stupidity that deals with fear, not by acknowledging it and alleviating it by seeking to have the threat removed, but by ignoring that there is even a threat to begin with.

"Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. "Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'-- that you may do all these abominations?  "Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen [it]," declares the Lord . . . "And now, because you have done all these things," declares the Lord, "and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer, therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. "And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all of your kin. (Jer 7:8-15)

"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matt 25:46)

"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part [will be] in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second casting out." (Rev 21:8)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mormonism and Isaiah: There Are No Other Gods

When I became a Christian, I had quite a bit of interaction with my Mormon friends. Vegas was originally an old Mormon mining town, and at one time boasted a greater population of Mormons than Salt Lake City (so I’ve heard). So many of my friends were Mormons.
One of the most prevalent arguments they would make when I read them a Bible verse that didn’t accord with Mormonism was that the Bible had been corrupted sometime after the apostles had died.
Of course, the apostles had the right Old Testament, but both the Old Testament and their writings soon fell to both corruption of the manuscripts and misinterpretation.

The text that got me this response more than any other was that of Isaiah. Although many scholars try to shove certain exclusive claims concerning God’s superiority to other gods as monolatrous language, rather than monotheistic language, I have argued before that this is a fallacious ignorance of context defeating the implicatures. The assumption, “other gods must exist in order for the imagery to work” is simply linguistically na├»ve. Hence, what we have below are clearly monotheistic texts, and anyone reading them in the ancient Near East would have understood them as such in this context (I'll likely post on this further at another time).

"You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God  formed , And there will be none after Me. "I, even I, am the Lord; And there is no savior besides Me. "It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange [god] among you; So you are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And I am God. "Even from eternity I am He; And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?" (Isa 43:10–13)

"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. 'And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place. 'Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any [other] Rock? I know of none.'" (Isa 44:6–8)

Now, it needs to be understood that these statements are all in a global context of God assuring Israel that the nations will not destroy them, because there is no other god that exists. Since God, who has all knowledge, declaring all things from the beginning, does not know of any god being formed or existing besides Him, there is nothing for Israel to fear but their own disobedience and rejection of God.

Hence, if God does not know of any other god, it is because no other god actually exists. His knowledge encompasses eternity, so that when He says, “no god was formed before Me and there will be none [formed] after Me,” it means that there is simply no other god that has existed, exists now, or will exist in the future besides YHWH God.

Now, as I stated before, my Mormon friends would simply dismiss these texts by saying that the Scriptures were corrupted after the death of the apostles. This is what Joseph Smith declared as well, and thus, he sought to work on a corrected Bible (that the LDS church of course does not use, but you can get one from the RLDS).
But the point I want to make is this. We have a first to second century BC Isaiah Scroll. In fact, we have two (in fact, if we include all of the fragments we have quite a few; but we have at least one almost complete ms and one that has a lot left to it). When I was at Moody, I used to love to go to Ex Libris, which was this biblical/theological bookstore by the University of Chicago (probably the best place I’ve ever lived in terms of theological bookstores), and I was lucky enough to pick up a facsimile of the Isaiah scroll (it’s of 1QIsaiaha). Now, I also have Brill’s volume that contains the texts, so I’m going to take a look at them here. Remember, these are manuscripts from before the apostles died. In fact, at least, one of them is from before they even lived (all of them are either before or during the apostle's lifetimes), so if they essentially contain the same message, the claim of my Mormon friends in this regard is a broken reed falsely relied upon. So here is the MT as we now have it first followed by the Isaiah A and B scrolls’ (the other Isaiah mss from Qumran are largely identical in terms of content to these two mss.) witness to this text (keep in mind that the importance of these texts, even the one that is more fragmentary than the other, is that they are able to show us whether what is said in the text we have today is what was said in the texts that Mormons do not hold as having been corrupted, since they predate the apostles).

