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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Defending Premillennialism [4]

The Wooden Literalist: Legendary Beast of Theology Lore [2]

See Part 1

The subject before us has to do with interpreting the Bible literally in light of symbolic language with in prophetic genre.

To review: interpreting the Bible literally means to read the Scriptures in their ordinary and plain meaning. This approach to reading the Bible has traditionally been called the grammatical-historical hermeneutic, in which the passage is studied and interpreted according to the exegetical rules of grammar with in the historical context of the passage.

The literal approach, however, has become a point of contention between proponents of various eschatological camps. Those who adhere to amillennialism and postmillennialism tend to take a less literal approach to reading the Bible's prophetic passages, where as those who hold to premillennialism tend to take a more literal approach when they read the exact same passages. The application of the grammatical-historical hermeneutic has significant ramifications on how one will interpret the exegesis of those prophetic texts and thus the interpretive conclusions one draws with the exegesis.

Now, to be fair, many proponents of both amillennialism and postmillennialism would argue they treat the Bible literally when the passages demand it. However, prophetic passages they insist, must be interpreted in a much less literal fashion because the prophetic Scriptures contain symbolic language. The presence of symbolism forces us to change our interpretative method when interpreting prophecy. If one were to interpret symbolic language literally, it is argued, absurd and ridiculous conclusions would result. Because premillennialists insist upon interpreting all Scripture, including prophetic, eschatological passages consistently with a literal, grammatical-historical hermeneutic, their method is viewed as tending toward "wooden literalism."

As I noted in part one of this study, I believe the accusation against premillennialism as holding to wooden literalism is misleading. I believe utilizing a literal approach to reading all of scripture, including heavily symbolic prophetic passages, is the only way to take the text seriously, especially with respect to authorial intent.

It's dishonest to say a literal hermeneutic dismisses symbolic language. Most certainly one who holds to a literal hermeneutic recognizes symbolism and figurative speech with in the biblical literature. The question is how does one interpret such language? Does the presence of figurative speech insist we treat the text differently from all the rest of the Bible? No, I don't think so. However, there are exegetical rules within the grammatical-historical hermeneutic that can help us understand symbolic, figurative language.

First, symbolic language and figurative speech often point to a literal reference: something real and historic. Symbols, metaphors, similes, and figurative speech are just graphic representations of "an actual event, truth, or object" [Couch, 71]. For example, consider Revelation, one of the more symbolic books of the Bible. Chapter 20 speaks of how Satan will be bound with a chain and sealed in the bottomless pit. The typical objection to the literalist interpretation is to ask, "how can a spiritual being like Satan be bound with a chain?" The objector then says the "binding" must mean something else entirely and attempts to build a case for the devil being "bound" at the cross of Jesus, etc.

The literalist, on the other hand, certainly grants that a spiritual being can't be bound with a chain in the "wooden literal" sense of being bound. John most certainly is employing symbolic language; but the symbolic language refers to an actual event: Satan will be caused to cease from all of his corrupting activities and removed from the earth. The symbolism of a chain binding the devil refers to something that will really happen to Satan as related to his activity on earth.

Take another example from the book of Daniel. the four major empires in the ancient world leading up to the first advent of Jesus Christ are described as metals in a statue (chapter 2), as bizarre beasts (chapter 7), and as a ram and goat (chapter 8). The symbolism describes real, geopolitical kingdoms that existed on the earth and shaped the course of human history. Hence, premillennialists only believe the additional symbolism of a divine rock smashing the metal statue at the end of chapter 2 is also a real, geopolitical kingdom, one that is yet to come.

There is a second exegetical principle when interpreting symbolism literally: Does the symbol when interpreted literally lead to absurdity, yet when understood symbolically, lead to clarity?

Now what do I mean by that? When an interpreter comes to a passage containing symbolism, if he were to interpret the symbols "literally" would the conclusion lead to an absurdity or something ridiculous? For instance, Isaiah 55:12 speaks of how the "trees of the field will clap their hands." Clearly we are dealing with symbolic language here. But, if we take this statement "literally" does the prophet mean to say trees will come to life with arms and hands in some weird, anamorphic fashion and clap them together? Or does the symbolic language, when understood symbolically, lead to clarity? In this case, the prophet means to convey with the use of this illustration the great rejoicing that would take place at the fulfillment of God's Word? The second interpretation best describes the context of the prophecy.

