Archive for the ‘Biblical Studies’ Category

Commemoration of Adam and Eve – Why Believing That They Were Actual, Historic Persons Matters

December 19th, 2013 34 comments

Today is the day appointed in my church to remember and thank God for Adam and Eve. After I share the prayer appointed for this day, please continue reading for why defending and holding fast to their historicity matters, a lot.

We pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads, and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I’ve been following debates/arguments/discussions/conversations about the historicity of Adam and Eve. For our Lord Christ, the fact of the creation of Adam and Eve by God, and their union to one another, ordained by God, is the very foundation of marriage and all human sexuality. Precisely because the Lord taught this, this has an enormous impact on how the Church and the faithful, should—no not should, that’s way too soft a word—absolutely must—affirm the historicity of Adam and Eve. Justin Taylor had a blog post recently on this, that puts it rather well.

Reformation21 reprints an essay by Michael Reeves (Theological Adviser for UCCF in the UK) on “Adam and Eve,” from the book Should Christians Embrace Evolution? edited by Norman Nevin (IVP-UK, P&R). In particular Dr. Reeves takes on Denis Alexander’s proposed “third way” of understanding Adam and evolution.

Here’s the conclusion:

When theological doctrines are detached from historical moorings, they are always easier to harmonize with other data and ideologies. And, of course, there are a good many doctrines that are not directly historical by nature. However, it has been my contention that the identity of Adam and his role as the physical progenitor of the human race are not such free or detachable doctrines. The historical reality of Adam is an essential means of preserving a Christian account of sin and evil, a Christian under-standing of God, and the rationale for the incarnation, cross and resurrection. His physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ) as well as safeguarding the logic of the incarnation. Neither belief can be reinterpreted without the most severe consequences.

When Lutherans Assert that the Bible is the Verbally Inspired Word of God, and Actually Mean it, Are they Fundamentalists or Calvinists?

February 7th, 2013 3 comments


The one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has confessed throughout her entire history, until the last couple of centuries, that the Sacred Scriptures are precisely what they claim to be: the God-breathed words of God—the very words that God chose to have set down in written form. This is simply a fact.

I was reading recently statements made to the effect that insisting on this truth is a result of the influence of American fundamentalism, or if a person dares venture a bit further back in Church history, there is the charge that Lutherans who confess the Bible is verbally inspired and thus free from error and incapable of error have come under the influence of Calvinism. This is nothing short of stupendous ignorance of the facts of church history, in which one need spend only a small amount of time to find that the ancient fathers of the Christian Church were quite happy to confess the Bible is the very Word of God. Any claim that the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is some kind of more recent American fundamentalist assertion, or something Lutheranism took over from Calvinist is totally bogus. If or when you hear any Lutheran saying that you can be assured that you are hearing from a person who is abysmally ignorant of Lutheran doctrine, history and, for that matter, church history as a whole.

As for Lutherans…the “Second Martin,” as he was called, Martin Chemnitz, the foremost of the followers of Luther’s reformation insights after the great Reformers death, makes it abundantly clear what Lutheranism has to say about the inspired text, in his magnum opus, from which to this day remains the most definitive refutation of the Council of Trent ever published, The Examination of the Council of Trent.

The quote below comes from the very first volume of Chemnitz’ work where he is setting for the Church’s understanding of the Holy Scriptures and why they, not “tradition” or any other source are the supreme source for everything the Church believes, teaches and confesses. In great detail he works through how God chose to transmit His Word to his people, by means of written communication of His Word, seen already in how God chose to give His people the Commandments:

“It will profitably clear up and simplify the present controversy concerning the Holy Scripture by showing how the Scripture itself began. History shows—and I think this must be noted especially—that God not only instituted this way and method of preserving and retaining the purity of the heavenly doctrine by means of the divinely inspired Scriptures but that He also by His own act and example initiated, dedicated, and consecrated that way and method when He Himself first wrote the words of the Decalog. Therefore the first beginning of Holy Scripture must have God Himself as the author.

“I have related these things in order that it might be observed from the divinely inspired Scriptures, which God wanted preserved and made available for posterity, that nothing was written before the tables of the Decalog, which were written by the finger of God. It does much to shed light on the dignity and authority of Holy Scripture that God Himself not only instituted and commanded the plan of comprehending the heavenly doctrine in writing but that He also initiated, dedicated, and consecrated it by writing the words of the Decalog with His own fingers. For if the writing of the sacred books had first been begun by men, an exclusion of more than two thousand years could have been argued, where in the better times of the world and among the most outstanding patriarchs the doctrine of the divine Word was transmitted without writing, by the living voice. Therefore God Himself with His own fingers made a beginning of writing in order that He might show how much importance is to be attached to this method, according to which the purity of the doctrine is to be preserved to posterity by writings.

“For the fact that He took tablets of stone on which to write the words of the Decalog there is another reason, which is explained 2 Cor. 3.

“In order that those things which were either to be written through men of God, adorned for this by miracles and divine testimonies, or to be approved by them after they had been written, should not have a lesser authority or no authority at all for the confirmation of dogmas and the refutation of errors, God chose not to write the whole Law Himself, but, having written the words of the Decalog, He gave Moses the command that he should write the remainder from His dictation. And in order that the people of God might be certain that this Scripture of Moses was not introduced by the will of man but was divinely inspired, God gave the testimony of Moses authority through many mighty miracles both before and after the writing, and during the writing itself.

