Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Voddie Baucham: The Elephant in the Room

Voddie's word is excellent. Here are the first two paragraphs:

This past week a firestorm erupted over the recent “Elephant Room 2.” The controversy centers around the decision to invite Bishop T.D. Jakes to participate in the event. The central questions in the debate are 1) whether or not Bishop Jakes holds to the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, 2) whether it was appropriate to invite (and feature) him without first having clarified his position on this cardinal doctrine, and 3) whether he cleared up the matter.

I was scheduled to speak at Harvest Bible Chapel on the weekend following ER2 which raised significant questions about my stance on the matter. While I do not consider it my responsibility to comment on every controversy, I do recognize my duty to clarify matters with which I am involved directly, and/or those that impact the congregation I am called to shepherd. Hence, my explanation now.

I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Other Elephant in the Room

For my little article on the first elephant in the room, go here.

Why would a person resign from a committee of faithful gospel preachers in order to 'unite' with a man who is heretical on at least two fronts (and I do use the word 'heresy' with its full force). This is ridiculous!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How Did the Apostle Paul Understand Leviticus 18:5?

Justin Taylor's post is about the best little summary/explanation I've read on this important topic. I think this kind of thing is the key to understanding how to read/apply both the Old Testament and the New Testament in the life of the Christian. Here is his post in its entirety:

The Apostle Paul twice cites Leviticus 18:5 in the midst of important arguments about justification.

In Galatians 3:12 he says, “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’”

And in Romans 10:5 he says, “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.”

One of the more common recent readings is that Paul is not talking about the actual Mosaic law, but rather about a legalistic misuse or misunderstanding of it. In part this is because we know that salvation has always been by faith, even under the Mosaic covenant, and yet Paul appears to be contrasting the law with faith (see Gal. 3:11 and Rom. 10:6 for the contrasts).

However, this “misuse of the law” interpretation simply can’t account for Paul’s actual flow of thought and argument. Tom Schreiner points out one of the reasons in 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law: “the misinterpretation view suffers from a major defect. Elsewhere Paul always cites an Old Testament text positively to advance his own argument, and we are lacking any clear evidence that he responds to a wrong understanding here. It is most likely, then, that Paul cites the Old Testament to advance his argument.”

So what is Paul really doing? I think Schreiner’s understanding is exactly right, and if you don’t see Paul’s strategy here, you’ll misread a good chunk of Paul’s contrast between the old and new covenants.

Paul reads Leviticus 18:5 redemptive-historically.

Perfect obedience is demanded from those who place themselves under the law, for the atonement provided by Old Testament sacrifices no longer avails with the coming of Christ.

Perfect obedience was not demanded in one sense under the Sinai covenant, for the law provided forgiveness via sacrifices for those who transgressed.

In Paul’s view, however (see Gal. 3:15-4:7), the Sinai covenant is no longer in force. Hence, those who observe circumcision and the law to obtain justification (Gal. 5:2-4) are turning back the clock in salvation history. The coming of Christ spells the end of the Sinai covenant (Gal. 3:15-4:7). Hence, those who live under the law must keep it perfectly to be saved, for in returning to the law they are forsaking the atonement provided by Christ (Gal. 2:21; 5:3). Returning to the law is futile, however, for the sacrifices of atonement under the Sinai covenant pointed ahead to the sacrifice of Christ. Therefore animal sacrifices no longer provide forgiveness now that the definitive sacrifice of Christ has been offered (Gal. 3:13).

In the chapter on this verse in his book, Dr. Schreiner also explains what Leviticus 18:5meant in its original context, how it was interpreted in the rest of the OT, and why we should reject the reading that sees Romans 10:5 and 10:6-8 as both describing the life of faith.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Light Before The Sun

"Let there be light". The first recorded command in history rang out across a dark, formless void, and instantly the dark gloom was replaced by blazing light. The Creator-God stepped back and admired what he had made and he concluded, "this is good". Twelve hours later, the light faded and was replaced, not with never-ending darkness, but twelve hours of darkness before the light blazed forth again. The first recorded day in all of history was complete. On the next day, sky, and the next, land and vegetation with seed-bearing fruit came into existence through the creative command of God. The succession of evening and morning that had begun a few days previously continued and would continue. And then on the fourth day, God spoke again: "Let there be...lights".

It is well documented that the Genesis creation account records the creation of light first, but the creation of lights, of planets to emanate light, on the fourth day. The question begs to be asked, 'how could God create light on the first, and planets on the fourth day'? Some claim that this is a Hebrew poetic device, and that the days of creation are not meant to be interpreted as a creative succession, but rather, as a poetic re-telling of what must have happened, somewhere between history and myth. Some mock, and cite this as the first error in the Bible, the first authorial slip, the first sign that the Bible is not trustworthy. From human experience it is certainly impossible to have light, to have earth at all, without light-emanating planets.

Indeed, there are many proposed explanations for the creation of light before the creation of planets to emanate light, and I have yet to read all the various views on this important topic...but I do have a theory as to what was going on. I think that the second-to-last chapter of the Bible sheds incredible 'light' on Genesis 1. Revelation 21:23 says this about the New Jerusalem:
"And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (ESV).
What do we learn here? In the very least, we learn that God has no need of planets in order to emanate light, that all he needs is, well, himself. "God is light" (1 John 1:5). And the New Heavens and the New Earth will have no need of planets because all that separates men and women from God will be gone. Jesus, who is The Light of the World (John 8:12), has already paid for sin and redeemed his people. In the New Heavens and New Earth, the full-inheritance will be given, and the God who is Light will provide all the glory that the Christian's eternal home will need.

Could it be that in that first act of creation, God spoke and simply revealed his glory, allowed his own radiance to emanate forth? Could it be that he hung light into place on that day, and that he himself was the source of that light? This certainly makes sense.

Could it be that on the fourth day of creation, God was making provision for sin, for the day when the crowning climax of God's creation, men and women made in his image, would rebel against their creator, and would be separated from God's perfect presence, for the time when the God who is Light would be unbearable to be around, because he is so perfectly pure, and we are so utterly sinful? Could it be that the all-knowing Creator was already thinking of mercy, was already thinking of how to preserve a people who would rebel, so they would be ready for the gospel, even before they were created?

These are some of my own exegetical wrestlings with God's Word. I do not share these things as the final word, or even a great word that I've read in a book somewhere. I share them as the thoughts of a student of the Bible who is in process, but who loves to dig more deeply in the Word of God, so that the God who has revealed himself would be closer to his heart.

I'm so glad that I wrestle with the Bible deeply, long before commentaries on the Bible ever enter my hands. I'm so glad for the privilege of having daily, even constant, first-hand access to the very words of God.

And I'm also glad for community, even cyber-community. Can you share any thoughts that shed light on, or disproves what I've written? I would love to learn from my readers, and to have my gaze at God be brought into greater focus. Leave a comment and give some thoughts!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Is "Theological Interpretation of Scripture"?

My buddy Uche answers that question in this very brief, very simple, very helpful introduction to a movement in scholarship that I like (and that he embodies).

Read his answer here.