Let's consider one that is not so clear. Micah 4:1 says, But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. Some suggest that what Micah is saying here is that Mt. Zion will be the tallest mountain on the face of the earth during the millennium. Objectors to such a position point out the height of Mt. Everest as being 29,000 feet and unless a radical, supernatural reconstruction of the world happens, Mt. Zion could never be the tallest mountain during the millennium. Those objectors do quickly forget Peter's words in his second epistle where he describes such a possible transformation of the world (2 Pet. 3:3 ff.) and that certainly could include the heights of mountains. But, honestly, such objectors are correct. There is a good amount of absurdity with interpreting Micah's words to mean, "Mt. Zion will be the world's tallest mountain during the millennial reign of Christ."

I think a better way to look at this text is to note how the symbolism makes the prophecy clear. In ancient times, mountains, or what we know in Israel today as "Tels," would be a strategic location where a tribe or group of people built their city, and the city in turn came to be known as a seat of governmental authority of a specific realm or kingdom in the area where it existed. The prophet is utilizing a symbolic image to express how Mt. Zion will be exalted above all the kingdoms of the world, which is exactly what is to be expected when Christ comes to vanquish his enemies and establish His kingdom.

But that leads us to a third exegetical principle involving symbolism: The Bible is its own interpreter when interpreting symbolic language. Non-premillennialists like Kenneth Gentry for example, will insist we must look to the Bible first to provide for us the key to interpreting the symbolism in biblical prophecy. Premillennial "literalists" are often criticized for going outside of the biblical text to find solutions to interpreting prophecy. Hal Lindsey and his take on the locust of Revelation 9 as being chemical spraying helicopters is a clear illustration.

Gentry's point is well taken, though he is guilty of reading non-biblical interpretations into the book of Revelation. For instance, his insistence that the hailstones described in Revelation 16:21 are so beyond the weight of any normal, weather produced hailstones that to interpret them as such is to introduce dishonesty into the text of the Bible. He appeals to the historical record of Josephus, who says the Romans used large, white colored boulders in their catapults when they besieged Jerusalem. Josephus's account, then, must be recording the fulfillment of this prophesy.

However, the more biblically consistent way to interpret these hailstones is to turn to the whole of the Bible. What does the Bible say about hailstones? If one would do a quick check of a concordance, Job, probably one of the earliest written books of the OT, states in 38:22-23 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? That is an unusual comment from the Lord to Job. However, we see the Lord using this "treasure of hail" in Joshua 10:11 where He cast down stones from heaven upon the Amorites on behalf of Israel so that the people who died from the hailstones was greater than the people killed by Israel in battle. Great hailstones are also mentioned in Isaiah 30:30, Ezekiel 13:11, 13, and 38:22, along with some other places in Psalms. Why then is it hard to believe God can move supernaturally in nature to destroy His enemies with hailstones? That is what a consistent reading of Scripture states?

Another example is Crenshaw and Gunn's chiding of the literalist take on Matthew 24:29 where Jesus says, Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. According to Crenshaw and Gunn [22-25], these cosmological visions cannot happen because stars falling from the heavens would destroy the universe and the sun being darkened would turn the earth into a frozen ball. Additionally, prophets used the sun and moon motif, along with similar expressions to describe "sudden and disastrous change" that takes place. Such as Israel being thrown into bondage for 70 years, the judgment upon Babylon, and in the case of Jesus's words in Matthew 24:29, Jerusalem being destroyed by the Romans.

It could be that the "sun and moon" expression is a description of sudden and disastrous change or judgment. But there seems to be something physical and real in that expression when once again, we see Peter describes real, genuine cosmological signs taking place at the dissolution of the world in 2 Peter 3. Crenshaw and Gunn barely brush by Revelation 6:12, 8:12, and 16:8 , where those passages all describe the sun and the moon being smitten as part of the judgment upon the earth, and when they are smitten, the cosmological signs produce physical consequences upon the earth and on humanity. How can a motif, what really is meant to be a "figure of speech" or "symbolic language," produce physical effects upon humanity and impact life upon the earth? There has to be real cosmological happenings upon the earth.

Then lastly, we should take every word at its primary, ordinary, literal meaning unless the exegetical facts of the immediate context suggests otherwise. In other words, we should not go looking for an allegorical or spiritualized interpretation unless the context gives us some exegetical reason to do so. Considering Isaiah's prophecy about the millennial kingdom in chapter 11, he speaks of how predatory animals like wolves and lions will exist peacefully along side docile animals like sheep and cattle. Taken in the normal, ordinary sense, there is nothing to indicate we are to spiritualize such poetic sounding language. There is no reason not to take the prophet's words literally. Even if this is language meant to be only poetic, the meaning is still literal none the less: the idea being put forth is the rest and safety and peace of the Messiah's Kingdom.

