Reviewing “Which Bible Would Jesus Use?” [2]

Mcelroy207202015

The Introduction

I am reviewing KJVO apologist Jack McElroy’s book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? This will be the second entry. For background and preliminary remarks, see my first post.

What I will try to do is provide a brief summary of each chapter or chapters depending on how much I can cover in one post before becoming boring and the reader drifts off and clicks over to Facebook or somewhere. I will then back up and address specific talking points I think are important, especially important with offering a rebuttal and response.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

Summary

McElroy begins his introduction by making the claim that before 130 years ago, the Christian Church understood that the real Bible (in bold italics) was a real, genuine book. Now the Bible is believed to be just an idea. That being, the real Bible exists in the originals, but, as McElroy points out, no one has ever seen those originals and so the Bible of today never really existed.

McElroy finds that view point ridiculous. It represents a dysfunctional God who allegedly “inspires words but fails to deliver them to you.” [4]. The Bible versions recommended these days are really a mixture of men’s words and God’s words and it’s just left up to the modern textual critic to figure out which ones are which. Thus, the so-called original Bible exists only in the imagination of the modern academics.

The author also lays out the challenge that Jesus can only use just one Bible. He can’t use them all. To do so would make Jesus look really, really foolish. Hence, there is only one Bible He could use that would save His integrity. (Can you guess which one it will be?). He then outlines his presuppositions and finishes out the introduction by providing a brief overview of the upcoming chapters and his writing strategy.

His presuppositions are [11]:

1. There has to be a book called the Bible — A physical book.
2. The book must contain ALL of God’s words and only God’s words. It can’t be a mixture of men’s words and God’s words.
3. Most importantly, the work of providing this authentic, physical Bible is the responsibility of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He then claims that he is qualified as an author to offer his book for today’s readers because he has done all the necessary study and research to show you why his preferred Bible version is the only one Jesus could genuinely use, and hence the one all Christians should use as well.

Review

laughMcElroy’s introduction is regrettably outright laughable.

Take for example his personal charge on page 11 in which he says that the readers of his book will be getting a unique and informed slant on the issue, not someone else’s repackaged teachings.

Is he kidding me? As I move through my reviews, I’m going to demonstrate how he rehashes pretty much every argument ever made by KJVO apologists the last 40 years. Sure. He may have organized those arguments differently, added some updated illustrations, and slapped a new cover on his book, but the challenges he levels were offered years ago by such folks as Peter Ruckman, Sam Gipp, and even Gail Riplinger.

And additionally, those challenges have also been answered. For instance, the “where can I get a copy of God’s Word” and “where are those originals” arguments I originally answered nearly 10 years ago when I did my own overview of KJVO apologetics.

McElroy must think his critical readers are dullards or something.

But seeing that his focus in his introduction is the “where are the originals” challenge let me respond just for fun.

Like all KJV Onlyists, McElroy begins with the presupposition that the King James translation is the pure Word of God. That presupposition is clearly implied within the three presuppositions he outlines in his introduction: The Word of God must be a physical book that contains all of God’s words, no mixture of the words of men, and that is protected by Jesus.

KJVO apologists believe the KJV is that book. It alone is the standard to which all other Bible translations are to be compared. That means it should never be questioned as an English translation because it is the best that needs no correction and to do so alters and corrupts God’s Word. Hence the philosophical formula, The KJV alone = the Word of God alone.

Anyone paying attention will immediately identify a major contradictory flaw with his second presupposition that states the book must not be a mixture of God’s Words and men’s words. The KJV is an English translation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. If we are talking about language to language translation, there has been a mixture of men’s words that had to be “added” in the translation process. There is no possible way to get around that dilemma. Already the KJV fails McElroy’s own stated presuppositions.

That means, then, that he has to defend the idea that in the process of Jesus providing and protecting the physical book, Jesus inspired the translation process as well so that the KJV translators would translate accurately without error. That of course creates a major problem with basic Christian orthodoxy regarding the doctrines of inspiration and preservation of Scripture. It would in essence introduce a second level of divine breathing out by God beyond the original prophets and apostles to the very translating committees of the King James that in turn resulted in the Bible they produced. It also retells history so that an alternative story line is manufactured that traces the textual genealogy of the biblical texts down to the creation of the King James.

I would imagine that if pressed, McElroy would try and wiggle out from the intellectual conundrum his presuppositions created by redefining what he means by a “mixture of men’s words.” He would probably fall back by appealing to the “Jesus directed the translators to translate what He wanted” and “The KJV translators were the greatest, godliest scholars ever” argument.”

But anyone who seriously knows how our Bible came to us realizes how problematic his presuppositions are for him. He’s stuck having to acknowledge that when the translators translated from the original biblical languages into English, they had to make man-made decisions on how phrases and words were to be rendered into the receptor language. That by default means any translation, even the KJV, has a mixture of God’s words and man’s words.

In order to further strengthen his point about what modern evangelicals supposedly believe about the “original Bible,” McElroy cites from Randall Price’s book, Searching for the Original Bible. (Available on Google Books). He quotes from Price who stated that the autographs written by the original, inspired prophet or apostle is the original Bible. He then declares how inadequate that position is because the original animal skins Moses wrote on have since disintegrated and even Jeremiah’s “original” scroll was destroyed by Jehudi (Jeremiah 36:23). See how silly Price’s original autographs theory is?

strawmenOf course, that’s a typical strawman argument that comes stalking out from the rolling fields of KJV Onlyism. McElroy selectively quotes from Price in order to make him appear muddled with his views of Scripture. It really is a dastardly thing to do on McElroy’s part and is not becoming of one who names Christ as his savior. If a person will take the time to actually go and read what the guy really stated (I mean, the book is available online, for crying out loud!), you’ll see that Price defines his position rather clearly.

McElroy conveniently leaves off Price’s further remarks about his position. After citing article 10 from the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, Price writes that the concepts of inspiration and inerrancy applies only to the autographic text of Scripture and extends to copies and translations only insofar as they faithfully represent the original [Price, 35 emphasis mine].

You will note that Price believes we have the originals with us to this day. That is the position of the Bible-believing Church. (Heck, it’s the position of the Catholics as well, but we won’t go there). Price, like all sober-minded Christians, believes the originals are contained in the faithfully preserved copies of the biblical texts and faithfully translated editions of the modern Bible.

But like all KJVO apologists, that is not good enough because “sinful men” have their hands on the process way too much. And liberals critics were involved in the process as well! Can’t have that!

Again, folks who know how our Bibles came down to us over the centuries realize that McElroy’s historical theory is not as pure and clean as he let’s on. The Bible was a handwritten document for over a thousand years before the printing press was invented. Man mixed with the biblical texts a lot. Every time they hand copied a copy, with all the bad handwriting, misspelled words, spilled ink, water stains, etc., they were mixing with the text. That is just overwhelmingly evident for anyone considering the facts of textual transmission and criticism.

Now. Does God preserve His Word? Most certainly. But is it according to a KJVO daisy chain view that involves a mythical genealogical line of flawless Xeroxed manuscript copies that resulted in just one, never to be corrected English translation frozen in the 17th century? No. But we do have the “originals” in our hands, because the real way God preserved His Word effectively kept it safe, in the hands of His redeemed people, who faithfully passed it along so that we hold in our hands God’s written revelation.

McElroy, and the host of KJVO advocates will dispute my claim, but I’ll answer their disputations as I move along.

Studies in Eschatology [8]

castleThe Kingdom of God both Spiritual and Physical

I have been considering the subject of the Kingdom of God (KoG) in my recent studies on eschatology. I believe God’s kingdom is eschatological, or in other words, it is still future. I also believe it is a geo-political kingdom, one that entails physical territory and physical subjects. Most importantly a restored, national Israel will be at the center of this KoG with Jesus Christ as its appointed, sovereign monarch Whose reign will radiate from Jerusalem to the entire world.