“We have thus shown two things from the most ancient sacred history: (1) that the purity of the heavenly doctrine was not preserved always and everywhere through tradition by the living voice but was repeatedly corrupted and adulterated; (2) in order that new and special revelations might not always be necessary for restoring and retaining purity of the doctrine, God instituted another method under Moses, namely, that the doctrine of the Word of God should be comprehended in writing.

“This is how the Scripture began. Now that this has been shown, it remains that we consider further what use God wanted us to make of the Scripture, and what was to be its dignity and authority. Because the history is clear, we shall be content merely to list the passages.

“Moses included in four books not only the history of his own time, the exodus from Egypt, and what happened during the 40 years in the desert, but his plan was chiefly to write the doctrine of the Law, which God delivered to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai in the desert. Besides, in the first book, he summed up the chief points of the doctrine and faith of the patriarchs, which they had received by tradition, on the basis of the revelation of God Himself from the beginning of the world almost down to his own time, and which they had also professed.

“God commanded that the tables of the Decalog, written by God’s own hand, should be deposited in the ark of the convenant, which was in the holy of holies in the tabernacle. And Moses commanded that his own writings, composed by divine inspiration, should be put into the side of the ark (Deut. 31:25–26). The custody and preservation of this deposit he entrusted to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. He also ordered that the king should have with him a copy of the Law, written according to that which was before the face of the priests and Levites, lest he depart from it either to the right hand or to the left (Deut. 17:18–20). He also commanded that the people should write these words on the posts, the doors, the lintel, and the gates of their houses. (Deut. 6:9 and 11:20)”

From: Examination, Volume 1, pgs. 53-54.


Preparing a New Lutheran Translation of the Bible: A Wise Word of Warning and Caution

July 11th, 2012 4 comments

This is a Bible-copying monk-arm, called “Kuka,” which appears to be a fairly standard industrial robot, reprogrammed to inscribe the entire Martin Luther bible onto a endless roll of paper in a calligraphic style.


My colleague here at Concordia Publishing House, Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, General Editor of The Lutheran Study Bible, The Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary; The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition with Notes (forthcoming); The Lutheran Bible Handbook (forthcoming); Associate Editor of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions; Author of Friends of the Law, to name only a very few of his many projects, has posted a very helpful and instructive caveat, or, frankly, a warning to those who think that doing a “Lutheran” Bible translation will result in some sort of “gold standard” translation that will change little over time. I again encourage you to follow Rev. Engelbrecht’s blog. Ed is a very perceptive theologian and scholar, whose publishing track record is frankly without peer in the history of English speaking Lutheranism. Here is Ed’s caveat.

I recently spoke with someone about Bible translations and we discussed the idea of preparing a specifically Lutheran translation. Among the goals mentioned for such a translation was that it would not go through changes, which would be governed by the concern that Luther raised with the catechism that one should “adopt one version, stay with it, and from one year to the next keep using it unchanged” (Preface to the Small Catechism). In contrast to Luther’s approach, the example of Melanchthon’s revisions to the Augsburg Confession were noted. Melanchthon’s Variata have been roundly condemned for centuries and, since they indicated changes in his teaching, this condemnation was rightly deserved. But the idea that Melanchthon tended to revise texts but Luther did not is a historical fallacy.

I note from M. Reu’s book, Luther’s German Bible, that Luther and his team of Bible editors translated or revised the Psalms in 1524, 1525, 1528, 1531, 1534 and perhaps made minor revisions until they reached the settled text of the 1545 Luther Bible. Luther was driven to translate and retranslate the Psalms because he wanted them to read properly as German poetry. So, criticizing Melanchthon for wanting to change things while praising Luther for leaving things the same simply does not reflect the facts of history. [McCain note: The "Luther Bible" was never a static text until after Luther's death, but up until 1545, Luther and his colleagues were making constant changes and improvements to their translation].

Those who wish to create an unchanging Bible translation are setting themselves up for disappointment. I cannot think of a translation that did not go through revisions or editions. Even the venerable King James went through four revisions and exists in Oxford and Cambridge editions. Any attempt to create a new Lutheran translation will also go through changes—guaranteed. As people use a new translation, from scholars to children, they recommend changes. As translation committees change, they also respond differently to requests and criticisms and so introduce revisions and new editions. It has always been this way and I believe it will always be so, as long as a text remains in use (a text that is not being used, of course, becomes remarkably stable). I certainly understand and empathize with the concern about changes but I thought it important that we get the facts of history straight on this issue. I close with a few words from Luther that illustrate the challenges. In his Defense of the Translation of the Psalms, he wrote:

“Now because we extolled the principle of at times retaining the words quite literally, and at times rendering only the meaning, these critics will undoubtedly try out their skill also at this point. First and foremost they will criticize and contend that we have not applied this principle rightly, or at the right time—although they never knew anything about such a principle before. Yet they are the type who, the moment they hear about something, immediately know it better than anyone else. If they are so tremendously learned and want to display their skill, I wish they would take that single and very common word, chen, and give me a good translation of it. I will give fifty gulden to him who translates this word appropriately and accurately throughout the entire Scriptures. Let all the experts and know-it-alls pool their skill, in order at least to see that actually doing the translation is a wholly different art and task from that of simply criticizing and finding fault with someone else’s translation.” (LW 35:222-223)

It’s Hard to Believe That the WELS is Actually Willing to Endorse the NIV 2011 For Use in Its Congregations

June 27th, 2011 28 comments

Bible Memorization Plan and Tool: Something to Consider for the New Year?

December 27th, 2010 12 comments

I just picked up this great blog post from Justin Taylor of Crossway, who in turn passed this along from Timmy Brister.

