Archive for April, 2008

Having watched the recent Bill Moyers’ interview with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I think that I understand the whole situation much better. You can watch the entire interview in two parts online, and I would commend it to you.

There is obviously much for which we should applaud the Rev. Wright. He is sincere. He is working for change. He seems much more, well, normal in the interview. There can be no doubt that the mainstream media jumped on his sermons as an opportunity to make a little political noise, and it was effective.

But my problems with Wright were never that he was a controversialist or politically incorrect. I like to think that I’m pretty politically incorrect, and in fact, many of his criticisms of the American system are criticisms that I myself share. I was voting for Ron Paul, after all.

My problems with Wright were and remain problems that are larger than this one incident. However poorly I communicated my concerns about the state of Black theology, I want to express that I have them because I have a desire to see the Black church attain a state of prominence within its own community, making effective change socially as well as spiritually. I do not feel that this can be properly achieved, however, unless we keep priorities in the proper order. (more…)

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Yes, I’m still here

I haven’t written much around here lately, so I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still around.  My teaching duties at Montreat College, while always a privilege, can become very time-consuming, and those obligations have had to take a priority the last couple of months.  This semester I’ve been teaching Biblical Interpretation, second semester Greek, NT Theology and a night class on Romans.  That means 10 lectures a week plus grading and administrative duties in my capacity as department chair and serving on other committees.  I’m very much looking forward to the summer. (more…)

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Rich Bledsoe is a retired PCA pastor living in Boulder, Colorado. He’s got quite the fascinating project going on in his life now, as he seeks to revitalize the city by specifically targeting the mainline churches within Boulder. This St. Anne’s Pub interview series is well worth your time and should give you a good introduction into what Rich is all about. He’s also a connoisseur of Barfield and Rosenstock-Huessy with some significant pastoral and missionary experience to help put those ideas into real life scenarios.

Rich gave some great commentary on the whole question of myth and history, and he gave me permission to post those thoughts here. These are not aimed at the contributors to this blog nor even our recent conversation in particular, though I was motivated by those conversations to ask for Rich’s thoughts. Rich is thinking of intellectuals that he’s encountered over the years who have contributed to this larger discussion. I found his thoughts worthy of consideration.

Rich Bledsoe writes:

It is true that “the ancients didn’t think this way.” A good deal of what we do call “modernity” is a gift of the Bible and Christianity.

Here is a homey story to illustrate: (more…)

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We’ve been having some lively discussion over the past week. There’s clearly been some disagreement, but there’s just as clearly been a desire to hear each other out, even if we may slip into brawling mode from time to time. I think at the end of the day everyone was trying to keep it clean.

And this brings me to one important feature of this blog- We are not primarily an apologetics blog. We will certainly defend our positions, and were it to come to it, we would all readily defend the faith in the face of rank unbelief. That’s usually not what’s going on, of course, and so we purposefully try to keep this site one for “open discussion.” Apologetics blogs quickly become ugly places where only the most narrow of conversation is admitted.


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We’ve been talking about “Biblicists” for a while now, and it should be clear that I’m not completely ashamed to wear that hat. However, I did want to address one topic that has often afflicted Biblicists in a very unhelpful way, that of opposing “Hebrew” thought and “Greek” thought. This concept is pretty easy to grasp: Hebrew good, Greek bad. Greek is Platonism or some other sort of false philosophy, and the trademark of all Greekiness is “dualism.” Hebrew, on the other hand, is organic, unified, dynamic. Again, Hebrew is good.

Now I have to give an immediate caveat and confession. I can see the attractiveness of this dichotomy. I do believe that we should build our philosophy from the Torah up. I get my primary cosmology from Genesis, and I do think that if we understood Leviticus, heck if we even read Leviticus, 80% of our troubles would just go away. I do think there is a basic ignorance of the Old Testament, certainly within Evangelicalism.

