Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Jesus Legend

I'm in the process of reading The Jesus Legend (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007) by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory Boyd. It argues for the historicity of the view of Jesus presented in the Synoptic gospels. It interacts with liberal scholarship in general, but also responds to some of the less popular elements of liberal scholarship, such as Robert Price and others who are skeptical of Jesus' existence. I'm only about 80 pages into it, but if the remainder of the book is as good as what I've read so far, it's one of the best books I've seen arguing for the traditional Christian view of Jesus. You can read the endorsements from Richard Bauckham, Craig Keener, and other scholars on the page, under the "From the Back Cover" heading. They also allow you to search the book, so you can read some portions of it online. The book is around 450 pages long, and it's heavily footnoted, so it's going to take me a while to read through it, but I want to direct people's attention to it now. I recommend getting it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Elective reincarnation

“At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it's under Chinese control.”

So the Dalai Lama can decide where or where not to be reborn. This raises a number of logistical questions.

How far up the Buddhist ladder of enlightenment must you progress before you have the clout to dictate the location of your next reincarnation? Does Steven Segal have a piece of the action?

And how, exactly, do you go about booking reservations for the next life? Is there a switchboard that you can call? Does it have a toll-free number, or is the number unlisted? In any event, it sounds like a long distance call.

Still, it would be useful to have the number on speed-dial just in case you see an 18-wheeler accidentally cross the median and continue in your direction. (This would also be a really bad time for dropped calls.)

And suppose there are no vacancies. I mean, what if I want to be reborn in Monte Carlo, and a number of other Tibetan monks want to be reborn in Monte Carlo? Can I bump one of them—or vice versa? Is there a standby system in case somebody cancels his metempsychotic reservations? Is there a surcharge for last-minute cancellations or no-shows?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sincere Offer Polemics

I take it as undisputed that: if you tell someone the truth, you've been sincere or genuine with them.

What is the "offer of the Gospel?" Put simply: Romans 10:9 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The argument is frequently stated that "If you're a 5-point Calvinist then you believe in limited atonement, thus you cannot make a sincere offer of the Gospel."

Before an answer is given, let's note something about conditionals. A conditional statement is, "an “if p, then q” compound statement (ex. If I throw this ball into the air, it will come down); p is called the antecedent, and q is the consequent. A conditional asserts that if its antecedent is true, its consequent is also true; any conditional with a true antecedent and a false consequent must be false. For any other combination of true and false antecedents and consequents, the conditional statement is true."

So a conditional statement, taken as a whole statement, has a true truth value just in case the consequent is not false while the antecedent is true. To use the above example, if I say If I throw this ball into the air, it will come down, then I have made a true statement, irregardless of whether or not I in fact throw the ball into the air or not.

Therefore, going back to the issue at hand, since it is impossible for someone who believes to not be saved, then when we tell anyone that "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved," then we have told that person the truth. As I said above, I take it as axiomatic that "if you tell someone the truth, you have been sincere with them." Thus we can make the argument:

1) If you tell someone the truth, you have been sincere with them.

2) When a Calvinist makes a Gospel offer to anyone he is telling that person the truth.

3) Therefore, when a Calvinist makes a Gospel offer to anyone, he has been sincere with them.

Thus Calvinism has no problem with "the sincere offer of the Gospel."

For Us and for Our Salvation

For Us and for Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church by Stephen J. Nichols

Read the Introduction & Chapter 1.
Endorsements: “In a world where the biblical depiction of Christ is often distorted or denied, this book serves as a tremendous defense of orthodox Christian belief. But its value is more than just apologetic. Its Christ-centered focus makes For Us and for Our Salvation a recommended read for anyone who wants a clear picture of the Savior.” - John F. MacArthur, Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

“With clarity and brevity, Stephen Nichols presents the intriguing development of the doctrine of Christ over the early centuries of the church. His account of the key councils and theological proposals is written in a very simple and readable style, and the reader is made aware of how much was at stake ‘for us and for our salvation’ in these very crucial debates.” - Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, Senior Associate Dean, School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“By interweaving original sources and explanatory chapters, Nichols has given us a genre of historical theology that is both informative and interesting.” - Millard Erickson, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Western Seminary, Portland

Southern (Baptist) Gentlemen

Tom Ascol said, Paige Patterson once told him:

"I have learned what I would never have imagined to be true--that so many Southern Baptist pastors are cowards." He went on to explain that a common refrain he was hearing went like this: "I am with you, brother. I believe in inerrancy and think we need to take a stand, but because of my position, I am not able to come out and speak on this openly."

I'd like to add something to Dr. Ascol's statement here.

I find it rather ironic, if not frankly hypocritical, that those who would agree to these statements then would do something else now when talking about Calvinism in the SBC. In the standard anti-Calvinist sermon or "white paper" that we hear or read seemingly every few months, we inevitably hear about "certain seminaries," "professors," "young men and women," "some churches," and other like comments. No names are mentioned. Jack Graham did this in sermon a couple of years ago as I recall. I think Nelson Price has made similar comments in recent months.