The Masoretic Text (AD 950-1050)

 Wnyb!t*w+ yl! Wnym!a&t^w+ Wud+T@ /u^m^l= yT!r+j*B* rv#a& yD]b=u^w+ hw`hy+-<a%n+ yd~u@ <T#a^
  .hy\h=y] aO yr~j&a^w+ la@ rx^on-aO yn~p*l= aWh yn]a&-yK!
 .u~yv!om yd~u*l=B^m! /ya@w+ hw`hy+ yk!n{a* yk!n{a*
 hw`hy+-<a%n+ yd~u@ <T#a^w+ rz` <k#B* /ya@w+ yT!u=m^v=h!w+ yT!u=v^ohw+ yT!d+G~h! yk!n{a*
 .hN`b#yv!y+ ym!W lu^p=a# lyX!m^ yd]Y`m! /ya@w+ aWh yn]a& <oYm!-<G~
(Isa 43:10–13)

 /orj&a^ yn]a&w~ /ovar] yn]a& toab*x= hw`hy+ w{la&g{w+ la@r`c=y]-El#m# hw`hy+ rm^a*-hK)
 .<yh!Oa$ /ya@ yd~u*l=B^m!W
 rv#a&w~ toYt!a)w+ <l*ou-<u^ ym!WCm! yl! h*k#r+u=y~w+ h*d\yG]y~w+ ar`q+y] yn]omk*-ym!W
 .oml* WdyG]y~ hn`ab)T*
 H~ola$ vy}h& yd`u@ <T#a^w+ yT!d+G~h!w+ ;yT!u=m^v=h! za*m@ aOh& Whr+T!-la^w+ Wdj&p=T!-la^
 .yT!u=d`y`-lB^ rWx /ya@w+ yd~u*l=B^m!
(Isa 44:6–8)

1QIsaiaha (carbon dated between the mid-fourth century BC and the beginning of the first century BC, i.e., between the mid 300’s–the early 100’s BC, and dated by paleography between 100–150 BC, i.e., second century BC).

wnybtw ayl wnymatw wudt /uml yTrjB rva yDbux hwhy <awn ydu hmTa
  hyhx awl yrjaw la rxwn awl ynpl hawh yna ayk
 uyvwm ydulbm /yaw hwhy ykna ykna
 hwhy <awn ydu hmtaw rz hmkb /yaw ytumvhw ytuvwhw ytdgh ykna
 la ynax
 hnbyvy ymw hlwupa lyxm ydym /yaw hawh yna <wYm <g
(1QIsaa 43:10–13)

/wrja ynaw /wvxyr yna wm# twabx hwhy wylawgw larcy Klm hwhy rma hwk
 <yhwla /ya ydulbmw
 rvaw twYtwaw <lwu <u wmycm ayl hhkwruyw hdygyw arqy ynwmk aymw
 wml wdygy hnawbt
 hwla vyh ydu hmtaw ytdghw hkytumvh zam awlh waryt law wdjpT la
 ytudy lb rwx /yaw ydulBm
(1QIsaa 44:6–8)

Now, the following scroll is fragmentary. It makes up 1QIsaiahb, dating to the turn of the era (Eugene Ulrich, “Isaiah, Book of” in EDSS, 385). The importance of what we have here in fragmentary form is just to show that the text follows along the same content as the texts above. Unfortunately, Isaiah 44 is not preserved in 1QIsaiahb, and even in 4QIsaiahc, the only other fragment that preserves it, what is there is nothing to call home about. However, what is there is consistent with what we have in 1QIsaiaha  and the MT upon which all of our major English translations of the Bible are based.

]ybtw yl wnymatw wudt /uml ytrjb rv[a                   ]a
  hyhy al wyrja[
 ] hwh[y] ykna ykna
 ]u [<]taw[    ]b /yaw ytumvhx yt[
       [                                  l]upa lyxm ydYm /y[
(Isa 43:10–13)

