Psalms

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Book Review: “Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Psalms 73-150” edited by Herman J. Selderhuis

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture series focuses on sharing insights from Reformation theologians on the Bible. Here, we’ll take a brief look at the commentary on Psalms 73-150.

The general introduction gives readers insight into the different schools of interpretation that developed  during the Reformation. The introduction to this Psalms, specific to this volume, provides readers with some background on understanding the context in which the Reformers wrote, along with some common themes. For example, the fact that the Psalms were effectively a prayerbook for the Hebrews lead to it being seen as a prayerbook for the church, from which the Reformers derived no small amount of theology. Selderhuis also comments on the anti-Semitic (he calls it anti-Judaic to try to avoid anachronisms associating it with more modern anti-Semitism) sentiment found in so many of the Reformers. He comments on the irony of the fact that so many Reformers loved the Hebrew language and interacted with various Jewish scholars to do their interpretation, but remained anti-Judaic in their comments and attitude. He also notes how the Reformers saw in the Psalms a model for how we Christians ought to rejoice, ask, and pray.

The selection of contributors for this volume is quite well done. It is particularly interesting to see the comments of Cardinal Cajetan (best known for his opposition for Luther) set alongside those of Martin Luther. Another comparison to make is between John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius.  Other, lesser known names, are just as interesting. Martin Bucer is one of the most well-known of these “less known” contributors, such as Wolfgang Musculus or the English Annotations. These diverse and broad perspectives allow for the occasional side-by-side look at opposing schools, along with giving readers insights into some of the figures of the Reformation they may not have encountered otherwise. Some of the contributors were unknown to me. There is, as with every volume, a useful set of brief (short to long paragraph-length) biographical sketches of each contributor to give some background.

Perhaps the most consistent theme in the Psalms with the Reformers is their reading of the Psalms as being about Christ. Time and again, various Reformers (but particularly Luther) assert that a certain Psalm just is about Christ. Other times, with imprecatory Psalms, for example, it is fascinating to see the divergence among the Reformers. Psalm 109 is a good example of this. Luther, for example, reads it as a warning against taking vengeance in one’s own hands. Johannes Althamer and Johann Rurer read it as a curse against heresy and factions–a clear reading of their own historical context into the Bible. Robert Bellarmine reads the Psalm straightforwardly as being about Christ being persecuted by Judas and the Jews, but here we don’t see Luther offering such a comment (though he may have–it may just not appear in this volume). Calvin sees it as an exhortation to believers to bring every care to God. Though most of these aren’t strictly contradictory, this shows how diverse the Reformers could be in reading a single Psalm. Moreover, it shows the general penchant for reading their own current events into Scripture (or vice versa) and for reading Christ into parts of Scripture.

Psalm 104 is another fascinating study, as it has led to different discussions in our own day, too. Modern readers sometimes turn to this passage to see what it may say about creation debates–something that doesn’t come up in the Reformation discussion of the same passage. A hotly disputed part in this Psalm (hotly disputed in an American evangelical context, anyway) is the meaning of the Behemoth, and here the only suggestion about that is that it was a large beast–possibly one generally unknown. This helps give modern readers some perspective, too. Like the Reformers, our own concerns about what the text should say can sometimes come into our readings of the texts. Reading commentaries from those who lived in different times can offer a corrective for that, letting us see how the issues we assume are central to the text were understood–or not–by others.

It may be a foregone conclusion to say this volume on Psalms 73-150 is essential for anyone interested in Reformation readings of Scripture. The Psalms are an area that the Reformers across the board focused on, and it gives critical perspective on how various Reformers read Scripture. I recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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

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.

Really Recommended Posts 8/19/16- singing the Psalms, the Ontological Argument, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneHello friends! Another week has passed and it’s time to kick back on Friday and relax with some Really Recommended Posts that I’ve collected for your perusal. This edition is a snowy owl edition for two reasons. 1) New Harry Potter Book (check out my post on it here); 2) hopefully it will bring in colder weather. By the way, if you ever have suggestions for future Really Recommended Posts, let me know!

The Ontological Argument– check out this page and video from William Lane Craig at Reasonable Faith that gives the basics of the ontological argument. Be sure to also check out my own posts on the topic.

