Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Assurance of Eternal Security (pt. 1)

As bit of an introduction...

Back around the middle of November I received an email from a guy named Joshua Thibodaux who called me out to take his (cue announcer with booming, echoing voice):


Joshua, or "J.C." as he calls himself on his website, had taken great umbrage to my comments in one of my posted articles defending Calvinism. I wrote in my article on the perseverance of the saints, or what would be otherwise called eternal security; as well as said in my devotional message on the same subject, that anyone who adamantly denies the doctrine of eternal security is in danger of blasphemy, because it denies the power of God and says our Lord is a liar as to His clear promises to save those for whom He died certainly and absolutely.

I will commend J.C. for being faithful to his chosen convictions. He is a tried and true Arminian, defending his synergistic presuppositions with the kind of dogged devotion found among the many hard-core King James Onlyists I have run into. I must confess I appreciate the consistency as well as the purity of J.C.'s thought. Most non-Calvinists I have found are a muddled bunch who don't know what convictions they wish to defend regarding God's role in man's salvation. They just know they don't like Calvinism. J.C. isn't like this.

I had a few email exchanges with him, but honestly, real life and other interests took precedence over haggling with an internet gadfly who would never be satisfied with any of my responses. J.C. seems to pride himself as being a great Arminian apologist/debater, even keeping a running tally on his website of all his "encounters" with any Calvinistic oriented blog commenter who has the tenacious willingness to work through all his banal rhetoric and sophomoric argumentation.

Probably one of the better smack downs J.C. had, along with some of his buddies, which took place right around the same time he was emailing me, was with the Triablogue guys. If you have a rainy afternoon and want to do some worthwhile, entertaining reading exposing the folly of J.C.s "theology" as the main subject, these posts and comments will provide hours of stimulation: see here, here, here, here, and here.

At any rate,

My purpose with these articles I plan to write is not meant to address J.C. specifically. I don't wish to get into a flaming blog battle that is merely centered around personalities. Of course I say that now only at great risk of having the combox deluged with his supporters, but it is a risk I will have to take. None the less, my interaction with his argumentation did stir my thinking regarding what I believe to be significant question concerning our understanding of the nature of salvation. It is a question that has great bearing upon the Christian's spiritual psychology as to how he or she views God's grace and the hope of salvation in general. The question being,

When a sinner is saved is his hope of eternal life secure and most certain, or must he fret over the possibility of forfeiting his salvation with the committal of some unknown sin which will cause him to forsake his relationship with the Lord and thus bring him to being disowned by God and ultimate eternal damnation? In other words, is a Christian's salvation eternally secure, or is it conditioned upon his ability and willingness to maintain it with his good works of obedience? Simply put,

Can a Christian lose his salvation?

Now some who read this may ask why it matters. Historically, however, this is one of the key defining distinctions between classic Roman Catholicism and the Reformed, Protestant faith which reclaimed the Christian faith in the 1500s.

Roman Catholicism taught, and still teaches, that Christ's death merely makes a sinner saveable. Christ's atonement on the cross did not specifically secure anyone's salvation, but only opened up the opportunity for all men to be justified by their own merit as they cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

Thus, a person's justification is not grounded upon the finished work of Christ alone, but is dependent upon the person's devotion to Catholic sacramentalism and it has to be a faithful devotion unless the person forfeits his or her hope of salvation by committing any sorts of sin. In order to accomplish his faithful devotion, the person is first to be baptized, where at which point the Holy Spirit is infused in him so he now has the opportunity to be a faithful follower of Christ. His "faithfulness" is then defined by keeping the mass, going to confession, praying the rosary, paying alms, going on pilgrimages. At the end of his life, the faithful Catholic will be given last rites before death, where after death he enters purgatory to spend time burning off any remaining sins that will still stain him and then it is only after his release from purgatory that the person can be even certain of final salvation as he is ushered into the presence of the blessed Virgin Mother and her dear Son.

The Reformers on the other hand correctly taught that a sinner's salvation is not at all grounded in any human efforts he or she brings to the salvific table as it were. Instead, salvation as outlined in the whole of scripture is based upon God's gracious determination to save a people unto Himself. That determination was established in eternity past and is made complete in the Cross work of Jesus Christ. Christ's death and Resurrection both turns away God's just wrath against those sinners and in turn most certainly secures the sinner's salvation. On account of Christ, the sinner is now justified in a divine legal transaction in which Christ's perfect righteousness clothes him, thus reconciling him to God in a permanent relationship.

There was nothing a sinner could do to earn God's saving favor while he was in a state of rebellion against God and there is nothing the sinner can do after he is made right with God to maintain a standard of holiness to keep divine favor as he now lives unto God. His salvation was graciously imparted to him by Christ's justifying work and his righteousness is also maintained by God's empowering grace working in his life. Hence, a sinner is saved by grace, kept by grace, and can be confident of eternal life because of that grace.

Now, in all fairness, I wish to make it clear I do not believe J.C. and his pals are Roman Catholic. Never would I argue that they are. However, their view of salvation is similar to Rome's along two important lines: 1) Christ's death did not secure the salvation of any one person particularly, but only made all men saveable, and 2) eternal life is conditioned upon the synergistic effort of a person exercising good works in cooperation with God's Spirit in order to maintain proper obedience so as not to forfeit salvation.

These two points are essential in understanding why certain believers insist that a Christian can loose his salvation. For if Christ's death did not secure any one person's salvation, but merely made all people saveable, and that saveability is dependent upon the person first believing with faith and then continuing in cooperation with God's Spirit as he accomplishes good works as outlined in the Bible, then any departure from the stated objectives for maintaining his salvation can very possibly place that salvation in peril with the risk of loosing it forever. God has clearly upheld His end of the salvation plan by making a way for men to be saved, so if the sinner does forfeit his eternal life by engaging in some form of disobedience, then God cannot be blamed for cutting him off. He had done what was needed to be done in order for a sinner to be saved and it was the sinner's fault for not maintaining the necessary steps to be pleasing to the Lord.

With this little bit of background, I hope the reader can now understand why I say such a view of salvation is blasphemous. It not only makes God into an impotent deity with no power to actually save anyone, at least without the cooperation of the sinful person, but it still remains a works oriented faith that really doesn't distinguish the uniqueness of what Christianity is as the only true way to heaven from all the other false religions. On top of this, I believe it makes God into being a liar as to His promise to give eternal life to those who believe in faith. John states that the purpose of God sending His son into the world was to give eternal life to those who will believe in Him. Is that a legitimate promise or not? And if it is a legitimate promise, then why can't I be assured that God will come through with His promise in spite of my faults? I could not trust the word of God if I could loose my salvation with some spiritual mis-step.

The doctrine of eternal security doesn't hang alone. Eternal life with God is the consummation of all the doctrines of salvation. The whole purpose of God decreeing His plan of salvation, electing a people to be called by His name, sending His Son to redeem those people, and then sending forth His Holy Spirit to empower those people to live righteously, is to securely bring those people into eternal life. To suggest a Christian can lose his salvation undoes the divine work leading up to eternal life.

I believe the doctrine of conditional security is a false one, and the idea of losing one's salvation runs counter to at least seven important doctrines pertaining to God's salvation of men. Over the course of a few posts I will outline those doctrines. Let me begin with the first:

I. Conditional Security is Contrary to the Doctrine of the New Birth

I don't believe I need to track down all the references concerning the sinfulness of men as revealed in scripture. The Bible tells us men are more than just ignorant, passive sinners in need of a savior. They are active spiritual rebels, acting in treason against their creator. Not only are they unable to do anything pleasing to their God, they are utterly unwilling. Sinful men knowingly suppress the truth of God they have in their hearts by inventing fanciful philosophies and religions to excuse away any obligation they have to submit themselves to their creator. They hate God and wish to have nothing to do with Him.