Now, as I draw this to a close, someone may object to these principles I have outlined by saying "aren't you being naive thinking the interpretation of prophetic passages filled with symbolic language is so cut-and-dried?" Well of course not. I know there are difficult passages under discussion that have been debated vigorously for centuries. Each passage has to be carefully interpreted with in its own context and all the difficulties weighed in our exegesis of those passages. But I think in the end, the grammatical-historical literal hermeneutic will provide us the best method for interpretation.


*******
Sources:


Curtis Crenshaw and Grover Gunn, Dispensationalism: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow.

Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics.

Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation
.

Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, The End Times Controversy.

James White, Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wal-mart, Black Holes, and General Relativity

This is a blatant repost from March 2006. And even worse, not even a theologically oriented repost. I was re-reading it recently and was reminded of how funny it was. I thought I would share if you all haven't read it yet.


Thursday morning I jump in my car to head off to work. When I went to start the engine, all I heard was the worthless click,click,click, click of the alternator refusing to turn over. I tell you, nothing is more disheartening than when you are all dressed up ready to get to work with a busy schedule on your mind and the battery is dead in your car. Thankfully, I had a friend who swung by to give me a ride and we decided that after work, we would take the old battery out of my car and take it over to the Wal-mart Supercenter and exchange it for a new one.

Now, my wife and I have been spending a lot of our shopping time at the Wal-marts here in the lovely Santa Clarita Valley. We have actually gone out of our way to shop there,because doing so sticks it in the eye of the Californian organized labor union thugs who have been waging a losing battle against Wal-mart ever since corporate headquarters announced years ago that they were going to begin opening Supercenters in California.

I know everywhere else in the rational world normal people are use to shopping at Supercenters, but here they are rare because California's hippy socialists have poisoned the gullible minds of the unwashed masses with anti-Wal-mart propaganda. Never the less, Wal-mart has prevailed in opening Supercenters, and one of the newest just recently opened a couple of miles from where we live.

The Supercenter is a sweet, lovely facility, well organized and fun to walk around in. The convenience of being able to do the family grocery shopping, along with non-grocery related shopping is wonderful. Walton was sheer genius with thinking up this combination.

However, there is a strange phenomenon that takes place the moment we pass through the front portals into our Supercenter: all of the store associates (Wal-mart slang for "employees") lag behind everyone else by 1 or 1 and 1/2 seconds. I am convinced the phenomenon can be explained with either one of two scenarios:

1) Either a black hole, or some other unknown graviton distortion sits at or near the center of this store so that it has fragmented the time continuum,

2) or Wal-mart has transplanted the entire farming community of Grubbs, Arkansas, here to Canyon Country to operate the facility.

Seeing that the transplanting idea is financially unfeasible, it has to be a black hole or graviton distortion.

The distortion manifests itself in a couple of ways. First is the obvious lag time I mentioned. This is most noticeable at the check out area where there is perhaps a concentration of gravitational sheer. For example, when my wife places our items on the conveyor belt to have them scanned, the checker picks up an item, slowly turns it around in his or her hands as if scrutinizing the item, then scans it, then slowly turns it around again, and then places the item in a bag, then double checks what was printed on the receipt. If we purchase towels or clothing, the checker takes a good 30 to 45 seconds to look the item over, folds it neatly, and then lays it slowly in the bag. The entire check out process takes at least 6-8 minutes longer than what is normal at other giant box stores where we shop.

A second manifestation of the graviton distortion is the disruption of the associate's cerebral cortex. I reckon the prolonged exposure to the black hole, or dark matter, or what ever, has a debilitating effect upon the brain so the associate cannot properly reason or make common sense judgments, and again, this is more pronounced near the check out area.

For instance, Wal-mart takes product coupons. My wife will pick up some items for which she has coupons, and when the checker rings up the items and scans the coupon, a little slip of paper spits out of the register that reads something like, "This item is not recognized as matching with this coupon," or something along those lines. My wife kindly responds by pointing out to the checker that the purchased item and the coupon are most certainly one and the same and there is a mistake, but the checker just freezes with a glassy stare, like looking into the eye of a chicken. After a 1 or 2 second pause, the checker will respond with something like, "But the slip of paper says..." to which my wife has to nicely ask for a manager. The checker once again freezes with a glassy chicken stare, and then after a couple seconds pause, turns on the flashing lane light that slowly blinks out an indication to a manager that a woman is questioning the slip of paper.