As I have been pointing out, those of the covenant reformed persuasion equate the KoG with the NT Church. Rather than seeing the KoG as a yet future reality, Christ’s reign is said to be happening now over His people, the Body of Christ. The KoG is not a physical kingdom involving territory in the land of Israel, but it is a spiritual kingdom. Thus, those promises of a restored Israel in their land are not to be understood in such a wooden literalism as to imply a physical, ethnic nation returned to their land, but rather are to be understood in a spiritual sense, of Christ reigning over a spiritual body of believers comprised of people from all over the earth. They are Abraham’s true seed (Romans 4), identified by their faith in God and those promises of making Abraham’s offspring a great nation are being fulfilled as people from all over the world come to faith in Christ.

With my last post, I reviewed biblical passages stating how national Israel will be restored to their territorial land. With this post I want to review the idea that the KoG is more than just a spiritual kingdom, but it also has a material dimension to it.

There seems to be a conviction among many of the covenant reformed, particularly those of an amillennial perspective, that a strong dichotomy must exist between the material and the spiritual. When Adam fell, his sin plunged the entire world into sin. The earth and all that it contains has been placed under a curse. Our hope is not with a renewal of this sin cursed world, but it is looking forward to an entirely new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells.

The distinction between the material earthly realm and the spiritual heavenly realm was articulated early in Church history by a variety of apologists. The Church Father, Origen, and then later the more prominent theologian, Augustine, whose theology still shapes the Christian Church to this day, were men heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, which was in vogue everywhere during their day. Greek philosophy shaped their hermeneutics, specifically Augustine’s, when they interpreted the Bible. Augustine developed a two-kingdom model of theology that pits the KoG, or the NT Church in his thinking, against the Kingdom of Man in the here and now [Horner, 210-211, Vlach, 3-4].

As eschatological doctrine developed, it did so with that superior spiritual and inferior material division shaping the interpretation of various prophetic passages. That included a spiritualization of Revelation 20 in which the millennium is understood to be the age of the NT Church. Though it is true some modern day amillennialists have attempted to down play a sharp material-spiritual distinction, they do so at the peril of conceding their theological presuppositions to a premillennial perspective [Horner, 213, fn. 18]. An “earthly” material understanding of OT passages opens wide the notion of a messiah reigning over an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem with a restored Israel.

However, the subject before us is to consider some important passages raised by the covenant reformed that they argue present the picture of a spiritual KoG which in turn eliminates the material, physical aspects.

I’ll begin with probably the most often cited passage I know I have encountered, that being Christ’s words to Pilate as recorded in John 18:36. Upon asking Jesus why the Jews had handed Him over to the Romans, Jesus told Pilate: My Kingdom is not of the world: If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight. The covenant reformed understand Christ’s words to Pilate to be plainly saying His kingdom, what is presupposed to be the NT Church, is solely a spiritual one; a kingdom that is heavenly in nature and to be occupied by men and women who have received eternal life by their faith in Christ. Christ’s kingdom, then, is contrasted to earthly kingdoms of this world and because Christ’s kingdom is said by the Lord Himself to not be of this world, it then must be understood as being strictly spiritual in nature.

But, is that what the Lord is saying exactly? Rather than taking Christ to be contrasting a material, worldly kingdom with a spiritual one, what is again presupposed to be the NT Church, the non-covenant reformed believe Jesus is merely telling Pilate of the supernatural origin of His kingdom: It does not originate on this earth by earthly means like military conquest or man-made political wrangling. It originates in heaven and is established by supernatural, divine means. Thus, Christ’s words do not reject the futurity of a coming eschatological kingdom of geo-political, material scope, but simply acknowledges the supernatural nature of His coming kingdom.

A second set of NT passages are also cited that seem to repudiate the physical reality of the future KoG by highlighting the spiritual dynamic of the Kingdom. I am thinking of Luke 17:20, 21 and Romans 14:17.

Luke 17:20, 21 is Christ’s words to the Pharisees who mockingly asked Jesus when the KoG would come. He responded by saying the KoG does not come by observation, or signs, but rather the KoG is said to be within you. Romans 14:17 is Paul’s exhortation to the Jews and gentiles who comprise the membership of the local churches in Rome, to put aside petty disagreements of what can and cannot be eaten by Christians. Instead, Paul writes, the KoG is about righteousness, joy, and peace.

It is argued these two passages strongly speak against the physical nature of the KoG. In fact, they clearly de-emphasize those tangible characteristics of “physicalness,” like observation, visible signs, and eating, and lifts up spiritual qualities like an internal heart change, righteousness, peace, and joy. That is why these passages are said to be speaking of a spiritual KoG, which the covenant reformed understand as the NT Church.

There are a few things to say in response:

First, I believe there is more than enough adequate revelation clearly telling us the NT Church is not the anticipated eschatological KoG. In fact, I believe the overwhelming amount of biblical discussion on the KoG presents it as a material, eschatological kingdom distinct from the NT Church. However, I do believe it is important to note how the writers of the NT speak to the salvific certainty of the chosen subjects of the KoG. They are now, presently declared to be in the KoG simply by their individual identification with the person of Christ.

It is similar with how all saints have been declared to be recipients of eternal life now, even though eternal life still awaits, or that God’s people are sitting in the heavenlies with Christ, even though we currently exist in this realm. The same is with the subjects of the KoG. They exist presently as subjects of the KoG, though they still await its eschatological arrival.

Second, in Luke 17, Christ’s words were to the Pharisees. They wanted a political Messiah who would overthrow the Romans immediately. Though the eschatological KoG will certainly bring in an overthrow of the world’s earthly, man-made kingdoms, Christ’s ministry at the time was not meant to establish that kingdom. His purpose was to gather the subjects for it through the means of the Church. The Church was unanticipated, hence the reason it is called a mystery — something that was previously unrevealed. The KoG is inaugurated with the formation of the Church, a spiritual body of believers comprised of Jews and gentiles, hence the reason Jesus describes the KoG as being within you.

Paul’s words in Romans 14 do not de-emphasize the future, material aspect to the KoG either, but rather they have similar emphasis on the current spiritual dynamic of the KoG as it is manifested in the Church. In this case, the spiritual unity and holy living which should characterize the people of God. Ultimately, the KoG is not about non-essential issues like what one eats or drinks, but it will be about righteousness and holiness.

Then lastly, probably one of the most significant passages of scripture to which the covenant reform appeal when challenging the idea of a future, geo-political KoG is Hebrews 11:8-16. The section of scripture comes from the great chapter in Hebrews on faith. It speaks of how Abraham dwelt in the land of promise, but he also waited for a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God. The covenant reformed point out that Abraham’s faith is not in being permanently established in the land of Israel, but it was in a non-physical city, one which comes from God. That passage alone eliminates any notion of a future, physical KoG dwelling on the material earth. In fact, Gary Long makes Hebrews 11:8-16 the second key presupposition when one must employ when studying eschatology [Long, 8,9]. Thus, this section in Hebrews rejects any idea of a future, earthly millennium, or so says the covenant reformed.

But, does the passage in Hebrews really eliminate the idea of an earthly KoG? Barry Horner points out that Abraham’s faith in a heavenly Jerusalem did not exclude a terrestrial location, but rather, his hope was in a kingdom in which heaven will be manifested on earth and residence there would be gloriously holy and permanent [Horner, 250]. It is not a country in heaven, but a country from heaven. Just as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, so even Christ anticipated a kingdom that was both spiritual and material.

*******
Sources:

Barry E. Horner, Future Israel. (Broadman & Holman: Nashville TN, 2007).

Gary Long, Context! Evangelical Views of the Millennium Examined. (Great Unpublished: Charleston SC, 2nd ed. 2002).

Michael J. Vlach, Platonism’s Influence on Christian Eschatology. Unpublished paper found on-line here.

