Books and Articles finished, March 2014

Books

Rowland, Tracey. Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

This is an excellent survey of Benedict XVI’s theology. Rowland begins with an explanation of the various competing groups within Roman Catholicism before and after Vatican II; discuses different views regarding nature and grace; outlines Catholicism’s views of culture, economics, and politics; explains Benedict’s views on Scripture and Tradition; discusses the relation of love to morality in Benedict’s theology; and overviews Benedict’s approach to liturgy.

I found the opening chapter with its discussion of differing factions within Roman Catholicism the most interesting. Rowland identifies these groups as the Neo-Thomists, the French Ressourcement scholars, and the German and Belgian transcendental Thomists. The Neo-Thomists emerged in the Counter Reformation. The developed a "two-tier" view of nature and grace in defense against Protestant teaching about depravity. Rowland notes that at Vatican II the Ressourcement scholars and the Transcendental Thomists united to defeat the Neo-Thomists. By the 1970s these two groups had split. Rowland notes that Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II "straddled . . . both circles." Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI is located with the Ressourcement group. The Ressourcement scholars opposed the Neo-Thomists because they worried that their dualism "unwittingly fostered the secularization of western culture." The Transcendental Thomists, led by Karl Rahner, were much more sympathetic to modernity than the Ressourcement theologians. Whether Ratzinger is conservative or not depends on one’s location. Rowland notes that he is not conservative from the perspective of a Neo-Thomist. He is "decidedly" so from the perspective of the Transcendental Thomists.

One interesting aspect of the nature/grace discussion is that theologians like Herman Bavinck leveled criticism against Roman Catholicism for its nature/grace dualism. Recently some have criticized Bavinck for misreading Thomas. Yet it is important to recognize that Bavinck was reading Thomas as he had been read by Roman Catholics from the time of the Reformation until Vatican II.

Though Rome has moved closer to a Protestant position on nature and grace (thus making it an attractive ally for Protestants in the culture wars), the substance of many Protestant concerns remain. Rowland unpacks Benedict’s view of purgatory and indulgences at one place. She notes his support for Mariology to balance masculine aspects of the church. Benedict’s views of Tradition and Scripture as well as his views of the liturgy also place him at odds with orthodox Protestants. In addition, conservative Protestants may well find that he has conceded too much to modernist scholars in his biblical interpretation. Worship practices also remain a point of division between Rome and Protestantism, though on the matter of music, traditional Protestants will find themselves in agreement with the pope emeritus: "Ratzinger concludes none the less that it is difficult to lay down a priori musical criteria . . . —’it is easier to say what ought to be excluded than included.’ He is, however, quite sure that all rock music should be excluded, ‘not for aesthetic reasons, not out of reactionary stubbornness, not because of historical rigidity but because of its very nature,’ which is neo-Dionysian."

For someone looking for a careful, detailed study of Ratzinger’s theology, which opens a window onto the theological schools and debates of modern Roman Catholic theology, there is probably not a better book.

Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. The Oxford History of the United States. Edited by C. Vann Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

This is another well-written contribution to the Oxford History of the United States. Of course any history of the Great Depression has to reckon with competing economic theories, and any history that largely covers the years of the Roosevelt presidency has to reckon with competing, partisan evaluations of FDR. Kennedy identifies himself twice in the book as embracing a Keynesian approach to economics. In interviews about the book he identifies himself as personally occupying a center-left political position. He noted, however, that he thought it his duty as a historian to write with fairness and accuracy rather than to champion his own political point of view. I believe Kennedy largely succeeded. I read this volume along with Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man. Reading the two together gave a pretty good feeling for center-left and center-right interpretations of the Depression. The World War II section of the book covers material more familiar to many readers, but this book provides a good survey of the war.

Broadus, John Albert. Memoir of James Petigru Boyce. A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893.

James Boyce is a significant figure in American Baptist life. He recognized the importance of an educated Baptist ministry, and he devoted his life to seeing a Baptist seminary founded in the most adverse of circumstances. John Broadus, a close friend and co-laborer with Boyce in this work, is in many ways an ideal biographer.

In addition to telling the life of the man, Broadus also does an excellent job describing the school he gave himself to founding. For instance, there is a fascinating chapter that explains how the curriculum of Southern Seminary was set up so that students with limited education and students with college degrees and knowledge of the languages could learn together effectively. There are insights here that could well be applied to small seminaries around the world that face similar situations.

As a resident of Greenville, SC, the first location of Southern Seminary, I found additional interest in Boradus’s descriptions of the falls on the Reedy River, Paris Mountain, and other Greenville landmarks. Also interesting were his remarks on church life in the Greenville area. Greenville and its environs have long been blessed with many faithful gospel ministries. This is a heritage to cherish and perpetuate.

Nettles, Thomas J. James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009.

Thomas Nettles’s biography at times reads more like a nineteenth century biography than Broadus’s. It is overloaded at times with details that could have better summarized into key points. In general I preferred Broadus’s biography to Nettles. That said, Nettles gives an excellent account of the case of C. H. Toy. Broadus touched on the issue but did not delve into it. Since there are so many similarities in Toy’s move toward liberalism and some segments of left-leaning evangelicalism, that section is valuable. Nettles also gives a very helpful overview of Boyce’s theology that is lacking in Broadus’s Memoir. I’m glad I read both books, but if I were to read only one book on Boyce, it would be Broadus’s.