In the summer of 2008, I came up with the crazy idea called a “memory moleskine.” The goal was to memorize the book of Ephesians before the end of the year. Since then, that Ephesian memory moleskine has resulted in 4,000+ people joining in. With a number of people desiring to do it again, I pitched the idea of memorizing the book of Philippians beginning in the New Year.

Let’s face it. Memorizing Scripture can be a difficult discipline, especially memorizing long passages of Scripture. In our fast-paced lives of multi-tasking with any number of things vying for our attention, there is a real danger for the Word of God to get squeezed out of our daily lives. More than any other time, Christians need to partner together for the purpose of internalizing Scripture, encouraging one another to abide in the words of Christ, and remembering the weighty truths that center us in God’s work in our lives. To do this, a system for memorizing Scripture has been created called the memory moleskine.

Starting in 2011, I am beginning a project called P2R (Partnering to Remember). The goal is to memorize the entire book of Philippians by Easter Sunday (April 24, 2011) through partnering with other believers using the memory moleskine. Paul praised the church in Philippi for their partnership in advance of the Gospel, and in the spirit of that partnership, this project intends to bring Christians together for the deepening work of God’s Word in their lives. Simply put, I believe we should partner to remember.

Using the Cahier moleskine, I have created a pocket-size notebook that provides a practical and accessible way to memorize Scripture. Through collaboration with The Resurgence, a customized PDF has been created for you to download with a week-by-week outline for memorizing the book of Philippians in 16 weeks using the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. On one side of the moleskine you simply paste the week’s verses to memorize, and on the other side you write your reflections on the verses while indicating how many times you rehearsed them each day. Included in this PDF are encouragements and helps to memorizing and retaining Scripture from Donald Whitney, Andy Davis, and John Piper.

The Cahier moleskine can be purchased either directly from Moleskine or from various bookstores such as Borders or Books-a-Million. My hope is that many Christians will establish a rhythm of remembering God’s Word together through a system that helps access Scripture wherever you are. So I encourage you to join me at the beginning of the New Year with a memory moleskine in your hand that God’s Word may be more treasured in your heart!

How to Make Your Own 2011 Philippians Memory Moleskine

1. Purchase your own Cahier Moleskine (3.5×5.5 size)

2. Download the PDF provided by the Resurgence

3. Cut the weekly Scripture reading according to the border

4. Use double-sided tape to paste the weekly section of verses

5. Find someone who you can partner with for encouragement & accountability

6. Jump in starting January 1, 2011!!!

If you decide to partner with me next year to memorize Philippians, please let me know in the comments. I would love to know who you are! And if you don’t have someone to partner with you, I will attempt to encourage you through my blog. :)

Categories: Biblical Studies

The Whole Bible is About Jesus

August 23rd, 2010 18 comments

People who get the willies about the subject of typology may not like this, I think it is pretty well done. What do you think?

Categories: Biblical Studies

“Genesis Day” Presentation and Q/A Session

August 23rd, 2010 Comments off

On October 10, 2010 (2:00 PM Eastern/ GMT-5), Rev. Dr. Joel Heck of Concordia University, Austin will give a one hour presentation on the Book of Genesis, followed by a question and answer session. While the host congregation will be Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church in North Ridgeville, OH, Dr. Heck will give his presentation from Austin via streaming Internet video. We will, in turn, broadcast this presentation live via our website, Anyone anywhere in the world with a broadband internet connection can watch live. We will also allow viewers to comment and ask questions via our chat boxes. The presentation will be recorded for those unable to watch live.

Local congregations can host a “Genesis Day” if they have access to a large enough screen, displaying the live stream on their screen. If churches need help with setup for this event, we would be happy to help ( ). (And if you’re planning to host such an event, we’d be thrilled to hear about it!)

Following the event, we will begin an ongoing indepth study of Genesis. The discussion will take place on multiple levels and locations. We will meet live to discuss it in person on Sunday evenings at 7 PM (Eastern) at Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church. The conversation will be streamed live, so anyone unable to be present can watch and join in the discussion via chat, Twitter, or Facebook. Those unable to watch live can either watch the recorded class or listen online via podcast or just read the questions online and discuss the questions in the comments section. We will also have forums to discuss tangential topics like the age of the earth, archaeology, and more.

Anyone interested is welcome to attend or participate in any way, regardless of beliefs, background, or location. We encourage church members to use this opportunity to invite their unchurched friends, family, and colleagues.

Get more information and sign up at for updates.

Categories: Biblical Studies

The Inerrancy of Scripture: The Fifty Years’ War . . . and Counting

August 16th, 2010 7 comments

I asked for, and received permission, from Dr. Albert Mohler to share his blog post today, on my blog.  Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  This commentary was originally posted at his blog site, which I recommend you add to your regular blog reading: Dr. Mohler writes:

We are entering a new phase in the battle over the Bible’s truthfulness and authority. We should at least be thankful for undisguised arguments coming from the opponents of biblical inerrancy, even as we are ready, once again, to make clear where their arguments lead.

Back in 1990, theologian J. I. Packer recounted what he called a “Thirty Years’ War” over the inerrancy of the Bible. He traced his involvement in this war in its American context back to a conference held in Wenham, Massachusetts in 1966, when he confronted some professors from evangelical institutions who “now declined to affirm the full truth of Scripture.” That was nearly fifty years ago, and the war over the truthfulness of the Bible is still not over — not by a long shot.

From time to time, the dust has settled in one arena, only for the battle to erupt in another. In the 1970s, the most visible battles were fought over Fuller Theological Seminary and within the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. By the 1980s, the most heated controversies centered in the Southern Baptist Convention and its seminaries. Throughout this period, the evangelical movement sought to regain its footing on the doctrine. In 1978, a large number of leading evangelicals met and adopted a definitive statement that became known as “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.”