Additionally, man is placed under a divine, judicial judgment being separated from any true, intimate fellowship with God. That separation manifests itself as lacking spiritual understanding to God and His ways. Sinners are described in Ephesians 4:17ff. as having darkened minds, living in ignorance, having blind hearts and rather than living in obedience to God's laws they give themselves over to lewdness and uncleanness. This condition within sinners is expressed in ethical inconsistencies, foolish and rash decision making, the pursuit of personal folly, and life choices that often lead to the person's ultimate ruin and in some cases death.

If the sinner, then, is going to believe in faith, trust Christ, and turn from his treasonous ways, a divine work must take place in the heart of the sinner to re-orient him toward, and re-unite him with, his creator. That is the work of the new birth. We also know it as regeneration.

The new birth is primarily the Apostle John's terminology as he was quoting Jesus. The main passage describing the new birth is found in John's Gospel when he recounts Nicodemus's interview with Jesus in 3:1-15. The main word is gennao and in its various grammatical forms it can be translated as begotton by God, born-again, as it is in John 3, or born from above. John also uses this terminology in his epistles, particularly his first epistle in 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:1, 5:4, and 5:18.

Paul also speaks to the spiritual work of regeneration in the lives of sinners, though he uses specific imagery to describe God's work. He equates regeneration or being born-again with a spiritual resurrection in Ephesians 2:5 and Colossians 2:13 when he describes the work as being made alive. He also speaks of regeneration as spiritual circumcision in Romans 2:29 and again in Colossians 2:11-13. James uses the expression brought us forth to describe the new birth in James 1:18, and Peter uses the expression born-again or begetting anew in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:23).

When taken together in their contexts, these passages tell us the work of regeneration re-creates the sinner to newness of life. The re-creation he experiences is a divine work coming directly from God alone. In other words, God is the direct agent facilitating this work. Nothing within the sinner can effect this change. Moreover the regeneration is permanent and cannot be undone by the believer as the Arminian presupposes. Regeneration removes the defilement of the sinner's heart having it cleansed and washed away. As a result a new principle of righteousness exists in his heart. His thoughts are re-oriented toward God. He understands spiritual things and no long lives in a cloud of spiritual darkness. Rather, the sinner who is forgiven of his sins and is identified with Christ, now lives unto the Lord, no longer in spiritual rebellion, but has a heart willingly submitted to God and pursues righteousness while shunning the life of sin.

There are at least three thoughts in response to the conditional security position, and in light of the biblical data concerning the new birth, why their position is in error:

1) I believe it is clear the Bible reveals that the new birth is alone the work of God. The sinner, in his sinful state, has no interest nor desire to come to God. Left to his sinfulness, he will only weary himself to resist God. How then can the sinner reject a work that is not his to begin with? It doesn't originate with him, nor does he even wish to pursue it. Unless there is a over-riding presupposition of total libertarian free-will that permits the newly regenerated Christian to return to a life of sin, but such a concept of the will is foreign to the Bible's description of man.

2) According to the biblical data, regeneration is the transforming of a sinner into a new person. A radical heart change takes place at the hands of God. The person is spiritually resurrected. The divine work is so thoroughly whole and complete with its effects upon a sinner that once born again the sinner will not walk away. Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are God's workmanship created unto good works and Colossians 1:13 says God's regenerating work transfers us from the kingdom of the devil and places us into the kingdom of Christ.

To suggest we can lose our salvation means we have it in our power to take out the heart of flesh that was given to us by God and replace it with the heart of stone God initially took out of us (Ezekiel 36:26). It means we have it in our power to renounce our citizenship in Christ's kingdom and transfer back to the kingdom of the devil. It would be like Lazarus committing suicide a couple of months after being raised from the dead by Jesus (John 11).

3) All the biblical data tells us that God's promise of the lasting effects of regeneration are sure. The person's desires will always be to pursue righteousness. Persisting in sin grieves him and though he may stumble in sin, his longings will be to overcome it. Why would God go to the great lengths of sacrifice to redeem a people called by His name, promise them eternal life, give His Only Begotten Son to secure the salvation of these people, initiate spiritual birth in their hearts, when such a great and awesome work has no lasting value and can potentially be undone? What would be the purpose? Just so we can say God wants men to enjoy his "freewill?" Such a theology devalues the power of God to save.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mysterious Traveler

This is from The Onion and as I have cautioned in the past, I don't recommend all the content on their site, however, in light of Silky Pony announcing his withdraw from the presidential race, I found this video amusing.

Mysterious Traveler Entrances Town


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reviewing Hank's Apocalypse Code

I personally haven't listened to the Bible Answer Man for some time. I have several reasons why I no longer listen to Hank, but primarily I don't like his superficial, Pez dispenser style to apologetics. I believe it leaves too many important issues unanswered for the most part. Plus Hank can be too accommodating of erroneous teaching. The sort of doctrines he says "falls in the pale of orthodoxy" or "Are things we can debate vigorously, but don't need to divide over" are just plain, bad teaching. His notion of progressive creationism being an acceptable way to read Genesis is a good example.

When I use to catch Hank in the mid-90s to the early 2000's, there would be occasions in which callers would ask questions about eschatology. Sometimes a smart thinking caller would attempt to squeeze out Hank's opinion, but he remained fairly uncommitted and would invoke the "inside the pale of orthodoxy" response so as to stay non-committal with his convictions. However, in the last 3 or 4 years, Hank has become one of the most vocal popularizers of preterism, even though he doesn't call himself a preterist. His zeal for his new found eschatological convictions seem to be born out of a dislike of sensationalistic dispensational novels like Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series and John Hagee's hyper-Zionism.

Hank regularly excoriates the LaHaye/Hagee view of eschatology on his program in response to these misguided positions. He has also taken to recently publishing his own series of books offering the preterist alternative. This, in turn, has caused quite a stir among his listening audience and his supporters because a good deal of them are more of the sensational, dispensational stripe. But Hank does a good job of insulating himself from any meaningful criticisms of his views on Revelation and the end-times. Thus he keeps his listening audience from hearing his new found preterism being cross-examined.

I get a lot of questions and comments about Hank's views and I wanted to have a concise review of his most popular book promoting his preterism, The Apocalypse Code. I read such a review in the fall 2007 edition of the Master's Seminary Journal by Dr. Gregory Harris. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to make it available to a wider audience who don't have access to the MSJ. I emailed Dr. Harris, and he graciously sent me his longer, unedited review.

Hank Hanegraaff. The Apocalypse Code. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007. xxvii + 300 pp. $21.99 (hardbound).

Reviewed by Gregory H. Harris, Professor of Bible Exposition.

The Apocalypse Code is Hank Hanegraaf’s reaction to what he and others would consider fanciful interpretations from the Book of Revelation by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. While many premillennialists would also not necessarily hold many of the same interpretations on selected passage, Hanegraaf seems to lump all premillennialists together with “guilt by association.” He specifically targets Tim LaHaye since he considers him to be “the standard-bearer for Lindsey’s brand of eschatology” (xviii).

Yet it is significant that in the book section of his rather extensive (for laymen) selected bibliography (295-99) and articles used (300) is the complete absence of Robert Thomas’ two-volume work on the Book of Revelation. One would hope that at least one sentence within the first volume, Revelation 1–7 (524 pages) or the second, Revelation 8–22 (690 pages) might contribute in some way to Hanegraaff’s argument, let alone the dozens of related journal articles produced. (Likewise there are no references to MacArthur, Ryrie, or Pentecost). Hanegraaff takes two “extreme examples” (for lack of better terms) and any type of speculation they may bring to the text to imply that anyone else who holds to a premillennial understanding of the Book of Revelation must arrive at this conclusion by the same hermeneutical means.

Using an acronym “LIGHTS,” which begins with a “literal understanding” of the text, Hanegraaf presents his methodology as the proper means “to interpret the Bible for all its worth . . . ” (xxvii). While this sounds very similar to a premillennial understanding of the text, it is the outworking or application of the hermeneutics that cause the interpretational paths to diverge.

