exegesis

This tag is associated with 25 posts

Book Review: “Interpreting the Prophets” by Aaron Chalmers

ip-chalmersAaron Chalmers’ Interpreting the Prophets is an introduction to, well, interpreting the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. He notes that readers are often turned off of the prophets for a number of reasons, whether it is the difficulty of these writings or their seeming irrelevancy for our time. Against these reasons, he argues for and puts forward a relevant and practical guide to reading the Old Testament prophets and coming to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

The book is laid across 6 chapters, each with a focus on a central aspect of interpreting and applying biblical prophecy. These are: (1) What is a prophet and what is a prophetic book?; (2) The historical world of the prophets; (3) The theological world of the prophets; (4) The rhetorical world of the prophets; (5) From prophecy to apocalyptic; and (6) Guidelines for preaching from the prophets.

There are many insights which will be valuable for both those wishing to engage with the prophets as laity and those interested in drawing out deep exegetical insights from the text. Chalmers’ work serves as a guide for reading without telling readers exactly what various passages are supposed to mean. It is the kind of text that encourages readers to move to the Word and explore it for themselves, laying a solid foundation for interpretation beforehand.

One example of the insights Chalmers provides is his critique of those who would see the prophetic literature as speaking primarily to our time. He notes that this approach of trying to match up biblical prophecies one-to-one with newspaper headlines is mistaken for a number of reasons, including making the texts largely irrelevant to its contemporary hearers. Throughout the book, there are a number of insets that highlight various additional details, like the Ancient Near Eastern background of the text or specific views about things like the dating of a book.

Interpreting the Prophets would best serve as an introductory text for those interested in learning more about and reading the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. It comes recommended.

The Good

+Excellent insets provide background information into the world of the Bible
+Incisive critique of some popular approaches to reading the prophets
+Practical advice for readers of the Scripture, pastors, and professionals alike

The Bad

-Very brief on several important points

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book by InterVarsity Press. I was not required to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor was the publisher involved in this review in any way.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting the Prophets (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Leave it to the Early Church”- A Young Earth challenge

3vce-mrIt’s no secret: I consume just about any book I can get my hands on related to the debate over the duration and means of creation within Christianity. Recently, I read through Three Views on Creation and Evolution, part of the Zondervan Counterpoints series. The young earth creationists (John Mark Reynolds and Paul Nelson) in this volume were more even than many I have read, and I appreciated their contribution in many ways and even found myself agreeing with portions of it. However, they did make a few remarkable claims, one of which will be my focus here. Namely, they suggested we leave interpretation of Genesis behind us and just assume the early church got it right.

Here is the quote:

Our advice, therefore, is to leave the issues of biblical chronology and history to a saner period. (100)

Why should we do that, you ask? Well, before offering this advice, Reynolds and Nelson argue:

Whatever the truth of the matter may be in regard to biblical history, we are… least likely to find it. Nothing about the education of most moderns leaves them disposed to be sympathetic to traditional readings of the biblical text… The almost overwhelming temptation is to “trim” [the portions of text which may be hard to swallow]. Suddenly, new ways of reading the text of Scripture are discovered, which to no one’s surprise allow for accommodation between at least some of the reigning paradigms and traditional religion. (99-100)

I find this simply astonishing! There are a number of reasons to reject this entire line of reasoning immediately. First, it is, in effect, poisoning the well. Second, it abandons any notion that new evidence can challenge established traditions. Third, it begs the question. Fourth, it undermines the need for the church to be semper reformanda – always reforming. We’ll examine these briefly in order.

Poisoned Well

The way Nelson and Reynolds present their argument poisons the well against any who would disagree with them. The insinuation is that the only reason anyone would come to a different conclusion is either because they don’t have an “educational” background which allows them to consider traditional readings or because they are in such a hurry to compromise the text to align with science. Although it is certainly possible that many readings come from these motivations, to suggest that we must put a ban on any future looks at the interpretation of Genesis shows the authors seem to think these motivations apply to all novel interpretations.

