Suicide Solution

I wrote this up several years ago when Earth Day was becoming a social media phenomenon. Still relevant and timely.

molech

A group calling itself the Optimum Population Trust claims humanity is having way too many babies.

All the extra children are badly ruining the carbon offset of our planet and hence having an impact upon global warming.

The math is simple: More babies = higher CO2 levels = higher global temperatures = more displaced polar bears floating around on itty-bitty icebergs.

The solution to this problem offered by the OPT is for people to stop having babies. If you must have a baby, maybe one is okay; possibly two, but certainly not three.

My family, by the way, has already broken the quota.

The fine folks of the Sea Shepherd Society also believe humanity has become a disease of sorts upon mother earth. Like a raging flesh eating staph infection or an Ebola outbreak, the presence of all these people is causing the earth to break out into a fever.

I must say I believe this is a disturbing ideology, but I see such suicidal tendencies as a logical conclusion to radical, secular humanism. When a worldview places the material world in higher value over human life so that one is willing to deprive him or herself of the blessing of children, and their own existence, nihilistic atheism has reached its end game. The final step is to ask for volunteers to sacrifice themselves for the earth by committing mass euthanasia. If none are prepared to come forward, and this environmental death cult were to have governmental power, they could always extinguish any extra children by force.

I didn’t know environmentalists were so down on kids.

Soylent Green is People!

In truth, an environmentally friendly, child-free world is becoming a reality. This suicidal humanism has already taken firm root in the hearts and minds of Europeans and is slowly doing the job suggested by the Optimum Population Trust. In a society totally abandoned to cradle-to-grave welfare, living carefree lives, working no more than 28 hours a week, attending nude beaches during that paid, month long, mandatory vacation, having children around can really cramp your style.

Couples are having no more than one child as it is. If the trend continues, Western Europe will have bred itself out within 40 to 50 years. That mindset is growing here in the good old U.S. of A. as well, particularly in the finger waging from our university elite. So, Americans are slowly coming up from behind and closing in our European kin.

I believe the environmental global warming scare is the secular atheists pagan religion.

The physical earth is the god worshiped. It is a god that can be proven, because it is a tangible object men can physically witness and test.

Evolution is the religion used to explain this god, how it birthed life and takes care of its creatures. Occasionally, the god acts displeased and displays its fury against the sinful creatures by means of storms, floods, and famine.

However, specific, often self-appointed holy men or prophets, say for example Al Gore, claim to have special knowledge about how the god has been sinned against. The only thing that will appease the god is a sacrifice of some sort. In this case, the appeasement is a radical change in our standard and way of living, including the sacrifice of a the third child if necessary.

But this god is capricious and fickle and certainly unpredictable when it comes to issues of morality. Why should I even obey it in the manner the Optimum evangelists preach? If suicide is the only viable solution to appease this god, I think I will enjoy the love and laughter of my extra kids and take my chances.

Inerrancy from the Peanut Gallery

galleryI had a commenter leave a few challenges against the doctrine of inerrancy under a recent post of mine. He asked in such a way that he comes across pious and reverent of God’s Word, but I believe he is insincere.

Knowing that many readers will encounter similar individuals, I thought I would offer my responses here on the front page of the blog. I won’t respond to everything, but here are some selected comments.

It might be helpful for you to define what you mean by “inerrancy”?

I thought I provided a clear enough definition in my posts, but if a formal definition is required, inerrancy would simply be “The Bible is without error.”

Knowing that my detractor will be far from satisfied with such a simplistic and easy definition, I will expand upon it a bit more by citing Wayne Grudem. He writes at great length on the attributes of Scripture in his systematic theology [chapters 2-8, 47-140], and sums up the doctrine of inerrancy by stating,

We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Samuel 7:28; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Therefore, all words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 12:6; 119:89, 96; Proverbs 30:5; Matthew 24:35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17:17) [Grudem, 90].

The doctrine of inerrancy is brought into focus as we consider what the whole of Scripture teaches about itself. Inerrancy, then, does not exist as a stand alone doctrine, but is supported by the doctrine of inspiration and infallibility, doctrines affirmed throughout the entirety of the Bible. An inspired, or God breathed revelation, will be both infaillible and inerrant, because it reflects the character of the holy, truthful God who breathed out Scripture.

The Bible makes zero claims to inerrancy. Not one. Not for “the Bible,” not even for “scripture.” The claims to “inerrancy” are a human construct, not a biblical one. Not something “from God…” at least not in any direct manner. It is, at best, a belief reached using human reasoning, extrapolating the idea from (very little in) the Bible.

That is a typical claim by biblio-skeptics. Jack Rogers, who once fought against Harold Lindsell over the authority of Scripture, popularized the urban legend that the concept of inerrancy was an invention by Fundamentalists in the late 1800s and early 1900s when they were battling modernistic creep in the church.

But anyone who is just the wee bit familiar with church history knows that Christians have always believed in inerrancy because the Bible affirms it. The claim made by my detractor, that the Bible “makes zero claims to inerrancy,” causes me to wonder how much of the Bible he has actually read, or at least, paid attention to when he read it.

While it is true that the exact word “inerrancy” is not directly used in the Bible, the Bible presupposes the doctrine of inerrancy throughout its pages, and appeals to it as a final, infallible source of authority. Both Jews and Christians have historically affirmed that presupposition.

Time prevents me from fleshing this out in full, but to highlight a handful of significant truth:

The biblical writers, both in the OT and the NT, refer to the Bible as the “Word of God” or the “Word of the LORD,” and when speaking to the authority of Scripture, use such expressions as “it is written,” and “thus saith the Lord” hundreds of times. Also, the Scriptures are called “the law of the LORD,” “the testimony of the LORD,” “the commandments of the LORD,” and “the judgments of the LORD” throughout the Old Testament. In fact, Psalm 119, the longest Psalm that specifically exalts the authority of Scripture, describes the Bible multiple times by repeatedly using those descriptors and variations.

Coming to the NT, Jesus had an extremely high view of Scripture’s authority, infallibility, and inerrancy. He held the OT to be historically true, completely authoritative, and divinely inspired. He believed that the God of the OT was living, and the OT Scriptures were the teachings of the living God. When Jesus taught, it is clear He believed what Scripture said is what God Almighty had said.

Consider that Jesus treated the OT as genuine historical narrative, not allegory or moral tales. The Bible for Jesus recorded history that really happened in time and space. He refers to Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah (Matthew 24:37), Abraham (John 8:56), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24), Lot (Luke 17:28-32), Issac and Jacob (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28), the giving of manna (John 6:31, 49, 58), The serpent on the pole (John 3:14), David (Mark 2:25; 12:36; Luke 6:3-4; 20:42), Solomon (Matthew 6:29; Luke 11:31), Elijah (Luke 4:25-26), Elisha (Luke 4:27), Jonah (Matthew 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32) and Zechariah (Luke 11:51).  In fact, in Luke 11:51, Jesus had a clear sense of the scope and unity of biblical history when He says, “From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.”

Moreover, Jesus repeatedly refers to Moses as the law giver, (Matthew 8:4; 19:8; Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:5; 12:26; Luke 5:14; 20:37; John 5:46; 7:19) and the historicity of the OT events. Jesus even appeals to Genesis 1 and 2 as the authority on what God has said about marriage and divorce. Additionally, he speaks of Noah and the worldwide flood (Matthew 24:37), the divine destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 11:23-24), and notes the demise of Lot’s wife (Luke 17:26-32).