For instance, the “T” section of his acronym “LIGTHS” is chapter six “Typology Principle: The Golden Key” (161-203). Perhaps a better subheading would be “The Hermeneutical ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card.” From these previous statements, in reality what Hanegraaff does is employ an allegorized hermeneutic whenever any text does not meet his preterist theology. This allegorizing of different texts basically undermines a great deal of what he would argue against as a literal approach to the text (his “L” section in the LIGHTS acronym. Yet what if the “L” (literal principle) and the “T” (typology principle) stand at odds with each other? How can one discern which is dominant? How does one know?

Most Bible-believing scholars readily accept types as a legitimate component of hermeneutics and recognize that wide debate exists regarding the number and breadth of what and what is not a type. However, Hanegraaf’s use of typology basically inserts his own theology, supports it with his own typology. For instance, in writing about the paramount importance of types, he writes, almost by fiat pronouncement and with no support: “Persons, places, events, or things in redemptive history serve as types of Christ or spiritual realities pertaining to Christ. Palestine is typological of paradise” (9). It should be noted that referring to the land of Israel as “Palestine,” a term God never used in reference to it; the name came from Philistia (Exod. 15:14; 14:29, 31; Joel 3:4), Hanegraaff has shown his own bias already denouncing what he considers to be the racial discrimination against Arabs (xx-xxiii) and the modern “explosive debate over real estate” in the Middle East (xxiii-xxvii), Hanegraaff presents his own conclusion, which presumably will be in the H (historical principle) section. “Ultimately, we must decide whether the land is the focus of the Lord or the Lord the locus of the land” (p. xxvii). Yet God is the one who repeatedly refers to the land, His covenant promises, Jerusalem throughout the Word. Just one example of this hermeneutical divide is Zechariah 14:1-4:

Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.
Obviously this is important since it describes the return of the Lord to earth. Does Zechariah 14:1-4 refer to literal Jerusalem where “His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,” or is it some sort of life lesson for Christians to decipher? Would Hanegraaff place this under the “L” (literal) section, “H” (historical), or “T” (typological)? This is important because he ends his introduction saying: “In the pages that follow, you will answer these and a host of other questions by internalizing and applying the principles of a methodology called Exegetical Eschatology . . . In the process you will not only be equipped to interpret the Bible for all it’s worth but you may well discover that you hold the key to the problem of terrorism in one hand and the fuse of Armageddon in the other” (xxvii). Throughout the book Hanegraaff’s use of typology is repeatedly allegorizing any prophetic text that does not suit his conclusion.

Hanegraaf claims the need for Scripture to be interpreted by Scripture as the last element in his lights acronym:

Finally, the S in LIGHTS represents the principle of scriptural synergy. Simply stated, this means that the whole of Scripture is greater than the sum of its individual passages. You cannot comprehend the Bible as a whole without comprehending its individual parts, and you cannot comprehend its individual parts without comprehending the Bible as a whole. Individual passages of Scripture are synergistic rather than deflective to with respect to the whole of Scripture.

Scriptural synergy demands that individual Bible passages may never be interpreted in such a way as to conflict with the whole of Scripture. Nor may we assign arbitrary meanings to words or phrases that have their referent in biblical history. The biblical interpreter must keep in mind that all Scripture, though communicated through various human instruments, has one single Author. And that Author does not contradict himself, nor does he confuse his servants (9-10).
Such reasoning is sound and many premillennial scholars would wholeheartedly agree with this principle. Accordingly, since Hanegraaf claims to base his teaching from within the text, to use his own words, individual passages must be compared in Scripture to see if they harmonize. In other words, the scriptural synergy principle he advocates applies just as much to himself as it does to Lindsey and LaHaye and anyone else.

One of the major positions Hanegraaf holds in interpreting the Book of Revelation is that Nero was the first beast of Revelation 13:1-8, namely, the Antichrist. Hanegraaf mocks LaHaye’s (and others) rejection that the advent of the Antichrist has occurred in history past and that instead a future individual with any future relevance to the Jewish people is divine prophecy that awaits fulfillment. Hanegraaf notes that to hold such a position may “well reveal the utter falsity of the assertion that Jews right now are living in the shadow of the mother of all holocausts—a holocaust that will wipe out two-thirds of them. Not just two-thirds of the Jewish population in the Middle East, mind you, but two-thirds of the Jewish population on Mother Earth!” (109).

It seems from Hanegraaf’s understanding that either Lindsey or LaHaye invented such a concept of such a prophesied destruction. Yet Scripture is the one that repeatedly presents this, even proclaiming not only that two-thirds that will perish, but a third will be cleansed and brought into a proper spiritual relationship. Since Hanegraaf “L” section of his LIGHTS acronym is the literal principle, one should at least consider what he wrote regarding this: “The plain and proper meaning of a biblical passage must always take precedence over a particular eschatological presupposition and paradigm” (2). It would reason that one would apply the “literal principle” to a passage such as Zechariah 13: 8-9:

“And it will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”

God Himself promises to bring about the judgment. This either occurred historically or awaits future fulfillment. Nonetheless, such was/is God’s Word—not man’s decrees.

For the sake of our study, Hanegraaf’s position on the Antichrist needs to be explored briefly. He concludes: “Internal evidence points to the fact that when John recorded the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the sixth king—Nero Caesar . . . ” (114). So accordingly, he argues for all events of Revelation 13 as having transpired during the days of Nero. Note the past tense used throughout:

We must ever be mindful of the fact that the ghastly terrors of Revelation are designed the “Great Tribulation” not just because Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, or because of the massive loss of life, but because the Beast of Revelation purposed to destroy the foundation of the Christian church of which Christ himself was the chief cornerstone. The Great Tribulation instigated by Nero is thus the archetype for every type and tribulation that follows before we experience the reality of our own resurrection at the second appearing of Christ (114).

Hanegraaf supports his claim by delineating some of the atrocities of Nero’s reign, especially in regard to horrific persecutions of Christians (114-15; 147-49). In fact, the massacre was so bad during Nero’s reign, Hanegraaf concludes:

The malevolent state massacre of Christians he instituted continued unabated for some three and a half years. In the end, Peter and Paul themselves were persecuted and put to death at the hand of this Beast. Indeed, this was the only epoch in human history in which the Beast could directly assail the foundation of the Christian church which Christ himself was the cornerstone. Only with Nero Caesar’s death, June 9, AD 68, did the carnage against the bride of Christ finally cease. Not only is there a direct correspondence between the name Nero and the number of his name (666), as noted above, but the “forty-two moths” he was given “to make war against the saints” (Revelation 13:5-7) is emblematic of the time period during which the Beast wreaked havoc on the Bride. If LaHaye is looking for a literalistic interpretation for his ubiquitous three and a half years, he need look no further! (148-49).

A good place to begin in response to this is with both the subject index and the Scripture index for The Apocalypse Code. For instance, Revelation 13:11-18 requires the advent of “another beast” different than the first beast of Revelation 13:1-7, and yet intricately connected with his reign. This second beast in Revelation 13 is generically and henceforth referred to as “the false prophet,” the title originating from the text (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; and 20:10). It should be noted that the Apocalypse always presents this other beast with a definite article when referring to him as “the false prophet,” instead of a false prophet or false prophets in general.

Under the index heading of “false prophet” (281), Hanegraaf lists pages, but each reference pertains to critics of the Bible who considered Jesus to be a false prophet. So if Nero was the beast historically, Scripture necessitates “the false prophet” who will lead the entire world in forced worship and in forced reception of the mark of the beast. Twice the Greek word “it was given” to him (Rev. 13:14-15) to do something beyond his normal or natural capacities. Yet there is no a trace of evidence presented that such the false prophet existed. Logically speaking from a biblical standpoint, one cannot have the advent of the first beast of Revelation 13:1-8 without the advent of the other beast of Revelation 13:11-18.

In the same way, the Scripture index for The Apocalypse Code omits any biblical references for the false prophet where he is specially called that, namely Revelation 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10. This is imperative for numerous reasons: first, whoever the false prophet is, he is alive with the first beast at the Lord’s return, second, he is cast alive into the lake of fire with the first beast, and third, they are alive one thousand years later when Satan receives his ultimate fate.

