The Messiah and the Hebrew Bible

Writing in JETS 44:1 (March 2001), John Sailhamer says:

The Hebrew Bible is both text and commentary. If we ask what possible intertextual relationship lies between the compositional shape of the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings, I would suggest it is akin
to that of text and commentary. The Prophets and the Writings are not intent on giving us a new vision for the future. Their aim is to help us understand the messianic vision that has already been laid down in the Pentateuch and repeated in their own writings. God told the prophet Habakkuk, for example, to “write the vision” and also “to explain it” (Hab 2:3).

Like Habakkuk, the prophets wrote their vision along with its explanation. As Heschel put it, the interpretation of prophecy is already “an exegesis of an exegesis.”  Our task is not to explain the prophetic vision, but to explain the prophets’ own explanation of their vision. The aim of the authors of the Prophets and the Writings was to provide a full and detailed textual commentary on the messianic vision that begins in the Pentateuch and is carried along through the rest of the Bible. Continue reading “The Messiah and the Hebrew Bible”

The Housing Crisis – not Over by a Longshot

There is a hope out there that the housing crisis is passing and that prices have bottomed out. I doubt it. According to Zillow our house is worth $73,000 less than when we purchased it three years ago. I brought this up at work last week and another guy said that his house is worth $200K less.

This means that there will be years more of people walking away from their homes, defaulting, or stuck in places they need to leave. And if values were to somehow rebound to where they were, it would mean that the bubble had been re-inflated and we would be back in inflationary la-la land.

It’s a mess and I don’t see a good solution. I think there will be more bankruptcy, more pain, and a general reset of the playing field. We need a year of Jubilee.

Two Methods of Church Planting

I have observed two methods of church planting, both of which have something to commend themselves to us. The first method is practice by Sovereign Grace. They have folks pray about being part of a church plant in another city, sometimes in another state. Those folks then join the pastor being sent out and get new jobs, relocate to the new city and put down roots. This way the new church starts with a core of tight-knit people that are on the same page.

The second method is that of the AMiA parishes in the D.C. area. The mother church has planted two churches in two years. Rather than becoming a mega-church, the mother church hives off when it hits about 250-300 people and starts a new church in the area where a big cluster of current attenders live. The mother church had 3-4 full time clergy and sent one guy to plant each of the daughter churches. The pastors can also rotate in and out and preach at the other parish. This model is also effective, logical and preserves a parish mentality.

The things I don’t like about the Sovereign Grace method are that Sov Grace seems to have no problem with mega-churches. Their churches get huge and lose intimacy and real relationships between all members. They seem to be too slow to ordain men, so they don’t have a huge base of guys to launch multiple local works. They also don’t seem to want to do multiple local works – at least not to date. They seem more inclined to launch in new cities or states rather than to hive off and establish tons of local works that reach the same region/city.

Perhaps combining these two methods would be good. Rather than sending 30 families to a new state, the parish could send 30 families one suburb away. That would make ties to the sending church more effective, but might decrease the sense of mission that the new work has in that the people are still in their comfort zone to some degree.

Immigrant Song

I’m trying to find out how to help relocated immigrants as a church. I am looking at resettled, legal immigrants that need help with everything – English, rides, jobs, clothes, you name it. The Federal and State governments administer help to these people, as do  some church agencies, with Catholic and Lutheran bodies seeming to be the main providers.

I’m thinking about this in terms of a practical way to obey the commands of the Scripture and also as a potential way to convert the lost and sink roots in an immigrant community. Since it is so hard to reach the suburbs due to atomized people, the marginalized and immigrants in our area may be a place to start.

So far I’m having no luck in getting my e-mails to various agencies answered, so I am at ground zero right now. I have no clue what I am doing but I hope that it will work out.

Hello…echo…echo….hello

It seems like everyone is leaving the blogosphere for Facebook and Twitter. Millions of blogs are now un-maintained and decaying like the online detrius of a flimsy revolution. I have been a reader of blogs since almost the beginning, so this is odd to watch. Facebook seems even more like just shouting at each other than blogs do, which is hard to believe!

The bright side: my blog may now become famous! By sheer persistence, I will be one of the few blogs left that actually gets a post every once in a blue moon. My stubbornness will result in blog world domination! Of course, no one will read it anymore, but I will have won!

Terrorist with Opus Dei background?

There is strange news out of Bolivia, where a man was just killed who is accused of wanting to assassinate the President, Evo Morales. This man, Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, apparently was ‘a fanatic for everything.’ (see this and this)

He fled Bolivia after Banzer’s military coup. He then fought in the Balkan civil wars (on the Croatian side, where he supposedly led an international brigade); he even made a film about his experience. He was vice president of a Muslim association in Hungary; but was previously an active member in Opus Dei.

(…)

So basically, as La Razón points out, he was a “fanatic for everything.” A leftist in his youth (his father had been active against the Barrientos military regime), he then became an ardent Catholic in Opus Dei, then fought for Croatia against the Serbs, then abandoned Marxism (though he still admires Che), then converted to Islam, then returned to Bolivia, and may have ties to the right-wing UJC, though he still edited a Hungarian Muslim online news site.