New Evidence

To put an interpretation of Genesis on an indisputable pedestal and say “that came from a ‘saner’ time and so we must follow it” undermines any possibility for new evidence to challenge established readings. Yet the fruit of research in many areas of biblical interpretation continues to yield great insight into the biblical text. Moreover, to make an interpretation like that indisputable is to perhaps set up stumbling blocks for future generations, who may in good faith find more evidence which challenges that interpretation.

Question Begged

By saying we need to leave the interpretation of Genesis to the past, Reynolds and Nelson have begged the question by assuming this interpretation is correct. In fact, they seem to assume it is so obviously correct that they don’t even bother to defend it. But of course this is not how theology ought to be done. We should not just relegate interpretations to the ecclesial past because we don’t want to face the challenges of today. Rather, we should explore the new evidence and new interpretations to see if they might in fact better match God’s revealed truths. By simply assuming we can leave an interpretation of Genesis as is, Reynolds and Nelson just assert their view is obviously correct without argument.

Semper Reformanda

The notion that the church needs to continually be reforming seems to be correct. When we find truths revealed in God’s natural revelation, we should be prepared to realize this may not align with our established paradigms. We need not reject these discoveries merely because the historical church didn’t know about them. Instead, we should realize that as an imperfect church waiting for our Lord’s return, we may get things wrong. We are always going to need to reform.

Conclusion

Thus, I think that any young earth creationist who simply asserts we must hold to the historic understanding of the text of Genesis is mistaken. Of course, I would also point out that the “historic” understanding is hardly what the modern young earth creationist would believe (such as the duration of the entire universe only lasting 6000 years in order to align with the creation days, etc.), but that is a matter for a different post. For now, it should be acknowledged that we should not just abandon attempts to understand God’s revelation in Genesis.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Origins Debate– Check out all my posts on the discussion within Christianity over the duration and means of creation.

Source

Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds, “Conclusion” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution edited by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Exegetical Fallacies- Who determines when it’s a fallacy?

question-week2I recently read through Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson. I think that he did an excellent job introducing a number of common errors regarding exegesis which may be avoided. However, I would have liked there to be more appeals for caution in the application of these fallacies. I worry about the possibility for someone to read through a book like this and then just willy-nilly apply the ‘exegetical fallacy’ hammer to all sorts of solid exegesis.

My concern is based upon two primary issues. First, the concept of “fallacy” within Carson’s usage. Second, the rather obscure nature of some of the specific “fallacies” he outlines.

The first concern is perhaps one that should be heavily qualified on its own. That is, I think that Carson’s choice of the term “fallacy” will imply, for many readers [the book is intended for an introductory level] a hard-and-fast rule for determining when something is blatantly false. Now, of course Carson cannot be faulted for using a technical term and having people misunderstand it. I simply wish that he had done more to clarify his usage of the term, because he clearly means it more broadly than “logical fallacy” but more narrowly than anything which appears to be wrong.

The second concern may help highlight the first. I am a bit worried about the application of these fallacies in practice. One can’t just say “Ha, [x fallacy] was committed, your interpretation fails!” I’m not at all suggesting that this is what Carson did (and I would be mistaken if I were to suggest that), but I am rather expressing a concern that some may attempt to use “exegetical fallacies” in this manner. For example, on page 37, Carson introduced the fallacy he termed “Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings…” Now this, of course, is not a logical fallacy. And, in practice, it can be useful. But the question is: to what or whom are we referencing when we say “unknown” or “unlikely”? I fear that the application of this terminology could lead to people subjectively calling those things with which they disagree “unknown” or “unlikely” and then dismissing the other side as “fallacious.” Again, I’m not saying Carson does that himself, but I still think one must have a certain sense of caution in the application of this and other “fallacies.”

