Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category

A recent theology exam included questions about the teolology and methodology of the Apostles’ use of the Old Testament in the New Testament.  The candidate agreed with their Christological  goal, but had some criticisms for their methodology.  This issue is part of the controversy over Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation.  His srgument in the book created quite the stir, resulting in his leaving Westminster Theological Seminary.  Enns and Bruce Waltke state their respective cases on the matter in the lastest issue of WTJ.

Good for us, Dr. Roger Nicole’s 1958 article New Testament Use of the Old Testament is now available online.  He addresses the range, authority and accuracy of the New Testament usage of the Old Testament. Dr. Nicole helps us to understand that we should not hold the New Testament authors to the standards of a doctrinal thesis.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with criticism of how the Apostles used the Old Testament.  That is because I affirm the dual authorship of Scripture.  It is divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), and God used real people in a way that they wrote in accordance with their personality, culture and circumstances.    This means that one cannot criticize the human authors without also criticizing the Spirit of Christ who inspired them.  That same Spirit inspired the original OT Scriptures which had an original meaning and a greater fulfillment in Christ.  The OT, in addition to having an original meaning, often has a typological function.  This explains why some verses seem to be taken out of context.

But who cares what the Cavman thinks- read Dr. Nicole!

HT: Between Two Worlds

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I’ll be preaching some of the parables in Luke to illustrate grace in the coming weeks.  Here are the resources I will be using:

  • The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told by Simon Kistemaker.  Dr. K arrived at the Orlando campus after my graduation.  So, I never had him for a course.  But this should be good.
  • The Parables of the Kingdom by Robert Farrar Capon.
  • The Parables of Grace by Robert Farrar Capon.
  • Turning Your World Upside Down: Kingdom Priorities in the Parables of Jesus by Richard Phillips.  I can’t remember when I got this- I think it was like 75% off but looked interesting.  Finally, I get to use it.

Some resources I wish I had:

Hmmm.  Kind of lacking, don’t you think.  I thought there would be more books on the parables.

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Non-sermon related reading has fallen off the grid the last few months.  I feel like I’ve been reading this book for the better part of 6 months.  Not quite, but I have finally finished Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation.  I already reviewed the first 2 sections which dealt with the basics of interpretation and his argument for a gospel-centered hermeneutic, and how various methods of Bible interpretation have eclipsed the gospel throughout church history.

The final section, Reconstructing Evangelical Hermeneutics, was the most difficult for me to read.  At times he covered areas of philosophy with which I was unfamilar.  So, I was occasionally thinking ‘huh?” (particularly speech-act theory).  But it was still profitable at times, just not as profitable as the previous 2 sections.

Among the areas that were helpful were his discussion of typology, and Dr. John Currid’s criteria for true typology.  This criteria is affirmed by Keller & Clowney in the DMin course available through RTS on I-Tunes.  He was also helpful in discussion contexting (his simpler term for contextualization).  The missionary mandate, as he argues, mandates this.  He also includes a chapter on the interaction and relationship between biblical and systematic theology.  He talks a great deal about how both Calvin and Luther viewed Bible interpretation, and the role of the Spirit (particularly Calvin on this front)

His Epilogue contains a few good quotes to sum all this up:

Hermeneutics is about reading God’s word with understanding so taht we might be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The purpose of God’s word is to bring us to God through the salvation that is in Christ.  It does this by revealing his plan and purpose, by conforming us more and more to the image of Christ, and by providing the shape of the presence of God with his people through the Spirit of Christ.

So, pastors and those who regularly teach God’s people should find Goldsworthy’s book helpful as we seek to fulfill our calling.  As the ancient children’s song says, “take up and read.”

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The second section of Graeme Goldworthy’s book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics focuses on Challenges to Evangelical Hermeneutics.  In this section he is essentially tracing the history of biblical interpretation with an eye to the way the gospel has been eclipsed in various times and methods.

This is no easy matter to accomplish since we are talking 2,000 years here.  Some of the issues involved are very heady (intellectual) as well.  As a result, some things may have gotten generalized or flatted.  But, who wants to read a 900 page on hermeneutics (okay, there are 3 of you out there).  It was adapted from his class on the subject, so summarization is a key thing to keep in mind.