He also held high the infallible authority of the OT to correct the Pharisees and Sadducees when they attempted to challenge Him, appealed to the OT as a guide to ethics, refuted the devil by appealing to the OT, and when Christ appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke says that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” (Luke 24:25-47), He showed how all the OT Scripture pointed to and were fulfilled in Him. All of those conversations would be questionable, if not entirely in doubt, if Jesus did not believe the Bible was inerrant.

The NT writers also had an equal view of the OT being their supreme authority. Without having to recount the many citations of the OT found in the key epistles of the NT, it is clear that all the apostles recognized the Scriptures were sufficiently inerrant as they recounted history and ethics.  They were considered the “very words of God,” (Romans 3:2).

Take for example Paul’s well-known proclamation about the Scriptures in his second letter to Timothy where he writes, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If the Scriptures are errant, there is no point in appealing to them in the fashion that Paul did. An errant Scripture has no real authority to offer any meaningful correction or training in righteousness because it is constantly in doubt.

The Bible is a human compilation. Humans decided that this Protestant collection of 66 books are “as Scripture” for us and we hold them to be sacred texts.

Regrettably, that comment is typical of many churched individuals in our day, and demonstrates a profound ignorance of church history throughout many so-called evangelical congregations.

The key problem with the objection, and coming from a person who insists he loves the Bible and has read and studied it for decades, is how the divine element involved in the formation of Scripture is absent or intentionally removed out of the discussion. If the Bible is God-breathed, as I just noted above, then God’s fingerprints are on the development, collection, transmission, and even preservation of those documents that are Scripture. God would hardly breathe out Scripture, and then allow it to fall through the cracks of time, becoming corrupted and thus uncertain or lost.

The objection merely fixates upon the fact men were involved with identifying the books that form the canon of both the OT and the NT. Yet it is seen in the very pages of Scripture that while men were the instruments in proclaiming and then documenting the Word of God that became what we know as Scripture, God’s Spirit was always involved in the process of its writing, and then its identification, and eventual transmission.

God wanted to communicate with His redeemed people, and He specifically brought them to be a “people of the book.” That is true both in the OT as well as in the NT. Paul says for example in Romans 3:2, that Israel was entrusted with the oracles of God. An entire scribal class within the tribe of Levi was developed that maintained the writings of the OT. The Levitical priests were to read and teach the Scripture to the people.

While the formation of the NT may had been slightly different, the Christians in the early church were also a people of the book, and they began gathering the writing of men they knew were apostles. Within the first century, Christians were collecting the writings of Paul, the four Gospels, as well as other epistles, and circulating them among the various churches where groups of Christians would also copy those letters. Those collections became identified as the beginnings of what is today our NT.

There has been much written on the subject of the canon, but I am not surprised that my detractor seems oblivious to those studies, because he has such a low view of the doctrine of infallibility. Those who are interested, will benefit greatly from Michael Kruger, who is probably one of the leading authorities on the development of the canon. As an introduction for those wishing to have a better grasp answering objections about the canon of Scripture, Dr. Kruger has written a series of ten articles addressing misconceptions about the NT canon. Those who wish to dig deeper into this topic will greatly benefit from his book, Canon Revisited.

Moving to one final response,

I had written in this post the following statement,

durstGod safeguards the transmission of His written revelation through the thousands of copies handwritten by His people, both during the time of the OT and the time of the NT.

My detractor, writing in rebuttal stated, Can we agree that this is an unsupported human opinion, not a fact, and not in any way at all directly biblical?

It is not entirely clear what he believes is “unsupported human opinion.” Is it my assertion about God safeguarding the transmission of His revelation? Is my detractor now saying God doesn’t, or is perhaps powerless to, safeguard the transmission of His revelation? Or is it that he doesn’t believe God did it through the means of thousands of copies handwritten by His people?

I would firmly maintain that God most definitely has the ability to safeguard the transmission of His revelation. I mean, if we acknowledge that God is our sovereign creator, sustainer, and savior, He most certainly has the power to keep His divine revelation as contained in the pages of Scripture in the hands of His people down through the course of history.

Additionally, I further maintain that God used the means of His people to faithfully copy His revelation during the time of the OT and NT. And, as anyone knows who has the least bit of familiarity with textual criticism, the people of God who made those faithful copies did a remarkable job – dare I even say “miraculous” like there was a divine hand directing the process. The copying was so complete and well-done that even with the numerous, but inconsequential, textual variants, we can know with 100% accuracy what God originally stated.

Now does that mean there are no variants that are problematic and are debated among Christians over the centuries. Of course not. But it does show what I originally asserted: God has safeguarded the transmission of His revelation as it is contained in Scripture, and He has done so faithfully over the course of many years with the use of people copying thousands of manuscripts.

Studies in Eschatology [3]

Out With the Old, In With the New

The key factor separating the main eschatological systems is the hermeneutics employed to interpret scripture.

Hermeneutics is a fancy way to describe the principles or rules a person uses to study the Bible so as to determine and understand what it says.

Now, one would think every Christian would be in agreement as to the hermeneutics we use when studying the Bible. For the most part Christians are. Yet, when it comes to certain aspects of church polity and eschatology there is an obvious disagreement. What makes understanding those disagreements even more difficult is when the disagreeing groups all acknowledge the authority of God’s Word and sincerely seek to utilize similar hermeneutics to defend their conclusions.

For example, all groups pretty much affirm the need to approach Scripture with the historic-grammatical method of exegesis. That being, in order to properly understand a biblical text it must first be considered in the historic context in which the original author wrote it. Moreover, the student seeks to accurately handle the grammatical nuances of the original language in which the text was written so as to capture the meaning the author was attempting to convey to his readers. By using those two principles we draw the meaning out from the text, or what we call exegesis.

The disagreements regarding eschatology, then, is really not so much with how accurate or inaccurate one may be with his exegesis, but how he applies the exegetical data to the relevant eschatological passages. In this case, a person’s denominational traditions, as well as chosen theological presuppositions, often shape the application of those hermeneutics when applied to eschatological Scripture. The late theologian, Carl B. Hoch, notes, “The real culprit is theological systems that come into play and cause the exegesis of individual passages to differ” [Hoch, 267].

For instance, Sam Waldron is a Reformed Baptist who adheres to an amillennial view of eschatology. He complains bitterly against premillennialist John MacArthur’s definition of “literal” when applied to the prophetic portions of Scripture. Sam is insistent the word “literal” is “not so easy to define” and that John must “qualify the meaning of ‘literal interpretation'” to explain prophetic texts like Revelation [Waldron, 73, 74]. Both Waldron and MacArthur believe we need to understand the Bible “literally,” but both have a differing definition of “literal.” That difference is formed by theological presuppositions brought to the exegetical data.

I am endeavoring to interact with those disagreeing principles. I believe there are at least three major theological presuppositions fueling the areas of disagreement.

The priority of the NT over the OT
A typological approach to understanding prophecy and fulfillment
No distinction between Israel and the NT Church. 

Let me begin with the first: The priority of the NT over the OT.

Those who hold to the Reformed view of eschatology believe there is a logical priority of the New Testament over the Old Testament [Wells & Zaspel, 13]. So much so that the OT can be, and in some cases, should be, re-read and re-interpreted through the lens of the NT. There is reason for this logical priority: The NT is considered the greatest revelation; the apex or final revelation superseding the OT [Lehrer, 176]. Thus, because the NT is the final revelation of Jesus Christ, and the entire OT anticipates the coming of Christ, the only proper way to understand the OT is with the Christ of the NT directing us.