So let’s look at the differences before we look at the similarities. I’ve highlighted the differences between these texts and the MT in red. The main differences are (1) spelling issues, as earlier Hebrew mss. often used what is called matres lectionis, which are vowel letters, since vocalizations of the vowels had not yet been invented for the language. One who knows Hebrew can read it without the vowels, but the vowel letters were often there to help vocalize and identify the form correctly. (2) In a couple of instances, the waw conjunction, what we usually translated as “and,” is left out, since it is seen as being unnecessary in those parts. (3) the big differences, if you want to call them “big,” is the change from the Qal Imperfect 3ms (hyhy) to the Qal Perfect 3ms (hyh), and even though I’ll translate these according to the traditional (and false) understanding that the Hebrew verb denotes time (i.e. past, present, and future), it likely just conveys a different aspect (wholistic/whole picture rather than progressive), meaning that no god was every formed at any time, before, during, or after the existence of the Eternal God, YHWH. The other “big” differences are in Isaiah 44, and they are: the addition of wm# after twabx hwhy , which just functions as a harmonization with other texts, the change of  /wvar to /wvyr, which is just a spelling difference between older and later “Aramaizing” Hebrew, and the change from  whrt to waryt, which is just a change from the less common hry “to be terrified” to the more common ary “to be afraid.” in Isaiah 44 (the change from ymwcm to wmycm is likely due to orthography, as the yod and waw can look identical in many texts). So all of the “big” changes are actually in Isaiah 44, with one exception in 43, and even those are insignificant.
What this means is that 1QIsaiaha has only spelling differences in its use of the maters (think of the difference between writing potato and potatoe, or savior and saviour), along with a couple places where the conjunction is omitted where deemed unnecessary.
However, even the few differences of of Isa 44:6–8 would still make the text read as follows:

"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His Name: 'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. 'And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place. 'Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any [other] Rock? I know of none.'"

And, of course, Isaiah 43:10–13 still reads:

"You are My witnesses," declares the Lord,” x My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God  formed. x Neither was there ever [one] after Me. "I, even I, am the Lord; And there is no savior besides Me. "It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange [god] among you; So you are My witnesses," declares the Lord,” x I am God. "Even from eternity I am He; And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?"

Hence, the excuse to get out of this text that appeals to some corruption after the death of the apostles is completely without basis. Mormons will have to appeal to other scholarly ways of attributing this text to some sort of monolatry rather than monotheism; but I have argued before that this sort of argument is linguistically fallacious. Ergo, the Mormon claim that there are many gods, there have been many gods, and there will be many gods, is flatly contradicted by these passages, which are not corrupt even according to Mormon thinking.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Genre and Ancient Cosmology

Charles Halton had a good post awhile back that strengthens something I've tried to point out before: we need to be careful in getting our understanding of the ancients' cosmology from the wrong texts (see Revisiting the Days of Genesis, 2-3. fn. 4). He makes a good point in even understanding the purpose of maps in the ancient world.


The Priority Argument in John's Prologue

This is another installment of what I've been working on in my thesis. Today I'm discussing John's use of the priority argument (PA) in his presentation of Christ. Remember, these are only VERY rough drafts.

What has been observed thus far is that priority arguments are employed to function as trump cards in an argument for authority. Whatever institution of God precedes a certain practice or source of authority has more authority than what follows it. In the case of the Mosaic law code, Paul’s argument from Abraham (whether in Galatians or Romans) stems from this idea that the covenant made with Abraham precedes the covenant handed down through Moses, and therefore, the covenant made with Abraham is the more authoritative grid through which Jewish believers ought to interpret the gospel. Abraham is the beginning of God’s covenant with His people, not Moses.[1]
What is significant about this, as I have noted in the previous chapter, is that Paul is at odds with Judaism at this point, which makes the argument that the Torah precedes even the creation of the world. Here, Paul’s argument takes only the biblical material into account, and follows that timeline, rather than the speculative timeline concerning the Torah in contemporary Jewish interpretation.
However, addressing the issue of a pre-cosmic Torah is something John takes up in his Gospel; but to provide some background to the discussion it is important to first look at what Judaism taught concerning the pre-existence of the Torah.

