Saturday, April 29, 2006

T4G Sessions-in-a-Paragraph

What a day-and-a-half! Duncan, Mohler, Sproul, Piper—all on Thursday. Those four guys combined think more thoughts in an average day of vacation than I’ll think in a lifetime. Then Mahaney and MacArthur on Friday. Plus multiple panel discussions between the core four and one of the special guests. Like I said before, I would be foolish to try to summarize when Tim Challies has done it so masterfully. Here are some brief reflections:

Duncan on preaching the Old Testament: He was preaching to the choir with me. My love, understanding, and appreciation for the OT has grown tremendously in recent years. I’m still a little more rigid on my literal, grammatical hermeneutic than Duncan, but far more committed to the contemporary relevance of the OT than MacArthur.

Mohler on preaching and the culture:
Vintage Mohler. He deconstructed the nature of the contemporary cultural attacks on biblical authority in general and the gospel in particular. I expected a more direct connection to preaching than he developed, but it was still great. The best thing I’ve heard so far on this topic is a workshop by Sam Horn last month at the Wilds Youth Worker’s Conference.

Sproul on justification by faith alone:
Everyone needs to hear Sproul do this once in your life. To me the best part of Sproul’s presentation was his answer to Dever’s question about the difference between salvation and justification during the post-Sproul panel discussion. He developed perfectly the biblical concept of salvation as a past, present, and future event. This may be a radical concept to some, but he talked about how salvation does involve works. [Take a deep breath.] Justification—the past, retrospective, completed aspect of our salvation—is by faith alone. Sanctification—the present, ongoing, progressive aspect of our salvation—is inseparable from our works, even though it is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this work.

Piper on the glory of God in preaching:
This was the hands-down highlight of the conference. I suspect that just about anyone who was there would say the same thing. I am not going to do him an injustice by commenting. Just buy the recording. Sell your hair, your watch, your firstborn child if you must. Just buy it. [The MP3 CD of all sessions is $11—$11!!] You will never hear a message that more efficiently communicates the essence of the God-centeredness of God unveiled in his passion for His own glory and His own name.

Mahaney on application in preaching:
Mahaney brings so much to the table in his emphasis on and demonstration of an authentic life of faith. His family of churches provides such a stellar pattern of biblical church community—of believers covenanted together to mutual edification. People are involved in one anothers’ lives in a deliberate way so as to admonish, support, and build up the body of Christ. Scarcely a month goes by when I do not hear of someone from circles similar to mine whose spiritual life has not been revitalized and transformed by one of the churches in the Sovereign Grace family.

MacArthur on 40 years of gospel ministry: MacArthur thinks expositional preaching might be kind of a good idea. You may have heard him say something along these lines before. ‘Nuff said.

I hope to share some choice quotes, some overall impressions, and some thoughts on the conference leaders' theological affirmations and denials in future posts.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

T4G Night 1

Or should I say, "Lansdale Leadership Conference South"? Enough said.

The first night was great. No big surprise there. Dever's first message was from 1 Corinthians 4 on the role of the pastor in the ministry of the Word. I'm not going to regurgitate it because Tim Challies has a typically thorough summary—far better than I could begin to do. The guy's just amazing.

One of the best moments in the first night was during Mark Dever's introduction to the conference as a whole in which he describes what we are together for and what we are not together for. Would that we had more thinking like this. Challies recorded Dever's summary this way:
Dever explained that these men are not together on what to wear, on what pulpit to use or on what songs to sing or on what music to play. Mark suggested that if any Sovereign Grace guys are present, they be given access to the aisle seat so they can move around a little bit. They are not together on applause or on "amen's." The Sovereign Grace folk will surely be vocal in letting you know their agreement, Baptists will mumble a polite "amen," whereas Presbyterians believe that silence is consent.
The panel discussion after the message was simply fascinating. The structure of this conference is such that just about every session is followed immediately by a conversation between Dever, Mohler, Duncan, and Mahaney, and also sometimes including MacArthur, Piper, or Sproul. This first discussion focused on each man's explanation of his role in ministry and the relationship of that ministry to the local church. I hope to summarize and post some of the salient quotes tomorrow. We'll see. The schedule is crazy.

For the time being, I'll simply say that I cannot comprehend how anyone could not be grateful to God for gifting these men in such a way that they provide leadership not only to their own churches, but also to thousands of others. I'm still getting introduced to Duncan and working to grasp the distinct flavor of his ministry, but the other three have had tremendous impact on me. Mohler became the president of SBTS at the age of 33 when it was in need of a complete overhaul and rebuilding. That battle for the faith has been well-documented.

