Thursday, October 02, 2014

“Scripture interprets Scripture” through the centuries

In his work “Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume II (“An Historical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura” Battle Ground, WA: Christian Resources ©2001), William Webster notes that there were a number of “General Principles of Patristic Interpretation” (pg 193). He notes:

While there was disagreement among the Church fathers over the practical application of the interpretation of Scripture, it is important to note that there was general agreement on a number of fundamental exegetical principles which we will examine in some detail.

He lists these principles as follows:

Rereading the OT

Christotelic interpreters (e.g. Doug Green, Dan McCartney, Tremper Longman) like to illustrate their hermeneutic in the following way:

Imagine reading the OT first, apart from the NT. What would it mean to you on a first reading? Then, after reading the NT, go back and reread the OT. What would it mean to you a second time, in light of your exposure to the NT?

Taken by itself, this is a fairly innocuous illustration. Indeed, this illustration is so generic that I doubt it singles out christotelism. Surely critics like Beale could easily co-opt that illustration. 

But now I'd like to make a different point. The illustration is deeply misleading. That's because it's so one-sided. For, if you think about it, we could turn this around.

Imagine if all you had was the NT. Suppose the OT was long-lost and forgotten. Just consider how bewildering the NT would be absent the OT. Commentaries would be written, rife with ingenious speculation about how to explain this baffling, incomplete story. You see, knowing the ending without knowing the beginning or the middle is just as confusing as the reverse. 

In fact, I expect many of us have switched on the TV, and seen a movie in progress. We started watching it about halfway through. As a result, there's a lot we don't follow. If we like what we saw, we may rent the movie to catch the beginning. To see what we missed. Just as what comes later may be crucial to understanding a story, what came before may be crucial to understanding a story. 

Suppose the OT was rediscovered. Imagine reading the NT first, apart from the OT. What would it mean to you on a first reading? Then, after reading the OT, go back and reread the NT. What would it mean to you a second time, in light of your exposure to the OT?

You see, there's a deceptive asymmetry to the christotelic illustration, for the two Testaments are mutually interpreting. The NT helps us understand the OT, yet the OT helps us understand the NT. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Pray For Gretchen Passantino Coburn

I just saw this on Ken Petty's Facebook account:

"Many of my friends may know of Gretchen Passantino-Coburn. Cindee Martin Morgan has posted a very urgent prayer request. Gretchen has suffered a major heart attack and is currently in a hospital, unconscious, and doctors are still assessing the extent of any possible damage to brain and possibly kidneys. Please pray for Gretchen. She is a very well known apologist for the Christian faith and she, with her late husband, Bob, were very active in assisting Dr Walter Martin establish the Christian Research Institute, now headed up by Hank Hanegraaff. She and Bob have deeply touched many of our lives, including mine, and we are very concerned for her and her husband, Pat. Thank you all very much in advance."

With the clouds of heaven

Walton on typology

I'm going to comment on this article because it's germane to the current controversy over Christotelism:

BTW, it's striking that this article was published in the Master's Seminary Journal. Surely Walton's dismissive approach to prophetic or apocalyptic symbolism is wildly at variance with dispensation hermeneutics. It's also ironic that this was published in the Master's Seminary Journal a year after he published his commentary on Genesis.  

By “objectivity” we do not refer to absolute objectivity that allows the interpreter to repress or subordinate culture and perspective totally. We only refer to the procedures that assume that the author is a competent communicator and capable of being understood. In recent terminology we might refer to author orientation (objective) or reader orientation (subjective) with a text orientation able to go in either direction.

i) This involves a false dichotomy. It's true that reader-response theory is radically subjective–where the text means whatever any given reader imputes to the text. For the reader's duty is to ascertain what the author meant, not substitute his own meaning for the author's. It's not the reader's prerogative to create meaning, but discern meaning.

ii) That, however, doesn't mean we can eliminate audiencial understanding. Authors normally write to be understood. Communication involves predicting how your words will be taken. An author writes with a particular kind of reader in mind. He has expectations for the reader. Authors try to write in terms comprehensible to the reader. 

That's why hermeneutics concerns itself with the implied reader. What the author meant is intertwined with what he meant it to mean to the implied reader. In the nature of the case, communication is a two-way street. 

Typology is closest to allegory and perhaps should be treated first. Typology is the identification of a relationship of correspondence between New and Old Testament events or people, based on a conviction that there is a pattern being worked out in the plan of God. Since this correlation is not identifiable until both type and antitype exist, typology is always a function of hindsight. One thing is never identified as a type of something to come. Only after the latter has come can the correspondence be proclaimed. As a result, one will never find confirmation of the typological value of the type in its initial context. This creates a real problem for hermeneutics which maintains that achieving the results of typology depends on an analysis of the context.

i) To begin with, the past/future relation isn't confined to typology. You have the same past/future relation in reference to prophecy.

ii) In addition, it concerns a spatial as well as temporal relation. What is the text about? The world outside the text. A nonfiction text as real-world referents. The text refers to things outside the text. 