Reviewing “Which Bible Would Jesus Use?” [1]

adventurebiblePreliminary Remarks and the Forward

Today I embark on a new adventure.

I plan to do a chapter by chapter review of the KJVO book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? The Bible Version Controversy Explained and Resolved, by one Jack McElroy.

Now I can already hear some long time readers saying, with eyes rolled to the ceiling, “Really? Why? Haven’t you beat this subject to death? Come’on. There’s all sorts of important discerning that needs to be going on out there. What about the gay fake Christians and their fawning allies trying to subvert the Church!?”

Yes. I understand that I have written a lot on this topic; but allow me to lay out my reasons.

First, my readership are for the most part, solid, right-thinking believers. They are not easily persuaded by bad teaching. However, there are a number of individuals who are pliable. They don’t attend solid churches nor do they particularly know where to find good material refuting such nonsense. I want to offer them a service.

Secondly, the KJVO issue is, sadly, not going away. It may be slowly waning in some respects as the older generation of KJVO apologists die off, but there is a newer generation that utilizes the internet and social media to keep their apologetics alive. Someone needs to provide them with a rebuttal.

And third, since I began blogging in 2005, I have received a steady stream of complaints, comments, and pronouncements of cursing against me from two radically opposite individuals: atheists and KJVO apologists. It is clear, at least in my mind, that this topic is still strong among a number of Christians. Those who have never been challenged need to be so. Those who watch their Sunday school classes and adult fellowship groups get split asunder by a small number of rabid KJV onlyists need to have a place where they can find responses to those challenges. That is what I hope to accomplish with these reviews.

I am not entirely sure how long the series will last. There are 21 chapters in the book, so potentially I could write up 21 posts. I hope to combine a few chapters into one post, but I will see.

So with that in mind, let me set forth on my journey.

et highwayBackground

How exactly did I come about finding this particular KJVO book to review? Excellent question!

It started back in December of 2013. I was interviewed on a podcast called Theology Matters hosted by Devin Pellew on the subject of KJV Onlyism. I made a post highlighting the interview and in the comment section, a fellow named David took me to task for that interview claiming I was misinformed and sloppy with my facts. He insisted I needed to read some newer, better material than what I had previously read when I was a practicing KJVO apologist.

He recommended two books. The first by a guy named Joey Faust who pastors a church in Venus, Texas, called Kingdom Baptist. I did a search and noticed that he seems to be a Steven Anderson clown clone. (Though it appears he and Anderson are feuding Fundamentalists). He protests stuff in the Dallas-Forth Worth area and back in 2012 he got himself and a church member jailed for a day for disobeying police orders during a gay pride parade by crossing a barricade. He wrote a book entitled, The Word: God Will Keep It. The second book was the one under consideration, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? by Jack McElroy.

At the time, I didn’t know either men, nor had I heard of their books. David, my KJVO comment challenger, insisted they represented the latest and greatest research in KJVO apologetics. I expressed incredulity, because I personally do not believe anyone could bring anything new to the KJVO perspective. My detractor insisted otherwise. He contacted me via email and told me that if I were interested, he would purchase the books and send them to me as a gift. I said sure.

There was no follow up, so a year and half went by and I had all but forgotten about the books. Then, out of the blue a few weeks ago, my detractor contacted me again and offered to send them to me. And again I said certainly I’d receive them and told him I would even review them for my blog. I sent out my mailing address and got them the next week or so. And here we are.

I scanned through them, and my initial, honest evaluation is that McElroy’s book seemed to be — how can I put it — more “scholarly” than Faust’s. Just at first glance, for example, note the covers,

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The cover of Faust’s book looks like it was created on his computer by Microsoft Paint. It has the classic KJVO clip art. Notice on one side the little snake coiled up on the modern Bible versions, fangs ready to pierce the hand of any unwitting fool who stupidly picks one up to read it. On the right side are bones piled up among the modern versions.

McElroy’s, on the other hand, looks a bit more professional. Like maybe he paid someone with skills to produce it. Now certainly we don’t want to fall victim to the idea that you “can’t judge a book by its cover,” but sometimes the covers do alert a reader to the quality of material found within it’s pages.

With that bit of background, let me move to the book itself.

The Author

According to his bio page [309], Jack McElroy was raised Roman Catholic. He became a Christian in 1978. He graduated with a B.S. in industrial management from Lowell Technological Institute and became a serial entrepreneur. He has been the president of McElroy Electronics Corporation for 35 years.

In addition to writing on KJV onlyism, he also wrote a book on losing one’s fear of dying and another on the soul winning techniques from Adoniram Judson. McElroy Publishing, which I take to be his personal publishing house, has a series of books on how to be the best Christian camp counselor ever.

Now. I am sure Mr. McElroy is a great guy and a fine, upstanding Christian man. However, given his background in electronics and industrial management, along with publishing how-to books on being camp counselors, does he have the theological chops as it were to lecture us about why my NASB is corrupted and Jesus would only use the King James?

Looking over his bibliography, he lists 11 pages of sources he used in his research [311-322]. His list is impressive, but does he cite from those sources accurately and in context? Does he treat the authors with whom he disagrees fairly with his assessments? I am also wondering why he lists two blog articles from Will Kinney, who is a hack when it comes the Bible version issue. Knowing that he is a KJV onlyists like the author, citing one of the more notorious internet trolls as a reliable source doesn’t shine favorably upon his ability to separate the chaff from the wheat regarding the Bible version issue. I guess we will see as we move along in our reviews.

The Forward

Okay. So what’s the big deal about the forward? I mean honestly, who reviews the forward to any book? In this instance, the forward, at least I believe, sets the tone for the quality of research that possibly awaits us in the actual book, and so I feel a need to touch upon it.

finalauthorityThe forward [v-vii] is written by William P. Grady, pastor of Macedonia Baptist church in Swartz Creek, MI. He published his own KJVO book back in 1993 called Final Authority  that has a picture of a judge hammering down a gavel with certainty.

Grady’s biography page follows immediately after the forward. It lists 3 other books he wrote. One large one on American history from his unique (myopic may be a better word) perspective as a KJV onlyist.

His bio further boasts that his books have held consistent, 5 star ratings on Barnes and Noble’s website, but that is because each one has two or three anonymous reviews, all of them submitted by what appears to be gushing fans. Amazon, on the other hand, has many more “positive” reviewers, but there are a few 1-star that bring his overall rating to 4-stars or 3 1/2 stars. But that is neither here nor there I suppose.

Grady begins the forward by recounting his personal journey into KJVO apologetics and all of the horrible translations he has come across over the years like the Living Bible, the Ebonics Version, and the recent Gay Bible. But seriously? Does Grady really believe those are influential Bible versions among solid, Bible-believing Christians? Especially the Ebonics version or the Gay Bible?

He then expresses his appreciation for the publication of Mr. McElroy’s book as Satan’s assaults against Scripture has only intensified since his own book came out in 93. He claims that Mr. McElroy offers “fresh information” and “combined with the author’s lack of traditional ‘seminary credentials'” makes his book a must read.

I have to stop and offer comment upon Grady’s disparaging of “traditional seminary credentials.” Even when I was a KJVO apologist, I’ve never really gotten why the typical KJVO independent fundamentalist Baptists are so alarmist against Christians attending college or seminary. They allege soul damning compromise with “worldly-wisdom” when a Christian attends a seminary, but I never really saw that at all. My thought was if a guy was anchored in his convictions, no amount of worldly scholarship is going to change him, but will only serve to shore up his beliefs and provide him with ammo defending his position.

At any rate, I see a fit of hypocrisy on the part of practically every big name KJVO author who has “Dr.” before his name and proudly lists out all of his degrees earned. Grady does the exact same thing. It’s pathetically laughable. Turning McElroy’s book over to the back cover, you will see listed a group of men singing their praises of his work. The second one is Dr. William P. Grady, B.S., M.Ed., Th.M., Ph.D, D.D. Five degrees! I kid you not.