Dever, having finished his PhD at Cambridge and been presented with attractive and prestigious academic offers, accepted the pastorate of a dying church in what was then a dangerous neighborhood, committing himself even in the very early years to be there permanently. Mahaney's spirit convicts me every time I hear him speak. God took him from being an LSD addict to a big-time Jesus movement conference speaker to realizing from reading his Bible that God's plan is the local church, not conferences. So of course he planted a church that has directly or indirectly given birth to a hundred more.

One more thing. I have been in places with groups of people with whom I have had more “in common.” I have never been in a place with a group of people that is most passionate about the same things I am most passionate about. Better yet, most of them are far more passionate than I am about things I know I need to be more passionate about. Singing "In Christ Alone" with all 3,000+ of them stirred my heart to thoughts of what heaven might be like.

P.S. Wishing you were here. All the other fundamentalists are.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Moody, the Revivalist: The Less Bright Side

It seems as though Moody was within the stream of revivalism, but not in the same boat as the Finneyites. Marsden spends a substantial amount of time on Moody in his Fundamentalism and American Culture. He writes:
[Moody's} message, aside from the constant stress on the necessity of conversion, was of the love of God. His theology, although basically orthodox, was ambiguous to the point of seeming not to be theology at all. Moody could thus maintain cordial relations with both emerging parties [fundamentalism and mainline modernism] in American Protestantism.
pp. 32-33
Concerning Moody's relationship to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, Marsden writes:
As best he could, he tried simply to avoid the new issues. While he disapproved of liberalism in the abstract, he cultivated friendships with influential librerals in the hope that peace would prevail. "People are tired and sick of this awful controversy," he remarked in one of his last sermons. "I hope the motto of the ministers of this country will be, 'quit your fighting and go to work and preach the simple gospel.' "
p. 33
Although Moody affirmed the orthodox view of biblical authority, Marsden argues that he was not always comfortable with its implications:
Although he never repudiated the doctrine of eternal punishment, his uneasiness with the subject was not far from that of the evangelical liberalism of Henry Ward Beecher. In Moody's case, it appears that he avoided distressing subjects largely because he sensed that because of the mood of the modern age they did not meet his pragmatic test. As he himself explained, "Terror never brought a man in yet."
p. 35
This observation seems harsh towards Moody. If Moody preached about "hellfire" like so many of his contemporaries, perhaps Marsden would be lumping him in with the Finneyites. Marsden's conclusion to the chapter on Moody, however, is an interesting commentary on fundamentalism as a whole:
Moody's central place in the heritage of fundamentalism suggests an important aspect of its central character, shaped by a fondness neither for controversy nor for precise formulation of doctrine and the details of prophetic history. Fundamentalism was always a sub-species of the larger revivalist movement [emphasis mine]. As such it always involved an ambivalent attitude toward American culture, which evangelicalism had done much to shape. When the battles against modernism arose, fundamentalism always retained a tension between an exclusivist militancy and an irenic spirit concerned with holiness and saving souls. These latter elements in the tradition of Moody gave the movement its largest apeal. Yet when the organized and vocal core of militants attempted to speak for the hosts of true evangelicals and indeed even to lead them into battle, as in the 1920s, the ranks sometimes seemed to disperse. As for Moody, so probably for the majority of the sympathizers of the anti-modernist movement, evangelism and the next revival were always the chief aims.
pp. 38-39

T4G or Bust

Lord willing, I'll be leaving town at the crack of dawn tomorrow with several friends for my first ever pilgrimage to Louisville. I've got about a dozen reasons to be excited about Together for the Gospel, not the least of which is that this will be my first ever opportunity to be at a conference like this with family members. Both are cousins. One is a student at SBTS, and the other is a TEDS grad who pastors in Illinois.

Tim Challies and Justin Taylor are live-blogging, so I'm going to leave that to the experts. I hope to do a little editorializing on the key moments, as time and technology permits.

And while we're on the subject, check out this great quote on the T4G blog. Spurgeon expresses so poetically and doxologically what I've tried to say on occasion in awkward phrases.

Gas Prices

I'm no economist, but this makes sense.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Moody, the Revivalist: The Bright Side

I had a brief, unexpected opportunity Friday night to flip through The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage by David Bennett. Published in 2000, it's out of print and only available for $60+. Mark Noll enthusiastically endorses it for its evenhandedness and lack of theological bias. Bennett includes about seven pages on Moody. His documentation buttresses Gerald Priest's point in the comments of a recent post that Moody did not take revivalism near the extremes of Finney and others.