That interpretive principle attempts to answer the question as to whether the OT should be interpreted literally or spiritually [Feinberg, 110]. That is important to consider because a literal or spiritual interpretation plays heavily upon how we understand the OT promises and prophecies and how they are fulfilled in the NT. For example, will the promises by God to restore Israel to the land be fulfilled literally in a future millennium where Christ reigns in Jerusalem, or are they understood “literally” in a spiritual sense as being fulfilled in Christ establishing His Church in the whole world?

Note how that illustrates the distinction between Waldron’s view of “literal” and MacArthur’s view of “literal.” MacArthur’s view of “literal” means those OT promises given to the nation of Israel will be fulfilled “literally” with Israel being established as an ethnic, geo-political kingdom in the city of Jerusalem with Christ reigning over all the world. Waldron’s view, however, also believes the promises to Israel are “literally” fulfilled, but “literally” fulfilled in the coming of Christ to establish the NT Church.

The amillennialist, like Waldron, believes what he does because the NT writers seem to take those OT promises given by God to Israel where He tells them they will be established as a physical kingdom which will reign over all the earth, and then re-interpret those promises so as to apply them to the gospel work of the Church. As the gospel goes throughout the world by the Church’s evangelistic efforts, new converts are brought into the “Kingdom of God.” But it is apparent that this “kingdom” isn’t a geo-political kingdom, but a spiritual one made up of people from all over the world.

Consider another example. Theologian, Gary Long, represents the Reformed perspective of how Hebrews 11:9-16 is a clear illustration of the fuller, NT revelation reinterpreting the promises of the OT. He lists 5 NT maxims needful for guiding the interpretation of biblical prophecy [Long, 5]. The second maxim he says is necessary for interpreting prophecy states, “The NT teaches that Abraham looked for a heavenly country, which God promised him, not a future interim earthly country,” and then he cites Hebrews 11:9-10 [Long, 8]. I will consider the Reformed perspective of Hebrews 11:9-16 in a later post, but suffice it to say, Long believes the passage is a clear NT reinterpretation of the OT land promises given to Abraham in Genesis. It is so clear, according to Long, that he makes it a key hermeneutical maxim for interpreting prophecy in general.

Thus, those who hold to Reformed eschatology believe the principle of the NT priority over the OT because they are convinced Jesus Christ and the apostles utilized that principle in their teaching and writing. It is called the Christological and apostolic hermeneutic. If Peter, for example, took OT titles once applied to the nation of Israel and transferred those titles so as to describe the new relationship the NT Church has with God on account of Christ’s work on the cross (1 Peter 2:9, 10), then it is only reasonable to conclude that principle should be used to interpret all the OT prophecies and promises to Israel. That is particularly true with regards to eschatological passages in the OT and how we understand their fulfillment in the NT.

This hermeneutical approach to understanding the OT does have a compelling appeal to it. However, I believe the Christological/apostolic hermeneutic that gives “logical” priority of the NT to re-interpret the OT is fraught with at least four significant problems.

1) Consistency. First of all, the NT writers are not always consistent with their interpretation of the OT. S. Lewis Johnson once did a study of how the NT uses the OT, and he demonstrated an inconsistent pattern of OT interpretation in the manner a Reformed eschatology requires. New Testament authors appeal to passages from the OT in a literal sense (the “MacArthur” understanding of “literal”), sometimes in a typological sense, and also in a direct fulfillment sense.

Certainly as God progressively revealed His divine purposes from one generation to the next through the ministries of the prophets, His revelation came into sharper focus with the coming of Christ. We see NT writers drawing out unique application from the OT on account of Christ’s coming, but they are not totally re-reading the OT with a new hermeneutic so as to strip it of all of what the original author’s intended to convey. Hence, the idea there is an over-arching, historic redemptive hermeneutic, or some Christological/apostolic hermeneutic which re-interprets OT passages, is really not found.

2) Perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity has the idea of clarity of understanding. If it is true OT passages have a deeper, hidden meaning that isn’t correctly understood UNTIL the NT came along to interpret the passages correctly, how could the people of Israel who originally read the passage possibly have understood any significant portion of the OT? How would they have known if they were understanding the prophecy of a prophet clearly as it states, or if the prophecy was really irrelevant to them because they are only a shadow of a greater reality yet to come some 600 years later, or whatever? Old Testament prophecies would be meaningless to them.

But, a lack of perspicuity leads to a couple of other problems,

3) The Integrity of Scripture. The idea that the NT can re-interpret OT passages so as to reveal a correct meaning of a passage can shatter the integrity of Scripture.
Consider the typical Reformed understanding of the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31. The entire passage from Jeremiah 31:31-40 makes it clear the new covenant promised by God through the prophet is made with Israel and Judah. The Reformed perspective, however, points to how the book of Hebrews applies that passage to the Church, and even though the original prophecy has the people of Israel and Judah as the recipients of the new covenant, the NT tells us the prophet Jeremiah was really speaking to a picture of the People of God. The prophecy was fulfilled with the real people of God, the Church, the Body of Christ [Lehrer, 174]. Swanson observes in response to that view of the new covenant that even though Israel may have thought the promises of Jeremiah applied to their nation, it wasn’t really true; God had something else in mind [Swanson, 161]. But that places God’s promises in the realm of dishonesty.

and then,

4) Authorial Intent. Adding a bit more to the previous point about textual integrity, when we read passages like Jeremiah 31, the true intent of the author is clear in that he is stating God will do such and such a thing with the nation of Israel. Adding a foreign meaning to the passage by re-interpreting it from an outside source, not only jeopardizes the text’s original, authorial integrity, it changes the author’s original intent for writing what he did.

Now, does that mean the NT doesn’t provide us with any insight on how to understand the OT? Of course not. The NT does offer commentary on the OT, as well as add additional applications that may not have been completely revealed during the OT [Vlach, 18, 19]. We just don’t make the NT the starting point for understanding the OT passages. The OT is not dependent upon the NT to re-interpret it according to an apostolic hermeneutic. The foundational starting point for understanding the OT passages are the OT passages themselves. A faithful student of God’s Word will seek to determine the meaning of the OT passages in question first, then see how the NT may utilize those passages with fuller revelation. Thus, the progress of revelation from lesser to the greater does not “nullify or transfer the meaning of Old Testament passages in a way that goes against what the Old Testament writers intended” [Vlach, 19].

*******
Sources

William Barrick, “New Covenant Theology and the Old Testament Covenants,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, Fall 2007. Online here.

Paul Feinberg, “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments (Crossway Books: Westchester IL, 1988).

Carl B. Hoch, All Things New: The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1995).

S. Lewis Johnson, The Old Testament in the New: An argument for Biblical Inspiration (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI, 1980).

Steve Lehrer, New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered (self-published, 2006).

Gary Long, Context! Evangelical Views of the Millennium Examined (Great Unpublished, Charleston SC, 2001, 2nd ed. 2002)

Dennis Swanson, “Introduction to New Covenant Theology,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, Fall 2007. Online here.

David L. Turner, “The Continuity of Scripture and Eschatology: Key Hermeneutical Issues,” Grace Theological Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1985).

Samuel E. Waldron, MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response (Reformed Baptist Academic Press: Owensboro KY, 2008).


Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel,
New Covenant Theology (New Covenant Media, Fredrick MD, 2002).

Michael J. Vlach, Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths (Theological Studies Press, Los Angeles CA, 2008).

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [14]

Is Christianity Misogynistic?

I continue once again examining the arguments of blues guitar playing, anti-Christian, Chaz Bufe, written in his self-published work, 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

In his 16th point, Chaz claims Christianity is misogynistic. “Misogynistic” is a fancy word meaning “woman hater.” This particular entry is a bit long, so I refer the reader here to read it in its entirety.