Articles

Anyabwile, Thabiti. "The Glory and Supremacy of Jesus Christ in Ethnic Distinctions and over Ethnic Identities." In For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. Edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Reflections on John Piper’s theologically informed efforts to combat sins of discrimination against people of various ethnic backgrounds. Key ideas include common creation as image bearers of God, God’s sovereignty in the formation of people groups, God’s delight in the variety of ethnicities as shown by Revelation 5, and the unity that Christians of all ethnicities have in Christ.

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation. Edited by Timothy McDermott. Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 1989. [Dispositions, Virtue, Sin and Vice; 220-75.

There is a renewed emphasis on Thomas as a biblical scholar in the literature these days. Thomas scholars are translating and commenting on Thomas's biblical commentaries as a counterbalance to the caricature that he was primarily a philosopher theologian rather than a biblical scholar. And yet, in reading this section of the Summa I more than once wished that Thomas would have justified his theological claims by interacting with Scripture. More specifically, I'd like to see some scriptural grounding for Aquinas's adoption of Aristotle's virtue ethics and some discussion about how this ethical approach connects with the Scriptural themes of law and grace.

Vos, Arvin. Aquinas, Calvin, and Contemporary Protestant Thought: A Critique of Protestant Views on the Thought of Thomas Aquinas. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. [Read chapters on faith; pp. 1-40]

Vos compares the thought of Aquinas and Calvin on various points. His thesis is that Aquinas and Calvin are in less conflict than normally thought (thought he grants some points of conflict). He takes Calvin’s critiques of the Schoolmen to be directed more at the Parisian theologians than at Aquinas (with whom he thinks Calvin was relatively unacquainted). In general Vos may well be right, though he seems inclined from the outset to minimize differences. His balancing position may itself need to be balanced.

Luther on Psalm 110:2

Psalm 110:2: “The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies” (ESV).

How do you harmonize the statement that this King is to sit at the right hand of God and is to be almighty God and Lord with the fact that He is always to have many enemies and to meet with resistance of various sorts? Indeed, He is to be surrounded by enemies, as David also says later on: “Rule in the midst of Thy enemies.” How is it possible to say this of such a powerful King and the Lord of all creation? Why should He endure those who thirst to fight Him and who show themselves as enemies?

Luther, Works, 13:246.

But Christians have no armor and weapons. They must become the victims of their enemies and allow themselves to be plagued and tortured, killed and massacred. The whole issue presents itself to our senses in such a way as though this Christ were able to do nothing at all against these enemies, but had to succumb and go to pieces, together with His flock and kingdom.

This exactly is the great offense. Here is where human reason and all the wisdom of the world are offended; for “if this Christ actually were the kind of king who sits at the right hand of God, He would not rule in such a fashion.” … Well, why does God act this way? Those smart alecks and critics of God and His Word and work will neither know nor understand this but become fools with their intelligence and wisdom (Rom. 1:22), deceiving themselves. But it is disclosed to Christians that they may learn the true, divine wisdom through which He wants to be recognized. The reason is that this kingdom is to be a kingdom of faith, in which God rules in a manner strange and different from what men are able to understand or conceive. Therefore His wisdom, authority, and power are hidden to all reason. In fact, He will demonstrate them precisely by the opposite, which is called foolishness, frailty, and nothing everywhere and by all men. Thus it may be known, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. 1:25), that what appears to be foolishness in His Word and work is wiser than all the wisdom and intelligence of men, and that what appears to be weakness in Him is stronger than all the strength and power of men. Therefore in this kingdom He does not want to be a God and Savior of the strong, mighty, wise, and holy—as human reason would like to see Him, and as it also pictures Him—who do not need such a God. He wants to be a God and Savior of the weak, the unwise, the insignificant, the miserable and afflicted poor sinners who certainly need such a God and Savior. This He does in order to make them strong while they are weak, righteous and joyful while they are convinced and frightened by sin, alive and blessed while they suffer and die; as He says (2 Cor. 12:9): “My power is made perfect in weakness.” He does this, and must do it, especially to thwart and vex both His enemies, the devil and the world, that they may experience in the end what His wisdom, authority, and power—which they judge to be impotent and V 13, p 254 nothing—really are and can do.

Luther, Works, 13:252-54.

To put it succinctly, the enemies are defeated and subdued by the divine power and miracle alone, without the resistance of the Christians or any physical power at all. “For I will do it Myself,” He means to say here, “and in such a way that Christians will need neither armor nor sword nor weapons. Let them remain quiet and do nothing but attend to their duty of preaching about this Lord and His kingdom, and tell how God has ordained Him King at the right hand of God and Lord of all creation. Let Me handle those who despise and reject this or oppose themselves to it and persecute the Christians for it. I will take care of revenge. I will put a damper on their power and might and will overthrow them. I have more than enough power and might to lift them out of their thrones and cast them under the feet of this Christ. Sufficient for Christians—and let this be their comfort—is My promise that their enemies shall not accomplish their designs; for I have ordained it and spoken the judgment that they shall and must become the footstool of this Christ, whether they like it or not.”

