Friday, October 30, 2009

Bonhoeffer on the Reformation

I thought in light of Reformation Day (Oct. 31) I am posting about a sermon I recently read in the newly published Volume 12-Berlin: 1932-1933 of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works - English.  I was so thoroughly challenged by the words of his Reformation Sunday sermon (Nov. 6, 1932) that I couldn't help but share some of it. His text was Revelation 2:4-5, 7:
"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at the first.  Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent....Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God."
(The following is an excerpt from the sermon):
     Protestantism is not about us and our protest against the world, but rather about God's protest against us: 'But I have this against you...' 
     But we are still pretending, aren't we?  When it comes down to it, we know very well that it is not about 'A mighty fortress,' nor about 'Here I stand'; this is not the protest we are talking about.  We know full well about God's protest against us, and we know that, most of all on Reformation Day, God is out in force against us.  But we don't want to admit it, either to ourselves or to the world.  We are afraid we would look foolish in the eyes of Gd and the world if we admitted any such thing.  That's why we make so much noise about this day, October 31, hammering wrong ideas into the hands of thousands of schoolchildren, only so that they don't notice our weakness, so that we can forget it ourselves.
     No our time has run out for such solemn church feast days on which we put on an act for ourselves.  Let us stop celebrating the Reformation that way!  Let us lay the dead Luther to rest at long last, and instead listen to the gospel, reading his Bible, hearing God's own word in it.  At the last judgment God is certainly going to ask us not, ' Have you celebrated Reformation Day properly?' but rather, 'Have you heard my word and kept it?' (441-442)
He reminds the Church that the charge laid out by the Reformers (and found in his text) was that the Lord Himself was protesting against the Church and demanding repentance and works of obedience from Her.  Such a powerful reminder that the Church is in constant need of faithfulness...therefore let our cry be 'Semper reformanda' ('always reforming')!  With Bonhoeffer let us pray, "God be our help."

More on Secular Biblical Studies

Apparently my previous post has upset a number of self-proclaimed atheists -- in particular Mr. Jim Linville -- who favors the notion of studying the Bible from a 'non-religious' worldview.  My proposal is simply that this is an illusion of secular humanism and has no relation to reality.  The reality is that even an atheistic reading of Scripture always reads with a religious perspective (albeit one that does not embrace the faith of the subject matter).  Atheism is indeed a religious worldview and humanity cannot help but read anything from a religious perspective.  Just because one does not read the Scripture from the perspective of faith in God does not mean that one is reading without faith in something religious.  For the atheist -- and many supposed 'purely historical' readings, etc. -- faith is placed in self and the abilities of humanity and a whole worldview is involved wherein humanity (and pure 'reason') sits as creator (?) and judge of all things.  (Sounds rather religious to me)

I was quite surprised at the response I have received ranging from one who doesn't think I get Mr. Linville's proposal to another that believes I have been misguided.  Mr. Linville has even proposed that I should either have not been permitted membership in the Society of Biblical Literature and should now consider looking elsewhere for societal membership.  Ad hominem attacks abound in his blog response to me, but are these merely to avoid the ultimate question?  What is the genuine motivation behind such a proposal of study?  What is the point?  If the Scriptures are indeed true (as I must confess they are) concerning the necessity of faith in the Lord, then does a 'secular' reading of Scripture result in all the greater judgment at the Last Day when the reader fails to carry out (even opposes) a faith-filled responsive reading? 

To study the Scriptures as only any other book is to study the Scriptures in disobedience and rebellion to the Lord of the Scriptures.  It is not being true to all religions (or non-religions?).  It is being true only to the self as exalted above the One who has inspired the Scriptures...and the end result is not a purely scholastic reading, but a purely idolatrous reading devoid of true knowledge (and of the One Who is THE Truth).

I praise the Lord that He has not left us to our own devices concerning the quest for truth, but has given us Himself (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in the clear words of inspired and holy writ...and indeed He dwells in us through the Spirit that we might be conformed to the image of the Son to the praise and glory of the Father.  I confess that I do not 'study' the Bible in order to be a better 'Biblical scholar' (though I pray that is so as well), but in order to be a more faithful disciple of the Lord.  Where else can we go to find the "eternal words of life"?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Secular Biblical Studies?

