Saturday, May 28, 2011

Horton vs. the Sermon on the Mount (take 2!)

In a previous post, we saw how Horton exegetically blundered in asserting that "In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly abrogated the ceremonial and civil law that God had given uniquely to the nation of Israel."

Horton is at again. This time he writes:
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announces a “regime change” from the civil laws of the theocracy.
This kind of interpretation of the text (I hate to call it exegesis) demonstrates that Horton still does not understand the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount was not about regime change. The Sermon on the Mount did not discuss the civil law. It did not suggest that the civil law is obsolete, abrogated, or irrelevant. Nor did the Sermon on the Mount foretell such an event. Even if the civil law is obsolete, abrogated, or irrelevant now, that's not what the Sermon on the Mount was about.

Moreover, Jesus' teachings at the Sermon on the Mount were - at least in general - continuous with the Old Testament teachings. They express a continuity and explication, not a discontinuity.

For example, Jesus said:

Matthew 5:21-22
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Notice the old time vs. Jesus is one in which Jesus enhances and clarifies the law. He is not providing a regime change, but greater light.

Matthew 5:27-28
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Again, there is more light and clarification. Jesus' rule is even stricter than the Mosaic civil law. He's explaining the moral law - personal morality.

Matthew 5:33-37
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Again, more light and clarification is provided. Moreover, here there is warning of danger on a practical level of personal morality.

Matthew 5:38-42
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

This example one might think is contradictory, but Jesus is actually shedding more light. "Eye for an eye" is a principle of legal justice, not a norm of personal morality. We are not required to demand an eye from someone who blinds us, though a judge is required to enforce the law.

Matthew 5:43-47
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Here Jesus is correcting a misinterpretation of the requirement that we love our neighbor. Recall Jesus' explanation from the case of the good Samaritan.

The theme of all this discussion can be summed up by what comes before and after:

Matthew 5:19-20 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.


Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Within these bookends, we see that the theme is not "regime change" but greater revelation of the revealed will of God. Moreover this entire passage from one bookend to the other is the explanation following Jesus' comment:

Matthew 5:17-18 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

One could hardly imagine a less "regime change" comment than that, particularly in light of what follows. There is a heightening of our understanding of the moral law thanks to Jesus' self-revelation.

Horton continued:
Instead of driving out the enemies of God, the True Israel—those united to Christ—are to endure suffering for the gospel and to pray for their persecutors.
Jesus did not make that distinction. Moreover, driving out of the Canaanites was a one-time requirement of the Israelites within more or less specific geographic boundaries. They were given Caanan, not the world. They were called to execute God's judgment on the specific nations that lived in that specific region, not all nations everywhere who refused to obey God.

Horton appears to make a false dichotomy based perhaps on the comment about "eye for eye" (quoted above). Yet Horton's false dichotomy is seen to be false when one considers:

Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

The point in Matthew 7:1 cannot reasonably be thought to be a prohibition on Christians serving as judicial judges, just as the the exhortations to meekness and mercy in chapter 5 are not commands to the civil magistrate, but rather they explain proper adherence to the second table of the law (love thy neighbor as thyself).

Indeed, Jesus himself explains:

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Notice that Jesus does not say "for this replaces the law and prophets" or "this is a regime change from the law and the prophets," but "this is the law and the prophets." Jesus is teaching more clearly what the law and the prophets already taught.

Horton continued:
God’s common grace is shed on the just and the unjust alike in this age.
God's common grace is shed on the just and the unjust alike by definition. Moreover, the classical example of common grace is this:

Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Considering that is part of the Sermon on the Mount, one assumes that Horton has that in mind. But the rain has been falling that way at least since the days of Noah. There's nothing regime-change-ish about common grace. It's not something new to the new covenant administration of the covenant of grace.

- TurretinFan

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reviewing a Blog Exchange Between Hays and Hubner

I've been watching, with some sadness, a blog exchange between two guys with whom I'm on good terms. I thought I'd post my thoughts on the exchange here for what it's worth. It's a long post and probably only of interest to me, the two guys, and a few of our mutual friends. Nevertheless, I offer it up for your reading enjoyment, if you so choose. I had considered entitling it "Scoring a Debate," but I think there is a pretty clear outcome to the exchange, and perhaps I can just leave the reader to draw his own conclusion about how I would score it.