Response to Peter Jones on “Conservative Moms” and “Stunted Masculinity”– Here’s a thoughtful response to a surprising accusation from a pastor who argues for men leading in the home. His argument is basically that, despite doing everything right, “conservative moms” are the ones responsible for “stunted masculinity” that comes from their male children.

“You Lift My Head” based on Psalm 3– A frankly beautiful song that is based on a Psalm. Overview Bible is also going through all the Psalms to try to make a hymnbook that includes every single one. Check it out and follow this excellent site.

A 60,000 Year Varve Record from Japan Refutes the Young-Earth Interpretation of Earth’s History– Did you know that varves, tree rings, and radiocarbon dating align on coming up with dates? It’s awfully hard to just dismiss this kind of interwoven evidence. How could they line up if they are are faulty ways to date the age of the Earth?

Bible Note: Psalm 50:9-13- God doesn’t need you

question-week2I’ve been reading through the Bible and making a kind of commentary on the whole thing as I go. Needless to say this has been a lengthy project! Here’s an expanded note I made in Psalm 50.

I know the saying I’ve heard many places, “Never quote/read a Bible verse.” The meaning is of course to emphasize the word “a” and point out that all verses have context. Although that is true, I don’t think that means we can never read just one verse and get a clear meaning or teaching out of it. Here’s a pretty neat verse, though:

50:12- “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”

In context (50:9-13), you can see that it is surrounded by God noting that God has no needs, that God does not need to eat or drink, and the like.

In the Ancient Near East, sacrifices were often thought to be providing the needs for the gods. Here, in context (50:8, 13), it is clear that YHWH is distinguishing Himself from those alleged deities. There are no needs God has. Indeed, if God had needs, there would be no need to tell us because all belongs to God already. This is a powerful reminder of God’s sovereignty over all the universe.

There is also no small amount of irony/humor involved in the passage. The irony is centered on the fact of God’s power as well. Supposing that a God who created the entire universe does exist, is it not frankly hilarious to imagine that same deity depending on us to provide food? Against the backdrop of the Ancient Near East (see Walton’s work for an extended look), this makes more sense, though. It was thought that by providing for food and drink for the gods, the one offering the food could free the deity up to take care of more cosmic needs. In stark contrast, the God of the Bible claims not only to be fully capable of taking care of the cosmos, but also asserts there are no needs God has that we can fulfill. It’s an astonishing declaration of God’s might.

It also can provide some degree of comfort: God doesn’t need you. Grace is a gift.

What are your thoughts? How might we take this verse in its ancient context and draw out the humor for today?

A Brief Musing on the “Prosperity Gospel” – Psalm 4:6-7

raindropfernI have been reading back through the Psalms, because, you know, it’s what the cool kids do. Anyway, I came upon a passage which I thought may have some relevance for the “Prosperity Gospel” teaching (check out this brief summary and critique of this movement):

“Many, LORD, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’
Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
When their grain and new wine abound.” Psalm 4:6-7 [7-8 in Hebrew Bible]

The text may not immediately seem to have anything to say about the notion that God will grant us ‘health, wealth, and prosperity.’ However, I think it actually does serve as a brief refutation of this alleged “gospel.” I’ll break it down.

Many, LORD, are asking “Who will bring us prosperity?”

There are those who call out to anyone, seeking prosperity rather than seeking after the LORD. Rather than asking the King of the Universe to let His will be done, they seek out prosperity from whatever place it may come. The modern teaching of the “prosperity gospel” is a form of this, but it smuggles in the notion that God is going to provide such wealth to those who ask.

Let the light of your face shine on us.

Rather than asking the LORD for prosperity, the Psalmist David seeks only to have God “shine” on him. Happiness comes from the presence of God.

Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.

Here is what I would consider the dramatic turnaround: the first quoted section speaks of how there are others who are seeking after wealth from wherever it may come. Now, David asks from God, the only true provider, to give joy to him even when those who seek such prosperity actually get it.

Thus, we have a very real contrast: those who seek wealth as opposed to those who realize that the rain falls even upon the wicked and so they should rejoice in the light of God’s presence. The difficulty is not purely that the “others” are seeking from others; rather it is that they are seeking prosperity (more literally “happiness”) from God rather than simply rejoicing in God’s presence and Word.