Walton is treating Scripture as if it's a fictional, self-referential narrative. For that matter, even historical fiction has some real-world referents. It's only certain types of fantasy or science fiction (e.g. Perelandra) that have no objective, referential dimension. And even Perelandra is somewhat allegorical. 

Identifying the objective referent is something the reader must do whenever interpreting a nonfiction text. You don't stay inside the text. You ask yourself what it corresponds to. 

The Bible was never intended to be a self-contained text, uncontaminated by readers or referents. The reader has a duty to correlate textual descriptions with extratextual realities. 

How should the interpreter come to a conclusion that one thing is a type of another? Since typology involves the identification of a relationship, the interpreter must detect some similarity between the proposed type or antitype.

Once again, that process applies to any nonfiction text. 

The first observation we must make is a very significant one. The NT typologists did not get their typological correspondence from their exegetical analysis of the context of the OT. Hermeneutics is incapable of extracting a typological meaning from the OT context because hermeneutics operates objectively while the typological identification can only be made subjectively. 

That takes for granted his arbitrary disjunction. 

A second observation that needs to be made is that the NT authors never claim to have engaged in a hermeneutical process, nor do they claim that they can support their findings from the text; instead, they claim inspiration.

To the contrary, they often give supporting arguments. That's why they engage in prooftexting. And sometimes they explain how their prooftext supports their claim. 

Prophetic literature, especially of the apocalyptic variety, is replete with symbols. Here the problem is somewhat different from that which we just addressed. We do not have to deal with NT authors interpreting the meaning of symbols that occur in OT apocalyptic. Nevertheless, many interpreters of prophetic literature assume that it is their task and indeed, their mandate, to identify what each symbol in the text stands for. Again we must notice immediately that hermeneutics is of little use in this endeavor. If the text identifies what a symbol stands for (e.g., horns = kings) then no interpretation along those lines is called for. If the text does not identify what a symbol stands for, then hermeneutics provides no basis for arriving at a conclusion unless it can be demonstrated that the symbolic reference was transparent or self-evident in the culture or literature.

Does he apply his strictures to the interpretation of poetry, viz., Dante, Shakespeare, T. S. Elliot? 

The speculation that often characterizes interpretation of symbols has no place within the historical-grammatical method. Rather than assuming that interpretation requires us to identify the meaning of symbols we need to be content to focus our attention on the message of the text, itself identifiable by means of hermeneutical principles and guidelines. Some would find it unthinkable that God would include these symbols in His revelation if He did not wish us to interpret them. An alternative is to understand that the revelation God intended to convey is in the message of the prophecy rather than one found in the symbols. If the text does not reveal the meaning of the symbols, I would assume that the message can be understood without unearthing what the symbols stand for.

This disregards symbolic communication. Symbolism is, itself, communicative. Telling by showing. He drives a wedge between symbolism and the message, as if symbolism is not in itself a mode of messaging or signaling. 

One does not have to be an experienced exegete to notice that Hosea 11:1 in its context appears to have little connection to the use Matthew puts it to when he identifies Jesus as fulfilling it. 

It's an analogy. You have to wonder how he developed such a cramped understanding of communication theory. 

As I have written elsewhere,14 I believe that it is essential for us to see clearly the distinction between the message and the fulfillment. The message of the prophet was understood by the prophet and his audience and is accessible through the objective principles of historical-grammatical hermeneutics. Fulfillment is not the message, but is the working out of God’s plan in history. There are no hermeneutical principles within the grammatical-historical model that enable one to identify a fulfillment by reading and analyzing the prophecy. Like types, symbols and role models, fulfillment is often a matter of making a subjective association. As a result, we need not be concerned with adjusting our concept of Hosea’s message so that it can accommodate Matthew’s idea of fulfillment. Biblical authority is not jeopardized when the message and fulfillment are not the same. They are different issues and are arrived at through different means. One can gladly accept Jesus as the fulfillment of Hosea 11:1 without seeing any more in the message of Hosea than Hosea and his audience saw. Hosea is proclaiming a message, not revealing a fulfillment. Matthew is not interpreting the message, he is identifying fulfillment. 

God, the human author, or the prophet, intended the audience to make that association. The association isn't extraneous to prophecy or typology. Rather, that's the aim of prophecy and typology. That's intrinsic rather than extrinsic to the function of prophecy and typology. 

Hosea,however,could not anticipate how, when, or in what ways his words would find fulfillment in the outworking of God’s plan. His message did not include any information about fulfillment. That was to be unveiled in later revelation.

True, but that doesn't prove his point. 

Planting evidence

Tremper Longman and William B. Evans are contending that opponents of Christotelism (e.g. Greg Beale) are working with a Dispensational hermeneutic. Although there's nothing wrong with raising that issue, I'd simply point out, at the risk of stating the obvious, that their objection cuts both ways. How did the secularists at Harvard and Yale Divinity schools impact Longman, Green, and Enns? 