I don’t find this totally implausible. There is a mindset out there that wants to embrace certainty and crusade for the perfect cause. Add to this the ocean of information now available on the web that wasn’t there in ages past and you can quickly change from opinion to opinion. Hopefully this leads to the Way, the Truth and the Life, but not necessarily.

Calvin on Deification

This was noted elsewhere, but it is so cool that I have to pass it on. It is Calvin on 2 Peter 1:4

For we must consider from whence it is that God raises us up to such a height of honor. We know how abject is the condition of our nature; that God, then, should make himself ours, so that all his things should in a manner become our things, the greatness of his grace cannot be sufficiently conceived by our minds. Therefore this consideration alone ought to be abundantly sufficient to make us to renounce the world and to carry us aloft to heaven. Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.

A Brief History of Theonomy

An excellent email from James Jordan to the Wrightsaid list:

The problem with interacting with this is that “theonomist” refers to three different groups of people. Bahnsen had a very airtight logical system that was almost completely devoid of any covenant-historical approach to the Bible. Rushdoony was looser, and was dealing with practical rather than theoretical questions.

Persons like myself, and under my influence Gary North, were very much covenant-historical from day one. I got my Schilder and Gaffin in the early 1970s at the same time I was reading all of Rushdoony’s works. What we all had in common, of course, was being “Whole Bible Christians” as against your evangelical “New Testament Christian.” (There is, of course, no such thing as the New Testament, any more than there is such a thing as the Pentateuch or Second Samuel. As far as the Bible is concerned, it is all just Scripture, one long book, one long story in several acts.) And we all understood that Jesus had set up a kingdom (Christendom) not an ideology (Christianity). That as one nation had been baptized (in Red Sea and Jordan) and discipled (under Divine law), so the great commission says all nations are to be baptized and discipled. We tried to hear the great commission in that way, which is the way the disciples heard it: theocratically. And we all took Psalm 119 seriously.

But, IMO, having put their hand to the plough, both the Bahnsenians and the Rushdoonians pulled back. They got a lot more of the Bible than evangelicals get, because they took the social principles of the law seriously. But when the rest of us continued on into the symbolic and ritual parts of the Bible, and the narrative, transformative history of the Bible, they renounced us.

The “theonomists” (and I never liked the word and did not use it, but there you are!) were the ONLY people in Christendom who actually believed 2 Timothy 3:16-17. They believed that ALL Scripture (including, say, Deuteronomy) is profitable for instruction in ALL of life (including, say, statecraft). They were the only people in Christendom who were not afraid of the so-called Old Testament.

Times are better now. But in the 1970s & 80s thinking about political and social issues with an open Bible was scandalous. I think the bottom line on post-recons and NTW is just that all of us post-recons are Total Bible people. We think Bible first — we don’t read it through the lens of the Westminster Confession. (The WCF plays the same idolatrous mediatorial role in conservative presbyterianism that the saints play in Medieval catholicism.) We are not Bibliophobic. So, we find lots of cool stuff in NTW — stuff that in no way conflicts with historic Reformation thought, btw — and so we chow down on it.

But we also chow down on Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Rene Girard, and lots of others. Another aspect of this is that Recons were/are catholic. Most of us had mixed ecclesiastical backgrounds (Bahnsen didn’t, and he was not very catholic). Rushdoony had been both presbyterian and episcopalian. My background included Lutheranism and a lot of other stuff, including Roman Catholic grammar school. So, it was natural for us to be Bible-first Christians. Which meant that we did not care a fig for denominationalism. Plus, believing in paedocommunion meant that there was no denomination that would really want us.

Anyway, a whole lot of the prejudice against NTW in conservative presbyterianism is there simply because Wright is not “one of us.” He’s an Anglican. The world is following after him, when it should be following after us presbyterians. Plus, how could his work be any good, since it was “not invented here”? And, becoming at home in the so-called OT also plays a role here as well, I think. The “NT” cannot stand alone. If you pull out the OT foundation, you put something else as foundational. The NT cannot be read alone; it demands a context. Hence, “NT Christians” adopt all kinds of trash from prevailing philosophies. They do it unwittingly, but they do it. That’s a lot of where denominationalism comes from. For instance, your average “NT evangelical” thinks that the great commission says, “Go and make disciples in the nations, baptizing those individuals….” Which is not what it says, and not what the apostles heard. But your “NT” Christian does not even perceive what it actually says; he reads right past it. He reads it in a context of rationalistic individualism, which is the philosophy he has substituted for the OT. So, having an OT background tends to evaporate denominational prejudice.