Am I on Track?

I decided to take the time to look up these verses in a commentary after writing the above to see if I may be on the right track. There’s something to be said for the notion that we shouldn’t be doing theology in a vacuum. Samuel Terrien, in his commentary on Psalms from the Eerdman’s Critical Commentary series, argues that Psalm 4 should be seen as an evening prayer, likely even sung in the bedroom/prayed as one was getting into bed. His comments on the relevant passage note that “the poet is… saddened by the discovery of a certain skepticism around [him]… Happiness… which is lacking around him, may be due to a satiety of a materialist kind… For the pious, however, happiness arises from a grateful acceptance of God’s presence” (98-99, cited below).

Again, we see that the problem is that we should be finding our joy in the presence of God rather than material blessings from wherever they may come. Those who seek “health, wealth, and prosperity” are in fact pursuing the latter rather than the former. Psalm 4 should serve as a corrective to the prosperity “gospel.”

Links

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Source

Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2003).

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.

Really Recommended Posts 7/4/14- liberal theology, 1 Timothy 2:12, and more!

postAnother go-round the internet has turned up a number of links for you, dear reader, to peruse. Here, we discuss 1 Timothy 2:12-a central verse in the debate over women in the church, liberal theology, Psalms, cults, and “feminization” of the church. Check them out, and let me know what you think in the comments below. Be sure to leave them comments as well, as comments are what make we bloggers keep blogging!

NIV, ESV, and 1 Timothy 2:121 Timothy 2:12 is often seen as the central verse for the complementarian position. After all, it teaches women are not to have authority over men, doesn’t it? Here, Paul Adams shares some insights from Craig Blomberg about some difficulties with translating the verse in a complementarian light, and the way this reflects in different Bible versions.

What is Liberal Theology?– I’d say it’s one of those “scare phrases” intended to throw people away from the teachings of theologians or systems which the one using the phrase wants readers to avoid. Check out this post which analyzes the term via words from Roger Olson.

Kinds of Psalms– Different types of Psalms perhaps suggest reading them differently exegetically and also for different reasons in Christian life and practice. Check out this post which discusses the different types of Psalms.

Sure Signs of a Sinister Sect (COMIC)- Here, No Apologies Allowed shares a cartoon about how to perhaps identify some less-than-sound teaching and the methods of various cultic groups.

The “Feminization” of the Church– Recently, I wrote about how many I have read have complained about this alleged “feminization” of the church. Here, the origins of this belief are assessed alongside various studies and quotes from leading approaches to the issue.

Against Open Theism: The Infinite Knowledge of God

Psalm 147:5

“Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (KJV).

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (ESV)

” גדול אדונינו ורב־כח לתבונתו אין מספר׃” (Hebrew Old Testament)

Infinite Knowledge

Within Scripture we find that God knows all things. But here, in the Psalms, we read that God’s knowledge is “infinite.” Of course, this is a translation of the Hebrew, which says “…his understanding is without number/measure.” But this can also be correctly translated simply as the KJV does, “His understanding is infinite.” Thus, within Scripture, we have a picture of God’s knowledge as infinite or without number.

The Argument

1) If God’s knowledge is infinite/without number/unable to be counted, then God’s knowledge cannot be increased (it’s infinite).

2) God’s knowledge is without number.

3) God’s knowledge cannot be increased.

4) Open Theism asserts that God’s knowledge can be increased.

5) Therefore, Open Theism is false.

Defense of Premises

Premise 1 can be defended in a similar fashion as one would argue against actual infinites in the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Basically, we cannot add up to infinite. Nor, if something is actually infinite, can we increase  or decrease its “number” in any way. We cannot add to infinity and increase it, nor can we take away one item from an infinite set and decrease it to some finite number. Therefore, if God’s knowledge is infinite, it is complete–it cannot be increased.

Premise 2 simply asserts what the Bible passage says.

Premise 3 follows from 1 and 2 deductively.

Premise 4 follows from the core of Open Theism. On Open Theism, God knows all things which have happened and are happening, but he does not necessarily know what will happen until it does happen. Therefore, God’s propositional knowledge would continually be increasing. Each day, he would learn an astounding number of truths which he did not previously know.

