Category Archives: Interpretation

Two Conferences of Interest

One on John Bunyan in Whitlinsville, MA:

“A John Bunyan Feast”

October 22-23. Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas are the speakers.

Friday, October 22, 2010
12:30 PM Book Table Opens
1:30 PM Registration Opens
3:00 PM First Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from the City of Destruction to the Cross Mr. Thomas
4:15 PM Dinner Break (at local restaurants)
6:00 PM Second Session: Bunyan’s Preaching to the Heart Mr. Beeke
7:20 PM Third Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from the Cross to Vanity Fair Mr. Thomas
Saturday, October 23, 2010
8:00 AM Registration and Book Table Opens
9:15 AM Fourth Session: Bunyan on Justification Mr. Beeke
10:15 AM Coffee break and fellowship
10:45 AM Fifth Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from Vanity Fair to the Celestial City Mr. Thomas
11:45 AM Questions and Answers
12:15 PM Lunch Break (at local restaurants)
1:30 PM Closing Session: A Bunyanesque Sermon on the Holy War Within Mr. Beeke

The other at Princeton Theological Seminary:

“These Speak of Me: The Glory of Christ in All of Scripture”

November 5-6. David Helm and Kent Hughes will be the speakers at this second conference.

PrCRT 2010

 

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The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism : A Book Summary

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The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority by G. K. Beale. Crossway: Wheaton, 2008. 300pp. $20.00.

Beale’s monograph is in fact a conglomerate of articles (with minor revisions) that had been previously published in response to Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation.. Beale wrote the articles to respond to the moving tide of evangelical OT scholarship away from the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy toward a limited authoritative model (as displayed in Barth).

The strength of Beale’s book resides in his ability to distil Enns’ thesis and main presuppositions that lead him down the road he has taken. Particualrly, Enns’ takes the Incarnation of Christ as the main analogy for Scripture (27). It is, however, this very model that is not supported with tangible examples that makes Enns’ thesis remain ungrounded. As Beale says, “Enns never spells out in any detail the model of Jesus’ incarnation with which he is drawing analogies for his view of Scripture” (54). It is telling that within the biblical narrative, prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah were esteemed as communicating God’s very words with his covenant community – as distinct from words they inevitably spoke that were not enscripturated.

Unfortunately, the dialogue between Enns and Beale becomes divergent when it comes to the audience of Enns’ book. It appears that instead of interacting with Beale’s criticisms, Enns has opted to take offense that his book is written for a popular audience rather than a scholarly audience. This appears to be an effort to excuse his uncareful language – as charged with Beale’s arguments (64-65).

Beale helpfully has his assistant Mitch Kim summarize Enns’ arguments (so as to help ensure more balance than one who is involved in the debate). This evinces humility and gains the reader’s confidence that Beale is not picking fights about semantics.

The strength of Beale’s book lays in his positive apology for the Bible’s inerrancy as historically understood from Isaiah’s authorship (ch. 5) to ANE cosmology (chs. 6 and 7). At the end of the day, Beale makes it clear what is at stake: “If [the biblical authors] imbibed the pagan mythological assumptions about the cosmos, then their unique theology would have been mixed with mythological notions” (217). In this way, the exclusive, unique religion of YHWH would be nothing more than a revision of Ba’alism.

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Don’t Just Talk About Christ’s Sweetness…Taste It

I have been steeping myself in Augustine over the past four weeks for a paper I am doing on Augustine’s view of Scripture – particularly inspiration. From his second exposition of Psalm 18 (19), this hit hard:

Verse 12. The sweetness of the commandments

12. Indeed your servant keeps them. Your servant tests their sweetness by keeping them, not merely by talking about it, and keeps them because they are sweet even now, and will bring him everlasting health in the future; for in keeping them there is great reward. Heretics are so attached to their rancor that they cannot see this brilliance, nor taste the sweetness.

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The Drama of Doctrine: A Book Summary

The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Westminster John Knox: Louisville, 2005. 493pp. $39.95.

According to the author, “The present book sets forth a postconservative, canonical-linguistic theology and a directive theory of doctrine that roots theology more firmly in Scripture while preserving Lindbeck’s emphasis on practice”  (xiii).  On the whole, this work is a fascinating piece that helps theologian and layperson grasp the energetic nature of Scripture. Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach de-emphasized the autonomy of the exegete while heightening that of his enveloping culture – “the experience and the reasoning of the individual human subject is always already shaped by a tradition of language use” (10). By replacing “cultural” with “canonical,” Vanhoozer is able to say the same of Scripture – namely, it is the shaping subject for humanity. In this way, Vanhoozer reorients theology from theory to wisdom (13).

The author aptly shows how drama is a correcting foil for the theological endeavor. God is both the script(ure) writer and player in the drama. Humans are actors following a script. Theologians are the dramaturge for humanity.  Regarding the script, Vanhoozer makes it clear that this is a not a wooden mimic of the script. Rather, it is likened to a dinner theater, where the audience plays a part in the action and shaping as well. The actors are given roles, and they are so intended to enter into the ethic of the role that their actions and words will reflect the kind of person the playwright intended. Further, the Church acts out her parts in front of the surrounding culture and draws them into the drama that God intended them to live. Poignantly put, “Neither the pastor nor the magisterium should be allowed to become the sole voice or actor in the church. On the contrary, the whole people of God is responsible for participating in and continuing the action. Only an active rather than passive audience can turn deadly theater into ‘ a rehearsal of revolution.’ At its best, the church, as the theater of the gospel, is revolutionary, overturning idols and ideologies alike as it displays the first fruits of eschatological reality” (404; original emphasis).

