Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: The Quest for the Historical Adam

The Quest for the Historical Adam Genesis Hermeneutics and HumanThe Quest for the Historical Adam Genesis Hermeneutics and Human by William VanDoodewaard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful book, blending history, theology, and cultural analysis. The author begins in the Patristic era and works through 2013 showing what different theologians believed about the existence of Adam and Eve as the first humans created by God, as well as the age of the earth. The value of the book lies in its extensive scope, covering 2,000 years of church history and touching on all major figures. He stops discussing Roman Catholics after the Reformation. But he does discuss all branches of Protestantism, including Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Dutch Reformed from the Reformation onward.

This book is not an exegetical examination of Genesis 1-2, but rather a collating of various interpretations of Genesis 1-2. The author spends the bulk of the pages on the time since the Enlightenment because there is little if any disagreement on Adam and Eve prior to that time. The wealth of primary sources quoted from is overwhelming and opens numerous avenues of research for those who want more information. There are several article and books listed that I want to read. Several thoughts emerged as I read:

First, superficial appeals to church history by old earth proponents should be challenged. The author does not focus on the age of the earth, but there are enough quotes to let the reader know that simply saying "Augustine did not believe in a literal 24 hour days either" is not sufficient. Force old earth men to say how their system compares to those that came before. Doing that will help one see there are not many connections between old earth today and the more figurative approaches of the early church and even men like Bavinck and Kuyper.

Second, one question that must be answered by old earth proponents is when does the Genesis text become literal and why? Many want Genesis to become literal in 2:4 or later, but before that it is symbolic, analogical, etc. Why? Why is 2:4 literal and 1:24 not?

Third, while many old earth men still hold to a literal Adam and Eve they have no reason to in the text of Genesis. In other words, their hermeneutic of Genesis 1-2 has no brakes. If the days are not 24 hour days then why does Adam have to be a real man? And while their interpretation does not necessitate a non-literal Adam, it also does not require a literal one, which leaves the door open to some of the recent denials that Adam existed at all.

Fourth, the adoption of evolutionary theory for the origins of man is devastating to historic Christianity's view of man, sin, God, Christ, and salvation. This does not mean that all who adopt evolutionary theory take it this far. But a hermeneutic which allows evolution to squeeze into Genesis 1-2 can, and some would say logically does, lead to the denial of key tenets of the Christian faith.

Fifth, appeals to Ancient Near Eastern cosmologies must be challenged. Men like Walton, Collins, and Enns to varying degrees allow ANE literature to greatly influence their reading of Genesis 1-3 (and even beyond). Why? Why is there the implicit assumption in many discussions that Scripture is downstream from ANE literature instead of the other way around? Why does ANE literature and the Scriptures "share" their context instead of ANE literature being a godless twisting of the Genesis record?

Finally, seminaries and pastors have a duty to be clear on these issues. What is within the bounds of orthodoxy and what is not? The answer to this question is not easy, but it must be found and boldly proclaimed.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Southern Baptist Seminary Stemmed the Evolutionary Tide

Roy Honeycutt the president of Southern Baptist Seminary from 1982-1993 was weak on inerrancy and did not clearly hold to a literal Adam or a young earth. This angered many Southern Baptists in late 80's, in particular Adrian Rogers, a well known preacher and three time president of the Southern Baptist Convention. However, it still appeared that the evolutionary, non-historical Adam tide, which had overtaken many conservative seminaries in the 80's and 90's would also overtake Southern Baptist. However, it did not. Now Southern Baptist is one of the strongest voices for the traditional, conservative interpretation of Genesis 1-3. How did Southern Baptist stem the tide?
The exchanges [between Honeycutt and Rogers] indicated a wider conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention that was marked by a consistent determination to pursue reformation...Within the Southern Baptist Convention, conservatives increasingly gained majorities, electing individuals to key positions, which began to impact the membership of the Board of Trustees of Southern Seminary. By 1990, the situation had reached a tipping point. A conservative majority was seated on the board and began to implement a requirement of scriptural inerrancy. [Bold is mine.]
One thing led to another and
Having for some years slowed the transition toward a conservative evangelicalism, Honeycutt announced his retirement in 1992, and R. Albert Mohler was elected president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993. With the support of the seminary's trustees, Mohler moved to implement a meaningful adherence to the seminary's historic Abstract of Principles, along with other faculty requirements, leading to major transitions in faculty between 1994 and 1997. These changes brought the seminary to a firmly conservative evangelical position. 
The process is not complicated, but it does require courage. Determine to pursue reformation/resist unbiblical thinking, begin to make the changes necessary to get the right men in right places, put those men in authority, and then let them clean house. Now if we could just get Covenant Seminary to follow suit.