So when Hanegraaf cites the death of Nero by suicide on June 9, AD 68 (148-49), the scriptural synthesis principle is just as true for him as with anyone else, present author included. Hanegraaf rails against “unbridled speculation, or subjective flights of fancy” (xvii) and encourages the reader concerning his own The Apocalypse Code: “In the pages that follow, you will answer these and a host of other questions by internalizing and applying the principles of a methodology called Exegetical Eschatology . . . In the process you will not only be equipped to interpret the Bible for all it’s worth but you may well discover that you hold the key to the problem of terrorism in one hand and the fuse of Armageddon in the other” (xxvii). No, actually Acts 1:7 offers a better theology of whose hands hold the end times events: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.”

To put such principles as Hanegraaf says he employs requires that Jesus Christ returned to earth at the latest on June 8, AD 68 - the last full day of Nero’s life - because if Nero is the Antichrist, he must be alive at the Lord’s return along with his unknown-to-history false prophet who by no means deceived those who dwell on the earth (Rev. 19:20). Either Nero meets these biblical requirements, or he must be discarded as a consideration for fulfilling the biblical requirements for the Antichrist. The just are told to live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), yet to accept that the life or death of Nero in anyway remotely matches these Scriptural requirements-plus dozens more-goes vastly beyond accepting by faith. .

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What the FSM can teach us

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the atheist's make believe "deity" that is suppose to be a rebuttal to Intelligent Design theory and biblical creationism. Laughably flawed as a serious challenge to the true self-revealed God of scripture and the Christian faith, this imaginative and humorous attempt to suppress the truth is useful in the over all debate.

AiG writer, Peter Galling, explains how the Flying Spaghetti Monster exposes a foundational problem with the Intelligent Design philosophy.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monkey Man is available again

Back in August of last year I reported that monkey man, the world record holding hairiest individual, was preparing to be married by years end.

Well, apparently he and his girlfriend had a falling out. You think maybe she found out about the hair?

That's too bad. I hated to hear that.

So, he is now making himself available for internet dating. Man, the miracle of the internet, huh?

He may have lots and lots and lots and lots of hair, the more to keep your love warm, but in his own words, "I feel like King King, hideous, but with a soft and tender heart."

And lots of hair.


Calvin Island

Dutch Plan to Build Calvinistic Theme Park

Reuters - Amsterdam

Capitalizing upon the recent resurgence of Calvinistic theology among young people through out the world, the Dutch Parliament, with cooperation from the Walt Disney Company, plan to develop a Calvinistic theme park.

"There really has been a renewed interest in Jean Calvin and Calvinistic theology," stated Joop Atsma, the politician who sponsored the move to build the theme park. "Every year we have many, many American tourists in particular, visiting the Netherlands and the historic, Calvinistic areas. I thought, why not make a theme park on the subject."

Because there is a shortage of land for such an enormous undertaking, an artificial island in the shape of a tulip will be built. "A tulip shaped island is the natural choice for the theme park," explained Atsma, "because it is not only the national flower, but also the acronym for Calvin's theology.

The Imagineering division of The Walt Disney Company has been hired to develop the many different themed attractions which will be showcased on the man-made island. The state of the art attractions will allow visitors to revisit important moments in Reformation history including the "Here I stand" speech by Martin Luther, the meeting of the Synod of Dort, and the trial and execution of Servetus. In "The Hall of Reformers" the major, historical Reformers of the Christian Church like Zwingli, Huss, and Tyndale will come to life in animatronic likenesses with an animatronic version of London Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, rising to preach one of his classic sermons to the entire group including the human audience.

There is also planned an alternative Arminian fantasy land where Calvinist visitors can experience the Arminian stereotypes of their theology. The highlight of this venue will be "Dave Hunt's Wild Ride," which is being advertised as one of the most advanced roller coasters ever built. The twist with this ride, however, is that once the person has waited over an hour or more in a long line to get the opportunity to ride the roller coaster, and even if he really, really wants to ride, he may be turned away at the last moment before he is allowed to get on depending upon the whim of the operator.

Atsma further said the island will be large enough for future expansion to include water parks, hotels, pubs, and cigar shops.

If all goes as decreed, Calvin Island should be welcoming its first tourists by summer 2009.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool (Pts 18 & 19)

Is the Bible a reliable guide to Christ's teachings and is the basic text riddled with contradictions?

I am coming down to my final two posts responding to Chaz Bufe, Christ-hating, blues guitar picker and his article 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. I put points 18 and 19 together because they have a similar challenge to the integrity and veracity of the scriptures. Rather than reproducing the two points in whole, they can be read here and here.

One of the more amusing chuckles I receive from biblio-critics and the general critics of Christianity is how these individuals who loathe the Bible, God, and Jesus, are also at the same time allegedly some of the most "learned" scholars on the subjects they despise. According to the religious-biblio-skeptic, God is suppose to be a myth and the Bible is an old, unreliable guide to anything relevant in our modern world, so you would think the skeptic wouldn't bother wasting time immersing himself in biblical theology and the original languages. I expect blues guitar festivals to be Chaz's field of expertise. However, when the subjects of textual criticism, what the Bible teaches, and the historicity of the biblical record is raised, our atheist reveals he is also a "well rounded" expert. If you even attempt to defend the Bible as reliable against him, he'll show how you're an idiot.

For example, under point 18, Chaz throws out all of these factoids about the NT gospels not being a reliable guide to Christ's teaching. Chaz writes, "These texts [meaning the gospel narratives] have been amended, translated, and re-translated so often that it's extremely difficult to gauge the accuracy of current editions." Oh really? Since when did this amateur guitar player learn all there was to know about the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages and the various translations developed from them? I take it by his comment he has examined all the current editions, which I think he means current, modern day translations, to contrast and compare to say older translations, like for instance the Latin Vulgate, Wycliffe's translation, Tyndale's, etc.? And I am sure he can provide a large mass of examples, too?

Of course a guy like Chaz would never allow his claim to be honestly scrutinized. The fact is, the real textual critics of the world, which are many, even if they come from a non-evangelical background, all agree that the vast amounts of textual evidence we have for the NT alone is remarkably consistent in its content. This is in spite of the textual variants, translations, and editions produced over the centuries. When the store house of just the NT manuscripts alone are compared together with what we hold now in our hands as scripture, the message remains unaltered. It's the same. The record of Christ's life and teaching has not been lost or tampered with and it is most certainly reliable.

Only psuedo-intellectual cranks like the Jesus Seminar folks Chaz appeals to as his authority are the ones who deny the factuality of the textual evidence as it testifies to the over all integrity of the NT. That is because they all have as a driving presupposition a deep seated pathology against God and the Christian faith. These folks are dishonest with the facts and have an agenda to promote.

A more current day example is Bart Ehrman, NT professor at the university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In recent days he is appealed to by atheists like Christopher Hitchens as a reliable critic of the NT text because he graduated from Princeton and is considered the "heir" of NT textual scholar, Bruce Metzger. In nearly all of his written publications and lectures, Ehrman retells the story of how he was once a born-again evangelical who affirmed the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture. He had an interest to really knowing the Bible and attended Moody Bible Institute in pursuit of that goal. It was not until he began his post-graduate studies in NT textual criticism, however, that he "saw the light." He realized he had been misled by his evangelical pastors and friends about the veracity of the NT text and thus he was driven to become a shrieking apostate. He even recounts how during his days at Moody Bible Institute none of his teachers provided any solid defense of the Bible in light of the overwhelming textual evidence against infallibility and inerrancy. But I happen to know individuals who attended Moody at exactly the same time Ehrman did and they tell me he is lying. One particularly reliable person who attended Moody the same time Ehrman did, told me he had the same questions Ehrman claims he had about the biblical text. Contrary to Ehrman's assertion, the NT professors did an outstanding job of dealing with the so-called over-whelming evidence against inerrancy and infallibility.

So there is certainly something else at work here other than textual evidence. Textual evidence doesn't cause a person to lie against his schooling and twist around the historical interpretation of the manuscripts so as to mis-represent what they really tell us about the formation of the NT. This is a moral problem not at all related to evidence.