Chaz writes in his opening sentence, “Misogyny is fundamental to the basic writings of Christianity.” Really? Woman hating is the one thing that permeates all the writings of Christianity?  I always get a laugh from the person who hates my faith and insists he or she would have nothing to do with such nonsense, but then pretends to be enough of an expert to educate me on what I’m supposed to believe.

Any person who genuinely thinks misogyny is fundamental to Christianity is either,

a) cherry-picking selective citations from the Bible without any thought of context within a Christian worldview or,

b) has a limited view of world history and,

c) certainly has not traveled anywhere beyond the immediate borders of his or her hometown, let alone anywhere in the world.

I would venture a wild guess and say all of those apply to Chaz, at least the first two.

In order to “prove” his thesis, Chaz moves on to quote, out-of-context of course, Paul’s words to wives in Ephesians 5, a few OT passages that speak to the “uncleanness” of women, and then lists other similar passages from the Bible like 1 Timothy 2:11,12, and 1 Corinthians 11:3. Chaz insists those passages and other like them are responsible for the oppression of women throughout the history of the world down to our current day where women are not allowed to pastor churches. He also presents some citations from the sermons of church fathers like Tertullian, who allegedly railed against the disobedience of Eve in the garden of Eden. Those sermons, insists Chaz, are  filled with venomous misogyny.

One amusing part of Chaz’s point is how he buys into the inflated number of “millions” of witches burned during the Inquisition and the myth about the English common law allowing husbands to beat their wives.

First, regarding the witch burnings. Chaz leveled those bogus charges under a previous point in which he accused Christianity of cruelty. As I noted when I answered him then, the number of young women burned at the stake is highly exaggerated, more like in the tens of thousands rather than millions, and that is over a course of 300 plus years. Additionally, it was the so-called “superstitious” church who put a stop to much of the witch burning, not “intellectual” anarchist atheists, as Chaz would have us believe.

Moving to the charge about English law allowing husbands to beat their wives is also another urban legend created by feminist. Sort of like the claim more women are abused on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day. Christiana Hoff Sommers has done a fine job of debunking the “rule of thumb” myth in her book Who Stole Feminism?, and showing how it is the invention of fevered feministic anti-traditionalism. Read the section here.

Certainly there have been individual cases in history past where judges favored an abusive husband over his wife, but the true “rule of thumb” among law courts both in England and America was to punish abusive husbands who battered their wives. That protection of women is a product of Christianity elevating the place of women in God’s kingdom, and it has been Christians who have advocated against domestic violence toward women.

But the chuckle inducing part of Chaz’s point is his conclusion listing a group of women instrumental in the establishment of feminist ideology. Two are worth noting.

First is Mary Wollstonecraft who was an 18th century atheistic feminist. She is lauded as a pioneering intellectual of feminism who advocated for educational opportunities for women and other equal rights in her writings. As enlightened as she supposedly was, however, her choice of men for her relationships displays the mentality of a Hollywood bimbo. She had affairs with two notorious misogynists, one with artist Henry Fuseli, an emotionally troubled painter who had severe hang-ups and hatred toward women, and Gilbert Imlay who got her pregnant and then left her for another affair with an actress. Her daughter, Mary, who wrote the Frankenstein novel, didn’t fair too well with men either. She married the womanizing Percy Shelley who left his pregnant wife to marry her and who eventually left her as well. Those may be women liberated from the “tyranny” of traditional Christianity, but they only trade it for the piggish behavior of narcissistic, chauvinists atheists.

Then Chaz lists Margaret Sanger. He even quotes favorably one her key slogans of life, “no God, no master,” and says it is still relevant today. That is a frightening thought, because Sanger was a pro-eugenics racist who promoted birth-control for the purposes of maintaining a fit nation free of unevolved ethnic groups who would hold our society back. Chaz may want to read his previous point where he accused Christianity of racism, but I digress.

At any rate, Sanger created the American Birth Control League, what was to become Planned Parenthood, for the purposes of creating her vision of a fit nation freed from undesirables. Her group specifically targeted low-income ethnic and minority neighborhoods because the people there were considered more feeble-minded than the rest of our society.

In reality, it is Chaz’s view of liberated women that is a disgusting form of selfish sexism. That is typical of anti-Christian intellectuals through out history. Chaz is for sure a supporter of Darwinianism, but Charles Darwin himself was a sexist. Writing in his second major book of biological evolution, Descent of Man, he presented women as being less evolved than men and the reason why they need to stay home under their protection. Many of his immediate supporters also held to the notion that men were more evolved than women.

hatThat attitude continues even to this day. Over the last few years, ideological and personal fissures have formed among atheist/skeptical groups because of the latent sexism existing among them. The alleged sexism is particularly on public display at their various, yearly conventions. On the one hand are humorless, man-hating femi-Nazi types who break out into sobbing fits or faux outrage when a Comic Con nerd atheist works up the liquid courage to ask one of them to have cocktails with him after a session to discuss continuity inconsistencies within the Dragon Riders of Pern series.

On the other, there have been serious allegations raised of sexual assault by well-known, celebrity atheists, and those crimes being ignored or covered up by the old white-male atheist club. See also HERE HERE and HERE.

In all honesty, Chaz’s concern for the rights of women in Christianity is phony. Sure Chaz decries the mistreatment of women by the hands of Christian officials over the centuries, pointing out how they have been oppressed and are not allowed to participate in church leadership and are basically told by the Bible to stay in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. But it is all a ruse to cover up his true motive which is to have free, limitless sex with any girl of any age with impunity.

You see, biblical theology, as taught throughout the entire length of Scripture, has a profound respect for women. That profound respect is demonstrated in the fact the scriptural ethics do not allow men to use women as sexual chattel. Are there examples of men abusing women in the Bible? Sure. Is that an operating moral principle taught in the Bible for a Christian worldview? No.

One truly important illustration of genuine love and respect for women means a man does not use women solely for his own sexual gratification. A biblical morality teaches men are to take responsibility for the women they involve themselves with sexually including committing to them in marriage first, and taking care of the children who will be the product of that sexual marriage.

Chaz, on the other hand, promotes a playboy mentality under the guise of helping to liberate women that doesn’t want the hassle of the responsibility stuff. Thus, in his mind, women “set free” from the stifling life as a Christian and cut loose from the shackles of traditional Christian morality, can assuage his guilt for using them, because they don’t have those annoying, sexual mores in tow.

Studies in Eschatology [2]

Herman Gnuteks

I imagine my testimony as a restless, young Calvinist is probably similar to the testimonies of a lot of other restless, young Calvinists.

I was spiritually reared in the typical red-state evangelical church, where the preaching from the pulpit was not overly spectacular, perhaps a bit too simplistic, and certainly not theologically deep. Depending upon the personality of the youth directors, the high school/college ministries were filled with sanctified fun and games. They preached lots of messages about finding God’s will for your life and gave exhortations to remain a virgin until marriage. Many of the churches had visitation programs on Tuesday or Thursday evenings, and at least twice a year the congregation was united around the performance of a passion play or a Christmas concert.  In that church matrix I was saved, and there I began my walk with the Lord.

Then something marvelous happened. Some have even likened the experience to being “born again, again.” I became a Calvinist in my views of salvation.

