Friday, December 17, 2004

Exegete vs. Eisegete

We modern Americans are an individualistic people. We think and act as individuals first and foremost. This is a recent way of thinking that would be unfamiliar to the people of God in the ancient world. The people of Israel had been trained under the Old Covenant to think covenantally.

When God made his Covenant with Abraham he made the covenant, not to him as an individual only, instead God made his Covenant with Abraham and his descendants after them. We see this "covenant" aspect throughout the Word of God, in bot the Old and the New Covenants.
Here are some examples from the Old Testament.

To Noah Gen.9:8,9 "And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you."

To Abraham Gen. 17:7 "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."

Ps.103:17, 18 "But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them."

Ps.115:13, 14 "He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children.

God's covenant promises also applied negatively as you can see in the verse below.

Exodus 20:5 "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."

See also: Deut.5:9

This "covenant" aspect of God's promises is not just an Old Testament thing. It comes through in the New Testament as well. The Scriptures used by the early Church, were the Books of the Old Testament. IT was in the Old Testament that the Bereans went to look and see if what Paul told them was true (Acts 17:10,11). Early Christians saw the constant covenant theme and they would naturally think of God's Covenant promises as belonging to them and their children. This would be natural enough for the early Jewish Christians, but the LORD doesn't leave it be deduced by them. He repeats the covenant promise at Pentecost.

Acts 2:38, 39 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call."

The LORD is the unchanging Covenant keeping God. Under the Old Covenant His promises were always to you and your descendants, and Peter makes clear, during his sermon on Pentecost, that in the New Covenant God’s promises are still to you and to your children.
We see this covenant aspect carried in to the New Covenant in other places as well. When even one parent in a family knows Christ the children are seen as holy (saints), because of the Christian parent’s relationship to Christ.

I Cor.7:14 "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."

A child of non-Christian parents is, in the sight of God, seen as unclean, but the child of just one believing parent is viewed as holy (Gk: hagios–saint). So the Christian should remember that God's Covenant is also promised to his children. There are very important implications from this.

Individualism is a modern Western concept. In did not exist when the Scriptures were written. We must work to read the Scriptures as God intended them to be understood by the original audience, and not read our own individualist times and cultural biases into God’s Word. This is the difference between exegeting and eisegeting.

Let me give of exegeting and eisegeting from the U.S. Supreme Court. In Holy Trinity Church vs. the United States the court used sound exegesis in it decision. They looked to the original intent of the founders to make this important but mostly forgotten decision.

Part of that decision reads this way "Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian ... this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation ... we find everywhere a clear definition of the same truth ... this is a Christian nation. " (Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States, 143 US 457, 36 L ed 226, Justice Brewer 1891)[Note: Ever Christian needs to read this decision in its entirety. It is a good synopsis of America’s Christian history] Justice Brewer did a good work of exegesis in this decision. Brewer drew from the Constitution and it's historical context the true intent of the authors.

That decision was constitutionally and exegetically sound. The next case I want to mention was not decided that way.

The 1973 case of Roe vs. Wade is a constitutional travesty. Justice Blackmon hated laws against abortion. The Constitution did not address the issue (this had always been a state issue) but he and other justices wanted to outlaw abortion so they found in the "penumbra" (his word) of the Constitution the right to abortion. This is a perfect (horrible) example of eisegesis. Justice Powel even admitted this, and voted for Roe anyway. [Note: Every Christian should read Blackmon decision in Roe also. Just click here: Roe V. Wade] Justice Blackmon's decision is an example of eisegeting the Constitution. Blackmon read into the document what he wanted to find there.

We need to be careful to draw from the Bible what the author intended to say. The Bible was written in radically different cultures than our own, and we need to study those cultures to aid us in rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

On Romans 9:14-20

In Romans 9:14-20 Paul writes, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?"

What does Paul say? He says that salvation is based on God's choice, and it is not man's will that is ultimate in this matter. He then says that He raised up Pharaoh to smash him, as a witness to the world. Next Paul says "hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." Paul is speaking of God working with and in men. To some He shows mercy and others He hardens.

This is a repugnant thought to most of us, and Paul knows how you, me and nearly everyone else, when we first see these things in Scripture, will react negatively to them. He knows we will recoil in horror from these hard things he is saying. They are anathema to us; we don't like it. Has God made us robots? If this is true than we wish to ask as he says the Romans and ask "Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?"

Now look at Pauls answer "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, 'Why hast thou made me thus?'"

Notice Paul didn't even answer the question that he asked for us. Instead he says that we are completely out of bounds to even ask such a question. Paul, in these verses, has personally taken on the robot/puppet/fatalism arguments that are so often thrown out by those that dislike these teachings, and tells us that we creatures are out of line to ask this question. We are God's creation and He does as He will with us.

Paul is not yet finished with his line of thought. He then asks "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" Folks, we are the clay. God according to His will has made some for honor and some for dishonor. HARD STUFF, but Paul is not yet through. He now says "What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory..."

Those are more difficult words. Paul says that God "willing shew His wrath, and make His power known, endured with long suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction." The word "fitted" means prepared. After quoting the Greek sentence, Thayer’s in his Greek Lexicon, gives this rendition "of men whose soulds God has so constituted that they cannot escape destruction." Those of us who receive mercy were "prepared afore," which simply means ordained before hand. Some folks are ordained for mercy and some are not.

It should not seem odd that Paul should make such strong statement about God's sovereignty over the salvation of men. I am sure you recall his dramatic conversion. After that Ananias came to Paul and said to him "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth."

So Paul was chosen by God. Notice God chose Paul (of course Paul responds in faith, but it is the Lord who initiated things). But you will say, Paul is special; he is different from the rest of us. I don't think you will find Paul making such a claim. Let's see what he says in his epistles.

"Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." (Rom 16:13)

Rufus too was chosen by God, so it is not only Paul.

"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:" (Eph. 1:4)

The "us" here is speaking of Christians; we were chosen before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him. We are all by nature sinners, fallen in Adam, at enmity with God, spiritually dead. But God, before he created anything chose us to be holy. He makes us holy in this life by the imputation of Christ righteousness. It is His choosing and it is he that makes us blameless in Christ.

Not only that, but He predestinated (ugly word indeed and it means the same as foreordain) the same group "us," who were chosen in eternity, unto adoption. Ok, but it is still because of my will. Right? No. It is according to God's will.

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Eph. 1:5)

Of course Paul says the same thing about WHO's will is the deciding factor in Romans 9:15-16 and there too he makes clear that it's God's will and not man's.

This stuff, at first , rubbed me the wrong way. I literally hated these things. When studying this subject many years ago I threw a book promoting the biblical doctrine of predestination across my bed room as hard as I could and cried out "I'm not going to believe that garbage." I prayed that God would show me that it was a lie, instead He showed me that these things are indeed true. He then gave me the grace to bow before His Holy Word and accept even this hard doctrine that rubs our "self" and our desire for autonomy the wrong way.

Today, I love these things, because they give God all glory, honor and praise. All things were made for His glory not ours.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Kenith Andry

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Truth is never easy to maintain and in the first several centuries after Christ, the Church struggled against both pagan religions and Greek philosophy in order to maintain the truth of Christ and the Bible. At the same time it also worked hard to maintain those same truths against false teachings that arose from within its own ranks.

The Greeks, influenced by Plato, believed the physical world was corrupt and the spiritual world was not. There were those, influenced by Greek philosophy, who said they believed in Jesus, but they denied his true humanity. To them Jesus Christ could not have been a physical being, because all physical things are necessarily, by their very nature, corrupted. These folks became known as Gnostics.

Then there were those that took the exact opposite approach. Arius, a minister in North Africa (Alexandria, Egypt), went in the opposite direction of the Gnostics. He denied the deity of Jesus. Arius taught that Jesus, since he was a man, could not also be God. Arius' teachings had a huge impact and caused great doctrinal confusion that lasted for centuries.

