Gleanings from Judges [19]

The Outrage at Gibeah (Judges 19)

The last five chapters of Judges are better treated as appendices. They set the overall theme of the book that speaks to Israel’s canaanization. The events recorded in them take place early in Israel’s history in the land. Shortly after Joshua had died. They clearly record Israel’s ethical and religious apostasy, demonstrating a direct violation of the Ten Commandments.

Chapters 17 and 18 is the story of Israel’s religious apostasy. Chapter 17 begins by telling of a family making a household idol and dedicating a private shrine of worship. Additionally, a Levitical priest was commissioned to lead the worship of this idol by means of the shrine. Chapter 18 tells how an entire tribe abandoned the task of conquering the land assigned to them by the LORD. They move to where they were not to be and they take the priest as their personal, tribal priest.

Chapter 19 brings us to an episode that displays a severe moral and ethical apostasy of the people. The subject matter is so terrifying, there are not many sermons preached on the text. The story is a horror. A brutal, unimaginable crime against an innocent woman, followed by the callus, heartless response by her husband. It is the kind of happening that we only hear about from far away, lawless lands. Yet God had it recorded and preserved in Scripture to reveal the moral degeneracy of the people of God.

I. The Background

The chapter begins reminding us of the general spirit of the age: There was no king in Israel. People were living outside the law with no fear of punishment or recourse of any kind. Additionally, another Levite is mentioned. Levites were supposed to be spiritual leaders. The one tribe setting the spiritual standard for all the other tribes. They were to lead worship and teach the law and covenant. Yet in both accounts recorded in chapters 17-18 and here in 19, they have allowed extreme apostasy to take over a country.

This particular Levite had taken a concubine, what would essentially be a secondary wife. She was more than likely a young lady in her teens. Her primary duty would be to have babies when the first wife could not. Of course, she could have been a second wife after the death of the first. Whatever the case, she leaves her husband and returns home to Bethlehem.

Four months pass and her husband makes the journey to Bethlehem to retrieve her. He is welcomed by her father, who overdid the hospitality more than likely to make good on his promise on their arrangement of marriage to his daughter. After the fifth day, the husband is ready to get home. He packs up to leave for home and comes to Jebus (Jerusalem), but he did not wish to stay in for foreign territory he believed to be hostile. He presses on to Gibeah, and ironically, the Gibeans treat them worse than he feared the Jebusians would treat them.

When they finally reach Gibeah, no one offers to take them in. Finally, an older man from Ephraim opens his home to them. He even warns them not to sleep in the town square knowing what could possibly happen.

II. The Crime

What transpires next is difficult to recount. It reads almost word for word as the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. First, the men of the city gather at the door and wish to rape the Levite. The older man offers his own daughter, choosing hospitality protocols over the safety of his family. That response makes one wonder what sort of men would do such a terrible sin? The Levite tosses out his concubine to them instead.

The men sexually abuse her all night with unsurpassed cruelty. When they finally let her go, she is able to return to the door of the house, but dies before day break. When morning comes, the husband, ready to depart, tells her to “Get up, let’s go!” How did he even sleep? What sort of spiritual leader/husband allows his wife to be assaulted all night?

III. The Call to Arms

Discovering her dead on the doorstep, does stir some outrage in his heart and in a bizarre moment, he mutilates her corpse by cutting in to 12 pieces. He sends a piece to each of the 12 tribes of Israel along with some message as to what had happened. It was a call to arms for the men of Israel to join together in dealing with what happened at Gibeah of Benjamin.

This story is often mockingly retold by skeptics and atheists as a tale happening within a religious society. The so-called godly people allow their women to be mistreated. Wives and daughters are considered inferior and disposable. But the chapter is not about a religious society at all. It shows how God’s people Israel had plunged headlong into the depths of human depravity. Where God’s law doesn’t hold sway, God’s priests do not teach and warn, and God’s people quickly become like the world.

Advertisements

Tinfoil Hat Twitter

I have absolutely no desire to return to this topic. Current social media circumstances, however, have forced me to revisit it in order to defend my honor and the honor of my friends, as it were.

Just to recap the situation I have in mind:

Since the first week of June 2017 (almost FIVE months as of this writing, mind you), Brannon Howse has been waging his own personal Jihad against James White and Alpha and Omega ministries. Without having to pound the mutilated horse carcass again with all the particulars, Brannon did not like a discussion that James had with a Muslim imam in Memphis back in January 2017.

He, and two of his Worldview Weekend broadcasting partners, charged James with spiritual compromise of the highest order and they did their best to set fire to Alpha and Omega ministries. When he received a tidal wave of push back from AOMin supporters, it was like napalm was sprayed onto Brannon’s already smoldering wick. His hand turned against anyone and everyone who would defend James White, even to the point of purging from his WVW network Mike Abendroth and Justin Peters. Accelerating his obsession even more, a number of misguided individuals on social media rushed to help Brannon in his crusade, including, most notably, Steve Camp, the former CCM performer from the 80s and 90s.

Along with Brannon’s ceaseless tirades against James on his radio program, many of his network partners have also dedicated their air time to heap condemnation upon him and his defenders. Additionally, a few of Brannon’s acolytes have taken to Twitter and Facebook to defame not only James, but those associates and friends who have spoken up for him. That includes myself and a few of my co-laborers at Grace To You ministries.

I left off any serious interaction with Brannon and his hordes around labor day, after I had a lengthy Twitter row with Steve Camp on what defines the Gospel message, as well as what content is necessary to present during an evangelical encounter. Steve ended our exchange insisting that James White left out crucial components of the Gospel when he dialogued with the imam. I thought he was not only wrong, but I marveled that I could be yelled at on a media platform by a CCM guy whose albums I used to collect all the time as a young college student. He blocked me on Twitter, by the way.