All the quotes are from The Quest for the Historical Adam.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

An Italics Mini-Rant

There is no perfect translation of the Scriptures. However, some are better than others. In my study I use the King James Version, English Standard Version and the New King James Version, as well the Hebrew and Greek. I am most fond of the NKJV for preaching. One reason is that it leaves in italics. Italics in the Biblical text tell you that the word is not found in the original Hebrew or Greek. Normally this is simply filling in the blanks. For example, I opened the Bible at random and found Acts 20:1
And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia (NKJV). 
You can see here that "himself" and "them" make sense in context even though they are not actually in the text. Does it really matter if those two words are italicized? I think it does and here is why. Look at these two versions of I Chronicles 17:25
For You, O my God, have revealed to Your servant that You will build him a house. Therefore your servant has found it in his heart to pray before you. (NKJV) 
For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you. (ESV)
It is the last phrase that interests me. You can see that the NKJV has indicated by italics where they inserted a phrase to make the text clear. The ESV has not. Therefore if someone reads the ESV they will assume the word "courage" is in the text when it is not. Now I think that can be implied from the text, but it would still be nice of the ESV let us know they were supplying the word. That way the reader can judge for themselves the accuracy of the supplied word. 

Here is one more example from the New Testament, Hebrews 9:18:
Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood (NKJV). 
Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood (ESV). 
"Covenant" makes sense in the context of Hebrews 9. However, as a reader I would like to know that the translators supplied it. Will it make a big difference? No. But it will help me trust that the translators are letting me know when they put words in. Italics are a kindness to the reader. Also here is another reason why pastors should be able to get around in the original languages, if not read them fluently.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Calvin, Baptism, and Election


Here is quote by Calvin, which lays out nicely his view of the sacraments. In this section he is refuting Pighius. I am quoting directly from Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God. I have added paragraph breaks. Brackets and bold are mine. Everything else was in the book.
Paul represents (Romans 2:29) circumcision as of letter and spirit. We must think similarly of baptism. Some carry in their bodies the mere sign, but are far from possessing the reality. For Peter also, teaching that salvation follows our baptism, immediately adds as though in correction that the mere external washing of the flesh is not enough unless there is added also the answer of a good conscience (I Peter 3:21).
Thus Scripture, in dealing with the sacraments, customarily speaks  of them in a twofold sense. When dealing with hypocrites who glory in the sign and neglect the reality, in order to prostrate [throw down] their confidence, it separates the reality from the signs, in contrast to their perverse understanding. Thus Paul (I Cor 10:3-13) reminds his readers that it did not profit the ancient people to have been baptized in their passage through the Red Sea and to have with us the same spiritual food in the desert (meaning, that is, that they participated with us in the same external signs of the spiritual gifts).
But addressing the faithful he describes the use of the sacraments as legitimate, efficacious and corresponding to the divine institution. It is here that phrases apply: to have put on Christ, engrafted into His body, buried together with him, who have been baptized in His name (Rom. 6:4, Col 2:12, Gal. 3:27, I Cor. 12:27). From [these passages] Pighius concludes that all sprinkled with the visible element of water are truly regenerated by the Spirit and incorporated into the body of Christ so as to live to God and in His righteousness...
But a little later, as if drawing in his wings, Pighius remarks that many fall away from Christ who had been truly engrafted into His body; for he makes out  that those committed to Christ and received into His faithful care are saved by Him in such a way that their salvation is dependent on their own free will. To many, he says, the protecting grace of Christ is not wanting, but they are wanting in themselves. Certainly the stupidity and ingratitude of those who withdraw themselves from the help of God can never be sufficiently condemned. But it is a quite intolerable insult to Christ to say that the elect are saved by Him, provided they look after themselves. This is to render doubtful the protection of Christ which He affirms is invincible against the devil and all the machinations of hell. Christ promised to give eternal life to all give Him by the Father (John 17:2). He testifies that He is a faithful custodian of them all, so that none perishes except the son of perdition (John 17:12)... 
If eternal life is certain to all the elect, if  no one can pluck them from Him, if no violence nor any assault can tear them from Him, if their salvation stands in the invincible power of God, what impudence for Pighius to shake so fixed a certitude. Though Christ casts none out, he says, yet many depart from Him, and those who once were children of God do not continue so. But Pighius is a bad and perverse interpreter, not acknowledging  that whatever is given him by the Father is retained in the hand of Christ, so that it remains safe to the end; for those that fall away, John declares to be not of His flock. 
This lengthy quote is worth reading carefully for several reasons. It shows that certain lines from Calvin, such as "yet many depart from Him, and those who once were children of God do not continue so" can be interpreted out of context to mean something they do not mean. This line, by itself, sounds like Calvin believes true Christians can fall away. However, throughout the passage and the book he draws a clear line between the elect and the non-elect while still agreeing that "many things are found alike in the reprobate and the children of God. But, however they shine in appearance of righteousness, it is certain they are not possessed of the Spirit of adoption, so that their owners may truly invoke God as Father." (This quote is two pages after the one above.) While there are some similarities with the elect, those who fall away are never part of the elect in the fullest sense. They are not adopted and God is not their Father. 