Bennett documents what he calls arminian or semi-pelagian statements in Moody's sermons, such as "Christ wants to [take into heaven] every sinner here" and "every creature here can be saved if he will." Frankly I have trouble seeing severe theological deficiencies in these statements. Is there a better way to articulate the concepts? Yes. Is this heresy or a revivalism spun out of control? I don't see it that way.

Moody's methodology was fairly benign. It seems that his only evangelistic tactic that approached the manipulative techniques common to Finneyistic revivalism was this practice in the 1860s in Chicago:
[H]e would often roam around his congregation asking anyone who looked concerned after the just-preached message, if they were Christians or not. If the reply was hesitant or negative, Moody, who was a big man, would ask, "Do you want to be saved? Do you want to be saved now?" Often not waiting for an answer, he would urge the man or woman to kneel, then kneel down beside them and plead the Savior's cause. Under these circumstances, in the words of W.H. Daniels, an American Methodist minister, the seeker "would generally give himself to the Lord." He did not usually in this period make a formal appeal for a public response, but after-service inquiry meetings were already a common part of his ministry. Later his methods were somewhat less aggressive.
Most of the rest of Bennett's summary describes Moody's fairly limited use of the anxious bench and his innovations of using soloists during invitations and trained laypeople in inquiry rooms. Moody is often credited with pioneering the use of inquiry rooms themselves, but Bennett contends that Edwards, Wesley, and Whitefield employed similar if not identical methods.

The next post in this series will look at the disappointing aspects of Moody's revivalism.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

American Revivalist Fundamentalism and the Demise of Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle (Part 3)

Previous comments have led to a brief discussion of why Spurgeon built bridges to the American revivalist fundamentalists, so I'll open this third post in the series with some quotes from Murray's explanation. I'll not cite each quote in this post, but they are all from pages 229-233 of Iain Murray's The Forgotten Spurgeon. The historical context of the developments Murray describes is the years immediately following the Downgrade Controversy. If you're only going to scan this, pay closest attention to the last quote. I think this is where Murray is most on target.
The circumstances of this painful situation encouraged Spurgeon to put a premium on friends whom he trusted to stand by the Bible as the Word of God, and in men such as Pierson and Moody he saw sympathetic allies in the battle against infidelity. With the survival of supernatural Christianity itself at stake in the pulpits of England, Spurgeon was ready to welcome help from men who, though they might not be committed to historic evanglical Calvinism, were upholding 'fundamentals' . . . It is hard to assess how far Spurgeon was conscious of the fact that the American preachers who followed Moody to England were closer to the school of Finney than to the classic American evangelicalism of Jonathan Edwards and the Princeton men . . . .
So Spurgeon never endorsed Pierson as his successor in the pastorate, but the implication is that he opened the door to it. Murray proceeds:
Little did [Spurgeon] anticipate that in befriending the American visitors, and in giving the impression that in all important respects they were one, he was in some measure preparing the way for the establishment in his own pulpit of a tradition alien to his own. the catholic spirit in which Spurgeon welcomed fellowship with Christians of another evangelical school surely needs no defence; where he did, we believe, miscalculate, was in not foreseeing that out of this alliance, formed in a temporary crisis, a permanent new form of evangelism was to emerge. He regarded Moody as a man who was making a contribution to evangelicalism, he did not assess the extent to which the whole evangelical outlook for a long time to come was to be influenced by 'Moodyism'.
Here's Murray's perspective of the big picture:
Twentieth-century evangelicalism on both sides of the Atlantic was to be a movement in which all that was distinctive of Reformed Christianity dwindled out of sight—it was to be the evangelicalism of 'The Fundamentals' . . . of Keswick, of the Scofield Bible, and of the evangelistic campaign with its apparatus for 'decisions'. To the credit of this movement it must be said that it opposed Modernism and believed in taking the gospel to the masses, but on the debit side its condemnation is that it ignored so much of the historic Christian heritage; it went after new fads—for instance, dispensational premillenialism, and the teaching that the believer is, by faith, to receive the fulness of the Holy Spirit and thus pass from 'carnal Christianity' to 'victorious living'. In general it bred a generation in the evangelical churches who loved anecdotes, humour and music, but knew next to nothing of theology and Confessions of Faith. All this happened because the doctrine of God had been supplanted from its central position in the Biblical revelation and consequently the true Christian vision of the glorification of God—'that God may be all in all'—passed from view.
And here is the crux of his point, which rings altogether true to me:
[T]he manner in which the message was presented to men underwent a change. In their eagerness to 'win' men to Christ, evangelists tended to overlook the fact that for sin to be measured in its true light men must know that they are creatures—dependent upon and obligated to the Creator. In the interests of 'successful evangelism' the emphasis was no longer upon the declaration of the character of God and the claims of his holy law, but upon encouraging men to 'open their hearts to Christ'. The apostolic phrase 'repentance toward God' dropped out of common usage and 'deciding for Christ' became the new comprehensive term.
Part 4 will measure some implications and conclusions.