Moving to the purpose of my post,

So, after a number of weeks thinking this ridiculous manufactured controversy had died down and was going away, Brannon posted a screed outlining what he calls internet bullying against him and his ministry. He concocted a fantasy narrative that his primary antagonists with the unending bullying he is receiving are staffers from Grace to You radio ministry using parody accounts on Twitter. He seems to be absolutely convinced that I personally am behind a number of them. In fact, he writes,

Many of the adjectives used on this fake account were also used by either Phil Johnson or GTY employee, Fred Butler on their real social media pages. Some of the graphics used on this fake account were also used on Phil Johnson’s social media pages. In addition, many of these vile and disgusting tweets were tweeted at Phil and Fred’s personal twitter accounts. There is reason to believe, if they were not involved in some way with this fake account, they might know who was involved. Whoever set up this account used a purchased phone number to hide behind and send harassing texts to Brannon from a California area code. The individual mocked Brannon and said he was buddies with Phil.

This is absolutely laughable, embarrassingly so, as I will show in a moment. I will state emphatically right now, in all CAPs and bold letters so I am not misunderstood,

I HAVE NEVER OPERATED A PARODY ACCOUNT IN ALL OF THE FIVE YEARS THAT I HAVE BEEN ON TWITTER.

I realize this is me saying it, so haters will insist I am lying. But hey, my conscience is clear. The one and only Twitter account I have only used has been @Fred_Butler and nothing else. I know this may come as a shock, but there actually may be other individuals annoyed enough with Brannon to ridicule him on Twitter who are utterly unrelated with GTY.

I probably would not have responded at all except to say I have no parody accounts, but then Dee over at the fever swamps of The Wartburg Watch blog posted an even lengthier article. She has completely chugged the entire Twitter parody account kool-aid. Dee is convinced beyond doubt that GTY, myself and Phil Johnson specifically, are behind the concerted efforts to bring down Brannon with parody accounts. Like we are Russians hacking an election, I suppose. The amusing thing is her attempt to defend Brannon. The two of them could not be further apart on the theological and political spectrum. It is like the magenta-haired feminists defending the right of Muslim women being made to wear a hijab.

Searching for parody accounts on Brannon Howse turned up just a handful for me. The one in question, @WVWoffline, the “Brannon House” account, no longer exists and the last tweet I saw was weeks ago before it disappeared. It has remained dormant up until recently when it looks to have been deactivated. Another one called @Brannon_Howse has been suspended by Twitter. I don’t know anything about that one because I was unaware of its existence until I ran a search on Brannon’s parody accounts claim. The last one I remember is a parody of Brannon’s dog, @delta_howse, and that one too no longer exists. Again, all I can do is reiterate that none of them were mine, nor do I have any knowledge of who the owners are.

Additionally, Jeff Dornik, who has become the Worldview Weekend knee-capper on Twitter, posted this tweet over the weekend, October 14th, 2017,

Here is a clearer shot of the graphic,

According to Jeff, those screen captures are supposed to be proof positive that I have been texting Brannon with salacious, attacking comments. The problem is that the phone number allegedly attached to me is a 714 Orange County area code. While it is true that Orange County is in California, it is south of LA county (I live in LA county) and it is at least an hour and twenty minute drive from me in normal LA traffic. Additionally, a search on the number in this text ties it to a transexual escort service. In fact, it is randomly attached to many such services. Is Jeff suggesting that Brannon was texting with a transexual? Also, I have no idea who “Fred E Butler V” is. I have no “V” in my name.

That attempt at unmasking me with inescapable proof that I am behind those parody accounts was so ineptly researched, I am left wondering if there is someone among Brannon’s so-called supporters who is intentionally trolling him to make him look foolish.

Again, I don’t know what more I could do to convince the Worldview Weekend crowd that I am not behind those parody accounts. I also do not know who is behind them. It is possible someone I know is, but everyone I know who is familiar with the James White IFD controversy is just as clueless as me. I have to take them at their word. I know none of them to be expert liars.

Now, I realize it’s me stating all of this, and I’m sure I will be called a liar, so take my word or not. But I have no interest whatsoever to create any parody account, let alone one specifically aimed at Brannon Howse.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis

My short series of articles reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1-11. Evaluating various areas of his deep-time, old earth creationist apologetic that has become the default view of creation and origins among various ministries and popular, online social media apologists.

[1] Introduction to the Series

[2] Ross’s Personal Journey

[3] Evaluating the Reasons People Resist Scripture and the Faith

[4] The Creation Week

[5] How Far the Fall

[6] Noah’s Flood: Global or Local?

 

Gleanings from Judges [18]

The Depths of Israel’s Spiritual Depravity (Judges 17-18)

I return again to my devotional study of the book of Judges.

As I have been noting throughout my study, the book highlights what could be called the “Canaanization” of Israel. It began in the first few chapters of the book where we see the Israelites failing to drive out the Canaanites from the land of Israel. Rather than faithful obedience to the covenant YHWH made with them, the people flagrantly disobeyed.

– They were supposed to drive them from the land, but instead made treatise with them.
– They placed them under tribute for the purposes of getting money from them.
– Eventually, Israel began inter-marrying with their sons and daughters.
– And finally, they adopted the Canaanite religious practices, forsaken their covenant with God.

The book of Judges, which could also be called the book of Deliverers, focuses upon the main individuals God raised up to deliver Israel from their apostasy and judgment.

Coming to the last five chapters of the book, these chapters represent specific examples of apostasy. They contain significant events demonstrating a religious and spiritual degradation of Israel’s families, the tribes, and the Levitical priesthood.

The last five chapters are essentially appendices. They are taken out of historical sequence. The events described within the chapters took place early on during the time of Judges, perhaps within the historical background presented in chapters 1 and 2 when the tribes were to drive out the inhabitants.

The reason it is believed these final chapters record events that took place before the main book of Judges has to do with the tribe of Dan. Judges 1:34 states how Dan was unable to drive out the Amorites, resulting in their mass migration to the north. That tribe plays a prominent role in chapters 17-18, when they moved from the southern portion of Israel’s territory, to the northern boundary, way outside their allotted territory.