I've said this before - I come from the generation that was told frequently from the pulpit that we shouldn't be afraid to point out error and name names. However, when we do so we are told we are wearing our Calvinism on our sleeves or are not acting like "gentlemen" by naming names.

This leads me to a few more thoughts.


1. As a matter of principle, should we always avoid a harsh, judgmental tone?

2. Assuming an affirmative answer to (1), are there times when (1) is inappropriate.

I'd answer both in the affirmative.

My problem is with the imposition of an unscriptural speech code (eg. 1), as if Christians should always use the same tone with everyone, and that tone should always be sweet and buttery.

To insist on such a speech code is unscriptural legalism—trying to be more pious than the Bible. We've been over this many times on this blog. Being a Christian or calling yourself a Christian does not mean we use a sweet buttery tone or language. Likewise, if you are a chronic liar - and this is demonstrable, it is not out of bounds to refer to you as a chronic liar. There's a purpose there - not to denigrate you - but get your attention. Implicitly, it's a call for you to correct your misrepresentations and/or repent of your behavior.

Second, to the matter of "gentlemanly" speech. What I think this most often means isn't so much, as Steve (Yankee that he is ... sorrry Steve, it's just a fact), the effeminization of Christian behavior, rather, in the South, it's the way modern Southerners express themselves. Let's face it, in the South, we say, "Bless your heart, "and we really mean, "Go to hell." We say one thing and do another, often to maintain a certain appearance of decorum. Southern English can the language of ignorance, like Gomer Pyle, or the language of seduction, like Gone With the Wind, all in the same breath.

However, is this the way our ancestor Southern Baptists acted? No.

Allow me to recount a couple of stories from Baptist history to illustrate.

R.B.C. Howell was one of the greatest leaders of the early SBC. Howell helped found the Convention. He founded The Baptist, today known as The Tennessee Baptist and Reflector, Tennessee’s state Baptist newspaper. He was SBC President from 1851 – 1859, serving also as president of the FMB, the Bible Board, and the First Sunday School Board. He was, like the other Founders, a “Five-Point” Calvinist, affirming simple worship, the providence of God, church discipline, and the universal preaching of the gospel. Howell also believed the unity of the Convention was necessary if it was going to survive. In 1857, after pastoring in Virginia, First Baptist Nashville urged Howell to return.

Howell had first come to First Baptist Nashiville after the church had been ravaged by the Campbellites. Under his leadership, they rebuilt their church and even found a new building, for the old one had been lost. When Howell returned, he and J.R. Graves butted heads almost immediately. This time, the controversy was over the Southern Baptist Publication Society.

Graves had been using his own company, the rival Southern Baptist Sunday School Union to compete with the Publication Society. Howell openly opposed Graves efforts. This led to high drama, for the two men were in the same church!

On September 28, 1858, two members of First Baptist Nashville called for Graves to be tried in a church court for slandering the pastor, for sowing division, for libeling Southern Baptist leaders in his newspaper, and for uttering falsehoods in nine different specifications. On October 12, Graves demanded the charges be dropped. The church voted 91 to 48 to proceed with the trial. In nine meetings in which Graves was not present and not represented, he was found guilty and excluded from the church.

Graves refused the discipline of his local church (contrary to his own ecclesiology) and 46 of his followers declared that First Baptist Nashville was not a valid church and they were the one true First Baptist Church. Later, they took the name State Street Baptist. Graves then proceeded to use his influence in Tennessee Convention to exclude First Baptist Nashville from having its messengers seated. His bid was successful. He further called a meeting of Concord Association in March 1858 to overthrow the actions of First Baptist Nashville. In so doing, he violated his own ecclesiology which affirmed absolute local church autonomy.

Now obviously quite proud of himself, he decided he would repeat his victories at the next Southern Baptist Convention in Richmond. He also decided he would confront Howell.

The Richmond Convention of 1859, however, had different ideas. They seated the messengers of Graves’ church and those from First Baptist Nashville. The Convention messengers then elected Howell SBC President on the first ballot. Furthermore, after a full day of debate over whether or not to close the FMB, in which Graves spoke at length, the Convention refused to close it. Graves attempted to take the power to choose, appoint, direct, support, and examine missionaries from the FMB based on the notion that only churches or associations should engage in these activities. The Convention’s vote was unanimous.

They did agree to help those churches wishing to appoint their own missionaries. Howell resigned the presidency in order to promote unity. This would set a pattern, for, when Landmarkists intersected with the Convention in matters of missions, they were refused. This also set another precedent. Since that time, churches may affiliate themselves with any level of the denomination. Churches not members of their own state conventions may be members of the SBC and vice versa. Notice that names were named, but nobody objected to it. The objections were rather consistently the libelous nature of what was said. It's fine to name them, just don't lie about it in the process.