The process began when I discovered the writings of A.W. Pink and one of the first serious Christian books I read was the Baker edition of his The Sovereignty of God. I absolutely loved it. Then my college pastor loaned me his copies of Loraine Boettner’s, The Reformed Doctrines of Predestination and Thomas and Steele’s classic work, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Documented, and Defended. Those three books, coupled with the expository preaching of John MacArthur, along with other similar preachers, aimed the trajectory of my thinking about God, and brought me to fully embracing the doctrines of grace, or what is otherwise called Calvinism.

I experienced a personal revival in the way I viewed Scripture, and most importantly, how I worshiped and served my Lord.

Embracing Calvinism, however, was not without its drawbacks. I wanted to learn more about the history and development of the Reformation. I was particularly interested in reading Puritan authors whose sermons were rich in theological content. The problem for me was such books were near impossible to find. My local Christian bookstore certainly didn’t carry them. They carried fluffy books on enriching marriages and an endless supply of the latest Christian rock music. But nothing by Thomas Watson or Stephen Charnock.

I found out about some mail house Christian book companies like Scripture Truth, who would send out a monthly list of discounted Reformed books, but if I wasn’t financially prepared to order what I wanted the moment I received the list, they would be sold out in just a few days.

On top of the famine of good theological books, I quickly discovered that the regular church goer didn’t care for the doctrines of Calvinism. It wasn’t as if they just had no interest, as if Calvinism was some old boring doctrinal stuff. When pressed, they had a full out hatred toward the notion that God alone was the one who chose men to salvation. They became especially hostile when I suggested man’s will was dominated by sin and a person would never choose to believe upon Christ unless the Spirit of God regenerated his heart to believe the gospel.

In spite of the bumps, I did manage to navigate around those obstacles. Yet, where I wasn’t necessarily prepared was with the engagement of Reformed eschatology.

Historically, the Reformers who articulated a Calvinistic understanding of salvation also held to amillennialism and postmillennialism. As I already noted in my first post on this subject, I had been reared on dispensational premillennialism. The theological heroes of mine like A.W. Pink, R.C. Sproul, Lorraine Boettner, and others I read who shaped my thinking about Calvinism, were ardent non-dispensational, non-premillennialists.

When I first encountered their eschatology, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Surely they had read Revelation 20? The text clearly says Satan would be bound for a 1,000 years and the saints would come alive and reign with Christ 1,000 years. I read the counter-point book called Four Views of the Millennium so as to figure out why different groups believed what they did about eschatology. It gave me some insight but not enough. I learned a bit more about various eschatological positions when I came to seminary, but by then, the subject was on the back-burners of my mind and I wasn’t particularly interested in it.

But then I became more involved with internet discussion groups where I encountered various proponents of amillennial and postmillennial thought. They would challenged what they called my “default” dispensational premillennialism presuppositions on a regular basis. Additionally, I met new friends through those groups who had similar backgrounds to me. They came to love Calvinism like I had, but rather than maintaining their dispensational distinctive they did a complete overhaul of their entire theological views, including abandoning premillennialism.

When I inquired with them as to the reason for the change, I received a variety of responses. Some saw their former premillennial eschatology as something of an embarrassment. It represented a time when they were attending a wacky fundamentalist church, or maybe a shallow Calvary Chapel style, non-denominational church. They already had parted ways with them regarding Calvinism, now their change to Reformed eschatology was a final break.

Others had academic reasons. The really good theology was to be found in the books of Reformed Presbyterians like Warfield, Berkhof, Hodge and Reymond. Those guys are all non-dispensational, non-premillennialists, and if they make persuasive, biblical arguments for other areas of theology, they must be correct with their views of eschatology.

As I interacted with those folks, I began to get the impression I was no longer in the right camp. In order to be a really good, pure and clean Calvinist, I had to dump the premillennial dispensationalism. Granted, I had a few internet acquaintances patronizingly tell me how there were godly men who attended their churches who were premillennial, even some who were elders. But I got the feeling, however, that under their breath they were whispering, “bless their idiot hearts.”

Seeing how I was often at the end of the cutting remarks in those debates, I determined to do some serious study. Not just popular level books, but heavier stuff that got down into the machinery of why an eschatological position was what it was. With that bit of background in mind, I would like to present what I have learned over the course of my studies with a series of articles. I can say right now, I have no idea how long it will take me to complete.

To begin, I believe the foremost overarching issue defining the differences between systems of eschatology is hermeneutics – those principles which direct and facilitate a person’s understanding of scripture. Most certainly, adherents from each group would affirm that assertion. Allow me to sketch out three broad areas of hermeneutical disagreement and then I will return to address each one in subsequent posts.

The Priority of the NT Over the OT: This principle suggest – rightly to some degree (and I will explain that comment later) – that the Old Testament is supposed to be reinterpreted through the lens of the New Testament. This is also called the apostolic or christological hermeneutic by Reformed minded students, because it is argued that reading the OT with the greater revelation of the NT was practiced by Christ during His ministry and the Apostles in the epistles they wrote.

Others call this principle the historic redemptive hermeneutic because the focus of the entire Bible is the redemption Christ accomplished on the cross. The most complete revelation of God’s redemptive purposes is the NT, and that revelation sheds greater light on the OT with regards to prophecy and eschatology. Christ even affirms that principle in Luke 24:27 where it says, And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Here we have Jesus Himself interpreting Moses and all the prophets with regards to His historic person and redemptive work.

Typological Approach to Understanding Prophecy and Fulfillment: Following after the principle of the OT being re-read by the NT, the typological approach views the OT and the NT in a series of types and anti-types. In other words, what would be a picture/symbol = fulfillment. For example, the OT passover lamb was a picture, or a type, of Jesus who is the fulfillment, or anti-type in the NT. The book of Hebrews speaks to how Jesus was a greater fulfillment of the original type He was fulfilling such as the high priest.

One sub-category in need of being mentioned is the idea that prophetic genre is to be interpreted and applied differently than other genre in scripture like historical narrative. The reason being is because prophetic genre, like Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel, are filled with much symbolism that they are books not intended to be read literally. To read them literally would be absurd. No one believes a literal, seven-headed monster will come out of the sea and attempt to destroy the world like in epic scale Hollywood monster movie (Revelation 13:1ff.).

That typological approach, coupled with the idea of prophetic genre being interpreted differently than other portions of scripture, allows for a greater spiritualization of the text as it pertains to eschatology. More about that at a later time.

No Distinction Between Israel and the Church: This hermenutical principle sees no genuine distinction between the OT Israel and the NT Church. God, it is argued, had one, redeemed people who believed God by faith. Though Israel was an ethnic, theocratic nation, the “true Israel” were those Jews who trusted God’s promises of salvation by faith.

In the NT, those who trust God’s promises by faith as revealed in the work of Jesus Christ, can also be considered a “true Israel.” Physical, ethnic considerations were really never a part of true salvation to begin with. Hence, even if one were circumcised as a Jew so as to be identified with Abraham’s covenant such an act did not guarantee salvation. Jesus confronted the pharisees about that very point in John 8:31ff., and Paul wrote of the importance of being “circumcised in heart” in Romans 2:25-29 in order to be a true Jew.

It is understood that because of Christ there is no longer any distinctions between Jews and gentiles. Both are now one redeemed people of God. Whereas in the OT, the redeemed were limited to believing Jews and a few converted gentiles, the New Covenant Jesus initiated with His death and resurrection grafts in the gentiles, expanding God’s redeemed people from being a small people in the land of Israel to now including people from the entire world.

The OT title of those truly redeemed people was “Israel,” but now they are called the “Church” or the “Body of Christ.” Any attempt to create a distinction between Israel and the Church is artificial and unbiblical. That distinction divides the people of God into two groups risking the danger of suggesting two ways of salvation for each of the separate groups.

