Friday, June 29, 2012

Sorry For Taking So Long To Post

I must apologize to the readers of this blog for my radio silence over the last week. Since my family travelled to Denmark more than a week ago, we have been bunkered down in a remote and undisclosed location with no internet!!!! Yes, you heard me rightly – no internet!!!! While you all marvel at my survival in such a hazardous environment I have now had a slew of happenings that demand response. Since these are all very public discussions I fully intend to weigh in on the “traditional Southern Baptist view of salvation” document and Ed Young Jr.’s anti-Calvinist rant which set new standards in stupidity from the pulpit. Due to recent happenings in Denmark it is also necessary to say more about the homosexual agenda and responding in a biblically informed way.

 It has also been drawn to my attention that a lot of scandalous remarks are being posted in social media outlets regarding the recent arrest of Word Faith heretic Creflo Dollar.



Nothing would make me more pleased than to see Dollar and his outrageous gospel of greed forever banished from pulpits (perhaps if he became a real Christian and started preaching the true Gospel I would be more pleased). 

Nonetheless, brothers and sisters, may this latest scandal be a reminder to us that we are people first and foremost of God’s Word. It can be tempting to slam Creflo Dollar because of the allegations made against him by his daughter. Clearly, all is not well in the Dollar household. Even so, our opposition to false teachers must always be biblically driven rather than based on speculation. Creflo Dollar may well be found innocent of the charges made against him, and as I don’t know all the facts surrounding this legal case I refuse to be drawn in on the opportunity to take some shots based on hearsay. The avalanche of biblical evidence stands in condemning opposition to the heretical preaching of Dollar and we would all do well to keep our criticism within this realm. Pay particular attention to the following video from 2:30 onwards . . .



May this criticism also be more motivated by a love for Christ and His truth than a desire to hunt for heretics. I need to go now and spend some time with my own children.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Genesis Is Not A Poem

This recent offering from the "scientists" made major headlines in the UK's Guardian newspaper. The article goes on to say:

It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim. Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain. This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by a Nasa-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future.

Ian Sample, The Guardian’s science correspondent continued on his article to say that:

"Green" aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. "These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets," the researchers write.

Applying the grammatical-historical approach to this article I came up with the following interpretation:


Hi, I’m a scientist. You can tell because I wear a long white coat with a pocket protector. I have the highly trained ability to impress you with big words. I also have a wildly speculative imagination, which is a tremendous asset to scientists who are unable to track down any empirical evidence or factual information. When I use my wildly speculative imagination I prefer to call it “research”. Governments give me money to do this “research” and if I entertain them enough with my research they give me even more money to do even more research.

It would seem that the general public is generally satisfied with the explanation “scientists say”. Furthermore, it would seem that many theologians in the world of academia are not only satisfied with the “scientists say” mantra, they also feel the need to capitulate to their “imposing research”.

In all fairness, there is a such thing as empirical science where tests are made, data is compiled, and conclusions are drawn. The law of gravity is derived from true empirical science hence it is called a law. It is testable, measurable, repeatable, and observable. On the other hand, Darwinian evolutionary theory and Big Bang cosmology are not empirically proven facts. They are not testable, measurable, repeatable, or observable. Yet the majority of “Christian academia” feel enormous pressure to accommodate these theories into the very first chapter of the Bible.

The first chapter of Genesis is a very straightforward read for the average man in the average pew. God gives a chronological account of the six days He took to create the world (and the universe). This literary style or genre is called narrative (the other genres being poetry, parables, prophecy, and epistles). Biblical narrative refers to the portions of Scripture that give an account of historic events. It is the most common genre in the entire Bible comprising more than 40 percent of the Old Testament and nearly 60 percent of the New Testament. Theologians desirous of accommodating the prevailing “scientific” views on origins into Scripture are faced with the options of either rejecting the first eleven chapters of Genesis altogether or changing the genre from narrative to something else.

While the first eleven chapters of Genesis provide no major hermeneutical challenges to any Bible interpreter, they do provide major problems for those who want to wear the “Christian label” without being laughed at by their friends in the long white coats with pocket protectors. The most popular default among “conservative scholars” has been to reclassify the creation account as poetry rather than narrative. These scholars will readily admit their belief that Genesis switches back to the narrative genre later on though they have not been forthcoming with where exactly that is and how they determined that particular line of demarcation.

Tragically, many of these scholars do not realize that their efforts to win over the scientific establishment have come at the cost of losing the gospel. Denying Adam as a literal historical figure, denying the fall and curse as a literal historical event, and allowing for death to occur prior to Adam all do severe violence to the exclusive biblical gospel. A gospel that requires a fall to introduce sin, sin to introduce a curse, a curse to introduce death, and a second Adam to defeat death.

The fact that the entire book of Genesis is a narrative would be a “no brainer” were it not for the external interpretive pressures coming from outside of the Bible itself. Every biblical instance of yom (the Hebrew word for day) with a numerical prefix refers to a literal day – hence six literal days of creation as the first chapter of the Bible clearly states. The common features of Hebrew poetry such as figurative language and parallelisms are also absent from the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Professor John Currid states:

There is no indication of figurative language in Genesis 1. If the narrative is to be considered imagery, one would expect to encounter many of the essentials of figurative language (eg. schema, metaphor, and other tropes), but there are none.