This passage also shows that the relationship between election and the sacraments has long been an issue. Pighius argued that the elect were saved at baptism, but the rest was left up to them. They were "regenerated by the Spirit." They have been truly grafted into Christ's body, but they must keep themselves there. Calvin says God gives all to his elect, including the promise that Christ is the "faithful custodian of them." Those given to Christ by the Father are kept by Christ unto the end. There are none lost (John 6:39). 

Calvin gives the classic understanding of how the sacraments are to be understood. There is the sign (baptism/communion/the Word) and there is the reality, Jesus Christ received by faith. Hypocrites need to have the two distinguished so they do not glory in the sign while not having the reality. The faithful need to have the two wedded together so they do not despair, but know that Jesus really feeds them through these signs.

Finally, he makes clear that Christ's power and glory are at stake in any debate about election. Predestination debates are not primarily about man's free will, but about the power of Christ to save and redeem. When we say man can and does slip from Christ's grasp the primary problem is not that we grant man a completely free will, but that we deny the efficacy of Christ's work.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Book Review: Predestination by John Calvin

Concerning the Eternal Predestination of GodConcerning the Eternal Predestination of God by John Calvin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Also read in May of 2008

Very good treatment of predestination. Calvin does a great job treating many of the relevant texts and objections to the doctrine. He also clarifies his position showing where it has been misunderstood. Calvin humbly refuses to go beyond what is written, but he also refuses to let one text blatantly contradict another. He keeps the reader going back to central questions. Why is one man redeemed and the other man not? His section on providence is wonderful. Reading the book, it is clear the Calvin teaches classic predestination. Finally the way he insults Pighius is worth the price of the book.

The formatting on my version, which is the one pictured, needs some work. First, it needs more paragraphs. The text can be hard on the eyes. Second, Calvin quotes Augustine over and over again, but in my version it is difficult to tell where the quotes end. Italics or quotations marks should be added to indicate where Calvin is speaking and where he is quoting someone else.

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Did Judas Really Partake?


Calvin comments on whether or not Judas received the body of Christ at the Last Supper.
When he says that he dwelleth in us, [John 6:56] the meaning is the same as if he had said, that the only bond of union, and the way by which he becomes one with us, is, when our faith relies on his death. We may likewise infer from it, that he is not now speaking of the outward symbol, which many unbelievers receive equally with believers, and yet continue separated from Christ. It enables us also to refute the dream of those who say, that Judas received the body of Christ as well as the other apostles, when Christ gave the bread to all; for as it is a display of ignorance to limit this doctrine to the outward sign, so we ought to remember what I have formerly said, that the doctrine which is here taught is sealed in the Lord’s Supper. Now, it is certain, in the first place, that Judas never was a member of Christ; secondly, it is highly unreasonable to imagine the flesh of Christ to be dead and destitute of the Holy Spirit; and, lastly, it is a mockery to dream of any way of eating the flesh of Christ without faith, since faith alone is the mouth — so to speak — and the stomach of the soul.

Here is another quote from Calvin's commentary on John 6.
And I will raise him up at the last day [John 6:54] It ought to be observed, that Christ so frequently connects the resurrection with eternal life, because our salvation will be hidden till that day. No man, therefore, can perceive what Christ bestows on us, unless, rising above the world, he places before his eyes the last resurrection From these words, it plainly appears that the whole of this passage [John 6:52-59] is improperly explained, as applied to the Lord’s Supper. For if it were true that all who present themselves at the holy table of the Lord are made partakers of his flesh and blood, all will, in like manner, obtain life; but we know that there are many who partake of it to their condemnation. And indeed it would have been foolish and unreasonable to discourse about the Lord’s Supper, before he had instituted it. It is certain, then, that he now speaks of the perpetual and ordinary manner of eating the flesh of Christ, which is done by faith only. And yet, at the same time, I acknowledge that there is nothing said here that is not figuratively represented, and actually bestowed on believers, in the Lord’s Supper; and Christ even intended that the holy Supper should be, as it were, a seal and confirmation of this sermon. This is also the reason why the Evangelist John makes no mention of the Lord’s Supper; and therefore Augustine follows the natural order, when, in explaining this chapter, he does not touch on the Lord’s Supper till he comes to the conclusion; and then he shows that this mystery is symbolically represented, whenever the Churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper, in some places daily, and in other places only on the Lord’s day.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Eating is Believing