Preexisting Wisdom

In its effort to find precedence for the observances of the law over the Hellenistic practices that were being forced upon it, Second Temple Judaism looked to a very interesting statement about wisdom found in Proverbs:

"The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old.
"From everlasting I was established,[2]
From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
"When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no springs abounding with water.
"Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I was brought forth; 
While He had not yet made the earth and the fields,
Nor the first dust of the world. 
"When He established the heavens, I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
When He set for the sea its boundary,
So that the water should not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
Then I was beside Him, [as] a master workman;
And I was daily [His] delight,
Rejoicing always before Him, 
Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
And [having] my delight in the sons of men. (8:22–31)

Whatever this wisdom was, it already existed with God before the cosmos was made,[3] and hence, it did not take long for Jewish interpreters, perhaps based upon texts such as Jeremiah 10:12–13,[4] to see wisdom as the means through which God made the world, i.e., His spoken words in Genesis 1, which are also apart of the Torah.
Hence, in Wisdom of Solomon, wisdom is said to coexist with God and function as an “associate in His works” (Wisd 8:3–4 NRA). The word for “associate” here is  ai(reti_j, which denotes one who is a decision maker in the process of selection.[5]
Hence, wisdom, which preceded all things, began to be seen as the means through which God made the world.

In Hymn to the Creator (11QPSa), its says that God established the world through His wisdom. In Second Enoch, we are told that God commanded His wisdom to create mankind (30:8), which displays both the association but also the distinction of wisdom here from God.[6]
Distinction is also seen in the statement found in Wisdom of Solomon:

"O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy,  who have made all things by your word,  and by your wisdom have formed humankind  to have dominion over the creatures you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness,  and pronounce judgment in uprightness of soul, give me the wisdom that sits by your throne,  and do not reject me from among your servants.” (9:1–4)

Here, wisdom is both the means by which God creates the world and is something that “sits by” His throne.
In the mind of Second Temple Jewish interpreters, who find every detail of Scripture to be significant, such an idea can even be traced back to the Book of Proverbs itself: “YHWH, through wisdom, founded the earth, by understanding, He established the heavens” (3:19). If YHWH founds the earth through wisdom, so they reasoned, then wisdom is not merely identified with God, but also something distinct from Him. Anyone reading the Targums of Genesis 1 would also see a direct link:

With wisdom, God did create and perfect the earth (Gen 1:1, Fragment Targum)

In the beginning, with wisdom, God did create . . . (Gen 1:1, Targum Neophyti)

Hence, with Scripture interpreting Scripture, the Targums reflect a deeply rooted understanding of this concept within Judaism. This idea of wisdom existing as the pre-existing means through which God made the cosmos was no mere tangential identification made by certain sects, but seems almost universal by the time one encounters first century Judaism. This also allowed Jewish interpreters to see the references to the second person plural “Us” statements that seem to refer to God. The question became, To whom does the “us” refer? Of course, if wisdom is seen as both identification with and in distinction from God, the first person plural is justified. Hence, there are specific references to wisdom forming man specifically, as that is where God uses the first person plural in the first creation pericope.[7]

So wisdom became the associate of God in creation that joined Him in His work. Judaism then looked for any indication of this in the creation account, and found the presence of wisdom in God’s spoken word. Hence, Philo associates the Logos as divine wisdom that accompanied God.
As Barrett noted, “no consistent doctrine of the Logos can be drawn from his [Philo’s] writings,”[8] however, it is clear that “Philo’s Logos, broadly speaking, takes the place that Sophia had occupied in earlier Hellenistic Judaism, and in particular exercises a cosmological function.”[9] Barrett also notes that Judaism’s normal trajectory was to identify Sophia as Torah, although such an observation seems to be based on documents from later Judaism. Even though this concept is only found in later literature, it is possible that these later documents reflect an earlier tradition. Here, Sophia is Logos, which has the idea of an ideal or prototypical entity from which copies on earth are made but never quite capture in and of themselves.[10]
What is important here is to note that a divergent stream of tradition existed between the identification of preexisting Sophia as the Logos and the identification of Sophia as the Torah. This becomes an important observation in John’s use of the PA.