Vanhoozer’s work should be read by all those who seek to bring doctrine and practice together. While this is not the only model by which we can organize Scripture’s teaching, the author has powerfully argued for it as a major contender. Unlike Michael Horton’s work regarding Divine Drama, Vanhoozer helpfully incorporates the surrounding culture in his model of theology. That is, rather than just saying that he will organize his theology around an analogy that follows the Bible’s own intrasystematic categories (when drama itself is not a category given in Scripture), Vanhoozer helps further theology’s enterprise of incorporating culture and Scripture together.

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Augustine’s Divine Accommodation In Natural Revelation

The divine scriptures then are in the habit of making something like children’s toys out of things that occur in creation, by which to entice our sickly gaze and get us step by step to seek as best we can the things that are above and forsake the things that are below {The Trinity, I. 1. 2}.

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Preaching and Power

I just finished listening to Piper’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the 1991 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. In a section of the biography, Piper elucidates Lloyd-Jones’ view of continuation of the spiritual gifts for the post-apostolic church.

I am a member of a relatively small group of Reformed people who believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a distinct work of God from the incorporation by the Spirit at the moment of faith and repentance. In other words, I believe that God unusually blesses people with an enflaming passion and boldness for his glory at peculiar times. It is true, we are baptized into Christ at the moment of conversion (Rom 6:3; 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27).

Yet Jesus tells his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes upon them in power for witnessing. There are two arguments against affirming a special unction by the Spirit. First, people argue that to say power encounters accompany preaching detracts from the power inherent in faithful Gospel preaching (Rom 1:16). Lloyd-Jones commented that if the pre-eminent preachers of the Church (Peter, Paul, and Stephen) were endued with power in their preaching (in a way explicated in the Scriptures), then why should we not expect such power to come for present-day “average” preachers of the Gospel

Second, people have argued with me that there was a special authentication given to the Apostles to solidify their preaching in the beginning of the Church. This seems precarious because it raises the question as to how such primitive Gospel preaching is different than today’s situation within the context of a pluralistic society? Or even reaching back a few centuries, how was the authentication by Spirit-wrought power not necessary during Columba or St. Patrick’s ministry among the blood-saturated culture of the Celts? Is it not a problem to say that such pentecostal blessing was only necessary during the inception of the Church? Is that inception not still going on in Papa New Guinea or the Amazon or China?

I found that my bristling at such mention of the Spirit was rooted in my ignorance. I was far too worried about what people thought about Christians rather than longing for such blessing to be showered down from heaven. What magnificent things would happen if God brought revival to our world! Is your inclination to fear what people would think rather than seeing conversions?

Let me explain. Christians have so sought to be accepted by the world around them by planning financial seminars and community clean-ups – which are important to loving our neighbors – that it seems that to stick out like a sore thumb is a curse and not a blessing, Among those that have over-reacted to fundamentalism have we forgotten the strategic blessing of standing out? Have we married grass roots evangelism to the detriment of power encounters with the Holy One? It appears so.

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The Lure of Opposition

One of the traps I have seen set for me while studying – not that it has not been set before and not that I have not tripped it – is the desire to be a contrarian. You read all these books and you want really bad to make a name for yourself or show that you know the intricacies of an argument so you’ll say something like this: “I liked the book, I think I would have explained things a little differently.” Or, “I can’t stand so-and-so, he doesn’t articulate x as well as he should.” 

This betrays two things (as I see it): 1) my lack of charity; and 2) my laziness.

1) Lack of Charity: If my first inclination is to pick apart someone’s writing and view, then I have not truly listened. Therefore, I am in no position to respond. This is an issue in epistemology where our presuppositions can keep us from gaining knowledge. The wider culture calls it being close-minded. And while most people ruffle at the idea, it is, more often than not, true. Although I may believe what I know to be true, I should bite my tongue and repeat the cpnversant’s argument in my head to make sure I have really listened. My first response should be a question rather than a statement. “Did I hear you right?” “Do you mean this?”

2) Laziness: The times I have quickly responded to someone I have read or listened to with a rebuttal as noted above, I have drifted off into imprecision and laziness myself. That is, I hear so many people say, “Yeah, I heard the speaker but he was a little soft on this.” I have been challenged several times in my short tenure as a theologian by someone when they ask the question: “How would you have said it differently?” So my question to you is: What precisely do you disagree with?

I think many times I have heard someone I respect give such a response to an opponent, but I forget that they backed up the assertion with a list of reasons. My ears keyed in on the “I disagree,” but not on the “why.” So many of us, I fear, want to appear like we know what we are talking about – that we are privy to knowledge unbeknownst to our hearers, when, in fact, we are blowing fluff. May God help us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

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