1. A Brief History of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology (Jamin Hubner)

In this post, Hubner writes (amongst a lot of other stuff):
Eventually, in the last half of the century, Dispensationalism became popular enough that it started affecting mainstream politics and foreign policy regarding Israel and Palestine.[2]

[2] See Gary Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise? (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2003).
In response, Steve Hays posted:

2. Sleeping with the enemy (Steve Hays)

In this post, Hays did not challenge the question of whether Dispensationalism affected mainstream politics and foreign policy in America. Hays, however, objected to Hubner "plugging Gary Burge’s tendentiously entitled Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians."

Hays took the position that "Burge is basically a shill for Hamas." Hays also posted links to three negative book reviews of Burge's book.

In response, Hubner posted:

3. Steve Hays, Hubbub, and Hamas

In this post, Hubner expressed confusion ("One is simply left wondering: why was this written, and why now? Whatever the case, I’m not the only one left scratching my head ... .") at the point of Hays' post, after first impugning Hays' motives: "Today he wrote an entire blog post ... for (what appears) no other reason than to make me look bad through association" and "now Steve stoops to a new low in trying to solidify his “pattern” theory." In support of this criticism of Hays' motives, Hubner introduced some prior criticism of Hubner that Hays had provided.

Then Hubner posed three questions, to wit:
  1. Who is the one “sleeping with the enemy” and who is the “enemy” in the title of your blog post, and why did you see those terms as fitting?

  2. How were you hoping your readers would respond to your particular post, in thought and/or action?

  3. Did you read Gary Burge’s book Whose Land, Whose Promise? prior to when you wrote your post essentially criticizing the book, and if not, are you willing to read it and discuss the arguments he raises? (I certainly am.)
The first two questions may be interesting to Hubner, but they don't have any logical relation to Hays' argument. The third question also doesn't appear to have much to do with Hays' argument. Hays cited three reviews of Burge's book (he didn't claim to have read the book himself), and Hays was not addressing a specific argument that Burge presented.

Hays responded with:

4. Siding with the enemy

In this post, after addressing some of Hubner's complaints about being criticized, Hays pointed out that there is a difference between culpable and inculpable association. Hays wrote:
ii) Jamin isn’t merely “associated” with Burge, in some purely incidental way, because he happened to reference a book of his.

No, Jamin agrees with Burge. For instance:
…Israel is guilty of committing countless war atrocities that qualify and surpass the covenant obligations in Scripture. Mass murder. Torturing men ages 14-60s. Unjust use of water supply and the abusive treatment of aliens and foreigners. The creation of millions of refugees. And so on and so forth.[14]

[14] See chapter 2-3 of Burge, Whose Land, Whose Promise?

Notice how he defaults to Burge as an unquestioned authority, to validate Jamin’s incendiary allegations.
It should be noted that here Hays is quoting from a different blog post than the originally quoted post. Thus, Hays has now identified two places where Hubner has positively cited Burge's book.

Hays then went to argue that the purpose of his post is self-explanatory from the content. Responding to question 1 above, Hays wrote:
i) Burge is the immediate target, but to the degree that Jamin is rubberstamping Burge, then he’s complicit, too.

ii) Because we’re in a counteroffensive against global jihad and creeping dhimmitude. In a conflict of that nature, it’s crucial to know the difference between your allies and your enemies. Burge is siding with the enemy.
In responding to the second question from Hubner, Hays wrote:
By considering Burge’s affiliations and reading the reviews, to alert them to Burge’s agenda.
In response to Hubner's third question, Hays wrote:
i) Jamin is recasting the point of the post. That’s a red herring. As I pointed out, the question at issue are the political (contributor to Sojourners) and theological (PC-USA minister) presuppositions which Burge brings to his book. And you don’t have to read his book to know that, for his book is not the only thing he’s written on the subject. For instance:

ii) And I don’t need to read Burge to know about the nature of the Arab/Israeli conflict.
In response Hubner posted:

5. Steve’s Reply, and My Take On Present-Day “Israel”

In this post, Hubner leads by essentially calling Hays dishonest ("Until then, I think everyone should be wondering, for a well-known blogger who gives advice on how to do apologetics, why didn’t he just say so? Enough sowing seeds of doubt against another fellow Christian, and making assertions with unstated conclusions. Just be honest and say what you believe") .