Many thought the battles were over, or at least subsiding. Sadly, the debate over the inerrancy of the Bible continues. As a matter of fact, there seems to be a renewed effort to forge an evangelical identity apart from the claim that the Bible is totally truthful and without error.

Recently, Professor Peter Enns, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has argued that the biblical authors clearly erred. He has argued that Paul, for example, was clearly wrong in assuming the historicity of Adam. In Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, published in 2005, he presented an argument for an “incarnational” model of biblical inspiration and authority. But in this rendering, incarnation — affirming the human dimension of Scripture — means accepting some necessary degree of error.

This argument is taken to the next step by Kenton L. Sparks in his 2008 book, God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Sparks, who teaches at Eastern University, argues that it is nothing less than intellectually disastrous for evangelicals to claim that the Bible is without error.

His arguments, also serialized and summarized in a series of articles, are amazingly candid. He asserts that Evangelicalism has “painted itself into an intellectual corner” by claiming the inerrancy of Scripture. The movement is now in an “intellectual cul-de-sac,” he laments, because we have “crossed an evidential threshold that makes it intellectually unsuitable to defend some of the standard dogmas of the conservative evangelical tradition.” And, make no mistake, inerrancy is the central dogma he would have us let go.

God’s Word in Human Words is an erudite book with a comprehensive argument. Kenton Sparks does not misunderstand the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy — he understands it and sees it as intellectually disastrous. “So like any other book,” he asserts, “the Bible appears to be a historically and culturally contingent text and, because of that, it reflects the diverse viewpoints of different people who lived in different times and places.” But a contingent text bears all the errors of its contingent authors, and Sparks fully realizes this.

The serialized articles by Sparks appear at the BioLogos Web site, a site with one clear agenda — to move evangelicals toward a full embrace of evolutionary theory. In this context, Sparks understands that the affirmation of biblical inerrancy presents a huge obstacle to the embrace of evolution. The “evidential threshold” has been crossed, he insists, and the Bible has come up short. The biblical writers were simply trapped within the limits of their own ancient cosmology and observations.

But Sparks presses far beyond this argument, accusing the Bible of presenting immoral teachings, citing “biblical texts that strike us as down-right sinister or evil.” The Bible, he suggests, “exhibits all the telltale signs of having been written by finite, fallen human beings who erred in the ways that human beings usually err.”

When Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks argue for an incarnational model of inspiration and biblical authority, they are continuing an argument first made long ago — among evangelicals, at least as far back as the opening salvos of the battle over biblical inerrancy. Sparks, however, takes the argument further. He understands that the incarnational model implicates Jesus. He does not resist this. Jesus, he suggests, “was a finite person who grew up in Palestine.” While asserting that he affirms the historic Christian creeds and “traditional Christian orthodoxy,” Sparks proposes that Jesus made routine errors of fact.

His conclusion: “If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, [and/or] John wrote Scripture without error.”

That is a breath-taking assumption, to say the very least. But, even in its shocking audacity, it serves to reveal the clear logic of the new battle-lines over biblical inerrancy. We now confront open calls to accept and affirm that there are indeed errors in the Bible. It is demanded that we accept the fact that the human authors of the Bible often erred because of their limited knowledge and erroneous assumptions about reality. We must, it is argued, abandon the claim that the Bible is a consistent whole. Rather, we are told to accept the claims that the human authors of Scripture were just plain wrong in some texts — even in texts that define God and his ways. We are told that some texts are just “down-right sinister or evil.”

And, note clearly, we are told that we must do this in order to save Evangelicalism from an intellectual disaster.

Of course, accepting this demand amounts to a theological disaster of incalculable magnitude. Rarely has this been more apparent and undeniable. The rejection of the Bible’s inerrancy will please the evangelical revisionists, but it will rob the church of its secure knowledge that the Bible is indeed true, trustworthy and fully authoritative.

Kenton Sparks and the new evangelical revisionists are now making some of the very arguments that earlier opponents of inerrancy attempted to deny. In this sense, they offer great clarity to the current debate. Their logic is clear. They argue that the human authors of the Bible were not protected from error, and their errors are not inconsequential. We are talking about nothing less than whether the Bible truthfully reveals to us the nature, character, acts, and purposes of God.

As Dr. Packer said years ago, “[W]hen you encounter a present-day view of Holy Scripture, you encounter more than a view of Scripture. What you meet is a total view of God and the world, that is, a total theology, which is both an ontology, declaring what there is, and an epistemology, stating how we know what there is. This is necessarily so, for a theology is a seamless robe, a circle within which everything links up with everything else through its common grounding in God. Every view of Scripture, in particular, proves on analysis to be bound up with an overall view of God and man.”

The rejection of biblical inerrancy is bound up with a view of God that is, in the end, fatal for Christian orthodoxy. We are entering a new phase in the battle over the Bible’s truthfulness and authority. We should at least be thankful for undisguised arguments coming from the opponents of biblical inerrancy, even as we are ready, once again, to make clear where their arguments lead.

The books by Peter Enns and Kenton L. Sparks deserve a more comprehensive review and analysis, and these will be forthcoming in weeks ahead. You may also expect a response to the challenges addressed to me at the BioLogos Web site.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at Follow regular updates on Twitter at

J. I. Packer, “Thirty Years’ War: The Doctrine of Holy Scripture,” in Practical Theology and the Ministry of the Church, 1952-1984: Essays in Honor of Edmund P. Clowney, ed. Harvie M. Conn (P&R Publishing, 1990), pp. 25-46.