The early church wrestled with allegory and typology.  There are proper, and improper, ways to deal with them.  Many a heresy has been developed through the use of allegory.  What he says here is helpful:

  • While typology looked for historical patterns in the Old Testament to which Christ corresponded, allegory was based on the accidental similarities in language and concepts.
  • Typology was dependent on the historical interpretation, while allegory was not.

While discussing the medieval church, he mentions Peter Lombard whose interpretative method sounds very similar to that used by many dispensationalists today “The promises in the two Testaments also differ in that those of the Old Testament are earthly and those of the New Testament are heavenly.”   Goldsworthy also traces Aquinas’ grace-nature dualism which became the standard Roman Catholic hermeneutic after the Reformation.  It is semi-pelagian at best.


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Hermeneutics is one of those words that people shut down upon hearing.  It is just the science of interpretation.

Here are some of the best books I’ve read about how to interpret the Bible:

  • Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy.  I’m just about done with Part 2 of the book.  The second section is very technical.  But the book is great in explaining why and how we are to look at every text through the lens of the gospel.
  • He Gave Us Stories by Richard Pratt.  One of my seminary professors wrote this, and made us read it.  It was great.  It takes a literary approach that balances author, text and audience.  Too bad more people haven’t read this- it is great.  I still utilize his approach.
  • Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul.  Another of my professors wrote this laymen’s guide to interpreting Scripture.  In typical Sproul style, he’s able to put the cookies on the counter for all to enjoy.  Not long either, so it’s manageable for a SS class.
  • Paying by the Rules by Robert Stein is similar to Sproul’s book in that it is geared for lay people, not scholars.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but it is a very good book.  Also easily adaptable to SS.
  • God-Centered Biblicial Interpretation by Vern Poythress.  Not for the intellectually queasy.  It is a great book, but slow reading to digest what he’s saying.  It is not overly technical, but some of the subject matter is quite heady.  He does a good job addressing our subjectivism in approaching Scripture such that he opens us up to the fuller meaning of the text.

Here are some titles I might read some day:

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I started to see this book pop up on people’s blogs a few years ago.  The title, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy, intrigued me.  So, using a gift certificate, I bought the book.  Recently, excited to begin reading, a friend wondered aloud why we need to read another book on hermeneutics.

I’m glad I didn’t listen.  I have not yet finished the book, but I’ve found it quite stimulating, understandable and grappling with an important topic: how should we, as evangelical Christians, interpret the Scriptures?

Here we will cover Part 1 of the book: Evangelical Prolegomena to Hermeneutics.   Goldsworthy introduces the idea of presuppositions into the question of hermeneutics: will we assume the supreme authority of God or assume human autonomy?  This is the question upon which so much hinges in biblical interpretation.  Our assumptions or presuppositions, in addition to this one, greatly affect the effectiveness of our attempts to understand, explain and apply the text of Scripture.

“The function of hermeneutics could be stated as the attempt to bridge the gap between the text inside its world and the readers/hearers inside their world.”


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One of the key passages in the discussion over women deacons is 1 Timothy 3:11.  For many people, this clearly shows that women are not to be deacons.  The Greek in this sentence is very interesting, and as a result, many translations necessarily interpret it.  The question is, do they interpret it correctly?

11 In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (NIV)

11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.  (NKJV)

11 In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not speak evil of others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. (NLT)

11 In the same way, women must be respected by others. They must not speak evil of others. They must be self-controlled and trustworthy in everything. (NCV)

Many of these translations include a footnote indicating that the Greek word “guna” can mean either woman or wife depending on the context.  I can’t get the Greek text in here so it is legible, so forgive me.  Here are the problems:

  • There is no subject for this sentence.  It is assumed (as in verse 8).
  • There is no verb for this sentence.  It, too, is assumed (as in verse 8).
  • The word for women/wives is in the accusative, indicating that it is the direct object.  It is first in the sentence to put stress, or emphasis, on it.  Though “in the same way” something very different is being said than in verse 8.  It has to do with women.  Deacon/servant in verse 8 is also in the accusative.
  • There is no possessive pronoun, which would clearly indicate that it means “wives” rather than “women.”  Most translations add this (“their”) to the text.
  • The rest of the sentence is largely made up of adjectives modifying women/wives.