Hubner then adds:
and saying my citation of a book “ought to alert one to his presuppositions” is anything but helpful for readers, as it hardly begins to explain why that is the case, or what “presuppositions” they are, or why they are wrong, why any of these things are significant, etc.
This is a strange statement, since what Hays had actually written was: "The fact that Burge is a PC-USA minister, along with the further fact that he’s a contributor to Jim Wallis’s leftwing rag Sojourners, ought to alert one to his presuppositions." It's unclear how Hubner's statement bears any reasonable relation to what Steve actually said. Moreover, that comment was not Hays' only comment. Hays was pretty explicit in saying that "From what I’ve read by him and about him, Burge is basically a shill for Hamas." That was Hays' very next line after what Hubner quoted.

Hubner also writes:
Indeed, publicly calling on the people of God to be on the “alert” for the presuppositions of a certain Christian apologist is a serious charge, and whether anyone likes it or not, it cannot just be brushed aside (though I’d sometimes like to!).
It appears that Hubner has similarly mistakenly interpreted Hays' criticism of Burge for criticism of Hubner.

And then Hubner expresses yet more confusion:
Now I am really confused. Is Steve actually saying that these historical events just didn’t happen? Or, if they did, that they are irrelevant to discussing…whatever conflict he means when he talks about “taking sides”? I hope Steve can provide some answers to this.
Hubner then goes on to state his position on the Jews.

In short, it appears that at this point in the back-and-forth, Hubner still has not addressed Hays' challenge to Burge's presuppositions, perhaps due to Hubner assuming this is all about him, not about Burge - despite Hays' clear statement that it is about Burge.

Hays responded with:

6. Voodoo dolls

Hays begins by pointing out Hubner's seeming desire to make this discussion about himself, rather than about Burge and briefly noting Hubner's double standard of casting doubt on Hays while complaining that Hays is casting doubt on Hubner.

Moving on from there, Hays addressed Hubner's question/point about the readers needing to be alerted about what presuppositions are at stake in this way:
i) I trust that most readers of Triablogue are capable of drawing their own conclusions. I’m sorry that Jamin can’t give his own readers that much credit.

ii) Is it really so hard to follow the trail of breadcrumbs?

If Burge is ordained in the PC-USA, that tells you something about his theological sympathies, or tolerance for liberal theology. If Burge is a regular contributor to Sojourners, that tells you something about his (leftwing) political sympathies. Those are presuppositions that he brings to his analysis of the Arab/Israeli conflict.
Then Hays addresses the fact that Hubner had misinterpreted Hays words about Burge as being about Hubner with some rather colorful analogies.

Hays then turned to Hubner's question about whether the events described in Hubner's post actually happened. Hays initially explained:
i) I didn’t take a position on that one way or the other. Rather, as I specified, the question is whether he should be getting his information from a guy like Burge.
At this point, Hays could have stopped, because the question of whether people should be getting info from Burge was really the point at hand.

Nevertheless, Hays went on to question each of the quite general assertions set forth in the second instance that Hays had identified where Hubner had cited Burge favorably.

Finally, Hays turned to address one point from Hubner's discussion of his own view of Israel:
[quoting Hubner]
I don’t believe any human being (or nation for that matter) should support – either by word or deed – any secular nation regardless of what it has done, is doing, and intends to do.

You’re entitled to your Pollyannaish blather, but the US has a prefect right to support nations that support us in a military alliance against a common enemy. The president of the US has a sworn duty to defend the homeland.

It’s also simplistic to describe Israel as a “secular nation.” Aside from the sizable number of observant Jews in Israel, let’s not demean the leavening presence of Messianic Jews in Israel.

I think it would be a good idea for James White to do another show with Michael Brown, only this time he can ask Dr. Brown to discuss the Arab/Israeli conflict.
Obviously, at this point, the areas being discussed are expanding.