My experience buying my new battery went along similar lines. Once my friend and I arrived in the automotive department to look over the batteries, I had a question about whether it truly was a dead battery or maybe I had some other mechanical problem. The sign where the batteries were displayed told us that Wal-mart will test batteries for free, so I went to the register to ask about getting it tested. The black hole must have caused my friend and I to be out of sync with normal time-space, because from our perspective, no one was around. In fact, it looked as though we were the only ones in the entire store, but more than likely we were occupying the same space, but just in a different time frame. Then, out of no where, an associate walked by, stops, looks at us, and then after a second or two pause asks, "Have you been helped?"

I say, "I would like to get my battery tested."

Couple of seconds pause.

Associate (responding with a statement that sounds like a question): "I don't think we test batteries?"

My friend says, "Well the sign says you guys do; see right there."

Couple of seconds pause.

Associate: "I'll have to go get my manager."

He then disappears down an aisle, never to be seen again. I guess the disruption of the time continuum may have opened a wormhole that sent him a week into the future or something.

Any how, a little bit later, another guy comes around and I ask him about testing the battery. A couple of seconds pause. "Oh, yeah, we can do that. Do you have the battery?" I show him my battery in my cart. He then calls another guy to go test the battery. The other guy wheels the cart with the battery outside and he too disappears, this time with my battery. Wormholes were opening up all over this place. Eventually word got back from the netherworld to us that the battery was in need of replacement.

Finally, I get a new battery and when I arrived home, I DISCOVERED THAT NEARLY TWO YEARS HAD ELAPSED!!!

Stupid theory of general relativity. Well, at least my car starts now. Maybe I can go back to Wal-mart and see if I can locate a wormhole that will take me back to where I started.

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A Gay Man Comes Out

Not your typical "coming out" story.

The Day I Decided to Stop Being Gay

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Defending Premillennialism [3]

The Wooden Literalist: Legendary Beast of Theology Lore [1]

Within the debate between eschatological systems, those of the non-premillennial persuasion often chide premillennialists of being "wooden literalists." The description is even more true if the premillennialist adheres to any dispensational tendencies.

If one were to read the books critical of premillennialism, and certainly dispensational premillennialism, the person would be under the impression that any form of "literalism" used to interpret prophecy or the prophetic portions of scripture, is not only bad, it is disastrous; raping the Bible by forcing upon the text fanciful and absurd interpretive conclusions.

Gary Demar, for example, who has made hunting down popular dispensational, premillennialists his "white whale," claims literal views of prophecy has misdirected modern Christianity to pursue a "last days madness" that attempts to interpret biblical prophecy with a modern day "newspaper exegesis" which reads current events onto the text of scripture. Of course, Demar falls into a similar hole by interpreting the book of Revelation according to Josephus' writings, but he is not known as one who acknowledges such cognitive dissonance with his own position.

Authors, Crenshaw and Gunn, in their book blasting dispensationalism, paint any "literalist" as a dishonest exegete. That is because literalists will abandon their genuine "literalism" when reading the Bible literally produces inconsistencies with their method. Cornelis Venema, who is not nearly as vitriolic with his criticism of literalists, still accuse them of loading their interpretive method with a number of presuppositions, especially how we understand the genre of scripture. He writes,

The "literal sense" is a translation of the Latin sensus literalis which means "the sense of, according to the letter." That is to say, texts are to be read as language and literature according to the rules that ordinarily and appropriately apply to their usage and forms. This means that if the text is poetry, it should be read, according to the letter, as poetry. If the text is historical narrative, recounting events that occurred in a particular time and place, it is to be read as historical narrative... to begin with a commitment to "the literal, plain or normal reading of a text" entirely begs the question as to what that sense is. To say that the literal meaning of biblical prophecy and promises must always be the most plain, concrete and obvious meaning, is to prejudge the meaning of these texts before actually reading them "according to the letter," that is, according to the rules that obtain for the kind of language being used. [Venema, 281, 282]

In spite of his attempt to point out a perceived, fundamental flaw utilized by the literalist of loading the text with presuppositions, Venema, it seems, is also unaware of his own preconceptions he brings to the interpretation of the text. That being, biblical prophecy is automatically different because it is a genre that contains symbols and thus must be interpreted with a non-literal point of view.

Pondering these type of alarmist statements against literal hermeneutics make one wonder about their accuracy. Is the reaction against something real or imaginary? Or is an anti-literal mythos being created - a beast called "wooden literalism" that merely exists in the minds of dispensational detractors?

Also, just how terrible is it to interpret biblical prophecy literally? Does literalism when interpreting prophecy really lead to gross inconsistency with a person's exegesis of the text as Crehshaw and Gunn contend? A wild and fanciful manhandling of the biblical text that splices together biblical prophecy and modern day current events to birth some horrific, theological chimera?