So, the sentence reads like this:  “In the same way [or likewise] (assumed subject & verb) honorable women/wives, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all (things).”


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In Joshua Harris’ Sermon Notes series, he has a copy of sermon notes by Tim Keller.  My admiration just went up a few notches, for I can not understand how in the name of all things holy Keller can preach from those notes.  They are in short-hand and don’t seem well-organized to this small mind.  But I’ll let Joshua continue:

Tim leads Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and is the author of The Reason For God. I’ve asked my friend, pastor Tullian Tchividjian who leads New City Presbyterian Church, to write an introduction for Tim:

To be a great preacher, one needs to be tri-perspectival in their exegesis. That is, they need to be committed to the exegesis of the Bible, the exegesis of our culture, and the exegesis of the human heart. Some preachers claim that if you exegete the Bible properly, you don’t need to bother yourself with the exegesis of our culture or the human heart. The problem with this view, however, is that the Bible itself exhorts us to apply Biblical norms to both our lives and to our world.

As a preacher myself, I benefit greatly from listening to a wide variety of preachers. In some cases I learn what to do, and in other cases I learn what not to do. But in every case, I learn something. Some preachers teach me how to be a better exegete of the Bible. Others teach me how to be a better exegete of our culture. And still others teach me how to be a better exegete of the human heart. But no preacher has consistently taught me how to do all three in the context of every sermon more so than Tim Keller. His balanced attention to all three forms of exegesis makes him very unique, in my opinion.

Tim knows how to unveil and unpack the truth of the Gospel from every Biblical text he preaches in such a way that it results in the exposure of both the idols of our culture and the idols of our hearts. His faithful exposition of our true Savior from every passage in the Bible painfully reveals all of the pseudo-saviors that we trust in culturally and personally. Every sermon discloses the subtle ways in which we as individuals and we as a culture depend on lesser things than Jesus to provide the security, acceptance, protection, affection, meaning, and satisfaction that only Christ can supply. In this way, he is constantly showing just how relevant and necessary Jesus is; he’s constantly proving that we are great sinners but Christ is a great Savior.

Personally, I am grateful for Tim’s friendship. His interest in me as a person and a preacher shows a side to him that many perhaps do not see. I know how busy he is and how many demands he has and yet he has always found time to talk with me, advise me, meet with me, and in a thousand other ways, help me out. So Tim, thanks for all you do and for who you are. Preach on brother—we’re all listening!

Did you catch that?  Exegeting the Text (normative), our hearts (subjective/existential) & our culture (situational/circumstantial).  Too often Reformed guys focus on the text to the exclusion of our hearts and culture.  Emergent guys can focus on the culture to the exclusion of the text.  And the wheels on the bus go round and round.  To properly understand and apply the Text we must do all three.

This past Sunday I was so overwhelmed by the Text that I didn’t exegete the culture as much as I wanted to.  And it made my sermon the poorer.  Since Nehemiah was identifying himself in solidarity with the sins of his culture.  The sins of my city are often the sins of the churches there, too.  I did some of that, but didn’t spell it out sufficiently.

Rabbit Trail: How many of you pastors are usually disappointed with your sermons on a regular basis?

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I’m continuing to work my way through McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christian.  I would sum it up as increasingly frustrating.  Neo keeps getting further and further out there.  And the strawmen he argues against are increasingly obscure.

This is an incredible nit-pick, but World Cup soccer is played by national teams.  DC United wouldn’t play, much less win, that competition.  Yep, this is fiction but try to keep the connections to reality there to make it believable and in the spirit of being missional- being ignorant of such matters means you lose street cred.  Okay, off the box.

Neo’s sermon contains a section from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, one I have a particularly difficult time with.  But Neo uses it to teach truth, not illustrate truth.  This would be because the truth he’s trying to illustrate doesn’t exist.  Kind hearted muslims (or pick your religion) are not serving Jesus unknowingly.  In Scripture you find that people forsake their worthless idols to worship the true God.  That’s a bit different than what Neo is trying to encourage.