Additionally, there is the repetition of the statement, There was not king in Israel, 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25 and twice the phrase, Everyone did what was right in his own eyes, 17:6, 21:25. Those two statements not only provides a time marker when the events took place, in this case, before the monarchy, but it was also a comment on the spiritual conditions among the tribes. They had no unity around a monarch, which in turn means there was no king to lead them into sin. Their spiritual condition that is displayed in the last five chapters is all on the people. They show their religious corruption that resulted in their moral/ethical corruption.

Let’s first address Israel’s religious corruption beginning in chapter 17.

I. Corruption of a House, 17:1-6

Chapter 17 opens describing a man named Micah. His name, by the way, means, “who is like YHWH.”

He confesses his theft of his mother’s silver. Nothing is told as to why he took it; however, she had put a curse upon it and the person who stole from her. Her curse is rather superstitious, thinking that God is obligated to honor her threats. Likewise, Micah is superstitious as well, because when he returns the silver, he wasn’t necessarily repentant of his sin as he was fearful of the curse. His mother blesses him as a way of cancelling it out.

In these opening verses we see the spiritual decline of this household. Micah, the son, violated two of the ten commands, he did not honor his mother, and he was a thief, stealing from her.

His mother also violates the second commandment by making a graven image and by setting up a cultic center in their house. The family had good intentions for doing that, at least in their diluted thinking. The mother had dedicated the silver to God, so it had to be used in some religious fashion. So, they hired a silversmith to fashion an idol. Micah even made some religious artifacts to aid in the worship at their homemade shrine, including an ephod.

II. Corruption of the Priesthood, 17:7-13

We are then introduced to a young priest. The description of him being young suggests he may be new to his duties as a Levite. The Levites were to serve the people, and there were at least 48 cities in which to serve.

He was something of a wandering transient, however, going about looking for the highest bidder to pay for his services. There is no real sense of duty to God’s call on his life as a Levitical priest. His wandering took him to the mountains of Ephraim where he stumbled upon Micah and his make-shift false shrine.

Micah inquires as to who he was and where he is from and learns he is a Levite. Pleased with this news, he hires him to run his cultic center. Micah, with no sense of loyalty and integrity to God’s covenant, agrees to Micah’s offer and becomes his priest. Micah is excited, believing now God will truly bless him because he has a real, genuine priest for the service of his family.

III. Corruption of a Tribe, 18

Chapter 18 records the backstory of Dan’s migration to the north of Israel’s territory. After they could not defeat the Amorites as recorded in Judges 1:34, rather than seeking the LORD for help, the leaders sent spies up to the northern country to check out the availability of the land. While there, the spies happen upon Micah’s home and discover the Levite fake priest. They recognized him, inquired as to why he was there, and he in turn blessed their journey.

The spies learn that the area would be ripe for attack by the tribe of Dan. So they return back to their people with their report. The entire tribe moves, around 600 families.

Once they arrive, the five spies tell the others of Micah, his false shrine, and the priest that served him. They go to Micah’s house and talk the priest into joining them as the priest of the entire tribe. He readily agrees and packs up his shrine, idols, and ephod, and follows the men.

Micah, learning of his priest being kidnapped by the Danites, follows after them to complain about them taking his priest and idols. However, they basically laughed at him. They threaten his life and his entire family.  Way out numbered, there was nothing he could do but return to his home.

In all three of these episodes, we witness the spiritual decline of God’s people. A family foolishly, and against God’s command, set up a shrine to worship idols. A priest, who was supposed to be trained in the services of the covenant people, agrees to oversee this false worship center, and then the tribe of Dan, emboldened by their ability to take matters into their own hands by moving outside their allotted territory, employ the services of Micah’s wayward priest for creating an unlawful worship center for the entire tribe.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [6]

Noah’s Flood: Global or Local?

I come to my sixth review of Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis, and specifically to his study of Noah’s flood.

Ross spends four chapters, 15-18, laying out his apologetic for a local flood, while at the same time debunking the idea of a worldwide flood. It is imperative for him to demonstrate that the text of Genesis 6-8 is recording the history of a local flood because he must sustain his commitment to a deep time reading of the creation narrative. If the fossil record, along with all the major, geological formations found all over the earth, can be explained by a year long, worldwide flood as recorded in Genesis, that presents a severe problem to a ministry whose sole endeavor is to harmonize the Bible to the secular, evolutionary interpretative time frames of earth’s history.

Ross is insistent that the Bible requires us to believe that Genesis teaches a local flood. The whole point of Genesis 6-8, he suggests, is to give us a theological picture of the wickedness of man’s sin and God’s grace containing sin in one geographical area. God sent a localized flood thus preventing man from spreading his corruption to the whole globe.

His position hinges on what he believes are the limits of sin and the boundaries of God’s judgment [see chapter 15]. God only judges man’s sin and what it has defiled. Ross writes, “The extent of the Genesis flood, according to the principle laid out in Scripture, would have been determined by the spread of human sin,” [143]. In his view, ancient, antediluvian men never traveled outside the immediate vicinity of Mesopotamia. So, if for example man never reached Antarctica, there would be no need for God to send a flood there and no need for penguins to travel to Noah for preservation on the ark, [ibid].

In order to prove his local flood theory, Ross employees one chapter worth of strained and out of context grammatical exegesis that revises the plain meaning of the text. A second chapter is selected appeals to dated scientific research that he believes discounts the common, worldwide flood view.

I’ll spend the bulk of my review addressing the exegetical and theological arguments. The so-called scientific arguments he raises are many, and beyond what I can cover in one review article. They are dealt with in detail in such works by Andrew Snelling, Kurt Wise, Jonathan Sarfati, and John Whitmore, so I would refer readers to their material.

Two things disappointed me with Ross’s discussion of Noah’s flood. First, as I have already mentioned in previous reviews, he doesn’t bother engaging any dissenting works that would refute his views. That is also true in these sections on Noah’s flood. There is no real engagement with proponents of a worldwide flood. What passing references he does make with any detractor is shallow (no pun intended), never truly interacting with any published books or technical research that would answer his challenges.