Hubner responds with:

7. Steve Stoops Lower Still

After complaining about the tone of Hays' prior post and the fact that he thinks Hays is not interested in talking about what Hubner wants to talk about, Hubner states (I'm omitting the bold that was generously used in Hubner's post):
First things first. Steve ought to read Burge’s book before his public ignorance of its arguments grows larger than his apologetics blog can handle.
Of course, Hays never claimed either to have read the book or to be familiar with the arguments in the book. Hays had already clarified that his point was about the problem with Burge's presuppositions.

Next, Hubner suggested that people read Burge's book because "Burge’s book contains a fair argument ... , namely, that if Jews want to claim their God-given right over “their land,” they should at least be consistent in applying the God-given conditions for possessing that land." Hubner distances himself from other of Burge's arguments. Nevertheless, Hubner's point here again does not address Hays' contention regarding the presuppositions behind Burge's book. Additionally, in neither instance where Burge was cited by Hubner above was Hubner citing that argument from Burge. Instead, Hubner was citing Burge as a fact witness.

Hubner continued by arguing (bold and italics were generously used - I've omitted them):
Third, as if it even needed to be said, Steve’s entire argument made thus far (if there is one to be identified) is by and large, fallacious. Gary Burge could be the most evil person on the planet, a racist sexist homophobic Marxist Mormon murderer, and none of that would change the facts, or change the legitimacy of the facts if they are spoken by such a person. Steve knows that it doesn’t matter who is making an argument, what matters is what is being said.
This response confuses categories. First, there is a difference between the validity of Burge's arguments and the truthfulness of Burge's factual claims. The validity of Burge's arguments doesn't hinge on Burge being a good person. However, second, if Burge hates Jews (assume he does for the sake of the argument), then one should be naturally suspicious of him as a source of anti-Jewish facts. That doesn't automatically invalidate his factual claims, of course. Nevertheless, it means one might be better advised to quote as a fact witness, someone without the presuppositions that Hays has alleged that Burge has.

Hubner continues the category confusion with this:
But, how does this even matter if Steve is incapable and/or willing to demonstrate how those presuppositions render Burge’s argument in his book that I cited from (which is how all of this got started) wrong or invalid?
But Hays didn't interact with any of Burge's arguments and (until this post) Hubner had cited Burge for facts, not arguments. Hubner didn't say, "As Burge argued Israelis need to be consistent." No, Hubner had accused Jews of war crimes and atrocities and had suggested a connection between dispensationalism and a pro-Israel foreign policy citing Burge for those alleged facts.

Hubner then complains about his attempts to make this about himself being largely ignored by Hays.

Hubner then provided additional complaints, alleging his misreading of Hays was reasonable and complaining about the tone of Hays' response to his error.

Hubner then provided some responses to Hays' questions regarding Hubner's factual assertions for which Hubner had cited Burge.

Finally, Hubner posed several additional question to Hays, namely:
  1. Is it even possible for the modern-day nation of Israel to do anything worthy of condemnation?

  2. And have they done anything that is worthy of condemnation in the past?

  3. If they have, would it not be helpful to acknowledge and understand those events before blindly conceding to every effort to “support Israel”? (Because, if my neighbor commits sin, I don’t want to be responsible for having helped that sin to occur. Wouldn’t you agree? Or is present-day Israel incapable of doing something wrong as a national entity?)
These questions, of course, don't address any of Hays' arguments. They might move forward a general discussion about the merits of Israel as a nation, or the Israel-Palestine debate, but that wasn't the debate that Hays had offered or one for which Hays had provided arguments, beyond questioning Hubner's factual allegations.

Hays responded with:

8. Dupes for Hamas

In the post, Hays noted Hubner's attempts to make the discussion about himself and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than about what Hays actually wrote in his original post.

Hays commented that Hubner's first comment about "public ignorance" is ironic, because it implies that one cannot take Hubner's word that Burge states what Hubner cited him for.

Hays then pointed out that Hubner has again not followed Hays' argument, identifying a new instance of what Hays referred to as "bait-n-switch."