Judaism’s Identification of Sophia as Torah

Judaism’s quest to create a PA that bolstered the authority of the Torah over Hellenistic ideas eventually blossomed into the idea that it was created, not only before other pagan systems of thought, but even before the world.

Seven things were created before the world, and these are they: the Torah, repentance, the garden of Eden, Gehenna, the heavenly throne, the temple, and the name of the messiah. (b. Pesah9im 54a)

They were given the precious instrument by which the world was created, as it is said, “For I have given you good teaching, do not abandon my Torah.” (m. Abot 3:14)

These things, along with the Torah, preceded the world by two thousand years. (Ps 90:3 in Midrash on Psalms)

This idea is reflected later in Genesis Rabba, where wisdom is once again identified as the “beginning” of God’s creation. Hence, Torah is the beginning.

Then I was beside Him as an artisan . . .” The Torah is thus saying, “I was the instrument of God’s workmanship.” When a king wishes to build a palace, he usually does not himself design it, but relies on a builder, and even the builder does not simply build it on his own, but he has blueprints and diagrams in order to know how he will make the chambers and little doors. Just so did God look into the Torah and create the world. So the Torah says, “In the beginning  God created . . .” for the word “beginning” means the Torah, as it says, “God created me, the beginning of His work.” (1:1)

One may notice, however, that the works in which this idea is present are quite late. This move by Judaism, from seeing Torah as created at the beginning of the world and first given to Jacob (Jub 2:17–20;[11] Bar 3:32–4:1), may be in response to, rather than precede, the Christian identification of Christ as the divine Sophia.[12] However, those later texts may, in fact, preserve a divergent stream of thought found within earlier Judaism.

The Nature of the Logos in John’s Prologue and the Use of the Priority Argument

Both in John 1:1–2 and in 17:5, the Son is portrayed in terms of existing before the world was, and as the instrument through which God made the cosmos.

In order to identify the nature of the Logos in the prologue of John’s Gospel, one must take the entire Gospel into account. Throughout the Gospel, the Son is identified as the truth, who reveals the glory of the Father, who has words of eternal life, who gives commandments, etc.; but his body is called the tabernacle or temple. He also calls himself the true manna, compares Himself to the serpent who is lifted up, is presented to us as the Passover lamb, and tells the Jews that Moses testified of Him. All of these point directly to the Sinai covenant.
It seems then that Jesus is presented in the Gospel of John as the incarnation of God’s prototypical wisdom, who co-created the cosmos, was displayed within the events at Sinai, and was reflected in the law. The statement within the prologue, found in verse 14, then, is not a contrast between Jesus and the law, but an understanding that Jesus is the truth through which favor is revealed. Hence, the law does reflect the Logos, it is a shadow and only serves an inferior role to Jesus, who is the truth Himself who brings salvation and grace. The law given to Moses was a revelation of God through the Logos, but it will always be inferior to the Logos Himself, since it is merely a manifestation and testimony to the Logos, whereas, now, the Logos, i.e., truth, Himself has been manifested in the flesh.
Hence, the argument that John is making is a priority argument that says that Jesus, as the Logos, predates the Torah, as the Torah is simply a witness to the Logos, but not the Logos Himself. The Torah was given through Moses, but the Logos, identified as God’s Sophia, is prototypical to all of Scripture, including the Torah. As such, Jesus can identify Himself both as the Word that dwelt in the form of Torah in the temple, and the one to whom the Torah testifies, as a shadow that testifies of the object that casts it. Hence, since Jesus precedes the covenants of the Old Testament, whether that of the Torah or the covenant made with Abraham and Jacob,[13] truth is purely manifested in Him as the prototype of these covenants, and His interpretation of them is not only superior to all others, but is also pure and unfiltered. Only the Father would have greater authority, and we are told throughout John’s Gospel that the Father is in full agreement with the Son, sent Him into the world, and speaks, teaches, and saves through Him.
Hence, Brooke’s observation that Jesus as “grace and truth” and the law delivered through Moses are not set in antithesis to one another, but instead, as Pilgaard puts it, “one of supersedence: not until now has the true content of the law been revealed in Jesus Christ, who is the Law’s personification.”[14] However, this can only be the case, as John has argued, because the Law itself was only a shadow of the divine Logos who preceded and gave form to the Torah. Now that the Logos Himself has come down from heaven, the shadow, i.e., the inferior testimony to God, must be interpreted in light of the truth itself, i.e., the superior testimony to God.[15] Again, therefore, the use of the PA helps one interpret whether John is merely saying that Jesus is a subsequent personification of Torah, or Torah is an inferior revelation of God than that of Jesus, precisely because Jesus is Himself the Logos incarnate. The PA indicates that John is arguing the latter, and as such, His revelation of God must interpret all lesser revelations that still exist as testimonies to God the Son, but could never reveal Him better than He is able to do so Himself.