Now I'd like to turn to an article by McCartney:

I want to suggest a third answer: The New Testament writers were not doing grammatical-historical exegesis nor did they consistently interpret according to original historical contextual meanings, but we should follow their exegetical lead anyway.

This imposes a false dichotomy on McCartney's opponents, as if we must choose between apostolic exegesis and grammatico-historical exegesis. But people like me reject the way he frames the issue in the first place.

So far as I can tell on the basis of the New Testament texts themselves, when the apostles used the Old Testament they never asked questions like “what did this text mean in its original historical context of several hundred years ago.” 

i) One problem with that claim is that it fails to take into account what the apostles or NT writers are trying to do on any given occasion. Much of the time, what we get in the NT is analogous to sermons rather than commentaries. We get their conclusions rather than the process by which they arrived at their conclusions. To take a comparison, a studious pastor will do serious sermon prep. But in preaching, he may simply give his interpretation, rather than sifting through the alternatives–even though he had to do that himself. 

It depends on the audience. It depends on the occasion. What are you trying to accomplish?

ii) There are, however, polemical situations where an apostle or NT writer will take the time to argue for his position. To present his process of reasoning. He will do that to show why his opponents are mistaken. When that happens, we find apostles/NT writers doing the very thing McCartney denies they do. Carson gives some illustrations:

But when Paul as a Christian and an apostle reads the same texts, he insists on preserving the significance of the historical sequence. Thus in Galatians 3, Abraham was justified by faith before the giving of the law, and the promise to him and to his seed similarly came before the giving of the law. That means that the law given by Moses has been relativized; one must now think afresh exactly why it was given, "added" to the promise. Again, in Romans 4 Paul analyzes the relation between faith and circumcision on the basis of which came first: it is the historical sequence that is determinative for his argument. Nor is this approach exclusively Pauline. In Hebrews, for instance, the validity of Auctor's argument in chap 7 turns on historical sequence. If Psalm 110, written after the establishment of the Levitical priesthood at Sinai, promises a priesthood that is not tied to the tribe of Levi but to the tribe of Judah, and is thus bringing together royal and priestly prerogatives in one person, then the Levitical priesthood has been declared obsolete in principle. Moreover, if this new king-priest is modelled on ancient Melchizedek, himself a priest-king, there is also an anticipation of this arrangement as far back as Genesis 14. In other words, where one pays attention to links that depend on historical sequencing, one has laid the groundwork for careful typology. The argument in Hebrews 3:7-4:13 similarly depends on reading the Old Testament texts in their historical sequence: the fact that Psalm 95, written after the people have entered the Promised Land, is still calling the covenant people to enter into God's rest, demonstrates that entry into the land was not itself a final delivery of the promise to give them rest. Moreover, the reference to "God's rest" triggers reflection on how God rested as far back as Genesis 1-2--and thus another typological line is set up, filled in with a variety of pieces along the historical trajectory. Ultimately, this insistence on reading the Old Testament historically can be traced back to Jesus himself. 
- See more at:

Back to McCartney:

The few times they come close to doing so, they sometimes reject the original historical context as not particularly relevant. (e.g. 1 Cor 9:9, “Is God concerned with oxen? Does it not speak entirely for our benefit?”)

I'm struck by how many people trip over this verse. I don't think that's Paul's interpretation of the verse, but Paul's inference from the verse. It's not as if Paul is denying that the verse refers to oxen. I don't think he's saying the verse is not about oxen–that it's really about people. 

It's not a question of what the verse means, but what it implies. (Of course, the implication is grounded in the meaning.) He's drawing an analogy. Hounting an a fortiori (a minore ad maius) argument. Paul is reasoning from the lesser case of animals to the greater case of humans. If God even cares for animals, how much more for humans. If God makes provision for animals, he will surely make provision for Christians or ministers of the Gospel. 

Evidently, McCartney doesn't see it that way, but he gives us no reason to agree with him. 

Typology is not grammatical-historical...Typological interpretation sees an ancient historical/textual item as a symbol for a recent and more significant historical item...Both typological and allegorical are taking the historical meaning of a text as symbolizing something else.

How is that contrary to grammatico-historical exegesis? Take poetry. Take metaphors, where one thing symbolizes something else. Is poetry unsuitable to the grammatico-historical method? We when interpret Dante, do we not take his medieval Italian Catholicism into account? 

Typology is a theological construction based on a conviction that two events in history or an event in history and a (separate) event in a text are somehow actually related (not just comparable or similar, nor just literarily related) in that the meaning of the former event (or the written record of such) only becomes fully manifest in the later event. Such a construction cannot be derived purely from the events themselves. Historical meaning indeed provides a tethering point for typology, but what drives typology is the fulfilment in Christ, not the historical meaning itself.