Grady then comments on the thesis McElroy presents in his book, “Which Bible would Jesus use?” and explains how as the author works through his evidence, each modern version is discredited as a Bible Jesus would use. Grady then provides a couple of convoluted examples that illustrate the thesis.

First, he points out Luke 2:33 which reads in the King James as, And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. He then warns how every modern Bible removes the proper name “Joseph” at Luke 2:33 and insert the blasphemous reading “his father” so that the passage reads, And his father and mother marveled at those things… See the problem? The implications, states Grady, is that the virgin birth and Christ’s deity are now in question because modern versions proclaim that Joseph was Jesus’ father, not God the father.

Of course, if you were to link over to bibles-online.net, something Grady or McElroy must have failed to do, a person can search many of the pre-KJV 1611 translations. Wycliffe’s NT, Tyndale’s NT, Matthew’s Bible, the 1535 Coverdale’s Bible, and the Great Bible of 1541, all read at Luke 2:33, his father and mother marveled… Uh oh. What exactly does that say in regards to Grady’s condemnation of modern versions? Did those men like William Tyndale and John Rogers intentionally lie when they translated their work as his father and mother… in the same way Grady insists modern Bible translators lied?

A second example is really odd. Grady points to Jeremiah 10:5 and writes,

“… any doubt concerning “which Bible Jesus would use” can be settled by the litmus test of Jeremiah 10:5. Whereas the KJV reads, They are upright as the palm tree…, the 2011 NIV substitutes, “like a scarecrow in a cucumber field…” (see similar readings in the RSV, NRSV, NASB, ESV, and HCSB).”

I am not entirely sure what Grady is getting at with that example. It’s as if he is entirely devoid of what Jeremiah 10 is about. That chapter is addressing the foolishness of idolatry. The prophet is mocking the concept of idols and the idol makers. The idol makers decorate their idols, but in reality, they aren’t really living gods, but or more like a scarecrow in a cucumber field that while it looks like a man, in reality is just a dummy on pole. The word Grady insists should be palm tree can certainly mean scarecrow because the context of Jeremiah 10 is on dressing up dead idols to appear like living gods when in point of fact they are nothing of the sort. Grady’s criticism is way out in left field.

If Grady’s sophomoric forward is any indication as to the nature of the rest of the book, I’m a bit concerned here at the outset. However, I am dedicated to muscling my way through it. Hopefully it will be a fruitful endeavor for both myself and the readers both now and in the future.

The Bible and Homosexuality

After the Supreme Court decision, Pastor Don Green of Truth Community Church in the Cincinnati area, was one of the first pastors to walk his congregation through the subject of homosexuality in a conference devoted to the topic.

Don used to be our boss at Grace to You until he was called to pastor a church plant. It originally met in the Creation Museum and now they have their own building.

The Conference messages can be downloaded in two areas currently.

At their Sermon Series archive and their Conference archive.

The messages are bold and clear and are a much needed encouragement coming from a solid man of God like Don.

Here is the list in order,

1. Refuting the Five Myths on Homosexuality

2. Why Homosexuality is Wrong

3. Scripture, Shellfish, and Homosexual Sin

4. Addressing the Heart of Same-Sex Attraction

5. The Future of the Church and Homosexuality

I believe readers will be exceptionally blessed by his thoughtful, caring, and convicting presentations.

The Fallacies with “The Circular Argument” Against Presuppositionalism

This will be a geeky post, sorry.

Occasionally, I like to write on topics pertaining to apologetic methodology. My primary purpose is to sharpen my personal thinking in the matters of how my exegesis and theology shape my overall approach in apologetics and evangelism. My objective has always been two-fold: I want to make sure I am defending the faith accurately as well as engaging unbelief effectively.

I approach the subject of apologetics as a presuppositionalist as opposed to one who would consider himself a classic apologist or an evidentialist. Most Christians who fancy the subject of “apologetics” operate in the matrix of classical/evidentialist apologetics. That is because the classic/evidential apologetic is the most popular and the one the average church-going red state evangelical Christian is familiar.

Proponents of the classical approach are also known to have a disdain toward presuppositionalism. Their blog articles and lectures will often times offer withering critiques of presuppositionalism, attempting to show how the approach is “illogical,” or “blind fideism,” or other such terrible descriptors. I also think it is important to offer a response to those criticisms in order to demonstrate how my apologetic theology is not only biblical, but robust.

One common objection claims that a presuppositional defense of the faith is circular. The classical proponent will claim, for example, that the presuppositionalist believes Christianity is true because the Bible tells him Christianity is true and because Christianity tells him the Bible is true, the Bible is thus true, and because the Bible is true, Christianity is true, etc., and so the circle is formed.

Consider the following illustration I copied from a pro-classic apologetic blog post:

circularIt’s supposed to picture just how illogical a presuppositional defense of Scripture truly is. A presuppositional will claim, for instance, that the Bible is infallible. When asked to prove his assertion he will respond by saying, “It’s infallible because the Bible is the Word of God.” But when asked “How do you know the Bible is the Word of God?,” he answers by saying, “Because the Bible tells us so!” When asked why he believes the Bible to begin with, he responds by saying, “Because the Bible is infallible!” And so on and so on, around and around. Underneath the picture at the blog article, the author writes, “This kind of argument is not the kind of “apologia” mentioned in scripture. God always backed Himself up with evidence.”

See what terrible thinkers presuppositionalists truly are? Shake my head. If they give that ridiculous response to their local community college social studies teacher when asked why they reject same-sex marriage, they’ll embarrass Jesus and make Aristotle cry.

Let’s evaluate that objection and offer some comments in response.

— 1. First off, I have always been troubled with the classic apologists and their avoidance of biblical authority. They seem to intentionally avoid using the Scriptures when defending the faith. The inconsistency here is jarring. Christian apologists, who are intending to make a case for the Christian faith, who in point of fact derive their faith from the Bible, ignore its authority when engaging unbelievers, claiming any appeal to Scripture’s authority in a discussion is circular. I truly don’t get that.

Now. Maybe there are some traditional classicists who would object to my concern. They are not dismissing the Bible at all, but are, as the author noted under the picture, wanting to back up their appeals to Scriptural authority with evidence. The Bible, however, is evidence, is it not? It’s an established historical document, why isn’t that fact good enough? It would be like saying we can’t appeal to the letters of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams when discussing the American Revolution without first showing evidence that the two men wrote those letters.

— 2. Moving along to a second point. In case you don’t know this, pretty much everyone argues in a circle. That statement may cause my classical detractors to fall face down on a fainting couch, but I believe I’m correct with my assessment. That’s because everyone assumes (or *ahem* presupposes) the truthfulness of some unquestioned, unspoken starting point.

For instance,

logicI affirm the truthfulness of this argument, even though it is circular.

Michael Kruger, in his insightful discussion about the sufficiency of Scripture in apologetics, writes in a footnote about so-called circularity as it pertains to the meter stick,

To deny circularity when it comes to an ultimate authority is to subject oneself to an infinite regress of reasons. If a person holds to a certain view, A , then when A is challenged he appeals to reasons B and C . But, of course, B and C will certainly be challenged as to why they should be accepted, and then the person would have to offer D, E, F, and G as arguments for B and C. And the process goes on and on.

Obviously it has to stop somewhere because an infinite regress of arguments cannot demonstrate the truth of one’s conclusions. Thus, every worldview (and every argument) must have an ultimate, unquestioned, self-authenticating starting point.

Another example: imagine someone asking you whether the meter stick in your house was actually a meter long. How would you demonstrate such a thing? You could take it to your next-door neighbor and compare it to his meter stick and say, “See, it’s a meter.” However, the next question is obvious, “How do we know your neighbor’s meter stick is really a meter?” This process would go on and on infinitely unless there were an ultimate meter stick (which, if I am not mistaken, actually existed at one time and was measured by two fine lines marked on a bar of platinum-iridium alloy). It is this ultimate meter stick that defines a meter. When asked how one knows whether the ultimate meter stick is a meter, the answer is obviously circular: the ultimate meter stick is a meter because it is a meter.