Historically, since the Reformation, Protestant evangelicals have advocated for a literal reading of Scripture. Literal is basically defined as "belonging to letters," and interpreting texts "literally" would be to interpret actual words in their ordinary, plain meaning. Theologian Charles Hodge makes a literal reading of the text his primary principle of biblical interpretation. He writes,

The words of Scripture are to be taken in their plain historical sense. That is, they must be taken in the sense attached to them in the age and by the people to whom they were addressed. This only assumes that the sacred writers were honest, and meant to be understood [Hodge, Vol. 1, 187].

With his simple description, Hodge outlines for us what we call the grammatical, historical hermeneutic: The Bible is studied and interpreted according to the rules of grammar within the historical setting and context of the passage. Apologist James White expands upon the grammatical, historical hermeneutic by pointing out how when studying Scripture, the student takes into consideration: the author, audience, historical background of the passage, and the original languages with their grammar and syntax. These "rules of exegesis," notes White, help us to know what was originally meant to be said by taking the text seriously and thus protecting it from misinterpretation [White, 80-94].

Now, pretty much every Protestant evangelical, Bible-believing Christian would affirm these points. However, the critics of the so-called "literalist" approach like Demar, Gentry, Venema, Crenshaw, Gunn, and even James White, argue that when we come to interpreting prophetic texts, we must "alter" our understanding of "literal" in order to exegete those passages correctly. They explain the reason for such an alteration is because prophetic texts are filled with much symbolism. Thus, when biblical passages contain a lot of symbolic language, images, numbers, etc., if we were to interpret those passages according to a "wooden literalism" we risk drawing out of those texts absurd conclusions.

For example, a literal, ordinary, plain reading of Revelation 9:1-12 would make the Apostle John to be teaching that monstrous insect creatures with human heads and enormous scorpion tails, like some bizarre beast from a science fiction movie, are unleashed upon the earth. A "literal" hermeneutic, then, applied to biblical literature high in symbolism, only creates a myriad of problematic interpretations that cloud the meaning, rather than bringing out the genuine meaning of the text.

At first glance, their argument appears sound. It would only seem obvious that if a book of the Bible contains many forms of symbolic language our approach to interpreting it should take that symbolism into consideration. Moreover, symbolism is certainly unique and we can't read it in the same manner as we read for example the sports page of a newspaper. Plus there are notorious illustrations of teachers employing a literal hermeneutic with symbolic language that do result in some rather strange and weird interpretations of the Bible.

Yet in spite of the presence of symbolic language in a book and the fact there are examples of bad applications of literalism within the Christian community, the non-literalist Reformed folks are still begging questions: Why must I interpret prophetic genre differently just because it has lots of symbolism in its pages? Why must I abandon a consistent, ordinary and plain reading of the text just because of symbolism? I must confess that I have never received a solidly consistent answer to my "why" questions. Usually the rejoinder runs along the lines of, "it's symbolism, you just have to interpret it differently." But that response assumes the one using an ordinary, literal hermeneutic does not recognize the use of symbolism and symbols can never be interpreted literally.

I believe it is dishonest criticism to say a literal hermeneutic is the use of "wooden literalism" when it comes to interpreting symbolic prophecy. And I say so for a number of reasons I will out line in my next post.

*******
Sources:

Curtis Crenshaw and Grover Gunn, Dispensationalism: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow
.
Gary Demar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church
.
Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation
.
Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology
.
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1.

Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, The End Times Controversy.

Cornelis Venema, The Promise of the Future.

James White, Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity.

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When King Jimmys Attack

Hell hath no fury...

There is a developing scandal among the KJV-only crowd. The self-appointed queen of KJV onlyism, Gail Riplinger, is apparently suing the self-appointed Godfather of KJV-onlyism, D.A. Waite.

The full story is here: Beware of Gail Riplinger. (By the way, there's a cuss word at the top, just so you know).

It looks like the blogger cut-and-pasted from David Cloud's website, but I couldn't find the story there in his archives. However, if one were to go to Waite's site, there are a couple of PDF reports about the break down of relationship between "Dr." Riplinger and the Waites.

To summarize, it appears a couple of years ago, Waite had "Dr." Riplinger speak at a conference of his. The matter of her multiple divorces was just becoming public through the efforts of an individual who took the time to do some background work on the woman. Her divorces came to the attention of the Waites and when they confronted her to explain the accusations, "Dr." Riplinger allegedly lied and told them that she had only been married once, to the current husband. Over the course of time, it became apparent she was lying to them and the Waites being the true fundamentalists they are, separated ways from her. I'm not sure how "secondary separation" principles come into play here, but I digress.

