Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is There Divine Revelation in Historical Events?

I'm reading through an unpublished document that makes intriguing arguments about divine revelation in biblical narratives and the historical events behind those narratives. Here's a very small portion of a much larger discussion:
As the trained historian studies past events, he or she is able to piece together a larger picture of the events recorded in Scripture. By discovering missing pieces that expand the biblical picture, historians are able to better understand the events depicted in the biblical narratives.
So what do you think? True or false? Do we better understand the meaning of the narratives in the biblical text if we find out more historical details of those narratives from extra-biblical sources?

And whether you agree or disagree, is this something that you observe with some regularity in contemporary preaching?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ryken : Wheaton = Mohler : Southern?

Christianity Today reports that Wheaton College has named Philip Ryken as its next president. Wheaton isn't now where Southern was in 1993, but many have noted signals it's on the same course. I can't imagine that a substantial course correction isn't on both Ryken and the board's agenda.

[Update below:]

A week ago Kevin Bauder wrote in his essay, "Conundrum":
Christian leadership is persuasion, but occasions for persuasion are far less common than one might assume. Most of a president’s life is taken up with administrative bustle. Even if he is also a teacher, he does not get to focus simply on the areas that most interest him. Overworked employees are understandably resistant to the suggestion that they might do extra reading or otherwise prepare for extra conversations. Constituencies are alert for any idea that seems unusual. Gatekeepers of churches and other institutions are watchful for any remark that might be construed as a criticism. I have about concluded that institutional presidency is the worst position from which to attempt to propagate ideas. Presidents have less freedom to say what they think, and they are granted less opportunity to say it, than almost anyone else.
A question and a comment, in light of Bauder's persepctive. Question: Can Ryken really effect change, or were pastoral ministry and a church pulpit a more productive platform? Comment: Once again, we ought to give thanks to God for how he's used Al Mohler to accomplish an unthinkable, astonishing transformation from SBTS 1993 to SBTS 2010.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On Premillennialists and Our Canards . . . Again

I didn't intend for this to be a series (here's the first post), but here's part two: I received a partial transcript of a sermon on Revelation 20 recently preached by a dispensational premillennialist pastor. In reference to those who don't read Revelation 20 as a literal 1000 year reign, he said . . .
You have to tamper with every hermeneutical principle that takes anything seriously related to any kind of timing and just sort of chuck that out. God probably isn’t serious. Do you really want to tamper with God’s references to time periods? The book of Revelation tells us that Heaven lasts forever; do you want to mess with that? God probably isn’t serious—that’s such a long time.

Now, for the record, there are other views. I don’t want to put you to sleep but let me give them to you: Amillennialism is the view that the church simply inherited the promises of the kingdom and Christ is simply ruling in our hearts and there will be no literal 1000 year reign. You take passages like Revelation 20 and say “That’s just a nice idea. It's spiritual, it’s some sort of metaphysical truth and um and these prophecies must be taken figuratively instead of literally.”

Enough of that view. The view that we're talking about is taking prophecies at face value and we believe that those prophecies of Christ’s first coming happened physically and literally. Why not prophecies of his second coming? You have to put your hands over your eyes, close up your ears in order to somehow discount it all.
Now, I agree in principle with the pastor's analogy between prophecies about the first and second coming. But I'm a bit surprised that he would overlook the obvious presence of imagery in prophetic books, particularly apocalyptic texts. So here are my questions for anyone out there who thinks his argument makes sense:

Surely you take all the prophetic imagery in Revelation literally, right? Surely not just the timing! You believe God is really serious, don't you? I mean, Jesus is a lamb with seven heads and seven horns wearing a sash and a long robe with a sword coming out of its mouth, right? Oh and this lamb is somehow a lion too. Maybe somebody can explain to me how that all works . . . literally. But obviously, if you don't want to tamper with time periods, you must not want to tamper with how God describes his own Son! Right? That's kind of a big deal, isn't it? God's serious about Jesus, isn't he?

Brothers and sisters, let's not pretend that one millennial view or one hermeneutic has the corner on "literalism." (And if it did, let's not pretend that would be a virtue.) And let's certainly not pretend that one approach has the corner on taking God seriously. I hope we all realize, by now, that's certainly not true.

Or do we need still more evidence of things not worth saving?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Remember Terry Schiavo?

The woman said to be in a persistent vegetative state who was starved to death by her husband after a lengthy legislative and legal battle?

What if she really wasn't "vegetative"?

An article just published in the New England Journal of Medicine by an international team of scientists raises grave questions about her and, ultimately, thousands of other patients. The Washington Post reports:
These patients, the images clearly indicated, were living silently in their bodies, their minds apparently active. One man could even flawlessly answer detailed yes-or-no questions about his life before his trauma by activating different parts of his brain.
Read the article here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"They aren't actually 'pro-choice' so much as they are pro-abortion": A Pro-Choice Columnist on the Pro-Choice Movement

Here's a welcome piece by Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins on the Tim Tebow pro-life Super Bowl ad. Make no mistake—it's a pro-free speech piece, not a pro-life piece. But Jenkins' honesty is fresh and respectable—possibly even courageous. Here's the gist of her perspective:
I'm pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I've heard in the past week, I'll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the "National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time." For one thing, Tebow seems smarter than they do.

Tebow's 30-second ad hasn't even run yet, but it already has provoked "The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us" to reveal something important about themselves: They aren't actually "pro-choice" so much as they are pro-abortion.
I'm encouraged to see Jenkins make the obvious argument that the Tebows do more to care for women than the organization that claims to represent them:
Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn't be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikini selling beer is the right one.
Jenkins also exposes the fear in the pro-choice movement:
If the pro-choice stance is so precarious that a story about someone who chose to carry a risky pregnancy to term undermines it, then CBS is not the problem.
Maybe protests, placards and marches have their place. Seems to me, though, that this sort of message may find more of a foothold in American culture.