This same thing is true for Scripture. The Bible does not just happen to be true (the meter stick in your house), rather it is the very criterion for truth (the ultimate meter stick) and therefore the final stopping point in intellectual justification.

Just like trusting that your meter stick is really a meter, the simple point is that everyone argues in a circle to some degree. The issue is whether or not that circle is a vicious circle, or one that is self-refuting. In the case of Scripture, I don’t believe that saying the Word of God is infallible, because it is the Word of God, is a vicious, self-refuting circular argument. The reason being has to be that God’s Word is, well, God’s Word. He is an infallible God and He spoke it, hence it is God’s infallible Word.

— 3. Picking up on the last point, the circular objection as presented in that illustration is a strawman. (The last time I checked, strawman arguments are usually considered illogical, but I digress). The Christian believes the Bible is God’s Word not because the Bible alone tells us so (though that should be enough), but because God revealed the Bible.  We know that, obviously, from the Bible itself, but Jesus also confirmed the Scriptures as God’s Word as did the prophets and apostles. Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles are historical, real life people. Jesus was in fact the very Son of God sent by the Father. I would think if He affirmed that the Word of God is the Word of God without first appealing to outside lines evidence that supposedly establish the Bible as worthy of being called the Word of God, I’d be inclined to take Him at His Word alone.

— 4. And that leads to one final fallacy with the circular objection: Never did Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles prove the Bible’s authority with their audience first. They proclaimed it as if the Bible was authoritative at the outset.

Take for instance Paul’s missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts. At first, Paul would go to the Jews who were scattered about in the various areas where he and his friends would pass through. However, the Jews rejected the Gospel message and turned Paul away. In some cases, he was persecuted by them. Eventually, Paul turned exclusively to the gentiles, who were already inclined to hear his message of salvation. Acts 13:46ff states,

46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
47 “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Note a couple of important points. First, Paul told the Jews that he wanted to speak to them the Word of God first, but since they rejected it, he and his friends were turning to the gentiles. In other words, Paul was taking that “word of God” to the gentiles.

Now a question. How did the gentiles of Asia Minor know what Paul told them was the Word of God? Honestly? How familiar were they with the OT history of Israel? With the prophetic promises of the Messiah? The fulfillment of those prophecies in the person and work of Jesus?  Did Paul have to convince them first with lines of evidence that the Word of God was worthy of their consideration? It certainly doesn’t look that way. In fact, all that Paul had to do was preach it and they believed it.

Secondly, notice that belief in the authority of the Word of God was a spiritual matter. Verse 48 states that when the gentiles heard of Paul’s change of plans, they rejoiced and glorified the Word of the Lord, and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. In other words, their acceptance of God’s Word was not due to the presentation of compelling lines of textual evidence or historical proofs, but because they were appointed to eternal life and God’s Spirit working in their hearts to believe.

Now I can hear my objectors saying, “but Paul was giving them the Gospel, not telling them to believe the Bible!” But where exactly is the Gospel message laid out? Where is it presented? Why in the pages of Scripture.

As I close, I don’t want the reader to go away thinking that I reject the idea of presenting evidence to an unbeliever in an apologetic encounter. In fact, I can be equally critical of other presuppositionalists who turn apologetic encounters into repetitious slogans and the appeals to the laws of logic and what not. I am not opposed to providing non-biblical answers to challenging questions. When textual evidence or intelligent design style proofs come up to further along the discussion, I will certainly present that information. There is no special protocol that has been violated if a presuppositionalist uses those arguments.

What needs to be kept in mind is that I am not giving up my commitment to God’s Word as my ultimate authority. I proclaim it as established fact, even though I know the unbeliever will insist on proofs as to why he must believe it. The reason being is because it is the Word of God alone that contains the Gospel which in turn is the power of God unto salvation.

Audio Book Review

goingclearGoing Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & The Prison of Belief

Author: Lawrence Wright
Read By: Morton Sellers

It is my custom to highlight the audio books I have heard in my annual, end-of-the-year book reviews. But I found that Lawrence Wright’s history of Scientology to be such an amazing story, I wanted to share with readers now rather than wait until December.

Scientology was the first major cult I encountered after moving to Los Angeles. A friend and I once visited one of their big training centers downtown. I recount the story in this post.

Most Americans are vaguely familiar with Scientology because of its connection with Hollywood elites, particularly Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Others through the prolific science fiction writings of the founder, L. Ron Hubbard. While the average person maybe recognizes the name “Scientology,” and the better than average person may know it’s a religious organization of some sorts, what the general public doesn’t know is the dark and disturbing underbelly of the secretive group, and that is what Wright’s book exposes for us.

I had read the author’s previous history about Al Qaeda, entitled The Looming Tower (That’s an excellent book as well, by the way), so I knew that Wright was a fabulous researcher who had the ability to weave together an engaging story. I was interested in his book on Scientology because the “Church’s” presence swirls around in Southern California, plus the influence through the celebrity pop culture.

The book is broken into three major parts. The first opens by recounting the “conversion” of writer Paul Haggis in 1975. A skeptical atheist, Haggis, was drawn to the claims that Scientology was a scientific approach to self-help and personal betterment, He stayed devoted to the Church until the late 2000s when Scientologist leadership refused to take a public stand against Proposition 8, California’s traditional marriage bill.

After setting up Haggis’s story, Wright moves to a detailed biographical overview of L. Ron Hubbard and his troubled life and his pursuit of a Bohemian lifestyle. He tells about Hubbard’s early life and washout in the navy during World War 2 and how he gained a following writing for pulp science fiction magazines. Hubbard had the ability to write voluminous amounts of scifi stories that were published under a number of pseudonyms.

He was also fixated on the occult and would dabble in the occultism of Aelister Crowley while living in Pasadena. He and a friend created an occultic sex ritual designed to summon an ancient goddess by the name of “Babalon.”

His friendship with his occult associate dissolved and after a number of attempts to make money with his writing, he finally hit pay dirt with the publication of Dianetics in 1950. Hubbard fancied himself a self-taught, self-help guru, and unlike most of the flash in the pan books of the self-help genre that are popular for a year or so and then disappear completely, his book stuck, because he used it as the gateway to introduce readers to further material he developed that was promised to help individuals get over their personal problems and take control of their lives. Through that, Scientology was born.

Wright then goes into an overview of what it is that Scientology teaches and why. He lays out the development of all the Scientology lingo, like “going clear,” “Emeters,” “suppressive person,” and the “Rehabilitation Project Force,” which is more like a North Korean gulag designed to rehabilitate members who had failed to meet expectations or were believed to be “goofing off.”  He also explains the various operating levels within Scientology and the history behind Xenu, the tyrannical space overlord who banished the souls of his people to earth killing them in volcanoes. Those souls are called “thetans” and attach themselves to human beings causing them all sorts of emotional and mental harm. The gist of Scientology is to separate those thetans from your body so that you can then go clear.

Some of the more unbelievable revelations Wright recounts involve Scientology’s attempts to destroy by harassment anyone who would tried to leave the church or write negatively about it, the most notable being Paulette Cooper, a journalist who wrote one of the first ever scathing reviews of the group in 1971. She became the victim of numerous lawsuits and other countless personal attacks that almost drove her to suicide. Even more stunning was Scientology’s Operation Snow White, a criminal conspiracy attempted by members working in at least 30 countries in more than 130 government agencies around the world to purge any negative reports on the group. They wiretapped and stole documents from many of those agencies, including most notably, the IRS.