Secondly, a number of his criticisms against a worldwide flood also come from the play books of atheists and amateur internet skeptics. In fact, there are times he sounds just like the nay-saying atheist critics attacking Answers in Genesis. For example, opening chapter 18 that discusses the passengers on the ark, Ross lays out four bullet points against the ark that swirl around in the fever swamps of online atheist forums. For example, “How could eight people possibly care for all the ark’s animals?” and “How could a wooden ship of the dimensions outlined in Genesis possibly be seaworthy?” One is left wondering if he actually wants to defend the testimony of Scripture or just ridicule young earth Creationists.

The Exegesis of Genesis 6-8

Ross devotes chapter 16 at attempting to explain away the biblical language affirming a global flood. In the opening paragraphs of this chapter, he writes that the wording of Genesis 6-8 describes how the flood impacted all humans, all animals, and all the mountains. Additionally, he notes, the words “all,” “every,” and “everything,” appear more than 40 times in the three chapters recording Noah’s flood, [145]. He then makes the astonishing comment, “On this basis, it seems no wonder belief in biblical truth demands belief in a global deluge,” [ibid]. In other words, I know the Bible clearly says the flood was global, but don’t believe your lying eyes!

The rest of the chapter is Ross redefining the clear, universal language employed by the text and reinterpreting Noah’s flood as regional, not global. I’ll consider just a few of his more prominent examples.

The use of universal language

As he noted in his introduction, the Genesis record of the flood uses a number of words that speak of the universality of the event. Such words as all, every, and everything. Ross presupposes, without any serious warrant, that modern readers need to frame the narrative in the mind of ancient man. Rather than thinking the whole earth, as in a spherical, blue globe, because our modern space age has taught us to think that way, ancient man thought of the whole earth as being what he could immediately see. From the mountains on the horizon to the visible boundary of the desert meeting the sky, that was the “whole earth” as far as ancient man was concerned.

Ross then provides some examples from Scripture when regional events like the famine in Egypt (Genesis 42:5-6) and Caesar Augustus’s taxation decree (Luke 2:1) were described as “worldwide” or the “entire earth,” [146-147]. We know from the facts of geography, he argues, that the famine was only Egypt and the surrounding nations and Rome’s world was the Mediterranean nations they conquered. Those events could hardly be called the whole world in the sense of the entire, global earth. Likewise when we understand the use of universal terms in Genesis 6-8.

There are some significant major flaws with his argument, however. One of the first questions I think Ross should consider is simply this: How exactly would the Bible convey the idea of a flood covering the entire globe if not for the use of universal terms? That is a question he seems to ignore.

More to the point, the Genesis record is emphatically clear with the use of repetitive universal terms that the flood was covering the entire world, not just a regional location. Genesis 7:19 specifically states that the flood waters increased upon the earth so that “all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered.” It is one thing to say all the high hills were covered, but to couple that phrase with “under the whole heaven” is exactly the language we would expect if God wants to convey the global extent of the flood.

Additionally, in Genesis 7:20ff. we find the same use of all to describe the extent of the destruction killing all life on the earth. Everything that breathed, man, woman, child, animals, swarming things, etc. Only Noah, his family, and everything on the ark was left alive. How else is one to understand such concise language? Even Ross acknowledges that, “the text would appear” to have universal extent [149], but of course he rejects that appearance.

One final note. The Apostle Peter uses the flood as an illustration of the coming judgment on the earth when Christ returns. In fact, Peter employs the word kataklusmos in 2 Peter 3, which translates the Hebrew word mabbul in Genesis 6:17. If the flood was a local, regional flood, does that mean Christ’s judgment is limited to Israel and the surrounding nations where the climatic battle of Armageddon takes place before His return? It would be an odd illustration if the flood only covered one small portion of the world, whereas the final judgment is the whole world.

The permanence of dry land

Ross claims that Psalm 104, along with a number of other passages, like Job 38 and Proverbs 8, teach that God declared during the creation of the land that it will never be covered in water again. In other words, when God brought dry land out of the waters, He Himself precluded the notion of a worldwide, earth destroying flood. The oceans had a set boundary and their waters will never cross over on to dry land, [147].

The problem, however, is that none of the passages he cites supporting his notion teach what he claims. All of them are either recounting God’s general care for His creation with really no mention of the permanence of dry land. Psalm 104:6-9 comes the closest, but those verses speak to the certainty of God’s post flood promise not to flood the earth again. Psalm 104:6-9, in fact, parallels the flood narrative: Genesis 7:19,20 (Psalm 104:6), Genesis 8:1, 3, (Psalm 104:7), Genesis 8:5 (Psalm 104:8), and Genesis 9:11 (Psalm 104:9).

The failure of mankind

One of Ross’s major presuppositions for his view of the local flood is the idea that mankind never dispersed upon the earth. As I noted above, Ross teaches that the flood was sent to judge man’s sin and everything he defiled. Because man never spread out from the Mesopotamian valley, there was no need to flood the entire world. He bases that presupposition upon God’s command to Adam to multiply and fill the earth, and then His command to Noah to multiply and fill the earth after the flood. By the time we come to Genesis 11, man is still disobeying God’s command, and so God confuses the languages at Babel, and only then did man disperse like he was supposed to.

There are some significant problems with his assumption. First, is Ross limiting God’s command to “fill the earth” to only Mesopotamia? Or does he believe God meant the whole earth, as in the entire world? Put another way, is the phrase “fill the earth” universal in scope? If that is the case, then why isn’t the universal description of earth in God’s command the same as with God flooding the earth? Distinguishing between a universal use of fill the earth to mean a global dispersion, with a supposed local flood that is described as covering all the earth, makes Ross’s view wildly inconsistent with itself.