I just read on the Society of Biblical Literature facebook page about a proposal for Secular Biblical Studies offering a link to the site which purports to organize such a group of 'Biblical scholars' for reading the Bible in a "non-religious" manner.  The idea is that the Bible should be studied without any religious reading or understanding as presuppositional.  Is that even possible?  Is there any way for ANYONE to be "non-religious" about anything?  However, the site offers to organize a group to challenge the Evangelical Theological Society (and even the sub-heading of the blog includes the notion of "atheism"). the agenda is not to read the Bible in a "non-religious" manner, but in an anti-Christian manner.  But this sort of a direct proposal would be ridiculed as opposed to trying to read the Bible in a very naturalistic manner (which sounds very 'scholarly').  Is it possible that an 'atheistic' reading of the Bible will be "non-religious"?  Or will it simply offer its own godless reading where man sits as the arbiter of truth and revelation?  Further, what is the point?  Why would 'Biblical scholars' (or anyone else for that matter) want to "non-religously" read the Scriptures that claim to be the words of the Lord demanding faith from humanity?

What do you think?  Can there be any "non-religious" reading of the Bible?  Or should there even be an attempt to do so?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2 Kings 14:23-15:38 – Word of the LORD and Fall of the Kings

14:23 – Jeroboam II – son of Jehoash (or Joash). He reigned for 41 years (793-753 BC) over Israel though approximately 11 years were spent as co-regent with his father Jehoash) and did evil in the LORD’s sight (14:24) by continuing in the sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat.

14:25 – Jonah son of Amittai of Gath-Hepher (see Jonah 1:1) prophesies by the word of the LORD and Jeroboam II is therefore able to retake the boundary promised in Numbers – Lebo Hamath to the Arabah (Num.34:7-8 ; though see where the judgment comes from according to Amos 6:14). Why does the LORD care to bless Israel? (see 2 Kings 14:26-27)

14:26 – What was it that Israel “was suffering” so “bitterly” from? The problem appears to be not so much concerned with those outside of Israel as her antagonists, but those within Israel. Paul House (NAC pgs. 326-327) lists Israel as full of spiritual adulterers (Hos. 1:2; 4:1), thieves (Hos. 4:2), ungrateful children (Hos. 11:1-7), those who offer sacrifices instead of mercy (Hos. 6:6), those who worship idols instead of the LORD alone (Hos. 13:4), the oppression of the poor (Amos 2:6), injustice (Amos 2:7), immorality (Amos 2:7-8), love of wealth more than kindness (Amos 4:1-3), easy living more than righteous character (6:1-7). (For Judah’s sins and judgment see Isaiah 1-6)

15:1 – Azariah (also called Uzziah – see Isaiah 1:1; 6:1; Amos 1:1; 2 Chron. 26-27) – son of Amaziah. He reigned for 52 years (792-740 BC) over Judah and did what was right in the LORD’s sight, but he never removed the high places or stopped the people from making sacrifices there (15:4). He led Judah to victory by raising a great military and defeating the Philistines and the Ammonites and he rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem that had been torn down as well as building up several cities and towers (2 Chron. 26:6-15). After these great deeds he sinned against the LORD by entering the Temple and in his arrogance he offered incense. Thus the LORD gave him leprosy for the remainder of his reign and he was forced to share his throne since he had to live outside of the normal kingly precinct (15:5; the details are given in 2 Chron. 26:16-20).

15:8 – Zechariah – son of Jeroboam II. He reigned for 6 months (753-752 BC) over Israel and did evil in the LORD’s sight continuing in the sin of Jeroboam (15:9). He was assassinated by Shallum (15:13) and thus the word of the LORD was fulfilled concerning Jehu’s lineage on the throne lasting only four generations (10:30; 15:12).

15:13 – Shallum – son of Jabesh (probably a reference to the city of Jabesh Gilead – see Konkel NIVAC 549). He reigned for 1 month (752 BC) over Israel and was assassinated by Menahem. He doesn’t even receive recognition for being evil or right in the LORD’s sight.

15:17 – Menahem – son of Gadi (probably a reference to his being from the tribe of Gad – see Konkel NIVAC 549). He reigned for 10 years (752-742 BC) over Israel (though it may be assumed that he ruled only part of Israel and was competing with Pekah for kingship of Israel – see dates below) and did evil in the LORD’s sight continuing in the sin of Jeroboam (15:18). He is ignominiously is noted to have been the only Israelite king who “ripped open all the pregnant women” of a conquered city (Tiphsah by the Euphrates – MT; or more likely Tappuah about 10 miles from Tirzah – Old Greek), which was actually a city of Israel in apparent rebellion against him (15:16 – see the judgment of the Amonnites for doing the same in Amos 1:13). He also buys off an alliance (and retreat?) with Tiglath-Pileser III (called “Pul” in honor of conquering Babylon in 729 BC) of Assyria. He taxed the “mighty men” of Israel to raise the funds to buy off Assyria (15:19-20).