Has There Ever Been Non-Revivalistic Fundamentalism?

It seems as though there are and always have been revivalists who were not fundamentalists. It is absolutely certain that there are now fundamentalists who are not revivalists. Has this always been the case, apart from individual anomalies? Besides Machen, which of the early fundamentalists spoke out against revivalism?

In some interesting interaction in the comments section of a recent post, Keith asked these questions:
Which parts of the fundamentalist movement rejected revivalism?

I'm sure there were some parts that were less, um, enthusiastic in using the revivalist techniques, but which parts rejected revivalism AND remained in the fundamentalist movement?
I would very much like to know the answer to this question. It seems to me that there is nothing essential to the "idea" of fundamentalism that demands a partnership with revivalism. If anything, I would expect the opposite to be the case. One would think that people committed to sound doctrine would abhor anything that cheapens the gospel and worship. Yet the harsh reality is that fundamentalism and revivalism are largely joined at the hip, at least from the (admittedly non-exhaustive) reading I've done. I would love to encounter data to the contrary. So please, help me out.

Let's not kid ourselved, fundamentalists. It's not just the big boat in the SharperIron cartoon (I'd link to it but they're still down) that is populated by revivalists. With few exceptions, we're talking about a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Might as Well Get It All Out of My System . . .

. . . in just one lunch break. This is just for fun.


This blog is not now and by God's grace alone never will be a blog about Calvinism. But I have bumped into a number of people similar to me in many ways who have wrestled with the biblical basis for and the implications of limited atonement, or particular redemption, if you prefer. As many have pointed out, unless you're a universalist, you inevitably do hold to some form of limited atonement.

John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is viewed as one of the greatest apologies for limited atonement in church history. Personally, I think that puts a negative spin on a work that is really quite positive in the way it magnifies the grace of God by showing that Scripture teaches that Christ's atoning sacrifice actually secures the deliverance of the elect, not merely makes it possible.

My historical theology class read The Death of Death for a weekly assignment last week. Since it was sandwiched between two other weekly assignments that were Book 1 of Calvin's Institutes, and Edwards' Freedom of the Will (which is tougher reading than Owen for me), I wasn't able to read as thoughtfully as I might have liked. As it was, it took between 10 and 12 hours.

You can download a PDF of the book here. Unfortunately it doesn't include what several have told me is an excellent introduction to the book written by J.I. Packer, but you can access that here. Owen's book is worth a read. I'm still thinking through things myself, but I was intrigued by Owen's exegesis of the "all" and "world" passages. Whether you agree with him on L or not, "All" is certainly not always all, and that is not all "all" means.

Also, Jason Robertson at Fide-O has a brief summary of Owen's argument here. HT: Daniel Phillips.

By the way, I'm interested to hear about any flaws in Owen's exegesis or reasoning from anyone who's actually read the book. I've got a few passages marked for further though myself, and I'd be curious if anyone else has chewed on the same ones.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dealing with Sin Beginning at the Heart

This is a great developing series (1 2).

American Revivalist Fundamentalism and the Demise of Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle (Part 2)

For purposes of clarification, the point of this series is not that fundamentalist principles caused the demise of the Metropolitan Tabernacle after Spurgeon's death. The point is that American fundamentalists imported revivalism into English evangelicalism in general and the Tabernacle in particular, and revivalism ultimately led to the Tabernacle to abandon its historic doctrine, methodology, and even its constitution. The essential idea of fundamentalism was not the problem, but the American fundamentalist movement was the host of the revivalist virus that infected the Tabernacle as well as much of English evangelicalism. Fundamentalism doesn't have to be revivalistic. It just seems that it is, more often than not.