Second, he assumes that man didn’t disperse when God initially commanded them to do so. Ross is suggesting that Adam’s progeny remained in the Mesopotamia region from the time of creation to the time of the flood. According to Ross’s own calculations, Adam and Eve lived anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 years ago, and Noah’s flood was some 40,000 years ago, [75]. That is at least 60 to 20 thousand years between Adam’s creation and God’s command to fill the earth and the flood of Noah. Ross would have us believe that mankind only remained in Mesopotamia for that length of time. Considering the spread and advancement of culture just from the time of Egypt to our present day, roughly four to five thousand years, insisting that all of mankind remained in one small location on earth for at least 20 thousand years, is rather incredible.

One last problem. Secular anthropologists date several cultures older than Ross’s date for Noah’s flood at 40,000 years ago. For instance, the Aboriginal culture is considered the oldest, dated at 50,000 years ago. Some even date them older than that.

The key, theological component to Ross’s local flood view is that man did not disperse beyond the boundaries of Mesopotamia from the time of Adam’s creation to Noah. God judges man’s sin and what it was he defiled with his sin, and so the flood could not be global because man had not yet defiled other parts of the earth with his sin. If the flood of Noah happened 40,000 years ago according to Ross’s calculations, where exactly do the Aboriginal peoples fit in? Are they sinless? They obviously pre-date Noah’s flood according to secular anthropologists.

Here is another clear example of how Ross’s dependence upon the claims of secularists severely conflict with Scripture. God’s “truth” revealed in the 67th book of nature, as Ross affirms, creates a massive problem with God’s truth as revealed in Scripture. Regrettably, the truth of Scripture gives way to the so-called “truth” of the 67th book of nature in Ross’s apologetic.

A Howse Divided Against Itself

I want to offer up some comments on a long, ranting screed Brannon Howse recently wrote against Phil Johnson. The one ironic aspect of it is that many of Brannon’s fans will not necessarily see it because it is posted at an obscure Facebook page. I think this is intentional deceit, as I will explain in a moment.

Now. Before I begin, it may be helpful to provide a little background for those readers not up to speed on the latest evangelical kerfuffle. Earlier in June, Brannon Howse, who hosts Worldview Weekend, a daily radio show heard on the VCY America network, launched a “discernment” crusade against James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Brannon had two self-proclaimed Islamic experts on his program to critically discuss a dialog James had with Yasir Qadhi in Memphis this past January.

The dialog itself was two nights of informal discussion between James and Yasir as to the distinctions between Islam and Christianity. One was held at a church in the Memphis area, the second at a mosque also in the Memphis area. Both hour and a half discussions can be watched HERE and HERE.

Brannon and his two experts, however, smeared the discussions as an “interfaith dialog” of the compromising sort. They suggested that James was compromising the Christian faith in the same way one of those gummy bear evangelicals like Rick Warren embraces Roman Catholics, or any other false religion, in a Coexist fashion. Additionally, they questioned James’s motives in doing the dialog, giving the impression he was soft-peddling the Islamic agenda. They falsely labelled him a “dupe” and a “useful idiot” who was lied to by Yasir, because according to the two experts, he is really a terrorist sympathizing ISIS supporter who was playing James like a fiddle in order to make Islam more accepting among American evangelicals.

Brannon devoted three programs assailing James’s character and ministry. When he encountered strong push back from folks on social media, he spent another week of follow up episodes in which he dug in against his detractors. I’ll point readers to Phil Johnson’s public remarks summarizing the entire affair because they reflect what I think it about it as well. See HERE.

With that background in mind, let me lay down a second layer before addressing Brannon’s rant. The following week after his three programs attacking James White, Phil Johnson from Grace to You, the radio ministry of John MacArthur (and my big boss), tweeted out the following comment, “Is there any respectable Christian leader Brannon Howse HASN’T found fault with?”

Phil then followed that tweet up with another, recalling a program from 2008 on which Brannon went after John MacArthur for his views that said the Revolutionary War was biblically unjustified. On that program, Brannon had on Tim Wildmon from the AFA, and Marshall Foster from the American History Institute, to publicly scold John MacArthur and his so-called woefully ignorant position on the American Revolution.

It is at this point, after Phil’s second tweet, that Brannon’s campaign against James White becomes an even hotter dumpster fire than it was already.

The day before Phil tweeted about the radio program pillorying John MacArthur, Brannon had posted John’s opening general session from the 2010 Shepherd’s Conference on his Facebook page. The message John preached is called Separating from Unbelievers. Brannon links to the message and then adds this description, “Separating from Unbelievers by John MacArthur. Should we talk with a Muslim Imam in a church & find common ground?”

At first glance, his description gives the impression that John is going to address the idea of Christians talking with Muslim imams and finding common religious ground with them. However, the words “Muslim” or “imam” are no where mentioned in the talk. In fact, nothing John states in his message would condemn what James White did with that imam. John’s message was aimed at genuine theological compromise with unbelievers, something James never did when he spent two days interacting with Yasir.

In response to Phil’s tweet comments, Brannon left this obfuscating statement on Facebook. (He also read it on his Worldview Weekend program).

The reader will note a glaring omission. The one name he conspicuously left out of his statement: Phil Johnson. That raises an intriguing question, why?

I’ll venture an educated guess and say it is because he intentionally clouded who it was he was responding to. A lot of the folks who hear Grace to You also hear Brannon’s Worldview Weekend. It is uncomfortably awkward if the director at the ministry of the very pastor he cites in support of his position took him to task regarding his hamfisted accusations against James White.

But folks may pause here and say, “Fred, aren’t you being just a tad unfair? Maybe he wanted to protect his identity.” That brings me to Brannon’s long rant.

The weekend after Phil posted his final thoughts on Brannon’s ridiculous “James White’s Islamic Peril” (see my link above), he posted three audio files in which he interviewed Phil back in 2011 on the topic of dealing with false teachers in the church. He also wrote up his fuming tirade against Phil. He even brought up the stupid controversy he manufactured in February 2015 when he went after Todd Friel about how many people died during the Catholic Inquisitions. Without rehearsing that entire drama, I can just say that what Brannon presents is lopsided and only half-way accurate. In other words, he is intentionally misremembering what happened. I ought to know, because I was at the center of that entire storm.