Before the Howell-Graves controversy, while Waller and Graves were arguing at each other in their respective newspapers, what started out as a conflict of personalities in Georgia took on a theological dimension. The personalities involved read like a “Who’s Who” of Baptist history. They were Patrick Hues Mell, John L. Dagg, and Nathan Crawford at Mercer. This conflict had both immediate and long term effects on Landmarkism. On the one hand the discussion highlighted the growing conflict over Landmark ecclesiology; on the other, in the midst of this, Dr. Dagg would refine his ecclesiology and refute Landmarkism quite soundly in his Manual of Theology.

In 1854, Dr. Dagg resigned from the presidency of Mercer at the age of sixty, because he believed the work had become burdensome. The trustees acceded to his request but asked him to stay on as Professor of Theology. The trustee’s public statement explained Dr. Dagg’s resignation was due to his failing health.

This was the day when Southern men considered such a claim, if untrue, to be akin to questioning one’s manhood or honor. Moreover, Dr. Dagg’s eyes failed in 1824. He was functionally blind with respect to his ability to write, having to rely on an amanuensis or avail himself of a board he had invented for himself and the help of his wife, who dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” for him. He fully admitted that he regarded his infirmities the chief trial from the Lord, although inscribed with love from Him. Dr. Dagg had not cited health reasons for his resignation, so Dr. Dagg protested, and the ensuing disagreement caused division between the faculty and the board. Dr. Dagg requested the faculty testify to the board in his favor. All of them except Nathan Crawford complied with his request. The board then decided to select a new president. Their candidates were P.H. Mell and Crawford.

The faculty opposed Crawford, but Crawford was elected to the presidency. Mell and Crawford’s relationship soured to the point that the two men, who lived across they way from one another, did not speak. Friction between the faculty and trustees continued to grow.

In 1855, Professors Dagg, Hilyer, Mell, and Crawford all left Mercer. They were eventually persuaded to return, unitl Crawford resigned again and charged Mell with the vague charge of acting with hostility toward the president. After meeting in October, the board voted to remove Mell. Dr. Dagg left in 1856, as did Hilyer, and, in a supreme twist of irony, Crawford left to Mississippi.

One could easily write off these events as foreshadowing the high drama of the 20th century prime time soap operas, little more than a conflict of personalities. However, these men are regarded as “Baptist Fathers,” regarded by Southern Baptists very like the Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers to whom the Roman Catholic Church appeals. For this reason alone, one should take a second look. The conflict between these men went deeper than personalities and offended honor, for they differed over ecclesiology.

Crawford was a Landmarkist. In Baptism: Its Mode and Subjects, Mell asserted that believers in other denominations were Christians and their ministers were validly recognized as ministers of the gospel. Landmarkists believed only local churches, naturally Baptist churches, could validly ordain ministers. Ergo, only Baptist ministers were valid ministers in their view.

Landmarkists like Graves and Pendleton, and now Crawford, insisted that the New Testament uses the word “ecclesia” in only one sense, with reference to local congregations.

Pendleton wrote:

If Pedobaptist societies are not churches of Christ, whence do their ministers derive their authority to preach? Is there any scriptural authority to preach which does not come through a church of Christ? And if Pedobaptist ministers are not in Christian churches, have they any right to preach? That is to say, have they any authority according to the gospel? They are doubtless authorized by the forms and regulations of their respective societies. But do they act under evangelical authority? It is perfectly evident to the writer that they do not. It would be strange indeed for them to act under a commission, some of the injunctions of which they utterly disregard. The ordinance of baptism in its action and subject they pervert. They change the order of the ascending Savior’s last commission, and administer what they call baptism to infants who give no proof of discipleship, and who are naturally incapable of going through the process of discipleship. Are we at liberty to bid those men "God speed" and aid them in deceiving the world, by acknowledging their societies as churches, and themselves as veritable gospel ministers, who invert the order established by the Head of the church?

Would Pedobaptists recognize as a minister of Christ a good man whom they consider unbaptized, and consequently disconnected from what they would term every "branch of the church?" They would not. They would say to such a man, "We would not judge your heart—we do not deny your piety, etc., but we cannot countenance you as a preacher as long as you remain unbaptized and sustain no ecclesiastical relation." This is in substance what they would say, and I ask if Baptists should not look on Pedobaptist ministers just as the latter would look on unbaptized men who might choose to go forth and preach? If Pedobaptists are unwilling to recognize as ministers of the gospel men who, in their judgment, have never been baptized, why should Baptists be expected to do so? Consistency, so far from requiring it, requires the very opposite. Pedobaptists cannot reasonably complain of us, for in this we act on the principle which their practice sanctions. Believing their preachers unbaptized, we cannot with the shadow of propriety recognize them as gospel ministers. If Jesus Christ intended that his ministers should be the servants of the church—and have the sanction of the church in their work—who can be a minister of Christ, according to the gospel, without belonging to the church? No one will say that a church can send forth a man to preach who does not belong to her body, and over whom she has no jurisdiction. The writer does not say there are not pious, devoted men in the Pedobaptist ministry, but he denies that they have scriptural authority to preach. He denies in reference to them just what they would deny in reference to a pious Quaker minister. The so-called baptism of a Pedobaptist preacher is no more authority for preaching than the no-baptism of a Quaker. The former is as evidently out of the church as the latter. It is as well to discard an ordinance altogether as to pervert and caricature it. Neither Pedobaptists nor Quakers have baptism among them, and "where there is no baptism there are no visible churches."