Luther, Works, 13:255-56.

Homosexual Actions and the Race Analogy

The belief that homosexual acts are immoral is not the same kind of claim as the belief that black people are inferior because they are black. When we deem homosexual acts immoral, we are not stigmatizing a class of persons; we’re exercising our moral reason about the rightness and wrongness of actions. Unlike racism, principled opposition to homosexual rights has a firm basis. It’s normal to judge behavior, including (and perhaps especially) sexual behavior. That’s why describing homosexual acts as immoral is not at all like calling black men and women inferior. To merge sexual liberation into the civil-rights movement dramatically raised the stakes in public debate. The Selma analogy makes traditional views of sexual morality as noxious as racism, and in so doing encourages progressives to adopt something like a total-war doctrine. The implications is that people who hold such views should have no voice in American society and that homosexuality should be aggressively affirmed in our public and private institutions, while dissent is punished.

R. R. Reno, "The Selma Analogy," First Things (May 2012): 4-5.

Some Thoughts on Legalism

Dan Doriani in this post outlines four classes of legalists: (1) Those who believe they can "earn God’s favor" and merit salvation, (2) those who "require believers to submit to man-made commandments, as if they were God’s law," (3) those who "obey God and do good in order to retain God’s favor," (4) those who "so dwell on God’s law that they neglect other aspects of the Christian life."

Among conservative Christians there is broad agreement that class 1 is unbiblical and is legalism.

Class 2 is where much of the debate exists. It is no doubt true that a real danger exists in exalting man-made rules to the status of divine commands. But there is also a danger in not allowing for applications of Scripture that extend beyond the explicit letter of Scripture. This too is a form of legalism. So it would be legalism to insist that, as a timeless divine directive, men should not wear beards or women should not wear jeans. But it is also legalism to deny that a father could tell his son, "I don’t want you to dress or groom in a way that identifies you with a certain subculutre known for its opposition to God" or say to his daughter, "I don’t want you to wear this specific style of clothing because it is immodest" (or vice versa).

Class 3 also deserves some clarification. If by retaining God’s favor Doriani means maintaining one’s salvation or position in Christ before God, this certainly would be legalism. It would be a variant of class 1. If it means that the person thinks he has to work his way back into God’s favor after sin, then that also would be legalism. However, it is not legalistic to understand that God is pleased when we obey him and displeased when we disobey him; (1 Pet 1:7; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 12:5-6). This is a difficult truth to keep balanced. Christians must rest in the fact that God is unchangeably their Father who loves them and freely forgives them while also recognizing that their sin grieves God’s Spirit and can result in chastening. To employ a Puritan distinction, Christians should have a filial fear of God, but not a servile fear. They must recognize that God does chasten, but he chastens those he loves.

Class 4 is, I think, more properly labeled moralism, which the OED defines as "religion consisting of or reduced to moral practice; morality practised impersonally or without sympathy." Labels aside, however, Doriani is correct that a Christianity that consists of checking off the boxes next to a list of rules is sub-Christian, not least because it neglects the two great commandments upon which all the Law hangs. Of course Christians who are concerned about loving God and the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness are also concerned to tithe mint and dill and cumin (Matt 23:23). These need not, ought not, be pitted against each other.

Books and Articles Read in February 2014

Books

Austin, Jane. Sense and Sensibility.

Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home, Volume 1: A Holy Vision for Family Life. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2013.

This is one of the best expositions of Ephesians 5:21-6:4 that I’ve encountered. Gouge does an excellent job of explaining the text, explaining difficulties, and reconciling apparent contradictions. His seventeenth century perspective is an advantage rather than a liability because it enables us to see this text through different cultural eyes. In this regard his comments on equality were especially insightful. Reformation Heritage has done an excellent job in laying out the text, inserting headings and footnotes, and making the text readable for a contemporary audience.

Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. Knopf, 2013.

Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

The gist of Nagel’s argument is that Neo-Darwinism cannot provide a materialist explanation for consciousness, cognition, and values. The explanations they do offer actually undermine our ability to have confidence in our reason―including the reasoning for Neo Darwinism. Nagel rejects theism and intelligent design (while appreciating their work and defending their critique of Neo Darwinism) for what seems to be a teleological evolutionary approach that embraces panpsychism rather than materialism. I found the critique compelling (aside from some spots that I had difficulty following). The positive vision was left underdeveloped because a paradigm shift in science would be necessary to develop it, Nagel says. Christian theism would provide answers to the questions that Nagel raises, but Nagel doesn’t consider theism in the book because he is "strongly averse" to the idea of God.

Hensley, Alexia Jones. Hidden History of Greenville County. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2009.

This book contains interesting accounts from Greenville county ranging from the colonial period until the early twentieth century. For the resident of Greenville, it reveals the stories behind the names of local neighborhoods, roads, and landmarks. At times the book could  benefit from better organization. Maps that pinpointed the locations of the events discussed in the book would  also add to its value.