Professor Doug Kelly provides even more compelling evidence concerning the narrative genre of Genesis:

A further confirmation of the non-poetic, historical nature of the Genesis account of creation is found in the way the New Testament uses these early chapters. Certainly for those who take the New Testament seriously, and are committed to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as truth itself, the New Testament approach to Genesis will be of highest consequence. No amount of exegetical straining can find the slightest poetic view of Genesis 1-11 in the books of the New Testament. One can disagree with the new Testament’s literal, historical usage of Genesis 1-11, but one cannot honestly find in its pages anything less than a straightforward reading of these chapters as literal, relevant facts (Douglas F. Kelly, Creation and Change Page 39).

Although the primary purpose of this lesson is to highlight principles for interpreting biblical narrative, the battle for Genesis highlights the importance of this issue and brings some of these interpretive principles to the surface. Some of the major principles of interpreting biblical narrative include:

1. God alone is the hero of every story – biblical narratives contain stories about people who lived during biblical times, but they are primarily about the God Who works in, through, for, and against these people. Adherence to this principle is a great remedy for the modern propensity of preachers to moralize biblical narratives.

2. Narratives are descriptive and not prescriptive – while it may be tempting to try and interpret a narrative as an example, or advice, for how Christians should live, we need to remember that narratives do not attempt to show us how we should live but merely describe events as they happened.

3. Narrative must be interpreted in the light of its broader literary context – all biblical passages of narrative must be located within their larger theological framework. For example, when reading the books that chronicle the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah, the reader is expected to be familiar with the Pentateuch in order to grasp the laws and customs dealt with in these books.

4. Narrative must be interpreted in the light of the book in which it is found – the interpreter must consider the purpose and themes of the book in which the narrative is located and consider how this narrative contributes to the greater purpose of the book.

5. The interpreter should immerse himself in the historical and cultural setting of the narrative – repeatedly reading the narrative will bring the interpreter more and more into the world of the author and audience.

6. The pinnacle of interpreting biblical narrative is to determine the theological purpose of the passage – narrative may be historical but its purpose is theological. In uncovering the theological purpose the interpreter must pay close attention to four features of the narrative: the selection of material; the use of repetition, the use of editorial comments, and the use of summary statements.

These principles provide an excellent framework for the interpretation of biblical narrative. It is to our peril when our efforts to find something between the lines negate what is clearly written on the lines. When God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses He engraved these words in stone as a perpetual reminder as to why He commanded Israel to observe the Sabbath: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11a). Somehow I doubt God would engrave a poem in stone and call it a commandment!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Phil Johnson Hangs Up The Gloves

The blogosphere is going to miss Phil Johnson's sharp and satirical theological brain. For those of you who are unaware, Phil, the main writer for Pyromaniacs which is (in my estimation) the best Christian blog on the web, has announced his official retirement from blogging. Whether a lucrative career as a blogging commentator now awaits remains to be seen. Due to some major health issues and the immediate need to drop his stress levels, Phil has taken the urgent decision to cut all extra activities outside of his direct responsibilities as a Pastor at Grace Community Church and editor for John Macarthur's books.

This has directly affected me in more ways than one. Not only will I have to find a literary dietary replacement for my evangelical insights, it also means that Phil is no longer our keynote speaker for the Reformation resurrection conference in Denmark this July. Though we are all saddened by Phil's coming absence, we commend him for the sudden re-prioritization he has done. We are also making the necessary adjustments for the conference and have secured another excellent keynote speaker (who also happens to be a Pyromaniacs regular reader).

Something that has distinguished Phil in recent years has been his willingness to give frank, candid, and biblical answers to the multitude of paranormal happenings on the evangelical landscape. Only Phil Johnson could sum up the many issues facing the Gospel Coalition with the question what is more important - the Gospel or the Coalition? Phil was the man who was able to decipher Mark Driscoll's disturbing "visions" with the article Pornographic Divination. It was also Phil who was one of the few people to give a much needed response to the bizarre interview between John Piper and Rick Warren. And then there is Phil's unique way with words:



A hearty thanks to you Phil from all of us who learnt so much through your internet writing while living in far flung apostate wastelands. We will miss your insights but are thankful for the literary legacy that you have left on the world wide web. We look forward to enjoying more of your editorial skills with each new Macarthur book and tapping into your teaching ministry at Grace Community Church. And we know that we are not the only ones who will miss you:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Salvation Is Impossible

You may have attended a church for many years. You may have heard a lot of sermons. You may have seen a lot of people "come forward" to the evangelist's call. You may have prayed the prayer. But do you really understand what conversion is?



Salvation is not "accepting Jesus into your heart". He doesn't need your acceptance. We need His acceptance!

Salvation is not "making Jesus Lord of your life". He is Lord of your life and everything else in the universe whether you like it or not. And the day is coming when everyone will bow their knee and confess this fact either as a repentant sinner or a damned rebel.