Premise 5 follows from 3 and 4; if 3 is true, 4 cannot be true. Yet 3 is true, so 4 cannot be true.

Therefore, Open Theism is false.

A Potential Rebuttal

Can the Open Theist get out of this argument? One way would be to challenge that the Psalm is not claiming God knows an actually infinite number of propositions, but simply that conceptually, God’s knowledge is so far beyond our own it appears to be infinite.

I would respond to this counter-argument by challenging the Open Theist to successfully read that off the Hebrew, which literally says “without number”/”infinite.” Open Theism, by definition, would have to entail God knowing only a finite number of propositions. If God did not know only a finite number of propositions, then His knowledge could not increase (it would be infinite).  Thus, on Open Theism, the number of propositions God knows would increase by the second/minute/day. So the Open Theistic reading of Psalm 147:5 would have to read it like “[God’s] knowledge is unlimited; it increases forever.” But that reading is not justified by the text.

[Edit: Note the comment section for some great discussion of this post, wherein two commentators provided a “way out” for the Open Theist regarding my argument and a denial of premise 4.]

This is part of a series I’ve written against the doctrine of Open Theism. If you’d like to read more, check out the original post for discussion and links.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) 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. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy

Our Longing For God

Recently, I had a discussion with my fiancée about the idea of Song of Songs being utilized as an analogy for Christ and the Church. Song of Songs is clearly a book about love, even erotic (eros) love. There are verses like 1:4 “Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers” or 6:3a “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” If we are to apply such verses to the life of a Christian and his or her relation to God, we can see it sometimes as an almost uncomfortably close relationship. We aren’t comfortable thinking of our love of God as this kind of intimate desire; a desire for union, to be brought into the chambers of our God.

Yet it is exactly this kind of intimacy–this kind of eros love–which God has planned for us. Song of Songs is such a beautiful book because of this exact thing. It teaches us that we need not be ashamed of the kind of union we desire with God. We are sheep lead astray, and our one desire should be to return to our Lord, in whose arms we find peace and love.

There are other verses in Scripture wherein we can see this idea. Psalm 84:2 states “My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 63:1 puts it eloquently, “Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you.”

My favorite exposition of these ideas is found in Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, of all places. In this monumental work, Plantinga discusses the very idea of God’s love as eros. I feel compelled to quote him at length:

This love for God isn’t like, say an inclination to spend the afternoon organizing your stamp collection. It is longing, filled with desire and yearning; and it is physical as well as spiritual… It is erotic; and one of the closest analogues would be with sexual eros. There is a powerful desire for union with God… What is to be made of this phenomenon? Most psychiatric literature has tended to follow Freud in understanding religion as a kind of neurosis, the ‘universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.’ From this point of view, the religious eros is to be understood as a kind of analogue, displacement, or sublimation of (broadly) sexual energy…

From a Christian perspective… here (as often) Freud has things just backwards. It isn’t that religious eros, love for God, is really sexual eros gone astray or rechanneled… It is sexual desire and longing that is a sign of something deeper: it is a sign of this longing, yearning for God that we human beings achieve when we are graciousliy enabled to reach a certain level of the Christian life. It is love for God that is fundamental or basic, and sexual eros that is the sign or symbol or pointer to something else and something deeper.

[S]exual eros points to two deeper realities… human love for God… [and] a sign, symbol, or type of God’s love. (Plantinga, 311-318)

Those who have had religious experiences in which they felt a kind of union with God can attest to what Plantinga is describing. The kind of mystical union we experience when we are granted the chance to commune with God in a relation of creature-creator is beautiful, to the point of being even sensual. It is something which we long for; something we look forward to in the hereafter.

This also serves to help describe the kind of feelings involved in religious experience. It is a kind of fulfillment of a yearning and a quenching of thirst. Our longing for God is part of humanity. Plantinga argues it is part of our sensus divinitatis–our inborn sense of divine reality. Only when we submit to God and experience relation with him can our deepest desires be realized.

Source:

Alvin Plantinga. Warrented Christian Belief (New York, NY: 2000, Oxford).

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) 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 and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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