J. I. Packer, “Encountering Present-Day Views of Scripture,” in Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, Volume 1: Honouring the Written Word of God, (Paternoster Press, 1999), pp. 3-22. [quote here from p. 3]

Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, (Baker Academic, 2005).

Kenton L. Sparks, God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship, (Baker Academic, 2008).

Kenton Sparks, “After Inerrancy: Evangelicals and the Bible in a Postmodern Age,”, a series in seven parts, July 5-16, 2010.

Categories: Biblical Studies

The Scriptures are Like Christ: Truly Divine and Truly Human

February 28th, 2010 5 comments

The inerrancy issue remains a problem for many Lutherans, particularly those who have been schooled in higher-criticism. While their sympathies may be with those who hold a high view of Scripture, the term “inerrancy” is a word that makes them uncomfortable. Ironically, inerrant is not nearly as strong a word as infallible. Inerrant just means the Scriptures contain no error. Infallible asserts that the Scriptures are incapable of error. Both terms are rightly used to describe the nature of the Holy Scriptures; however, they are not rightly understood unless they are understood in light of the reality that is Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate. For that reason, I thought it would be interesting to share the Lutheran perspective on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. When we consider the Incarnation, and the reality that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man, we can better understand the nature of the Scriptures as being truly human, though without error. Thanks to Pastor Jay Webber for this collection of quotes on this issue. Source.

The Holy Scripture is God’s Word, written and, so to speak, lettered and put into the form of letters (gebuchstabet und in Buchstaben gebildet), just as Christ, the eternal Word of God, is clothed in humanity. And men regard and treat the written Word of God in this world just as they do Christ. It is a worm and no book compared with other books. (Martin Luther, WA 48, 31 [1541]; quoted in What Luther Says [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959], p. 71)

The Holy Scripture is God’s Word, written and, so to say, spelled out and pictured in alphabetic letters, just as Christ is the eternal Word of God veiled in humanity; and what happened to Christ in the world, happens to the written Word of God also: it is considered a worm and no book over against other books. (Martin Luther, WA 48, 31 [alternate translation]; quoted in Hermann Sasse, “On the Doctrine De Scriptura Sacra,” Scripture and the Church: Selected Essays of Hermann Sasse [Saint Louis: Concordia Seminary, 1995], p. 78)

The word of God is perfectly divine in its contents; but except where the divine form is as necessary as the divine fact, no book is more perfectly human in its form. It is inspired, for it comes from God; it is human, for it comes through man. But remember, we do not say that the human is without the divine. The Spirit is incarnate in the Word, as the Son was incarnate in Christ. There is deep significance in the fact, that the title of “the Word” is given both to Christ, the Revealer, and to the Bible, the revelation of God, so that in some passages great critics differ as to which is meant. As Christ without confusion of natures is truly human as well as divine, so is this Word. As the human in Christ, though distinct from the divine, was never separate from it, and his human acts were never those of a merely human being – his toils, his merits and his blood were those of God – so is the written word, though most human of books – as Christ, “the Son of Man,” was most human of men – truly divine. Its humanities are no accidents; they are divinely planned. It is essential to God’s conception of his Book, that it shall be written by these men and in this way. He created, reared, made and chose these men, and inspired them to do this thing in their way, because their way was his way.
Take up the Bible – read it impartially. You see in it the unity of truth, an agreement in facts, in doctrine and in spirit. It is one book, as “our God is one God.” Just as palpably, however, do you perceive difference in form. You have before you poetry and prose, history, biography, drama, proverb and prophecy. …
It is the great divine-human heart of the Bible, which has made it so varied in eternal freshness. How everything is permitted to shine out in its own light, and the men of all its eras permitted to make their utterances in the spirit of their own time! … These are the contents of the books of the Old Covenant, which their mere names recall.
And what is the New Testament but an unfolding of this same divine humanity? The New Testament is the life of God in human nature. … Through God in Christ, and Christ in man, we are led from the lineage of him in whom the blood royal of the realms of heaven and [of] earth met, to the closing book of broken seals and seals yet to be broken. But with whatever pulse your human heart may beat, God has placed in his book a heart as truly human as your own, to beat with it. …
The great Spirit who lives in the Universe gives it glory and unity; but it is the lower part of it – the material – which gives it variety. (Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Bible a Perfect Book [Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Henry C. Neinstedt, 1857], pp. 10-13)

Read more…

LOGOS 4 is Out and … Wow! Wow! Wow!

November 3rd, 2009 4 comments

Picture 4If you are a fan of LOGOS Bible Software like I am, you are going to be blown away by LOGOS 4, the new version of LOGOS. Be prepared for a long install and library upgrade process if you have a fairly hefty LOGOS library installed, but after a few hours of downloading and library configurating and indexing, I’m up and running with the new LOGOS 4 and I’m loving it. And what’s even more cool is that LOGOS 4 was rolled out with a free iPhone app, so, if you are using LOGOS 4, and are all set up and registered and updated, just download the app, sign in and you’ll have access to all your books. This post is merely my first impression after noodling around with LOGOS 4 for a few hours, but what a quantum leap forward.

How to get it? If you own a LOGOS “library set” as I do, you can upgrade to LOGOS 4 for a fairly minimal amount of money. I paid $60 to updgrade my Original Languages library, and I got a whole lot of other books along with it, in addition to LOGOS 4 itself. To get the LOGOS 4 engine you have to buy at least the “minimal crossgrade” if you don’t own any of the LOGOS libraries.

