Friday, June 10, 2016

Why the Exposition of the Scriptures is Important

It is important - no, it is vital - to faithfully expound the Scriptures. We do not uncover God's glory in Scripture with our weak, thematically driven, topically motivated  and textually dusted "therapeutic deism." Solid exposition is needed. John Piper says this well in A Peculiar Glory. Commenting on 2 Corinthians 4:4, Piper says

... The glory of God that marks the Scriptures as divine is manifested through the meaning of the writings. I emphasize this because, among other reasons, it seems to be one of the implications of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4:4, when he refers to the "light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." The "glory of Christ" shines its "light" into our hearts (v.6) as the "light of the gospel." But this is not the light of the Greek letter epsilon, upsilon, or any other isolated letters or isolated words. The "gospel" stands for a historical complex of events and the meaning those event have in the purpose of God" (p. 155, italics original).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Marriage and Gospel: Some Thoughts on Haters

I am reading through James Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation titled Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Church. This is one of the volumes in Crossway’s Preaching the Word Commentary Series. I don’t usually read commentaries; I use them for reference. But I determined to read one commentary each year, and this is my New Testament selection for this year.

Chapter 18 of Revelation speaks of the judgment of Babylon. In writing of this, Hamilton made an observation that set me thinking. Of this judgment he said:
There will be darkness with no more relationships, as we see in 18:23a: “and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more.” Marriage is about the gospel. It is about Jesus and the church. Babylon hates Jesus, rejects him as King, and kills those who preach his gospel. So they have the gift and joy of marriage removed (p.343).
In writing to the Ephesians, Paul addresses the responsibilities of husbands and wives as they live together. He concludes the discussion by saying, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). As Lames Hamilton observed, marriage reminds us of the gospel.

This reminds me the current cultural debate over the issue of sexuality and gender identification. Is the world’s hatred of Jesus and his gospel at the core of the culture’s hostility toward one man and one woman marriage? If the gospel cannot be destroyed, then perhaps the goal is to deface this demonstration of it.

How can one man + one woman = one flesh be true of those in same sex unions? I understand that heterosexual marriages end in divorce and heartache and that some same sex relationships experience years of loyalty and commitment. That, however, begs the question exegetically. According to the biblical category, only one man and one woman can know this one flesh relationship. In the same way, it is hard to image how transgender individuals demonstrate the gospel.

When commending human sexual relationships, the Bible speaks in the context of marriage. Serial fornication without marriage does not demonstrate Christ’s commitment to the church. 

I realize that this kind of language labels me as “bigoted,” “phobic,” or whatever current disparagement is in vogue. Christians do not hate people, particularly they do not hate people who are in these kinds of relationships. Some have acted as though they hate, but true Christians do not hate.

The culture at large hates the gospel because it is exclusive and it demands holiness. Current expressions of “sexual freedom” are but covert attempts to deprive the gospel of one of its most powerful expressions.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review: The Atheist Who Didn't Exist

In my opinion, anyone associated with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) is definitely worth reading. RZIM is known for its reasoned and cogent approach to apologetics. So, when I had the opportunity to get Andy Bannister’s The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist it was a no brainer. That I could get a free copy from Library Thing just for reviewing it sealed the deal. Let it be known at the outset that I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review. This disclaimer makes me compliant with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” The last thing I need is a black SUV with 4 FTC goons pulling up to my house and breaking down my door because I neglected to include a disclaimer. I would not do well in prison.

I was not disappointed with The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist. The subtitle tells it all: the dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments. Dr. Bannister sets his sights on the arguments (or rather, the polemical invectives) of the popularizers of what has been termed the New Atheists (Hitchens, Dawkins, While atheism is as old as Moses, the modern version is particularly militant and zealous. Bannister notes this in a citation from Stephen Prothero who notes that “the question of God is never far from their minds” (p. 45). Bannister’s approach, however, is not to answer the arguments one by one. He does not present alternative ways of looking at the fossil record, discussing macro-evolution or possible alternatives to the Big Bang. His primary thrust is to look at the arguments that are usually offered by the New Atheists and demonstrate how the arguments in themselves are wretched and nonsensical. Bad arguments do not need refuted; they need only be exposed.
Andy (note the gradual familiarity in this review) casts his premises in a winsome and readable fashion. He makes sense and he makes you smile. His humor does not mean that the subject matter is not serious – it is indeed. It does, nonetheless, help to show how laughable bad arguments are, especially when clothed in the robes of academia.