A council of the Church was called in 325 AD to meet at the city of Nicea, in order to resolve the debate and confusion brought about by Arius' teachings. The result of that council was the Nicene Creed. I believe every Christian should be familiar with this important statement about the historic, orthodox faith from the early Church.

The term "creed" comes from the Latin word credo, which is the first word in ancient creeds like that of Nicea. It begins in Latin as follows "Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem" (I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,). The word credo simply means 'I believe' and we derive our word creed from the Latin word credo. Creeds were written to answer false teachings, and as a tool to teach the people orthodoxy. All Christians should be familiar with Church history, and know the stories behind the great creeds of the Church.

Jesus is fully God, and fully man; this is the ancient doctrine of the Church and of the Bible, which was defended at Nicea. It is an essential part of Gospel. Anyone who denies these important truths has left Christianity for a false gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria,

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Dispensational Hype and So Called Replacement Theology

I want to say something the Early Church Fathers and their view of the relationship between Israel and the Church, but before doing so let’s look at what some of my Dispensational brothers have said about the so called “replacement theology.” Dispensationalists have made a radical break with the most of the Church on this particular issue, and I think it is important to look at what some of the opponents of this historic (and I believe biblical) doctrine of the Christian Church have to say on this issue.

Clarence Wagner in his article The Error of Replacement Theology says the following “it is a doctrinal teaching that originated in the early Church” and also “Replacement Theology was introduced to the Church shortly after Gentile leadership took over from Jewish leadership.” We all know that “Gentile leadership” began, or to use Wagner’s term “took over” as soon as the Apostles had passed away.

In 1977 DTS student Alan Patrick Boyd wrote his Masters thesis titled “A Dispensational Premillennial Analysis of the Eschatology of the Post-Apostolic Fathers.” Boyd says that he undertook this study to “bolster” the dispensational claims, but he had to admit that “[T]his writer believes that the Church rapidly fell from New Testament truth, and this is very evident in the realm of eschatology. Only in modern times has New Testament eschatological truth been recovered.” He further admits “The Majority of the writers/writings in this period (70-165 A.D.) completely identify Israel with the church.”

Boyd writes “In the case of Barnabas, . . . he has totally disassociated Israel from the precepts of the Old Testament. In fact he specifically designates the Church to be the heir of the covenantal promises made to Israel.” He says this of the Shepherd of Hermas ( which was written before 150 AD) that it contains “the employment of the phraseology of late Judaism to make the Church the true Israel…” And Of Justin Martyr he says “he claims that the Church is the true Israelitic race, thereby blurring the distinction between Israel and the Church.”

Justin Martyr very clearly, with no equivocation, identifies the Church with Israel. It is also important to keep in mind that NO believer then countered or contradicted what Justin said. This is important because the Church has always had a lively discussion on matters of theological disagreement (like we see on this site). But NO ONE disagrees with Justin Martyr on this point until John Darby does so in the 1820s (more than 1600 years later).

But even before Justin it is clear that the Church fathers believe the Church has inherited the promises and blessings that God made to Israel, thereby identifying the Church as the New Covenant Israel of God.

We see this in Clement of Rome’s (30-100 AD) epistle to the Corinthians, which was written before the end of the first century. Clement knew and was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. We writes in this letter the the Corentian Church, “it is written: When the Most High divided the nations, when He dispersed the sons of Adam, He fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, and Israel the measurement of His inheritance. And in another place He saith; Behold, the Lord taketh for Himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man taketh the firstfruits of his threshing-floor; and the holy of holies shall come forth from that nation. Seeing then that we are the special portion of a Holy God…”

For Clement Jacob/Israel was “the portion of the Lord” and the Church had become “the special portion of a Holy God.” He like the others, including the Apostles, makes the Church to be the inheritors of God’s promises to Israel.

It is interesting that the Dispensationalists readily and eagerly blame the post-Apostolic fathers for so-called “Replacement theology” and the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, but our Jewish friends charge the New Testament with both these things. While I disagree with both groups, I believe it is the Jews who have the stronger, more consistent argument. Lets look at what they say on this issue.

In an article titled The Anti-Jewish New Testament we find this:
The summary view of this essay is simple:
Question: What is the source of the common thread of anti-Semitism shared by the historical acts of persecution of the Jewish people?
Answer: The New Testament

And then this: “The "Christian love for the Jew", of which so much is heard these days, turns out to be conditional in overwhelming majority of cases. Christians, evangelical Christian missionaries in particular, view the Jewish people as blind and in need of being made into "believers". When their missionary efforts fail, or when their deceptions are exposed, their professed love for the Jew quickly turns into hatred and contempt. Today's hand-clapping Jew-loving "new Christians" are evangelical Christian fundamentalists in disguise, some of whom even profess to be "Torah Observant". They teach the same anti-Semitic doctrines as have been taught by "The Church" throughout the Common Era. And while their tactics may have changed, their agenda and message remain the same.

On their website they give a number of lists that include supposed anti-Semitic verses in the Bible. As a Christian I believe these folk are dead wrong in their assessment, but I do believe their argument is far better, and more coherent, than are the arguments and accusations of my dispensational brethren regarding supposed "replacement theology." If our Disbensational brethren are correct, and they are not, then the blame for replacement theology should not be set of the Early Church Fathers, but, as this Jews site argues, the blame must go back to the New Testament itself.

Thankfully both the Dispensationalists and these Jewish folk are wrong.

Dominus Vobiscum,

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Another Non-theological post:

The country is very divided and the divide is again falling (mostly) along old regional lines. The North East will vote very differently in this election than will the Deep South. The divide is actually greater than it will seem because blacks in the South will vote almost exclusively democratic even though they, as a whole, are culturally very religious and differ with the Democrats on issues like abortion and gay rights.

We, in practical terms, no longer have a “federalist system.” Instead, we have a highly centralized form of Government. Washington makes policy on most issues for the whole country, but we are socially and culturally dissimilar in a number of ways because of regional and cultural differences.

Each region can not be satisfied with its own culture and let others be as they are. Folks in Washington speak of pluralism, but treat us as though we are “ONE” people by imposing its views across the spectrum on the whole land. It is not OK for Massachusetts to have abortion and gay marriage and Mississippi to outlaw these things. It is a "winner take all game," so each region and people must try to impose its own views on all others.

I think that is just as it is. I think a return to federalism is the only just way to keep the country together, but I am not optimistic that that could be done even if the there was the political will to do it (which there is not). It is interesting to note that the terms federal and confederacy were used interchangeably by the founders. This is clearly visible in their writings and you can see how the words are defined that way in, Founding Father and Federalist, Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

FED’ERAL, a. [from L. faedus, a league, allied perhaps to Eng. wed. L. vas, vadis, vador, vadimonium. See Heb. to pledge.]
1. Pertaining to a league or contract; derived from an agreement or covenant between parties, particularly between nations.
The Romans, contrary to federal right, compelled them to part with Sardinia.
2. Consisting in a compact between parties, particularly and chiefly between states or nations; founded on alliance by contract or mutual agreement; as a federal government, such as that of the United States.
3. Friendly to the constitution of the United States. [See the Noun.]

CONFEDERACY, n. [L., a league. See Federal and Wed.]
1. A league, or covenant; a contract between two or more persons, bodies of men or states, combined in support of each other, in some act or enterprise; mutual engagement; federal compact.
The friendships of the world are oft confederacies in vice. A confederacy of princes to check innovation.
2. The persons, states or nations united by a league.
Virgil has a whole confederacy against him.
3. In law, a combination of two or more persons to commit an unlawful act.


George Washington, in his letters refers to the United States under the, then new, Constitution as “our new confederacy.” The two great fears of most of the Federalists and Anti-federalists were dissolution of the Union on one side and the centralization of power in a national government on the other. The Federalists won the debate the Constitution was ratified and the warnings of the Anti-federalists (such as Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Monroe) have come to pass. The United States has ceased to be a federal republic. It is now the highly centralised national government that most of the Founding Fathers feared and worked very hard to prevent.