Salvation is when the God of all creation raises someone from the dead. It is a miracle. It is when someone who is dead in sin is resurrected by the God Who raised Jesus from the dead. And God can only do this without violating His righteous justice because of the righteous substitute Who died in the place of sinners.

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O LordGod, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live,and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold,a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, andthe breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)


Are you a new creature?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Coming Soon: True Elephant Discernment - ER Saga (Part 10)

The fallout has continued unabated since James MacDonald's Elephant Room II (the sequel) conference back in January. Not only have churches left the Harvest Bible Chapel "denomination" but there are now even churches being booted out as MacDonald's behavior moves from the unrepentant to the bizarre. It is encouraging to know that there are godly men willing to act upon their biblical duty to be gatekeepers of their flock amidst all the confusion and chaos generated by the supposed acceptance of TD Jakes as a legitimate Christian minister! What follows is a preview of a new television project that Mike Abendroth (of No Compromise Radio) will soon be launching. As is evident from this video it seems like Abendroth is rolling out the heavy artillery!

 

I can't wait to watch the full installment. Stay tuned for its release this fall!

Go On To Part 11
Go Back To Part 9
Go Back To Part 1

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

God Says What He Means And Means What He Says

I often speak with people who shy away from engaging with the great theologians of history. Our own limitations as a lightweight theologian can leave us intimidated and hiding in the shadows of the assumption that the greater the theologian is, the harder they will be to understand. It is good to be reminded and encouraged with the fact that a theologian’s greatness often lies in his ability to communicate the most profound of truths in the most accessible of ways. How much more so is the greatness of God’s written revelation demonstrated in the clarity of His Words and the way He has arranged those Words (the perspicuity of Scripture):

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) 


The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. (Psalm 19:7-9 ) 


Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105) 


But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17) 

Grammatical analysis is important because God has communicated through words that are structured in a way to convey a message. If, as our doctrine statements love to profess, we believe that the Bible is verbally inspired then it follows that all words and sentences in the Bible are there for a purpose. Grammatical interpretation is the only form of biblical interpretation that honors verbal inspiration because it is the only response consistent with the thought that God has clearly spoken to us in His Word via the words He spoke and the way in which He arranged those words. Roy Zuck clarifies this important point when he says:

Thoughts are expressed through words, and words are the building blocks of sentences. Therefore to determine God’s thoughts we need to study His words and how they are associated in sentences. If we neglect the meanings of words and how they are used, we have no way of knowing whose interpretations are correct. The assertion, “You can make the Bible mean anything you want it to mean,” is true only if grammatical interpretation is ignored. 

Matt Waymeyer adds:

For this reason, in order to determine the divinely intended meaning of Scripture, the interpreter must be careful to analyze the grammar of any given passage according to the normal grammatical use of that language at the time the passage was written. 

Waymeyer’s point about the use of language at the time of writing is dangerous to ignore. Words and phrases adopt different meanings in different eras and different settings. The word “wicked”, as found in Scripture, carries an entirely different connotation to the guy in the saggy pants expressing his delight at the excellence of his latest skateboard maneuver. And how many people in the present day would use the word “gay” to describe how happy they are?

Analyzing the grammar of a passage involves recognizing the various parts of speech that comprise the text and how they interact with each other. What follows is a basic component list of the parts of speech that make up the grammar of a text:

1. Nouns – these appear as a person, place, or thing. The significance of nouns is based upon the role they play in a passage. At the most basic level a noun will either take on the role of a subject or an object. A subject performs an action whereas an object is the recipient of that action.

2. Pronouns – these act as the generic substitute for a noun that appears elsewhere in the context. For example the word “him” can be used rather than repeating the corresponding masculine name that has already been mentioned.

3. Verbs – these describe an action or a state of being. The significance of verbs are seen in their tense (past, present, or future), mood (statement of fact or expression of command), and voice (active or passive).

4. Adjectives – these are words that describe a noun by ascribing certain qualities to it. They usually answer the questions: Which one? What kind? How many? How much?

5. Adverbs – these describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

6. Prepositions – these are words that connect nouns or pronouns to other words in the sentence and show how they relate to each other.

7. Conjunctions – these words, or groups of words, are the connectors between one group of words and another group of words. The meaning of the entire New Testament hinges on how the conjunctions join the various pieces of text together. Locating and identifying conjunctions is integral in the interpretation and exegesis of any given text. If we see a “therefore” we need to know what it is there for.

From these basic components the grammatical structure can be organized into larger units called phrases and clauses. Phrases are groups of words that function together but lack a subject and a verb. Clauses, on the other hand, are groups of words that do contain a subject and a verb. Once the phrases and clauses have been identified along with the conjunctions that connect them, the interpreter is ready to “diagram” the passage by assembling these components into a structure that allows him to see the relationship between these components. Observed carefully, the interpreter will be able to capture the biblical author’s flow of thought in how these components combine and fit together. It is not rocket science but it is hard work. And this hard work is necessary if we revere the Scriptures in the way our confessions say we do! Because words have meaning. And God says what He means and means what He says!