Now, with those points in mind, I will return with future posts addressing each on in turn as the pertain to specific scriptural contexts and theological ideas.

A Good Ole’ Fashion Passion Play

I like to occasionally repost this old article I wrote back during the early days of my blogging career. I’ve added a fun video at the bottom that demonstrates the perils of passion plays. It will probably raise the ire of my strict, 2nd commandment friends and incite Puritan lynch mobs against me.
———

Easter season is upon us once again, and each year it arrives I am reminded of all the various churches putting on passion plays in many little towns across the mid-west.

I have a fondness in my heart for respectfully produced and tastefully performed passion plays. My fondness for them sets me apart from the vast majority of my Reformed-minded acquaintances who either see passion plays (and movies, also) as blasphemous displays of idolatry in direct violation of the second commandment, or a cheap theatrical stunt disguised as “ministry” which trivializes the redemptive work of Christ and is designed only to bolster denominational attendance records. I am sympathetic with the complaint about how passion plays can be a self-serving stunt, but I’m not convinced they violate the second commandment.

I was once in an email debate with a Presbyterian gentleman insistent that any so-called portrayal of Jesus in any play or movie was a violation of the second commandment forbidding the construction of any image to represent God. But, if you recall, the prohibition is against the making of any carved image (man-made idol) for the purpose of bowing down to or serving in any capacity. In other words, worshiping the idol instead of the true and living God.

My argument to my email challenger was that passion plays and any movies depicting the life of Christ is simply the recreation of a real, historical event: the final week of Christ’s life, His death, burial and Resurrection. In my mind, as long as the production strives for historical and biblical accuracy with the retelling of Jesus, no one is violating the second commandment. But I digress.

My first experience with a passion play was as a kid at my grandmother’s church in Arkansas. Her church would always have what is called a sunrise service. Basically, in keeping with the biblical record of the women arriving before sunrise to the tomb of Jesus, my grandma’s church thought it would be extra special to perform their play at 5:00 AM Easter morning, and then afterward eat scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuits. That means we had to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:00 AM. At that time in my life, I had no idea there was a 4 o’clock in the morning.

I don’t remember too much about the actual plays, but I do recall how every performance was tape recorded by the actors the previous Friday evening. I am not entirely sure why the folks believed they needed to record their performance, but it did provide for an amusing 20 minute audio presentation.

Pretty much all the actors read their lines in a monotone with as much emotion as a person reading a telephone book. Additionally, the recording would be punctuated with the ruffling of script pages, the occasional cough and throat clearing by other performers waiting to read their lines, and the constant drone of the fellowship hall refrigerator.

But that wasn’t the best part.

Because they recorded the play in the fellowship hall, the linoleum and cinder block walls produced a slight echo with each line read. Coupled with the monotone performance, the final recording made the actors sound as if they were emotionless alien pod  people from some Twilight Zone episode.

Beholdbeholdbehold,
He
HeHe
hashashas
RisenRisen …. Risen.

Thankfully, the fine folks eventually improved their passion play performances  by acting their lines live and in person. They have also added the presence of livestock, including a donkey for the Jesus character to ride down the center aisle of the sanctuary during the triumphal entrance scene.

Of course, that assumes the donkey will cooperate and not relieve itself on stage, or take “Jesus” on a wild ride through the auditorium. Nothing can stir panic in a crowd of people faster than an out of control ass galloping among the pews.

With any passion play, casting Jesus is vitally important. Depending upon the size of the congregation, there is generally a slender built guy with the ability to grow a decent beard who does the Jesus part.

If the pickings are slim, then sometimes the Jesus may be slightly husky. A smart thinking actor who is going to play Jesus is wise to go on a diet months before the passion play is going to happen, even starting right after the Christmas season. A slight tummy can detract from the crucifixion scene and it is even worse when the guy playing Jesus is sucking-in the whole time like Charlton Heston in Ben Hur.

One thing I have noticed in recent years since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was released is how some passion plays have become increasingly graphic in the portrayal of Christ on the cross. It use to be that the actor would have some fake Halloween vampire blood dribbled on his back, but now the guy will be drenched in fake stage blood as if they are recreating the prom scene out of Carrie.

I believe Christ’s crucifixion and death should be a sobering reminder of what our Lord suffered as a penalty for our sin, but some church productions have taken the graphic aspect of Christ’s passion up too many notches. I can only hope that trend will reverse in the years to come, because if the production is well done, the story of Christ’s passion for His people speaks for itself.

And, if you are planning an Ascension scene at the end, you may wish to take some pointers on how NOT to do it from these folks.

Brother’s Keeper

gallantWhat I am about to state here is raw and blunt. I am placing myself at great risk of receiving severe wedgies from a variety of antagonists. Friends may reprove me for stirring up unnecessary strife. But this has been on my heart for a few weeks now, and I believe the subject is of such vital importance, I’m willing to take the risks. We need to address the proverbial elephant in the room.

Would the finger-wagging scolds on social media please stop with their insistence that I embrace theonomists as brothers? Their rebukes are both patronizing and phony.

Let’s face reality, shall we? Ever since the big debate on theonomy, when JD Hall exposed their tender underbellies, theonomists on various social media platforms have been gripped with raging paroxysms that froth contempt against their detractors. The ones I have tussled with are arrogant, condescending, and ridiculing of anyone who thought JD brought to light serious problems within the theonomic camp.

In fact, I have yet to hear or read any self-reflecting theonomist willingly admit, “You know; JD raised some excellent points. We may want to give them a serious think.”

Now maybe some exist and I just haven’t encountered them, but if they are out there, they are either being ignored or shouted down by their compatriots within their own camp.

Whatever the case, how exactly can I even attempt to be brotherly to a group of folks who have such scornful disdain for me and other like-minded individuals who share similar criticisms and concerns?

Just so I am clear.

I am not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that those men who hold to theonomy are unsaved or not Christian.

Again, I AM NOT SAYING THEONOMISTS ARE UNSAVED.

Let me state it one more time, in bold, navy blue font: I AM NOT SAYING THEONOMISTS ARE UNSAVED! (I even added an exclamation point for emphasis).

I will further add that not ALL theonomists are alike with the dishing out of the scornful disdain against me and like-minded critics; but it is the majority perspective I see displayed where I have encountered them.

With those clarifications in mind, let me state up front that I believe theonomy is significant enough of an error, and has become such a major point of division among believers, that I would be hard pressed to lay brotherly, affirming hands upon theonomists and their respective ministries.

Certainly, as I just noted above, I understand there are fine, outstanding men who embrace theonomic principles. In fact, I have personally benefited from a few. But I put theonomy into the same category of sub-biblical error such as hyper-Calvinism, hyper-Dispensationalism, old earth creationism, Messianic Jewish believers, Amish asceticism, and King James Onlyism.

While I will not say that John Brine, Hugh Ross, or David Cloud are unsaved, the pet views they espouse so drastically depart from standard Christian doctrine and practice that I cannot affirm them in any positive manner. That one odd-ball view defines the trajectory of their ministries and overrides everything otherwise helpful about them. The same goes for the bulk of theonomists.

goofusNow folks will say, “But Fred, the theonomists are Reformed, and Calvinistic, and presuppositional! Some of them are awesome preachers. I’ve heard them at conferences and on internet podcasts. How can you NOT call them brothers and cooperate with them? How cruel, unkind, divisive, and sad!”