Denault, Pascal. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism. Solid Ground Christian Books, 2013.

Denault proposes that the root of the difference between Particular Baptists and Paedobaptists of the Seventeenth Century was their different covenant theologies. Both held to similar views of the Covenant of Works, but they differed regarding the Covenant of Grace. Paedobaptists argued that the Covenant of Grace had a single substance but different administrations. The New Covenant was simply a different administration of the Covenant of Grace. The Baptists, on the other hand, held that the New Covenant was indeed something new and distinct from the Old Covenant. Regarding the Mosaic Covenant, Paedobaptists disagreed about whether it was part of the Covenant of Grace and unconditional in nature or whether it was akin to the Covenant of Works and distinct from the Covenant of Grace. The Baptists held that all the Old Testament Covenants were part of Old Covenant. This is why circumcision, a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, is so closely connected with the Law. In this view Abraham was given the promises of the Covenant of Grace, but the Covenant of Grace, though progressively revealed in the Old Testament, was not enacted until Christ. The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. Thus Abraham stands at the head of two seeds, a physical and a spiritual. Once Christ comes the purposes of the physical seed and its covenant are finished. Unlike the Old Covenant, which was mixed, the New Covenant is unconditional, entirely effective, and made up entirely of those who know Christ.

Denault does a good job of introducing the reader to significant seventeenth century figures from both sides of the debate. Nehemiah Coxe is introduced as the Baptist who most clearly developed this version of Covenant Theology, though other Baptists, such as Benjamin Keach, are also drawn on. Interestingly, though not a Baptist, John Owen is also claimed to have held the Baptist Covenant position. This is especially clear from his Hebrews commentaries.

Overall Denault seems to have presented the historical information clearly and accurately. This is not merely a historical monograph, however. Denault wishes to recover Baptist Covenant Theology for the present day. I found this position most convincing when critiquing the Paedobaptist one-covenant-under-many-administrations approach. I think the case for a disjunction between the New Covenant and Old is clear. And I am in full agreement that the New Covenant is a unconditional, effective, and unmixed covenant. The equation of the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant is more convincing than the Paedobaptist construct of a Covenant of Grace made up of many different biblical covenants. However, this Baptist Covenant Theology has its own construct: the Old Covenant. In Scripture it seems clear that the Old Covenant and First Covenant are the Mosaic Covenant. Despite providing an explanation for the connection of circumcision and the Law, I’m not convinced exegetically that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants can all be subsumed under one Old Covenant.

Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. New York: HarperOne, 2013.

Darwin’s Doubt is a sequel to Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. The earlier book told the story of the discovery of DNA and made the argument that the origin of life (with its information-bearing DNA) could not be explained apart from an intelligent designer. Meyer also makes the argument in that book for Intelligent Design qualifying as science. In the Prologue to Darwin’s Doubt Meyer notes that most of the critiques to Signature argued that mutation and natural selection could account for biological evolution. Meyer notes that these critiques missed the point since Signature was addressing the origin of life rather than the evolutionary development of life. It is the latter topic that he addresses in Darwin’s Doubt. The central story in Signature was the discovery of DNA. The central story in Darwin’s Doubt is the discovery and explanations that surround fossils in the Cambrian explosion. With the Cambrian explosion a wide variety of different forms of life appear in the fossil record with no developmental precedents in the fossil record. Meyer guides the reader through the various theories that have been proposed to explain or explain away the Cambrian explosion and finds why, even according to Neo-Darwinists, they are found wanting. He concludes that Neo-Darwinism cannot account for the new genetic information necessary for the Cambrian explosion "because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functioning genes and proteins, and (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information to build a body plan" (411). As with Signature, Meyer concludes that the new information must come from a designer.

Young earth creationists reading Meyer’s work must recognize the extent of both their agreements and disagreements with Meyer. Meyer is an ally in his critique of Neo-Darwinism. This is so not only in the major thesis of the book but also, perhaps, on the issue of common descent as well. He also notes that Intelligent Design dose not necessarily reject common descent (411). Nevertheless, he does seem to provide a critique. He notes that Darwinists have proposed multiple conflicting trees and have resorted to convergent evolution to explain similarities that in divergent branches. Meyer notes that "invoking convergent evolution negates the very logic of the argument from homology, which affirms that similarity implies ancestry, except–now we learn–in those many, many, cases when it does not" (133). I was left unclear as to whether Meyer himself embraced common descent, but his arguments seemed to provide ammunition against it. Despite the helpful information provided by Intelligent Design, Christians must recognize that it is not sufficient. Reconciling science and the Bible has to go far beyond simply affirming the existence of a designer–even a Designer believed to be the God of Scripture (which Meyer, an evangelical, affirms). The Bible also contains exegetical information that explains how creation takes places and theological teaching about the goodness of the original creation and the effects of the fall into sin. Because Intelligent Design simply affirms the existence of a designer, it often accepts account of science that remain at odds with Scripture. Nevertheless, Meyer provides an eminently readable, well-argued critique of Neo-Darwinism.

