Monday, December 30, 2013


With the exception of issues relating to Calvinism and Arminianism, I am usually at odds theologically with Roger Olson. Nevertheless, he wrote four posts that I felt were outstanding this year.

Discrimination Against Boys In Education (And Elsewhere):  Dr. Olson speaks out against punishing boys for past discrimination against girls and women. Here is a short excerpt:
"...neglecting to address real discrimination against boys will result in harm to society. Boys will drop out of social productivity and participation, something that is already happening among young men in their twenties, develop strong resentments, and become a drag on society’s progress in overall health and well being."

A Theology Of Duck Dynasty(Or What Duck Dynasty Says About American Culture And Christianity: Whether the show's subjects intended it or not, this show reflects a growing trend, even among Christians, to speak of God, yet to avoid mentioning Christ. Olson doubts that Christian entertainment which makes minimal reference to Christ is truly Christian. He specifically refers to Touched by an Angel and Seventh Heaven in this regard:
I don’t remember Jesus ever being mentioned on notable Christian-oriented network television shows such as Touched by an Angel or Seventh Heaven. (Yes, I used to watch these—mainly with my family when we had children at home and also in order to know what they were when people asked me about them!) These and some other programs have been heavy with God-talk and religious values, but light on anything particular. One often got the impression they were trying to draw in as many viewers as possible while at the same time not offending anyone. But I’m not sure it’s real Christianity if it doesn’t offend some people some of the time. And I’m not sure it’s real Christianity if it avoids mentioning Jesus." (For the record, I have not watched these shows, or Duck Dynasty. Even if Olson is wrong about these particular shows, his overall thesis is valid.)

Where The Devil Is Satan (In Contemporary Christianity) ?: Dr. Olson examines why not only theological moderates, but Evangelicals as well, refrain from speaking of Satan as a real personal entity. One of the reasons he lists: Calvinism. 

Is America Becoming A Police State?: How would we know if the answer to the question is yes?

Arrogance vs Confidence In The Truth Of The Gospel by Kevin Watson:  Post modernism has influenced many to think that to claim certainty of knowledge is arrogance. Even those within the Church have felt this influence, being told that to claim absolute truth for the Gospel is arrogant, while uncertainty equals humility. Watson humbly disagrees. From Dr. Watson's Vital Piety blog.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Same Sex Parenting: Child Abuse? by Robert Oscar Lopez: Raised by a lesbian mother, Mr. Lopez knows that children raised by same-sex couples suffer emotional abuse because they are denied either a mother or a father (Though he doesn't condemn his mother, whose huband walked out on them). Here are two quotes from his article:
"Let’s be clear: I am not saying that same-sex parents are automatically guilty of any kind of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse to the children they raise. Nor am I saying that LGBT people are less likely to take good care of children.
What I mean is this: Even the most heroic mother in the world can’t father. So to intentionally deprive any child of her mother or father, except in cases like divorce for grave reasons or the death of a parent, is itself a form of abuse. (Though my mother raised me with the help of a lesbian partner, I do not feel I was abused, because I always knew that my mother didn’t intend for my father to divorce her.)"
"It is abusive to tell a child, “We are your moms” or “we are your dads,” and then expect the child never to feel the loss of such important icons, in addition to the injury of having been severed from at least one, and possibly both, biological parents—not because it was necessary, but because the two adults insisted on the arrangement. The lessons children learn from this undermine selfhood: might makes right, little people are subject to the whims of self-serving parents, and powerful people can impose “love” on weaker beings with money or political influence over adoption agencies, family courts, sperm banks, and surrogate mothers.
None of these problems would arise if we lived in a world where gay people saw children not as a commodity for purchase but rather as an obligation requiring sacrifices (i.e., you give up your gay partner instead of making your kid give up a parent of the opposite sex, because you’re the adult.)"
Last year Lopez wrote a more personal article detailing his own struggles for emotional health and the choices he has had to make concerning the members of his own family. Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children's View is even more compelling than the first article cited. Both articles appeared on the Public Discourse website from The Witherspoon Institute.   

Homosexual Behavior And Fornication: Intimate Bedfellows by Jerry Walls: Why are same-sex relationships finding increased acceptance among younger Christians? Jerry Walls believes that one factor among many is that younger Christians engage in premarital sex. They won't admit it publicly, but because of their own behavior, younger Christians don't develop an attitude that same-sex relationships are sinful. However, the day is coming when heterosexual sin will have its defenders from within conservative, evangelical churches. From the School of Christian Thought webpage from Houston Baptist University.

Rachael Held Evans' Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church made quite a buzz on the internet. No, this is not a recommendation. I do recommend what I believe were the best responses to her:

The Rise Of The Chicken Little Evangelical Blogger by Jake Meador. Meador is not impressed with Evans' notion that the Church's refusal to accomodate itself to millennial attitudes spells doom for the Church. After all, remember what the Church has endured for centuries. The Church has not only survived, but thrived. A quote from Meador's article in Mere Orthodoxy:
"...we’ve been burned, beheaded, disemboweled, and flayed alive and come through it all. We’ve been killed by our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’ve fought wars, we’ve been sent off to concentration camps and gulags. There have been many times in our history where the greatest hindrance to joining the church was that getting baptized could lead to imprisonment, torture, or even death. And through all that, the church has endured. But in the minds of certain Christian bloggers, privileged white millennials and their nebulously defined intuitions and impulses pose a greater threat to the long-term flourishing of the church than the Colosseum."

Would Jesus Attract Millennials? by Allan Bevere: He would attract some, but the content of his message would repel most. See John 6. As most millennials are extreme individualists, they would see the Church as irrelevant for their lives. Especially as secular institutions are able to meet the needs Evans claims the Church must meet to retain millennials. HT: The Methoblog.

How To Keep Millennials In The Church? Let's Keep Church Uncool by Brett McCraken:  Millennials, instead of expecting everyone else to listen to you, why don't you take time to listen to older Christians and previous generations who labored for the Church throughout much struggle. Older Church leaders, quit being obsessed with what everyone else thinks about the Church. Wow! An interesting article actually appeared on the Washington Post's On Faith blog.

When We Are Born That Way: Casting Stones vs. Permitting Sin by Marian Green: This was written before Evan's article was posted, so it is not a direct response to her. Yet it is a perceptive critique of millennial Christian attitudes. Here is an excerpt:
"Here is my manifesto: I don’t know how to speak to people about the transformation of Jesus Christ unless I give them the hope and promise of change. I cannot give people food without telling them that what they have been eating is toxic to the soul. I cannot give them clean water unless I will also tell them the filth they have been bathing in will kill them. I cannot clothe them without confessing to them the intricate glory of the Creator who made them.
I cannot give them Jesus and tell them to continue to live in sin."
This is the approach William and Catherine Booth followed when they began the Salvation Army. They met physical needs while preaching holiness, in their case, a Wesleyan holiness message. John Wesley correctly saw that holiness leads to what he termed social holiness. Yet holiness must precede social holiness. See also Marvin Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion. Green's article is from her Uprooted and Undone blog. HT: I cannot recall.
I apologize for the appearance of some of these articles. At the present time, my access to computers is limited. Articles written on the computer I am now using are published with a variety of font sizes, especially when quoting other articles through cut and paste. I do have access to other computers, but time considerations mandated that I compose and publish from this computer. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


There has been a greater number of articles that have appeared on the internet this year that I have considered outstanding. Therefore, for the first time, this end of the year review will be a series of posts, rather than just one. Unfortunately, since late June, my regular internet viewing routine has degenerated into chaos. I'll never know how many more outstanding articles I have missed. Anyway, here are the first five:

Greater Grace: The Story of God, Redemption, and Steve McQueen from the Southern Gospel Yankee blog. I did a bit of research online to check the accuracy of this post since some have erroneously claimed famous and historical figures converted to Christ. I did find other sources that confirm this account. My favorite post of the year. HT: Gene Veith.