Any how, "Dr." Riplinger is of course scorned by their shunning and there was only one way to respond if you are a wacked out Fundamentalist KJV-only extremist: sue them for all they are worth! That'll teach them apostates! The gist of her "lawsuit" is claiming they lied about her "research" and "apologetic ministry," or that is how I am reading her letters to the Waites.

It baffles me that any reputable lawyer would take such a ridiculous case (assuming there are reputable lawyers) and a court would waste the time hearing it, but I am getting to where I am not being surprised by such things nowadays and the antics on the fringes of independent fundamentalism is no exception.

I wrote a little bit about Gail and her ministry among IFB churches back around the summer.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

FBT Updates

I added four messages I taught on Daniel chapter 9 to my website, Fred's Bible Talk.

Right click and download to your favorite MP3 playing device.

Or just click and listen on line.

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Gleanings from Daniel [5]

Kingdoms and the Latter-days (Daniel 2:27-43)

Daniel and his three friends were in a perilous place.

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonian empire, had a disturbing dream. He demanded his wisemen to not only interpret it, but to first tell him the dream he had. None of them could do it of course, because in the end, they were a bunch of spiritual frauds. As a result of their inability, Neb. threatened their lives, but God reveals to Daniel the dream and the interpretation

And as God would providentially have it, Daniel has been placed in a position where he could testify before the most powerful leader in the known world at the time.

The dream is a prophecy about God's dealings with the gentile nations, what Jesus describes in Luke 21:24 as the time of gentiles (See also Romans 11:25).

Daniel reveals to Neb. information only he could know, which means only God can know. This revelation to Daniel placed him in a position of highest respect as far as Neb. is concerned. Because he would know that the information Daniel gave him had to be divine, because only a divine being could know the secrets of his own mind. In addition to telling Neb. his own dream with out prior information, Daniel explains to him why God gave him the dream to begin with.

What follows with Daniel's words to Neb. is one of the most amazing prophecies God has revealed in Scripture.

I. The Dream (2:28-35)

Daniel tells Neb. that his dream entails events that take place in "the latter-days."

The latter-days or the last days is an expression understood by the Jews as God's dealings with mankind as to be consummated or concluded historically in the times of the Messiah. Those days also include the intervening times between the first and second advent of Christ. This vision of the latter-days was of an enormous statue. In fact, the image of a giant statue in chapter 3 may had been Neb's. personal attempt to reproduce the representation of what he saw, but of course, all in gold.

This statue was is described by Daniel as being excellent in splendor, meaning it reflected light and was dazzling to behold; and it was awesome, the idea of gigantic or super enormous, which could be the reason Neb. was troubled by its appearance.

The statue was also composed of 4 specific metals: Gold, silver, bronze and iron. There was a 5th "metal" that was more of a mixture than an actual metal of clay or ceramic and iron.

Each metal related to a particular section of the body on the statue.
Gold = head
Silver = arms and chest
Bronze = belly and thighs
Iron = legs
Iron and ceramic = feet and toes.

One will note that as the metals move down the body of the statue, they become less precious or valuable. But, they are metals that become stronger in their qualities.

But, as Neb. beholds this magnificent statue, a rock, described as being cut out without hands, smashes the statue to pieces, crushing it to dust where the wind scatters the pieces. The rock then grows and becomes a massive mountain that filled the earth. This last image of a rock smashing the statue demonstrates an extraordinary, supernatural power. As we will see later, a kingdom, not from men, that takes universal dominion over all the other kingdoms.

II. The Interpretation

Daniel then turns to interpreting the dream for Neb. He explains the dream as a panorama of four gentile kingdoms. All scholars agree the four sections of the statue represents four empires. They are divided, however, over their identification. Some want the empires to exist before the book of Daniel was written so as to remove the prophetic element from the work. The reality, however, is that Daniel foresaw these four kingdoms in his future, because God revealed this to him.

1) The Head of Gold - Pictured the Neb. and the Babylonian empire. He is considered the greatest of kings. The prophet Jeremiah even records God's words of "blessing" upon Neb. and his divinely irresistible authority as the king of Babylon (Jer. 27:6,7). The Babylonian kingdom ruled for nearly 70 years before they were replaced by the Medo-Persians.

2) The silver arms - Represented the Medo-Persian empire, the two arms representing the two portions of the empire. It was originally ruled by Cyrus.

3) The bronze belly and thighs - Represented the Greek empire brought to world prominence by the exploits of Alexander the Great.

4) The Leg of Irons - Three terms describe this empire as "breaks in pieces," "shatters, "crushes." Iron is strong and can damage all the other empires. Speaks of the power Rome wielded through out the known world at that time. The two legs can speak of the division between the Western empire in Rome and the Eastern in Constantinople.