Now, if Pedobaptist preachers do not belong to the church of Christ, they ought not to be recognized as ministers of Christ. But they are so recognized wherever Baptist ministers invite them to preach or exchange pulpits with them. As to calling on them to pray, it is a different matter; for men ought to pray whether they are in the church or not. But they ought not to preach unless they have membership in the church of Christ. To this all will agree, who have scriptural baptism, as well as those who substitute it for that which is no baptism.

Mell insisted that the New Testament traded on the use in two senses, essentially accusing the Landmarkists of committing the fallacies of semantic inflation and semantic anachronism. Mell said that the New Testament refers to the church as the whole body of believers in heaven and earth at any point in history and as a local assembly. In his volume Corrective Church Discipline: With Development of the Scriptural Principles Upon Which It is Based (1846), Mell again refuted the Landmark tenets on the same grounds.

Crawford responded in his review of Corrective Church Discipline by A.S. Worrell. Crawford seems to have taken Mell’s work personally, as he says in his introduction that Mell’s work motivated his review of Worrelll’s book. Crawford attacked Mell’s definition of the church, insisting it refers only to the local assembly. Mell had also insisted that the actions of one Baptist church were binding on another. Crawford insisted on local church autonomy. In his own Manual of Theology, published in 1858, Dr. Dagg disagreed with Crawford and generally agreed with Mell’s definition of the church, but he further agreed with Crawford and disagreed with Mell on the autonomy of the local church, but denies that local churches are completely independent of each other. He views that as an ideal if all men are sanctified and living rightly, but, unless the churches are connected in some manner, there is no way to adjudicate division. There are cases, because we live in a fallen world, that outside help must be sought. This does not, however, mean that the actions of one church are binding upon another. For elsewhere, he argues that, in matters in which two local churches disagree, as in the case of baptisms, no one church may impose its answer to a difficult case on another, regardless of the position each church takes, as long as that position is based on reasonable evidence and appropriate argumentation. Dagg’s work would have long lasting influence, for it became a standard reference for those opposed to Landmarkism.

Even after Mell’s dismissal, the controversy engulfed the Georgia State Convention. Perhaps foreshadowing the rise of blogs in the 21st century as a means to present “the other side of the story” Mell wrote An Exposition of Recent Events In Mercer University, which he made available to all, in which he accused the trustees of having unjustly removed him without giving him an opportunity to defend his actions. He also detailed what he perceived as a personal conflict with Crawford going back as far as 1855. Mell further questioned the board’s actions, stating that barely a quorum was present and the charge of hostility to the president was vague and non-specific. Absent specific charges, Mell refused to believe he had been discharged with just cause. He further insisted that there could be only one basis for his dismissal, Crawford’s resignation. He complained he had not been allowed to face his accuser. Mell charged the board with conducting an unethical caucus among themselves in an effort to decide their verdict beforehand, without giving him a reasonable, impartial hearing.

Mell stated his pamphlet was intended as a public record of these events. As a result, the Georgia Convention was forced to intervene. They appointed a committee to investigate the matter in 1856. Later, they concluded the trustees decision should stand, but not in a manner that would impugn Mell’s good character. Mell went on to be offered the presidencies of Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi and Cherokee Baptist College in Cassville, Georgia. He declined both offers in order to serve the churches. Later, he taught languages at the University of Georgia, where he later served as president. He remained there for the rest of his life, despite repeated attempts by other colleges and universities to get him to teach or preside over their institutions. He was also a staunch defender of the faith, especially against those who attacked the doctrines of grace and made it their goal to exterminate Calvinism from the earth. When discussing Russell Reneau, who made it his business to exterminate Calvinism from the earth, Mell regarded such individuals as both arrogant and vain. Reneau was the perennial anti-Calvinist. Referring to Reneau (and one would say foreshadowing every anti-Calvinist who has spoken in recent history), Mell wrote in Predestination and the Saints' Perseverance, “"Calvinism has never heard of him before, and if its advocates ever think of him hereafter it will never be in a connection flattering to his vanity."