I’ll give McLaren the credit for reminding people that the church exists to expand the kingdom, benefiting the world.  How he and I understand that is a bit different.  Yes, some Christians reduce the gospel to personal salvation, ignoring the cosmic implications.  Is it possible to make too much of the cosmic implications?  Yes, if you minimize what Scripture maxamizes.  Scripture addresses the need for personal salvation far more than the cosmic implications of redemption.  Jesus and the Apostles do show a great deal of concern for the people’s fate.  His first “sermon”, “repent and believe for the kingdom is at hand.”  “Repent and believe” is conversion talk.  “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins” is conversion talk, and the point of Peter’s very first sermon.  So this notion that “it’s none of your business who goes to hell” is not in step with Scripture.  If modern evangelicals are to be chastized for importing  modern notions onto the Scripture (and they are at times), so should McLaren be chastized for importing notions foreign to Scripture and deny notions prevalent in Scripture.  He also takes some Scripture completely out of context to make his point.  He mentions Jesus’ words to Peter as though we should not be concerned with anyone else’s eternal destiny.  But Peter is asking how John will die.  THAT is of no concern to Peter.


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WTS Books is having a summer sale until 7/30, so you had better hurry up!  They offer flat rate shipping and books are 50% off, so now is the time to buy!  I just wish I had a book allowance to enjoy this great opportunity 😦  However, if enough of you, my fair readers, visit via my blog I’ll get a good gift certificate!

Here are some Cavman recommendations-

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Have you ever wanted to sit down and chat with Sinclair Ferguson?  I have.  Though I’ve met him, I haven’t really talked to him.  I feel … so unworthy.  He’s not just a thoughtful theologian, but he exudes godliness.  It could just be the Scottish accent, but I doubt it.

Well, C.J. Mahaney did sit down and chat with him, and made the conversation available to all of us.  I am so thankful.  I laughed, I cried and had godly passions stirred up.

He mentioned his mentors, the 4 Johns- the Apostle, Calvin, Owen and Murray.  When he first heard of John Murray he remembers wondering “who’s John Murray and what’s Westminster Theological Seminary?”

He talked about an older pastor who poured his life into him.  What a magnificent gift that so many young men never receive.

He spent time talking about learning how to preach in a Christ-centered fashion.  We tend to look inward, rather than outward to Christ.  He also ties that in with C.S. Lewis’ comments about Milton’s Paradise Lost that it is easier to portray evil than good.  As pastors we fall into this trap, focusing more on sin than the “sweetness and excellency of Christ” (as Jonathan Edwards often said).

I can’t wait for my copy of In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life to arrive so I can dig in.  You can download the first 3 chapters.  I suspect this book will challenge us to get out of ourselves and lay hold of Christ who lays hold of us.

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Considering the CSB

I have not read the CSB.  Like many people, I saw Holman imprintur and figured “Southern Baptist Bible”.  Seems I was wrong.  There’s an interview with Dr. Blum, a Presbyterian, about its distinctives, history, translation and marketing.  I think the distinctives and translation are the most interesting.  They introduce a new term in the translation debate- optimal equivalence.  There is a new section on gender issues tacked onto the translation section.  If you are in the market for a new Bible, this may be worth considering.

He goes after the ESV for being in the King James tradition, and continuing to use some outdated language.  I like the ESV, but I’m not married to it.  The ESV gained popularity in many conservative circles during the gender controversy with the TNIV.  I’m taking this to mean Dr. Blum views the ESV as the main competition.

They used the Critical Text, not the Textus Receptus or Majority Text.  So it is based on the Nestle.

There is an interesting anecdote about the Gideons.  They are an interesting group.  Well meaning, but their marriage to the KJV (some do use the NKJV) is frustrating to me.

They chose to use Yahweh rather than LORD at times.  That would be the difference between a name and a title.  I would prefer if they just used YHWH, but that’s me.  Too bad they didn’t decide to go with Messiah over Christ, since Christ has morphed into a last name via ignorance. 

He gets into the “red letter” issue and how marketing is often in conflict with theology/scholarship on this matter.  There is a Minister’s edition that does not have red letters.

They chose to be “gender accurate” rather than gender neutral. 