Grudem, Wayne and Barry Asmus. The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.

The thesis of Grudem and Asmus’s book is that the solution to national poverty is to produce more goods and services. They further argue that the free market system is the best economic system for producing greater numbers of goods and services. Grudem and Asmus defend the free market system by arguing that it promotes virtues such as freedom, integrity, care for others, punctuality, courtesy, and fairness. The further argue that free markets moderate selfishness and greed and result in better care for the environment. They conclude with the conditions that are necessary for a free market system to work: the governmental conditions, the necessary liberties, the necessary cultural beliefs. They argue that governments must establish the rule of law, an impartial justice system, eliminate or make rare corruption. The government must have enough power to protect its people against crime, disease, invasion, contract and patent violations, and environmental destruction while at the same time having its powers limited and separated so that it does not stifle economic growth. Necessary freedoms include: freedom to own property, to travel, to start businesses, to work a job of one’s choice, etc. These freedoms must exist not merely legally but also practically. Important cultural values include: belief in God and in a final judgment, honesty, productivity, education, patriotism, etc.

Overall, I believe Grudem and Asmus are right. The solution to poverty is to produce more goods and services and free market economies do this better than other forms. However, I was left with two questions. (1) What are the other goals that a society ought to have? Does the free market system ever stand in tension with these other goals? For instance, they highlight the importance of a society being willing to change in order to compete. This is certainly true on a technological level. But certainly Christians have to resist cultural changes that erode aspects of culture shaped by Scripture. All citizens should worry about societal change that undermines social cohesion. (2) How has the Fall affected the free market system? I’m suspicious when Christians can’t locate the effects of the Fall on a certain area of life. This often happens in discussions on music. It seemed to happen in this book’s discussion on economics. The free market system was held up as the solution. I would have found the book more convincing if they had noted the effects of the Fall and how to mitigate them.

These criticisms noted, overall I found the book a helpful read. I think the authors established their primary point.

Clendenin, E. Ray and David K. Stabnow. HCSB: Navigating the Horizons in Bible Translations Nashville: B&H, 2012.

The last decade and a half has seen the emergence of several new or revised Bible translations. Often with these translations come books that explain and defend the translation philosophy of a given translation. Leland Ryken has written several books that do this for the ESV. This book was written to explain and defend the philosophy behind the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The authors argue for making a fresh translation rather than revising a translation with roots reaching back to Tyndale. They defend a translation philosophy that values many of the priorities of functional equivalence but which is willing to sacrifice them at points where naturalness and clarity are at stake. Thus the HCSB will seek to follow reflect the grammar and even word order of a passage, but it may render an idiom with an equivalent or resolve an ambiguity with a translation that reflects a specific interpretation. The authors also discuss specific translation decisions such as use of Yahweh, Messiah, and slave in many cases instead of Lord, Christ, or bondservant. The authors also provide a primer on textual criticism.

This is an interesting read for those who wish to peer behind the scenes of a good Bible translation. In comparison with Ryken’s books, this work is more accurate in discussing linguistic issues. Ryken has a better understanding of literary issues. Thus I remain unconvinced regarding the treatment of metaphors that Clendenin and Stabnow promote. Ryken and this volume also clash on the value of revisions versus fresh translations. I think both male excellent points, and in this regard I’m happy to use both translations. Regarding the specific translation issues, some (such as the use of Yahweh and Messiah) I like while on others, such as the use of "slave", I remain ambivalent.

Overall I prefer the ESV as my primary translation. I prefer its preservation of original metaphors when practical and approve of their choice to do so when the metaphor is understandable in English rather than only when it is natural, as in the HCSB. Nonetheless, I often turn to the HCSB and I am often impressed with their translational choices.

Articles

Schafer, A. Rachel. "Rest for the Animals? Nonhuman Sabbath Repose in Penateuchal Law," Bulletin for Biblical Research 23.2 (2013):167-86.

Argues that the care for animals, both domestic and wild, specified in the Sabbath commands (book weekly and every seven years) implies responsibilities for animal care. The exegesis of the article does support the claim that humans are to give requisite care to God’s animal creation. The concluding footnote that suggests becoming a vegan is the best practical way to exercise this care does not follow from the argument.

Hannon, Michael W. "Against Heterosexuality." First Things (March 2013): 27-34.

Argues that the heterosexuality/homosexuality constructs are recent (mid-nineteenth century), already being questioned by LGBTQ academia, and probably on their way out once their usefulness in creating civil rights analogies grants the legal status and compulsions desired. Hannon argues that Christians should resist the construct on the grounds that sinful behavior should not be embraced as an ontological identifier. In addition the label "heterosexuality" should not be used to designate a "normal" that obscures other kinds of sin.

Peter Lombard. The Sentences, Book 4: On the Doctrine of Signs. Translated by Giulio Silano. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2010. pp. 136-233 [Extreme unction, ecclesiastical orders, marriage].