Another example may be found in the “root fallacy,” wherein one appeals to etymology to determine the meaning of a word. There are certainly fallacious usages of etymology in order to try to sort out the meaning of words, but as Carson himself noted, etymology can be quite useful for determining the meaning, and its usage is sometimes correct. Yet, tied into my first concern, calling this the “root fallacy” seems to denote a definitively fallacious sense to using roots to determine the meaning of words. But although Carson himself urges caution in this, he doesn’t really help to clarify when something would be fallacious as opposed to valid. Of course, that may just be the nature of the beast regarding some of these fallacies: they are highly difficult to pin down. But then I wonder what the usefulness is of making it seem as though there is some “rule” of “fallacy” regarding interpretation in this area.

I’d certainly like to be corrected and perhaps have my cautions dispelled, so feel free to drop a comment on your thoughts regarding this work.

On final analysis, I do think Carson’s book is useful in many ways. I just wish he had given more space to urging some caution and defining terms.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Microview: “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament” by John Walton

ane-waltonJohn Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament is an introductory look comparing the thought and worldview of ancient near eastern societies (Egyptians, Mesopotamian, etc.) to the worldview of the Bible. Walton does an incredible job relating the two together in such a way as to neither trivialize nor lionize ANE thought and its use in interpreting the Bible.

The book is chock full of quotations from various documents from the ANE set alongside each other with comparative insight from Walton. It is organized in such a way that ANE thought is analyzed in regards to religion, cosmos, and people, with subdivisions of each. Throughout the text there are sidebars comparing what is being studied to the Old Testament, thus revealing many insights into the meaning of key OT texts. Walton’s approach is even-handed and fair.

I’d honestly say this might be the most interesting scholarly book I’ve read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

John Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Is the historical Adam a “Gospel” issue?

4vha-zondervan[Adam] must be a real individual who rebels against a clear divine directive at a specific moment in real time in a real place. (Barrick, 221, cited below)

One of the many issues which comes up related to the debate over the historical existence of Adam and Eve is the relation of Adam to Christ. Specifically: does undermining of the reality of Adam’s historical person undermine the work of Christ? Here, we’ll explore that question.

To be clear: we are not here exploring whether or not Adam really existed or whether there really was a real pair, Adam and Eve, from whom all humanity sprang. Rather, the question is this: if one denies the historical Adam and Eve, does one undermine the Gospel of Christ? Whatever one thinks of the answer to the question of the historical persons, one should consider the answer to this question as well. There are many issues to be addressed, so this post will only touch on a few. Write a comment to let me know your own thoughts or other issues you think of.

“Gospel” Issue?

In order to ask whether the history of Adam is a “Gospel” issue, we must first consider exactly what is meant by a “Gospel” issue. Definitions are important, and my own search for the meaning of this term yielded a whole range of definitions. Thus, I’m going to focus on a kind of working definition: to say something is a “Gospel” issue is to say that a specific doctrine, if untrue, undermines the Gospel [here meaning the glorious truth of salvation through Jesus Christ] and possibly one’s salvation itself. In the definitions I’ve found, and the use I’ve seen of this term, I believe this is an accurate understanding.

The Historical Adam as a Gospel Issue- Two Perspectives

The book, Four Views on The Historical Adam, provides a good background for exploring difference of opinion among evangelical scholars on the historicity of Adam. Most telling for our question is the young earth perspective and the theistic evolutionist response to it. William Barrick argues that the historical Adam is indeed a Gospel issue:

the biblical description of sin depends entirely on the historicity of Adam. He must be a real individual… in real time in a real place… [denial of the historical Adam] has serious implications for the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of Christ… [quoting John Mahoney]: “If the first man is not historical and the fall into sin is not historical, then one begins to wonder why there is a need for our Lord to come and undo the work of the first man.” That makes the historicity of Adam a gospel issue. (Barrick, 221-222)

Barrick’s argument seems pretty clear: if no historical Adam lived and acted in the Fall, then what reason is there for Christ to come as the second Adam and restore humanity to God? If Barrick’s argument is successful, it does seem to establish that the historical Adam is indeed vital to an understanding of the truths of salvation.