We could on and on. One need only read a standard theological work, newspaper article, or pamphlet of that era to know they named names and documented their charges. If an assertion was "libelous" it was exposed. This isn't simply a "Baptist thing" either. The theologians of the High Orthodox era in the previous centuries named names too. The Presbyterians of the 19th century did so as well. Granted they often named representative theologians - but they still named names, and that's the point.

As Tom Ascol once said, on the one hand we are excoriated for wearing our Calvinism on our sleeves. On the other, if we don't come right out and say it, we're told we are being deceptive. We were told we should not be cowards, but if we name names, we are "sowing division" or "being disrespectful." Such accusations say more about the accusers than they do us. The younger leaders in the SBC (and even in the Independent churches), not just Calvinists, but in general are feeling the same way about many things these days. We were told to take the Bible seriously. We were told to stick to the Bible. We were told to name names and not be cowardly. However, when we speak out about our theological conclusions and they are different than those of the older generations, as in the case of the doctrines of grace, and we reply that we believe as we do because of what we have found in the Scriptures - the way Luther, Bucer, Zwingli, et. al. once did - we are excoriated from pulpits. Our names are not named by men who told us to name names, but then when we do so ourselves - as we were told to do when we were younger - we are accused of sowing division. This is sad; we should be able to comport ourselves in a "gentlemanly" fashion as did our forefathers in all of these matters.

Jerry Springer Theology

Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Does denial of limited atonement imply that Jesus is a "playa?" That his story of atonement could have made it on a Jerry Springer show?

"I know you say He died for you, but He died for me too! He's my man too, girl. Don't come up in here and try to act like He's just your man!"

What is Naturalism That We Are Mindful of it?

Not much, according to William P. Alston.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Phillip Jensen interview

I just discovered this little gem: Mark Dever interviewed Phillip Jensen for 9Marks Ministries back in May of the year 2000. Jensen currently serves as the dean of St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia -- the oldest as well as largest Anglican church in Australia. Despite being Anglican, however, the church is apparently evangelical, Reformed, and Calvinistic. (Update: see comment below.)

Also, Jensen was formerly rector of St Matthias, a church which originally began near the University of New South Wales. At the same time, Jensen was serving as chaplain of the university. In these roles, he was instrumental in starting Matthias Media. Matthias Media is perhaps best known for its publication of a gospel tract called Two Ways to Live, which Jensen penned.

Note, too, Phillip Jensen is the brother of Peter Jensen, the Anglican archbishop of Sydney. Both were saved during a Billy Graham crusade in the late 1950s.

It's so encouraging to see how mightily God is working in other parts of the world. May God continue to bless their ministry.

Top 10 Reasons Not to "Do" Iraq

One of the potentially embarrassing things about the Internet is that once something gets posted, it’s almost impossible to make it go away.

The Bush administration has been relentlessly attacked for failing to anticipate the consequences of invading Iraq. So it’s instructive to compare the crystal ball of Team Bush with the crystal ball of the Cato Institute.

Unlike, the Cato Institute is a reputable think-tank. Note the very hit-and-miss character of its own prognostications:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Evil and Evolution

A few articles from Platinga:

Objections to Draper's Argument from Evil

Naturalism vs. Evolution: A Religion/Science Conflict?
Against "Sensible" Naturalism

OPC Report on Justification

From Steve:

The PCA report on justification has received so much negative publicity from the sore losers that it's easy forget about the OPC report.

Pratt on Prophecy

HT: Steve

It's difficult to perceive the fulfillment of prophecy in advance...

James Dobson's Focus on the Family and...Eschatology?

Today as I drove my Mom home from her dental appointment, we listened to Focus on the Family. All this week, FoF is focusing on "Radical Islam and the Family." I'd like to make a few observations.

1. Granted, we only caught the last fifteen minutes, but at no point was there any discussion of "the family and Islam," unless by this, one means something like, "Radical Islam wants to overthrow America and we should support the Iraq War."

2. Most, if not all, of the broadcast focused on Joel Rosenberg's bestseller Epicenter.

3. Consequently, we were treated to a short discourse on Ezekiel 38 - 39 on Gog and Magog.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that, except the words "evangelical Christians should..." were repeated several times. The insinuation, in my opinion, was that if you don't believe as Rosenberg and Dobson say, you aren't really an evangelical Christian. Further, no alternative view was ever presented.

Of course, none of this ever got around to topics like:

a. How do we interact with Muslims in evangelism?
b. How do we interact with them in apologetics?
c. How does Muslim family structure / relationships within said structure, fall short of the biblical standard and how can we show this when evangelizing Muslims or discipling those coming out of Muslim backgrounds who are now Christians?

Rather, it was "We must protect ourselves from Islam by supporting President Bush," who, as we know, has Dobson's approval - which he was sure to state many times.

This leads me to a few more observations:

4. It appears to me that FoF is trying to use eschatology to further its political agenda. It matters not what I think of the war, rather, I object to eschatology being used to ground a political agenda in this manner.