The Art of Dying by Rob Moll. This actually appeared on Jesus Creed in 2011, but I came across it this year. This short article contains important advice for pastors and local churches on how to deal with members who have terminal illnesses. Here is a short excerpt:
"A good death–one that survivors feel was meaningful and honorable–is far more difficult when there is intensive medical intervention. The more aggressive the treatment, the more painful and more difficult a death is likely to be. The church can be active here by learning and teaching Christian views of dying well. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationfound that people died more poorly after being advised by their pastors, mostly because they were urged to pursue more treatment. Instead, the church can promote spiritual faithfulness in anticipation of life with God."

Also from Jesus Creed: Expectations:Theirs and Mine by Mark Stevens. On pastors dealing with with the expectations of others and their own expectations of themselves.

Daddy, Why Do People Steal From Us? by Peter Chin. A Korean family ministering in an urban setting experience numerous thefts of their possessions. How can the father explain this to his daughter without perpetuating racial stereotypes? From Christianity Today's This Is Our City blog.

Some Christians believe that to contend for religious liberty is a sub-Christian activity. After all, they say, the early Church didn't demand freedom to worship in ancient Rome. Christians Don't Have A Right To Be Stupid by Tonyia Martin provides an effective antidote to such thinking.  Here is the paragraph that caught my interest:
"Christians who continue to face persecution around the world often look to American Christians to continue to uphold religious freedom and set a standard. Coptic Christians in Egypt have told me that one of their greatest fears is that someday America will no longer be a place where Christians can express and live out their faith as freely as we can now. If that ever happens, they expect persecution to worsen worldwide."
From Christianity Today's Her-Meneutics blog.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Sir Walter Scott died in 1832. Yet his words concerning scientific exploration without a moral compass ring true today. Those involved with the issues of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research should heed his words:

“I am no great believer in the extreme degree of improvement to be derived from the advancement of science; for every pursuit of that nature tends, when pushed to a certain extent, to harden the heart and render the philosopher reckless of everything save the objects of his own pursuit; all equilibrium in the character is destroyed, and the visual nerve of the understanding is perverted by being fixed on one object exclusively.”


I saw a hit piece on Ulysses S. Grant's generalship in the New York Times. The author's assertions were completely eviscerated in the comment section. I saw this comment by someone by the name of William Turnier. I so enjoyed his comment on William T. Sherman I had to share it:

"Sherman gets flak from too many Southerners for killing their great- grandfather's pigs and burning the barn so that great granddaddy would not have to be killed in some unnecessary battle fought to preserve a system of wealth based on human chattel. I have never understood this way of thinking. Had the hogs not died and the barn not been burned, great grandpa likely not have been around to provide the offspring from which they descend. Basically Sherman's laying waste to the productive capacity of the South let its people live so that they could produce subsequent generations who could lament the loss of livestock and barns."

Friday, October 25, 2013


I read How Moses Compiled Genesis by J. Stafford Wright on Friday, 10/4, but have had no opportunity to post my impressions of it till now. That Friday, I did what I did the week previously; I stayed home and did laundry while reading. However in this case, I thought it appropriate to listen to the soundtrack to The Ten Commandments as I read.

Writing in 1946, Wright states that in the war over the Pentateuch, the followers of Wellhausen were winning. But he asserted that conservative scholars need not lose the war. What was needed, in his estimation, was a positive offense from the conservative camp. To argue against a late date for the writing of the Pentateuch was a good defense. But an effort had to be made to demonstrate that Moses indeed did write it. Wright's article, which was from a paper he read at a theological students' conference at Cambridge, was his suggestion for the beginning of such a positive offense, focusing on Genesis. Why did he focus on Genesis? First, because Jewish tradition is unanimous in in attributing it's authorship to Moses. Second, it is obvious that Genesis is closely linked to the rest of the Pentateuch. Even Wellhausen never separated Genesis from from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The same hand that wrote those books wrote Genesis. And there are portions of the Law which identify Moses as the author. So, if one can make the case for an early date for the writing of Genesis, the same can be done for the rest of the Pentateuch.

Exodus tells us that Moses grew up in Pharaoh's household (Ex. 1:10). Wright states this to be a little before 1500 B.C. (I don't use B.C.E. on this blog. If this were a scholarly paper, perhaps I might force myself to do so.) Here, all the royal princes, as well as the sons of chiefs from across the Empire, were educated. Moses received this very same education (Acts 7: 22). Here Moses would learn to read government documents and histories not only from Egypt, but also from Assyria and Babylon. Through such reading, Moses would become a master in many languages. He would not only have learned the Egyptian and Babylonian languages, he would have learned the Hebrew language as well. The Patriarchs probably abandoned the Sumerian language of Ur and adopted their own dialectical version of the language of Canaan. As Moses came into contact with the Princes from Canaan, he could join in on their conversations. Moses also would have picked up Hebrew from contact with his natural family.

Moses would have learned about the history of his own people from these documents. The Pharaoh's left voluminous records praising their reigns. In these documents, Moses would have come across accounts in the Egyptian language of Joseph, who had ruled Egypt under Pharaoh 350 years before. Most of this history would have been written by Joseph himself. This history would have been nearly lost to the Israelites toiling for their masters. Jacob and Abraham also probably left accounts of their lives which made it into Egyptian archives. Moses would also have discovered genealogies, going all the way back to Adam. He also would have learned of God's dealings with his people,including the promises given to Abraham and his descendants. Moses would concentrate on this theme as he worked to synthesize all this material into one historical account. Moses would be interested in showing that the God revealed in the historical documents was the same God that delivered them from Egypt and gave them the Law. Previously, God had been known by the name El Shaddai. When God revealed himself to Moses, God revealed his name as Yahweh (Ex. 6:3). Yet the name Yahweh appears in various places in Genesis. In this way, Moses was showing his people that their God was the same God that appears in Genesis.

This is only a short summary of only half of Wrights article. Much detail has been left out. The whole article is only 10 pages and is a quick read. I saw it originally on Rob Bradshaw's Biblical StudiesUK website, but it cannot be found there now. It can be found at the link above. The next post in this series will be a review of an article by Edward J. Young on the canon of the Old Testament.        