This section of The Sentences deals primarily with marriage. Given the prominence of marriage in contemporary political discourse, this discussion is very interesting. Peter’s view stands in stark contrast with the prevailing American view of marriage, as the following quotation demonstrates: "And so the principal final cause for the contracting of marriage is the procreation of offspring. For it for this that God instituted marriage between our first parents., to whom he said: Increase and multiply, etc.—The second is, after Adam’s sin, the avoidance of fornication; hence the Apostle: Because of fornication, let each man have a wife and each woman her husband.—There are also some other honourable causes, such as the reconciliation of enemies and the re-establishment of peace.—There are also other less honourable causes because of which marriage is at times contracted, such as the beauty of the man or the woman, which often impels spirits inflamed with love to enter into marriage so that they may fulfil their desire. Advantage also, and the possession of riches, frequently is the cause of a marriage, as are also many others, which it is easy for anyone with diligence to discern" (Bk. 4, Dist. 30, ch. 3.2 [§180]). It is interesting that beauty and passion ranks low with Lombard whereas they probably rank toward the topic in the modern conception whereas procreation is far more significant as a purpose of marriage than it probably is for most moderns. And yet Lombard is also a significant reminder that appealing to traditional views of marriage is not sufficient for the Christian, for he sees the physical delight of a husband and wife in each other as a venial sin. Scripture, not tradition or contemporary culture, must be the touchstone of our views on marriage.

Land: Genesis 7

Land words occur in Genesis 7 at a higher percentage per verse than in any other chapter in Genesis.[1] Land words occur in several contexts in the chapter. In several instances God is promising to keep alive earth-creatures by bringing them on the ark: “to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth” (7:3); “. . . and of everything that creeps on the ground, tow and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah (7:8-9); “and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth . . . went into the ark with Noah” (7:14-15). In several other instances the emphasis is on the death of all creatures not in the ark: “and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground” (7:4); “and all flesh died that moved on the earth . . . all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth” (7:21); “everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died” (7:22); “he blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground” (7:23); “they were blotted out from the earth” (7:23). Finally, earth is repeatedly the destination of the great flood: “I will send rain on the earth” (7:4); “. . . when the flood of waters came upon the earth” (7:6); “the waters of the flood came upon the earth” (7:9); “and rain fell upon the earth” (7:12); “the flood continued forty days on the earth” (7:17); “the waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth” (7:17); “the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth . . .” (7:18); “and the waters prevailed on the earth” (7:24).

It is clear from these verses that the earth stood at the center of God’s judgment, that the earth-dwellers faced certain death unless they received rescue and life through the ark. The centrality of the earth to this judgment is made clearer by the many echoes back to Genesis 1 in these chapters.[2] In the Flood God is reversing the creation and then recreating his earth. This shows the great extent of the judgment—sin required a recreation. It also shows the depth of sin—even a recreation and washing of the earth with water cannot rid the world of the problem of sin. Finally, it demonstrates the centrality of the earth for God’s purposes. Land plays a large role in the promises of God, and it plays a large role in the judgments of God.

A number of different land words are used in Genesis 7. אֶ֫רֶץ is the most common (14x). אֲדָמָה occurs three times. In verse 4 it is used to recall the curse of Genesis 3:17-19.[3] In 7:23 it is used alongside אָדָם, which may be a literary association designed to highlight that man who came from the ground is returning to the ground.[4] חָרָבָה, which means “dry land” or “dry ground” is used in 7:22 to note that all life on the dry land died in the Flood.


[1] In terms of straight number of occurrences, only Genesis 1, 41, 47 exceed chapter 7.

[2] Mathews, 1:376; Wenham, 1:182; Sailhamer, 80.

[3] Mathews, 1:373.

[4] Mathews, 1:381.

Zechariah 14: Premillennial or Amillennial?

Zechariah 14 is one of the key texts that support s premillennial eschatology. In this chapter the Second Coming of the Messiah is described. He returns and stands on the Mount of Olives (14:4; Acts 1:11-12), conquers his enemies (14:3, 12-15), and reigns as king over a restored earth (14:8-9, 16). And yet the chapter indicates that some of the nations will refuse to come to Jerusalem to worship. As a result they will be judged with drought (14:16-19). The presence of disobedience and judgment after the return of the Messiah supports the conception of a Millennial period that precedes the New Heaven and New Earth.

Greg Beale proposes an amillennial reading of this chapter. He suggests that the event of this chapter are focused on the church age. In his first coming Christ defeated the nations (Ps. 2:8-9, which begins to be fulfilled at the resurrection). The judgment Zechariah speaks of is judgment on nations that “feigned” belief in Christ during the church age.

This interpretation is not compelling. It ignores the broader context of Zechariah 12-14, which focuses on Israel’s restoration in the last days. It neglects that Psalm 2, while beginning to be fulfilled with the resurrection, is not completely fulfilled until the return of the Messiah. Also correlation of this passage with other passages points towards locating this chapter at the Second Coming rather than at the church age (e.g., 14:4; Acts 1:11-12).