So without further ado, today's post will deal with the fact that some revivalistic influences were creeping towards the Tabernacle even while Spurgeon was alive, according to Iain Murray' The Forgotten Spurgeon. As Murray says it,
[T]he influences which brought the change were at work in Spurgeon's own life-time. Even in the wider circle of some of the institutions which he had commenced, practices and methods had gained a footing which he had not authorized and yet which he did not forbid (p. 222).
I think it's fair to characterize Murray's argument as saying that Spurgeon was uncomfortable with the new methods Moody and Ira Sankey had introduced to England in their evangelistic campaigns, but Spurgeon was inclined to permit some methodology in evangelistic campaigns associated with his ministry that he would not have tolerated in his church. These campaigns consisted of "special services" that adopted American revivalistic strategies that were prevalent in American fundamentalism. Those strategies included "the belief that music is an essential attractive influence, the appeal for public decisions for christ, the apparatus of the inquiry-room and the subsequent announcement of numbers" (p. 223). Murray quotes Spurgeon in the following passage that characterizes his attitude towards these new methods:
The readiness to regard music as a vital part of evangelism he also condemned. 'Dear friends, we know that souls are not to be won by music,' if they were, he goes on to say, it would be time for preachers to give way to opera singers. In 1882 he declared, 'The heaving of the masses under newly invented excitements we are too apt to identify with the power of God. This age of novelties would seem to have discovered spiritual power in brass bands and tambourines . . . The tendency of the time is towards bigness, parade, and show of power, as if these would surely accomplish what more regular agencies have failed to achieve. Again, in 1888: 'Jesus said, "Preach the gospel to every creature." But men are getting tired of the divine plan; they are going to be saved by the priest, going to be saved by the music, going to be saved by theatricals, and nobody knows what! Well, they may try these things as long as ever they like; but nothing can ever come of he whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion, God dishonoured, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world' (p. 226).
When I first read this critique of revivalistic theology and methodology contributing to the deterioration of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, I wondered if this wasn't just Murray's Calvinistic bias talking. But then I saw these comments from my favorite Arminian, A.W. Tozer.

Monday, April 17, 2006

American Revivalist Fundamentalism and the Demise of Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle (Part 1)

This will expose my shameful ignorance of "too many things Spurgeon," but until I made it to the last chapter of Iain Murray's The Forgotten Spurgeon, I was completely unaware or completely forgetful of the influence of American Fundamentalism on Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle in the years following his death. A.T. Pierson and A.C. Dixon, two prominent American Fundamentalists, were among the early and influential successors of Spurgeon's pastorate.

To Iain Murray, this was not a happy development. To illustrate Murray's perspective on the implications of their influence, I'll offer in this post and a couple more to follow a few extended quotations from the last chapter, "The Aftermath at the Metropolitan Tabernacle":
Dixon's ministry illustrates how different from Spurgeon's was the new evangelical outlook. In the vocabulary of the Puritan school, revivals were extraordinary manifestations of the power of God, and, by definition, not produced by human labour. But under C.G. Finney, and later Moody, so many 'results' attended campaigns that these also came to be spoken of as 'revivals'. Indeed Finney deliberately treated evangelistic endeavour and revivals as synonymous, and encouraged the philosophy of 'the more effort the more revival.' This was the thought-pattern of Dixon's background, put into words by his own father in the advice he gave him on going to his first pastorate, 'My son, have as many prayer-meetings as you can, and as few church meetings as possible.' But unlike the old revivals, the yard-stick of campaigns was not primarily the evidence of the changed lives—admitting men and women to the discipline and duties of church membership—it was, more simply, the number of 'decisions'. To obtain 'decisions' an opportunity for a public response to the message was essential and this practice thus became the practically universal hallmark of 'evangelistic preaching'. 'He always closed his sermon with an appeal to accept Christ,' wrote one observer of Dixon, and another accorded him this testimony; 'Evangelism was the passion of his life. Even after lecturing on "Abraham Lincoln", I heard him close with an appeal, and souls came to Christ.'
text and footnotes (omitted here) from pp. 220-221.
The next two posts in this series will address two specific reasons Murray believes the Metropolitan Tabernacle failed to stand by its historic doctrine and methodology.

Religion and Geography

The Reformation 21 blog linked to this interesting map of American religious groups. Several things are surprising, not the least of which to me is that the Bible belt seems more associated with the central states than the southeastern states. I never would have guessed that Southern California would have similar patterns to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Same Story, Different Century

It pains me unspeakably to see this eminent "winner of souls" rousing the energies of thousands of Christians to engage in personal wrangling and strife, instead of inspiring them, as he might, to sustained and heroic effort to carry the good news of God's Gospel to our fellow-countrymen.
cited in Iain Murray's The Forgotten Spurgeon, p. 167.
John Clifford, president of the English Baptist Union, spoke these words concerning Charles Haddon Spurgeon in 1888. Over the previous year, Spurgeon had exposed the infiltration of liberalism into the Baptist Union. When evangelicals failed to stand firm for orthodox, biblical doctrine, Spurgeon ultimately withdrew from the union in October of 1887. In January of 1888, the Union censured him.

What's the point?

On Friday, Christianity Today published an article on the atonement that was intended to defend the orthodox truth that Christ's substitutionary sacrifice was intended to satisfy God's righteous wrath towards sinners. What's so controversial about that?