Friday, October 4, 2013


Last Friday night, some chose to let off steam by going out. Some stayed home and watched the season premier of Blue Bloods. Not I. I did laundry and read Our Lord’s View of the Old Testament by John W. Wenham. (It’s been some time since I posted something for Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual. For an explanation of the title, see the links section of this blog.) Wenham’s 1953 article examines Christ’s view of the Old Testament in three areas: Christ’s view of Old Testament as genuine history, his view of the Old Testament as a guide to ethics, and his views on the inspiration of the Old Testament. He begins by examining whether one can be completely objective when studying scripture. There are two dangers to be avoided, according to Wenham. One is allowing theological prejudices or traditionalism to influence our scriptural interpretations. The other is to swallow the claims of higher criticism as being the only valid vehicle of ‘scientific objectivity.’ Wenham recognizes that some writings are not literal in form. He recognizes that some biblical passages are poetry, some are parables, some are symbolic, etc. Some modern evangelicals treat this recognition as a recent occurrence which has yet to be recognized by those who believe in the inerrancy and divine inspiration of scripture. Tim Keller propagates this notion in his article Creation,Evolution, and Christian Lay People, where he claims that those who believe in the historical accuracy of the Genesis account of creation fail to recognize the different scriptural genres. While Wenham may have some doubts as to whether certain books of the Bible are to be considered straight forward historical accounts, such as the book of Jonah, he obviously has a high view of the inspiration of scripture. His article demonstrates that recognition of the different genres of scripture does not necessitate doubt of the veracity of any historical account portrayed in scripture. The fact that he wrote this article in 1953 demonstrates that this recognition has been around for a long time, even among those who believe in the divine inspiration of the whole Biblical cannon.

Wenham demonstrates Jesus’ attitude toward Old Testament historical narratives as being straight forward records of fact. For a list of Jesus’ citations of Old Testament historical passages, see here. To those who argue that the Lord’s use of these passages does not imply he regarded them as unimpeachable history, Wenham states that Jesus’ use of them seems decisively to negate such a conclusion. Some may doubt the historicity of the account of the bronze serpent. They may consider it to be merely a picture of salvation. Wenham responds to this argument:

“As a mere picture of salvation, the value of the reference to the wilderness serpent (Jn. iii.14) would be unimpaired even if its historical basis were destroyed, but nevertheless something is lost if the close historical parallelism is undermined. Concrete saving acts of God were wrought upon the perishing in the wilderness church through the uplifting of the brazen serpent, and concrete saving acts of God will be wrought upon the perishing in the New Testament age through the uplifted Son of Man. The type was a picture, but not a mere picture. It was a real participation in God’s salvation through faith, and to evaporate the type into a mere legend is certainly to weaken it. There is nothing to suggest that our Lord had any such thought.”

For Jesus to have taught from such a false premise would have been dishonest, Wenham writes.

Wenham examines how Jesus applied the Old Testament to controversial matters, ethics, during his temptation in the wilderness, and after the resurrection. In his confrontations with the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus never condemned their appeal to the Old Testament; he condemned their approach to scripture and the erroneous conclusions their approaches produced. In Mt. 23:23, Jesus condemns the Pharisees not for applying the Law too rigorously, but for ignoring the weightier matters of the Law. In Mt. 5:17-20, Jesus taught his disciples not to think he came to abolish the Law and the Prophets. He came to fulfill them. He said, “…one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Whoever breaks the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be least in God’s kingdom. Those who teach and practice them will be great in God’s kingdom. Entry into God’s kingdom requires righteousness greater than both the scribes and the Pharisees. The obedience to the Law Jesus demands is first and foremost obedience in the spirit, but also in the letter. Willful spiritual obtuseness and the replacement of scripture with religious tradition are the twin evils that render God’s Word of no effect (Mt. 15:1-9, Mk.7:1-13). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, had they really believed Moses, would have believed Jesus (Jn. 5:46-47). “Faith, love, and a right attitude of will are the keys to an understanding of Moses and of Christ,” Wenham writes. This is true in terms of ethics. When the young ruler asked Jesus what was required to enter eternal life, Jesus’ answered by quoting portions of the Ten Commandments and the injunction from Leviticus to love one’s neighbor as one loves himself. To expand on Wenham at this point, by leaving out the first four commandments, Jesus was trying to make the ruler realize his obedience had been external, that his heart was not in love with his creator. Because of his unwillingness to love God by obedience from the heart, he walked away from Jesus still in his sins. Jesus’ use of Old Testament writings during his wilderness temptation clearly demonstrates his belief that these writings were indeed authoritative. After his resurrection, Luke writes that Jesus taught his disciples from the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, showing them that these were all fulfilled in him (Lk. 24:25-27). As the first Christians and those they witnessed to were primarily Jews, their primary task as they saw it was to prove that Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

According to Wenham, there is no evidence in the Gospels that Jesus believed that the writers of the Old Testament were inspired, but the writings themselves were not. In fact, the evidence is that Jesus believed the exact opposite. The Old Testament makes no attempt to hide, or make excuses, for the sins of its greatest figures, including those who wrote portions of the Old Testament. The sins of Moses and David are recorded for all generations to read. Yet Jesus regarded their writings as authoritative because he regarded the triune God as their author. He prefaced Old Testament quotations with statements such as “Moses said…” (Mk. 7:10), “…well did Isaiah prophecy…” (Mk. 7:6, cf. Mt. 13:14). He referred to the abomination of desolation , “…spoken of by Daniel the prophet…” However, the authority of such passages as the Ten Commandments doesn’t originate from the fact that Moses spoke them. These passages have had the impact they have had because they are commandments from God.

J.W. Wenham later wrote a book dealing more extensively with these issues; it was entitled Christ and the Bible. Hopefully I may be able to review it on here one day. If I do, it will be in the distant future, as other projects call for my attention.

This post is part of a project dealing with the issues of canonicity and Biblical inspiration and inerrancy which I began in 2009. All the articles dealing with these issues appeared on Rob Bradshaw’s website Biblical Studies. I had posted on some in 2010 (see here, here, and here), but unfortunately the project fell by the wayside. Hopefully, I will be able to read and review the rest over the next few months. Tonight, I will read J. Stafford Wright on how Moses compiled Genesis

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


From The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: The Arab Spring has increased government restrictions upon religious freedom in the Middle East and Africa. This study examined restrictions which have their roots not only in governmental hostility, but in social hostility as well. The report has a separate section dealing with these restrictions in detail.  While the study focused on religious persecution in general, this link provides ample evidence of the targeting of Christians in particular. One such example was the recent beheading of a Catholic priest and two other Catholics by Syrian jihadist rebels. From Touchstone Magazine.

Also from Touchstone Magazine: The Krygyzstan government is formulating restrictive new laws on the freedom of religious expression and activity. Krygyzstan is an Islamic country which used to be part of the Soviet Union. The article reminds us that when the Soviet Union fell, various ministry leaders warned that the window of opportunity to bring the gospel to the former Soviet empire would be of short duration. That window now seems to be closing. The article has a link to its source, a report from Forum 18, an organization which monitors religious oppression.

From Christianity Today: The militant Muslim group Boko Haram wants to impose Shariah Law in Nigeria. Previously, it has targeted government buildings. But in 2009, it changed tactics and began targeting Christian churches. This has prompted responses from the government and Christian groups which could limit religious freedom even further. Some Christians have even engaged in reprisals.

