Sunday, December 31, 2006

Boanerges 3.0

Finally, Boanerges gets the facelift that was sooooo long overdue. A new look for a new year. Dawn and I have been in NH for the last week or so visiting family and the week before, I was working 10 hour days (with 2 mandatory 1hr breaks) so I was gone for most of the time I wasn't sleeping. Hence the silence in cyberspace over the last few weeks. I was wanting to make a few changes to my blog anyway, so I figured I'd change it up before making any new posts. In addition to the new template modifications, I've upgraded to the new version of blogger and STRONGLY reccomend that you do so if you haven't yet. It's soooooo much better. I've also added a few new links that were long over due. Russell White (OT-Wannabe) is finally using his blog for something other than a blogging ID now. His template looks pretty cool and his posts are regular and substantive. Also two relative newbys from the Bible Believer's body began blogging (sorry, throwback to my fundy aliteration days) - Josh Jones (J to the 3rd power) and Scott Osborne (Scott's OT Corner) have been churning out some good posts in recent days. Both Scott and Russell bost blogs with special interest in OT studies which puts them in a small minority in the blogosphere (and perhaps the church universal) and fulfill a long overdue need.

A few new years resolutions should help me pick up the pace a bit on my blogging. I'm aiming to finish at least 1 solid book a month this year. By solid, I intend several things: 1) Over 200 pages in length 2) Not written by Tom Clancy or in a genre he might inspire 3) Not written by Mark Driscoll nor containing any of the language so common to his vernacular (this might also rule out Luther's Stein and Thomas Colloquims). Also I want to get back up to at least 3-4 regular posts a week. An additional resolution here is for les typos fore Logan to profreed this yaer :-) Here's to a new year of substantive blogging!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Real Jesus?

For those who haven't seen it yet, the latest edition of US News and World Report claims to be "In Search of the Real Jesus" on the cover. Of course why try the novel approach of searching the scriptures, right? Alright, forgive my sarcastic pessimism but since the Da Vinci Code (both book and movie) and National Geographics marketing of the Gospel of Judas (Ehrman probably deserves honarable mention in such a list too), the popularization of alternative christianities has become almost naseuating in the mainstream media. It's not as if these things are cutting edge issues that have never been considered before in the history of Christiainity. Furthermore, some of the extremes (I have Dan Brown in mind here) don't even deserve the attention they've earned. Though I was silent in the blogosphere back when The Davinci Code was the hot button, suffice it to say I haven't seen the movie yet. Not due to conscience, but due more to the fact that it got terrible reviews. Since I did read the book (at least the half I could stomach) and concluded without finishing that it sucked (historically, theologically and as most of all masquerading as work of literature), I saw little need of seeing a movie that even those who liked the book disdained.

Anyway, this rant is sourced in the ridiculously slanted piece of so called journalism in the aforementioned latest edition of USNWR. While this periodical is typically fairly conservative politically (at least relatively speaking), they apparently could use a new religion editor. The article is punctuated with slanted phrases like "In that struggle -- arguably the most improtant waged by self-styled correct believers againt the so-called-heretics," "soldiers of orthodoxy," "the prominent second century hersy hunter, Bishop Irenaeus" and a picture of NT Wright in full clerical garb and an somber expression that makes him look a morbid misanthrope (or perhaps the 20th century heir to Irenaeus, the heresy hunter).

To be fair, I still need to finish the article, though I've already skimmed the remainder of it. However, the opening few pages had me so heated, I thought I'd vent a few words online. These issues have been on my front burner in recent days as I've been reading through Jesus and the Victory of God and am anticipating dipping into
Bauckham's most recent treatise soon. Furthermore, due to a recent rebuke from reading Euangelion, I've been wading my way through some of the apocryphal and gnostic literature (Tobit, 1 Maccabeas and the Gospel of Thomas in the last few days). Anyway, all of this has put me in the frame of mind to want to gag while reading this sort of yellow journalism parading itself in the name of objective reporting. Instead, the article is guilty of the very sort of ideological imperalism that it accuses early orthodox christianity of. Nevertheless, it affirms the necessity of familiarizing oneself with the extra-canonical (if you'll excuse such a subversive, repressive term) literature. These issues are becoming more and more common in mainstream media and it is only fitting that believers have an informed answer.