The second part of the book deals with Scientology and their influence among many elite Hollywood movie stars and entertainment moguls. After Hubbard’s death in 1986, a young “messenger” in the sea org named David Miscavige organized a take over of the Church and purged all the senior members in Hubbard’s absence. He was the one who brought Scientology to a place of having tax exemption from the IRS (through lawsuits and harassment campaigns against the IRS), as well as a more prominent roll among Hollywood elites. A good portion of this section tells of Tom Cruise’s involvement with Scientology and his influence within the group, as well as his public relations for them.

The third section of the book returns us to the life of Paul Haggis. In 2008, when proposition 8, the traditional marriage bill was to be voted on in California, Haggis was troubled that the official church in San Diego had given contributions in support of the bill. Haggis had two lesbian daughters who had been raised in the Church, and he saw Scientology’s support of prop. 8 as hypocritical against everything he believed they stood for.

When attempts to change the mind of church leaders failed, Haggis began his own investigation through the internet and began to have his eyes opened to the fact that Hubbard had always believed homosexuality was a subversive behavior that needed to be purged from those who practice it. That began to lead Haggis to question what he had always believed and eventually leave the church altogether.

Wright’s book on Scientology is fantastic, both as a compelling story, as well as an important apologetic work. While it certainly provides insight to one of the more strange, but secretive mind-science cults in the world, it also is a study on the power of how what one believes can be so enslaving, the idea behind “Prison of Belief” in the subtitle.

Members of the church for the most part come from irreligious families. Many, like Haggis, profess no religious affiliation at all and even claim to be atheists. They are initially drawn to Scientology because it is said to be the study of “science” and the mind techniques developed by Hubbard are claimed to help people overcome their hang-ups, phobias, and other personal anxieties on your own apart from the help of doctors or psychiatrists.

Many Scientologist testify that the basic, introductory courses they took immediately helped them with their mental health issues, much more than any doctor or prescribed medication could ever hope to do. That “breakthrough” is what entices them to continue with the church. Some even join the top fraternal order called the Sea Org signing the billion year contract basically staying committed for all eternity to Scientology.

Thus, they willingly embrace as true the bizarre scifi space “revelations” of Hubbard, along with the abusive hazing rites that happens at all levels throughout the organization. For example, when the FBI raided the Hollywood headquarters in the aftermath of the revelations of Operation Snow White, agents found a large room in the basement filled with men and women wearing boiler room working outfits. None of the people welcomed their “liberation” from what really amounted to cruel captivity, but saw the FBI as wrongfully intruding in their necessary program to keep themselves in good standing with the church.

The RPF is just a small slice of the abuse Scientologists are exposed to. They’ve been forced to divorce spouses, give up their children, get abortions, and subjected to some of the harshest bullying imaginable. Even children are subjected to what really amounts to slave labor by performing tasks for the church. Yet, as Wright points out, none of them would say they are being abused. They would claim that they personally are the problem, and would never imagine their leaders, particularly David Miscavige, is an insane and brutal individual.

I plan to eventually pick up the physical copy of the book to have as a reference. But if you can listen to the audio edition, I would highly recommend it.

If I may give a thought or two about audio books. I have come to realize the abilities of a reader can make or break a book’s presentation. I’ve listened to several audio books the last few years and I have come to have personal favorites, like George Guidall. The reader for this book, Morton Sellers, did a superb job. He had a clear voice that was precise with his pronunciation. I loved his steady, matter-of-fact cadence when he read. As far as I know, this is his first book, because I can’t find any others he has read. I hope to hear more from him.

Defining Deviancy

By way of introduction, I originally wrote this post during the prop. 8 debate in California. At the time, I got into a bit of a back-and-forth on a local discussion board with some crabby young progressives on the subject of gay marriage. That exchange led to a number of those commenters challenging my views of homosexuality and how I argued against it. I took a number of their key responses and wrote the following post

In light of the recent SCOTUS decision, I thought I would repost it.

flag

I have been receiving a bit of push back from some young progressive bloggers in my town. They have taken great umbrage with my perspective on homosexuals and homosexual behavior. All of my views are walking contradictions of inconsistent strawman argumentation, or so they say.

In other words, I’ve been receiving lots of that famous progressive openness, tolerance, and hugs.

Allow me to respond to some of the love.

It’s a great big universe out there, and I can’t believe that any higher power wouldn’t want his/her/it’s children to be completely open and accepting of each other without judgment.

I am always surprised how those who are non-practicing Christians (or any religion for that matter) have a more robust knowledge of theology than the actual Christian being criticized. Yet such is a typical response from our general secular society who think matters of religion and faith are to be simply equated to a person’s favorite ice cream.

“I can’t believe it! You rocky-road people are so narrow-minded and bigoted. You know there are other people who don’t like rocky-road and what about those people allergic to nuts? You bigot.”

When they speak of judgment, they often resort to the one text they are for sure to have memorized: Judge not lest you be judged. As if citing that verse trumps all arguments.

Sure. I’m to conclude that God doesn’t want us to offer any value judgment or exercise any sort of moral discernment when it comes to matters He has actually addressed in the Bible. The expression of human sexuality and the sin of homosexual sex being one of those major issues He has addressed.

To assume that homosexuality is a choice of deviants and sinners is absolutely preposterous and tells me that those who do adhere to that ideal obviously haven’t really taken the time to know homosexuals enough to understand that it’s not a choice.

Here we get to the heart of debate: what defines deviant behavior.

It’s believed homosexual behavior should never be criticized as “deviant behavior” because homosexuals are oriented naturally to have a same-sex attraction. It’s their personal, internal appetite to have a same-sex attraction. They can’t help the way they are born.

In the mind of the homosexual activist, telling homosexuals they need to change their desires would be like telling a black person he needs to become a Chinese guy. Or in this case, telling a heterosexual man to stop being attracted to women and start being attracted to men. It’s not an issue in which a person can merely cut his hair and put on a suit and tie. We’re dealing with a person’s genetic, mental make-up.

But that is where the defense of homosexual orientation runs up against serious problems, because that argument is utterly subjective.

Allow me to raise the specter of pedophilia.

As soon as I did with my progressive detractors, they angrily renounced my comparison. But I am not comparing all homosexuals to pedophiles. I’m addressing orientation; and there’s a difference. Why is the pedophile’s orientation any less of a legitimate, internal sexual attraction as the same-sex orientation?

Honestly?

The pedophile’s orientation is labeled deviant even by homosexual activists. But why? Just because they are sexually oriented toward teens and pubescent children? I am in no way advocating for NAMBLA, and again, I am not saying all gays are pedophiles, but why do we condemn their “orientation” just because it is directed toward children, and not the orientation of adult men directed toward other men?

One is considered a deviant disorder, the other is not. The pedophile’s “orientation” is a “disorder,” but a man who seeks to surgically alter his body to be a woman is not a “disorder” but a minority in need of equal rights protection? Really? A person may retort, “But it’s his choice to have a sex change, the child doesn’t have a choice!” But is it a good thing for our society to allow a person to physically harm him or herself in such a way because it’s his or her choice?

They most certainly are unrelated. You simplify your theological philosophy by lumping those who are not heterosexual in with wonton [sic] hedonists, sexual deviants, those with sexual obsession and other disorders that may manifest themselves in obsessive sexual behavior.

I am curious how one distinguishes the concept of “obsessive” from the idea of “orientation.” As a red-blooded, all-American teenager, I was sexually obsessed with girls, yet I didn’t consider such an obsession a “disorder” requiring psycho-therapy. Of course, that obsession never “manifested” itself in any illicit behavior. Believe me, I really, really wished for it to have manifested, but usually other factors prevented it from taking effect, particularly my absence from the heavy drinking parties put on by my peers. But my obsession was still there, and was still extremely real.

Point of order – pedophilia involves forcing sexual acts on individuals who are not old enough to consent.

Well, to be more precise, pederasty involves a sexual relationship between an adult individual and a younger individual, usually a teenager. It is often falsely assumed that sexually active children are not old enough to consent. But what does age have to do with consent? Teens consent to lots of different sexual activities in our modern society. In fact our glandolatrous popular culture encourages such consensual activity. The lack of cultural awareness on the part of my accusers is amazing to behold.