Dominus Vobiscum,

Thursday, October 14, 2004

This is a non-theological post:

On Politics

I am not overly concerned with the current elections. I believe that what ever way I vote, things will continue the current slide into the abyss (metaphorically speaking). I want to see the one who will do the least damage elected.

Personally, I like the Constitution Party, but I think they have made a serious mistake at running for president; without starting at the bottom and building up they will waste all their funds and never become a viable organisation. They need to start locally, in a few states (Western or Southern) and make a name for themselves first.

The Lord is in control and so what happens is as he has ordained, but we are to do our duty (i.e. vote), because that is the means that God has chosen to give us, in this sphere, to do His will. We live in a fallen world that is full of unregenerate men and women (both private and public), and because of that things here should be far worse than they are. As bad as thing seem at times, they could be (and may become) a great deal worse.

We as a people deserve a Saddam Hussien and God has been gracious to give us a Bill Clinton and a G.W. Bush. We deserve no better than the Russians received under Stalin, but God has been merciful to us and given us incompetent, rulers who only take 50% of our income. Most countries are in far worse shape than we are, because they have more consistent fallen rulers and more consistent fallen peoples.

If either Bush or Kerry is elected we will get more of the same. They will both try to federalise what little local control we have left, but in different ways, for different reasons and for different constituencies.

I do believe the left-wing segment of the democratic party is very dangerous. They are becoming desperate and remind me of the Revolutionaries in France’s 18th century blood bath, the Bolsheviks and the Brown Shirts. I see them as deadly enemies.

I think most of the Democrats are just so many politicians, and are not anywhere near that extreme. But the far-left wingers are more consistent and would deal with you and me in the same manner that their revolutionary predecessors in France, Russia and Germany dealt with folks like us– death or dungeon/terror and torture. I do think the extreme types are still far away from control and may never take control, but they are there.

As a whole the Republican party is not much better than the Dems, but I do believe they are somewhat better. With them you have a small "CHANCE" (30- 70) to get a decent federal judge nominated and appointed. With the Dems there ain’t a snowballs chance in hell of getting a good judge.

Again, I believe we get what we deserve (or better). I pray that we get better. I think we deserve the left-wing of the Dems, but I don’t think we will get them in either case.

The stakes are high, because both parties are sucking all power to D.C. The stakes will get higher and the two sides will get all the more desperate to gain or hold onto power. The national parties have centralised most power in Washington and that makes the power, perks and prestige very high and some men are willing to do unspeakable things to gain these things.

We are moving in the direction of Rome. We have not yet made it to the point where we have a Caesar and/or Pompey, but we are moving in that direction. I don’t see us turning from that path, but I do believe that there are both intolerable and (relatively) benign despotic governments. I am hoping and praying that the latter is the worst we get.

Now after that very glum picture let me look at things from a more optimistic vantage point. Christian today, and in the past, have lived under far worse conditions than we do. Most Christians in other parts of the world and in the past would see our condition as wonderful and so we need to keep things in perspective. We have great liberty to worship and live here. These things are slowly eroding but they will not be loss to us anytime soon, so we do have time. We need to use our time at the local level.

We Christians need to plan and live as though we are preparing the world for our great, great grandchildren to live in it. If we all believe that the Rapture will happen tomorrow, we will not plan and work, at all levels, as we should. I think this is the greatest damage inflicted on the Church by the error of Dispensationalism.

Dominus Vobiscum,

Thursday, August 05, 2004

I’m now reading the correspondence of St. Cyprian, the 3rd Century Bishop of Carthage, who was martyred in 258 because of his faith in Christ. As Bishop Cyprian experienced the heavy persecution of Rome during the reigns of Emperor Decius (249-251) and Emperor Valerian (253–260).

There are eighty-two letters in this series and I have read sixty of them. So far, I’ve found the epistles of Cyprian to be a joy to read. He was Bishop of Carthage during a time of intense persecution. One of the interesting things in his letters is his the discussion of the “lapsed.” These were Christians who, one way are another, compromised at some point during the persecution. How was the church supposed to deal with these people when others were being tortured, exiled and killed for the faith. Should the Church cast them off, or should it try to restore them, and if to restore them than how? It’s great stuff.

In Epistle LVIII Cyprian is responding to a letter from Fidus. Fidus believes that baptism of infants should not be performed until the child is eight days old. His reasons are that circumcision was not preformed until the eighth day, and since baptism replaces circumcision this too should be preformed on the eighth day as well.

This was discussed during a council of the church in North Africa and Cyprian wrote the response to Fidus. He wrote “you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man.”

I found part of the reason Cyprian gives to be very interesting. He wrote “For in respect of the observance of the eighth day in the Jewish circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow and in usage; but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord's day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came, and spiritual circumcision was given to us… For which reason we think that no one is to be hindered from obtaining grace by that law which was already ordained, and that spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision, but that absolutely every man is to be admitted to the grace of Christ, since Peter also in the Acts of the Apostles speaks, and says, "The Lord hath said to me that I should call no man common or unclean."

I found this explanation to be a very good one and thought I would pass it along.

Coram Deo,

Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Bible alone is the inerrant and infallible revelation of God to man. This doesn’t include the translations of Scriptures into English. All translations are the works of men and are fallible and contain some errors. We have some very good translations and they are very trustworthy, but this does not equate infallibility or inerrancy to them. Therefore it is legitimate to question and debate the meaning of certain Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words and how they are translated in our English Bibles. If our translations were infallible, as the Scriptures (original autographa) are then there would not (and could not) be any debate in such matters.

This is the reason we need Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic scholars in the Church. These scholars, like the translations are fallible and prone to make mistakes. They are not gifted with an infallible translation or interpretive ability, but they are very important to maintaining the truth.

Every person, be he a Christian or not, be he a wheat or a tare, brings his own biases, prejudices, preconceptions and misconceptions with him when he (she) picks up an English translation of the Scriptures to read and study. We are wholly unable to approach God’s Word devoid of error, prejudice, preconceptions or misconceptions. To do so we would have to live in a vacuum and be devoid of experience and thought, but even if this were possible it too would hinder our ability to correctly understand God’s Scriptures. The Scriptures were written in certain cultural settings and are addressing particular sins and situations. Lack of knowledge of these particulars will also lead one to err in his interpretation of God’s Word.

There is no way for us to have an inerrant knowledge of biblical doctrine, but this does not mean that we can not have true knowledge of the Scriptures and the Doctrines taught in them. We can have true knowledge of the truth of God’s Word, though we can not have an infallible understanding of biblical Doctrine. We all have errors in our understanding, but knowing this we can not become relativists. The Scriptures teach objective truth and they are not subjective or relative to any individual or culture.

If I and another Christian are debating a doctrinal issue there are, at most, only three possible options. One option is I am right and my brother is mistaken; another option is my brother is correct and I am in error. The third option is we are both mistaken and there are other possibilities. It is never the case that if I interpret something one way, and my brother interprets it another that we are both correct. This defies logic (X can never be the same as non-X). God’s Word is objective, inerrant and infallible truth, and it is wholly non-contradictory truth.

If something in God’s Word is interpreted one way by me, and at the same time it is interpreted in a completely contradictory way by another, than one of us (perhaps both) is surely wrong. To deny this is to deny objective truth. If we say that one thing can be true for you and not true for me then we affirm relativism and deny that the Bible contains objective truth. In doing so we deny truth itself. All is then relative and subjective, and there is no truth to be found. This is an irrational position that can not stand.

We all approach the Scriptures with in a given paradigm that is hard to escape. No person has ever commented on the Scriptures who has not imposed upon the Scriptures his or her own misconceptions and prejudices. No one can see his own error without much study and prayer, and none will ever completely escape this fact. We will all go to our graves with certain doctrinal errors and failings.

Doctrinal error has always existed in the Church and it always will. I believe this problem is compounded today, because of our atomistic, individualistic mind set. For most American Christians it is "ME" and "I" who’s view is most correct, even if it is totally divorced from a knowledge of the original languages, historic doctrinal understandings and Church history. Protestants rightly condemn the position of the RCC (since Vatican I) that the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, but we have practically made every individual a pope over doctrine. For the modern individual it is the all important "I" that determines what is doctrinal and what is not.