**Postscript - I finished the article and it ends with more substance than it begins. There are some good quotes from Wright and Luke Timothy Johnson. However, the conclusion does not salvage the first half in such a way to make me retract anything I've said above.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Letters Along the Way

I recently received a voicemail from a college guy I've been "discipling" with questions regarding the issue of Predestination. While I did not go into the depths of exegetical/theological wrestling, I thought it was an interesting enough discussion to post here and see who I could get riled up. I thought it better to respond, rather than a 30 second voicemail, with an email that I've included the text of below:

I thougth it may be easier and more helpful to respond to you via email. I hope all is going well, and look forward to seeing you in a week or two!

Regarding the "election" of the unsaved:

This is a VERY touchy area theologically. My view is different from most at CBTS, but I'll describe both. The question is essentially "Does God elect people to damnation in the same way that He elects people to salvation." I say "yes" but be advised I'm in a SMALL minority. Most, even the most Calvinists say "no."

Those who say no, even the calvinists typically describe this topic (commonly referred to as reprobation) in terms of God "passing over" those He hasn't elected. In other words, some He chooses to salvation and this is CLEAR from Scripture (remember Ephesians 1?). The rest, He simply doesn't choose...that is, He leaves them to go their own way, in there depravity. Without His intervention, they naturally don't choose Him (Rom 1:18, 3:11) and thus spend an eternity under His condemnation. Since scripture does NOT explicitly say that He elects them to damnation, this option supposedly provides what theologians refer to as a theodicy, that is a justification or vindication of God. I infer (perhaps they imply) that it would be morally wrong, or evil of God to elect people to damnation; entirely capricious. Since it is all of grace that He chooses ANY to salvation, He is not compelled to choose all; hence those He doesn't choose, will never choose Him.

The problem I have here is that I'm not convinced this "vindicates" God (as if we had to). [Editorial note - My wife's somewhat less theologically nuanced, though equally satisfying response to this argument was: "That's stupid! It doens't solve anything."] If He COULD have done something and He DIDN'T, I don't see how this makes Him anymore benevolent or less capricious. Furthermore, I think there are at least two scripture passages that have direct bearing here:

Romans 9:17-23 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.....22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory...

1 Peter 2:6-8 For this is contained in Scripture: "Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed." 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone," 8 and, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

These verses are pivotal for me. I emboldened the most significant phrases, but in the larger context, they are even that much more persuasive. To be sure, others don't ignore these texts and would offer up alternate interpretations or ways of getting around them. Bottome line: you must wrestle with the texts and correlate them into your understanding of the doctrine of God. The reason why it's such a touchy issue is because of what some people infer (which is different from imply) from this doctrine. Many think to come to the conclusion that I do is to impune God with with evil actions or motives. However, it comes back to your understanding of sovereignty (which is a worldview shaping doctrine). Here's a quote from Karl Barth that I recently posted on my blog (be forewarned though, quoting Barth at [his college] won't do much but get you in more trouble :-)

"From the act of atonement that has taken place in Jesus Christ, it is clear that in evil we do not have to do with a reality and power which have escaped the will and work of God, let alone with something that is sovereign and superior in relation to it. Whatever evil is, God is it's Lord."

That last statement in bold is fantastic and thoroughly biblical. I grant you this is a short and perhaps slanted response, but that's the nature of email. Let me know if you have more questions or if there are other texts in particular that you're wrestling with. Of course none of this rules out moral responsibility. Yes we do make genuine choices that have eternal consequences, but NONE of this is outside of the sovereign control of God. "Whosoever will may come?" Yes. But be sure to balance it with "No one comes unless the Father draws them" (John 6:44). There is a tension to be sure, but who ever said theology was easy? :-)

- Nate

PS, I think I'm going to post a copy of this on my blog, if you don't mind. You've raised an excellent question that I think is worth wrestling with in a public context.