Do you consider a 14 year old sophisticated? I certainly don’t. I know quite a few 14 year olds who think they are, but it’s certainly not the case. You’re attempting to equate the definition of marriage with the definition of personhood, which deals with the ability to reason and process as a mature adult.

I had suggested that if what constitutes the act of pedophilia is the legality of the “child’s” age, then does lowering the age of consent now take away the stigma of pedophilia?

Contrary to what my detractor states here, there certainly are sophisticated 14 year olds out in the world who willingly have sexual relationships with older adults, and to deny this fact again reveals a woeful lack of awareness of our youth culture. Spain has their legal age of consent set at 13, where as Austria at the age of 14. Those two countries certainly believe 13 and 14 year olds are mature enough to reason and process as a mature adult so as to have a sexual relationship with a person twice their age.

But then the objector shifts the goal posts from being about age to being about the ability to reason and process as a mature adult. This is another subjective objection. I believe I can make a rather compelling case that Lindsay Lohan lacks the ability to reason and process like an adult. In fact, the entire celebrity culture whose disastrous personal lives are played out before the public in the magazines at the check-out lines at Wal-Mart lack the ability to reason and process like adults. But they certainly can consent to sexual relationships, which are often the focus of their disastrous personal lives.

Nothing like making the issue of people who are of the same gender about nothing more than the act of sex. I would ask Mr. Butler based on these assertions are you only married for the purpose of sexual intercourse? It is certainly what you are boiling down those who are of the same gender and wanting to be married to be all about. Keeping them from marrying does not somehow eliminate the sexual acts of homosexuality which is really what you are railing about.

Honestly? Yes, I did get married for the purpose of have sexual intercourse. Why is that a bad thing? I fear God and He has specifically told us how and when we as His creatures are to engage in lawful and healthy intercourse: Within the bonds of marriage as He has defined it between only one man and one woman.

The comment implies people “marry” one another for more than just sex. Such things as companionship and love. Certainly that is true. I love the companionship I have with my wife. But let’s be frank: companionship and love can be experienced without the need for a sexual relationship. Is the relationship of a married couple unable to experience sexual intercourse due to physical limitations make their companionship and love for one another any less meaningful without the sex?

So yes, it is the homosexual sex I am railing about, because let’s face it, it is the same-sex sexual attraction and activity that defines what homosexuality is, and it is what God has specifically marked down as sinful as I have argued in more detail with this post.

Studies in Eschatology [7]

Restoring Israel

I had written on the subject of the Kingdom of God (KoG) as it related to the NT Church.

I believe the exegesis of the biblical texts reveal to us that the KoG is distinct from the NT Church. Moreover, the KoG is eschatological, or in other words, it awaits a future fulfillment at the return of God’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who will reign over the entire earth.

Yet, in the intern, as God’s eschatological purposes are being worked out according to a divinely established time table, God is calling out by the means of the gospel a spiritual body of believers comprised of both Jews and gentiles who are united with Jesus Christ by faith. They presently live according to the principles of the coming eschatological kingdom as they submit themselves to the authority of Jesus as the rightful Lord of God’s kingdom.

As I noted in my last post addressing the KoG, those of the covenant Reformed equate the KoG with the NT Church. The primary reason for this view is the idea that the NT Church fulfills the promises God made to OT Israel about making them a great nation and a great kingdom. Whereas the Jews had in mind a geo-political kingdom established on earth, God really had in mind just a spiritual kingdom comprised of Jews and gentiles from all over the world united in one spiritual body under the headship of Christ, the NT Church. Thus, those promises of Israel being restored in the land and of being established in a national, geo-political kingdom were fulfilled in Christ building His spiritual kingdom all over the world through the disciple-making activities of the Christian church.

Along with their view of the NT Church fulfilling the OT promises made to Israel shaping their convictions concerning the KoG, the covenant Reformed will also argue that no where in the NT is Israel promised restoration to their land in a political kingdom. That is a significance absence in the NT, for if the KoG was a yet future geo-political kingdom, then much would be said about it. In reality, next to nothing is stated about a Jewish restoration by any of the NT authors.

I would like to respond to that claim. I believe much more is said about Israel being restored to their land than what the covenant Reformed will allow. I will divide my study into two parts. With this first post, I wish to consider the promise to Israel of being restored to their promised land, and then with the next post, address a few key individual passages often appealed to as suggesting the KoG is spiritual and has no physical dimension attached to it at all.

The Promise of Restoration

When we search the Scripture we discover that God’s promises to Israel are quite plain. Beginning in the OT, God specifically told Israel through His prophets that He will set up a kingdom on this earth which will be everlasting in duration. This is promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 (c.f. Psalm 2, 72), and reiterated through a number of prophets including Isaiah 2:2-4; 11; Daniel 2:34-45; Micah 4:1-8 just to list a few. Additionally, that kingdom will involve the establishment of the nation of Israel to a special place in that kingdom. See for example Joel 3:18-21; Amos 9:14, 15; and Zechariah 14:16-20.

Coming into the NT, however, those OT passages are the ones spiritualized in order to speak of spiritual salvation only. There are a few reasons why the covenant Reformed draw the conclusions they do with their interpretation of those promises. One of the primary reason is because it is wrongly perceived such an idea of restoration creates division among “God’s people,” and places the Jews in a favored status with God. Paul, they point out, argues against any favoritism with God in Romans 9-11 and through the book of Galatians, and declares salvation is not based upon ethnicity or birth right, but squarely on the grace of God alone.

To suggest Israel will be restored to a favored status in a physical national kingdom cuts against Paul’s whole argumentation that a person’s national heritage gains that individual nothing with God. Thus, it is concluded in light of NT teaching (the greater revelation which trumps, and so reinterprets, the OT revelation), those OT promises must be understood in a different fashion than one of being fulfilled “literally” as non-covenant Reformed believers insist. A person can see how hermeneutical presuppositions come into play here.

But, I believe there is no warrant to employ a spiritualized hermeneutic to those prophetic promises. I think the objections by the covenant Reformed fail to take into consideration some important features related to prophecy and fulfillment.

First, I believe it fails to distinguish between what I would call a salvific unity and a unique diversity in God’s purposes. By that I mean God has set forth one avenue of eternal salvation in which a person is made right with God. That of course is through God’s Son, the appointed King of the Kingdom, Jesus Christ. All men are made right before God in exactly the same way: by grace through faith alone in Christ. Being a gentile or Jew, or a man or woman, or whatever, does not confer a salvific advantage in this sense. Yet, in God’s eschatological plans, each ethnic group has a designated purpose to play. There is a unified diversity. Even though men of all tribes and tongues will stand before God united in Christ, they are still men of different tribes and tongues. There is no reason to think their ethnic factors will be erased.

Additionally, there is sound biblical reason to see those eschatological promises of restoration transcend both testaments and across Jewish/gentile lines, and that has to do with the fulfillment of the New Covenant. Turning to Jeremiah 31:31-37, God promises a new covenant to Israel in which He will put His laws on the hearts of His people, Israel (31:33ff). The new covenant entails a heart change in the participants of that covenant so that they receive a spiritual motivation to obey God.

Coming to the NT, we see that new covenant established and initiated by Christ on the Cross. Though the new covenant was originally promised to national Israel, there was an unanticipated spiritual fulfillment of it in the formation of the NT Church which takes in both Jews and gentiles. Hebrews 8:8-12 and 10:16, 17 address the spiritual dimensions of salvation the new covenant confers upon God’s chosen people due to Christ’s greater priesthood.

The covenant Reformed appeal to the passages in Hebrews as completed and a total fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. In fact, some would argue the “Israel” spoken of by Jeremiah was really the “Church” which God had in mind when He revealed the new covenant through the prophet. Because of that interpretation, they redefine the “house of Israel” mentioned in Jeremiah as being the NT Church.