Denis Lamoureux takes up the challenge of restoring confidence in the possibility of the Gospel without an historical Adam. His argument is instead that when “behaviorally modern humans” showed up (about 50,000 years ago), they broke their relationship with God (he does not make explicit how this may have occurred). Moreover, he argues that Barrick’s argument is unsuccessful because it is a non sequitor–the conclusion simply doesn’t follow. Is it really the case, Lamoureux asks, that the reality of sin “depend[s] entirely” upon a historic Adam (Lamoureux, 229)? Barrick’s argument was simply to appeal to the requirement for sin to be an action against God (itself a disputable claim–does sin really require action or is it possible to have [actually] sinful inclination?–but we’ll set that aside). Lamoureux notes that saying there was no historical Adam does not undermine or remove the reality of sinful activity.

Moreover, Lamoureux argues that Barrick’s argument conflates the historicity of Adam with the historicity of the resurrection (ibid). Not only that, but:

The gospel is about Jesus Christ, not Adam. The gospel is about the reality of sin, not how sin entered the world. The gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, not specifically Adam’s sin. (ibid, 229)

Adam and the Gospel

So is the historical Adam a “Gospel” issue? Returning to our definition, it seems to me fairly clear that one’s salvation is not determined by whether one believes in a historical Adam. The foundation of faith is Christ raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Lamoureux is right to point out that the Gospel is ultimately the message of our salvation through Jesus Christ. The first part of our definition, however, asks whether the grounding for this salvation might be undermined. Romans 5:12-21 seems to demonstrate that Christ came to save humanity as the second Adam, and that a real person, Adam, really did sin and created the need for salvation.

Lamoureux’s counter to this is to argue that such statements are divine accommodation–that is, Paul did believe in a single, historical Adam, but that doesn’t mean there was one. The debate over this must wait for a different post, but for now I’ll just say that although I think there is divine accommodation in God’s revelation, I’m not convinced it involves allowing for very clearly false statements (such as the claim that Adam existed if Adam did not exist).

So if there is no historical Adam, it seems to me that this entails at least a denial of the specificity of the text in Romans 5. Thus, one could say that this undermines the basis for salvation. However, if one is willing to strip down to the bare bones of “Mere Christianity,” might one still preserve the Gospel? At this point I say yes. The basis for our salvation is belief in Jesus Christ, not belief in Adam. This does not mean that I think the historical Adam is unimportant or non-existent. Rather, I would say that anyone who does wish to say the historical Adam is necessary for salvation has yet to demonstrate that claim.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Check out other posts on the origins debate within Christianity.

Sources

William Barrick, “A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View” in Four Views on The Historical Adam (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

Denis Lamoureux, “Response from the Evolutionary View” in Four Views on The Historical Adam (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Sunday Quote!- Questioning Exegesis Through Discovery?

brt-youngstearley

Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Questioning Exegesis Through Discovery?

One area that evangelical theologians must weigh is the notion that exegesis should line up with reality. Thus, how might one balance an interpretation between some apparent readings and the findings of certain scientific discoveries? Must they even be balanced at all? Davis Young and Ralph Stearley’s magisterial work on the age of the Earth, The Bible, Rocks and Time, provides an interesting historical background for how discoveries led to the questioning of exegesis of certain texts:

 [In the 17th Century…] foundations were gradually being laid for questioning the accepted opinion about the age of the Earth [that being a few thousand years]. Advances in the study of fossils and rock strata were both necessary before such questioning would come about… (47, cited below)

Thus, historically, there has been an interplay between scientific discovery and exegesis of key texts of Scripture. Without certain scientific advances, received opinion on certain features of the natural world remain unquestioned. However, once scientific advances made it possible, these opinions were challenged and often abandoned in the face of extrabiblical evidence. The book provides a great overview for how the interplay between discovery and exegesis played out.