Get this book and read it. Underline and highlight or whatever you do, but you will love this book. It will make you think and it will generate confidence as you live in a world that has, by and large, fallen hook, line, and sinker for the New Atheist agenda. 

Goebbels: A Biography by Peter Longerich

In the New Testament book of Revelation, there is a curious individual known as “the false prophet.” He is sometimes considered to be the mouthpiece of the Antichrist. If Adolph Hitler was the antichrist, then Josef Goebbels was the false prophet.  Peter Longerich’s new work on this mysterious individual is based upon new scholarship and recently released and translated editions of Goebbels’ personal and private diary. Goebbels brings this man to life for a generation now decades removed from the last World Conflict.

Longerich begins the story in the Berlin Bunker in April of 1945 when, after the suicide of Goebbels’ idol and Hitler’s new wife, and after all attempts at honorable surrender have been exhausted, Josef and Magda Goebbels methodically poison their children then take their own lives. Of all the loyalists who surrounded Hitler during the Third Reich, only the Goebbels choose to remain in the bunker and join der Fuhrer in suicide. 

Goebbels is the story of a rather ordinary man who longed to be something out of the ordinary. Saddled with a disability that affected the way he walked, Josef overcompensated by trying to form himself into an intellectual and scholar. By all reports, he was mediocre at best. However, he did legitimately earn a PhD in Germany and set his sights for a career in academia.

Longerich shows Goebbels as a normal man who experienced broken heartedness, familial love, and the normal passions that any person would possess. There was little clue in his early life that indicated that he would one day become the man who could speak for the Third Reich.

Two important character traits began to emerge in young Josef. The first was his narcissism. He became so completely narcissistic that cruelty to others was considered a legitimate tool if it could be effectively used to support his ego. The second was his growing anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism was not unique to Goebbels or the Nazis for that matter. Many in Germany at this time embraced it or overlooked it. In Goebbels it grew to a passion. These two character flaws were to cataclysmically converge when Goebbels met Adolph Hitler. 

Goebbels’ diary entries show a symbiotic relationship between the Fuhrer and his Propaganda Minister. Hitler relied on Goebbels narcissism and Goebbels fed into Hitler’s aggression and anti-Semitism. Sometimes during the account, it is difficult to know who was pulling whose strings. Hitler depended upon the Goebbels family as his surrogate family, and even appears to have been in love with Magda Goebbels. Josef relied upon Hitler to feed his constant need for approval. Though at times frustrated with his indecision, Goebbels looked upon Hitler as almost god-like.

Peter Longerich presents a compelling biography of one of the most notorious men of the 20th century. My version was an audiobook, which I requested from LibraryThing. At times, a hard copy would have been beneficial to recheck names, acronyms, German words, etc. Notwithstanding, this is a great book

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution

Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker present a biased set of questions and answers in 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution. They are biased because they are both creationists who take seriously the creation account in Genesis. This book deals with questions that often arise within the context of a literal understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis. The questions are grouped in 6 categories: Questions About the Doctrine of Creation; Questions About Creation and Genesis 1-2; Questions About the Days of Creation; Questions About the Days of Creation;  Questions About the Age of the Earth; Questions About the Fall and the Flood; and Questions About Evolution and Intelligent Design.

In 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution, you will find that many of your questions will go unanswered. In fact, you may finish the book with more questions than you had before you began. For example, does the Bible teach a young earth or an old earth? The authors admit that they are divided on the issue, one being an Old Earth Creationist, and the other a Young Earth Creationist. In fact, they identify four major positions that fall under a “creationist” umbrella: young earth creationism, old earth creationism, evolutionary creationism, and intelligent design. They candidly state that, “none of the four views… are without serious problems.”