Well, the author, Mark Dever, was so obnoxious as to outline his disagreement with folks who repudiate this view of the atonement (or at least muddy the waters by their unwillingness to articulate it). He even (horrors!) named names. At least one of those people thinks we need to avoid defending biblical truth on certain days of the year.

Phil Johnson exposes the hypocrisy of this nonsense. I suspect Spurgeon would be proud of both Dever and Johnson.

You can read a summary of Spurgeon and the Downgrade Controversy here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Defense of the Atonement

Much of the modern church (how it pains me to use that term for these folks) finds offensive the substitutionary atonement of Christ, along with so much historically orthodox biblical teaching. This defense is worth a read.

One of the closing paragraphs:
We must center our lives around Christ's Atonement. We don't want to encourage violence, marginalize the gospel, or promote individualistic passivity. But I haven't seen sinners who are gripped by Christ's substitutionary death respond that way. Instead, I've more often observed responses like C. T. Studd's famous statement: "If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him." Charles Spurgeon put that point well: "It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Did the NT Authors Butcher the OT?

This is a bit long, but if you struggle with the relevance of the OT, endure to the end, and you will have reason to rejoice.

I would venture to say that the majority view among evangelical scholars is that the human authors of NT books quote the OT in a fashion that is frequently non-literal, particularly when NT authors cite OT prophecies as fulfilled in Christ as the Messiah. In other words, NT authors use OT texts to say things that no one ever thought those OT texts said.

People who hold to this view face a difficult choice. One option is to concede that NT authors employed a non-literal hermeneutic, which is unacceptable for exegesis and preaching today because we are not operating under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The other option is to concede that non-literal exegesis and preaching is still appropriate today.

My opinion is that the latter option is fraught with all sorts of problems because it says the authorial intent of a text is essentially irrelevant. The anchor of a biblical text to some objective meaning is abandoned.

On the other hand, the former option has some pitfalls as well. One is that it tends to minimize the contemporary relevance of the OT. After all, if NT authors had to adapt the meaning of the OT to make it relevant to a 1st century audience, how much more foreign is it to us today?

A number of NT quotations of OT texts are frequently used to demonstrate the non-literal usage of the OT in the NT. One that was recently highlighted in a lightning rod article is Matthew's quotation of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15 to describe the Egyptian flight of the Messiah.

In a recent post that dealt with the original article, I alluded to an article by John Sailhamer in Westminster Theological Journal that addresses this quotation and demonstrates that Matthew quoted the literal meaning of the Hosea text. In other words, the original intent of Hosea 11:1 was to say something about the Messiah. The Messianic nature of this text would have been intended by both the human and divine a/Authors, and it would presumably have been understood by the original readers. Here's the bibliographic data for that article: John H. Sailhamer, “Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15,” Westminster Theological Journal 63.1 (2001): 87-95.

I'm not an expert on these issues. Sailhamer is. My preference is to let him speak, not to try to regurgitate him, and probably wind up misrepresenting him. He's written several books and articles that have helped me to understand the Messianic nature of the OT within the paramaters of a literal, grammatical hermeneutic. Among them are his NIV Compact Bible Commentary, Pentateuch as Narrative, and Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach. I commend them to you. No resources have been more helpful to me in my understanding of the OT.

It has been argued that Sailhamer's approach is non-literal. I'll let Sailhamer describe his own view in his own words in the non-successive quotes below from the Hosea/Matthew article. Please pay particular attention to what he says about the need for evangelicals to study the text itself, not the history the text describes.
The messianic sense that Matthew saw in the words of Hos 11:1, “out of Egypt I have called my son,” was already there in the book of Hosea. Matthew did not invent it. He better than we, understood the sensus literalis intended by the historical author of the book of Hosea.

Ironically, Child’s’ approach has also not been widely accepted within the evangelical community—largely, I think, for a similar reason. His exclusive focus is on the authoritative text and not on reconstructed historical event. I say “ironically” because, of all people, evangelicals have a major stake in the meaning of the canonical text. It is that text which evangelicals hold to be the inspired Word of God. One would think evangelicals would by now have warmed up to Childs and his canonical approach. That, of course, has not happened.

I want to make it clear that I accept Childs’s exegesis of the sensus literalis of the book of Hosea and its implication for 11:1.

Hosea’s entire message throughout the book of Hosea is grounded in a careful and conscious exegesis of the pentateuchal text.

When Hosea recalled the exodus event in the words of 11:1, he likely did so because of its central messianic meaning within the Pentateuch.

When Matthew quoted Hos 11:1 as fulfilled in the life of Christ, he was not resorting to a typological interpretation. Rather, he was drawing the sensus literalis from the book of Hosea and it, in turn, was drawn from Hosea’s exegesis of the sensus literalis of the Pentateuch.