Are amillenialists or post-millenialists not "evangelical Christians?" Surely, they didn't mean for that to come across, but it sure sounded that way to me.

What I particularly object to is them not having someone like, say, Kim Riddlebarger, on the show to actually present another point of view. No, that wouldn't fit with Dobson's agenda, would it? Rather than let people know there is, indeed, another point of view, one that has roots deep in church history, one that has an exegetical foundation as well, he chose to engage in question begging theological presentation to further his political agenda.

For example here's a little something from Dr. Riddlebarger:

Typically, dispensationalists like Rosenberg appeal to this passage as a yet unfulfilled prediction of a Russian-backed Islamic invasion of the modern nation of Israel, at or about the time the seven-year tribulation begins. Dispensationalists believe that the nations listed in the prophecy refer to people living in Ezekiel's time, who can then be traced to modern nations. Following this method, Gog is the mysterious leader of Magog, a land north of the Caucasus mountains inhabited by the ancient Scythians. This is in modern Russia. Meshech is supposedly Moscow. Tubal is variously taken as Turkey or Tolbosk (a city in Russia). Persia is clearly Iran. Put is Libya. Cush is Ethiopia. Beth-Togarmah is Turkey. Some have even identified Gomer as Germany. But since the fall of the Soviet Union, Gomer is more often identified with Russia. Since the bulk of these people live to the northern parts (Ezekiel 38:15) and since the predicted invasion of Israel will come from the north, Rosenberg's thesis is simply a new variation of an old dispensational theme. At some point near the beginning of the tribulation, Israel will be invaded by a Russian-Iranian-Islamic confederacy, only to prevail militarily through God's amazing grace.

To be fair, the dispensationalists were not the first to tie this prophecy to contemporary events. Ambrose identified these same figures as the Goths who were then threatening the Holy Roman Empire. Luther applied this prophecy to the Turks, who were at the gates of Vienna at the time of the Reformation.

But there are two significant problems with this approach to Ezekiel 38-39. First, as Edwin Yamauchi (a noted evangelical archaeologist and historian) has pointed out in his book, Foes from the Northern Frontier: Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes (Baker, 1983), this identification is based upon a number of unsubstantiated assumptions. For one thing, Gog and Magog cannot be directly tied to the Scythians. Yamauchi believes that their identity is not certain at all. Furthermore, he contends that Meshech and Tubal cannot be tied to Moscow or Tobolsk in any sense. He believes these are references to ancient Assyria which did invade Israel from the north. This means that Ezekiel is speaking of Israel's immediate future (an Assyrian invasion from the north), which also prefigures an end-time event.

How do we know that to be the case? If you follow the basic hermeneutical principle that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament (something dispensationalists are want to admit when it comes to interpreting biblical prophecy), then in Revelation 20:8-9, John speaks of Gog and Magog as symbolic of the nations of the earth, gathering together to make war on the saints (the church).

This leads to the second problem with the dispensational understanding. In Revelation 20:8-9, John is universalizing Ezekiel's prophecy of Israel being invaded from the north to the church being attacked from the four corners of the earth--this "spiritualizing" of the Old Testament as practiced by John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is, of course, the very thing dispensationalists claim is illegitimate. The fact of the matter is, this is exactly what John does.

In Revelation 20:8-9, John sees a vision of Gog and Magog leading all of the nations on the earth to wage war against God's people (the church), after Satan has been released from the Abyss. These enemies of Christ and his church are ultimately and finally destroyed at Christ's second advent (see Beale, The Book of Revelation, Eerdmans, 1022-1024). This means that the Assyrian invasion of Israel from the north foretold by Ezekiel, is actually typological of the end-times war upon the entire people of God as witnessed by John in his vision.

He concludes by saying:

Rosenberg tells a great story and has gathered much interesting evidence about Islamic and Russian intentions. But he also misuses the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 to make his point.
It is high time that Rosenberg and his kind be challenged. This sort of eschatology has become so rampant in the US today that even atheists think this is the historic position - something I've had to correct many times on other boards. This is the very sort of thing that "the world" (defined as the world system) sees and, pointing to it, concludes, "See, their theology is driving their politics." Well, on this one, yes, they are right - and it is bad theology at worst, debatable theology at best. It is so rampant that there are Christians where I live who think those who disagree with it are, for lack of a better term, "heretics."

Dobson and FoF should know better. I, for one, am thankful for popularizers like Hank Hanagraaf who have publicly challenged this sort of thing in recent months, even though Brother Hank and I disagree about many other things. People are untaught, and this sort of presentation by FoF only feeds it. If FoF really wants to do this series (which will continue until the end of this week), then they should get a man like Dr. Riddlebarger on to present a different view. It is wrong to present one side like this, particularly for a very plain political agenda. It's fine for a Bible study program or local church program or a theology class broadcast where there are clear confessional standards that are being upheld; pastors have a right to teach the Bible as they exegete it, but FoF is not any of these. Indeed, the announcer at the end plainly stated that today's topic was outside of their bounds. I thought, "If that's true, then why did you do it?"