And now some good news from The Institute of Religion and Democracy blog: The New York City Council passed a resolution supporting NYC schools allowing churches to meet in schools during non-school hours. The Federal Government and some local NYC politicians have tried to prevent churches meeting on school property. The article acknowledges that anti-Christian discrimination in the U.S. doesn't rise to the level of persecution Christians face in other countries. Yet there is an increasing intolerance directed toward Christians which should cause one to fear outright persecution in the future, in Europe, and in the U.S. Here is a report outlining discrimination against Christians in Europe put out by The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe. Indeed, the Pew study cited above states that European governments are more likely to label Christian groups as sects than the Middle Eastern and North African governments. That same report has a separate section documenting increasing restrictions on religion in the U.S. 

Even in the face of incredible government persecution, the Church in China has grown exponentially. This article, also from the Institute on Religion and Democracy, quotes Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, as claiming that the military crackdown at Tienanmen Square was a turning point for the Chinese church. After the crackdown, many intellectuals and professionals turned to Christ.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Orthopraxy, or right practice, is considered by the contemporary American Church to be of greater importance than orthodoxy, or right doctrine. The message to American Christians from many Christian spokespersons is this: what you believe about God is not as important as your outward conduct, how you treat other people. In Theology That Matters: How True Orthodoxy Empowers Orthopraxy, Caleb Friedeman demonstrates that all truly Christian conduct is always preceded by correct knowledge of Biblical Doctrine. In a selection from his article which appears on the Asbury Seedbed website, Caleb Friedeman discusses Paul's instructions to Timothy in 1st Timothy:

"As much as we would like Paul to expound exactly what this sound doctrine is, he doesn’t. Instead of spelling it out for us, Paul highlights the difference between false teaching and sound doctrine by contrasting the fruit they bear (1:4-6). Whereas sound doctrine is associated with 'love that issues from a pure heart,' the aberrant teaching distracts people from godly living. His emphasis is not an idiosyncrasy of this passage alone. As Paul returns to this theme of sound doctrine throughout the epistle (4:6-16; 6:2-10), the pattern holds. Paul never gives a systematic treatise of what Timothy is supposed to teach, probably because Timothy knows the essence of it. By the end of the epistle, we know two things about this sound doctrine: (1) it accords with the gospel, and (2) it agrees with the words of Jesus. What Paul talks about much more is the fruit that this sounds doctrine produces in the lives of believers."

Caleb Friedeman has a B.A. in Ancient Languages from Asbury University and an M.A. from Wesley Biblical Seminary in Biblical Literature. Further details concerning his academic and ministerial experience appear in the article.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Dr. Steve Blakemore, associate professor of philosophy at Wesley Biblical Seminary, has written an article for Catalyst Magazine. In Making the Truth Real: Ecclesial Challenges and the Millennial Generation, Dr. Blakemore asserts that the gospel the youth in our churches are learning is not the biblical gospel. He refers to the message the youth are receiving in our churches as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. He defines Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in the second paragraph:

"Reductionist and generic in what it believes about humanity, salvation, and morality — even God’s nature — MTD posits god minimally as a deity that created and ordered the world that watches over human life. Second, this deity wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. The third claim of MTD regarding this god’s purpose for us is that the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. Ironically, however, in spite of this divine destiny, MTD’s fourth pillar contends that god is not personally involved in one’s life (perhaps, because god is not needed?) except to resolve unusual crises. Finally, the ultimate category for human existence and morality is this: good people go to heaven when they die. Therefore, the designations 'Moralistic' (second and fifth propositions), 'Therapeutic' (proposition three), and 'Deism' (principles one and four) are apropos."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Dr. John E. Neihof, Jr. has been named as Wesley Biblical Seminary's new President. You can click the link to learn about his background. I have never met him, but he has solid academic credentials as well as deep Wesleyan holiness roots. Please pray for him as WBS has undergone some turmoil in recent months. WBS is a holiness seminary unlike any other in the Wesleyan holiness tradition. It would be a blow to the holiness tradition if it were no longer there to serve those who want a quality education in the holiness tradition. It is a key player in keeping the Wesleyan world from being tranformed by theological liberalism.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Dallas Willard wrote some of the most important Christian books of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Among his most significant works were The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, and The Renovation of the Heart. I discovered him in seminary when I checked out his lectures on The Divine Conspiracy. Had I discovered him earlier, I believe I would have matured sooner as a Christian. Here some tributes not only to his work but to the man himself:

Mark Roberts, Parts 1 and 2.
From Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed.
Christine A. Scheller, John Ortberg, Richard Foster, from Christianity Today.
Kevin Watson, from his Vital Piety blog.
Scott Smith, from the Evangelical Philosophical Society blog.
J.P. Moreland, from his blog. Also from J.P. Moreland's blog, this short tribute from Juliet Setian.
Wesley Hill at First Things.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Last October, the Rev. Dr. Calvin Samuel delivered the 2012 Chamberlain Holiness Lectures at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Dr. Samuel is the Director of the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, UK, and New Testament Lecturer at Cramner Hall.

Lecture 1.- Be Holy,as I am Holy: Why Holiness is Important, How Holiness is Obtained, and What does holiness look like? Why is holiness important? Dr Samuel's answer: because holiness is the essence of who God is. God's holiness is what distinguishes Him from all other gods. When we seek to be holy, we aren't simply seeking more integrity or to act more justly; we are seeking nothing less than to be like God. It is who we are as God's people. Holiness in us is obtained only through the grace of God. What does holiness in us look like? Lev. 19:2 through the rest of that chapter gives us a good picture. Time- 35:34.

Lecture 2.- Models of Holiness in the Old Testament: Exploring Priestly, Prophetic, and Wisdom Traditions.
Priestly Tradition: Dr. Samuel explores various themes concerning holiness, such as holiness as separation (from sin, towards God), holiness as power or destructive energy, holiness as completely other, etc. Leviticus obviously dwells on this theme. Dr. Samuel asks whether we can fully understand Jesus without understanding Leviticus.
Prophetic Tradition: The prophets were not proclaiming a new message, they were calling Israel back to the Torah, so Israel would again be a holy nation in which a holy God lives. Their messages stressed social justice (I prefer Wesley's term social holiness) which Dr. Samuel defines as standing on the side of the powerless against the powerful. The book of Isaiah stands out in its repeated usage of the language of holiness.
Wisdom Tradition: Surprisingly, Dr. Samuel cites Job as the most important book in the wisdom tradition concerning holiness. Before Job is afflicted, he is described as blameless, upright, shuns evil, and one who fears God. Dr. Samuel points out that scripture does not link Job's possessions to his holiness. It is Satan who insists on this linkage when he asks God, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Job did not live in the Holy Land and he was not a member of God's covenant people. He was afflicted with a skin disease that the Israelites would have recognized as leprosy. Readers in ancient Israel would have picked up on these points. Those who were truly discerning would recognize that one could be holy outside the covenant and outside the land of Israel. This insight would be very important to the Jews when they were in exile. In Job, holiness is not defined strictly by moral behavior, but in terms of personal integrity and fear of the Lord. Perfection is not to be defined as not needing improvement, but being in the state of being that God wants us to be. Wesley would define perfection in this way. Why did God want Israel to be a holy nation? So Israel could be a prototype for a new humanity. Time- 75minutes with 25 minutes for questions.