John 6:22-59  a great passage with layers upon layers of meaning. It is common for people who are excited about the Lord's Supper or are studying it for the first time to make John 6 refer directly to communion. However, after studying it, I am sure that it does not. It does have application to the Lord's Supper, but Jesus is not talking about eating bread and drinking wine in this passage. He is talking about believing in Him. Throughout the passage Christ is exhorting men to believe in Him (John 6:29). He uses several metaphors throughout the text to describe this act of believing. Here are some of them.

John 6:27-Labor for the food that does not perish.

John 6:35-He who comes to me/He who believes in me.  (See also John 6:37).

John 6:40 Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him has everlasting life.

John 6:45 Hearing and learning from the Father means you come to Christ.

John 6:47 He who believes in me has everlasting life.

John 6:50-51 One may eats this bread and not die/If anyone eats this bread he will live forever.

John 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.

John 6:56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.

John 6:58 He who eats the bread will live forever.

In the passage, Jesus is using coming, eating, and drinking as metaphors for believing in Him. Eating is not faith itself, but is the fruit of faith, believing in Jesus Christ. Our faith comes from God the Father giving us to Christ (John 6:37). We then come to Jesus, eat Jesus, believe in Jesus, are taught by God, etc. Jesus promises that those who are given him by the Father and who therefore come to him will never be lost (John 6:39). All of these for belief are not exactly the same. For example, being taught by God leads to us coming to Christ, but is not equivalent to us coming to Christ. It is the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit which is the fruit of our election.

The reason this passage cannot refer, at least directly, to the Lord's Supper is that whoever does these things is raised up on the last day (John 6:39-40, 54). It works like this:

Anyone who eats Christ's flesh has eternal life and will be resurrected to glory.
There are some who eat the Lord's Supper and are damned.
Therefore eating His flesh is not the same thing as eating the bread and drinking the wine.

The passage has application to the Lord's Supper, but we must be careful to not make the act of eating equivalent to the act of believing. If you believe you should celebrate the Lord's Supper and want to eat the bread and wine. But eating and drinking does not guarantee that belief is present.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why Christ's Flesh Can Save Us

Here is a quote from John Calvin's commentary on John 6:51. I have bolded that portion that I really enjoyed. 
But an objection is brought, that the flesh of Christ cannot give life, because it was liable to death, and because even now it is not immortal in itself; and next, that it does not at all belong to the nature of flesh to quicken [make alive] souls. I reply, though this power comes from another source than from the flesh, still this is no reason why the designation may not accurately apply to it; for as the eternal Word of God is the fountain of life, (John 1:4,) so his flesh, as a channel, conveys to us that life which dwells intrinsically, as we say, in his Divinity. And in this sense it is called life-giving, because it conveys to us that life which it borrows for us from another quarter. This will not be difficult to understand, if we consider what is the cause of life, namely, righteousness. And though righteousness flows from God alone, still we shall not attain the full manifestation of it any where else than in the flesh of Christ; for in it was accomplished the redemption of man, in it a sacrifice was offered to atone for sins, and an obedience yielded to God, to reconcile him to us; it was also filled with the sanctification of the Spirit, and at length, having vanquished death, it was received into the heavenly glory. It follows, therefore that all the parts of life have been placed in it, that no man may have reason to complain that he is deprived of life, as if it were placed in concealment, or at a distance.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rick Phillips on Singleness, Marriage, and Divorce

Here are some short, but good posts by Rick Phillips where he answers some specific questions he received at a recent conference. While I would not agree with every jot and tittle, the main teaching is solid.

In this post he addresses why there are so many singles if marriage is so important. All four points are good, but the first one is excellent.

Here he addresses dating a non-virgin. It is a balanced post showing that sexual purity is a goal, but dating (or for me courting) a non-virgin is not automatically a bad thing. I think this is important because in some ways we have made sexual sin a permanent stain. Past sexual sins should be discussed, but the key is the person's current relationship with Christ, not their past transgressions.

Here he addresses the Biblical grounds for divorce. The post is not ground breaking, but it does give a succinct presentation of what I think is the Biblical teaching on divorce.