That principle isn't confined to typology. Prophecy has an analogous principle. Both prophecy and typology involve a relation between past and future. Both have prospective and retrospective vantage-points. 

Grammatical-historical exegesis is only a very limited method, which doesn’t always get us where we need to be, because grammatical-historical interpretation is strictly interested only in what may be derived from original historical human meaning.

One problem with this objection is the equivocation. What does he mean by the "original historical context"? Does he mean within the lifetime of the writer/speaker and his immediate audience?

If so, that fails to make allowance for genre. Take prophecy. Prophecy is inherently future-oriented. The fulfillment may skip over the first-generation audience. The fulfillment may take place long after the prophet's death. In the case of long-range prophecy, the original historical setting isn't necessarily the primary interpretive context. By the time the prophecy is fulfilled, the situation may change. It's not as if time stands still from the proclamation to the realization. The historical conditions in which the oracle comes to pass may be quite different from the historical conditions in which it was given. It's almost inevitable that the passage of time with alter the circumstances–although the future situation may sometimes be analogous. 

Typology is similar. If prophecy employs predictive words, typology employs predictive events. Historical precedent. Like prophecy, typology is inherently future-oriented. Although the original historical context marks the starting point, that was never the intended endpoint. 

Grammatical-historical method does not, and by its very nature cannot, deal with the special hermeneutical considerations of a divine text. A text written by several individuals from different cultures over the course of several centuries, which is at the same time authored by One who knows where history is going before it gets there, is inherently unique. Grammatical-historical interpretation proceeds on the assumption of the similarity of its text to other texts. The Bible is indeed a text like other texts, but it is also in certain ways sui generis, and thus requires something more.

i) This objection suffers from an obvious oversight: he's discussing how NT texts interpret OT texts. But even if you grant his assertion that "grammatical-historical interpretation proceeds on the assumption of the similarity of its text to other texts," NT texts are, in fact, similar to OT texts inasmuch as both sets of texts are "divine texts." Therefore, by his own logic, the grammatico-historical method is applicable to Scripture. 

ii) Having said that, he fails to explain, much less defend, his contention that "grammatical-historical interpretation proceeds on the assumption of the similarity of its text to other texts." But that's not self-explanatory. 

“Pure” grammatical-historical method in Old Testament study does not give us the gospel. 

I suppose that depends on how we define our terms. Obviously, the Mosaic covenant is not the new covenant. There are discontinuities as well as continuities. However, salvation in OT times involves faith in the one true God. Contrition for sins. A sacrificial system. And divine forgiveness. That may not be the "gospel" in the full, progressive revelatory sense of the word, but it's a difference of degree rather than kind. 

But then we are, after the fact, able to see how the Old Testament is as a whole, moving toward the gospel. A second reading, a re-reading of the Old Testament from the standpoint of knowing its eventuation in Christ, manifests what God was doing all along.

The question at issue is whether the "second reading" finds something in the OT that isn't really there. Is it like a crooked detective who plants evidence, then "discovers" the evidence he added after the crime. 

Unity Before The Reformation

Then the Protestants came along and ruined it.