Here is the skinny on that, thanks to the LogosForLutherans Yahoo Group [which I recommend all Lutherans using LOGOS join, real power users here].

The Minimal Crossgrade is a new set of resources and add-ins that will give you the bare minimum for experiencing the full set of features in Logos 4.

The engine is and always has been free. However, if all you do is download the new engine, there will be some things that the engine can do that you can’t because you don’t have the resources to support it. That won’t limit your ability to do the things that you are generally used to doing in Logos. There are just new things you won’t be able to do because you don’t have the resources or technology add-ins to support it.

A 3.x example would be the Reverse Interlinears and resources with syntactical databases. You could run the 3.0 engine without them, but the Word Study wouldn’t return nearly as useful information as it does with those resources available to it. Reverse searches don’t work without the data found in an RI and a syntax search dialog is useless without something like the NT. You can’t give that data away for free, however, because publishers own it.

In the case of Logos 4, there’s not a ton to be gained without a Minimal Crossgrade other than searching that is likely to be faster. There is a ton of data in the new resources, and the Minimal Crossgrade allows you to buy just those resources and add-ins that make it possible to make use of features that need that data in order to function. Remember that paid version upgrades are not for buying a new engine but for adding books to your library and for generating new kinds of reports from add-in technology. Basic search, viewing, annotating and library management is always free. Books cost money.

As always, all technical support issues and questions need to be directed to LOGOS.COM or by calling LOGOS at 800-875-6467

Categories: Biblical Studies

How Could God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?

October 4th, 2009 4 comments

OTkillingWe don’t ever have to shy away from hard questions. Some of the tough ones are people’s quesions about why God commanded his people to wipe out entire cities and nations of people in the promised land. Here is how one blogger answers the question. What do you think?

This is a good, hard question. The way we answer it will both reflect and inform our understanding of justice and mercy.

The question is about what happens in the book of Joshua when God commands Israel to slaughter the Canaanites in order to occupy the Promised Land. It was a bloody war of total destruction where God used his people to execute his moral judgment against his wicked enemies. In moving toward an answer it will be helpful to think carefully about the building blocks of a Christian worldview related to God’s justice and mercy.

1. As the maker of all things and the ruler of all people, God has absolute rights of ownership over all people and places.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1) “and the sea and all that is in them” (Act 14:15). This means that “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). As God says, “All the earth is mine” (Ex. 19:5) and “every beast of the forest is mine” (Ps. 50:10). God’s ownership of all means that he is also free to do as he wishes over all things. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Within this free sovereignty God “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of [each nation’s] dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). God has Creator rights, and no one can say to him, “What are you doing?” (Job 9:12).

2. God is not only the ultimate maker, ruler, and owner, but he is just and righteous in all that he does.

Abraham asks God the same question that we are asking, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25). The implied answer is, “By all means!” This is the flip side of Paul’s question in Romans 9:14: “Is there injustice on God’s part?” Paul’s answer: “By no means!” Moses will later proclaim, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4).

It is commonplace in our culture to ask whether this or that was fair or just for God to do. But if you stop to think about it, the question itself is actually illegitimate. Merely asking it presupposes that we are the judge; we will put “God in the dock” and examine him; God must conform to our sense of fairness and rightness and justice—if God passes the test, well and good, but if he doesn’t, we’ll be upset and become the accuser. Perish the thought. As Deut. 32:4 says, “all God’s ways are justice”—by definition. If God does it, it is just. To think otherwise is the ultimate act of arrogance, putting your own mind and opinions and conceptions as the ultimate standard of the universe.

This does not, however, preclude humble questioning and seeking in order to gain greater understanding. While it is ultimately illegitimate to ask if God’s ways are just in securing the Promised Land, it is perfectly appropriate and edifying to seek understanding on how God’s ways are just—whether in commissioning the destruction of the Canaanites or in any other action. This is the task of theology—seeing how various aspects of God’s truth and revelation cohere.

3. All of us deserve God’s justice; none of us deserve God’s mercy.

As noted above, God is absolutely just in all that he does. The only thing that any of us deserve from God is his justice. We have broken his law, rebelling against him and his ways, and divine justice demands that we receive divine punishment in proportion to our traitorous, treasonous rebellion. It is fully within God’s rights to give mercy, but he need not give it to all—or to any. It is also helpful to note that in biblical history, an act of judgment on one is often an act of mercy for another (e.g., the flood was judgment on the world but a means of saving Noah; the plagues were judgment on the Pharaoh but a means of liberating Israel). Likewise, the destruction of the Canaanites was an act of mercy for Israel.

4. The Canaanites were enemies of God who deserved to be punished.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”—“None is righteous, no, not one”—and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 3:10; 6:23). Therefore if God destroyed Adam and Eve after the fall he would have been entirely just. When he wiped out over 99.99% of the human race during the time of Noah, he was being just.

Sometimes we can mistakenly think that God just wanted to give his people land and kicked out the innocent people who were already there. But in reality, the Canaanites were full of iniquity and wickedness, and God speaks of the land vomiting them out for this reason (cf. Gen. 15:6; Lev. 18:24-30; Deut. 9:5). All of this is consistent with the fact that God “avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people’s land” (Deut. 32:43).