15:23 – Pekahiah – son of Menahem. He reigned for 2 years (742-740 BC) over Israel and did evil in the LORD’s sight continuing in the sin of Jeroboam. He was assassinated by Pekah and (other?) Gileadites (15:25).

15:25 – Pekah – son of Remaliah. He reigned for 20 years (752-732 BC) over Israel and did evil in the LORD’s sight continuing in the sin of Jeroboam (15:28). He allied with Rezin king of Aram/Syria against Tiglath Pileser III of Assyria and tried to ‘pursuade’ Jotham king of Judah according to the will of the LORD (15:37). He was assassinated by Hoshea after losing in battle to Assyria where many in Israel were carried away into captivity (15:29-30; by the word of the LORD prophesied to Amaziah – Amos 7:17).

15:32 – Jotham – son of Uzziah (or Azariah). He reigned for 16 years (750-734 BC) over Judah and did what was right in the LORD’s sight, but… (15:37; contrast the positive view in 2 Chron. 27:6). He defeated the Ammonites and exacted great wealth from them (2 Chron.27:5). He built up one of the gates of the Temple as well as the wall of Ophel and several cities and forts and towers (15:35; 2 Chron. 17:3-4). He became mighty because he sought the LORD (2 Chron. 27:6).

Prophetic Messages delivered at this time: ISRAEL – Jonah, Amos and Hosea; JUDAH – Isaiah and Micah.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10 Reasons I Believe In A Recent Creation

(In no particular order)

1 – God was the only one present “in the beginning” to give a testimony of the “what,” “when,” and “how” (Gen.1:1) and has in fact done so.

2 – Genesis 1 describes one week of seven consecutive days of creation and not great ages or vague periods of time.

3 – Genesis 1 describes creation in reference to “kinds” that recreate after themselves and not evolutionary development, thus no necessary length of time between the various creatures in order to evolve.

4 – Genesis 5 gives a very precise chronological genealogy between Adam and Noah; and Genesis eleven gives another very precise chronological genealogy between Noah and Abraham (Abraham can be dated to some time around 1800-2000 BC). Any suggestion of “gaps” in names does not account for gaps in time since exact times between births and deaths are recorded.

5 – Genesis 6-8 describe a global catastrophe that more adequately accounts for the fossil record in opposition to the evolutionary suggestion of uniformitarianism (everything happened the same over time and there was no particular global catastrophe).

6 – Jesus lineage in Luke 3 traces from Jesus back to Adam treating the genealogies of the Old Testament as authentic historically.

7 – The various dating methods (radio-carbon, light travel, etc.) used by modern science presuppose vast ages and uniform decay and also that creation wasn’t already mature in the beginning. This discounts the obvious “maturity” of everything that was created (i.e., man and woman, animals and plants that are expected to begin reproducing, stars that are already in place and shining at various brightnesses and varying distances).

8 – The order of creation in Genesis one suggests a completely different order for creation than evolutionary theories involving great ages. Light appears before anything. The plants are created before the sun. Birds and fish are created simultaneously and the one does not evolve from the other, but create “after their own kind”.

9 – Death cannot be attributed to sin (as the Bible tells us in Gen.2:17 and Rom.5:12), if there was no recent creation, since death would have been present for many hundreds of millions of years prior to Adam.

10 – A recent creation has been held by the Church until recent history (see Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury, eds. Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009. Pgs. 23-78).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why We Should Read, Preach, and Teach the Old Testament

A friend of mine (Dave Peters) just posted some great comments (from Dr. Philip Ryken) about why we should read, preach and teach the OT (31 Reasons).  My own thought is that in our contemporary church setting, it would appear too often one of two extremes concerning the OT predominate: either improper understanding and over-emphasis (leading to forms of legalism) or improper understanding and no emphasis (leading to an emasculated Biblical worldview).  Understanding of the OT should be paramount for every Christian (it was the original Scriptures of the Early Church after all) as it is foundational to understanding the NT.  We cannot shy away from the difficult and ugly found in the OT, because it declares the LORD as truly Lord of all and points ahead to ultimate redemption in Christ Jesus.

Preach it Dave :-) !

Thursday, October 08, 2009

2 Kings 13-14:22 – “Grace for Israel and Judah?”

(Here is the first of a few personal comments and questions from my Wednesday night Bible study -- working through 2 Kings right now -- let me know what you think)

13:1 – Jehoahaz – the son of Jehu. He reigned for 17 years (814-798 BC) as the king of Israel and did evil in the LORD’s sight (13:2). His father, Jehu, had been promised by the prophet Elisha that final judgment would not fall on his family for four generations (2 Ki.10:30; see also Deut.6:10-12). However, because of idolatry Israel was defeated by the Aramaens and Israel’s army reduced to 50 charioteers, 10 chariots and 10,000 foot soldiers (2 Ki.13:6-7).