Keathley and Rooker address topics that have become shibboleths for conservative and fundamentalist Christians, including the influence of Whitcomb and Morris and the work of Archbishop Ussher. Young Earth Creationists, in particular, have been impacted by these works.

The authors are not concerned about converting the reader to a young or old earth position. They do convincingly demonstrate the problems inherent with the evolutionary model and show the reasonableness of the doctrine creation (which they helpfully distinguish between creationism). They devote a section to questions about the historicity of Adam and Eve and the implications that this has regarding one’s view of the New Testament.

I appreciate the Christian humility and charity shown by these authors to those who may disagree with them. For some of us, a particular position on the age of the earth, the length of the days of creation, and a particular view of creationism have been tests of genuine faith. This book lessens the heat of discussion and lets in the light.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: 30 Events

Alton Gansky selected 30 events that impacted the Christian church in his book titled, 30 Events That Shaped the Church – Learning from Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival. Of course, there are many more than 30 events that shaped the church; these 30 are, however, the ones chosen by the author.

Some of the events chosen are no-brainers. The Edict of Milan, The first Nicene Council, Gutenberg’s Press, The Reformation, and the Great Awakening in America would undoubtedly show up on most lists of church shaping events. Gansky includes some surprising events – surprising in that they do not rise to the level of The Reformation or Edict of Milan, but are influential nonetheless. Among these are the publication of Ussher’s Chronology, the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Jesus Movement, and the rise of movements like the Religious Right and the New Atheism.

This book was easy and delightful to read. It will inform the reader of movements that have gone little noticed in larger treatments. I recommend it.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker Books as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus

Commentaries are not necessarily designed to be read as one would read a novel or a biography. They are reference books. But I agreed to review A Commentary on Exodus by Duane Garrett for Kregel, so I began to read it as one would read any book. I was surprised to discover the delight that I experienced as I read. Certainly, this commentary has value as a reference work, but it is a good read as well. This is a great addition to the growing Kregel Exegetical Library.

As one would imagine, the commentary begins with a lengthy (145 pages) introduction. In this are included discussions about textual, archaeological, historical, and geographical issues. Since the Documentary Hypothesis has been largely debunked, Garrett does not spend much time with it. He carefully examines the evidence for the dating of Exodus and shows that there is no conclusive evidence to nail down a date. In the end, however, he points out that the dating has no bearing on the message of the book.

After the introduction, the commentary consists of the author’s translation and translational notes provided in footnote form, an outline or “structure” of the passage, commentary, and a section titled “Theological Summary of Key Points.” A working knowledge of Hebrew is vital to understanding the textual and translational issues, but the non-Hebrew student will not be completely lost in this commentary.

One of the battle ground issues in the study of Exodus concerns the plagues visited upon Egypt. Some modern commentators view these as naturally occurring phenomena that were given mythical and supernatural status by the compilers of the Pentateuch. Garrett does not dismiss that some of these may have indeed been naturally occurring phenomena. Yet, in most cases, they occurred at the command of Moses, and dissipated likewise at his command. Note:

“…the Bible does not assert that the frogs, mosquitoes, flies and locusts that swarmed over Egypt were specifically created ex nihlo or that the hail fell from a blue sky… Furthermore, to assert that these events do fit within the facts of natural history is not to deny their miraculous nature. The intensity of the plagues, together with the fact that they begin and often end at Moses’ word is proof enough that they were a work of God” (p. 319).

Garrett is aware that the point of the Scripture is to testify of Jesus, and he is quick to run to the gospel in the commentary. Commenting on 32:9-35, he writes, “Moses intercession with God is also analogous to Christ’s heavenly intercession in that the people of Israel did not even know it was happening or that they needed it. So also, our survival depends on Christ’s intercession, even when we are wholly unaware of it” (p. 635).

Once again, Kregel has provided us a great addition to commentaries on the Old Testament canon. Garrett’s A Commentary on Exodus should be included in any library of this pivotal section of the Pentateuch.

 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”