"But when the attitude of our foes against us was changed from one of long standing and bitter strife to one of open warfare, then, as is well known, the war was split up in more ways than I can tell into many subdivisions, so that all men were stirred to a state of inveterate hatred alike by common party spirit and individual suspicion. But what storm at sea was ever so fierce and wild as this tempest of the Churches? In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of opinion has been shaken: everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken down. We attack one another. We are overthrown by one another. If our enemy is not the first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side. If a foeman is stricken and falls, his fellow soldier tramples him down. There is at least this bond of union between us that we hate our common foes, but no sooner have the enemy gone by than we find enemies in one another. And who could make a complete list of all the wrecks? Some have gone to the bottom on the attack of the enemy, some through the unsuspected treachery of their allies, some from the blundering of their own officers. We see, as it were, whole churches, crews and all, dashed and shattered upon the sunken reefs of disingenuous heresy, while others of the enemies of the Spirit of Salvation have seized the helm and made shipwreck of the faith. And then the disturbances wrought by the princes of the world have caused the downfall of the people with a violence unmatched by that of hurricane or whirlwind. The luminaries of the world, which God set to give light to the souls of the people, have been driven from their homes, and a darkness verily gloomy and disheartening has settled on the Churches. The terror of universal ruin is already imminent, and yet their mutual rivalry is so unbounded as to blunt all sense of danger. Individual hatred is of more importance than the general and common warfare, for men by whom the immediate gratification of ambition is esteemed more highly than the rewards that await us in a time to come, prefer the glory of getting the better of their opponents to securing the common welfare of mankind. So all men alike, each as best he can, lift the hand of murder against one another. Harsh rises the cry of the combatants encountering one another in dispute; already all the Church is almost full of the inarticulate screams, the unintelligible noises, rising from the ceaseless agitations that divert the right rule of the doctrine of true religion, now in the direction of excess, now in that of defect. On the one hand are they who confound the Persons and are carried away into Judaism; on the other hand are they that, through the opposition of the natures, pass into heathenism. Between these opposite parties inspired Scripture is powerless to mediate; the traditions of the apostles cannot suggest terms of arbitration. Plain speaking is fatal to friendship, and disagreement in opinion all the ground that is wanted for a quarrel. No oaths of confederacy are so efficacious in keeping men true to sedition as their likeness in error. Every one is a theologue though he have his soul branded with more spots than can be counted. The result is that innovators find a plentiful supply of men ripe for faction, while self-appointed scions of the house of place-hunters reject the government of the Holy Spirit and divide the chief dignities of the Churches. The institutions of the Gospel have now everywhere been thrown into confusion by want of discipline; there is an indescribable pushing for the chief places while every self-advertiser tries to force himself into high office. The result of this lust for ordering is that our people are in a state of wild confusion for lack of being ordered; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered wholly purposeless and void, because there is not a man but, out of his ignorant impudence, thinks that it is just as much his duty to give orders to other people, as it is to obey any one else. So, since no human voice is strong enough to be heard in such a disturbance, I reckon silence more profitable than speech, for if there is any truth in the words of the Preacher, 'The words of wise men are heard in quiet,' in the present condition of things any discussion of them must be anything but becoming. I am moreover restrained by the Prophet’s saying, 'Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time,' a time when some trip up their neighbours’ heels, some stamp on a man when he is down, and others clap their hands with joy, but there is not one to feel for the fallen and hold out a helping hand, although according to the ancient law he is not uncondemned, who passes by even his enemy’s beast of burden fallen under his load. This is not the state of things now. Why not? The love of many has waxed cold; brotherly concord is destroyed, the very name of unity is ignored, brotherly admonitions are heard no more, nowhere is there Christian pity, nowhere falls the tear of sympathy. Now there is no one to receive 'the weak in faith,' but mutual hatred has blazed so high among fellow clansmen that they are more delighted at a neighbour’s fall than at their own success. Just as in a plague, men of the most regular lives suffer from the same sickness as the rest, because they catch the disease by communication with the infected, so nowadays by the evil rivalry which possesses our souls we are carried away to an emulation in wickedness, and are all of us each as bad as the others. Hence merciless and sour sit the judges of the erring; unfeeling and hostile are the critics of the well disposed. And to such a depth is this evil rooted among us that we have become more brutish than the brutes; they do at least herd with their fellows, but our most savage warfare is with our own people." (Basil of Caesarea, On The Holy Spirit, 30:77-8)

The Texas takeover

Tremper Longman has an update on the Machiavellian machinations at Westminster:
But why is Bruce getting this unprecedented honor at Westminster? There are many others from Westminster’s past who deserve acclamation. I would suggest two reasons. First, it is part of an attempt to distract us from what appears to be a strategy of narrowing the theology of the Seminary.
I appreciate his insight. I look forward to subsequent posts in which he gets to the bottom of Area 51, the Apollo moon "landings," and the International Jewish Conspiracy.
But this also tells us something about why Westminster is changing in the direction it is hermeneutically. Bruce, Peter and Greg and others (notice that this celebration is being co-sponsored by others from Dallas) are all part of a group that were associated with Dallas seminary forty or so years ago (Dave Garner also has a DTS background).
Their spiritual leader was S. Lewis Johnson of Believers Chapel. This group departed from their DTS background by rejecting dispensationalism, but they maintained a more literalist understanding of interpretation which includes a commitment to meaning found in the conscious intention of the human author.
Without question, this theology stands behind their rejection of Christotelic and affirmation of something that they call a Christomorphic reading of the New Testament use of the Old Testament.
That's very perceptive. However, his theory suffers from a prima facie inconcinnity‎ After all, aren't Carl Trueman, Iain Duguid, and Vern Poythress key players in this crypto-Dispensational takeover? In the interests of consistency, Tremper needs to rope them into the Texas cabal. Permit me to supplement Tremper's narrative. 
This all got started in the kitchen of W. A. Criswell. His mansion had a farmhouse kitchen with a big round table where he and his drinking buddies (Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, John Walvoord, S. Lewis Johnson) used to play poker into the wee hours of the morning. That's where the plot was hatched to infiltrate the flagship of Reformed seminaries. They knew that dispensationalism wouldn't triumph unless they could sabotage Calvinism from within. A decapitation strike. The plan was to infiltrate Westminster with dispensational plants. 
So they needed recruits. Tremper has already done us a service by outing some of the spies. But what about the Texas connection vis-a-vis Trueman, Duguid, and Poythress?
To begin with, those are not their real names. Trueman is a pun for "man of truth", while Duguid is a pun for "do-gooder". So these are pseudonyms. Isn't it obvious? Like, duh!
Then there's Poythress. Honestly, does that sound like a real name to you? How many of your high school classmates had that surname? Think about it?
Here's a clue: is it just coincidental that Poythress is an anagram for "others spy"? I think not! He's a spy for Criswell and his cohorts. I mean, what could be more obvious?
Don't let that hokey English accent fool you: Trueman was born and bred in Amarillo. Trueman's real name is Boobie Miles. When he thinks nobody is listening, he sounds just like Rick Perry. He learned to fake that English accent by imitating Michael Caine in Alfie. 
Trueman's original ambition was to play for the Dallas Cowboys. That's before he blew out his kneecap at a homecoming game.
That's why he's always making fun of football. It's part of his cover. He bashes football to deflect attention away from the fact that he played football in high school. 
Then there's Poythress. He's actually from Paris, Texas. His real name is Sonny Crawford. His boyhood dream was to be a rodeo star. That's before he tore his rotator cuff from bronc riding. 
Then there's Duguid. He's from Archer City. His real name is Duane Jackson. He picked up his fake accent by imitating Christopher Timothy in All Creatures Great and Small. He was a teenage gas station attendant until the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in a beer bottle and commanded him to make a pilgrimage to First Baptist in Dallas. That's where he met up with his coconspirators. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The moral right to bear arms