Lecture 3.- Holiness in the Pauline Tradition: From Thessolinica to Rome. 1Thess. is Paul's first epistle, Romans is one of his last. Both concern holiness. In 1Thess., holiness is tied to the hope connected with the 2nd coming. Paul urges his audience to be holy, to be prepared for Jesus' return. Holiness is seen primarily in terms of relationship, how we are related to God. Sin is not defined in terms of an ethical system, but in terms of who God is and what he wants from us. Holiness is not about us thinking about ourselves; thinking about ourselves puts holiness beyond our reach. Holiness is the child of love; the practice of love leads to the unselfishness that is the essence of holiness. Personal sinlessness is not to overshadow love for all. Paul keeps the two in balance. He is speaking to a community suffering persecution. They were tempted to retaliate, but Paul declared that love cannot be turned inward. Paul taught that holiness is rooted in normal life. This stems from his background as a Pharisee. The Pharisees expected purity for all. In Romans, Paul teaches us that death to sin is part of the reality of our salvation. In Rom.6, Paul did not say that sin had died, but that believers have died to sin. Sin is a power that seeks to enslave. Christians are surrounded by sin, but not enthralled by it. The end which we await for has broken into the present; the Kingdom of God in which we are heading is now near, in Christ. This makes sanctification possible. Sanctification is an intermediate condition between what was true of us at our conversion and what will be true of us in the life to come. The Holy Spirit makes us more truly what we shall be. It is the Spirit that imparts holiness; holiness is a work of grace. Sanctification is an ongoing work of grace rather than a 2nd work of grace. Time- 79 minutes, 31 for questions.

Lecture 4.- Holiness in the Gospel Tradition: The Words, Acts, and Mission of Jesus. The Gospels emphasize the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Yet in the Gospels, the Pharisees fade from view in the accounts of Jesus' final hours before his arrest, trial, and execution. It was the Chief Priests, the Elders, and the Scribes which actually brought about Jesus' death on the Cross. So why do the Gospel writers emphasize Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees? Because the writers wanted to highlight the contrasting views concerning holiness held by the Pharisees and Jesus. Both believed that holiness was to be practiced within society, as opposed to groups such as the Essenes, who withdrew from society. But the Pharisees believed that holiness was fragile; they believed holiness was an absence of purity which threatened holiness. Jesus viewed holiness as a dynamic force which always overpowered impurity. Holiness always transforms impurity. When Jesus touched the unclean, he was never defiled. The unclean were made clean; their situations were transformed. As holiness is dynamic, it is missional. Jesus reached out, the Pharisees drew back among themselves. Jesus lived out a model of holiness which is always on the offense. It is demonstrated through acts of love.The Pharisees' model was purely defensive. Dr. Samuel rightly claims that the model of holiness practiced by the modern day holiness movement is more in line with the Pharisees than Jesus.  Time- 84 minutes, 45 minutes for questions.

Matt O' Reilly sums up all four lectures here at his blog Incarnatio.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


The year was 388 A.D. A young man and his mother were on a journey. They stopped at an acquaintance's house to rest. The young man had lived a sinful life, but had recently been converted through the prayers of his mother. His father had already died; he came to salvation soon before his own death. In the house, mother and son stood at an open window overlooking a garden. The were discussing spiritual matters. This is how the son remembered the conversation:

"We were conversing alone very pleasantly and 'forgetting those things which are past, and reaching forward toward those things which are the future.' We were in the present and in the presence of truth...discussing together what is the nature of eternal life of the saints: which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man. We opened wide the mouth of our heart, thirsting for those supernal streams...'the fountain of life'...that we may be sprinkled with its waters according to our capacity and might in some measure weigh the truth of so profound a mystery.

"And when our conversation had brought us to the point where the very highest of physical sense and the most intense illumination of physical light seemed, in comparison with the sweetness of the life to come, not worthy of comparison, nor even of mention, we lifted ourselves with more ardent love toward the Selfsame, and we gradually passed through all the levels of bodily objects, and even through the heaven itself, where the sun and moon and stars shine on the earth. Indeed, we soared higher yet by an inner musing, speaking and marveling at [God's] works...And while we were thus speaking and straining after her (wisdom), we just barely touched her with the whole efforts of our hearts. Then with a sigh, leaving the first fruits of the Spirit bound to that ecstasy, we returned to the sounds of our own tongue, where the spoken word had both beginning and end."

After undergoing this deeply spiritual experience, mother and son continued their conversation. The mother finally said this to her son:

"Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here."*

Five days later, the mother had caught a fever, died, and went to join her husband in the presence of the God. The mother's name was Monica. The son, Augustine. He would become a bishop and one of the Church's most important theologians.

Take note of the two results this conversation between mother and son produced:

First, both experienced a foretaste of heaven. Augustine employs rapturous language in trying to convey what he and his mother experienced. Yet the experience was so personal, so profound, that he can only describe it in general terms. This reminds us of Paul's vision of paradise: "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man--whether in the body or ought of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2Cor. 12: 2-4)  What Paul experienced, he could not convey in words. What he saw and heard was too holy to reveal. Perhaps Augustine, as Paul, believed that the details of what he and his mother experienced was not meant to be revealed.

Second, this vision of heaven produced in Monica a desire to be done with earthly life. She had a foretaste of heavenly life which brought her to the point of no longer desiring what life on earth had to offer. Having a glimpse of her life to come, and being assured that Augustine would too experience eternal life in God's presence, she was content with leaving this life behind.

Some of Christ's disciples experience such visions. But many don't, especially western Christians. But meditation upon spiritual things, including what heaven is like for the saints who are already there, produces the desire for God and heaven which eventually extinguishes our desire to remain here on earth. As the ties that bind our affections for this earthly life are broken, we become desirous of being in the presence of God. We become content with our own mortality and grow impatient to be done with this world. Having assurance of our life to come, the trials of life, though vexing, no longer cause us to despair. This is the outworking of Christian meditation in the practical side of life.

Meditation upon heaven was not a one time thing for Monica and Augustine. Not even a vision as they experienced could produce the desire to leave this earthly life. Only much time meditating upon the things of God could have brought them to that point of spiritual maturity. They obeyed Paul's admonition to the Church at Philippi: "...whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." (Phil. 4: 8-9)

According to Strong's Concordance, one Hebrew word for meditate is hagah, which means to murmer (in pleasure or anger), by implication, to ponder. Hagah can mean imagine, meditate, mourn, mutter, or roar. In an idiom particular to Hebrew, the word can mean speak, study, talk, or utter. Hagah appears in Joshua 1:8, Ps. 63:6 and Ps. 77:12. Most famously, it appears in Ps. 1:2. Describing the man who is blessed, the psalmist states that for the blessed man, "...his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night." Day and night. This denotes constant application. Disciplined meditation upon the things of God, followed by disciplined application, leads to the state described by the psalmist: "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not whither; and whatever he does shall prosper." (Ps. 1:3)

Another Old Testament word for meditate is siyach. Its primary root means to ponder, to converse with one's self and hence, out loud. Siyach can also mean to commune, complain, declare, meditate, muse, pray, speak, or talk (with). Siyach appears in Ps. 119: 15, 23, 48, 78, 148.