Hays then addressed Hubner's claim to ignorance of what Burge has written by pointing out that Hays has not only provided reviews of Burge's book but also a link to an article where Burge "tips his hand," according to Hays.

Using some colorful analogies, Hays explains (as I did above) that actually person's presuppositions (and who they are in general) do matter when the person is being treated as a fact source:
Actually, it does matter. It goes to the credibility of the witness. Whether a reported “fact” is, indeed, a fact, involves a consideration of what motivated the witness. That’s pretty standard stuff in sifting testimonial evidence. Take C. A. J. Coady’s Testimony: A Philosophical Study.

If a guy with a clinical history of psychosis assures me that he saw bear-sized rats in the basement, who is making the claim factors into my evaluation of the claim.
Hays then accuses of Hubner of dishonesty:
[quoting Hubner]
That’s why I am so amazed that Steve is willing to pass by the substance of arguments themselves (apologetics -argument-truth) in order to attack people via their associations (politics-ad hominem-people).
Notice that Jamin isn’t making the slightest effort to be honest. For I specifically distinguished between culpable and inculpable association. Does Jamin interact with that distinction? No. Rather, he ignores it, then acts as if I’m the one who fails to draw distinctions. Go figure.
Hays then goes on to provide a detailed refutation of the remaining points related to Hubner's previous questions about whether Hays accepts Burge's factual assertions. Hays explains how Hubner is not addressing the issues and not properly characterizing Hays' responses.

Hubner responded with:

9. And That Answers That

Hubner starts off his post with this remarkable string of assertions:
I’d love to continue to respond to his questions (e.g. discussing such events as Deir Yassin massacre and the history of the secular state of Israel, etc.) and correct his argumentative errors and double-standards, but, as I indicated in the conclusion to my last post on this subject, answering a whole set of questions from a person who refuses to do the same (only with Steve’s case, he is refusing to answer the most basic questions) is fruitless. It’s like debating the doctrine of atonement with someone who you don’t even know believes the Bible is the Word of God, or discussing inerrancy with an atheist who won’t tell you if he’s an atheist, or what have you. It’s 100% pointless. Until we know where each other is coming from, there can be no progress. And it is by all means clear that Steve does not want to (and perhaps, because he cannot) provide a positive case for his own position, let alone summarize it. He simply wants to criticize without following through and without providing anything more. I refuse to take part in that, as should everyone else.
First, Hays never offered to carry on a debate or discussion about those things. Instead, Hays had been attempting to make the point that he started with, namely his challenge to citing Burge as a fact source with respect to the Isreal/Palestine discussion, given Burge's presuppositions. Moreover, while Hubner may not like all the answers that he has been given, there is documentation above showing Hays answering Hubner's questions, even questions that are not actually germane to Hays' points.

Hays' position was that Burge isn't someone who should be a trusted source, and Hays documented that position. Hays didn't offer a position on a number of other topics, but why should he?

Hubner continues by stating: "in this part we realize that Steve has no interest in talking about the fundamental issues of present-day Israel and Christian theology." I'm not sure why this comes as a surprise to Hubner. Hays' objection wasn't couched in terms of the fundamental issues of present-day Israel and Christian theology. Why on earth should Hays care about such a thing? Simply because Hubner has irrelevantly dragged it into the discussion?

Hubner then goes on to impugn Hays' motives for not quoting a larger segment of Hubner's post (at the second portion).

Hubner goes on to argue:
“Doesn’t subject his sources to rudimentary scrutiny?” Uhhh, what? Steve hasn’t even read the source that I have cited from and that he criticizes. Why would I think that providing more sources would be adequate? I wonder, if Burge wasn’t a PCUSA minister and didn’t write for Sojourners, would his book magically become a credible source – credible enough that Steve would bother to read and understand its argument? (And I wonder, if I switched around and asserted that the Palestinians have done bad things in the past instead of Israel, would Steve criticize these factual claims just the same? Would he have even looked up the bio of the author of the source I was citing, like he did for Burge? Given what he has written, I doubt it.)
In point of fact, though, Hays didn't criticize the factual claims until Hubner insisted on Hays commenting on them. Hays' initial point was the untrustworthiness of Burge as a source. As Hays explained already, one does not have to read Burge's book to know that. One can read reviews and one can read other things that Burge has written.