Finally, he addresses whether or not Christians should get civil marriage licenses. Again solid teaching here.

Cold Feet in Calvin's Geneva


I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte's book on marriage in Geneva. At the bottom of this post you can find the other articles.

In a previous post I looked at what happens when people get too excited about marriage and up sleeping together before their wedding. As with all periods of history, this problem was common Geneva. However, there was another issue that Geneva faced that is not a problem in 21st Century America; desertion before marriage. This is not an issue today because engagement is binding. If a couple is engaged, it is assumed they will get married. But if they do not wish to get married all they have to do is break off the engagement.  Nothing more is needed. 

However, in Geneva an engagement was almost as binding as a marriage. Someone could not simply say, "I do not want to get married" and then dissolve the engagement. But just as people slept together before marriage in all ages, in all ages men and women get nervous when it comes to finally saying, "I do." Kingdon and Witte say it like this:
The opposite problem of premarital sex was premarital desertion. Some engaged parties got "cold feet" in anticipation of their marriage and took flight from Geneva, with or without explanation. Others had to be away during their engagement for business, to answer court summons, to visit family or friends, or to serve in the military, and then were detained, imprisoned, sick, or died. Still other engaged parties were whisked away by parents or occasionally by former lovers or spouses who did not want to them to marry their new beloved. This was a day of relatively poor communications and public recording keeping in a city with a transient population. Was desertion an impediment that could break the engagement contract? How long was a deserted party to wait before being free to pursue another? What procedures should be followed to inoculate an innocent party against polygamy charges if the deserter later returned and challenged a second engagement or marriage contract? 
The seriousness of desertion was amplified by the seriousness of engagement. It took the equivalent of divorce proceedings to get out of an engagement. Geneva had specific regulations guiding how desertion was handled in their Marriage Ordinance of 1546. Here are the guidelines. I am summarizing and not quoting directly.

1. If an engaged man has disappeared without prior knowledge and it appears that he has done so from bad motives, there is to attempt made to contact him and ask him to return and get married by a certain date.

2. If he has not returned by the set date, the church is to proclaim from its pulpit that he must appear This is to be proclaimed three times, every other week for six consecutive weeks. If at that time he still has not returned the wife is free and the man is "banished for disloyalty."

3. If he has good reason to be gone, such as business, and informs the wife-to-be of his trip, she is to wait one year before "proceeding against him for his absence." If a year passes and he has not returned then she can proceed as above. The situation here is a man leaves on business and is gone longer than expected. She tries to contact him, but cannot get in touch with him. She is to wait one year before breaking off the engagement.  This might also have been in place to prevent the wife at home from getting excited about another suitor and breaking off the engagement prematurely.

4. The husband was to follow the same procedure, except he did not have to wait a year, unless he had given her permission to depart.

5. If anyone, such as a parent or friend, helps an engaged person escape the city so as to avoid the impending marriage they shall be punished and shall make all efforts to get the engaged person back to Geneva.

Beyond these rules Calvin said very little about desertion. He did allow for a wife to divorce if her husband deserted her citing I Corinthians 7:12-16.  Kingdon and Witte note:
Calvin did allow wives to desert chronically abusive husbands who posed grave threats to their bodies and souls, provided that these women gave adequate notice of their intentions. If Calvin allowed wives to desert in these cases, he doubtless would have condoned it even more readily for fiancees. 
Beza, Calvin's successor at Geneva, made the desertion laws more strict. In particular, he created a greater disparity between how long men had to wait and women had to wait. Some think the longer waiting period for women was to make sure they were not pregnant.

Geneva's laws regarding desertion do not have much application to current engagements because our engagements are not binding. However, their desertion laws might shed some light on how to handle desertion in marriage. There are differences between engagement and marriage, but what constitutes desertion is hotly debated today. How long does it take before a spouse is considered a deserter? At what point can a marriage be dissolved when one partner has left?  Has the deserted party done what they can to reconcile?  Clarity on questions like these and many others could be aided by looking at how Geneva handled those who ran from their promise to marry.

Previous Posts
General Overview of the Book
An Overview of Marriage Prior to Calvin
Calvin's Attack on Marriage as a Sacrament
Consent to Marriage in Geneva
The Desire for Reconciliation Instead of Divorce
The Power of the Consistory in Geneva
Courtship in Geneva
Coercion to and Conditions of Marriage in Geneva
Parental Consent to Marriage in Geneva
Impediments to Marriage in Geneva
Economics of Marriage in Geneva
Premarital Sex in Geneva
Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8