I’ve also been guilty of rejecting far too many thinkers as “Greek” or “Neo-Platonists” in my not-so distant past. Having been brought in to the Reformed faith through Van Til and Bahnsen, I was quite at home with the antithesis artillery. I’ve even read the vrijgemaakt literature, and anyone who knows Kamphuis and Van der Waal knows that to say they were “hostile” to Greek-thinking is an understatement.

But alas, my resolve has slowly been crumbling. (more…)

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Seeing the foundation of later Biblical theology in the creation account is easier in retrospect. Much like the sixth chapter of John, subsequent revelation causes the unclear to become absolutely clear. Indeed, this is so much the case, that after the larger picture is complete, not recognizing the earlier snapshots becomes a great loss.

For instance, why does Gen. 2:11-12 go into what seems like a parenthetical statement about the land of Havilah and the jewels that are there? Should I even ask this question?

As we read on, we see that it was while in the Havilah area (around Sinai in Shur- 1 Sam. 15:7) that Israel first found the bdellium-colored manna, and we also see that gold and onyx were used to built the Tabernacle and the High Priestly garments (Genesis 2:12; Exodus 25:7; 28:9-12; Numbers 11:7).

Bdellium has a relation to manna, which itself gained sacramental significance as it was kept in the tabernacle. Paul also appeals to it in 1 Cor. 10 as a counterpart to the Christian sacraments. Gold and onyx are Tabernacle jewels, and thus we have more support to the already well-accepted notion that the Garden of Eden was the tabernacle and temple in seed form.

This theme is carried out through Genesis 1, Genesis 2-3, and Genesis 4. Cain is a “man” who works in the dirt. Abel, literally “vapor,” is a shepherd whose sacrifice is appropriate. Dirt (earth), vapor (heaven), and sacrifice are all embedded in Genesis 4, coming right on the heels of the symbolically-charged garden of Eden (Eden is later explicitly connected with God’s holy mt.- Ez. 28:14).

And this is also important because creation ideas are later incorporated into Israel’s worship. God dwelled on the mountain for six days before calling Moses to enter his presence on the seventh. Unleavened bread is consumed for six days during Passover before the people draw into the assembly of the Lord on the seventh. The feast of tabernacles lasts for seven days. Priests were ordained for seven days (Ex. 29:35).

And of course, the Christian calendar ought to follow the new creation, which is the life of Christ.

Essentially, origins make for identities.

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One of the things that has come up in Steven’s helpful discussion of the controversial book by Enns is a request for some relevant literature describing the relationship between the creation accounts of Genesis and the those of the Ancient Near East.

Aside from suggestions to peruse the better evangelical (Wenham, Hamilton, Waltke, Blocher) and Jewish (Sarna) commentaries on Genesis, I might suggest these two articles by the late Gerhard Hasel (pdf’s of from my personal files).

Hasel, Gerhard F. “Significance of the cosmology in Genesis 1 in relation to ancient Near Eastern parallels” AUSS 10(1972): 1-20.

Hasel, Gerhard F. “Polemic nature of the Genesis cosmology” Evangelical Quarterly 46 (April-June, 1974): 81-102.

Its been a while since I’ve closely attended to these essays, but I think that they represent as sensible an approach to the problem as anything evangelical scholarship has produced in the past 30 years.

Here are a few more on the fire…

Kline, Meredith. “Because it Had Not Rained” Westminster Theological Journal 20 (1958): 146-57.

Futato, Mark. “Because it Had Rained: A Study of Gen. 2:5-7 With Implications for Gen. 2:4-25 and Gen. 1:1-2:3” Westminster Theological Journal 60 (1998): 1-21.

See also the audio lecture by French Evangelical, Henri Blocher on Genesis 1-3 available here.

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Limbus Patrum

Do the Reformed all reject this concept, or did any significant theologians argue to retain it?

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Given that we are posting conference info, I wanted to alert friends in and around Boston concerning this conference at the Pappas Patristic Institute of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology on April 17-19.  I will be delivering a paper there so interested parties are invited to meet me for a pint or some chowder somewhere during these couple of days.