Moreover, Hays' comment about Hubner's lack of discernment in citing an alleged "shill" of Hamas as a fact source regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict stands on its own two feet. That comment is not undermined even if Hays himself is someone who doesn't exercise proper discernment or doesn't properly do his homework (not that such accusations are true). Thus, Hubner's argument that appears to be an attempted tu quoque falls flat.

Hubner states:
We already know Steve is convinced Burge’s works are generally bunk – not because what Burge says is actually wrong, but because Burge was ordained in the PCUSA and has contributed to a Christian-leftist publication.
Again, this is not an accurate characterization of what Hays said. Hays said Burge is not trustworthy on this topic as a source of facts. That doesn't mean that everything Burge says is wrong, or that any given argument from Burge is wrong.

It's absolutely astounding to me that Hubner still doesn't get Hays' point. I assume that Hays will leave it at this, because I can't imagine that Hays could be any more clear than he has been.

UPDATE *** Hays provided one further round of comments in the following (which it appears he wrote before seeing my summary above, though I don't know that for sure):

10. Instant-expert syndrome

In this response, Hays points out that the "Deir Yassin massacre" is not particularly cut and dried, and that it would be prudent to suspend judgment about it.

Hays also addressed comments (quoted at the top of 9 above) in this way:
I realize that it’s in Jamin’s self-interest to change the subject, but the thesis of my initial post was very modest and narrowly-targeted. So, no, I don’t have to chase Jamin down diversionary rabbit trails.
which, of course, is the case. There's no requirement for Hays to discuss other topics.


On Back Pack Radio Discussing Harold Camping

You already may have an overdose of discussion about Harold Camping. Last week, however, I recorded an interview with Vocab Malone for Back Pack Radio in which I discussed Harold Camping. (here's the mp3 of the show) The episode aired May 22, 2011.


The Necessity of the Atonement

One thing that differentiates genuine Christianity from some counterfeits, such as Islam, is that the Living and True God is too holy to simply ignore sin. Instead, God's holiness and justice demand satisfaction for sin. There are a number of ways that this can be seen in the Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testaments. The following is one example

2 Samuel 24:10-25
And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly."

For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying,
Go and say unto David, "Thus saith the LORD, 'I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.'"
So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, "Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. "

And David said unto Gad, "I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man."

So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, "It is enough: stay now thine hand." And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.

And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house."

And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, "Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite." And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.

And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground. And Araunah said, "Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant?"

And David said, "To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people."

And Araunah said unto David, "Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood." All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, "The LORD thy God accept thee."

And the king said unto Araunah, "Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing." So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
There are a few points to notice from this passage. First, notice that God chastises David for his sin. This chastisement comes upon David, even after he expresses remorse for his sin and asks for forgiveness.

Second, notice that God sends this chastisement upon those whom David as King represents. There is a federal headship of Israel that is found in David, such that David's sins are not only brought against David but against Israel in general.

Third, notice that David foreshadows the coming penal substitution of Christ, when he requests that the people of Israel be spared but that the sin be placed against him and and his father's house, that is to say, his family. David's theory is that the people have not sinned, but David has sinned. Nevertheless, God has placed the iniquity of our transgressions on Christ, the son of David, and he has borne them for us.

Fourth, notice that although God first desires not to destroy Jerusalem, and God stays the hand of the angel in advance, God does not simply say "never mind." Instead, God demands sacrifice. It is on the basis of the sacrifice (which itself foreshadows Christ's work on the cross) that God's wrath against the land was propitiated.

From this we can learn that God did not have to wait until the coming of Christ to spare those who trusted in Christ. There was no need for a limbus patrem in which the patriarchs waited for Christ's sacrifice to be performed. God could and did show mercy to the ancient based on the expectation of Christ's sacrifice.

From this we can also learn to trust in God and not in man. David shows us the way in which we should repent of our sins. We ought humbly to go to God and confess our sins to Him. We ought to cast ourselves on his mercy - and we ought to avail ourselves of the sacrifice of Christ to turn away judgment from us.