Then moving on to Chaz's next point, the claim is that the Bible is riddled with contradictions. Out of all of the criticisms a Christian will hear from skeptics, pretty much all of them start with the assertion that the Bible cannot be believed because it is full of contradictions. Chaz even lists three to prove his point.

I remember that many of my conversations I had regarding "contradictions" in scripture took place after dinner during the holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas while watching football. Usually it was with a snooty relative, like a curmudgeonly older cousin you only see during the holidays. As a young believer I would quickly become discombobulated with the examples of "contradictions," and my attempt to throw out some simplistic response never really satisfied the person. The encounter would cause me to do some studying, but when I thought I had a better answer, at the next holiday get together the person would have an entirely different set of "contradictions" to rub in my face.

I have since developed a better approach when dealing with these sorts of challenges to the biblical text.

One of the first things I learned is that critics like Chaz place an absurd literary standard of perfection upon the Bible. The standard is so ridiculously outside the realm of reality that no written historical document could comply, let alone the Bible. So when someone tells me the Bible is full of contradictions, I will ask the person to define for me what he means by "contradiction." The number of times I have asked for a definition, the person is taken aback, because no Christian had before ever thought to ask the person to define his criteria for "contradiction." The normal, everyday understanding of a contradiction is when two propositions are contrary to one another and produce opposite conclusions. In logical terms, "A" cannot be "A" and "non-A" in the exact same way at the same time.

The critic's understanding of "contradiction" rarely falls under the everyday working definition. That is clearly demonstrated when he pulls examples from two separate contexts, perhaps even being written by two different biblical authors writing to separate readers during different time periods. Chaz does exactly this when he compares a passage in Genesis, then Exodus, and then John, as well as Genesis and James and declares how they "contradict" each other. The closest he comes to giving an honest comparison is with quoting Jeremiah, but he compares passages that are 14 chapters apart with out any consideration of who the prophet was speaking to and why, and quotations from Jesus as recorded by John, but again, the examples are three chapters apart and Jesus is addressing two entirely different audiences.

Once I have the critic explain to me what he means by "contradiction," I then ask the person to show me the one hands down, undeniable contradiction he thinks utterly demonstrates the Bible is is error. The reason I ask for the ultimate contradiction is because in debates with skeptics on this subject, the person will toss out an alleged contradiction, and when you provide an answer to it, the person has already moved on to the next one on his list. Asking for the ultimate example cuts past having to put out a bunch of little fires.

Yet, even with this modified approach I always keep in mind the fact that a hardened biblio-skeptic like Chaz is not looking for answers. He is an unbeliever merely wanting to make a mockery of the Christian and the Bible, as well as continue in his rebellion against God. With a skeptic like Chaz, it truly is not a matter of whether there are answers to his criticisms. It is a matter of whether or not he will submit himself to God's authority as revealed in scripture. He is operating with an unregenerate mind; one that is darkened in sin and has no interest in the truth, and what truth he is given, he will reject, suppressing the truth by explaining it away with some clever argument he devises. Hence, the Bible in the mind of the unregenerate sinner will never be a "reliable" guide to Christ's teaching and no one will ever satisfactory answer his list of "contradictions."

Next up: The final post!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Items from the Realm of Science

New images of Mercury

I am like so geeking on this because they're pictures from a space probe orbiting a far away planet, but honestly it looks like the moon.

Scientist develop dog bark translator

Yeah, that's a big discovery. What are dogs thinking:

Stupid squirrel! stupid squirrel! stupid squirrel! stupid squirrel!

Let me out! let me out! let me out!
Let me in! Let me in! Let me in!

Drop some food! drop some food! drop some food!

We need a translator to figure that out?

What I think would be cool is if the voice of the translator sounds like that computer from 2001 A Space Odyssey or maybe Orson Welles.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Driscoll on MacArthur

Mark Driscoll sat down with some guy named Michael Corley to talk about his life and pastoral ministry. Around 11 minutes into the interview, he is asked about other men who minister to him and has some extreme kind words about John MacArthur.

No matter what folks may think about his methodology, I do appreciate that the guy is head in the right direction.

One-on-One with Mark Driscoll


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Secret Places in America

If this doesn't have Phil Johnson written all over it...

Photographer Taryn Simon gained access to some of the more top-secret areas in the U.S. and produced what is probably a really cool coffee table book, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar.

Wired published some of the photos.

Photographer captures America's best kept secrets

The forensic cadaver farm in Kentucky is the most unnerving.


Monday, January 14, 2008

FBT Updates

Over the weekend my friend Will and I updated my Fred's Bible Talk webpage. Along with the fancy new thumbnail pictures on the front page linking the visitor to what are some of my more popular audio series, I also:

1) Added three previously messages I did when I taught about spiritual gifts, God's will, and true Christian spirituality a couple of years ago. They addressed making proper biblically informed decisions and dealing with Christians disagreeing with each other from Romans 14. They supplement the blog articles I wrote on this subject back in October of 2007. I had edited them, but they must have become lost and forgotten and we failed to uploaded them.

I also sent them out as podcast messages, so if you are a subscriber, you should have received them in your Itunes browser or other MP3 program you use. In fact, you may have three downloads, because we sent them out once, but then realized the file was messed up, then sent them out a second time until we realized there was a wrong title attached, and then the third time was the charm. It is our goal to podcast all of my audio messages.

Some of them are a bit dated, like the brief message I did responding to the Da Vinci Code. Yes, remember that book? But I have a series on homosexual Christian apologetics I never podcasted, as well as a study on the the book of Jude, and my series on Calvinism, which I hope to re-visit here soon with one of my volunteer groups.

2) Put my podcast link on several RSS feed sites thus exposing my persona to a much larger, vast listening audience. It also invites cranks and wackos to shoot me an email and badger me to no end about some insignificant point of doctrine, like whether it was really Samuel who appeared to Saul or a demon. Gheesh.

3) Then finally, I posted a couple of articles by Dr. R.K. McGregor-Wright on the subject of middle knowledge. These articles were originally found in an apologetic journal that was limited in circulation. I thought they were well done and wanted a copy so I could send to people who had questions on the subject. After scouring the web for his email, I contacted him and he was kind enough to send me the attachments and allow me to publish them.

Middle knowledge is a system of theology developed by a Jesuit priest in response to the Reformed understanding of salvation, election, and God's divine decrees. It is an attempt to find a suitable balance between God's established decrees in eternity and man's so-called libertarian free-will choices. The system is regaining popularity these days and one of its chief proponents is apologist William Lane Craig. Dr. Wright's articles are in two parts and I believe do a fine job of developing the history behind the system and interacting with the basic problems.

The Origin and Development of the Middle Knowledge Theory


Philosophic Problems with the Middle Knowledge Theory


Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Review

Doug Kutilek provides a stirring review of David Michaelis' biography on cartoonist Charles Schulz I thought was worth sharing

Taken from As I See It Vol. 11, No. 1, Jan. 2008,

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis. New York: Harper, 2007. 655 pp., hardback. $34.95

As a rather typical baby-boomer/ adolescent of the 1960s, I was an enthusiastic reader of the daily 4-panel comic strip “Peanuts,” conceived and drawn by Charles Schulz. I imbibed much of the wit and sarcasm of the strip and made it my own (to my occasional detriment). I was entirely at home with the ever lonely perpetual fall-guy, loser Charlie Brown, his very strange dog Snoopy, the domineering and often crabby Lucy, the philosophical and thoughtful Linus (my personal favorite), and the rest of the regular gang. At various times, and in various guises, these characters where Schulz’ alter-egos, or real life “adversaries” caricatured. Michaelis has written a detailed and thorough biography of Schulz, the retiring and reticent barber’s son from the Minnesota Twin Cities, whose lifelong aspiration, even from smallest childhood, was to be a cartoonist, and at which he achieved worldwide fame and remarkable wealth.