Okay. Let’s lay out an all too real hypothetical. Let’s say some friends and I go out for a bit of campus evangelism, and joining us are some acquaintances who just so happen to be theonomists and attend a theonomic oriented church.  And let’s say that a young sophomore responds to our Gospel message and is gloriously saved. Where do I send him to church now? Let’s also say that the closest church, which is a short, 10 minute walk from campus, is the theonomic church. That would be the logical choice to send the new believer, correct? I mean, the theonomist acquaintances were with us when he came to Christ.

While it is true the church will more than likely have a high view of God, teach the whole Bible, and the preaching will be fairly decent, I also know that shortly after the new convert begins attending, he will be taught what I think to be a warped view of God’s law as it relates to the Christian life and practice. How can I be expected to recommend that he join a fellowship where I believe he will be taught a deficient understanding of the OT/NT distinctions and quite possibly have his spiritual growth stunted as he becomes consumed by this abnormal view of God’s law?

It’s why I believe a theonomist’s theonomy isn’t the same as say a Presbyterian’s baby sprinkling. As a baptist, I recognize our theological disagreements, but I have no problem being in league with someone like Sinclair Ferguson or Carl Trueman because I know the areas that separate our camps will not overshadow those things that unite us like a high view of God, infallibility of Scripture, Calvinism, etc.

Not so with theonomists. They’re like gluten-free advocates. As soon as they arrive at the party they immediately ask if any of the dishes have gluten and are passionately explaining to everyone around them how gluten gives them explosive diarrhea. In the same way, theonomy overwhelms everything about our fellowship and eventually becomes a massive point of contention. And that is a contention that begins with the theonomists and has nothing to do with me refusing to embrace them as brothers.

So can we put a stop to the rhetoric demanding I take a coexist, “let’s all try to get along” attitude, when in reality there is a massive chasm of disagreement between average Joe evangelical Christian and theonomists? To ignore that disagreement is willfully myopic only for the sake of manufacturing an imaginary unity that will never truly exist.

Studies in Eschatology [1]

Apocalyptic Visions

I have been reading heavily on the subject of eschatological systems. My primary sources for research have been academic oriented journal articles and hard to find books I wouldn’t have access to unless it wasn’t for the fact I am blessed to attend a church with a state of the art seminary library which houses high end academic journals and hard to find books on this particular subject.

My research has been mostly for my personal edification because it is a subject I have often felt in the past inadequate to discuss at any meaningful length. Granted, I studied eschatology when I was in seminary, but even though I did read a few of the popular level books that had representatives from each position interact with each other in essay form, eschatology wasn’t an engrossing topic for me at the time. I was spending the good part of my seminary years shoring up my historical theology in the area of salvation, which in my opinion was more important.

Yet I did have a general overview to the various eschatological systems, so I wasn’t entirely ignorant. However, recently when I set myself to studying eschatology, I believed I needed to go below the surface level ideas I heard people heatedly discussing now and then when the subject came up on social media, so I set myself to plumb the depths of the theology and hermeneutics which shape those ideas.

Additionally, I wanted to engage many of my young and restless Calvinist friends I had met through Bible conferences and the blogging communities. It seemed as though many of them were like me: Raised in a non-Calvinistic, fundamentalist church whose leadership never really taught anything theological at all, let alone Calvinism. Those were doctrines I had to learn on my own from pastors I heard on the radio or read in books I had to obtain personally. At any rate, many of my restless young Calvinist friends came to embrace Calvinism because they, like myself, saw the doctrines clearly taught in Scripture.

But, with this embracing of Calvinism came a total overhaul of their entire theological worldview, including the complete abandonment of a dispensational perspective and premillennialism as an eschatological system.

I plan to comment more on that paradigm shift in a later post, but suffice it to say now, even though some of those dear folks say they are biblically convinced of a non-dispensational, non-premillennial point of view, from what I read on their blogs and at times discussed with them in person, I saw their change in eschatology as a final “rebellion” as it were against the non-Calvinistic churches where they were first saved and nurtured.

In other words, if those churches were wrong about the doctrines pertaining to salvation, they had to be equally mistaken about eschatology. Thus, it was believed a more Reformed view of eschatology had to be embraced in place of the errant dispensational premillennialism.

But more about this at a later time…

At any rate, I believe I was officially introduced to the subject of eschatology sometime when I was in either the 5th or 6th grade. My father was a self-employed electrician and during my summer break from school, I would often accompany him on his job.

This one particular summer a heat wave had hit our small town in Missouri and my dad was called out to a mobile home park to re-wire a fellow’s air conditioner that kept overloading his breaker box. My job when I was with my father was to stand around and fetch tools from the truck when he needed them. I tended to do more standing around than fetching of tools, so I had plenty of down time to poke around in people’s homes.

We were in the living room of this mobile home, and on the coffee table there was a Bible flipped opened to Matthew 24 and 25. I knew Jesus was supposed to be talking because all the words were in red. I read both chapters and I became extremely spooked by the descriptions of judgment, especially the sheep and goats section at the end of chapter 25.

Compounding the biblical images of apocalyptic judgment were the stack of Chick comics also on the table. Several of them were about the second coming of Jesus and all the terrors which were to come with Him.

The cover of one comic showed a nurse running out of a nursery ward screaming to a doctor, “ALL THE BABIES ARE MISSING!” In my mind, I am thinking, “why would Jesus want all the babies?” I was actively involved with an United Methodist youth group. I had never seen or read anything that scary in any of the literature in my Sunday school class. I sort of had a “Davey and Goliath” view of Jesus. This baby snatching view of Jesus was unnerving.

I would like to say I was driven to the cross of Christ and the saving Gospel message, but such did not happen. I did, however, become fixated with knowing the future. Yet, rather than being interested in a biblical view of future things, I was attracted to stuff like the documentary I saw on HBO about the predictions of Nostradamus convincingly narrated by Orson Welles.

Sometime later, maybe a year or two, I recall seeing the terribly made Thief in the Night movie. The film was an abominable depiction of the end-times that sensationalized the events of Revelation like a sci-fi short story. I do remember a Pentecostal gal at my grade school who often appealed to the movie as her source of authority as to why I needed to have Jesus in my heart so as not to be enslaved to the “annie christ” whoever that was.

By the time I was in high school, we had moved to Arkansas and I was now attending a Free-will Baptist Church. Being a bit older I was now a tad more sober-minded about my quasi-theological thinking and by that time I genuinely had an interest in what the Bible said about the end-times.

My pastor lent me his great big copy of Clarence Larkin’s The Greatest Book on Dispensational Truth in the World containing his elaborate, awe-inspiring schematics illustrating the events of the end times from a classic dispensational perspective. Also during that time I was exposed to Hal Lindsey’s books, who in a similar fashion as the Thief in the Night film, overly sensationalized the prophetic books of the Bible, especially Revelation.

It wasn’t until after I was truly saved and I reached seminary, however, that I became aware of various and sundry opinions which differed from what I learned as to how the events of the end-times were to play out. Up until then, I went blissfully through my Christian existence naively thinking every believer agreed upon the same things I believed about Jesus Christ’s second coming. That being, the dispensational views outlined by Clarence Larkin and Hal Lindsey.

I was a bit disappointed to learn that R.C. Sproul, one of my favorite Bible teachers, denied the millennium. Of course, over time I came to learn that he didn’t actually deny the millennium, he simply understood its dynamics differently than how I did as a premillennialist. In fact, the true heart of the differences between eschatological systems centered around hermeneutics – the principles used to study the Bible. It may sound simple, but how one reads the Old Testament prophetic books in light of the New Testament has a profound impact on how one understands eschatology.