We should not falsely imagine that God will be happier to judge us than to spare us. Rather, we should see from this passage that although God is a holy God who cannot ignore sin, nevertheless God delights in mercy and spares those who turn humbly in repentance and faith to Him.


Turretin on the Faith of Infants (Reasons - Part 1)

XIV. Rationes cur ita statuamus sunt: 1. Quia promissio Foederis non minus ad Infantes, quam ad Adultos pertinet; siquidem Deus pollicetur se fore Deum Abrahami, et seminis ejus, Ge. xvii.7, et, Act. ii. 39, promissio dicitur facta Patribus et Liberis. Ergo et beneficia Foederis, qualia sunt remissio peccatorum, et sanctificatio, ad eos pertinere debent, ex Jer. xxxi., xxxii., et pro statu ipsorum a Deo ipsis communicantur. Quo sensu juxta quosdam fidelium liberi dicuntur sancti Paulo, 1 Cor. vii. 14. Licent hoc melius referatur ad sanctitatem externam et foederalem quae illis competit, secundum quam, quia nascuntur ex parentibus foederatis et Christianis, saltem ex altero, censentur etiam in sanctitate geniti, id in Christianismo, et non in Ethnicismo, qui status erat ἀκαθαρσἱας et impuritatis.

XIV. The reasons are: (1) the promise of the covenant pertains no less to infants than to adults, since God promises that he will be "the God of Abraham and of his seed" (Gen. 17:7) and the promise is said to have been made "with the fathers and their children" (Acts 2:39). Therefore also the blessings of the covenant (such as "remission of sins" and "sanctification") ought to pertain to them (according to Jer. 31 and 32) and are communicated to them by God according to their state. In this sense (as some think), the children of believers are called "holy" by Paul (1 Cor. 7:14). This may with more propriety be referred to the external and federal holiness which belongs to them, according to which (because they are born of covenanted and Christian parents—at least of one) they are also considered to be begotten in "holiness" (i.e., in Christianity, and not in heathenism, which was a state of uncleanness [akatharsias] and impurity).
(source for English, including the other paragraphs of this question)

The above is taken from Turretin's Institutes, Volume 2, 15th Topic, 14th Question, 14th paragraph. One unfortunate error in Dennison's edition of Turretin's Institutes (in English) is that "Patribus et Liberis" has been placed in quotation marks (see English version above), when - in fact - it is not a quotation from Acts 2:39, but rather the sense of the text.

This is mostly being posted for a friend who wants the Latin, rather than to spark conversation (although, of course, if someone wants to comment on the faith that infants can have, they are welcome to do so).


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Os Guinness and Biologos

Biologos has posted a large number of videos, including videos from folks who are not, to my knowledge, traditionally associated with the anti-Creationist movement.

For example, Biologos Youtube channel has the following videos from Os Guinness:

1. Os Guinness: No Fear

2. Os Guinness on Science, Faith and the Culture War

3. Os Guinness on Reading Scripture Faithfully

4. Os Guinness on Why the Church Should Engage in Scientific Discourse

5. Os Guinness on Evolution and the Atheist Worldview

If you listen carefully, you will see a lot of themes that appear to point to Os Guinness promoting the error of theistic evolution. However, he never really comes out and says it. His comments are the sort of things which tend to come out of the mouths of theistic evolutionists, but he never actually (that I could find) endorses the theistic evolutionist position.

He even goes so far in his "No Fear" video to cast "shame on those who are perpetuating this miserable polarisation" between "faith and science." Despite this stern warning, Os Guinness does not identify what constitutes such polarisation, leaving the reader to guess.


Incorrigible Camping

Camping has moved his date from from May 21, 2011, to October 21, 2011. No repentance for his faulty hermeneutic. He simply took the position that he was not being spiritual enough.

There's not the smallest reason to take his claim seriously. I hope no one will, though I fear his followers will seize on this false hope that his approach will pull through.

Harold Camping remains a heretic outside the church, and is himself in danger of the hell-fire that he claims does not exist. May God have mercy on him.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Where is the Promise of Christ's Coming?