A New Testament word for meditate is meletao, to revolve in the mind, which is found in 1Tim. 4:15. Paul writes to Timothy: "Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all." Here, Paul states that meditation leads to right action, right conduct. Ultimately, it leads to a transformation that is noted by those closest to us. Meditation leads to every day blessings, such as Monica's affections being redirected away from earth. These everyday blessings are available to all believers. And for some, meditation will bring visions of the life to come.

All scripture quotations from the NKJV.  


Thursday, April 11, 2013


It would be useless to praise Margaret Thatcher's achievements as the U.K.'s Prime Minister as the internet is flooded with tributes. I seek to avoid needless repetition. So I'll bring to your attention one tribute which highlights an aspect of her life which is little known. The one thing which Margaret Thatcher did that made her most proud was saving a young Jewish girl from Hitler's Nazis. You can read about this here. HT: Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

For Margaret Thatcher's Methodist roots, see here, from the Institute on Religion and Democracy blog.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Always behind the times, I am now joining Twitter. This is an experiment in expanding  Redemptive Thought's readership. You can follow this blog at @JohnGuthrie18

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


We live in a day in which people are embarrassed to promote virtue. During an orientation session for my one year of law school, my class mates and I listened to a thirty second ethics lecture. The professor mentioned the standards we had to adhere to. “You know, don’t cheat, don’t plagiarize, return all school materials when you are done with them.” The professor seemed quite embarrassed to be bringing up the subject. I don’t think he made eye contact with us. When someone can articulate virtue and selflessness movingly, unabashedly, we are not embarrassed, but uplifted. That is why people are still talking about the Super Bowl ad that featured the late Paul Harvey. The ad was for a truck. It featured Harvey’s speech “So God Made a Farmer.” In it, Harvey paid tribute to the value of farming and the virtue of American farmers in particular. “And on the eighth day” Harvey said, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker—so God made a farmer…God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk the cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board’—so God made a farmer.” Farmers are patient, sitting up all night with a newborn colt, watching it die, drying their eyes, and then saying, “Maybe next year.” Farmers can shoe a horse “with a hunk of car tire.” They finish 40-hour weeks by Tuesday noon, then suffering from “tractor back,” put in another 72 hours. The farmer is a family man. He bales “a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing.” During an event in which men sustained possibly permanent injury for the entertainment of others, and which offered non-family friendly half-time fare, the ad for a truck stood out.

Some criticize Harvey’s words as propaganda, idol worship of the American way of life. I can’t join in that chorus. Harvey’s speech was made to the Future Farmers of America. In that context, it was entirely appropriate to inspire farmers by affirming the worth of their calling. In extolling their virtues, Harvey was also inspiring non-farmers to the same virtues exhibited by American farmers. There is a danger, though, in the way Harvey used scripture to illustrate the virtue of farmers. Harvey took the scripture in Genesis out of context to celebrate mankind rather than mankind’s creator. God did indeed create man to care for his creation. But that care involves something beyond the noble calling of the farmer.

Genesis 2:15 informs us that “…the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” In a video, Ed Dobson states that it is from the word “tend” that the word “worship” originates. Dobson’s statement intrigued me, so I investigated whether he was correct. The Hebrew word for worship, sahah, means “to worship, prostrate oneself, bow down.” (Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words) The word denotes an act of an inferior bowing down to a superior or ruler. The word tend (dress in the KJV), according to Strong’s Concordance, is the Hebrew word “abad.” The primary root of abad is ‘to work.” The implied meaning is “to serve, till, enslave.” (Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, 5647) “To keep” is another meaning. And so is “worshipper.” How can a Hebrew word which means work, or to keep, be related to worship?

Implicit in abad’s meaning is to protect. Abad is used in Gen. 3:24. When God drove out Adam and Eve from the garden, God stationed Cherubim and a flaming sword east of the garden “to guard the way to the tree of life.” (See also Josh 10:18, 1Sam. 7:1, 2Sam. 15:16, 16:21, 20:3) We see the same usage of abad in God’s instructions concerning the protection of property: “If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief is found, he shall pay double.” We see this again three verses following. We see the word being used again in Ex. 23:20 concerning God’s protection of Israel as he leads them into the Promised Land: “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and bring you into the place which I have prepared.” (See also Ps. 91:11, Gen 28: 15, 20, Ps. 17:8)

The most common usage of the word abad is represented by this verse from Exodus: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?’” (Ex. 16:23) Commands featuring the word abad exhorting Israel to keep God’s commandments are found in Gen 17: 9,10, 18: 19, Dt. 4:2, 5:12, 29, 6: 2, 17, Josh. 22:5, 23:6, 1K. 2:3, 3:14, 8: 58, 61, 11:38, 1Ch. 22:12, 29:19, Ps. 19:11, 119: 4, 5, 57, 60, 106). The word is also used in Dt. 17:8, which refers to God keeping His covenant.

When abad is used in those verses concerning keeping God’s commands, does this indicate a mechanistic response on the part of Israel? Certainly not. In the Old Testament, God condemned Israel when its observance of the law was nothing more than just going through the motions: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hos. 6:6) God condemned Israel for participating in the Temple worship with a heart that was far from Him. (Is 29:9) Josh 22:5, which was cited in the previous paragraph, reads, “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” The keeping of God’s commandments wasn’t to be a mechanical exercise in which performance guaranteed a good standing before God. No. The keeping of God’s commandments was to be the result of loving God with all one’s heart and soul. It was to be a response to God’s love and protection which is spoken of in Ex. 23:20 (cited above) and elsewhere. The word abad in these verses referred to the kind of response to God Josiah, King of Judah, displayed when the Book of the Law was recovered: “Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.” (2K. 23:3, see also 2Ch. 34:31) The keeping of God’s commandments, whether by the priests in the temple or ordinary Israelites, was to be an act of worship to God. It was to be done with all their heart and soul.

When God told Adam to tend (abad) His garden, tending the garden went beyond the practice of agriculture. Adam’s care of the garden was to be an act of love toward the God whom he fellowshipped with and who gave him life and blessings beyond imagination. Adam’s care of the garden was to be an act of worship. God created the earth and shared with Adam His own care of His creation. Even after Adam and Eve were driven from the garden, Adam and his family through Seth passed down to later generations the worship of God, “…Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (Gen. 4:26) When Noah came out of the ark after the flood, his first act was to sacrifice one seventh of the clean animals and clean birds which had been on the ark, one-seventh of Noah’s food supply. This act of worship so moved God that He made a covenant not to destroy the earth again by flood and removed a portion of the curse pronounced upon Adam. (Gen. 8 and 9) Today, we are the beneficiaries of Noah’s act of worship. When we worship God today in spirit and in truth, we are tending God’s world. As a royal priesthood (1Pet. 2:9), we intercede for His Church and for a broken, dying world. As priests, we tend to God’s world as an act of worship. It is an office we dare not refuse. Paul tells us why the wrath of God is upon mankind: “…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” (Rom 1:21) In other words, mankind refused to be worshippers of God.