HT: Jolly Blogger

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The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church booklet by Mark Dever (the link is for the expanded edition, here’s the table of contents and introduction) has been kicking around my office for some time.  I think the pastoral intern left it behind.  So yesterday I read it at lunch.  It was a worthwhile read, and would be particularly helpful, in booklet form, working with leadership to get and keep a congregation on track.  I’ll interact with this some, affirming most of it and mentioning a few omissions or small problems.

I’ll start with one complaint.  I know you can’t have 54 marks of a healthy church, but I was shocked that prayer was not one of the marks of a healthy church.  I think a vibrant, balanced corporate prayer life (not just the pastoral prayer) is essential to a healthy and growing congregation.  Okay, the 9 marks Mark mentions.

1. Expositional Preaching–  I like that he is not talking about style, but overall approach.  He affirms that different pastors will have different styles of preaching, but all should be submitting to the text for the message as they explain it and apply it to the life of the congregation.  What I think he missed in the process is that expositional preaching should also be redemptive-historical preaching.  You have to keep the text within the context of all of Scripture, placing it in its proper place in the history of redemption (and its progress), connecting it with the work of Christ and maintaining a grace-orientation.  As a seminarian I was trying to be expositional, and since I wasn’t also balancing that with a redemptive-historical approach, texts often become moralistic rather than gospel centered (Christ and Him crucified)

2. Biblical Theology- I don’t think he is using the technical term, as opposed to systematic theology.  Rather he is saying a theology in harmony with the Bible.  He’s not really addressing the means of getting there (see my post on According to Plan by Goldsworthy).  But Mark is right, sound doctrine is essential to a healthy church.  This is the word that Paul uses in the Pastoral Epistles- healthy doctrine.  To build on what I said above, sound doctrine is in accordance with the gospel: it is gospel centered!  Unhealthy doctrine leads to an unhealthy lifestyle- one of sin.

He recognizes that you can’t/shouldn’t make every doctrinal point a hill to die on.  The closer it is to the heart of the gospel (like the Trinity, justification, substitutionary atonement, etc.) the more important it is to have unity as a congregation.  There are also some issues that though not essential doctrines (mode & subjects of baptism, for instance) it is good to have agreement or at least a willingness to disagree, and some issues (like eschatology) upon which there can be various positions taken.  He also distinguishes the person with honest questions, and the contentious person who continues to deny biblical teaching after much instruction (see 1 Timothy).


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This is a KVJ-only pastor preaching on this phrase, and going to some strange places.  This is an example of how not to preach, or interpret & apply the Scriptures.  Sometimes I am just mystified by what people put up with, often because they have been kept (often unknowingly) in spiritual bondage to stuff like this.  But for the rest of us, it is pretty funny.

Guys, are you MEN or males?

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I’ve been wanting to read Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible for about 18 months.  A number of people I knew were reading it, so many that I thought it  was new, not written in 1991 as it was.

I began it while on vacation, but got bogged down with adoption stuff.  It was well worth the wait.  This is an excellent book, with summaries, simple charts, suggested reading and a study guide to each chapter.  As such, it lends itself toward use in a Sunday School setting or other discipleship setting.  And this is important because there are many things he lays out in this introduction to Biblical Theology that would benefit most American/Western Christians.  In fact, the first 7 chapters alone were worth the price of this book.

He begins by setting out the need for Biblical Theology.  “When Christians agree that the Bible is the highest authority, then the differences tend to emerge at the level of questioning what the text of the Bible actually says and how it should be interpreted.”  He then presents some examples that have been the source of disagreement for hundreds of years.  What often gets lost in the exegetical shuffle is that the Bible presents one message, everything is a part of that one message.  When we lose sight of that, we begin to misinterpret and misapply the individual texts.  “Biblical theology is a means of looking at one particular event in relation to the total picture.”   He summarizes it this way: “Biblical theology shows the relationship of all parts of the Old Testament to the person and work of Jesus Christ, and therefore, to the Christian.”  Goldsworthy is taking a redemptive-historical approach to understanding Scripture.  This means that the Bible is primarily about Jesus, and secondarily about us and the rest of creation.  You examine texts within their place in the history of redemption, see their fulfillment in Christ and their application to us.  This methodology is sorely lacking today, supplanted by any number of Bible-distorting approaches.