Up until this point, most conservative, evangelical scholars agree with this four-fold identification
of these four empires. Where they disagree is to what the toes signify.

There are a few points to ponder when identifying the toes of the statue:

A divided kingdom - clay or ceramic and iron mixed together. Rather than an united realm, it may mean it is some sort of federation. Yet, the federation will have strong members (iron) and not so strong members (ceramic).

Will be a powerful kingdom - It retains the iron that crushed and broke into pieces like the original Roman empire.

The ten toes are identical to the ten horns as described in Daniel 7 - The picture of these ten toes matches the similar description of ten horns seen by Daniel in a vision of an indescribable beast (the bookend "vision" of the Aramaic portion of Daniel's book). Later, in Revelation 13:1, 17:2, these ten horns appear again. These are ten kingdoms that according to this vision here in Daniel 2, will be displaced by the rock cut out without hands.

Basically, just before the second advent of Christ, 10 nations of unequaled strength will rise out of what is left of the Roman empire.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taiwan News Explains NBC Late Night

Liberals Blinkered

Via Michelle Malkin comes this highly entertaining video that is still causing me chuckle quakes as I write this. It's a discussion between CNN's Christiane "I hate Evangelical Fundamentalists" Amanpour, a British guy who's image is on a big flat panel monitor propped up on an empty chair in front of the host's desk (what's that about?), and Marc Thiessen, a former Bush staffer guy who just released a book called Courting Disaster that argues against the Obama administration changing how they deal with interrogating terrorists.

The video starts a bit slow, so stick with it; because about the 5 minute mark in the first one, when Amanpour and the British guy claim water boarding is torture akin to the stuff the Khmer Rouge did to their enemies, Thiessen flat out calls Amanpour a liar. Her flabbergasted "excuse me" response is outstanding and is worth watching the interview.

Oh, but there is more...

The next best line is when the British guy adamantly proclaims all water boarding is torture, and Thiessen, with a grin on his face, asks the guy something like, "Well, if water boarding is torture, then why does the U.S. military do it to the special forces trainees? If it was legitimate torture, at least one of the tens of thousands who have gone through special forces training over the last decade would had complained to their congressman and it would had been shut down. Are you saying the U.S. military tortures their soldiers?"

The deer in the head light stare on the face of the British lib is absolutely precious.




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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Debating Dr. Laura

Selling Daughters into Slavery.

Right before Christmas I had a friend email me a link to a so-called letter written to Dr. Laura Schlesinger. In the letter, a writer is taking the popular talk radio guru to task over her views of homosexuality and her use of Leviticus 18:22 as a proof text.

The identity of the original author is unknown. Snopes, the urban legend resource site, claims the letter has been circulating around in email form as early as May 2000 and has found its way into various publications over the last 10 years or so. The writers of the leftist alternative history show, The West Wing, used the letter as a model for the president to berate a cartoonish character version of Dr. Laura in one of its episodes.

Even though the original author is anonymous, that is only better for him or her, because who ever the person is who wrote it, the argumentation presented is embarrassingly dumb. It reveals a shallow mind that doesn't really care to think through the position of his or her opponent, but is meant more as a spring board to mock Scripture as God's Word.

That said, it is true this person is "debating" Dr. Laura. She is a conservative, and Jewish, so she at least acknowledges the OT. But as conservative and Jewish as she may be, we're not dealing with some one who is orthodox in her basic convictions. She isn't theologically solid let alone biblically astute. The times I have heard her go after homosexual marriage using the Bible made me want to smack my forehead, and her lack of wisdom in her anti-homosexual pronouncements sort of brings this type of scorn upon herself.


I won't reproduce the letter (you can find a full copy at the two links above), because a lot of the "objections" raised in the letter I have answered in other posts from some time ago. I did want to address at least one point, however. That concerns the text often cited from Exodus 21:7. The writer states,


2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?


The objection is taken from Exodus 21 that reads in part (From the KJV by the way),

7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. 11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.


Now, what has always amused me in discussions with skeptics and cranks regarding what they think the Bible says, is how they, unchurched, biblically illiterate persons, become instant experts in what the text says and means.


The basic objection goes like this: The Bible is condoning slavery, but not just any kind of slavery. It allows for a father to sell his own children into slavery if he so chooses. And, making it even worse is this passage tells us that God is okay with a father selling off his own daughter to be a sex slave to some dirty old man. This is a primitive practice of a prehistoric society; the kind of stuff we see in the backwaters of third world Islamic countries like Sudan or Pakistan. Seeing that we live in a progressive, modern 21st century culture here in these United States, why would we want to appeal to an ancient book that allowed the sex trade to flourish in their society to inform us what we should believe about gays and whether or not they should marry each other?