13:3-4 – Judgment brings blessing? What was the purpose of the chastisement that Israel suffered at the hands of the Aramaens?

13:4 – Who might this unnamed “deliverer” be? Paul House (NAC 308 – he also mentions Hobbs and Gray as holding this position) and Gus Konkel (NIVAC 525) propose this “deliverer” was Elisha. The reasons given are that Elisha is named in the immediate context in language reminiscent of the “new” Moses (Deut.26:5-9) who would be another “deliverer” for Israel; further he is called the “chariots and horses of Israel” (2 Ki.13:14); finally, Elisha is portrayed in Kings as being a deliverer of Israel (2 Ki.3; 6:8-23).

13:6 – “…but they continued to sin…” – What were their sins? The religion of Jeroboam and the Asherah pole (see Amos 4:6-12).

13:10 – Jehoash – the son of Jehoahaz. He reigned for 16 years (798-782 BC) as king of Israel and did evil in the LORD’s sight (13:11). He defeated and captured king Amaziah of Judah and conquered Jerusalem: looting the treasuries of the Temple and palace, and carrying away many of the inhabitants into exile in Samaria (2 Ki.13:11-14). He also made an alliance with Assyria in order to try to oppose Aram.

13:14 – Why is Elisha called the “chariots and horses of Israel”?(see 2 Ki.3; 6:8-7:20; and also concerning Elijah: 2 Ki.2:12). He was here called this name on his deathbed after having anointed Jehu king of Israel nearly 40 years prior (2 Ki.9:1-3).  Even the servants of the LORD may suffer illness that leads to death.  There is no guarantee with the LORD other than that He is ever faithful.  We are called to look to Him and entrust ourselves in faith and obedience to His work and will.  The outcome of our life is not determined by our manner of suffering, or of death.  The outcome of our life is determined by the LORD Himself.

13:17-19 – What is the point of shooting the arrow and striking the arrows on the ground? (see 2 Ki.13:25)

13:21 – A miracle story is told of a “chance” throwing of a body into the grave of Elisha which results in the dead man being resurrected. Paul House notes the living miracles associated with the passing of Elijah and Elisha by saying, “Elijah has gone to heaven without dying; Elisha has kept giving Israel life after he has died” (NAC 308). How much more is our LORD capable of giving life if one of His prophets could be used to give life?

13:23 – What do “grace” and “compassion” have to do with the LORD’s
“covenant” with Israel?

14:1-4 – Amaziah – son of Joash. He reigned for 29 years (796-767 BC) as the king of Judah and did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, but not like David and “not wholeheartedly” (2 Ki.14:4; 2 Chron.25:2). Though he received mention as fulfilling the Law of retribution in accordance with judging only those who sin (see Deut.24:16). However, he did not destroy the “high places” (Deut.16:1-8; 16:21-22), while he maintained the worship of the LORD at Jerusalem. In a campaign against Edom, he initially hired mercenaries from Israel, but by a message from one of the prophets concerning failure if the Israelites were with them, he summarily dismissed them (2 Chron.25:6-10). The dismissed Israelites then raided border towns of Judah which led to Amaziah’s challenge to Israel on the battlefield (2 Chron.25:20). This was the doing of the LORD because after Amaziah’s victory over Edom (10,000 were killed) he took Edom’s idols and established worship of them, therefore the LORD determined to judge him (2 Chron.25:20). He lost the battle against Israel and was utterly defeated at the hands of Jehoash king of Israel. Amaziah was captured, Jerusalem’s northern wall was torn down, and the city was plundered of both wealth and people (2 Ki.14:11-14; 2 Chron.25:22-24). King Amaziah lived another 15 years after the death of Jehoash king of Israel, but he never regained the confidence of his people and eventually was forced to flee to Lachish where he was hunted down and assassinated (2 Ki.14:17-19; 2 Chron.25:25-27).

14:8 – Why did Amaziah king of Judah challenge Jehoash king of Israel to
(see 2 Chron.25:7-13)

14:11-14 – Why was Judah defeated? (see 2 Chron.25:20) Sin may have led to the defeat, but what is the aim of the LORD in bringing about the defeat?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Another Post On Learning Biblical Languages

Elizabeth Groves (a recently hired Lecturer of Old Testament and Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary) posted several practical presentations on why we should take the time to learn Biblcal languages.  I enjoyed them (but then again I love learning painful as that can be).

Best of all is this music video about learning Koine Greek ("All Things Are Better In Koine" -- for those who also consider themselves to be Greek-Geeks).