So, God did not merely make a farmer to tend His garden. God made a worshipper.

(Scripture verses from the NKJV)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


There has been a good deal of hype concerning the end times recently. Harold Camping predicted that Jesus was going to come back, first in the spring, then in the fall, of 2011. 2012 saw people preparing for the end which they believed the Mayan calendar foretold. After Pope Benedict’s announcement that he will resign, a thousand year old ‘prophecy’ has made its way to the internet. Supposedly, the world will end before the end of the next Pope’s papacy. This is nothing new. A.W. Tozer informs us that after WWI, the U.S. was full of traveling teachers promoting their own particular end time scenarios. The 1970’s ushered in a new era of interest with the appearance of The Late Great Planet Earth. When I was saved, the rapture was the main topic of conversation. One of my new Christian friends stated that the earth had only 7 more years, based on the time table set in motion by the founding of Israel. One person said that her children would never graduate from high school because the end was near. Many single guys declared they were going to be bachelors for the rapture. In the end, they all got married, except me. I was incredulous concerning what I was hearing because I had enough historical knowledge to know that throughout the centuries, Christians were certain the end was at hand.

It is believed by many within and without the Church that the first generation of Christians believed that Jesus would return before their generation died out. Some believe that Jesus’ own words prove that he had made such a promise. He did tell His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” (Mk. 9:1) Did Jesus really promise to return before the first generation of disciples died out? Did the early Church really have such a belief? The scriptural and historical evidence says, “No.”

During Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest asked Jesus, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mk. 14: 61) Jesus replied in Mk. 14:62, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” As Hendrikus Berkhof in Christ the Meaning of History points out, the meaning of this declaration is made even plainer in Matthew and Luke’s account. Matthew quotes Jesus: “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mt 26: 64) Note Matthew’s use of the word “hereafter.” Luke uses it as well in his account. Berkhof writes of its significance to these three accounts: “Jesus’ death and resurrection ushered in the victory over the beasts and the taking over of power by the Son of Man. But this great event is not a once-for-all incident, or like a flash of lightning. It is extensive through time.” As Berkhof and other commentators have shown, Jesus’ declaration to the Sanhedrin is a combination of three Old Testament verses. They are Dan. 7: 13-14 and Ps. 110:1. Dan 7:13 reads, “I was watching in the night visions, behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.” Ps. 110:1 reads, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies Your footstool.’” This positioning of Jesus at the Father’s right hand is not simultaneous with Jesus’ final triumph, the Second Coming, but precedes it. The early Church’s use of Ps. 110:1 in Acts and the Epistles makes it clear that they saw the fulfillment of these words between the Ascension and Consummation. Dan. 7:13 speaks of Jesus coming to the Father; Ps. 110: 1 speaks of Jesus before His return to earth. Ps. 110:1 reveals a time period between Jesus being given power over all nations (Dan. 7:14, Mt. 28:18) and his return to earth. The great Day of the Lord consists of a) the coming of the Son of Man to the Father, b) his sitting down at the Father’s right hand, and c) his return to reveal His power over the whole world. Berkhof writes, “The Day of the Lord has arrived with the death and resurrection of Jesus. That day will be revealed by visible signs, and will continue in an irreversible progress until the revelation of the Son of Man in glory.” The Day of the Lord is not just a mysterious heavenly reality. It is a reality worked out in events here on earth. Jesus declared that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him (Mt. 28:18); then he commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations. Jesus having power on earth becomes a fact through the proclamation of Christ to all nations. “The missionary task itself,” Berkhof writes, “is the earthly manifestation of Christ’s glorification.” Manifestations of this power include the destruction of Jerusalem for rejecting its Messiah and the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation.

Jesus himself stated that he did not know the day or hour of his return. Once the early Church realized that Jesus would not be returning before the first generation of Christians died out, this realization should have produced a crisis of faith. That is, if they believed in such a time frame for Jesus’ return. Paul didn’t display any such crisis when he realized that he was going to die before the consummation (2Tim. 4: 6-8). No such crisis is to be discerned elsewhere in the New Testament, or in the writings of the next generation of Christians. When Peter wrote of those who declared that Jesus will not return, he calls them “scoffers.” Berkhof writes of the early Church: “Whether the duration of the history of the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus would be short or long has never been an article of faith. They were seeing the Kingdom of God arrive in power. For that reason there was no place for doubt in the consummation of this event. Even if they hoped this would take place soon, the fact that the period of waiting seemed longer did not lessen the assurance in which they walked in that Kingdom. The joy of the great Beginning removed all alarm over the delay of the End.”

So, how do we now deal with Mk. 9:1? Prior to this verse, Peter had just made his confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Father’s anointed one. It was after Peter’s confession that Jesus’ began to strongly emphasize his death and resurrection. Peter resists Jesus’ message by rebuking Jesus. Jesus responds by rebuking Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”(Mk. 8:33) Then Jesus summons all those following him and exhorts them to mind the things of God, not the things of men: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the son of Man will also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father with the holy angels.” This was a hard word for Jesus’ followers to hear. This hard word ends with reference to His Second Coming. After this hard word comes Mark 9:1: “And He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.’” Is Jesus saying that he will return in their lifetime? No. Mk. 8: 38 speaks of events in the Consummation, with another reference to Dan. 7:13. In Mk. 9:1, he speaks of a different period of time, when the Kingdom of God is present on earth with power. Mk. 9:1 is partially fulfilled in the very next verses on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Mk. 9: 2-13) Greater fulfillment occurs at the day of Pentecost, when the 120 are first in filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room. (See here on just what is the Kingdom of God.) Subsequent fulfillment occurs when others are filled with the Spirit at the time of salvation. Also, those already saved received further infillings of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 4:31)

Without reading it within its context, Mk. 13: 30 could appear to be a prophecy from Jesus himself that he would return during the lifetimes of the earliest disciples. Jesus says in this verse, “Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” What is this verse’s context? On leaving the Temple in Jerusalem with Jesus a couple of days before Jesus’ arrest, the disciples marvel at the Temple’s grandeur. Jesus tells them, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Mk. 13:2) When they leave Jerusalem for the Mount of Olives, the disciples ask Jesus when this would occur. Jesus answers, telling the disciples of a great tribulation in which they themselves would be persecuted. He warns that false prophets would arise claiming to be the Messiah. (Mk. 13: 5-23). Then Jesus speaks of His return in the future, again referring to Dan 7:13. (Mk.13: 26) So Jesus is referring to two events, the destruction of Jerusalem and his Second coming. Which relates to verse 30? The former, or the later, or both? Just two verses later, Jesus tells his disciples that not even he knows the day or hour when heaven and earth will pass away. How could that verse possibly be related to the time period that it took for that generation to pass away? In verse 30, Jesus was not speaking of his Second Coming, of which he did not know when it would occur. He was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, which would be seen within that generation’s life span.