One of the great errors in both theology and philosophy throughout history has been the inability to bring together "the one and the many" (unity and diversity). This is true in Church history as well. At the end of the High Middle Ages Rome erred and made the "one" to be all important at the expense of the "many." All had to bow before the Roman Pontiff. Today we have enthroned the "many" and there is no one (unity). The "I" is all important. There is no unity because all "I" or "Me" pronouncements are sacred and beyond question. Church history, doctrinal history and all else be damned if it is in contradiction to what "I" believe the Bible to teach. There is no one (unity). There is no Church; there are only churches filled with multiple popes.

There will always be tension between the one and the many, just as there is tension between men and women in marriage. This tension between husband and wife is there because God made us to think differently and prioritize things differently. God did this for a reason. The same is true with the pull of the one and the many. God has built this tension into the system. To go completely over to the "one" is to fall in a ditch (which I think Rome did at Vatican I), but modern Protestants have, for the most part, gone to the other extreme (the many). They too are in a ditch.

Throughout most of Church history the church has swayed back and forth, usually avoiding the extremes of either ditch. I believe today Rome is in one ditch, and the Protestants are in the other. Both of us are in ditches and we need to crawl out of them. We need to get back on the path and out of the ditch. The study of the Scriptures in light of Church history and the history of Doctrine is a good place to start. We need to escape our own paradigm. This is hard to do. We can only do this by reading Christians from earlier eras. We need to read the ancient writings of the Fathers, the mediaeval saints, the Reformers and counter-Reformers, etc... They all err at some point, but they err at different points than we do today. The can help us see our own errors.

Coram Deo,

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Polygamy and Wine

Some time back an anti-alcohol Baptist acquaintance of mine argued that wine is like polygamy. He said they are both something allowed by God in the Old Testament, but they are items that are no longer applicable for us today. He commented that "We don't live in Israel; we live in America." This person believed that the analogy he made between ancient Israel and modern America is a valid analogy on the subject of wine and polygamy. I believe his inference is not a legitimate one, and it shows, on his part, a lack of biblical understanding on both polygamy and wine.

Let’s begin at the beginning. At the end of the creation God ordained monogamy one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve). We were created to be monogamous from the start. In Genesis we read "The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed" (Gen 2: 21-25). Notice, in the whole account of the creation of Eve in the Bible is oriented toward monogamy. Man it to cleave to his wife (singular) the two become one flesh (its impossible for three or more to be one flesh). The first account of bigamy (2 wives) in Scripture is found in the line of Cain’s decedents — Lemach. Lemach was fifth in the line of Cain. It is very likely he is the first bigamist in all history, because the Scriptures makes such a point about it.

We know the pagan people in Abraham’s day practised polygamy. Remember Pharaoh tried to take Sarah for his harem. Abraham too becomes a bigamist when he doubts God’s Word and takes Hagar as a concubine to help God do what He had promised. This, as is every case of polygamy or bigamy that the Scriptures give details about, was a family disaster. Because of Sarah’s jealousy (and his weakness), Abraham casts his own son, Ishmael, and Hagar out in to the wilderness. The implications of Abraham’s sin of bigamy are still felt today. The Arabs count Ishmael as their father and the Jews count Isaac. The animosity that existed in Abraham’s tent between Sarah and Hagar and their sons (who were half brothers) still exists today, some 4,000 years later.

If you do a study on bigamy and polygamy in the Scriptures you will find that, in every case were we are given information, such multi-partner marriages are a disaster. In those cases the wives despise one another and most times so do the children. If you don’t want to go through the whole Bible than just take look at the families of Jacob and David (just two polygamist in the Bible). Their polygamy lead to violent sibling rivalries—kidnapping, rape, murder, rebellion are all linked to these families because these two men had multiple wives.

The Kings of Israel were, by God’s law, to have only one wife. The same is true of those who are ordained officers (elders/bishops and deacons) in the Church of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God does regulate polygamy. In this since polygamy is comparable to slavery. It is an evil that God regulated, but did not altogether outlaw. Just as we should not desire to be a slave, neither should we desire to be involved in polygamy. Like slavery it is never recommended to man, and the Scriptures seem to go out of their way to accentuate the destruction that such relationships naturally carry in their wake for those families where it was practiced.

Much more can be written on this topic, but I do believe that above is a fair presentation of the Scriptural view.

When we go to the subject of wine we find the Scripture are very clear. The misuses of wine (i.e. drunkedness) is strongly and constantly condemned in both the Old and New Covenant Scriptures. But in numerous places in the Bible God clearly blesses (even commands) the use of wine and strong drink. Wine (and other alcoholic beverages) is a good gift to us from God. When used rightly, as are all God’s good gifts, wine is clearly proclaimed to be a blessing from the Lord.

Love, sex, food, wealth, health etc… are all very good gifts from God that sinful man distorts and through sin pervert and the distortion of these good gifts are all very ugly things. But this does not mean that these gifts are not good after all. The gifts from God remain very good gifts and true blessings to God’s people.

Wine is the same. It is a good gift when used lawfully. God has made this obviously clear throughout the Scriptures. When used unlawfully, wine, like the abuse of the gifts mentioned above, can be very destructive. Still that is the fault of the sinner and is not to be blamed on God’s gift, because to do so is to impugn God.

Wine is a good gift from God and to deny this is to claim greater wisdom than God who gave and blessed the gift.

Coram Deo,

Friday, June 18, 2004

Three times in my life I have raised my right hand and taken an oath to serve this country in her armed forces. The first time was at the age of eighteen when I joined the United States Navy, next was to serve as a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard and the last time for the Navy Reserves.

This is the oath I took "I, [my name], do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

I meant those words when I said them. I was proud to take this oath then and I would do so again today if I were needed to. I am sure most Americans would do the same. I believe every American should be willing to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" even if it means loosing ones own life in that struggle.

I dearly love the Constitution of these United States. I’ve read it many times. Sadly most Americans have failed to read our nations covenant document even once. I especially love reading the often heated debates which the Founding Fathers had over the Constitution’s ratification. These men on, whichever side they took, were passionate about it. The ratification debates are a wonderful treasure and if you want to know what the Founders actually meant in this great document you must read their debates about it.

Now I wish to write about a popular oath that I cannot recite with a clear conscience. It has been news lately and we all know this oath very well. It is called the Pledge of Allegiance. Someone reading this maybe asking him or herself "How can he proudly take the first oath and not repeat the pledge?"

I think I have a very sound constitutional reason for my position. In the first oath I am pledging to defend something that is well defined and has clear limits. It is a patriotic oath to defend the system of government handed down to us by our forebears. It is an oath to defend ideas.

The pledge to the flag is very different. First the original author of the pledge, Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), was a socialist. This fact alone should give us some hesitation. Next there are points in the pledge that are not historically accurate. The United States was not founded as a single nation state, but as a federated republic of states (nations). The founders did not create the union to be indivisible. In fact eleven states did legally divide themselves from the union but were forcibly reattached to the union by the point of a bayonet after the bloodiest war in our history.

But those reasons are minor and are not the main reason why I can’t say the pledge. The main reason I can not in good conscience say the Pledge of Allegiance is the pledge is a nationalist pledge. It is not a statement of patriotism, though it is often confused with patriotism, but an oath to follow the flag wherever it goes for what ever reason. That is nationalism and not patriotism.

There is a famous toast from 1816 by a young naval officer named Stephen Decatur that epitomizes what I mean by nationalism as opposed to patriotism. Decatur said "To our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right, but our country, right or wrong!" His loyalty was first to the nation even if she is wrong. That is not a Christian concept.

John Quincy Adams responded to the words of Decatur this way. He said "I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see in the papers attributed to one of our gallant naval heroes. I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia, pereat coelum. My toast would be, may our country always be successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right." [The Latin phrase translates this way "Let justice be done though heaven should fall" - anonymous, circa 43 B.C.]