Let me highlight three problems with this facile reasoning:

First of all is the assumption that the "slavery" described in the Bible is the same slavery we experienced here in America and fought a Civil War over. This is false. In reality, the "slavery" described in scripture is an indentured servitude designed to maintain the dignity of a person or family in extreme poverty or debt. A good portion of ancient slavery was this kind of servitude. We still practice indentured servitude to a degree in today's world. Only now we are paid for it differently. Granted, we go home to the wife and kids in the evening, but in the morning, we are required by our servitude to get up out of bed and serve a "master" of sorts in order to make a living.

Secondly, coming to the text in question, it is also wrongfully assumed that the daughter being sold is being sold to a man who immediately engages her in a sexual relationship. This is also false, as a careful reading of the text demonstrates. The passage is establishing strict regulations that protect the girl's purity. The idea is a man places his daughter into the service of another man as a maid servant. She was to serve him for at least 6 years, because on the 7th year she was to be released from her obligation as other Levitical law informs us. If the man has the intention of marrying her, he was to look after her as a daughter. If he had intended to marry her, but then doesn't want to, he was to let her be released back her family, the idea of being redeemed (vs 8). The same requirements were set up if the man wants her to marry his son. If the son marries someone else instead, the girl was to be taken care of even allowed to be married to someone else, "not diminish ... her marriage rights" as it is translated in the NKJV. In other words, she could not be forcible kept a virgin and never allowed to marry.

Third, OT scholar, Walter Kaiser, notes a few mistakes when translating this passage in his book, Toward Old Testament Ethics.

1) In verse 8, many translators follow the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew and miss the significant little word "not" that is important to the meaning. The verse would read, If she displeases her master so that he does NOT betroth her to himself. The idea is what I noted above: If the man does not want to marry her, he is to let her go. He can't keep her in a perpetual state of chastity all of her life.

2) The translation of verse 10 as, If he marries another wife, is unclear because it implies the man now has two wives, the original slave girl and now a second woman. But verse 8 has already noted that the original girl has been rejected for marriage. Rather than meaning he is adding to a harem of women, the text means he marries another woman other than the original girl in service to him.

3) In verse 10 and 11. If a man doesn't marry the girl, or if a man has obtained a girl for his son and he doesn't marry her, the girl was to be allowed to marry. The idea that she was to go free and it is the man or the family she served who lose financially, not the girl.

Then lastly, in the discussion of biblical authority condemning homosexuality, this passage is truly irrelevant to the debate. It doesn't really matter what the Bible says about other alleged "hot button" issues like slavery. What does it say about human sexuality? And as I have pointed out in a number of posts over the last few years when I have addressed gay apologetics, human sexual behavior is always tied to God's character and HOW He has created men and women to function as sexual beings. Homosexuality, and the behavior of gay sex, is an abomination because it violates God's basic creative decree regarding the nature of humanity.
Slavery doesn't violate the nature of things as God has created them to be.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Jesus Gun


U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed with Secret Bible Codes


This headline is dishonest.

First it is the optics on the weapon; you know, what you look through to sight the weapon on a target, that is inscribed, not the weapon itself. Now we can maybe be nit-picky and say "well, it's on a gun, so it is technically part of a weapon." Okay, but the optics are manufactured by a separate, private company contracted with the military to make optics. This isn't the government doing it.

Next, they are legitimate Bible verses, like John 8:14 or 2 Corinthians 4:6, not "secret" codes. The founder of this optic company was a Christian and he incorporated Bible verse as part of the product code because, probably in his mind, he wanted to be a "witness" for the gospel.

Putting Bible verses on your product is not something new or unique. Many small business owners who manufacture items may inscribe Bible verses on their products. For example, here in LA, there is a regional, over-rated fast food place called In-and-Out. The original owner was a Christian and on their soda cups, they inscribe Bible verses along the bottom of the cup, inside the rim.

The ones who oppose such things are usually these cry baby atheists who don't want any religious expression anywhere in society. Because the U.S. military is involved, they exaggerate the seriousness of the phony violation between "church and state." Added to the pile are Muslim activists who also seize upon what they think is a stealth way to turn our engagement of Islamic terrorism into an "unofficial" Crusade against Muslim lands. Of course, no one would even know about the Bible codes, even the Marines using the optics, if it weren't for some agitators who want to stir up a stink against religious freedom. In their delusional anti-religious minds, Jesus is the one shooting the gun.

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