Schulz (1923-2000) grew up in an emotionally non-demonstrative family, an only child, and was reclusive and reserved from childhood--in marked contrast to his country cousins who were loud, brusque, and verbally bellicose--all the things “Sparky” (for such was his nickname) was not. This made the frequent Sunday visits with the extended family painful and exceptionally uncomfortable for him. His father, like Charlie Brown’s, was a neighborhood barber of modest ambitions.

After high school and service in World War II (during which war his mother died from cancer after 4 agonizing years), Sparky pursued a career in art and cartooning, and finally broke in in 1950 when his local “Li’l Folks” strip went “national” (with seven original subscribing newspapers; “Peanuts” would eventually appear in over 1,000 papers). Due to a copyright dispute with a defunct comic strip from the 1930s, the name was changed by the national syndicator--against Schulz’ wishes--to “Peanuts,” a name lifted straight from the successful “Howdy Doody” television program’s famous “Peanut gallery” where the live children’s audience sat. Schulz frankly hated the new name (though I $uppo$e he eventually got u$ed to it); for years, people would ask, “Which one of the characters is named ‘Peanuts’?” many thinking it was the dog (my original impression). The strip developed, was picked up by more papers, and by 1955 had become popular nation-wide.

Even when fame and considerable fortune came his way because of “Peanuts,” Schulz remained reclusive, indeed, perhaps became more so, using the strip as both a creative outlet and as an escape from the real world. In the strip, and only there, he had complete control over his “world.” Schulz was personally very much self-absorbed and had a strong aversion to taking responsibility if it could be avoided by losing himself in the strip.

Raised in a quiet, non-religious home (somehow, Schulz never smoked, used profanity, or drank alcohol beyond the rarest and barest exception), both he and his father came into contact with a small Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) congregation at the time of his mother’s death. The minister of the small congregation--because of the unavailability of the Lutheran minister--consoled the family and conducted the funeral. After the war, Schulz attended this small church, made numerous friends, became a regular part of the congregation, and eventually made a credible profession of faith in Christ, followed by baptism. While residing in Minnesota, he regularly attended this church--all weekly services--and tithed, his growing income from “Peanuts” eventually accounting for more than half of the church’s total income.

Though often interested in girls during his high school, military, and post-war years, Schulz was with rare exceptions too self-conscious, too insecure, too introverted, too fearful of rejection, to even speak to girls he found attractive, much less ask them for a date. In 1951, he met and married the sister of a co-worker, a 20-year-old divorcee, who at 19 had worked one summer in a New Mexico dude ranch, met and married a ranch wrangler twice her age, had a child, and was abandoned by the man all in short order. Joyce Schulz was strong-willed, domineering, highly energetic--a driven woman, though she was never much of a church goer (rarely accompanying Sparky to church in Minnesota) and never any kind of professing Christian. This latter characteristic would eventually have a highly detrimental impact on Schulz’ spiritual life.

At Joyce’ insistence, the new family soon moved away to Colorado, where they knew no one and were far from relatives; they remained there less than a year, and were back in Minnesota (cartoonists can live anywhere plying their trade). After a few years and numerous kids, Joyce engineered a move to Northern California, where Schulz would reside for the rest of his life. With the move to California, nearly all regular association with churches was ended for Schulz (he for a brief time taught--or rather supervised--a Sunday Bible class in a Methodist Church). And while he continued to read the Bible for himself, and read Bible commentaries (chiefly the modernist Abingdon Bible Commentary, which could only have served to undermine any conservative faith Schulz had), he never taught anything about the Bible to any of his children, not even explaining to them the meaning of the Christmas story--they grew up wondering what the nativity scene that decorated the house each December represented. One daughter eventually became a Mormon.

Sparky’s emotionally undemonstrative nature, passivity, aloofness and escapism let to growing conflict with extroverted Joyce. After a total of five children, and more than 22 years of marriage, they divorced in 1973. Before the split, Schulz had an 18-month-long adulterous relationship with a 24-year-old single woman. “Peanuts” had given Schulz fame, a multitude of fans, immense wealth and world-wide recognition. But these could not make him a happy man.

As Schulz got away from church, the Bible, and God, his life drifted. In the 1950s and 1960s, as he first became widely known, he was lionized as a model evangelical Christian. His 1965 Christmas television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” was and remains the traditional Christmas TV program with the clearest, most straightforward presentation of the Gospel. I have watched it 30 times at least and still tear up when Linus takes center stage (“Lights, please”) and recites from Luke 2. But with an unbelieving wife, and without the continuing influence of fellow-believers and the Bible in his life, Schulz in essence abandoned the faith. By the end of his life he was espousing some strange, even heretical theology--denying that God wants to be worshipped, and teaching universalism (people with guilty consciences and unforgiven sin self-servingly often hope there is no condemnation for sin, especially their own).

After his tryst with the 24-year old, and while his marriage to Joyce was unraveling to its dissolution, Schulz began a relationship with a 33-year-old married mother of two. After his divorce--and hers--they wed and stayed together until Schulz’ death on February 12, 2000 (the same week-end Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry died).

I had for years hear reports and rumors of Schulz’ evangelical Christian profession and his turning away from Christianity in his later years, but I had a Pollyanna-ish, naïve perspective on the whole subject until reading this book. My delusions were certainly dispelled. While still recalling with appreciation the humor and entertainment derived over the years from “Peanuts” (especially in the 1960s), I have lost nearly the whole of any respect I might have for Schulz the man. He was a success as a cartoonist, but a failure as a Christian, a husband, and a father.


The Homeschool Family

I kept wondering if they would mention something about winning spelling bees, and then bam, right at the end.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Books I would like to read or see written

Doug Kutilek lists his books he would most want to see written. I like a lot of his choices.

Books I Would Like to Read or See Written
(Taken from As I See It Vol. 11, No. 1, 2008)

When I find my interest in a subject sparked (which happens constantly in a dozen different ways--a stray reference in book I’m reading, a comment from a well-read and respected friend, something I see in the electronic media, and such like), the first thing I do is cast about for some article or book that treats the subject in a thorough, interesting and authoritative way. Whether the subject be a biography, an historical event, a literary work, something involving the natural world, linguistics, theology, or whatever it might be, I set out to discover and obtain something worthwhile to read and thereby inform myself and satisfy my curiosity.

Sometimes my search yields just what I need in short order. Other times, I search for years for just what I want, and fail to discover it. Sometimes what I want simply doesn’t exist--the requisite volume or article remains unresearched and unwritten. Occasionally, I have tried to fill such a deficiency by writing on the subject myself--my extended study, “Hebrew New Testament Translations: A Comprehensive History,” parts I, II, III (As I See It 9:3, 9:4; 9:5) is one such effort.

More often than not, what I do find on my interest de jour are decidedly inferior, incomplete, outdated or badly distorted second-rate works that were scarcely worth the search or worth the time and trouble to read.

Sometimes what I need and want exists--I just don’t know where to look. At other times, I know what I want--I know it exists, but it is remote or otherwise inaccessible to me to buy, beg or borrow.

This being said, there are a number of works I would love to discover, or see written, or gain access to, so that I could feast on their information. Some of these include--

--A good biography of Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), the 19th century Hebrew Christian whose Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah is a classic treatment, which ransacks ancient Jewish literature for the light it can cast on that most important of all human lives. The brief Dictionary of National Biography entry mentions a short memoir by daughter Ella Edersheim which was attached to a posthumously-published work, but nothing comprehensive seems to exist.

--A good biography of Samuel P. Tregelles (1813-1875), a devout British Christian, thoroughly learned, meticulously attentive to detail, profuse in his literary productions and pre-eminent among 19th century students of NT Greek manuscripts; even so, only small unsatisfactory treatments of Tregelles’ life exist--he was early on associated with Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, but departed from that group. Had he remained among them, they would no doubt have been careful to record his life in detail. At the very least, an extended analysis of his literary remains, accompanied by a biographical sketch, cries out to be written.