Beale also raises two objections against the premillennial reading. First, he notes that Zach. 14:11 (alluded to by Rev. 22:3) says there will be no more curse. This verse cannot be referred to the eternal state because “v. 11 is a continuation of a narrative of the period directly following God’s defeat of the unbelieving nations in vv. 1-3, which is narrated again in vv. 12-15, all of which directly precedes the purported millennial period.” Second, Beale says this passage is inconsistent with premillennialism because it involves judgment during the Millennium whereas premillennialists believe the judgment occurs at the end of the Millennium.

This second objection is easily dismissed. There is nothing inconsistent with national judgments taking place on disobedient nations during the Millennium and a final judgment of individuals at the end of the Millennium. The first objection is also easily answered by paying attention to the details of the text. Verse 11 does not say the entire earth will be free from the curse. The context of verse 11 is in the land of Israel and not the earth as a whole. Verse 10 specifies boundaries that identify the land under consideration. The focus of both verses 10 and 11 is clearly Jerusalem. So in context verse 11 speaks of the removal of the curse in the land of Israel (or perhaps more specifically, in Jerusalem). The allusion to this verse in Revelation 22:3 does not contradict this interpretation. Old Testament promises to Israel are often expanded beyond their original specifications by the NT (the New Covenant being a primary example). There is nothing inconsistent in the curse being removed from Israel or Jerusalem during the Millennium with that blessing being extended in the New Earth and New Jerusalem.

Bibliography:

G. K. Beale, "The Millennium in Revelation 20:1-10: An Amillennial Perspective," Criswell Theological Review, NS 11, no. 1 (Fall 2013): 61-62.

Books and Articles Read in January 2014

Books

Geertsema, J. Always Obedient: Essays on the Teachings of Dr. Klaas Schilder. P&R, 1995.

Klass Schilder (1890-1952) was a Dutch pastor and professor in the generation following Kuyper and Bavinck. He is notable for standing within the tradition developed by Kuyper and Bavinck while also dissenting from Kuyper at key points. He is also notable for his opposition to dialectical theology (Barthianism) and to the Nazi occupation of Holland. The book provides a brief biography of Schilder and includes essays on several aspects of his thought: Scripture, covenant, the church, culture, and heaven. Fundamentalists will appreciate Schilder’s resistance to Barthian approaches to Scripture and his resistance to ecumenical unity with Barthians and other unorthodox groups. At the same time he strongly held that Reformed Christians ought to be more united. Those from the free church tradition will disagree with the way he maps out this unity institutionally, but should appreciate his emphasis on both unity and purity. Baptists will also disagree on his thoughts regarding the covenant, since he includes children in the covenant. Yet we would appreciate his opposition to Kuyper’s views of presumptive regeneration and eternal justification. Regarding Christ and Culture, Schilder strongly believed in the importance of Christians participation in cultural pursuits. However, he saw dangers in Kuyper’s formulation of common grace. He placed greater emphasis on the antithesis, and he emphasized the needs for Christian cultural involvement to be truly Christian.

Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.

Covenantal apologetics is Oliphint’s name for Van Tillian presuppositionalism. Oliphint chooses this name because he finds presuppositionalism an inadequate term (there are multiple kinds of presuppositionalism and the existence of presuppositions is hardly news in a post-modern context) and because a key part of Oliphint’s apologetic is that the transcendent God relates to mankind covenantally.

The book unpacks ten tenets:

  1. The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who, as God, condescends to create to redeem.
  2. God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what it is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
  3. It is the truth of God’s revelation together with the work of the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
  4. Man (male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
  5. All people know the true God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
  6. Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see that truth for what it is.
  7. There is an absolute, covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
  8. Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute. Thus, every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true Christian context.
  9. The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God’s universal mercy allows for persuasion in apologetics.
  10. Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God.

In the course of the book Oliphint emphasizes the goal apologetics is not winning an argument but is persuasion. One of the strengths of this approach is the close connection made between apologetics and evangelism.

A second strength of Covenantal Apologetics is importance Oliphint places on Romans 1. He repeatedly emphasizes that in our apologetic and evangelistic encounters we are speaking to people who inescapably know the truth of our testimony to God, despite their suppression of that truth.

A third strength is Oliphint’s attempt to move from theory to practice. He does this by including apologetic dialogues. The opposing lines are based, at least initially, on the published arguments of opponents to Christianity, both atheist and Muslim.

Articles

Weeks, Noel. "The Hermeneutical Problem of Genesis 1-11." Themelios 4.1 (Sept. 1978): 12-19.

Weeks addresses such issues as the role of general revelation, the thought-world of the ANE and its effect on the opening chapters of Genesis, and the fact that literary structuring does not negate the historical accuracy of biblical accounts.