HT: Paul Manata

Who am I in Rom 7?

i) Rom 7 is a well-known crux. What is Paul talking about? Is this autobiographical? If so, is Paul referring to his pre-Christian situation or his Christian situation? If the former, is he considering that from his pre-Christian viewpoint or his Christian viewpoint? 

Some think it's about Paul coming-of-age. Conversely, some scholars think it's not about Paul. Some think it's about Gen 3. Before and after the Fall. Some think it's about Israel. Before and after she received the law. Some think it's about humanity in general. Some combine two or more perspectives, viz. Israel recapitulates Adam. 

ii) One consideration is the question of how this section functions in Paul's overall argument. In Romans, Paul discusses the law in relation to Jews and Gentiles alike. So which group does he have in view here? Jews, gentiles, or both? And that can be broken down further. Christian gentiles or pagan gentiles? Jewish Christians or non-Jewish Christians? 

iii) This is further complicated by how we think Paul understands the relationship between the old covenant and the new covenant. Is there still a sense in which Christian are "under the law," or is that defunct? 

iv) Apropos (iii), there's the additional question of how sinfulness relates to lawlessness. Even if you say Christians are no longer under the law, Christians remain sinful. Even if we don't define sinners as lawbreakers, there's still a tension between sin and sanctification. Paul makes that abundantly clear in his letters. 

Keep in mind, too, that some things which were unlawful in the Mosaic code would still be sinful for Christians. They aren't sinful because they're unlawful; rather, they're unlawful because they're sinful. It's still sinful for Christians to commit theft, adultery, or murder (to name a few). Swapping categories doesn't affect the underlying issue, for the inability to keep the law goes back to our fallen condition.

v) We also have "confessional" literature in the OT, viz. Ezra 9, Neh 9, Dan 9, Ps 32, Ps 51. The tension or struggle we see in Rom 7 has OT counterparts. That's not confined to the Mosaic law. That's due to our fallen condition. That's something the regenerate experience, whether Christians or OT saints. 

vi) There are some problems with the Adamic interpretation:

a) If Paul is referring to the Fall, why doesn't he just say so–like did in Rom 5? Why be so oblique? Likewise, why does he quote from the Decalogue rather than Gen 2:17 if the latter is really in view? 

b) Gen 3 isn't about the temptation and deception of Adam, but Eve. By contrast, Rom 5 is about Adam rather than Eve. Moreover, Paul elsewhere denies that Adam was deceived (1 Tim 2:14). 

That doesn't necessarily rule out an allusion to Gen 3. But it can't be the exclusive or primary referent.

I don't think the coming-of-age interpretation has much going for it. To begin with, we have no evidence that bar Mitzvah was a 1C rite of passage. More to the point, kids hit the age of reason (or discretion) well before they hit adolescence. And Jewish kids were always obliged to honor their parents. 

Casting the issue in terms of law, which–in context–has reference to the Mosaic law, renders it unlikely that Paul is talking about humanity in general. 

vii) My own best guess is that Paul is using the rhetorical "I" to personify different ways of experiencing the law. I don't think he singles out a particular experience. Rather, he's using that literary device to generalized about different groups in relation to the law.

I also think there's probably an autobiographical element to his personification. He's a representative of Judaism and Christianity alike. He's been on both sides of the law–as a Pharisee, and then a Christian. I expect his personal experience had a suggestive influence in how he cast Rom 7. But I don't think it's reducible to his personal experience. The comparison is more generic. A mirror. How it looks reflects the looker. But there are commonalities. 