What are your thoughts? Should new discoveries be allowed to challenge received interpretations? How might we best deal with discoveries in the natural world which apparently clash with our reading of the text?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008).

Sunday Quote!- Scripture Reports Things that Didn’t Happen?

4vha-zondervanEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Scripture Reports Things that Didn’t Happen?

I finished reading Four Views on The Historical Adam recently, and it gave me a lot of food for thought. The only view which categorically denied the existence of an historical Adam was written by Denis Lamoureux. Regarding the reports of the natural world found in the Bible, he wrote:

God’s very words… in the [Bible] do not align with the physical reality in the Book of [Nature]. To state the problem more incisively, Holy Scripture makes statements about how God created the heavens that in fact never happened. (54, cited below)

I think it is pretty clear this is a highly contentious claim. Interested readers should read the book to get the full context, but basically Lamoureux was saying that some aspects of the physical world found recorded in Scripture do not line up with reality. What did he do with this statement? Immediately after this text, Lamoureux wrote:

So, to ask the question once more, “Did God lie in the Bible?” Again, my answer is “No! The Lord accommodated in the Bible.” (54)

In other words, his answer was that God accommodated to the scientific beliefs of the people in their time in order to convey spiritual truths.

It seems to me that this way out is questionable, and each of the other authors commented on it. Three quick issues I have are that the reading of the various texts Lamoureux cites do not support his claim; that the notion that God intentionally brought about recording of falsehoods in God’s Word requires a stronger answer than accommodation; and that although accommodation is a valid category, the linking of theological truths to specific claims about natural history makes the reading of accommodation in regards to Adam problematic.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there is accommodation in the Bible? Is accommodation a strong enough answer for the claim that God may have allowed false statements recorded in God’s Word? Are there other alternatives you prefer?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

Denis Lamoureux, “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View” in Four Views on The Historical Adam eds. Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

Sunday Quote!- Does Science Limit Exegesis?

brt-youngstearleyEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Does Science Limit Exegesis?

I’ve been rereading The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth, a monumental book I would consider necessary reading for anyone interested in the debate over origins within Christianity. Anyway, I came upon a quote I found pretty striking and thought I’d share it:

[T]he claims advanced in favor of a young Earth or Flood geology remain unacceptable to the scientific community. Thus their claims should also be unacceptable within the church, which… ought to be committed to truth and reality–for the simple reason that the young-Earth creationist claims lack scientific credibility. (161)

Now I think this is a pretty obviously controversial claim for a few reasons. First, the immediate question is how broad Davis and Stearley are intending this to be. After all, one might say that God creating the universe is “unacceptable” depending how one defines the scientific community. Of course, they do qualify the statement by noting that what they mean is that the evidence young earth creationists put forward can often, in principle, be tested for; and when tested, it fails muster. In this sense, I think that one might say the statement is acceptable.

Second, one may object to this noting that science often changes consensus, so what is “unacceptable” today becomes in vogue tomorrow. A problem with this claim is that it flies in the face of the real, overwhelming evidence for an ancient Earth. I’ve examined this and many other arguments YECs put forth in my post on YEC arguments.

Third, one might wonder exactly how Davis and Stearley think science and exegesis are supposed to interact. Though this is a far cry from the purpose of their book, statements like these beg the question of whether science really does limit exegesis.

What are your thoughts?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Answering Common Young Earth Creationist Arguments– I evaluate a number of arguments for young earth creationism. There are a large number of biblical, philosophical, and scientific arguments briefly answered here.

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Source

Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008).

Sunday Quote: Do we need to agree with past thinkers?

readinggenesis1-2-CharlesEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Do we need to agree with past thinkers?