The only entity deserving of our unquestioned loyalty is God. If our nation seeks to do evil then it is our duty to God and country to stand against the evil. Meanings ascribed to a flag can change and does change. Our allegiance to symbols may have to change as well, but our loyalty to the triune God of the Bible.

The oath I took to defend the Constitution is clear. It is not an unquestioned oath to a symbol, but an oath to an idea that is clearly stated. Lawyers and others have done a great deal to muddle the meaning of those words, but you and I can read them and the writings and speeches of the men who ratified them. We can know what they meant and what it means.

Nationalism is a very dangerous thing. It can be used far great evil so it is important that we never give blind allegiance to an earthly government.

Patriotism is noble and good and it is kin to familial loyalty. Christians especially need to be able to understand the difference between nationalism and patriotism. The difference is vast and the Pledge of Allegiance is, like it or not a nationalist pledge.

Coram Deo,

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Today, after venturing off on a number of essays, articles and books quoted by Mathison work, I finally finished reading The Shape of Sola Scriptura by Keith Mathison. It is a truly great read.

This is the most important book that I have read in a least five years, and very likely a number of years more than that. Mathison’s book is vital for the Christian today. Most importantly, to my mind, Mathison places the classical Protestant teaching of Sola Scriptura in an historical context, that is vital to a right understanding of it. Just as importantly, He contrasts the classical Protestant teaching of "Sola Scriptura " with the truncated modern evangelical distortion that passes as "sola scriptura" in the minds of most Evangelicals today. The modern position is a far cry from the historic view of the Reformers.

On page 280 Mathison writes “How can we proclaim the perspicuity [i.e. clearness] of Scripture and at the same time promote doctrines that no one in the Church ever taught for eighteen or nineteen centuries? Evangelicals criticize Roman Catholics for the creation of new dogmas unheard of in previous centuries, yet Evangelicalism has created far more novel doctrines than Roman Catholicism.” The Evangelical criticism is valid, but hypocritical, when Evangelicals too are doing similar things; the invention of dispensationalism in the 1820's and it’s subsequent wide acceptance by evangelicals in the 20th century is a case in point.

I believe his dealing with the modern evangelical distortion of sola scriptura to be one of the most important aspects of this book, because the view that has gained the majority position in evangelical circles is a far cry from the Sola Scriptura that was taught by the Reformers and it is very dangerous.

The modern distortion that passes for Sola Scriptura is radically individualistic and takes place in an historical, theological and doctrinal vacuum. This view of Scripture makes biblical doctrine to be highly subjective, relativistic, and in so doing it virtually makes each individual to be his/her own Pope who infallibly interprets the Scriptures in his or her own subjective vacuum.

In the book Mathison also deals masterfully with the Roman Catholic views of Scripture and tradition. He points out that the view of the Protestant Reformers (the classical Protestant teaching of Sola Scriptura) clearly harkens back to the view of tradition and Scripture that was held by early Church and most of the Church during the early Middle Ages. This is plainly seen in St. Vincent’s Commonitory , which I wrote about earlier.

Mathison also sets his sites on the Eastern Church's views in this book as well, and handles their arguments handily.

I can not recommend this important book to strongly.

Dominus Vobiscum.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

How many New Covenants?

We are blessed to be partakers of the New Covenant that was promised long ago through the prophet Jeremiah. "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah."

The Prophet said that the New Covenant would be with the houses of Israel and Judah, but you and I, like most Christians since the end of the apostolic era, are more likely Gentile extraction. How can it be that the overwhelming majority of those that have been the recipients of the New Covenant promise made to Israel and Judah are Gentiles and not Ethnic Jews.

Before I attempt to answer that question I should mention the fact that old-line dispensational theology denies that we Christians are part of the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah, because if we are than their theological system implodes on itself. The founder of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), Lewis Sperry Chafer, says in his eight volumes Systematic Theology that there are two New Covenants: one with Israel, and also another New Covenant, not even hinted of in the Old Testament, that is with the Church (Vol. IV, 325 and Vol. VII, 98,99).

Chafer is not alone in this view. It is part and parcel of dispensational thought. John Walvoord, the president of DTS after Chafer, held to the two new covenants view, as does Dwight Pentecost. Pentecost wrote of his dispensational view "This view holds that there are two new covenants presented in the New Testament; the first with Israel in reaffirmation of the covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 and the second made with the church in this age."

I have mentioned elsewhere (before blogging) that dispensationalists must deny that the church fulfills Jeremiah 31. If Jeremiah 31, in anyway, applies to Christians and the church, the whole dispensational system of biblical interpretation collapses. This is something that they readily admit. Former DTS theologian Dr. Charles Ryrie wrote, "If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned." Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost said of the New Covenant "If the church fulfils this covenant, she may also fulfil the other covenants, and there is no need for an earthly millennium." (both men are premillennialist, as is every dispensationalist.) Again, as I have said before they believe as did Darby, Scofield and Chafer that the Church age is a parenthesis in redemptive history and the real new covenant is yet future in a future millennium.

This view of two new covenants is based not on a reading of Scripture, because the Bible no where speaks of two new covenants. The idea of two new covenants becomes a necessity for dispensationalism, due to the fact that in the New Testament the new covenant is clearly applied to the Church. Historic dispenstional thought maintains (since its invention by John Darby in the 1820’s) that no prophecies in the Old Testament can apply to the church, because the OT Scriptures give no hint of the church age. They maintain that the Church is only a "parenthesis" in God’s plan for Israel.

Jeremiah 31:31, if it applies to the church, destroys their system. The system is predicated on the idea that all prophecy must be interpreted literally. The fact that Jeremiah says the new covenant is made with the houses of Israel and Judah, must be understood literally, and therefore it can not be applied to the church. When John Darby devised this idea, it was a radical departure from how all of Christendom had understood Jeremiah 31 for the previous 1800 years. The church had always understood the New Covenant promises in Jeremiah 31 to apply to us Christians (Jews and Gentiles) and not to a future millennial Israel.

The basic hermeneutic for the dispensationalists is the belief that all prophetic Scripture must be interpreted literally. This view is imposed on the Word of God and not drawn from it. Certainly the Bible is clear that some prophecies had to be interpreted literally, but I believe I can indicate that this is not true of all prophecy. Some of it is clearly not to be understood literally. If this is indeed the case then the dispensational hermeneutic fails completely.

I believe the way the New Testament writers deal with the new covenant is enough to discredit the dispensational position, but since that is a point in question here, we will look elsewhere to see if prophecy is ever fulfilled in a non-literal way. Ryrie makes the point "Consistently literal or plain interpretation is indicative of a dispensational approach to the interpretation of Scripture."

In Malachi 4.5,6 we read that Elijah (Elias) would come before Messiah. The angel references this prophecy when he speaks to Zacharias (John’s father) in the temple. "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1.17).

In Matthew Jesus says plainly that John the baptiser is the fulfilment of the Elijah prophecy: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come."(Matt. 11.13,14) Jesus confirms John’s fulfilment of the Elijah passages elsewhere. Lets look at Matthew chapter 17. "And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist." (10-13)

We see this also in Mark 9.11-13. "And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought. But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him."

Malachi said clearly that Elijah would come before Messiah. The scribes and Pharisees, like our despensational brethren took this prophecy very literally. That is why they asked John if he was indeed Elijah (see John 1:21). John was not literally Elijah, and he told his questioners as much. Yet Jesus tells us in several places that John is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy of Elijah coming as a forerunner to the advent of the Messiah.