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I would like to draw readers’ attention to the upcoming Atlantic Theological Conference, which will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 24th through the 27th of June. The topic of the conference is Christian Psychology, by which, judging from the titles of the presentations, the organizers primarily seem to mean the classical doctrine of the spiritual constitution of the human person, not the relation of religion and modern psychotherapies. The offerings look very promising.

But this is always the case with the Conferences, and when reading the conference papers, one finds the promise well fulfilled; I encourage those of you who are unfamiliar with them to browse the list of the bound papers of previous Conferences offered at St Peter’s Publications. The 1998 conference on Political Theology produced some exceptionally good material; but they are all good. Though I think Anglicanism as a recent invention is an empty thing, the old English pattern of prayer and order, and the old English tradition of learned theological reflection, are still in many ways exemplary, and the practice of these still flourishes in the Church of Canada in the circles more or less closely affiliated with King’s College and the eminent Rev Dr Robert Crouse, sometimes called “the conscience of the Canadian church,” whose writings are all worth close attention. One might describe this Canadian school of churchmen, loosely, as catholic-minded evangelical Anglicans with a deep respect for the magisterial Reformers. For instance, in Dr Crouse’s discourses one can find Dante and Baxter, Hooker and the Greek fathers, all cooperating harmoniously in the illumination of truth.

The philosophical review Animus, also connected with these circles, is very much worth reading (for instance, the excellent articles of WJT Kirby on Hooker and natural law, and on Bullinger, the civil magistrate, and the cura religionis– look for the latter article in the issue on Secularity). The articles in back issues can be consulted for free.

And those of you involved in the Christian educational revival might want to visit the site of Augustine College, a classical Christian school in Ontario which is connected to this revival of Canadian churchmanship. It is clearly one of the very best examples of the kind; and unusually for a Christian liberal arts academy, it includes within its program a well-crafted curriculum in the principles of medicine. I see too that Edward Tingley is listed among the faculty (all of whom seem very well qualified), and Mr Tingley’s essays, as I recall, are of the first order.

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With all of the discussion around Pete Enns, it is very tempting to side with one party or the other based on the larger ethos. “Shall the fundamentalists win?” we hear asked yet again. I am sympathetic to this response, but I would nevertheless like to offer a few reservations that I have with this particular use of the “Christological analogy.”

1. There are different types of inspiration. For instance, Leviticus seems to be rather directly dictated. The Lord spoke these exact words to Moses… The author is primarily a divine person. The Psalms are different. They are typically prayers being made from a human person towards a divine person, often with a prophetic end.

2. There are always at least two persons involved in Biblical inspiration. The person of the Holy Spirit works with the human person to write the Scriptures. Sometimes, the person of the Holy Spirit works with the human person in such a way that he quotes the exact words of the eternal Logos, thus we have two divine persons and one human person. Other times multiple human persons are used along with the one divine person. This quickly moves beyond the basic formula of Chalcedon.

3. The doctrine of the canon suggests to me that the very collection of books is inspired. I realize that this has been debated, but I believe modern biblical theology is strengthening the claim. With this in mind, we think of Peter’s commentary on Paul’s writings. He finds much of Paul’s teaching difficult to understand at times. How could we apply the Christological analogy to this? We have two human authors with different particular thoughts, at times challenging one another and having to learn to work together, but all of this is under the larger guidance of the divine Spirit.

I think that the Scriptures are closer to Pnuematology and Ecclesiology than Christology. In one sense, yes, it is true that they are the Word of God. However, if we begin asking questions of incarnation, then the Bible seems to me to be an incarnation of the Holy Spirit more so than an incarnation of the Son of God.

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I just wanted to make sure everyone knows about the recent Denominational Renewal Conference in the PCA.  Be sure to listen to Jeremy Jones’ lecture on Renewing Theology.  In it he even uses everyone’s favorite phrase, “Reformed Catholicism.”

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