When Matthew quoted Hos 11:1 as fulfilled in the life of Christ, we needn’t understand him to be resorting to a typological interpretation. He was, rather, a Childs has suggested, drawing the sensus literalis from the book of Hosea.
That sense could itself have been drawn from Hosea’s exegesis of the sensus literalis of the Pentateuch. As Hosea himself recognized, God speaks through his prophets in parables.(Hos. 12:11).
Note: Childs is a non-evangelical author who follows a similar but not identical approach to Sailhamer's. I have not interacted with the final portion of Sailhamer's article, which is a more technical exegesis that proves the Messianic nature of the Hosea text. The article is immediately followed by a response from two other scholars who, as I remember, basically think Sailhamer is out to lunch. They're wrong.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mourn with Those Who Mourn

In my life I've been blessed to attend five US National Team soccer matches. I've traveled distances anywhere from nearly two hours to more than seven. Tonight the team will play in Cary, North Carolina, just over an hour from my home. What's more, I'm within a half hour of Cary for most of the day.

Problem is, I'm here for class. Until 9:30. Which is about the time the game ends.

Fortunately, it's a World Cup tune-up against Jamaica with no real significance. But that only eases the pain marginally.

What's more, tonight's Marriage and Family class will discuss singleness. Salt in the wound.

I sure hope I set the VCR timer right and I can stay up till midnight.

Oh, it's on ESPN2 at 7:00 for any other intelligent life forms out there. (Yeah, that's a shot at you, T&J.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Relevant Preaching: Perhaps Not What You Think

These concise comments from Mark Dever are well worth consideration.

Grand Slam Article

Holly Stratton's article posted today at SI is a terrific combination of masterful writing, sound thinking, and practical theology. It's chock full of quotable quotes on the deceptive nature of the human heart, but I'll just share one and then get out of the way:
The names of men are being printed, etched, sewn, engraved, burned and painted on everything we own at the same time God’s name is being removed.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Saying the Right Things from the Wrong Texts: Is It Preaching?

Preaching is, at its essence, proclamation. I think we can all agree on that. I think we can also agree that the method for our preaching is to proclaim ("preach") the Word. Obviously, we are also commanded to preach "the gospel," but we who are 21st century Paleoevangelicals understand (hopefully) that the gospel is revealed exclusively through the Word.

I suppose one might stand in a pulpit and proclaim something. That would meet the essential technical definition of "preaching." What is proclaimed might even be true. That does not mean that the preacher has preached the Word.

My conclusion, which I suppose not everyone will accept, is that the preacher has no divine authority to preach a message that is not grounded in the Word. If he preaches biblical truth but fails to defend it from his text in the Word, he has not preached the Word. He may have spoken truth. He may have helped people in some way. God may have worked mightily through what he said.

But I'll say it again. He has not preached the Word.

I write all this simply because yesterday SI published an article that advances the notion that preachers are not bound to restrict their message to the truth contained in their alleged text, as long as what they say is consistent with Scripture as a whole. I appreciate the sentiment that seems to have motivated the article. Pride is always a bad thing, whether it is seated in the pew, planted on a couch, or speaking in a pulpit. Or typing on a keyboard.

Two questions come to mind:
1. If a preacher says good things but does not defend them from the text, isn't it just good advice, not preaching?

2. How are preachers who say good things without defending them from the text different from exegetical charismatics who follow similar methodology in what they consider to be the gift of prophecy?

Sam Sutter, the author, alluded to some admittedly difficult texts related to the use of the OT in the NT in his article, and Tom Pryde has written a helpful response. My cautiously articulated opinion is that the OT texts were used appropriately by the NT authors, who understood the Messianic nature of the OT far better than we do today. For further information on one of the texts Sutter notes, see this article:

John H. Sailhamer, “Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15,” Westminster Theological Journal 63.1 (2001): 87-95.

If you want to investigate the matter in depth, set aside some serious time and read Sailhamer's Pentateuch as Narrative. The bibiliographical information there is quite helpful as well.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Recommending books I haven't read or even perused is not a habit for me, but I want to make an exception. Manliness, by Harvey Mansfield, is the kind of secular book that drives much of Christianity crazy. To be honest, I'm presuming in part that this is a great book because of some of the people who have tried to shred it.

A couple months ago I had the opportunity to hear Mansfield, an oft-assailed Harvard professor, speak at a symposium at Regent University on the future of American conservatism. I took pretty copious notes and planned to put a decent summary post together, but that hasn't happened. I'm blaming my historical theology professor and the NCAA tournament.