So what does that all have to do with my accusation that Brannon is purposefully hiding his comments from his readers? Well, his withering screed is posted on Sam Shamoun’s Facebook page. See HERE. (Just in case it is removed, HERE’s the PDF)

Unless a person knows who Sam is, more than likely he isn’t gonna see it. Brannon’s fans are certainly not gonna see it. As of this writing, there are just 11 shares. I personally left a comment refuting Brannon’s claims, but of course Sam, probably out of ignorance of who I am, dismissed me as a buffoon. I left a second comment, but that got removed and now I am blocked from leaving any responses whatsoever. If Brannon was genuinely serious about responding to Phil, he’d do it on his website and his own personal Facebook page for all to see. He would not run to an obscure yes man who is simply using Brannon as a stick to beat James White.

Brannon’s clumsy, half-baked crusade to uncover imaginary collusion between a well-respected, rock solid Christian apologist with a 25 year track record of Gospel ministry and an accused Islamic terrorist sympathizer is bad enough. Compounding the problem is him mass blocking an entire online community of believers pleading with  him to step back and reevaluate the foolishness he has presented. Worse still is him hiding his dispute with a ministry that on the one hand he uses for his credibility, but on the other hand, disparages the men associated with that ministry. Such vacillating behavior reveals some troubling character issues that need to be addressed.

Gleanings from Judges [17]

The Downfall of Samson – Judges 16

It has been awhile since I last took up my devotional study of Judges. I come this time to the final chapter detailing the life of Samson. He was one of the last Judges of Israel, preceding Samuel, but slightly overlapping his life.

In a way, Samson represents what the Bible teaches us about the weakness of man’s heart. Proverbs 4:23 states, Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

The heart is understood in Scripture as being the true person. It is the mission-control center that directs and orients man in his worldview, his thinking, his overall course of life. Proverbs goes on to explain for us the need to keep watch over it. Mostly to prevent the perversity found in our hearts from escaping, thus revealing our sinfulness. At the same time, we want to take heed to what we bring into our hearts as well.

Samson is a warning. Though he did great exploits under the power of God, his moral life failed to avoid the pitfalls of personal sin involving women and lust. We this unfold for us in Judges 16.

I. Samson at Gaza – 16:1-3

Judges 16 really opens in 15:20, where it says Samson judged for 20 years. His 20 year judgeship began when God stirred him to action against the Philistines in chapters 14 and 15. For 20 years in between those chapters and chapter 16, he is said to have judged. We are not entirely sure how that played out. Any further exploits against the Philistines is not recorded. The events of chapter 16 are 20 years later, making Samson around 40 years of age.

Chapter 16 begins with Samson at Gaza, the furthest city from where he lived, nearly 40 miles. While he is in the city, he visits a prostitute, a stark reminder of his major character flaw. Becoming cocky, or perhaps feeling invincible, he is forgetting where his abilities truly lie.

Someone in Gaza recognizes him and alerts the Philistines that he is there among them. They set up an ambush, but Samson is able to sneak past them. He lifts the massive city gate from off its foundations and carries it up toward Hebron, reminding the Philistines who he is.

II. Samson and Delilah and the Philistines

Though God was merciful in delivering him from his iniquity, Samson quickly falls into another snare. He loved of a non-Jewish woman of Sorek, essentially another Philistine like the one he attempted to marry in chapter 14. A woman of the very uncircumcised enemies God is stirring up against Samson.

Delilah’s name is uncertain. It means something like, “of the night,” meaning an unnamed woman who is merely another prostitute. Or it is the way the biblical writer is reminding the reader that it was a person of spiritual darkness. Whatever the case, she is different for Samson, because he keeps coming back to her.

The Philistines, however, are crafty. They hear of their affair and the main lords of the Philistines offer her a massive reward 1,100 pieces of silver from each lord, combining to make 5,500 pieces. (3 times what Gideon got in gold, 1,700 shekels). It is clear that the Philistines are desperate to rid themselves of their menace.

What follows is Delilah, over the course of four encounters, slowly uncovering the secret to Samson’s strength. Each time she asks Samson to explain how he could be overcome or bound. First, he says that if he were tied up with seven fresh bowstrings, then if he were tied up with fresh ropes, then if he weaved his hair into seven locks, and then finally, if she were to cut his hair.

Each time, he mockingly tells her a lie, but eventually dancing around the truth (his hair), until he tells her the entire truth of his strength. With each time, she lulls him asleep and does to him what he said would weaken him. Each time, the Philistines would try to capture him only to be beaten by him.

Finally, he “tells him all his heart.” He foolishly told her everything. He didn’t guard his heart. Delilah even knew he had, because she immediately told the Philistines what he had told her. As a result, she exploited his secret by cutting his hair and then calling in the Philistines. They seize him, put out his eyes, and make him grind in their mills.

III. Samson and God

Samson is finally at the end of his life. Helpless, he begins to turn his heart toward the Lord he served. The Philistines begin to make sport of Samson. They bring him to their main temple to have him entertain them. The temple complex was massive because it held nearly 3,000 people, men, women, and children.

While he is mocked Samson calls out to God. There is a hint of genuine repentance on his part. He calls on God to “remember me,” nearly the same words the thief on the cross spoke to Christ as he was dying. He asks to be avenged for his two eyes. He shouts out, “Let me die with the Philistines!” That obviously got every one’s attention, but it was too late. Pushing on the main support pillars, Samson tears down the temple. In that one act, he kills more Philistines in his death than during his lifetime.

Postscript

1 Samuel 7 records when a young Samuel called the children of Israel to repentance after they had been humiliated by the Philistines 20 years prior when they captured the ark. God restored His ark to His people, but there was 20 years of silence when the people lamented for their sin. That 20 years is probably when Samson judged. When Samuel called Israel together to a public time of worship, the Philistines heard about them gathering in one place (7:7). They gathered their army to go out and kill Israel. Their action was stirred in part by Samson pulling down their temple and killing 3,000 people. Israel heard from God that day in a display that was like thunder. When the Philistines were put to flight, the men of Israel rose up, pursued them, and drove them back and out of their land.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [5]

How Far the Fall? Genesis 3 – Chapter 11

After a bit of a break, I’m returning to reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. The four previous reviews can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Skipping ahead to chapter 11, I’m addressing how Ross deals with Genesis 3 and the consequences of Adam’s fall, especially death.