Finally, we must also consider the teaching of some who claim Jesus never intended to leave earth in the first place. Those who believe this point to Mt. 10: 23. Here Jesus has selected the twelve Apostles and then sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God, perform healings, and cast out demons. When sending them out, Jesus warns them, “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Some consider this proof that Jesus promised he would return before the first generation of disciples died out. In fact, some think Jesus believed His Kingdom would begin without his dying on the Cross. This is true of the “Jesus of History” school of thought. This school of thought originated with the writings of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965). Schweitzer and his followers believe that the Biblical portrait of Jesus is false. They believed the gospels that we possess were written centuries later than when the Church has claimed they were written. They believe the Gospels portrayal of Jesus, especially concerning his claim of being the Son of God, was fabricated by one faction within the Church which had gained ascendancy and final victory over other factions. The winners wrote the history, portraying a Jesus that never existed. Schweitzer believed Jesus was leading a rebellion to overthrow the political establishment and replace it with a theocracy. When Jesus sent his disciples out, he thought they would inspire the people to rebel. This is how Schweitzer interpreted Mt. 10:23. When the disciples returned without bringing about a revolution, Schweitzer believed that Jesus was in crisis mode. That is why Jesus went to Jerusalem, so that his death would inspire the revolution he and his disciples had failed to ignite. Besides believing that Jesus never claimed divinity, and believing the Kingdom Jesus spoke about was a political kingdom, where did Schweitzer go wrong? For one thing, Schweitzer confused the sending out of Mt. 10: 23 with the sending out of Mk. 6:7-13 and Lk. 9: 1-6. In the later two, Jesus sent them on a short mission which had a definite ending. (Mk. 6:30 and Lk. 9:10) Also, the latter two were not immediately following the selection of the Apostles as was the sending out in Mt. 10. During the Apostle’s journeys in Mark and Luke, they suffer no such persecution as Jesus warns about in Matthew. In Mark and Luke, Jesus gives no such warnings. The warnings Jesus gives in Matthew find their fulfillment after the completion of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus was speaking of an extended period of time. Matthew’s account of this sending out does not mention a return. This sending out is broader in scope since witnessing to Gentiles is included. (Mt. 10:18) In this passage, Jesus mentions everything pertaining to the experience of the missionary task. Jesus links this sending out to Mt. 10 22, “…But He who endures to the end will be saved.” What about the wording concerning the disciples not going through all the cities of Israel before the coming of the Son of Man. Must we interpret this passage literally. It is the height of irony that a school of thought which tells us that the Bible is not literally true to insist on a literal interpretation of Mt. 10:23. Must we reject the notion that Jesus was capable of employing hyperbole? Schweitzer and his followers interpreted this text based on beliefs they read into it. A careful reading of Mt. 10:23 within the context of the entire passage as well as the other Gospels will lead readers to conclude that Jesus was not referring to a fulfillment in a short period of time.

Today I don’t hear as much talk about the end times among Christians. I don’t hear it among those I fellowship with. I don’t know of a new teacher appearing on the scene who teaches on the subject. While my views on the subject have altered considerably, in a way I’m a little sad that interest in the subject has waned. The Christians I fellowshipped with in the 1980’s were all about living counter culturally. The younger Christians I see today seem to be about seeking acceptance from the culture. The promise of the Second Coming has been a great comfort to Christians for 2000 years: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20) The sure knowledge of coming judgment has been a great motivation to holy living: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…?” (2Pet. 3:11) It has been noted by prominent evangelicals that the promise of heaven is losing its appeal to the lost in a rich, materialistic culture such as ours. What about those who claim to be Christ’s disciples? Is the lack of talk concerning the end times a sign that the Church in America has grown wiser, or has it gown colder?

(Scripture quotations from the NKJV)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


The apologetics website Apologetics315 has a review of Dr. John N. Oswalt's The Bible Among The Myths.  Dr. Oswalt is a Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. Prior to his current teaching position, Dr. Oswalt taught at Wesley Biblical Seminary and was my academic advisor. I am planning on reviewing "The Bible Among The Myths" within the coming months.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Nearly two years ago, I posted an article entitled Sin, Sanctification, and Genetics. It was in writing that article that I was first introduced to the genetic term "epigenetics" or "epigenetic change." I will quote from that article to explain the meaning of this term:

 "The structure of a DNA molecule can undergo physical change due to interaction with the physical environment. (Dr. Burton) Webb points to a study done on macaques. Macaques carrying a mutation in a specific serotonin transporter were more likely to experience anxiety and engage in antisocial behavior when raised with peers carrying similar mutations. When macaques with this same mutation were placed with family groups that reinforced good social skills and behavior, both their behavior and their DNA changed. In other words, nurture altered nature in a significant way. Webb states that there is a human orthologue (a term from genetics referring to one of two or more homologous gene sequences found in different species) to the macques gene."

Why should Christians be interested in epigenetics? This question can be answered with a question. What is the most significant intellectual challenge to the Christian faith? Is it the New Atheism, or Darwinism? The answer is neither. But the New Atheism and Darwinism are important ingredients in the answer. What is this most significant challenge? Neuroscience, or more specifically, the belief among many neuroscientists that genetics explains everything about human beings, including love, knowing the difference between right and wrong, and even religious belief (See my article, God on the Brain). This belief has already made its presence known among evangelicals. Tim Keller, in his paper Creation, Evolution, and Christian Lay People, postulates that our very belief in God is determined by genetics. (The paper first appeared on the Biologos website, which is dedicated to convincing Christians to embrace evolution. Keller's paper was written to further that cause. See my response here.) Epigenetics, which shows that DNA molecules can change in response to their physical environments, challenges the belief that genetics alone explains why human beings are the way they are.

Here are some recent articles on epigenetics:

From Cornelius Hunter's Darwin's God blog: An article concerning the scientific study of epigenetics (with a brief explanation of it) at Cornell. Here is another post from Hunter explaining epigenetics.

A study on the connection between a monkeys genetic makeup and its rank within its group shows that a positive change in social status can alter the genetic makeup of a monkey. From Uncommon Descent, which provides a link to the whole article from Science Daily.

Two studys on twins sheds light on epigenetics. One study, conducted by genetic epidemiologist Tim Specter, head of the Department of Twin Research at Kings College, London, shows that "twins are not two uniform halves of a single whole." Despite sharing the same set of genes, they show remarkable differences as their genetic makeup interacts with their surrounding environment. Spector envisions a day when we view are genes as malleable, not as the determiners of our destiny. From The New Scientist. Here is a report from Science Daily on a new study which shows that the environment in the womb defines a baby's epigenetic profile. Both articles from Uncommon Descent.

Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have discovered that the genome of a living organism can be modified to prohibit the introduction of a foreign DNA fragment. This modification can be passed on to subsequent generations. From Uncommon Descent. Here is a quote from the article: "To the extent that epigenetics plays a role in evolution, it undermines the ubiquitous just-so stories for how Darwin’s natural selection on the random mutation of stable existing genes (via differing survival rates of offspring) did it all.
"In epigenetics, the genome is being modified by the environment during the life form’s existence, and the mutation isn’t random. It is a (programmed?) response to a threat, and the information is passed on."

Uncommon Descent links to a recent issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. The issue apparently contains articles full of information supporting Intelligent Design and ID's view that epigenetics supports the idea that the universe came about through design.