I recently read through Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversationwhich has given me a lot to reflect upon. One quote that struck me was from Jud Davis:

A beloved teacher once said, “If you cannot find at least one ancient, one medieval, and one modern commentator who shares your view, it probably means you are wrong.” Over the years, I have thought long and hard about this statement, and I believe it is exactly right because if you could not find such examples, you would be forced to say, “Everyone before missed it until me.” (215)

I thought this was an interesting quote because it says much about how one approaches theological issues. First, there is some concern regarding this passage for me because it seems that some truths are indeed missed by everyone until someone discovers (or rediscovers) them. Second, there is a real concern for whether one innovates in doctrine and thus becomes a heretic. That is, innovation in theology is often divergence from established truths. These established truths are often established exactly because they follow from the text. Thus, an innovation which says, for example, that Jesus is not God is rightly denounced as heretical.

Based upon these conflicting concerns, I think it is permissible to say there is some tension within the practice of historical theology and exegesis. We must be careful to avoid the pitfalls of either ignoring the voices of the past or being too cautious to reconsider the evidence for certain positions. Going to either extreme would be dangerous. The most prominent danger, in my opinion, is the danger of using a passage like this to squelch debate or exploration. Ultimately, the text is the arbiter of truth, not established interpretations. If someone comes up with a “new” look at a text, it is important to consider it on its own terms rather than reject it because it is new. The weight of unanimity in the past should be seen to increase the standard of proof for those who disagree, but it should not be used to silence those who seek truth.

What are your thoughts on the balance between historical scholarship and new interpretations?

Links

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Source

Jud Davis, “Unresolved Major Questions: Evangelicals and Genesis1-2” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation edited J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013).

Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 6

love-winsI have been reviewing Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, with a particular interest in his theological views and how he argues for those views.  I have not read the book before, so each review is fresh: I am writing these having just completed the chapter the post is on. This week, I look at Chapter 6: There Are Rocks Everywhere.

Chapter 6

Outline

Rob Bell begins with a number of stories illustrating how we often come into contact with what some people take to be God or some kind of abstract “love.” He ponders this and wonders “are we alone in the world?… what does any of this have to do with Jesus?” (142). He argues that the rock which Moses struck in the desert from which the people drank was Jesus, utilizing 1 Corinthians 10:3-5 and applying it back to Exodus 17. He asks: “That rock was… Christ? Jesus? Jesus was the rock?” He notes that Paul interprets the story to show how Christ was there.

Bell then turns to the notion of that “There is an energy in the world, a spark, an electricity that everything is plugged into” (144). It has been called the Force, life, “Spirit” and other things. Bell argues that there is such a force and it is found in the “Word of God,” for “God speaks… and it happens. God says it… and it comes into being” (145).

Jesus, Bell argues, shows “what God has been up to all along” (148). God is bringing all people together under Christ.

Moreover, according to Bell, “Jesus is bigger than any one religion. He didn’t come to start a new religion, and he continually disrupted whatever conventions or systems or establishments that [sic] existed in his day” (150). Jesus came to draw all people to himself, a point Bell emphasizes through repetition and restating it in numerous ways.

Regarding this drawing all people, Bell argues for “inclusivity” which he defines as “exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity. This kind insists that Jesus is the way, but holds tightly to the assumption that the all-embracing, saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum” (155). Jesus, Bell argues, leaves the door “wide open” which provides the possibility for any to enter.

Bell notes that we must wonder what people mean when they say “Jesus.” Do they mean “tribal membership, the source of “imperial impulse,” or some kind of “political, economic, or military system through which they sanctify their greed and lust for power?” (156).

No one has “cornered the market” on Jesus. We cannot contain him. Bell reemphasizes the importance of not pre-judging people’s eternal destinies. He writes, “it is our responsibility to be extremely careful about making negative, decisive, lasting judgments about people’s eternal destinies. As Jesus says, he ‘did not come to judge the world, but to save the world’ (John 12[:47])” (160).