Likewise, I am hoping that we get so hear about evangelizing Muslims, etc. It's high time FoF talked about the gospel as the tool to counteract Islam, not supporting the war and keeping an eye on Iran. Sure, the latter has its place, and I don't deny that; but, as Christians - as Christians in a ministry - they should be helping people realize that our ultimate tool is the gospel itself.

So, I'd like to conclude this article with a challenge:

1. Granted, I doubt anybody from FoF reads this blog, but if so, I'd like to challenge them to bring on somebody like O.P. Robertson or Kim Riddlebarger to present an alternative biblical presentation.

2. I'd like to encourage the readers here to contact FoF and ask them to do just that as well - and to get FoF away from "Insert Issue Here Alert of the Day" and how many petitions to sign or which representatives to contact to actually discussing the biblical foundations of family life, evangelism, discipleship, etc.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Richard Land supports FDA regulation of tobacco products.

So, lets get this straight, shall we?

A. According to Dr. Land:

We all know the terrible statistics about the toll of tobacco on our families—over 400,000
Americans die every year from tobacco-caused illnesses; hundreds of thousands of others
suffer every year from tobacco-caused illnesses such as lung cancer and heart disease;
and every day over 1,000 of our children become addicted to this deadly product. For us
in the faith community, these statistics are especially tragic because every day we must
bury mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who die early from preventable deaths caused
by tobacco addiction that, more often than not, began at a young age. We, then, are left
with the task of trying to comfort their grieving survivors. I speak this morning from
personal experience. I have sought not only to bring comfort to families and individuals,
but to find comfort for my own loss.

I have too many relatives, particularly paternal uncles, who have had their lives tragically
shortened by their addiction to nicotine. One uncle, who died in his late forties from lung
disease, horribly exacerbated by smoking, still smoked even when reduced to carrying a
portable oxygen supply with him wherever he went in his final months. He was literally
a fire hazard to those around him. I am grateful that both my father and my mother, once
heavy smokers, were able with much difficulty to break their tobacco habit in their late
fifties. And thus, they are still with us at 84 and 82, respectively. If they had not quit
smoking, they would both be long dead by now, a fact they readily acknowledge. They
would have missed their five grandchildren’s graduation from college, if not high school,
and three of their grandchildren’s weddings. Other children have not been as fortunate as
I have been. They lost their parents prematurely to that ferocious killer, tobacco.
Millions of Americans have had their lives snuffed out before their time, often in their
prime—at the peak of their careers, with a spouse and children at home, and with many
other responsibilities and joys before them. The families of America must not continue
to be lured toward futures of incomplete chapters. Men and women deserve to know the
toxic chemicals rolled into every cigarette. Young sons and daughters deserve to enjoy
their youth without being confronted with tobacco marketing tailored to their age.

B. And the SBC is willing to pass Resolution 5 in 2006.

C. But people don't believe the SBC should discuss, much less pass a resolution on gluttony?

Does this make any sense?

Oh, and while we're here, I'd point out this conversation:

Generally, it's about double standards.

Ben asks:

So let me ask a question:

What is the difference between Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. serving on a board that not only lends its tacit approval to gay and lesbian agendas, but a board whose purpose is — specifically — to provide for the cross-pollination of ideas between partnered schools in the Louisville area, and Ed Stetzer serving on a board that seeks to plant confessing Evangelical churches whose commitment to inerrancy is without question?

Why is The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in any partnership with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender affirming schools, and why does that get a pass, when Danny Akin gets excoriated by an Executive Committee member for hosting a prominent emergent pastor at Southeastern’s Chapel?

Should Southern Baptists defund The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary because of this questionable association?

Of course, I don’t think we should defund. And of course I know what Al Mohler’s positions on homosexuality and gender roles are. And of course I know that his board of trustees has no intention of compromising Southern Baptist beliefs on these issues. And of course I know that Southern Baptists have no need to fear a slippery slope toward sodomy at Southern.

I just want to point out the glaring inconsistency in the way fundamentalist sectarians assess their own associations versus those of others. I will anxiously wait for Roger Moran’s or Paige Patterson’s white paper on this very issue.

I would like to add another observation along similar lines, since it was Dr. Patterson who said,

“What you give your name and your money to, you give your tacit approval to.”

“The SBC can no longer afford to be aligned in any way” with such groups.

In his testimony Dr. Land was quite candid:
I am also here as a representative of a broad-based coalition of faith leaders known as
Faith United Against Tobacco. Since it was founded in 2002, Faith United Against
Tobacco has grown to include over 20 national faith denominations and organizations. In
addition to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist
Convention, this coalition includes the General Board of Church and Society of the
United Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches in Christ, the Presbyterian
Church (USA), the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the Seventh-day
Adventists, the American Region of the World Sikh Council, and the Islamic Society of
North America. Other broad-based groups, such as Church Women United and the Health
Ministries Association, which represents thousands of faith community nurses across the
country, have also joined Faith United Against Tobacco.