--An English language biography of Johannes A. Bengel (1687-1752) the German Pietist, Bible commentator and founder of modern NT textual criticism--a study he pursued to satisfy his own mind regarding the reliability of the Greek text of the NT as extant today. While there exist several German accounts of his life and labors (one of which I own), to my knowledge, there is no biography in English.

--An appreciation of the contribution of the virtually unknown Samuel Berger (1843-1900) to the study of ancient and modern translations of the Bible into the languages of Western Europe. He did much thorough and authoritative pioneering work on Medieval Bible versions, published numerous still-valuable articles in periodicals and encyclopedias of his day, but is today all but unknown.

---An honest biography of George W. Truett (1867-1944), predecessor to W. A. Criswell as long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. The one extant book-length biography, by son-in-law Powhatan James and first issued while Truett was yet alive, is an embarrassingly bad work, gushing with praise and devoid of criticism--and completely lacking any reference to J. Frank Norris whose pastorate in nearby Fort Worth largely overlapped in time with Truett’s; their paths crossed repeatedly, and often not cordially. Someone needs to write Truett’s life worthily.

--A good biography of J. R. Graves (1820-1893). Though Graves and his Landmarkism were a major source of contention among Baptists of the South in his day and since, he was nevertheless through his writing and editing one of the most influential, perhaps the most influential Southern Baptist of that era. The one book-length (ever-so-brief) biography of Graves, by son-in-law O. L. Hailey, is a poor production, very short on specifics. The sketch of Graves’ life, views and influence by Harold S. Smith in Baptist Theologians, edited by Timothy George and David Dockery (1990), is good but too brief to satisfy my interest. I want more.

--Some readily accessible account of the lives and labors of some of the conservative 19th century German OT scholars, such as E. W. Hengstenberg, K. F. Keil, Franz Delitzsch and H. A. C. Haevernick (something similar on English NT scholars--Alford, Westcott, Lightfoot, Ellicott, Hort, etc.--would also prove invaluable). I am aware of a meaty German biography of Hengstenberg. Praiseworthy volumes composed of brief summary articles (biographical and theological) on American theologians, American Bible scholars, and Baptist theologians have appeared in the past couple of decades, but nothing similar on 19th century scholars, whether German or English or American.

--A history of 20th Century Baptists. There are scattered histories of small segments within the larger Baptist world--GARBC, BBF, SBC (in part), etc., but nothing even close to comprehensive. Such a volume would likely need to be a joint effort by a dozen scholars, to make it truly worthwhile and authoritative.

--A modern “Cathcart.” William Cathcart edited The Baptist Encyclopedia in the 1880s. While it covers a broad spectrum of Baptists, especially Americans of the 19th century, the entries are regularly fulsome in the extreme, wholly devoid of bibliography, and more than 130 years out of date. The volume provides very inadequate or no treatment of many points and issues. The Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists of the 1950s and later, in 4 volumes, fills some of the gap, but far from adequately. A project to occupy 25-40 scholars for a decade, I should think.

--Biographies of any sort of Princeton OT scholar Robert Dick Wilson, evangelist Vance Havner, and pastor and radio preacher J. Vernon McGee.

--The autobiography of Josephus’ translator William Whiston (1667-1752). I have seen it, and even read in it for about an hour while in the library in Cambridge University a year ago. But it was only there that I have seen a copy. Whiston, mathematician and professorial successor to Newton, was rather eccentric, theologically cultic, a “Baptist” in religious association, and a speculator on the date of the Second Coming. I want to write up a 10-20 page article about Whiston (akin to some of my AISI biographical sketches), but cannot adequately do so without these 18th century volumes. The New Schaff-Herzog article is surprisingly full on this relatively minor figure.

--A modern biography of Henry Jessey (1601-1663). This Cambridge-educated sometime Anglican priest became by turns a non-conformist, an adherent of believer’s “baptism,” and then an immersionist, and ministered in the area south of London Bridge, not far from where Spurgeon’s Tabernacle would be built two centuries later. Jessey was one of the most highly educated Baptists of his day, being a master of Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. He prepared, with the assistance of others, a complete revision of the KJV which was left in manuscript at his death. He was a convinced pre-millennialist, and a generous friend of oppressed Jews. There are so many points of interest about Jessey that a modern treatment is called for. The only thing available is a 1671 biography (which I have read--also while at Cambridge) of just over 100 small pages by Andrew Whiston (any relationship to William Whiston is wholly unknown to me). I have long projected doing something along these lines and have collected some materials.

--The autobiography of Ebenezer Henderson (1784-1858), Scottish linguist (with a knowledge of almost 20 languages), missionary, Bible scholar (author of excellent commentaries on most of the OT prophets), and promoter of Bible societies. I briefly examined this mid-19th century autobiography at Cambridge, but have sought in vain for a States-side copy to buy or borrow.

--A good survey of ancient Jewish literature for the Christian reader--covering everything from the apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Qumranic and apocalyptic writings, Philo, and Josephus, to the Mishnah, Tosephta, midrashim, targums, talmuds, commentators and masoretes. There are hundreds, yes thousands, of things in this literature that illuminate or illustrate both the NT and the OT, and give a better and clearer picture of Jewish thought and history in general. Some Christian commentators from past centuries (chiefly John Lightfoot, John Gill, J.J. Wettstein, and Strack and Billerbeck) have mined this trove, but most Christian readers, including most contemporary theologians and scholars, are largely or entirely ignorant of it, to their and our great loss. Some few works have appeared of late in this subject area, but nothing quite like what I have in mind. Were I teaching such a course on a regular basis in a Bible college or seminary, I would try by the third or fourth cycle of classes to have something ready to publish. If, if, if.

--An accounting of Holy Land pilgrimages, perhaps covering all of Christian history (beginning from the 4th century), or perhaps limited to the 19th century, of which there must be dozens of published accounts--scholars Philip Schaff, John Broadus, Horatio Hackett, to mention but three, and even Mark Twain, visited the Holy Land and saw it as it was before all the modern view-obscuring development, and what is better, wrote accounts of what they witnessed. Someone should survey and summarize these pilgrimages in a handy-sized volume, or at least in a well-researched journal article.

--A complete bibliography and a selective reprinting of the writings of John A. Broadus (1827-1895) as found in “The Religious Herald.” Broadus was the outstanding 19th century American Baptist (in the opinion of historian Thomas Armitage). “The Religious Herald” was the official periodical of the Virginia State Convention of the Southern Baptists, and regularly carried articles by Professor Broadus, including an account of his tour of the Holy land mentioned above. A selection of Broadus’ best writings from this paper would be worthwhile, since so relatively few works by Broadus were published in book form. The relevant issues are on microfilm--but not anywhere close to where I live!

--A modern pre-millennial equivalent of Christology of the Old Testament, Hengstenberg’s great 19th century work on OT Messianic prophecy. I had hoped as long ago as the mid-1970s to undertake such myself, but circumstances have prevented me from doing so.

--A study of failed date-setters for the Second Coming, of which there must be hundreds (not just the more famous Millerites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Whisenant--of “88 Reasons” infamy). Such would serve as a warning to all who think themselves smarter than God.

--An authoritative but comprehensible presentation of the factual basis for Ancient Near Eastern chronology--dates and events--from Sumer and Babylon to Egypt, the Hittites, Assyrians, Persia and more. How “solid” are the commonly given dates (for example, 3100 B.C. as the beginning of literacy)?

--A complete chronological listing of all of Spurgeon’s sermons and addresses, whether published or not. A day-by-day accounting of Spurgeon’s life (such as has been done for Lincoln, and Stonewall Jackson) would also be of interest to me and I suspect to others.

--The publishing in book form of the tomb inscriptions copied by John Rippon (1751-1836) in Bunhill Fields, London. This cemetery holds the mortal remains of some 120,000 individuals, including many luminaries from non-Conformist Christianity between 1660 and 1860--John Owen, John Bunyan, John Gill, Daniel Defoe, Susannah Wesley, Henry Jessey and Rippon himself. Rippon spent many hours copying the stone tomb inscriptions--nearly all of which are wholly obliterated today. I understand that Rippon’s transcripts remain in manuscript in the British Museum. They ought to be published because of the historically important information they surely contain.