That is a pretty bold statement, I agree.  But Scripture teaches us how to interpret the Bible by how newer portions interpret older portions.  I read one blog that said you should never interpret Scripture like the Apostles did.  Huh?  The Apostles were teaching us how to understand the Old Testament.  Problem is, it didn’t fit this guy’s dispensational viewpoint.  If I have to choose between my theological assumptions and how Scripture interprets Scripture… I’m going with the latter!


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In the 4th chapter of The Future of Justification, John Piper continues to assess N.T. Wright’s use and application of the law-court dynamics.  The first problem he encounters here is that Wright fails to come to terms with the omniscience (all-knowledge) of the Judge.  In God’s law-court we have to deal with an omniscient and just Judge.  As a result, perfect justice will always be the result, unlike in earthly courtrooms even with the best of intentions.  Wright rightly connects the atonement with forgiveness, but something more must happen if God is to declare us righteous.  Not guilty is not enough.  Innocent is not enough.  We must be righteous if we are to dwell with God (Psalm 15 for instance).

The context of Romans 3, where our problem is sin, does not lend itself to Wright’s understanding of justification.  Our problem is not status, but sin.  Justification must deal with our sin problem in a more significant way than forgiveness (though that is incredibly significant).  Piper draws on Psalm 32, which Paul used in Romans 4.  This Psalm ends with calling the forgiven person “righteous.”  “I am not saying that the psalmist has a full-blown doctrine of justification as imputed righteousness.  I am simply observing that Paul may have meditated long and hard on the Psalms, including the often perplexing language of righteousness, sin, blamelessness, and forgiveness, and drew the inference that divine forgiveness never stands alone without God’s counting the forgiven person as positively righteous.  This would account for the logic of Romans 4:6-8 better than assuming that forgiveness and being counted righteous are “equivalents.”” 

Piper is not dealing with simple logic, but the logic of Paul in Romans 4.  It is Paul who raises this issue of an imputed righteousness.  This poses a serious problem for Wright’s understanding of both the text and the doctrine of justification.


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In chapter 3 of The Future of Justification, John Piper pretty much dismantles N.T. Wright’s views concerning law-court dynamics and the meaning of God’s righteousness.

Wright tends to prefer  that justification, and the law-court imagery, refer primarily, though not exclusively, to the final law-court.  He does tie this to what has happened in Christ.  The issue revolves around his distinction between the righteousness of a judge and that of the defender.  Wright points to 4 senses in which the Judge is righteous: “his faithfulness to his covenant promises to Abraham, his impartiality, his proper dealing with sin and his helping of the helpless.”  So, for the Judge it refers to His actions.  Wright does not go deeper into His character that produces those actions.

With regard to the defendant, righteousness is a status- that one is a part of God’s family.  It is not status in terms that one is righteous (in the greek, righteousness and justice are the same word group, and context determines the meaning).  So, Wright writes “it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendent.  Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom. … To imagine the defendent somehow receiving the judge’s righteousness is simply a category mistake.”

I would agree, to a point.  The defendent is receiving the righteousness of the Substitute, the Representative.  His righteous actions, according to all Paul belabors in Romans 3-5, are imputed to all who believe, or trust in, that Representative.  The Judge declares us righteous because we are united to the Righteous One.  It is Wright who makes a profound “category mistake”.  He misleads through his use of the law-court imagery, not the imagery itself.

Piper focuses on the issue of God’s righteousness, asserting that Wright’s understanding is too superficial as I noted above.  He summarizes his argument from his book The Justification of God (very good, but very technical book).  “The simple way is to say that God’s righteousness consists in his unswerving commitment to do what is right.”  What is right?  “‘Right’ actions are those that flow from a proper esteem for God’s glory and that uphold his glory as the most valuable reality there is.”  Piper then goes on to show how this fits Paul’s argument from Romans 1-3, showing Paul had this view in mind.  As a result, we find that this view of righteousness creates a problem for covenant faithfulness, in that we have become idolators, and God should bring covenant curses on our heads.  While sins went unpunished, it seemed like God didn’t value His glory.  “When he justifies the ‘ungodly’ (who have treated his glory with contempt, Rom. 1:18, 23; 4:5), he is not unrighteous, because the death of Christ exhibits God’s wrath against God-belittling sin.”  Sin has a big part Paul’s notion of justification.