Prophetic events

One of the issues in the current debate over "Christotelism" is whether grammatico-historical exegesis rules out typology. Many scholars claim that apostolic exegesis violates grammatico-historical exegesis inasmuch as NT authors don't understand OT texts or events in the same way OT authors understood them. They are superimposing a different meaning onto the original. Supplanting the original sense. 

There is, however, considerable evidence that OT writers understood some OT persons, places, and events typologically. This isn't just a matter of how NT authors understand the OT, but how OT authors understand the OT. A typological interpretation of the OT is not unique to NT writers. In the OT itself, we already have typological motifs, viz. new Eden, new Exile, new Exodus, new David. This views certain events as paradigmatic events with subsequent counterparts. 

Far from violating grammatico-historical exegesis, it is consistent with the grammatico-historical method to make allowance for how OT authors understood OT history. Indeed, it would contradict the grammatico-historical method if NT commentators failed to take their cue from how OT authors understood OT history. 

Of course, one reason many scholars reject typology is because they operate with a secular outlook. They don't believe in a God who prearranges history so that OT persons, places, and events have this symbolic, forward-leaning significance. That's why they regard typological interpretation as fanciful. Their underlying objection is metaphysical rather than hermeneutical. They deny the teleological nature of OT history. They don't think persons, places, or events can be prophetic. 

Messianic psalms

i) The current kerfuffle regarding the reorganization of the OT dept. at WTS has reignited debate over the sense in which the OT "points" to Jesus. Take the so-called messianic psalms. Ps 22 is traditionally classified as a messianic psalm, but Ps 23 is not. Is just a subset of the 150 psalms messianic. If so, what criterion distinguishes messianic psalms from non-messianic psalms? Or is there a sense in which the whole Psalter is messianic? 

And, of course, this question extends to the OT generally. Does the OT contain messianic types and prophecies? Or is the entire OT messianic? If so, how so?

ii) From a Christian standpoint, we can mount a pretty simple and direct argument that Ps 23 is about Jesus. If Jesus is God, and God is a shepherd, then Jesus is David's divine shepherd. 

iii) The sense in which the whole OT is messianic is not that every sentence, person, place, or event is a cipher for Jesus. Rather, it turns on the overall function or purpose of the OT. If the primary purpose of the OT is to document man's hopeless condition, and his desperate need for salvation, then that necessity points to a Savior. In that functional or teleological sense, the whole OT is messianic. That's how the OT is fulfilled

iv) You also have scholars like Alec Motyer, Desi Alexander, and John Sailhamer who mount the argument from prophecy, not based so much on individual oracles, but messianic motifs. An evolving expectation. Or certain categories, viz. the new Adam, new David, divine warrior, promised seed, suffering servant. 

v) Now let's revisit (i). I suspect the reason that only some of the psalms are traditionally classified as messianic presumes the relation between the messianic prophecy and the argument from prophecy. The argument from prophecy is predicated on the premise that "the prophets foretold events whose occurrence could not have been humanly foreseen" (C. S. Evans).

Therein lies its evidential value. A prediction whose fulfillment could not be humanly foreseen or humanly arranged. This supplies independent evidence for the claim. Separable from prior belief in Jesus. 

Ps 22 is traditionally classified as messianic because it seems to be predictive. It's hard to read without seeing how uncannily it corresponds to the Crucifixion. The specificity is arresting. Of course, some people challenge that, but my immediate point is not to defend it but to state the rationale.

By contrast, Ps 23 doesn't seem to be predictive or evidential. If you already believe that Jesus is Yahweh, then you can infer that this is about Jesus. But by itself, the Ps 23 doesn't give you any independent reason to believe it points to Jesus. It's not a messianic in that sense. It might be messianic, but not predictive–as defined by the argument from prophecy. 

Should we classify messianic psalms as messianic prophecies? If so, then it's harder to classify the entire Psalter as messianic. Perhaps, though, that classification system is unduly influenced by the argument from prophecy–where the fulfillment has autonomous evidentiary value. Something you can appreciate apart from what you already believe about Jesus. 

The argument from prophecy is biblical, and important to Christian apologetics. But should it control how we classify OT messianism? 

An OT and NT bibliography

Check out Steve's OT and NT bibliography.

Is Christotelism code language for secularism?