[1] This may be the reason why discussions of Abraham and faith are brought up by James as well. First Peter also uses Sarah and Abraham as prototypical in his argument concerning the respectful conduct of women in relation to their husbands.
[2] This statement is echoed in Sir 24:9.
[3] Philo, On the Virtues 62: “Wisdom is older than the creation . . . of the whole universe.
[4] “[It is] He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. When He utters His voice, [there is] a tumult of waters in the heavens . . .” Both wisdom as the means through which the earth was established and its association with what God speaks in order to work with the material cosmos can be seen in later Judaism’s understanding that wisdom and divine word are one and the same. See also Ps 104:24.
[5] LS 41; LEH 12.
[6] This may be an indication that the work is a product of the Christian identification of Christ as wisdom in the first century C.E.; however, cf. F. I. Andersen, “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch, a new Translation and Introduction” in ed. James Charlesworth The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1 (1983), 94, who argues that it is a Jewish work.
[7] Wisd 9:1–2; 2 Enoch 30:8. cf. Apostolic Constitutions 7.34.6.
[8] C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to Saint John. 2d ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978), 153.
[9] Ibid., 154.
[10] Ibid.
[11] The rationale of the author of Jubilees may be that some, or all, of the Torah was created at the making of the world because the Sabbath law is also created at that time. Hence, the Sabbath observance is a heavenly observance founded at creation. It may be, therefore, that the author saw the whole of Torah created at that time, for he notes that all godly men since that time have followed the Sabbath law.
[12] Cf. the many earlier New Testament examples that identify the Son as the Logos or Beginning or Sophia (John 1:1–18; 1 Cor 1:30; Col 1:18; Heb 1:8–10; Rev 3:14; 21:6; 22:13 ) as well as those found in Patristic sources (cf., for instance, Origen, On John 1:22). Kugel (Traditions of the Bible, 66, fn. 20) remarks that “with the development of the Trinity, Christians soon found a reference to it in the Genesis account as well: the Father was represented in the references to God, the Son in the word ‘beginning’ (that is, Wisdom), and the Holy Spirit in the ‘Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters’ (Gen. 1:2).”  Kugel (Ibid., 69) also cites a similar sounding passage to that found in Genesis Rabba in Philo, but it is clear that Philo is simply referring to the Platonic pattern of the world, not necessarily the Torah, as he never refers to the pattern as being “torah,” but rather identifies the ordering pattern of the world as the divine Logos (Philo, On the Creation 16–20).
[13] Aage Pilgaard, The Qumran Scrolls and John’s Gospel, 133–34.
[14] Ibid., 133.
[15] This is likely what is transpiring in John 5:39–40: 39  "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that  testify  about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” In other words, the way in which the Scriptures testify of Christ is that they are embodiments of Him, the divine Wisdom of God, the mind of the Son, who is equal to the Father (5:18), rather than this meaning that a bunch of messianic prophecies here and there in Scripture, but little else, gives testimony to Christ. Hence, John does not quote the Hebrew Bible nearly as much as the Synoptics, since it is in echoing the Scripture, especially the great themes of the Old Testament that embodies the truth of the Logos that he can display the way that the Scriptures all point to Christ as the Son of God/God the Son.