Helm On Olson

Paul Helm reviews Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.


VHS Onlyism

HT: Patrick Chan

Beware VHS-onlyism! :-)

Yes, I know, it's the TR of media.

Nobody uses Beta anymore, thank goodness (Too Latin)

Personally, I prefer the DVD version. It contains more material, and I like the extras. However, I hear the VHS only people deny the extras are canonical, what with all them new fangled alternate endings.

I'm a bit wary of the HD-DVD version. I hear it is quite detailed, perhaps overly so.

The less said about the Blue Ray-DVD version the better. It's Satan's DVD I tell you!

Eclipse of the masculine pronoun

For several years now, conservative Christians have been waging a counteroffensive to defend and preserve the use of the gender-specific language in Scripture and liturgy. What I find I ironic is that, in the meantime, I see an increasing number of conservative Christians slipping into the use of unisex euphemisms and circumlocutions in their own speaking and writing.

This doesn’t especially surprise me. Most of us learn our mother tongue through osmosis. Unless you’re a professional writer, you don’t generally give much self-conscious consideration to the idioms you use. As a result, I notice that Christians who vehemently oppose radical feminism and egalitarianism are unconsciously capitulating to unisex speech codes.

The most conspicuous example is the use of plural pronouns with singular nouns. This is an obvious grammatical error in English syntax. For pronouns are supposed to agree in number with the nouns they take.

I’m thinking of sentences like, “A lawyer represents their clients.”

In the past, the sentence would have read, “A lawyer represents his clients.”

But, of course, that’s deemed to be sexist by the social gatekeepers in the media and academia. As a result, this solecism (using plural pronouns with singular nouns) has become ubiquitous.

This is just another example of the silent revolution in American culture. Like unisex showers in college dorms, this was never put up for public debate—much less a national plebiscite. Rather, it represents an unspoken imposition on the general culture. The social gatekeepers are the most effective when they go about their erasure of Christian values in the public square as quietly as possible.

Like body-snatchers who turn unsuspecting men and women into pod people, this campaign is most successful when conducted under conditions of low visibility. Preferably the dead of night. That way it arouses no opposition until the opponents are too few to overcome the social metamorphosis.

One of the problems when Christians allow their own linguistic patterns to be infiltrated by the enemy is that it creates a hiatus between our religious discourse and our ordinary discourse. In Scripture and liturgy we retain gender-specific language, but outside of church we lapse into gender-inclusive language.

The inevitable effect of this hiatus is to make religious discourse increasingly quaint and irrelevant. And that, in turn, raises the pressure to accommodate our religious discourse to the linguistic norms of the general culture.

Now, there are bigger issues in English-speaking Christendom than the generic masculine pronoun. I’m not suggesting that we turn this into a life-and-death cause.

However, Bible-believing Christians do need to become aware of this silent revolution. And Christian institutions should resist it.

Unbelievers are free to use gender-inclusive language. But Christians should retain their own usage. We should retain traditional constructions that reflect Biblical values.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Epistemological Dilemma For Evolutionary Naturalists

1. A good case can be made that externalist theories of justification (or warrant) are undercut by evolutionary naturalism in that with the conjunction of the two we have a defeater for our belief in the reliability of our cognitive faculties (i.e., that part of our noetic structure responsible for producing true beliefs).

2. A good case can be made that internalist theories of justification (or warrant) imply (or are assumed by) substance dualism in that these theories seem to be motivated by first-person perspectives of the knowing and experiencing subjects, they seem to assume a same-self as the one having access to and being aware of the justifying reasons for belief, and they seem to imply some other features which are problematic for evolutionary naturalism: At least on some readings, libertarian free-will is assumed due to the ought-implies-can principle implicit in deontologism, and most analysis of internalist theories of justification and warrant attach justification (or warrant) to beliefs which, on some naturalist theories, are queer entities that need to be eliminated, and also requiring a normativity condition at odds with descriptive accounts of the world evolutionary naturalists must give, and lastly doxastic voluntarism seems to be implied by internalists - this seems to be at odds with the pictire of the world that naturalists give us. Indeed, this is why many naturalists hold to an externalist theory of knowledge, calling it "naturalized epistemology." It should be granted that subtance dualism is incompatible with evolutionary naturalism.

3. Externalist and internalist models seem to cover the field of possible ways justification or warrant is conferred on beliefs (or C-fibers firing!).

4. Therefore, a good case can be made that evolutionary naturalism undercuts the only possible ways justification or warrant can be conferred on beliefs.

Premise 1 is supported by arguments like Plantinga's EAAN. Premise 2 is supported by arguments like Reppert's AFR.