Before I work my way through this chapter with a review, we need to acknowledge what the Bible tells us about death. It is clear throughout its pages that death is an intrusion into God’s creation brought here by Adam’s disobedience in the garden. Physical death demonstrates God’s judgment, and death is likened unto an enemy, (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The first death recorded in Scripture was that of an animal from which God made skins to cover Adam and Eve immediately after they had sinned. With that death of an animal, God demonstrated the need for atonement that turns His judgment away from man and restores divine fellowship. All of creation, without exception, has been touched by Adam’s sin. Because of his fall, the entire creation groans, longing to be set free from its bondage to corruption, (Romans 8:20-21). Physical death of all living things is a stark and grim reminder of the creation’s bondage to that corrupting curse.

Ross, on the other hand, rather than teaching that physical death is a curse upon all of God’s creation, teaches that death is beneficial. Death was originally one of the good aspects of God’s creation because it was necessary for God to care for the carnivorous animals by allowing them to eat other animals to survive. Death was never intended for mankind, however, and became a curse for men when Adam disobeyed. That is the position Ross attempts to defend in chapter 11.

Review and Analysis

Ross opens his chapter briefly mentioning the rebellion of Satan. Why that is relevant to his discussion of Adam’s fall and the impact of death is unclear. I take it that he is contrasting Adam’s rebellion with Satan’s, because he states in a previous chapter that Satan rebelled first, [91].  His comments appears as if he is attempting to explain away physical death as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Like he is saying, “Well, Satan rebelled first, so Adam’s fall really has nothing to do with death.”

He does make this baffling assertion, though, “Whether it [Satan’s rebellion] occurred before or during God’s creation of Earth the Bible never says, but we do know it predated Eden,” [109]. If the Bible never says when Satan’s rebellion happened, how exactly does Ross know it predated Eden? But I digress.

His chapter is outlined in four main sections. I’ll consider each one in turn.

Adam and Eve’s Expulsion from Eden

This section recounts the scene of Genesis 3. Ross provides a fair summary of the events: God forbidding the first couple from partaking of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve being tempted by the Serpent and eating, and then Adam following his wife in disobedience, and the consequences of their banishment from Eden. He then makes some comments about how Adam’s one, small act of eating a forbidden fruit leads to the avalanche of sin in the world. However, physical death overall was not a part of that consequence as he will go on to explain.

Did the Fall Change Physics?

It is in this section that Ross’s egregious apologetics on death begin to surface. He builds his presentation on strawman arguments against young Earth creationists and illogical category distinctions.

First, he focuses a lot of his discussion on the false notion that YEC teach that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall. He seems to assume that it is the commonly held view of all creationists. Now, it could be that Ross has engaged a few young earthers in the past who held to that perspective, but the idea that the second law of thermodynamics was initiated at the fall has never been the standard position of the YEC community.

In fact, sloppy, out-of-date research is probably one of the biggest problems with this entire chapter (as well as the book). His objections to his detractors are built upon material he published back in the 90s in his book, Creation and Time, and The Genesis Question, the first edition of Navigating Genesis, published in 2001. If he had bothered to spend time reviewing and updating his work, he would have discovered that creationists have written quite a bit in the intervening 20 years or more answering those sorts of false charges. See HERE for example.

Continuing his case for the second law of thermodynamics, Ross mentions Paul’s words in Romans 8:20-22, but his understanding of those verses are so wildly off target I wonder how he can be taken seriously as a Christian apologist. He believes Paul is describing the affects of the second law of thermodynamics, referring to “the whole of creation” “right up to the present time,” [112]. In other words, the work of the second law of thermodynamics has always been a necessary part of God’s created order from the very beginning. “The thermodynamic laws are good,” he writes, “in spite of the “decay,” “frustration,” and “groaning,” [113]. They are part of God’s plan for preparing people for eternity and the new creation.

Ross, however, over looks the one, crucial point Paul makes in Romans 8:20-22. The apostle writes that the creation was subjected unwillingly to that state of frustration, corruption, and groaning by the very sin of Adam. His sin wasn’t limited to only impacting humanity, but it corrupted the whole of creation. That key, theological element seems to fly entirely over Ross’s head.

He also manufacturers a category error. He writes, “Some people presume that the natural tendency toward decay (the second law of thermodynamics) and carnivorous animal behavior, for example, must be attributable to human sin, not to God’s design,” [111], and then a little bit later he writes, “The universe and its physics have not changed, as some suggest,” [ibid]. He cites Jeremiah 33:25 and Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 as proof-texts for his assertion.

The problem, however, is that the changed nature of men and animals due to Adam’s fall is unrelated to the principles of physics governing our world. That would be such things noted in Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes, like the fixed orbits of the sun and the stars, and the water cycle. We can also include the laws of thermodynamics as well. No creationist is arguing that the laws of physics changed after Adam’s sinned. However, the fundamental nature of men and animals did. Men are called in Scripture, “by nature, children of wrath,” in Ephesians 2:3.

It is impossible to separate man’s sin nature from manifesting in the physical world. Men were changed from a state of innocence to a state of guilt, shame, and hostile rebellion against their Creator when Adam fell. Adam’s fall did bring the creation into the bondage of corruption, physical death being the key element to that corruption.To deny that reality is ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture.

Did the Fall Initiate Death and Predation?

Ross firmly rejects that Adam’s sin had anything to do with physical death. Instead, he understands human death to be connected to man’s separation from God. It is not that physical death is bad, but physical death for humans that is bad. I’ll discuss his position a bit more when I review the next section.