In the basis of Romans 3:5 & 7 (parallels) Piper shows that it is righteous for God to show wrath for his own glory.  This is something Chalke wants to deny, which is why Wright’s endorsement of his book is problematic.

As Piper works through Romans, he asks that we do that same thing with his definition of righteousness that he did with Wright’s: does it work in the whole text?  Remember, Wright’s didn’t make sense in many parts of Paul’s argument (part of the same context, so we’d expect it to have a similar if not identical meaning).  Piper’s makes much more sense.  The implications of this will be explored more fully in his fourth chapter.

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Chapter One of The Future of Justification by John Piper is called Caution: Not All Biblical Theological Methods and Categories are Illuminating.  He notes how we often hear warnings about reading our systematic theology into a text.  I was talking about that with some family members last night as we discussed, among other things, Covenant & Dispensational Theologies, and millenial views.  John Piper wants us to remember that the same thing can happen with biblical theology too.  “But common sense tells us that first-century ideas can be used (inadvertently) to distort and silence what the New Testament writers intended to say.”  Piper continues to give 3 reasons this can happen.

1. We can misunderstand the sources.  The scholar might misunderstand the extra-biblical source material, and therefore come to faulty conclusions.  What is strange is that we can assume those extra-biblical sources are more easily interpreted than the biblical text.  This despite the facts that we often have far more context with which to understand the biblical text, far less research on the secondary documents, and that the Holy Spirit will illuminate the Scriptures to all who humbly seek to understand them (no such promise is given for secondary sources).  Secondary sources can be very helpful- but we must remember they are not determinative nor absolute.


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I’m currently preparing my 2 advent sermons.  Only 2 since I’m only doing some itinerent pulpit supply this year.  That is a big switch.  But it works well for my plan.  I’ll be preaching on Matthew 1:1.  Yeah… Matthew 1:1.

Matthew 1:1 is really the Big Idea for the rest of Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew sets out to explain that Jesus is THE son of David (fulfilling the covenant God made with David in 2 Samuel 7) and THE son of Abraham (fulfilling the promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 12).  I’ll actually be handling them in reverse order.

It makes perfect sense, but I hadn’t really noticed it until reading Jesus & Israel: One Covenant or Two? by David Holwerda (sadly, not available through WTS Books).  The second chapter, Jesus and Israel: A Question of Identity, is worth the price of the book.  This is where he works through the meaning and implications of Matthew 1:1.


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Out of Ur sort of enters the Rob Bell discussion with a summary of Rob’s Raleigh, NC stop on his “the gods aren’t angry” tour.  The summary is interesting, the comments are puzzling.  A quick comment about Mark Driscoll’s statements about Rob at the Convergent Conference sparked numerous attacks on Mark Driscoll.  He and his comments were called “irresponsible”, “quick to throw out the heretic label”, “dangerous- a rouge teacher with a serious lack of Christlikeness demonstrated in his conduct”, “needs to mind his own business” and so forth.  I’d been meaning to listen to it, so this drove me to listen to see if I was really missing something.  But first the summary of Rob Bell’s evening in Raleigh.

From the summary, it sounds like Rob, who loves to study and is quite bright, gave a basic study of anthropology and religion.  He interjects Scripture into this rather than using Scripture as the starting point.  Here is the crux of the matter:

“Bell said that big revelation number three came in Jesus. The sacrificial system outlined in Leviticus became corrupt and only led to more anxiety than it relieved. So at just the right time, God revealed that he never really needed our sacrifices anyway. Using quite a bit of humor, irony and pure wit, Bell painted a caricature god who is not complete without what people can provide or perform. Using various sayings from Psalms, Micah, Jesus, Paul’s letters and Hebrews, he drew an alternate picture of the divine: a God who is not dependent on what we do, but who freely loves and pours blessing on us.

“The problem, according to Bell, is not that God is angry with us, but that we think God is angry with us. Thus, Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God: to notify us of God’s lack of anger and to free us from the prison of our misconceptions so that we can truly live well. The place of church and religious ritual is to remind us of our standing with God and freedom to live lives of sacrifice and service.”


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