Mansfield's sharp wit in that presentation was exceeded only by his sharper mind. Although I'm not as well-versed as perhaps I ought to be on classical and philosophical conservatism, it was clear that Mansfield's fellow presenters looked to him as a paragon in their field.

Manliness appears to be an incisive look at gender, American culture, and the battle for good ideas. The Weekly Standard recently published a review by Christina Hoff Sommers. She writes:
Mansfield's amusing, refreshing, and outrageous observations must already be causing distress for his Harvard colleagues. But many readers will be grateful to him for his candor and bravado. Today, when scholars acknowledge sex differences, they do it timorously. They follow every assertion of difference with a list of exceptions, qualifications, and caveats. Into this world strides Professor Mansfield, loaded for bear, and lethally armed with all the powerful stereotypes thought to be banished from bien pensant society. And he deploys them without apology in shocker after shocker
I hope to tackle this book during the summer. I'll look forward to hearing from any of you who pick it up sooner.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just When You Thought You'd Heard It All . . .

People find new ways to distort the gospel. David Nelson of SEBTS explains why this isn't just one more anecdotal excuse to complain about the 21st century American church. It's really about how we view the gospel. The gospel is supposed to appear as foolishness. It's not supposed to be attractive to the unregenerate mind.

Here's his key thought:
The Easter Bunny whipping may be an extreme example, but it reflects the too frequent use of silly promotions and kitsch programs that appear foolish to the world not because of the cross, but because they are indeed foolish, reliant on human wisdom to the betrayal of the divine.
He precedes this conclusion with some biblical rationale:
But there is a foolishness that demands to be spoken. It is not a foolishness associated with the wisdom of the world, rather it is the foolishness associated with the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:21-22). This is “the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). It is “the foolishness of God” (1 Cor 1:25) that is rooted in the cross of Jesus Christ and the “weakness of God” that comes “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4) whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ is faithfully preached.
How refreshing to be reminded that the power of the gospel does not rely on the creativity or eloquence or godliness of this cracked, distorted earthen vessel.

Grudem on Sexist Language in TIME Magazine

I love it when people use sarcasm to point out the hypocrisy of postmodernism and political correctness.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Calvin Was a Biblicist

I've admitted before that I'm a church history dunderhead. Taking a class in historical theology this semester is helping, but I've got a long way to go. I've read maybe half of Calvin's Institutes in my life (along with some other smatterings of his writings), about half of which was one book of the Institutes assigned for class this week. I was left with the distince impression that Calvin wasn't writing to advance some system of theology. He was writing to explain the theology of Scripture, of which God's providence and sovereignty are key themes.

I'm not going to belabor what is little more than my opinion and impression, based on an admittedly narrow reading of Calvin. Just for fun sometime though, read him and see for yourself if you think he's defending a system or expositing Scripture. It seems plain to me that he's driven by the text. If anything, he's a bit frustrating at times because he refuses to go beyond the text of Scripture into logic and systematization, as he is so often caricatured as doing. Don't take my word for it (not that anyone would).

Islam Is Disintegrating

That's the case that one anonymous Middle East Christian broadcaster makes in this article from World Magazine. The use of radio as an evangelistic tool to reach Muslims is intriguing, but perhaps even more encouraging is this assertion that dissatisfaction with Islam is growing in the Muslim world.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Christian Political Efforts: Do They Work?

Nate Busenitz constructs a historical argument that says no. His conclusion?
What do the results of our brief historical survey suggest? The answer seems to be clear: Christianizing (or moralizing) government will never have the long-lasting, God-honoring effects its promoters so deeply cherish. Constantine’s Christian kingdom lasted the longest, but in the end it crumbled, and left two false versions of Christianity in its wake. Calvin’s Christian kingdom was both short and severe. King James [sic] VIII’s Christian kingdom dissolved into moral nothingness. And Kuyper’s Christian kingdom, or at least his Christian activism in a secular kingdom, failed to have the long-term impact he desired.

Other examples could be added to this list, but the historical lesson remains the same. Time and time again, Christian political efforts have resulted in, at most, some immediate political gains. But these gains are only external, lacking any power to change the heart of the non-Christian surrounding society. And history has shown that these gains are also always temporary, eventually resulting in both spiritual confusion and moral decline.

George Washington Was Not a Deist

That's the argument Michael and Janna Novak make in Washington's God, according to Al Mohler's radio program from March 21st. Although Washington frequently used names for God that were consistent with Deistic terminology, he expressed expectations in both public statements and prayers as well as private correspondence that God would do things that only the God of the Bible would do—things such as intervening in human affairs, forgiving sins, enlightening minds, etc.

Michael Novak writes about the book here.