Saturday, September 19, 2009

On Cessationists and Their Ironic Mysticism (Bonus)

One more reason to STOP using this language:

"God chose me for that moment" and "I know that God had called me for such a time as this."

And is it just me, or is there a remarkable hollowness in a "values" movement that looks for inspiration to someone who likes to be judged for how she looks in a bikini?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

99 Baroque Masterpieces: $2

From the people who brought you 99 Bach Masterpieces for $3, you can now get the baroque collection for $1.99. The Bach set is $8 now, so the deal won't last forever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Cessationists and Their Ironic Mysticism (Part 3)

Some resources:

First of all, the hands-down best public teaching I ever heard on guidance and God's will prior to my present church was a series of seminars taught by Greg Mazak of Bob Jones University. As best I can tell from his comments in the audio it was a singles retreat at the Wilds, probably in the mid-90s. A colleague gave me audio tapes and I'm pretty sure I wore them out. Mazak argued 3 points: 1) Obey the commands of Scripture. 2) Apply the principles of Scripture. 3) Do what you want to do. (If you're obeying the commands and applying the principles, your desires will be shaped to reflect God's priorities and desires.)

Second, the hands-down best public teaching I ever heard on the "call to ministry" I ever heard prior to landing in my present church was an Entrust conference at Covenant Life Church in February, 2009. I blogged on it and made some new friends in the process. Ironically, this teaching from continuationists was less subjective than any I'd ever heard.

Decision Making and the Will of God was by far the most influential book on the topic in my development. This link is to the second edition, which I'm told is condensed, augmented, and more cautiously worded than the first edition. It's essentially the same stuff Mazak taught.

What I like about Bruce Waltke's Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion?is that it, well, exposes how the mysticism I've discussed in this series is more pagan than Christian.

I haven't read Guidance and the Voice of Godbut it's the cornerstone text for the Core Seminar at my church, which I've attended and benefited from. By the way, those lessons are available free here.

I haven't read Kevin DeYoung's Just Do Somethingeither, but here's a link to Mike McKinley's review on the 9Marks blog. Follow the Amazon link on this one to see the best book subtitle since Jonathan Edwards.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Should Premillennialists Accuse Non-Premillennialists of Rejecting Literal Interpretation?

In recent weeks I've heard a few assertions that non-premillennialists reject a literal hermeneutic. Here's just one example from a well-known pastor:
Amil has to discount the literal hermeneutical approach to the entire definition of the [Kingdom of God] in the major and minor prophets.
B.B. Warfield, in The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, expounded and defended the biblical basis for the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). But he also attempted to demonstrate how the Confession merely summarized the theology of the Continental Reformers. Though, as a Baptist, I don't agree with every point of the Confession or Warfield's defense, a paragraph from his discussion of Chapter 1, "Of the Holy Scripture" caught my eye.

In this chapter, Warfield quotes extensively and in broad affirmation of Heinrich Heppe's summary of the theology of the Continental Reformers, Dogmatics of the Evangelical Reformed Church (1861). Heppe argues (see the long quote below) that the literal meaning of Scripture is the one meaning the author intended. Though the author may or may not employ figurative language, the literal meaning is how the author intended that language (whether figurative or normal/non-figurative) to be understood.

In other words, both Premillennialists and non-Premillennialists* may employ a literal hermeneutic. (Individuals in either group may or may not, or at least not consistently.) Though they disagree on the interpretation of numerous texts, their disagreement is not over whether the normal ("literal") sense ought to be our default position. Rather, the disagreement is over certain texts—whether they were intended by the author/Author to be interpreted normally or figuratively.

And that's where the debate ought to take place. Premillennialists ought to argue with non-Premillennialists on how prophetic texts should be interpreted. Premillennialists ought to make the point that when we can point to biblical prophecies that we know have been fulfilled, they've been fulfilled in a "literal"/normal sense. But once and for all we ought to stop suggesting that non-Premillennialists reject a literal hermeneutic. By the standards of Premillennialists, Premillennialists often reject a literal hermeneutic too. By the definition Warfield advances via Heppe, both groups can be literalists. We can and should wrestle exegetically over the debated texts, but we need to avoid the strawmen and the canards.

Here's that long passage in which Warfield quotes Heppe:
The true sense of Scripture, which interpretation has established, can always be only single, and, in general, only the real, literal sense, the sensus literalis, which is either sensus literalis simplex or sensus literalis compositus. The former is to be firmly held as a rule; the latter, on the other hand, is to be recognized wherever Scripture presents anything typically; and only when the sensus literalis would contradict the articuli fidei or the praeceptis caritatis, where therefore Scripture itself demands another interpretation of its words, is the figurative meaning of them, the sensus figuratus, to be sought. Besides this, the allegorical interpretation has its right in the application of the language of Scripture to the manifold relations of life in the accommod. ad usum. (p. 168)

*Warfield was a Postmillennialist, a position now largely out of favor that was different in its interpretations from Amillennialism, but possessing some of the same tendencies to differ with the Premillennial "literal" interpretations.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Cessationists and Their Ironic Mysticism (Part 2)

In Part 1 I argued that when cessationists use the language of "God told/spoke to/led/called me, they accomplish three undesirable ends: 1) They contradict their cessationist theology; 2) they manipulate congregations unjustifiably; and 3) they introduce extra-biblical (and perhaps constraining) expectations to people who might enter vocational ministry.

Here in Part 2 I want to clarify #1 and push it just a bit further on the language of calling. Obviously, God "calls" people in the New Testament. Jesus called disciples and made them apostles, Paul was called to be an apostle, the elect are called to salvation, and the regenerate are called to spiritual growth. Though it's been a while since I've surveyed the NT usage, I don't recall any other application of "calling," least of all some internal "calling" to pastoral ministry. If you can offer a contrary example, I'd be glad to discuss it.

Please know: I'm not arguing that we should never use an extra-biblical term. "Trinity" is one such term. Rather, I'm arguing that loading an extra-biblical usage on a biblical term seems imprudent and very likely dangerous. This redefinition can shape our understanding of both the biblical usage of the term (salvation/sanctification/apostleship) and the concept to which we apply it (the desire for pastoral ministry).

In Part 3 I'll comment briefly on a few resources.