It’s also important to note Deut. 9:5, which says that Israel’s possession of the land and the Canaanites’ being kicked out would not be due to Israel’s righteousness, but would rather be on account of the Canaanites’ wickedness. God very pointedly tells Israel that if they do not follow the Lord and his law, then they will suffer the same fate as the nations being vomited out of their land (cf. Lev. 18:28; Deut. 28:25-68; cf. also Ex. 22:20; Josh. 7:11-12; Mal. 4:6). God gave his special electing love to Israel (cf. Deut. 7:6-9), but his threats and promises of punishment for unfaithfulness show his fairness and his commitment to justice.

5. God’s actions were not an example of ethnic cleansing.

The Pentateuch (Genesis–Deuteronomy) provides laws for two types of warfare: (1) battles fought against cities outside the Promise Land (see Deut. 20:10–15), and (2) battles fought against cities within the Promised Land (Deut. 20:16–18). The first type allowed for Israel to spare people; the second type did not. This herem practice (the second type of warfare) meant “devotion/consecration to destruction.” As a sacred act fulfilling divine judgment, it is outside our own categories for thinking about warfare. Even though the destruction is commanded in terms of totality, there seems to have been an exception for those who repented, turning to the one true and living God (e.g., Rahab and her family [Josh. 2:9], and the Gibeonites [Josh. 11:19]). What this means is that the reason for the destruction of God’s wicked enemies was precisely because of their rebellion and according to God’s special purposes—not because of their ethnicity. “Ethnic cleansing” and genocide refer to destruction of a people due to their ethnicity, and therefore this would be an inappropriate category for the destruction of the Canaanites.

6. Why was it necessary to remove the Canaanites from the land?

In America we talk about the separation of “church” and “state.” But Israel was a “theocracy,” where church and state were inseparably joined and indistinguishable, such that members of God’s people had both political and religious obligations. To be a citizen of Israel required being faithful to God’s covenant and vice-versa.

The covenant community demanded purity, and egregious violations meant removal (e.g., see Deut. 13:5; 17:7, etc). This also entailed the purity of the land in which they were living as God’s people, and failure to remove the unrepentant from the land meant that the entire nation would be pulled down with the rebellious, resulting in idolatry, injustice, and evil (e.g., Deut. 7:4; 12:29-31)—which sadly proved to be the case all too often under the old covenant.

Christians today are not in a theocracy. We are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 2:11) with no sacred land in this age. We live in the overlap of the old age and the age to come—“between two places” (in the creation that groans—after the holy-but-temporary Promised Land and awaiting the holy-and-permanent New Heavens and the New Earth). In this age and place we are to respect and submit to the governing authorities placed over us by God (Rom. 13:1–5)—but they are not, and should not be, a part of the church (God’s people called and gathered for Word and sacrament). Furthermore, God’s gift of specific, special revelation to the whole church has now ended (cf. Heb. 1:1–2: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”). These factors combine to ensure that nothing like the destruction of the Canaanites—required for the theocracy of Israel to possess the physical land—is commissioned by God or is permissible for his people today.

7. The destruction of the Canaanites is a picture of the final judgment.

At the end of the age, Christ will come to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5), expelling them from the land (the whole earth). That judgment will be just, and it will be complete. That is the day “the Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thess. 1:8–9). Amazingly enough, Paul asks the Corinthians something they seem to have forgotten, if they once knew it: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? (1 Cor. 6:2).

How does this work? What will it look like? I really don’t know. But God’s Word tells us that God’s people will be part of God’s judgment against God’s enemies. In that way, God’s command of the Israelites to carry out his moral judgment against the Canaanites becomes a foreshadowing—a preview, if you will—of the final judgment.

Read in this light, the terrible destruction recorded on the pages of Joshua in God’s Holy Word become not a “problem to solve,” but a wake-up call to all of us—to remain “pure and undefiled before God” (James 1:27), seeking him and his ways, and to faithfully share the gospel with our unbelieving neighbors and the unreached nations. Like Job, we must ultimately refrain from calling God’s goodness and justice into question, putting a hand over our mouth (Job 40:4) and marveling instead at the richness and the mystery of God’s great inscrutable mercy (Eph. 2:4). At the end of the day we will join Moses and the Lamb in singing this song of praise:

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev. 15:3-4)

Thanks to David Reimer, James Grant, Andy Naselli, and Jim Hamilton for reading a draft of this answer and offering counsel and encouragement. I also want to acknowledge the discussion in the Introduction to the book of Joshua in the ESV Study Bible, which was very helpful in thinking through this issue.

How to Read and Understand Leviticus (hint: it all points to Christ)

May 12th, 2009 1 comment

highpriestbeforeark1We have been reading in Leviticus for some time now in Treasury of Daily Prayer, and frankly, I’ve not been particularly thrilled. That is wrong, I know, so I went to my pal Pastor Weedon with my complaint, for I knew he would set me back on the right path. And he did. I encouraged him to blog his answer to me, and he did. So for all of you who are trudging through Leviticus with the rest of us using Treasury of Daily Prayer, don’t miss Pastor Weedon’s remarks.