The prophecy of Malachi is clearly fulfilled in John the Baptist, but it is not a literal fulfilment. John is not a reincarnation of Elijah, but he is the fulfilment of this prophecy, because he came in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Dispensationalism is wrong when it imposes a literalism where the Bible does not. The Scriptures must be allowed to interpret themselves. John, according to Christ, fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah. According to the New Testament, we in the Church, are in the New Covenant. The Church is the house of Israel and Judah, spoken of by Jeremiah. We are now in the New Covenant, and there is only one not two New Covenants as Chafer and other Dispensationalists were forced to argue for in order maintain their system. The idea of two New Covenants is not biblical and neither is dispensationalism.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Saturday, May 29, 2004

a spirit hath not flesh and bones

A little while back, a fellow on another forum objected to a comment I made about God being a spirit and not possessing a physical body. Here is my response to his suggestion that God must be a physical being.


Hello BL,
We have a very different views on this matter, and just to put this is context, your view appears to be that of a Mormon are something close to the Mormon position. The view I hold to on this matter is the view held by the whole Christian church from beginning until now. This is also the historic doctrinal view of Judaism. This is clearly seen in Article 3 of the Shloshah-Asar Ikkarim also known as the Thirteen Articles of Faith.

Article 3 reads this way --“The belief in G-d's noncorporeality, nor that He will be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling” or in a more modern wording “I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena, and that there is no comparison whatsoever to Him.”

Of course all the Jews and Christians could have been mistaken and Joseph Smith and you are correct, but I would not bet the farm on those odds.

One verse can be all the proof one needs if it is used rightly and contextually, and hundreds of proof texts can be used to teach a distortion if applied wrongly, so the number of verses one can bring into play in such a discussion may or may not be that important. Jewish and Christians scholars (and laymen alike) have always recognised that the Bible is a complicated book. Some of it is history, some is song and poetry, some is proverbial, prophetic, some portions are eschatological, and some is specifically philosophical and doctrinal. Some parts of the Bible are very literal and others are not. Those aspect of the scriptures that you bring up to prove that God is a physical being have always, by Jews and Christians alike, been understood to be anthropomorphic language used to make certain points.

Your methodology of interpreting Scripture proves too much. Not only must God have eyes, nostrils hands and legs, but he must have wings and feathers as well.

Lets return to the verses that I brought up earlier in this discussion. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39) And then Christ words in John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." We know from Jesus Christ’s words here that a spirit “hath not flesh and bones” and we know that “God is a Spirit.”

BL you said that “Spiritual substance is as real as natural substance Ken, except that it is of a higher type of matter and is governed by higher laws.” (emphasis is my own). This is absolute, pure conjecture that has been pulled out of thin air.

The word spirit is also the word used for wind, and breath in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Wind was the closest thing that could be used to describe that which is non-material. Even here with this analogy we find spirit or wind that is at times omnipresent and sometimes particular. Wind is everywhere like God and it can be particular, like and individual. We see this in its uses as the breath of an individual.

When a man gives up his spirit, does a higher form of matter leave his physical body and go to heaven or hell? No; a non-material, eternal aspect of his being is separated from the material aspect of his being.

Let’s look at another term used in Scripture. That is the word “Word” or “Logos” which is used in speaking of the pre-incarnate Christ. John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses this Greek term that is pregnant with meaning when referring to the pre-incarnate Christ for a reason. He uses it because it is familiar to the Greek world to which he is writing. In Greek thought the logos was a divine force, power or reason that governed the universe, but it too was non-material.

In fact a great problem of early Christians was fighting off the opposite of the heresy you espouse here. In neo-Platonic thought the non-material (spirit) was good and all things material (flesh) were tainted with evil. The Gnostics held to a heresy that Christ must have only appeared to be flesh and bone, because he could not truly be flesh and bone (a material being) because this was evil. The object of the Gnostics was to leave the material world, and return to the realm of pure spirit.

BL yours is a simplistic reading of the Word of God that ignores very important teachings in the Scriptures and it ignores the whole teaching of both the Jewish and Christian peoples who received these revelations.

Coram Deo,

Monday, May 24, 2004

I’ve been reading Keith Mathison’s book The Shape of Sola Scriptura and I’ve so far found it very interesting and compelling. After reading a little over 100 pages into this work I took a detour. In the body of this book Mathison quotes Vincent of Lérins. St. Vincent is a contemporary of St. Augustine. Vincent joined the monestary in Lérins in 425 and died in 450 AD.

St. Vincent wrote an important epistle titled The Commonitory: For the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of All Heresies. The title is a mouth full, but it is a delightful read.

I set Mathison’s book aside because I believed a quote that he used from The Commonitory to be so important that I wanted to be sure that Mathison was dealing accurately with what St. Vincent actually wrote. After reading the whole of Vincent’s epistle, I am sure that Mathison uses him correctly, and he could have quoted him a good bit more.

It becomes clear that Vincent holds to a very different understanding of the relationship between Scripture and tradition than that of the Modern Roman Catholic Church. It is all clear that he believes that one should not lightly dismiss the historic teachings of the faith, which I believe is an all too common problem among modern Evangelicals who have little knowledge of, or interest in, the history of doctrine or the church itself.

Mathison’s quote that caused me to set his book down and read The Commonitory is taken from Chapter II. St. Vincent wrote “That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.”

That sounds like the conventional Roman Catholic position, but Vincent is not finished. He then defines what he means by this statement. He says “But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation?

It is important to notice two things here. First, St Vincent clearly believes that “the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient.” This is a very high view of the Bible and one that every Evangelical would heartily agree with, but look at what he adds. He asks “what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation.”

St. Vincent, in this passage, equates tradition with the historic interpretation of the Scriptures. This is not what the modern Roman Catholic (RC) means by tradition. The Modern RC, when he speaks of tradition, is referring to a body of beliefs that exist extra-biblically.

St Vincent’s position on tradition would match perfectly with the classical Protestant position on the matter, and is in stark conflict with the modern RC view and from another angle it is at odds with most (baptistic) Evangelicals as well.

We see Vincent’s position reiterated a number of times in the thirty three chapters of this work. In referring to the errors of Origen he writes “Hence it came to pass, that this Origen, such and so great as he was, wantonly abusing the grace of God, rashly following the bent of his own genius, and placing overmuch confidence in himself, making light account of the ancient simplicity of the Christian religion, presuming that he knew more than all the world besides, despising the traditions of the Church and the determinations of the ancients, and interpreting certain passages of Scripture in a novel way, deserved for himself the warning given to the Church of God, as applicable in his case as in that of others.

In the body of the epistle it’s clear that St. Vincent believes Origen erred when he abandoned the traditional interpretation of Scripture and followed his own ideas. Origen’s errors, according to St Vincent, were that he thought too much like a modern Evangelical.

In chapter XXVII St. Vincent reinforces what he said in chapter II. He writes “in the beginning of this Commonitory, we said that holy and learned men had commended to us, that is to say, they must interpret the sacred Canon according to the traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of Catholic doctrine, in which Catholic and Universal Church, moreover, they must follow universality, antiquity, consent.” He even goes so far as to say that “as to the more ancient schisms or heresies, we ought either to confute them, if need be, by the sole authority of the Scriptures, or at any rate, to shun them…”

In chapter XXIX St. Vincent affirms that Scripture alone is, in and of itself sufficient, but then reaffirms the importance of looking at Scripture in the light shed on it by the historic teachings of the Church. Here are his own words “it has always been the custom of Catholics, and still is, to prove the true faith in these two ways; first by the authority of the Divine Canon, and next by the tradition of the Catholic Church. Not that the Canon alone does not of itself suffice for every question, but seeing that the more part, interpreting the divine words according to their own persuasion, take up various erroneous opinions, it is therefore necessary that the interpretation of divine Scripture should be ruled according to the one standard of the Church's belief,

Notice that St. Vincent here admits that the canon (i.e. the Holy Bible) will, on its own “suffice for every question.” That is not the modern RC position, but it is something that Evangelicals would readily agree with. We flip flop this situation when we look at what he next says. He writes “it is therefore necessary that the interpretation of divine Scripture should be ruled according to the one standard of the Church's belief.” This is where the modern RC and the Evangelical will switch places. The Evangelical will disagree and the RC will agree. But the classical Protestant would agree with both statements.