But there is no reason to re-interpret the language of Jeremiah’s prophecy when one understands the two facets of this prophecy being unfolded. The first involving Christ securing the salvific promises of the prophecy, what is addressed in Hebrews, but secondly, the eschatological prophecy of a national restoration for the nation of Israel.

Note with the citation of Jeremiah’s prophecy in Hebrews, the writer does not quote the remainder of the prophet’s oracle, Jeremiah 31:35-40, where God promises that the “seed of Israel shall not cease from being a nation” and “God will not cast off the seed of Israel,” and “Jerusalem will not be plucked up or thrown down any more forever.” This is language of a future national restoration in an eschatological kingdom, not merely a spiritual fulfillment encompassing only salvation.

But, what about any specific restoration of land promises in the NT? The covenant Reformed are quick to point out no direct NT passage speaks to Israel being restored to their land. However, I believer that is not entirely accurate. Robert Saucy observes that the land is always connected to the nation of Israel in the OT. Thus, any reference to God’s continued concern for the nation of Israel would most certainly have a territorial aspect [Saucy, 50].

Moreover, as Bruce Compton points out, Paul wrote of a future deliverance of the nation in Romans 11:26, 27; a deliverance which fulfills God’s promise of a new covenant with national, ethnic Israel [Compton, 35]. Granted, some covenant Reformed guys like Robertson and Reymond attempt to interpret “Israel” in this passage as being God’s elect, both Jews and gentiles, or the salvation of the Jews taking place throughout the history of the Church, but there is no exegetical warrant to reinterpret “Israel” in such a fashion. To do so represents an allegiance to the presuppositions of a theological system, not the intended meaning of the biblical text. It should also be noted that Paul cites Isaiah 59: 20,21 here in Romans 11:26, 27. Isaiah speaks of the deliverer (Jesus Christ) coming to Zion, a title for God’s holy city which is in the physical land of Israel.

However, the most comprehensive NT discussion of Israel’s restoration to their land is found in Luke’s gospel and his record of Acts. John Mclean states that when we survey Luke’s writings he used “Israel” 12 times in his gospel and with each time it clearly means national Israel and/or its people [Mclean, 222]. This meaning also continues through out the book of Acts as well.

Without going into a whole list of passages from Luke-Acts, allow me to concentrate on one passage in Acts. In Acts 1:1-8, right before Jesus was taken back into heaven, some of his disciples asked him if he would at this time restore the kingdom to Israel. Thoughts of Israel’s kingdom were perhaps fresh on their minds, because according to Acts 1:3, the Lord spent 40 days speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Christ responds to their inquiry, not by correcting them as to their misunderstanding about the kingdom, but by telling them it was not for them to know the times and the seasons which the father put in His own authority.

The typical covenant Reformed response to that question by the disciples is to say they misunderstood what Jesus meant by “Israel.” The land promised to them wasn’t the land of Israel per se, but as verse 8 reveals, it was the “land” of the whole world as they went out proclaiming the gospel after the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2. However, throughout His ministry, Jesus answered questions and corrected misconceptions people had. The Gospels record more than one hundred questions were asked of Jesus. With all those question asked of Him, only two of them, one by the high priest (Matt. 26:62, 63), and another by Pilate (Matt. 27:13), Jesus did not answer directly. With all the others, He responded to them with full answers, many times correcting the wrong thinking of His audience [Mclean, 219]. Thus, to argue that the disciples were misunderstanding His teaching on the Kingdom for the last 40 days prior to that question (Acts 1:3), is a bit of a stretch. I believe it is noteworthy to observe how Jesus did not offer any correction to the disciples’ misunderstanding with the definition of “Israel” or their question about the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel.

Moreover, Peter continues to anticipate the restoration of the kingdom to Israel in his sermon recorded in Acts 3:17-23. He tells his Jewish audience that they must repent to receive the times of refreshing from the Lord, and then they will experience the times of restoration of all things. These “times of restoration,” states Peter, were spoken of by the prophets. In other words, those OT prophecies that promise a restoration of Israel.

Now, there is still a question about the spiritual descriptions of the KoG and the land of Israel mentioned in the NT. For example, Abraham being said to be waiting for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:8-16). That passage and others like it strongly suggest that the hope of God’s saints is not in restoration to a physical land and a physical city, Jerusalem, but rests in the certainty of a spiritual kingdom. Do those passages really teach that? That is what I will take up in the second portion of this study.

*******
Sources

Craig Blaising, “Premillennialism,” in Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond, ed. Darrel Bock. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1999).

R. Bruce Compton, “Dispensationalism, The Church, and the New Covenant,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 8 (Fall 2003): 3-48. online here

Larry R. Helyer, “Luke and the Restoration of Israel,” JETS (Sept. 1993): 317-329.

John A McLean, “Did Jesus Correct the Disciples’ View of the Kingdom?,” Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (April-June 1994): 215-227.

Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Thomas Nelson: Nashville TN, 1998).

O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. (P&R Publishers: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2000).

Robert Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism. (Zondervan Publishing: Grand Rapids MI, 1993).

Echo Zoe Interview

I recently had the wonderful privilege of being interviewed once again by Andy Olson of Echo Zoe radio. The last time I visited with Andy, we discussed King James Onlyism. This time around, we discussed my articles I recently remastered and reposted interacting with Chaz Bufe, the blues guitar playing, anarchist atheist.

Check it out: 20 Ways to Answer the Fool

 

About Those Video Ads on My Blog

adsI moved from Blogger to WordPress back around September, 2012. The move was a semi-painless one and I have really grown to love the new platform.

One of the new feature that I have had to deal with is the presence of video ads occasionally popping up at the bottom of my various posts.

They are part of the WP blogging complex and are meant to help defray the cost of offering a free blogging platform to users. I make no money off of them, nor do I have any say as to which kind of ads will run with my posts. As far as I know they are random, though I can see them being sophisticated enough that the WP bot generating them keys specific ads to play as they relate to the subject of my posts or the use of particular words.

As the administrator, I don’t see those ads, but I know they are there. My regular readers and visitors are the ones who see them. I don’t even know if they automatically play or how they work specifically, but obviously I know they show up at the bottom of the posts because WP tells me that “An advertisement may appear here” when I am compiling and editing a post.

Every once in a while, I may have a concerned reader drop me a friendly note alerting me that an inappropriate ad was playing at the bottom of a post he was reading. I thank the reader for his concern and basically lay out the explanation I noted above: WP chooses the ads, I don’t, and there is nothing I can do about it really. I have only had maybe one or two vicious hater trolls go to twitter telling everyone what a hypocrite I am for being a finger-wagging moralist do-gooder working for John MacArthur and Grace to You making money off sexually explicit video ads. I ignore those individuals because I know sensible people are more discerning than that.

At any rate, the only thing I can do to get rid of the ads is pay a yearly fee of 100 bucks that would have them removed. I also get an improved post editor and some other perks, but as a father taking care of 6 other folks and a spoiled rotten cockapoo, laying down a 100 dollar yearly fee for a webpage is a difficult thing to do. I’d have to deal with the silent glares of my wife who considers my blogging to be a quaint hobby like stamp collecting and would bluntly remind me that clothes don’t grow on trees.

However. Having said all of that, there is one thing you readers can do. It just takes a moment of your time. If you happen to see an inappropriate or risque video ad at the bottom of a post, you can click a little link that says something like “report this ad.” Go to the link HERE and read the instructions, particularly the bottom paragraph that explains how reporting ads works.

– You’ll need to send an email to the support@wordpress.com people.

– copy the link of my article where you saw the ad.

– And create a screen cap of the actual ad. (I’m assuming you all know how to do that).

Place the copied link and the screen cap of the ad into the email and hopefully that will help in cutting them down a bit.

It would be much appreciated.