He also rejects that Adam’s fall has anything to do with animal death and carnivorous animals preying on other animals. He cites Psalm 104:21 and Job 38:39 that speak of God providing prey for the lions as proof-texts. But he seems to assume that those two passages are talking about animals in their original, created state. That predator animals were created to be predators. But we have clear revelation that predation was not God’s original intent.

Genesis 1:29-30 states that God gave to man and to animals every seed bearing plant as food. That restriction was not limited to only human beings or plant eating animals in Eden, but was given to every animal on the surface of the earth. The only logical conclusion is that included ALL animals without exception.  Ross makes the absurd passing remark that all animals are dependent upon and eat plants when the carnivorous animals kill and eat the herbivorous animals. But that is just a painfully strained view of what Genesis 1:29-30 clearly states.

Additionally, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a Messianic kingdom when predatory animals like wolves and bears will dwell with non-predatory animals like lambs and oxen (Isaiah 11:6ff. and 65:25ff.), so the prophet’s words seem to indicate that animal nature was impacted by Adam’s fall and that will be reversed in the future. Hence, something had to have changed in the nature of the animals so that they became predatory and began eating meat.

The Death Benefit

Lastly, Ross closes out the chapter by reiterating that death is only a bad thing for mankind to experience. At the same time, physical death is good and beneficial. For instance, Ross writes that, “It limits the amount of harm those who reject God’s offer can do to themselves and to others,” [114]. He then ends with the comment, “The story of Adam and Eve’s sons paints a horrific picture of what it can do — and of physical death as essential for the preservation of life,” [115].

Essential for the preservation of life? I personally find it a stunningly bizarre comment that claims physical death is a benefit to God’s creation. The Bible identifies death as an enemy. It is considered corruption from which men need liberation (Romans 8:22), as well as the wages of sin (Romans 6:22). How can something that is the result of God’s curse ever be thought of as a good thing?

Even more to the point, if death is beneficial, what is in need for the creation’s liberation from that corruption? Christ’s death accomplishes the redemption of mankind from death, but their redemption directly effects God’s creation according to Paul in Romans 8:20. The apostle John even reiterates that truth in Revelation 22:3 when there is no longer anything that is accursed.

Ross’s apologetic for death is extremely problematic, in my opinion. It comes precariously close to altering the doctrine of Christ’s redemptive work. For if death is a good and necessary benefit to God’s creation, what is the point of Christ defeating something that God has made good?

Book Review – Do Not Hinder Them

I had the opportunity to review Justin Peters new book addressing childhood conversions, Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion.

The book is brief, only 100 plus pages or so, but it is a concise, withering analysis as to why youth are leaving church and drifting away from the Christian faith.

The so-called youth experts on social media want us to believe it is because Christian kids lack the training in the basic apologetics to answer skeptics they will encounter at college. Or perhaps they don’t feel connected to church. In reality, as Peters’s explains, it is because kids have been led to pray a prayer of confession at an early age, and then rushed through the waters of baptism. Often times, the baptism of kids is for the purpose of bolstering numbers for the local church so they in turn can report those figures to the denominational headquarters.

The result is a kid who never really understood the Gospel message, who then prays a rehearsed prayer of confession given to him by his parents and youth pastor, and him becoming essentially a false convert. When he leaves home, he leaves the Christian faith because he never had genuine faith to begin with.

I would highly recommend parents, youth directors, and pastors to read this book and ponder the study Peters provides within it’s pages. My full review can be found over at the Bible Thumping Wingnut page,

Do Not Hinder Them – A Review

Clashing Theologies over Israel and the Church

I had the opportunity recently to participate in a nearly three hour discussion on the distinctions and similarities between Israel and the Church.

Participants were various individuals from the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network, that included Andrew Rappaport and myself defending more of a Dispensational perspective, Paul Kaiser and Joey Jaco from the Conversations from the Porch podcast defending the NCT perspective, and Vincent Lancon representing the CT perspective.

The discussion was informal, rather than a serious debate. I appreciated that because we weren’t required to remain anchored to a rigid format. A number of listeners may find the informality annoying because it allowed us to hop around on a lot of rabbit trails. Additionally, the NCT and CT perspectives were virtually identical, at least this time.

The one observation I would make reflecting back upon the discussion is that our main disagreement hinges on how we interpret the Bible. (Duh).

The Dispensational detractors, especially the NCT guys, insist that the apostles read the Old Tesatment differently than the prophets because the coming of Jesus supposedly changed the rules of hermeneutics. While I would certainly agree that God was progressively revealing His redemptive purposes over time so that certain aspects of His purposes were veiled for a time, to suggest that the basic rules of interpretation shifted dramatically with the coming of Christ so that the OT is entirely reoriented in the light of the NT opens up major fissures in our basic theology.

For example, that view would create what I would consider competing canons of authority with the OT conveying a revelatory message in one way and the NT conveying an entirely different message. Moreover, proponents of that interpretive view would have us believe God intentionally misled with the revelation He gave. In other words, when the patriarchs heard the reiterated covenant promises of a geopolitical kingdom in their land that lasts forever, they took God at His word. If He really meant something entirely different, that being a typological heavenly land, such would be deception on God’s part. The OT is replete with prophetic promises that clearly state how Israel will be planted in their land forever, never to be removed. The land is further understood as the physical territory known as Israel, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 27, Isaiah 59:20-21, Jeremiah 16:14-16, Jeremiah 32:36-40, Hosea 1:10, Hosea 2:21-23, and Zechariah 12-14, just to mention a smattering of important passages.

Abner Chou has actually offered some excellent critiques of what is called the Christocentric hermeneutic. I would direct readers to these resources,

A Evaluation of the Christocentric Hermeneutic (Word doc)

Inerrancy in Light of the NT Writer’s use of the OT (ShepCon Inerrancy Summit message)

The Dual Status of Israel in Romans 11:28 (TMS journal article from Matt Waymeyer)

Anyhow, the discussion is currently available on YouTube, and will be made available eventually as a podcast on BTWN. Check it out.

Israel and the Church | the Clash of Theologies