Peter Enns has a new book out. Here's a review that's all the more damning because it's a sympathetic review from a fellow liberal:

However, critics will likely remain dissatisfied with the radical nature of Enns’ proposal. And in key respects it is radical. While Enns is certainly committed to the historical nature of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, he sets aside the question of history for vast tracts of Israel’s story, including the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), Moses, the Exodus, the giving of the Law, the occupation of Canaan, and so on. 
What is more, while Enns spends more than two hundred pages discussing scripture, one is hard pressed to find a clear statement of Enns’ own doctrine of inspiration. Instead, one finds statements that will strike many critics as vague and understated. For example, he observes that the Bible is “the main way for Christians today to learn about God, the go-to sourcebook for spiritual comfort, guidance, and insight.” (3) This certainly is true. The question is why. What is it about this text that makes it unique? Later in the book Enns states: “The Bible carries the thoughts and meditations of ancient pilgrims and, I believe, according to God’s purpose, has guided, comforted, and informed Christians for as long as there have been Christians.” (234, emphasis added) This is a good statement and it is surely correct. But it is also inadequate for a doctrine of inspiration since Augustine’s Confessions would fit this description equally well. Once again we’re left wondering, what is it about the Bible that makes it unique? Just how does this incarnation metaphor function vis-à-vis scriptural inspiration and authority? 
I also see Enns being vulnerable to the consistency charge. Enns lays out his operative principle when discussing the extraordinary nature of the stories of Genesis and Exodus:
“If we read these sorts of episodes outside of the Bible, from another ancient culture, we wouldn’t blink an eye. We’d know right away we were dealing with the kinds of stories people wrote long ago and far away, not things that happened, and certainly nothing to invest too much of ourselves in.” (4)
Based on that observation, Enns thinks we ought to be consistent and conclude that these biblical stories of deep history are best understood as a type of myth that helped form an ancient culture. Fair enough, but then one might reply that the ancient world also has many miracle claims, healers, teachers and messianic pretenders. So why accept the Jesus claims whilst discounting all the others? 
The third and final concern comes not from the conservatives who fear Enns is on a slippery slope to heresy, but rather from those who might wonder why he hasn’t gone further yet. This brings me back to his claim that the tribal warrior conception of God was an “adequate understanding of God for [the Israelites] in their time, but not for all time”. As I noted above, one might legitimately wonder in what sense it could ever be adequate to understand God as a bloody and capricious “Megatron”. And if it can’t, then why not just toss the texts rather than attempt to retain them with a vague incarnational metaphor?

Harmonizing Gen 1-2

To some extent it seems to me that Currid's explanation is an answer to a pseudoproblem:

I appreciate Currid outflanking Halton on Hebrew grammar. That said, I think Currid should challenge Halton's tacit assumptions. 

i) To begin with, Gen 1-2 could only be dischronologous assuming they both cover the same ground. Yet near the end of his reply, Currid notes, in one fleeting sentence, that

It is true that the two chapters of Genesis view the creation event from two different angles or perspectives. Genesis 1 paints the creation of the cosmos in a sequential, broad stroke, whereas Genesis 2:4-25 presents an elaboration of the sixth day and focuses primarily on the creation of mankind. 

But if, unlike Gen 1, Gen 2 isn't narrating the creation of fauna and flora in general, but only fauna and flora specific to the garden, then I fail to see how there's even a prima facie dischronology between the two accounts. Only if they cover the same ground would a different sequence generate a chronological discrepancy.

ii) Moreover, suppose, for the sake of argument, that they are dischronologous? So what? How does that falsify inerrancy? It would only falsify inerrancy on the assumption that the narrator meant to report events in chronological sequence or else that he was supposed to report events in chronological sequence. 

Take the Synoptic Gospels. Inerrantists grant that the Gospel writers sometimes rearrange the original order of events. They may group some sayings or events logically rather than chronologically. But that isn't false. Rather, they can be true in different respects. A sequence can be true with respect to time or true with respect to topic. A thematic arrangement relates material thematically rather than chronologically. But that's true, too, as long as they do, indeed, share a common theme.

So we need to distinguish between chronological time and narrative time. Inerrancy allows for both. 

Halton operates with a simplistic criterion of inerrancy. The way he frames the issue is flawed from the outset. 

Is this a warning signal to inerrantists?

The fundamental problem with books like this is that they fly in the face of what seems obvious to everyone else who doesn’t already hold the a priori belief that everything the Bible says must be true, just because the Bible says it. To paraphrase something Nick Trakakis wrote in another context, “Defenses of genocidal behavior by the OT god turn a blind eye to what seem clear and obvious to everyone else — that such behavior makes a mockery out of what any person would consider morally justifiable behavior.”[1]

i) I'm happy to concede that we defend things we think are true which we wouldn't defend if we didn't think they were true. I don't regard that as a damning admission.

ii) Since Bible writers clearly viewed this behavior as morally justifiable, to say it "makes a mockery out of what any person would consider morally justifiable behavior" preemptively excludes anyone who disagrees with Jeff. Nice circular logic. "Obvious to everyone else" is code language for "anyone who happens to share Jeff's sentiments." 

iii) As I've explained elsewhere, the commands aren't "genocidal." Jeff is simply parroting what others say rather than thinking for himself.

iv) Then there's the standing irony of atheists who ride around on their moral high horse. But Jeff doesn't attempt to show how atheism can justify moral realism. 

And even if atheism could justify moral realism, that falls went short of showing how ephemeral, fortuitous organizations of matter (i.e. humans) have rights.