But finally, only the Theonomists had the guts, the cojones, to look straight into the face of hard questions and think seriously about them. Only a theonomist would have the guts to suggest that maybe (maybe, I say) Charlemagne was right to march the Franks through the river. Only a theonomist would have to guts to ask if maybe the death penalty for homosexual acts is a good idea. After a while, being a theonomist, you get used to thinking the unthinkable, and you get very used to people screaming at you for daring to do so. So, then you read NTW. He says some new things. Yawn. People are screaming at him for daring to say some new things. Yawn. Been there. Theonomists have been lied about, called names, and excluded from positions a whole lot more than NTW has. Back when I was in those circles, it amazed me that the people writing to criticize it never, ever, dealt fairly and accurately with what theonomists were saying. Well, now we see the same thing with NTW. All of which is to say, I guess, that post-recons are not going to be upset by NTW, and because NTW is putting out good stuff exegetically, post-recons are naturally going to read and appreciate him. That’s probably way more than you asked for. But I had to assume that lots of younger people on this list did not know what you were asking about.

Spiritual Blindness in the Academy

James Jordan has written an excellent critique of why Christian scholars and secular scholars are in thrall to false ideas. The entire article is here, this is an excerpt:

The current scholarly consensus gives little comfort to the evangelical scholar, because at a great many important points the history of the ancient world as reconstructed by secularists contradicts what the Bible says. The evangelical scholar finds two possible ways to deal with this. The first, far and away the most common, is to go back to the Bible and “soften” what the Bible says until it fits with the current secular scholarly consensus. The second way of dealing with the problem is to attack the secular scholarly consensus. This is something few evangelical scholars are willing to do.

Why not? Well, we could be harsh and say that evangelical scholars like their tenured positions at secular and quasi-secular institutions of higher learning, and so don’t like to take risks. That would be unfair, however, because some tenured people do take risks, as do some untenured people. In more than a few cases, however, fear doubtless is a factor. Most people, scholars included, like to look good to their peers, and to call into question the work of one’s fellows is not the way to get along with them.

The more pervasive reason that evangelical scholars do not challenge the secular system at its root is that modern evangelicals do not believe that the depravity of man seriously infects scholarship. They believe that the secular scholars are simply and disinterestedly pursuing truth. They don’t think that secular scholars suppress evidence.

Unfortunately, this view of the secular mind is extremely naive. The Bible tells us in Romans 1:18ff. that the unconverted mind constantly suppresses the truth, and that includes the truths of history. The Bible tells us, again in Romans 1:18ff., that the unbeliever deceives himself continually. In other words, he is not really aware of his powerful propensity to suppress any truth that threatens his peace of mind.

Further — and I realize that by writing what follows I am opening myself up to ridicule, but it is true nevertheless — the Bible tells us that the unbelieving world, including the world of scholarship, is constantly being led astray by fallen angels who seek to prevent the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. These “principalities, powers, thrones, and dominions” are under Satan but over the ordinary demons. They operate by means of prejudice and ideology, binding the minds of men into straightjackets of error from which it is difficult to deliver them. It takes the miraculous power of the gospel to break through these ideologies. Warfare at this level is the calling of the Church (Ephesians 6).

Thus, over the course of time, men forget the truth because in their hearts they forsake it. The reason the Bible is so full of memorials to historical events and to the words of God, is that men tend to forget. This is an moral forgetting, not a mere psychological one: Men forget because they don’t want to remember. Thus, the history of the Bible and of the Church is a history of revivals, of times when what had been suppressed and forgotten is once again remembered. If this is a problem in the Church, how much more is it a problem outside of her?

Fame

faceless

To me one of the primary needs in life is for recognition. I think we all have some sense of the brevity and futility of life if we bother to think about it at all. Even those deemed famous in their day are quickly forgotten (Ozymandias).  None of us will be on the face of the earth 100 years from now and who will remember us? Who amongst us remembers those who were here 100 years ago?

I think this longing to be remembered, to leave a mark, leads some to pursue fame. You want to be the best in your field, to be an author, a movie star, a rock star, a politician, and so on. If you have any chance of leaving a mark on this fickle world, you have to burn brightly before you fade out and are extinguished. But this leaves hordes of us in obscurity, unknown in our own age and forgotten shortly after we die. Perhaps this sense of futility is what drives some to love reality TV – we each have a minuscule chance of fleeting ‘fame’ if we are on TV or some similar medium.

I think this desire to be remembered is a right and natural desire, but that the ends we pursue to fulfill it are skewed by our lack of an eternal perspective. There is One who remembers all of us, from the least to the greatest. The Triune God will recall your labors, your joys, pains and achievements whether you are a slave or a CEO, a fisherman or an accountant. Nothing we do in this life is forgotten and we will someday stand before God fully remembered. The toil and drudgery, the quest for meaning – all of this finds its fulfillment in the mind of the all-knowing God.

This should free us to cease striving. There is no need to expend vast amounts of energy trying to defy the river of time which sweeps all away into the sea of forgetfulness. It is better to spend our lives in God’s service in whatever vocation and state of life we find ourselves in or obtain to. Poverty and obscurity may be our destiny in this brief life, but when the new heavens and the new earth arrive we will find our true inheritance. We can seek to be remembered by God and seek fame in His kingdom by expending ourselves for His purposes, rather than to leave a mark in history books. To believe this is to take a risk, to fly in the face of received wisdom and truly believe that the next life matters more and that we will be there soon. It is a risk worth taking, and those of us who follow Jesus must take it.