--A full accounting of the Christian faith of the Confederate high command. Many of the top commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia were devout Christians--Lee, Jackson, David Hill (Jackson’s brother-in-law), Richard Ewell, John B. Gordon, and many others. While there are 19th century accounts of the Great Revival in the Army of Northern Virginia in the winter of 1862-3, no full, documented account of the specific beliefs and practices of the generals exists, as far as I know. I have done some small reading and collecting of material for such a project, but have too many irons in the fire just now to make much progress on it.

--A fuller, more detailed account of the life of A. T. Robertson (1863-1937), the great Greek scholar. The one extant biography, by Everett Gill (1943), is good and adequate in its way, but it omits much information--more details are needed on his library, writings, class work, summer speaking engagements, his family (four children, one of whom--a son--was institutionalized due to some developmental problems, another son who ultimately rejected the faith of his father and grandfather, and died in unbelief sometime after the 1950s), and his theological views, systematically considered, etc. I would choose this project for myself, had I the freedom to make the choice and the resources to carry it through.

These are just some of the subjects that are stewing on the back burner of my mind, waiting the discovery or procurement of just the right written treatment that I have long sought. If any reader can direct me to extant books and articles in any of these areas--or if you have copies of the autobiographies of Whiston or Henderson lying about--please let me know.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008


I live in California, one of the states in the Union that prides itself for being on the cutting edge of every screwball, hair brain piece of legislation designed to regulate a person's existence for the "common" good.

The latest attempt: PCTs. These things go way beyond worthless florescents vs. incandescent light bulbs. Read the entire review:

Who will control your thermostat?

California is re-tooling its state-wide standards for building energy efficiency. Some of the new regulations are wise, but the ones which are not move from being just draconian to bordering on futuristic, Orwellian society in which "love" is outlawed.

The latest brain-child birthed in the ivory towers from our environmental protecting overlords will seize control over your ability to adjust the temperature in your house to your choosing in the event of a power emergency during a heat wave.

Here's the key line from the article:

Every new home and every change to existing homes' central heating and air conditioning systems will required to be fitted with a PCT beginning next year following the issuance of the revision. Each PCT will be fitted with a "non-removable " FM receiver that will allow the power authorities to increase your air conditioning temperature setpoint or decrease your heater temperature setpoint to any value they chose. During "price events" those changes are limited to +/- four degrees F and you would be able to manually override the changes. During "emergency events" the new setpoints can be whatever the power authority desires and you would not be able to alter them. In other words, the temperature of your home will no longer be yours to control. Your desires and needs can and will be overridden by the state of California through its public and private utility organizations. All this is for the common good, of course.

This new standard will exempt the good portion of the elites in California. You know, folks like Steven Spielberg and Barbara Streisand and a good portion of the legislatures who cook up privacy invading regulations like PCTs. That is because they can afford to live in emperor decadence along the coast where, as the article goes on to point out, air conditioning is never needed. Me, the normal guy who sweats like a pig even when its 85, will have to turn to my Vornado for the hope of some potential relief during the next August heat wave.

You folks laughing it up in Virginia or Georgia at how goofy California is just keep laughing. Remember, it starts here and slowly creeps eastward.

I'm curious if Steve has any positive comments? Should PCTs be a welcomed friend for our brave new environmental world?


Monday, January 07, 2008

Gleanings from Job #5

continuing in my devotional series on Job...

Job Answers Eliphaz (Job 6-7)

We have been considering the life of the man Job. Under divine direction he experiences some disastrous trials. His home is lost, business is destroyed, and his health ruined.

After this crushing loss, three of Job's friends arrive to provide him comfort. All of them, however, will promote a view of retribution theology - the idea that any suffering is judgment for personal sin.

Eliphaz is the first friend to "comfort" Job and his "speech" is filled with the concept of retribution. The reason Job is suffering, argues Eliphaz, is because he has sinned.

Eliphaz implied that some of Job's sinfulness may had been his mistreatment of others in an unjust manner. Job was like a lion who hunts down innocent prey and as a result is also shot down. (Job 4:10, 11). BUT, we know Eliphaz is coming at Job from a wrong perspective. We have a divine revelation he is not privy to in the background to the story of Job.

Chapters 6 and 7 are Job's response to Eliphaz's opening comments against him. In his response he first replies to Eliphaz and then to God. It is here we see that Job is beginning to despair as he embraces the idea of God's judgment upon him. Here we should learn from him that,


I). Responding to Eliphaz:

1). Defends his suffering - In responding to Eliphaz Job says that his suffering is right because his trial is heavy. In other words, he is hurting. How else would Eliphaz expect him to respond? This is the reason his words were so severe when he spoke in chapter 3 (6:3). Donkeys and oxen don't cry when they are fed (6:5), so in like manner, Job wouldn't be bemoaning his circumstances if he knew the purpose of God's hand in his travail.

That in turn leads him to making some despairing remarks about God's dealings with him. He basically wants God to crush him so as to release him from his suffering (6:9). In that way, at least he can find comfort in his physical death which will put him out of his misery.

But in spite of his despair, Job confirms he has kept God's Word when he says, for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One (6:10). In other words, he hadn't hidden God's commands from his life. He was, as we noted from the first chapter, a man who did "fear God" and "shunned evil" (1:1).

2) Rebukes Eliphaz - In his rebuke, Job tells Eliphaz:

a) He has not been kind with his counsel (6:14, 15)

b) His counsel was like a dry brook that otherwise promised cool, refreshing water to a traveling caravan, but there is none available to the thirsty travelers (6:15-18). What should have been refreshing words in Job's moment of trial were only cruelly deceitful.

c) The help offered to Job from his friends wasn't helpful, at least with Eliphaz's first remarks (6:20).

d) Then, if Job asks that if he has sinned by taking advantage of Eliphaz's friendship, then he should bring forth the proof (6:21-24).

II). Responds to God

Beginning in chapter 7, Job turns his attention directly toward God. He speaks to two things on his heart,

1) He wishes to know from God when his suffering will end. Like an over worked servant longing for rest or a hired man eagerly awaiting his wages, so Job is longing for his own physical rest from his suffering. Only God can grant that. (7:1, 2).

His suffering, it is assumed by Job's words (7:3-5), has taken place over a number of months. His trial wasn't a short event playing out under a couple of weeks. His trials of horrific health, plus the emotional turmoil of loosing his children and livelihood, could have been up to a year and if that is the case one can understand how Job has become despairing with his words.

2) Laments his shortness of life. From 7:6 to 21 Job expresses how he believes his time is short; so short, he may never see the end to his trial and will die in his wretched condition.

Job, as a result, he speaks his mind to God raising his complaint to Him. From Job's perspective, He sees God as "troubling" him.

- Keeping guard over him like a sea serpent or some other dangerous creature (7:12).

- Not allowing him to sleep by giving him nightmares and other terrifying, nighttime visions (7:13, 14).

- Will not tell Job if he had really sinned (7:20, 21).

In circumstances like Job, it is easy to quickly become jaded and take our eye off what we know to be true of God. In some cases, after much suffering and no hope of relief, a person under severe pain either emotional, and/or physical, may take fool hearted action to alleviate the suffering. Sometimes those actions may be to seek out a "magic" healing from a non-traditional source like a faith healer or even other non-Christian, religious avenues. Usually, however, the response is one of developing wrong ideas about God.

How then do we hedge against developing these erroneous ideas? Three thoughts:

- God is good in all things. All of scripture affirms the goodness of God which means He will not give to his people trials in which they cannot bear them. Additionally, he will not forsake us in our trials. Even though it seems as though He is no where to be found, He is there.

- He cares about our situation. Remember, God was the one who drew the devil's attention to Job. By inviting the devil's attention to Job, God had ordained the circumstances to take place with His servant. Certainly God knew about and cared for Job.

- Keep an eternal perspective. Any suffering, even for a significant part of one's life time, is brief in comparison to the glories of eternity.