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,