Now, with that brief introduction in mind, I would like to proceed with some studies in the systems of eschatology. Just to provide something of a brief outline, I will begin my next post with a quick review of the hermeneutical issues involved, and then move onto examining the individual principles that shape those hermeneutics. As I explore the hermeneutics, I hope to weave my study interactively with the main eschatological systems, eventually culminating to a defense of premillennialism. My general goal is to lay down a basic, comprehensible laymen’s overview of eschatology, and perhaps along the way provide the readers with a few insights I have gleaned from my own personal research.

What is a Zionist?

owsjewsI once received a mass email from a politically conservative writer (who is a non-Christian as far as I know) asking for readers’ input answering the question: “What is a “Zionist.”

Typically I just glance over emails like those and delete them; but the subject matter is one I frequently encounter among both secular conservatives and evangelical Christians, so I thought I would respond to the writer’s inquiry.

What follows are my comments to him, slightly expanded and edited for my readership.

In our modern, politically correct world, “Zionist” has become something of a dirty word.  It’s like being called a “Nazi” or a “racist.”  The idea being that a “Zionist,” at least according to the university educated progressive leftist, “is any person who is unquestionably loyal to, and supports the Jewish state of Israel, in spite of the fact the Israeli government is cruel, bigoted, and openly persecutes the innocent non-Jews (usually defined as Palestinian Arabs) who live alongside of the Jews and under the thumb of the State.”

The more bizarre haters of “Zionism” accuse the “Zionists” (usually “Jews,” though “evangelicals” can be included) of conspiratorial dealings within governments, businesses, and banking, clandestinely shaping those entities to ultimately favor the Jewish State. 

The idea of “Zionism” reflects two facets. 

First is the secular idea of “Zionism.”  That simply being the idea that the state of Israel has the right to exist as a nation, as well as the right for their government and the people to defend themselves against murderous terrorists groups who seek their ultimate destruction. 

Now, does that necessarily mean that the modern state of Israel is without fault in all that they do in their defense of themselves?  Of course not.  Does that mean, then, that I must automatically and completely condemn them for the faults they have made defending themselves and fighting their enemies?  I would once more say no. 

I have heard people insist that Israel should be condemned for X,Y, or Z actions they did that resulted in innocent people getting killed or misguided hippie college students ran over by bulldozers.  Could one say that was a bad move on Israel’s part or it was a stupid, indefensible action?  Of course.  But condemned? 

Besides, what exactly does that mean, anyways, that they are to be “condemned?”  That I can agree they have acted stupidly and are not pure as snow when they have retaliated against the Palestinians?  I could probably say yes to that definition; but I would choose a different word other than “condemned.”  But if  by “condemned,” a person means the Jews need to renounce their 1948 statehood, pack up and leave Jerusalem, and hand over everything to the Muslims who hate them, well then no, I don’t “condemn” them. 

The modern state of Israel is certainly an unusual state in that its citizens share a close proximity to their mortal enemies.  But like any secular state in such a high pressure situation, they will make mistakes and act rashly and there will be innocent casualties in conflicts with those enemies.

Obviously their enemies, and the useful idiots in Europe and America who support them, focus the world’s attention on those disastrous actions that happen when the Israeli government is forced to defend themselves and press their rights to exist.  While at the same time they ignore the larger picture that Israel’s enemies want them erased from the earth and driven into the sea at all costs. That tends to put the conflict into sharper perspective.

Yet there is a second facet to the concept of “Zionism.”  It is a facet that cannot be exclusively defined along secular, political lines. There is much more to Zionism than a political disagreement between pollyannish, pacifist lefties and red state evangelical right-wingers.  There is a spiritual and theological component to Zionism that cannot be overlooked.  That is because “Israel,” as a nation, represents a unique people in history. 

Israel is a people who are identified with God almighty, who were especially chosen to enter into a covenant with God, a people from whom the savior of the entire world would come.  As a Bible believing Christian, I am a “Zionist” because I believe God has made specific, covenant promises with the Jews that He will be certain to fulfill, and that fulfillment is tied directly to the land on which the state of Israel currently exists. 

It is mistakenly believed “Zionism” is a 20th century phenomena, because Israel wasn’t really recognized as a national state until 1948.  But the fact of the matter is that before “Zionism” was called what it is, there were many individuals supportive of Israel’s restoration to their land. 

The idea of supporting a restoration of the Jews to Israel began with the post-Reformation Puritans.  Though most Reformers believed (and still believe) the promises given to the Jews were fulfilled in Christ and the Christian Church, the recovery of the biblical text in the myriad of language translations that were published in the 16th and 17th centuries, coupled with a renewal of biblical exegesis – or the principles of proper Bible study – began to stir up in the hearts of Christians that God has not “fulfilled” His promise to Israel only in the Church.  Rather, those promises are yet to be fulfilled in the future with a restoration of the Jews in a physical land identified in Scripture as Israel.  This is clearly taught in such places as Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 31:35ff., Ezekiel 37, Micah 4:1ff., Zechariah 14, and Romans 9-11. 

In the secular context, I consider myself a “Zionist” in that I believe Israel has a right to exist in their land and I believe they have the right to defend themselves against groups and nations who seek their demise as does any nation whose citizens would be in the same situation.

In the theological context, I am a “Zionist” in that I believe the presence of the Jews in the current land of Israel has future, prophetic significance, even though the Jews are currently in a state of divinely induced blindness as Paul notes in Romans 11:25. 

Apologetic Methodology in Dialogue

A few years ago, over at the old Blogspot version of my blog, I posted an article outlining in bullet point fashion the basics of presuppositional apologetics. In that post, I mentioned Ratio Christi, a national parachurch ministry on a number of university campuses across the United States who seek to train young Christians to defend their faith.

My comment about Ratio Christi was contrasting their doctrinal statement about the nature of man with what the Bible teaches regarding the nature of man. They teach that though mankind is fallen, he still retains his ability to reason about reality and theology. Which means according to the Ratio Christi way of doing apologetics, Christians can be trained to have a reasoned discussion with hostile unbelievers about the Christian faith.  On the other hand, what the Scriptures teach about men is that their reasoning ability is severely broken, and no amount of reasoned discussion with them will change that. Instead, the primary focus of apologetics is to train Christians to challenge the corrupted foundations of the unbelievers’ anti-God worldview and proclaim the Gospel to them.

After I posted that article, Adam Tucker, the Ratio Christi chapter director at UNC Greensboro, came by and left some excellent comments challenging my assertions. Over the course of a few weeks, we had a long, extended discussion about our apologetic theology and methodology. I wrote up a few follow up posts from that discussion that can be found on my articles page under apologetics and evangelism.

When I moved my blog from Blogspot to WordPress, I lost the formatting of a number of my better articles, including even the comments under them which now appeared run together in a long, unreadable paragraph. As I began the process of reformatting and reposting a number of those blog articles, I also recognized the great comments under them, including the one with Adam. So I cut and pasted them to save.

The conversation with Adam, the classic apologist, I thought was useful, so I have edited our comments in to one document for others to study. I found it useful, because Tucker does a fairly good job outlining his reason for his apologetic methodology and challenging mine. In fact, he did a presentation for an apologetics conference on many of the same themes we tackled in our discussion. I wrote up a two-part response to his presentation that can be found HERE and HERE.

The conversation between us was like 10,000 words or more. I put together a PDF that folks can download if they want. It is not a thrilling read by any means, but I post it for individuals who want to go a little deeper in the study and theory of apologetic methodology. Especially seeing the two primary positions laid out and debated.

AdamTuckerDialogues