One of the key passages regarding the second coming of Christ is found in 2 Peter 3:1-18 (the entirety of chapter 3 of 2 Peter). First, let me provide you with the text of the chapter, and then my commentary on it.

2 Peter 3:1-18
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying,
Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
First, notice that chapter is directed to the beloved - to those who are believers - to those who are already familiar with the promises of God by the prophets and the commandments of the apostles (both Old and New Testaments, one might say today).

Second, notice that Peter prophesies scoffers who will arise and mock the idea of Christ's second coming. There are such men now. We saw many mocking Mr. Camping's prediction of May 21, 2011. Some mocked it because of its absurd claim to be based on the Bible. Others, however, mocked it because they mock the whole idea of Christ coming again. This latter group is the group of scoffers that Peter's prophecy applies to.

Third, notice what else characterizes these scoffers. These scoffers think that the world just goes on and on as it always has. What they are voluntarily ignorant about is the great flood of Noah's day. In that flood, God wiped out all mankind throughout the world, except for eight souls who were left on the ark.

The point that Peter makes in discussing Noah's flood is to point out that God has already judged the world once. God will judge it again. Those who think that life will continue on Earth endlessly should pay attention to the warning that the flood provided.

Fourth, notice the two-fold reason given for the delay in bringing judgment on the Earth again. God does not care about time - that's what the "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" means. It does not mean that God embedded a secret day = one thousand years code in the Bible as Mr. Camping and others before him have thought. Instead, it means simply that God is indifferent to time as such. God doesn't feel rushed to accomplish in a day what men might take a thousand years to do, and God doesn't feel impatient about accomplishing in a thousand years what men might wish were accomplished in a day.

The second part of the reason for the delay is that God is gathering in the elect now. God is longsuffering to us, not willing that any (of us) should perish, but that all (of us) should come to repentance. If God were to have destroyed the world on May 21, 2011, some of the elect would (we must assume) never have been born, or never would have come to repentance and faith. God is indifferent to time, but we live in time. Thus, God uses time itself to His own purpose in the salvation of the elect.

Fifth, notice that the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Herein lies the utter absurdity of Mr. Camping's prediction: a thief wouldn't advertize his robbery in advance on billboards and radio waves around the globe. No, a thief comes without warning, when he is least expected.

Moreover, observe that this "thief in the night" characterization is not simply with respect to the scoffers, but with respect to the beloved as well. While scoffers had been addressed earlier in the chapter, now the beloved are being addressed and are being told that Christ's return will surprise them too.

Sixth, notice that the day of the Lord will be a day of judgment. When Christ returns, it will not be to set up an earthly kingdom. No, the heavens will be destroyed with a loud noise, and the Earth will be destroyed with fire.

Seventh, notice the lesson to be taken from the fact that the world will be destroyed. The lesson Peter draws is that we ought to live holy lives. We ought to be less concerned with this world and its glories (all of which will be destroyed) than with the new heavens and new earth that will come after it. We should be longing for the coming of the Lord, and yet we should understand that God in his mercy is showing longsuffering, as also Paul wrote (see Romans 2:4 and 9:22).

Eighth, notice that Peter identifies Paul's epistle to the Romans and his other epistles as Scripture. This is an important point to take note of, since it demonstrates that the canon of Scripture was known to include the Pauline epistles even during the apostolic era. It was not later generations who came up with this.

Ninth, notice that Peter warns us to be careful. We should not follow the example of men who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. It is hard not to apply these words specifically to Mr. Camping at this time, but nevertheless we ought to realize that there were wicked men wresting the words of the apostles in their own days, the Reformers had to contend with those of Rome wresting Scripture in even more destructive ways, and if the Lord tarries we will see many more wicked men do the same.

Tenth, and finally, notice that the way to avoid the error of the wicked is not to run away from learning and knowledge. Instead, the way to avoid the error of the wicked is to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The antidote to Camping's mishandling of Scripture is to pray for God's favor and to seek knowledge of God in the Scriptures - Scriptures that guarantee that the Lord will return, but also guarantee that no one will know the day or the hour.

- TurretinFan