The Commonitory of St. Vincent is a wonderful work and sheds light on a number of important items that are not addressed here. After reading it I am now ready to return to Mathison’s book. It is proving to be a very good and very important book indeed.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Substitutionary Atonement

Our Lord God is and always has been a gracious Lord. Even before the fall God’s relationship with man was a gracious relationship. God could have placed Adam and Eve in a wilderness, where they would have had to struggle from the beginning . Instead, Adam and Eve were placed in a garden that was able to supply all their needs. They were placed in the midst of plenty, and they were given the job of keeping the garden, but the garden was such that even this work was not hard or strenuous labour.

Some people believe that Adam could have earned salvation for him and for us had he perfectly kept God’s Word. But this is not correct; even had Adam perfectly kept God’s word God would have owed him nothing, because perfectly keeping His Law Word was Adam’s duty. His works could not then, it can not now, nor could it ever have earned eternal life. Had Adam not sinned he would have lived forever, but he would not have earned that life, it would still have been of grace and not something aquired by works. Eternal life is all of grace and it always has been.

We can see the out working of God’s grace immediately after the fall. God had told Adam "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:17) But this did not happen; Adam and Eve did not die, instead God killed animals and he clothed the sinners in the skins of the animals that were substituted for them.

The guilty did not die when Adam and Eve sinned. Innocent animals died in their stead, and then God covered the nakedness of the guilty party (i.e. Adam and Eve) with the skins of the animals that died in their place. Right here in the first chapters of Genesis we see the shadow of the reality of redemption that is accomplished for us in Christ Jesus.

We, like Adam and Eve, are guilty of sinning against the Lord. We, like Adam and Eve, are deserving of the wages of our sin, which is death. We see the pattern of substitutionary atonement throughout the Old Testament. This is seen in the bloody animal sacrifices that fill the pages of the Old Covenant Scriptures. Like the animals that died in the place of Adam and Eve, all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were but shadows that pointed to the true Sacrifice for our sins.

The sacrifice of animals can not ultimately redeem us from our sins; they can only point to the true Redeemer. We see this clearly taught in Hebrews chapter nine. All those countless animal sacrifices, over several millennia, pointed to the true Sacrifice which is Jesus Christ. Because of sin someone had to die. God’s holiness and justice demanded it, but yet God’s grace allowed for a substitute. Either the sinner or the substitute had to pay the penalty for sin. We see this too in Hebrew 9. We are told that without the shedding of blood there is no remission from sin.

Jesus came to fulfill the justice of God. In Him God the Son entered His creation. The Lord became flesh and blood. He kept His own Law Word and He gave himself to pay the penalty for the sins of all that will receive eternal life. Again in Hebrews 9 we read "he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Jesus atoned for our sins and like the animal skins that covered Adam and Eve, our nakedness is covered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Dominus Vobiscum,

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Suffering is a fact of life. We all endure suffering to some degree, because we live in a fallen and sinful world. We live in a world filled with people in rebellion against their own creator God, who made them in his very own image (Note: The image is not physical).

Suffering is a byproduct of sin. Because of Adams fall the whole creation was corrupted and came under the curse of sin. Suffering because of labour to produce food and suffering of the mother during child birth are products of the sin of the fall. We sin and suffering is produced. Most of our suffering can not be tied down to any specific sin. I won’t twist my ankle for telling a white lie, nor will I break my arm for telling a bigger lie. God didn't make this world that simplisticly. In fact, God created a very intricate and complicated world. This is true of nature and it is true of the world of human lives and relations. It is true socially, morally, culturally, etc...

In this sinful world, good and bad suffer alike. Sometimes whole lands and cultures are swept out of existence and millions of people suffer having no idea why they are suffering. I often think of World War II when I think of suffering. Over 50,000,000 (50 million) people were killed in that war, and more than halve of those killed during that war were civilians. Over 27,000,000 (27 million) civilians, including women, children, babies and old folks, were killed even though they were not combatants.

Many times times more people than these were displaced, lost homes and families during the war. World War II was a tidal wave of death, destruction and human suffering that was far greater than anything that had been seen before in human history. Millions of people were swept to their deaths by powers, forces and events that they could not possibly understand much less control.

World War II was made almost inevitable due to the way the second most destructive war in history (i.e. World War I) ended. Events were set in motion by the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the First World War. The outcome of this treaty set forces the stage which ultimately led to the WWII. Only a small handful of men had anything to do with generating that treaty. Very few, of the more than 50 million men, women and children killed in WWII had anything to do with Treaty of Versailles, yet these many millions of people were swept up and destroyed by its consequence.

Many of those killed, during that bloodiest of all wars, were very devout Christian people. The ten Boom family was one group of Christians who were swept up and killed in that titanic war. The ten Booms were Reformed Dutch Christians. They were arrested and sent to death camps for the crime of saving Jews from the Nazis' planned extermination of European Jews. Like the ten Booms countless numbers of Christians underwent great suffering and often painful death during WWII, many others helplessly watched as their love ones suffered and died around them.

Now let me fast forward for a moment. I am certain there were a number of good Christian people killed in the planes, Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9-11. Why did innocent people die on 9-11? Why did the ten Booms and so many other civilians have to die in WWII?

Did WWII take God by surprise? No; God knows all things in history from eternity, not only that, but he has ordained all that comes to pass in this world. The suffering of the ten Booms was ordained by the Lord before the creation. It is probable that we will never know all there is to know about the "whys" of suffering. But we can know that all these things are in God’s hands. He is able to , and does, turn all sins that are committed in such a way that they must accomplish the Lord’s Holy will.

How is this done? I don't know. God is God and He has told us in His Scriptures that it is so. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God has not given us specifics on how this is so, but we know it is so from God’s Word. That is a great comfort when we are undergoing suffering. We can have comfort even while we are in pain and undergoing great struggles, even struggles that lead to death for ourselves or our loveones.

Because God is sovereign, the Christian can take comfort in the fact that ultimatly none of our suffering is meaningless.

Coram Deo,

Friday, March 26, 2004

What about Mary?

Below is a letter I wrote last year on the Virgin Mary. My friend Toney forwarded the short article to his friend Terry who sent it on to Father Champagne (of the Dioceses of Lafayette). Father Champagne then responded to the article. The letter below that of Father Champagne’s is my attempt to answer his criticisms.

Dominus Vobiscum,

Hey Folks,

I've not written much lately. I have been in a bit of a lull in my emailing, but I hope to be back at full speed again before to long.

We just finished up celebrating the Christmas Season. We used this period as a time set aside to feast and celebrate the marvellous, miraculous, virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe this is good. God, in the Old Covenant, set aside many feast times for His people. We have a far greater blessings now than they did, because we live in the New Covenant. Therefore we too should have great feasts set aside to give praise to our God and Saviour and enjoy His blessings and bounty that He has given to us.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, stands out prominently during Christmas. Non-Catholics often do not give Mary the honour that she rightly deserves. I believe this is mainly do to an over reaction to a perceived too great a prominence given to Mary by Roman Catholics.

Luke records these words which were spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Elisabeth, her cousin, (who was also the mother of John the Baptist) when she was filled with the Holy Ghost, said "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." Mary says in here response "from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."

All Christians should recognise that Mary is the most blessed woman ever to walk upon the earth. She was privileged to carry in her womb for nine months the incarnate deity. She was the woman who raised Jesus; she nursed him on her breasts. Mary is the most blessed of all women. All generations, to the end of time, should honour her.

Now we come to a problem. Who was Mary? Was she sinless or did she, like all of us, need a Saviour? Is Mary an eternal virgin, or did she have normal sexual relations with her husband Joseph after Jesus was born?
I think the Scriptures answer these questions for us.

Was Mary without sin or did she need a Saviour? --- Mary answers the question for us in Luke 1:46,47. She says, "My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." Mary understood her need for a saviour. She was a sinner because sinless people don't need a saviour. Mary, like you and me, was in need of a saviour, and her Saviour is her Son Jesus Christ.