And, to add to Pastor Weedon’s remarks, I would offer here a quote from John Kleinig’s commentary on Leviticus. Dr. Kleinig offers a great perspective on the apparent baffling litany of all manner of rules and regulations for who can, and can not, minister in the Lord’s presence. What is the point of these excruciatingly detailed holiness laws for the priests of God? It all points to the radical separation of holy from unholy, from the Holy God and evil and sin. And to whom finally do all these things point? Christ. Here then is Dr. Kleinig (suggestion: don’t skip over the Bible texts, put your mouse pointer on them and the Bible verse will pop up for you to read):

“Jesus was appointed God both as the Messiah and the great High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. He became a human being and was anointed at his Baptism so that he could serve as High Priest of the human race (Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38; Heb 2:10-18). The work of the high priests in Israel prefigured His work as the heavenly liturgist (Heb 8:1-2, 6). He now functions as the High Priest in the church (Heb. 2:17; Heb. 3:1; Heb. 4:14-15; Heb. 5:5, 10; Heb. 6:20; Heb. 7:26; Heb. 8:1; Heb. 9:11; see also 1 Clement 36:1; 61:3; 64). Just as the high priest served together with his fellow priests in Israel, so Jesus shares his holiness with his disciples and sanctifies them so that they serve God the Father together with him (Heb 2:11-13). In Baptism, He anoints them with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:21-22; 1 Jn 2:26-27), just as he was anointed, and consecrated them as priests (Acts 26:18; 1 Cor 1:2; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph 5:26). They derive their holiness from him (1 Cor 1:30); they are holy in him (Phil 1:1; Phil 4:21). They therefore serve as priests together with him int he heavenly sanctuary (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; Rev. 5:10; Rev. 20:6). They are involved with him and the angels in the heavenly liturgy (Heb. 12:22-24). Like the high priest in Israel, they never leave the heavenly sanctuary, but always remain on service there (Rev 7:15). Unlike the priests in the OT, the disciples of Jesus have the same degree of access to the Father as their High Priest does, for they come to God the Father in him and together with him (Jn 14:6; Jn 16:23-24; Jn 17:24; Eph 2:18; Heb 7:25). Since they have access to the presence of the Father, they can bring people and their needs to him and bring him and his blessing to them. They are therefore much more privileged than any of the priests at the tabernacle, for they share the status of Jesus and participate in his work as High Priest. As members of God’s heavenly priesthood, Christians receive the holy food that comes from the Lord’s table (1 Cor 10:16-22). They eat the bread of God that comes down from heaven, the life-giving flesh of Christ (Jn 6:33, 51). Since they serve the Living God, they must not once again become involved in “dead works,” deeds that defile and deaden their conscience (Heb 9:14). . . . God has called all Christians to share in His holiness. He shares His life-giving holiness with them through the holy things. (Concordia Commentary  Leviticus, John Kleinig, pg. 454-455; Concordia, 2003). [Note: Yes, the whole book is this good!]

Categories: Biblical Studies

Prophecy in the Old Testament: Typological or Rectilinear? Yes.

May 2nd, 2009 Comments off

prophetI have been reading a few conversations going on elsewhere on a Lutheran discussion forum, as they always do, concerning the subject of whether or not, or to what extent, the content of the Old Testament is predictive of Christ only if it asserted to be words spoken directly of Christ, with no meaning at all, or application, to the context in which they were written, or if the entire Old Testament predicts aspects of Christ’s life and ministry only by way of shadow and type, pointing to Christ, but not directly speaking of Him. Both points of views, if asserted this plainly, in my understanding, are incorrect and improperly reflect the right heritage of Lutheran biblical interpretation and study. Here are a few thoughts. I’ve found particularly useful a document somewhat quietly prepared a number of years ago by the Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations, and it is from that document that I draw a few of the quotes in this post. Here are a few points I would put forward by way of reflection on this interesting and seemingly never ending discussion among confessional Lutherans. I won’t fill the whole screen with this post, so please read through into the “more” section for further important details and quotes. The answer to the question posed in the title of this post is: Yes. This is a case of both/and, not either/or. Here is the CTCR document that you might find helpful: Typology and Prophecy

First, both hyper-typologizing and hyper-rectilinearizing are reactions over against higher critical Biblical studies. Each well intended, but pushing their points too far.

Second, historic Lutheranism knows of neither point of view pushed to an extreme form and manifestation, but admits of both, properly understood.

Third, to suggest that a hyper-rectilinear position is the only point of view advocated and advanced in historic confessional Lutheranism simply is a factual error based on either a misunderstanding or lack of awareness of historic Lutheran exegetical methods. Similarly, to suggest that Old Testament prophecies are only understood to be typologically fulfilled, is equally erroneous.

Fourth, I have found particularly helpful the work of historic Lutheran biblical hermeneuticians upon which Walther and then Stoeckhardt relied heavily. The third/fourth generation Missourians who advanced hyper-rectilinearism were mistaken and had not apprehended the full, rich legacy of Lutheran biblical studies from the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, a position that found a welcome home in the first generations of Missouri Synod Biblical scholarship.

See Robert Preus, The Theology of Post Reformation Lutheranism, 2:328. Here Preus states: “With its emphasis on types in the Old Testament (Melchizedek, Adam, the stairs of Jacob, the sacrifices, the crossing of the Red Sea, the manna, the fiery serpent, etc.) and on direct predictive prophecy where the prophetic words themselves pointed directly to Christ, classical Lutheranism shows that in a sense it regarded the entire Old Testament as typological, as a foreshadowing and a blueprint, as it were, for the work of Christ and the coming of His kingdom. This would account for the fact that the New Testament so often and at times with apparent caprice finds allusions and types and prophecies of Christ throughout the Old Testament. The same Spirit of God is author of the Old Testament Scriptures, which point to the coming Christ and prepare for Him, and of the New Testament Scriptures, which testify of the Christ who has come according to the promises. Still, the old Lutherans were very cautious and generally did not find types lurking within every Old Testament figure; nor did they seek to discover or make anything of prophecy in the Old Testament where the New Testament did not find it. They were careful, too, not to confuse type and prophecy, although to them type was a kind of prophecy. There were times, however, when agreement could not be reached over the classification of certain passages. For instance, Hos. 11:1 . . . .”

Read more…

Categories: Biblical Studies