Analysis

There is much to commend in this chapter, just like I pointed out in my review of Chapter 5. First, Bell rightly warns against trying to bottle Jesus in one form or another. It is not an individual denomination which owns Jesus. Second, Bell again makes the very important point that it is not our place to say whether one person’s eternal destiny is heaven or hell. We do not know how God may be working on that person. Third, he is correct in emphasizing Jesus as the “only way.” Finally, he is right to note how some people attempt to make Jesus into a slogan or a cry for some specific cause they are doing. Doing so undermines the message of Jesus and should be avoided.

Yet there are also many areas to critique in this chapter. First, there is the notion of questionable exegesis. For example, Bell cites John 12:47 to show that Jesus is not about judgment, but fails to cite the very next verse which states: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (NIV). Bell spends the whole section centered around 12:47 and how God isn’t about judgment, but rather “exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity.” One wonders, then, why he fails to read the next verse of the passage he cites in context. I find this a gross example of proof-texting wherein a part of a verse is ripped from its context and used to rant against the very thing the next verse affirms. The importance of looking at the entire context of individual verses is paramount, and Bell continues to fail to be attentive to the evidence against his positions.

Again, Bell emphasizes the notion of an “open door.” We discussed this at some length in my look at Chapter 4. Once more, the “open gates” in context show a city without any enemy. That is, the enemies of that city have been utterly defeated. Yet Bell takes it to mean wide openness in the sense that people can always come [and go?–does Bell imply that we can leave heaven if we so choose? Is our salvation not secure?]. He emphasizes this over and over again, but then he has yet failed to cite Matthew 7:14, in which Jesus describes the gate and the road to eternal life “narrow” and says “only a few find it.” Why this emphasizing on some texts while ignoring others? Certainly, we need to balance these Biblical teachings, but we cannot ignore one at the expense of the other. Bell seems to do the latter time and again. He cites a text out of its context and ignores anything in the text which goes against his own interpretation. He doesn’t interact with the other parts of the text, he just pretends they don’t exist. I find this highly problematic.

I am also wary of Bell’s statement that Jesus is beyond any one religion. Clearly, Jesus saw himself as a Jew. Making this argument would take me well beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that Jesus’ language and imagery regarding himself as the temple places him exactly within the Jewish religion. Yes, he interpreted things in startling ways which led Jews to call him blasphemous, but other Jews saw his resurrection and what did they do? They began to proclaim Christ glorified as the Son of God. Did Jesus really come to overthrow religion, as Bell seemingly implies? Again, such an assertion abuses the Bible. I say this in strong words because it needs to be said. What does Jesus actually say about the religious system in place at the time? Yes he criticized it, but when it came down to the core of the Hebrew faith, the Torah, Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18 NIV

That doesn’t sound to me like Jesus overthrew that religion. Instead, he argues he came to be the reality of that faith. Jesus came to fulfill the expectations of the Law. Again, Bell’s selective reading of the texts undermines the core of Christian teaching.

Conclusion

There are many positive things to say about this chapter of Love Wins. Bell has rightly emphasized a number of themes to which Christians should be attentive. We need to avoid making Jesus too small and turning him into our personal example or slogan. Yet Bell has also continued to perpetuate a number of errors, and his exegesis is very selective. The way he reads texts seems to have theological blinders on. When he finds the verse he wants, he uses it to trump anything else. We have seen how problematic this is in a number of examples. Next week, we will explore Chapter 7.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason”

The book: Rob Bell, Love Wins (New York: HarperCollins, 2011).

Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Preface and Chapter 1– I discuss the preface and chapter 1 of Love Wins.

Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 2– I review chapter 2.

Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 3– I look at Chapter 3: Hell.

Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 4– I look at Chapter 4: Does God Get what God Wants?

Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 5– I analyze chapter 5.

Love Wins Critique– I found this to be a very informative series critiquing the book. For all the posts in the series, check out this post.

Should we condemn Rob Bell?– a pretty excellent response to Bell’s book and whether we should condemn different doctrines. Also check out his video on “Is Love Wins Biblical?

Source

Rob Bell, Love Wins (New York: HarperCollins, 2011).

SDG.

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