What about her virginity, is it eternal? Again we find the answer in the Word of God.

Remember what Mary said to Gabriel when he told her that she would have a son? She said "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" The words "KNOW" and "KNEW" were common Hebraic idioms for sexual intercourse. We see these words used throughout the Scriptures as euphemisms for sexual intercourse. Here is an example.

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. (Gen. 4:1)

We read in Matthew 1:25 that Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." The implication being that Joseph did not "know" Mary (in a sexual way) until after Jesus was born. We see in Mark's Gospel (and elsewhere) that Jesus had siblings. We read "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?" It is obvious in God's Word that Jesus had several half brothers and sisters.

If we allow the Scriptures to speak, it becomes clear that Mary is certainly the most blessed and honoured woman to ever tread upon the earth, but it is also clear that she was not a virgin after the birth of Jesus and she had many other children besides him.

I believe most Protestants don't give Mary enough honour, and most Roman Catholics give her more than the Scriptures will allow.

We must seek to follow the Word of God as it is presented in the Scriptures. As one baptised and raised, for a time, in the Roman Catholic Church, I love Christian tradition and I think most Protestants have jettisoned far too much tradition, but if (or when) tradition is counter to Scripture then we must follow Scripture. In matters of doctrine I agree with the Reformers and their cry "Sola Scriptura."

Soli Deo Gloria,

I forwarded your email about Mary to a good Roman friend of mine. I asked for his thoughts on the matter and he evidently thought his priest could do a better job explaining the Roman position. I don't agree of course but was impressed with his explanation using John the Baptist as an example. What do you think of this reply?

These are a few thoughts that a Priest friend of mine sent concerning your email. I hope this will be of some assistance to you.

God Bless You,

Grace and Peace! I hope you, the wife and the boys are all doing well and growing in the Lord.

I received a copy of the E-mail sent by a friend of yours. I wish I had more time to address his erroneous arguments step by step. It would be quite easy to pick up Fr. Mario's "Unabridged Christianity" or one of Peter Kreeft's works to address the questions. However, his problems with Mary's Virginity after giving birth to Christ arise given the ambiguity in the English translation. For example, what St. Paul says of James, "the brother of the Lord" is actually "adelphos tou kuriou" which can be either a blood brother or a relative. In fact the two James in the apostolic college are James son of Zebedee and James son of Alphaeus. So if we are speaking about one of these being the same James then the interpretation must be relative and not blood brother. Catholics have the advantage of Tradition and from the earliest days Mary is taught to be ever virgin. For example, the Confiteor which dates to the 6th century invokes Mary, Ever Virgin. However, you can't argue with those who hold "Sola Scriptura" for they will consider nothing but the Sacred Text. However, they have the big problem of trying to defend Sola Scriptura, for I ask them where does it say "Scripture Alone" in the Bible. The fact is, it doesn't. We don't have the Bible (a collection of Books) until about the middle of the third century and the codices that we have then differ in the number and books included in the New Testament. There was not agreement in both the east and the west on this until late in the fourth century. It was the Catholic Church that determined which books went into the Bible and which were left out.

The text in Matthew 1:25 that says that Joseph had no relations with Mary until the time of her delivery again doesn't imply that they had relations after she gave birth. The greek conjunction heos can be legitimately translated as "till" or "until" but it does not restrict the continuance of the action beyond the time indicated. The context of Matthew is obviously concerned with the Virgin Birth and St. Matthew is not trying to clearly declare Mary's continued virginity after birth but his point that he is arguing is the Child is Divine. So from the Greek alone, we wouldn't know from Matthew's text whether or not Mary remained Virgin after giving birth to Jesus. Implying that she did is a Protestant reading into the text. If they claim to be Sola Scriptura, then the only honest position would be to say we don't know. However, we do as we have Sacred Tradition, the Oral Tradition, to clarify what is unclear or only present in germ in the Scriptures.

The final point about Mary calling Jesus Savior is a good one. Jesus is Lord and Savior of all. Catholics believe that Mary was most perfectly redeemed. She is saved, as Blessed Duns Scotus said, not by falling into the pit and being pulled out of it like the rest of us, but by a singular graced of being kept from falling into the pit at all. Mary is full of grace which means that she is sinless and redeemed. Mary is privileged to be saved from the first moment of her conception in St. Anne's womb whereas we have to wait for Baptism as a youngster or as an adult. The fact that Mary was preserved from all sin from the first moment of her existence should not surprise the Protestants as even St. John the Baptist, who no one would argue to be greater than the Virgin Mary, was consecrated, baptized, redeemed in the womb of Elizabeth at the Visitation. Finally, theologically it is fitting that Mary be without sin and its stain as the humanity of Jesus comes from her and it would not be fitting the sinless Redeemer that his humanity be stained with sin.

I hope these reflections offer some help.
In Jesus Crucified,
fr. champagne


Thanks for sending the response from Father Champagne. I hope to write and thank him myself when I have time.

Father Champagne's letter is the standard Roman Catholic answer when this subject comes up and mine is the standard Protestant/Reformed view. Their position and our position have remained the same for the past 500 years.

What he says could be "a" correct rendition but it is not "the" natural reading of the texts in question. Father Champagne wrote that the Greek word adelphos ("can be either a blood brother or a relative" and he is certainly correct. But the natural reading of the text would not lend itself as readily to the latter as it does the former. We use the English term "brother" in narrow and broad ways as well, but context must determine how we understand the word in a particular setting.

Let's look at how Matthew uses this word "adelphos" elsewhere in his Gospel.

Matt 1:2 -- Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren (NOTE: Same Greek word.)

Matt 1:11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon (NOTE: Same Greek word for Brethren.)

Matt 4:18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. (NOTE: Same Greek word for brethren and brother.)

Matt 4:21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James [the son] of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. (NOTE: Same Greek word for Brethren)

Matthew does use the term in a general way as well. For example we read in Matthew 5:22 "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Here the Greek word is used in a general way just as we might use it. But when ever Matthew uses adelphos in a familial way he uses it to mean "brother" in its normal/ precise way.

To claim that the brethren and sisters mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel are not Jesus' half brothers and half sisters, can only be done if you approach the Scriptures with the preconceived idea that Mary had to remain a virgin forever. This is eisogeting (reading into) the text.

On the use of the word “till” Father Champagne is correct when he writes, “The greek conjunction heos can be legitimately translated as "till" or "until" but it does not restrict the continuance of the action beyond the time indicated.” But again I do believe our position is “the” natural reading of the text. If we approach the text without preconceptions of Mary’s perpetual Virginity we would naturally understand it as I show in my original letter.

When Fr. Champagne asks, “where does it say "Scripture Alone" in the Bible?” I would simply respond “Were does one find the word “Trinity” in the Bible. Our doctrine of “Scripture alone” as the foundation of right doctrine is not taken from a single verse, but from our overall understanding of God’s Word.

I don’t disparage tradition, as so many non-Roman Catholics do. I love tradition. There is much that we can and should learn from tradition. I consider myself a member of the holy catholic Church. I also consider my Roman Catholic family members and friends to be part of the holy catholic Church. I am reading a good deal in the Church fathers. I count Athanasius, Augustine Anselm and Aquinas all as my brethren (adelphous) in Christ. I look to them for guidance and instruction. They do not perfectly agree with one another and I do not perfectly agree with any of them, but I respect them and do not part from them without careful thought and prayer. They were all far better scholars and Christians than I will ever be.

I greatly lament the division of the Western Church since Luther. The Roman Church was correct when it said that with the break of 1517, Pandora’s box of perpetual heresy would be opened up. And it has been, but I believe the Lord will yet repair the breach that exists within the Church of Jesus Christ in His timing.

Father Champagne recommended a couple of books to your friend. One of them, Unabridged Christianity by Fr. Mario Romero, I purchased a couple of months back. I too recommend it. Fr Romero does a good job defending the Roman Catholic position, and it is always good to read, first hand, the views of a brother with whom you disagree (or even, at times, agree).

Coram Deo,