The article is insightful. A few examples:

"We are not the first Christians to be troubled by the teaching of Genesis. Simply because the Bible has a different view of origins to those put forth in human philosophy there is a period of conflict whenever the church comes under the influence of a human philosophical system. Thus any defender of neo-Platonism in Augustine’s day or of Aristotelianism in the late Middle Ages found himself in trouble with Genesis. It is a gross oversimplification to act as though we alone face a problem here. Nevertheless the problem for most Christians today is generated by a specific challenge, namely that of biological evolution and related theories." 14

" One must first reckon with the fact that certain ideas or stories may be shared by the Bible and surrounding cultures because they are both based on a historical event. For example it would be rather ridiculous to argue that God chose to convey certain theological truths in terms of the flood concepts already possessed by the Mesopotamians. Obviously both Bible and Sumerian traditions mention a flood because there was a flood." 14

"Was there ever a pure ‘three-storey universe’ idea in antiquity? For the pagan contemporaries of the Bible writers, cosmology was theology. The heavens expressed and were controlled by the various divinities. The sort of abstract spacial/mechanical interest involved in the idea of a three-storey universe is a product of the demythologization of Greek rationalism and Euclidian spacial concepts. One should not try to project a late idea back into biblical times in order to explain the Bible. In its rejection of polytheism biblical cosmology is of necessity radically different to its surroundings. It is not popular cosmology." 16

Weeks, Noel K. "The Ambiguity of Biblical Background," Westminster Theological Journal 72, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 219-36.

Weeks’s goal in this article is to evaluate the use of extra-biblical background material in the past to ascertain how it ought and ought not be used today. He begins by noting that many of the parallels between customs at Mari or Nuzi turned out to be false parallels. These parallels were built on the false assumption that these customs were not localized but consistent over the ANE. Weeks holds that conservatives were misguided to appeal to these alleged parallels to authenticate Scripture, especially since it required dating events later and claiming that the biblical authors "misunderstood the ‘real’ background" that scholars had uncovered.

Weeks then turns to Kline’s argument that the covenant structure of Deuteronomy demonstrates an early date for that book. Weeks holds to an early date for Deuteronomy based on the Bible’s own claims, but he notes that discoveries since the time of Kline undercut his argument. Features found in "second millennium treaties" were discovered in first millennium ones and vice versa. Weeks notes, "When one looks at the pattern of treaties, augmented by discoveries since the publications of Mendenhall and Kline, it becomes clear that the pattern those authors discerned was skewed by the fact that the then known second millennium treaties were predominately Hittite and the then known first millennium treaties were predominately Assyrian. What was seen as a difference between millennia looks much more like a difference between cultures" (222-23).

Weeks concludes from these examples that Christian scholars should be careful about the claims they make from extra-biblical background. They need to look at the assumptions that lie behind the claims of similarity and they need to assess the real significance of alleged similarities.

Weeks turns his attention from past failures in the deployment of extra-biblical background to present concerns. He notes that some use extra-biblical background to relativize that distinctiveness of Scripture. Others so embed the Bible in the ancient world that a kind of "historical determinism" limits what that biblical authors can be conceived as believing. The other effect of this view is that the "Bible is incomprehensible in the modern world" (227). Weeks notes that these views rest on an assumption of cultural uniformity that has already been disproven as well as a determinism that is undercut by historical change itself.

Weeks then turns to background to the creation narratives. He questions first whether many of these cultures even had creation myths. He comments, "The attempts to prove that, simply by changing what we understand by creation, we can classify the Ugaritic Baal stories as creation myths, illustrates the problem but not a convincing solution" (229). Secondly he notes that different scholars claim to have found the background to the OT creation story "in Mesopotamia, Ugarit, Egypt, or a complex mixture." The diversity of views here undercuts the credibility of the claims.

Weeks moves to the NT to evaluate the claim that the apostles used rabbinic or Qumranic exegesis in their interpretation of the Old Testament. Regarding the first he notes that recent research indicates that latter rabbinic exegesis was not necessarily the same as that practiced by the Pharisees of the first century. Regarding the claim that pesher exegesis from Qumran was utilized, Weeks notes that absence of Qumran in the Gospels tells against their pesher approach being a major influence on the apostles. Furthermore, he notes some significant differences between their view of the fulfllment of OT texts and the view inherent in the pesher method.

Finally Weeks turns to the claims of Bruce Winter that the background to the teaching about headcoverings in 1 Corinthians 11 was imperial concern about the way women dressed in the empire. Winter suggests that the "’angels’ of 1 Cor 11:10 are imperial inspectors, checking on the dress of women in church" (233). In addition to the argument of 1 Corinthians 11 being made from other premises, Weeks notes the existence of statues of "bare-headed imperial women." Winters suggests that these were to model appropriate hair styles for the populace. But Weeks notes, "Surely a requirement for covered female heads makes hair styles irrelevant" (233, n 54).

In conclusion Weeks notes two negative practical effects of uncritical dependence on extra-biblical background. First, an emphasis on the similarity of the Bible its ancient context can correlate with "a lack of distance of present Christian culture from the surrounding culture." Weeks asks, "might it be another manifestation of reaction to separationist Fundamentalism?" (235). Second, Weeks notes, "If the Bible speaks in the time-bound concepts and ideas of its time, which are not applicable to our time, and if the Bible is to play any role on the contemporary scene, then there must be a complex process of translation." He things the end result is that this approach will "undermine the effective authority of Scripture and the center of authority and certainty must shift to the church" (235).

Noel K. Weeks, "Cosmology in Historical Context," Westminster Theological Journal 68, no. 2 (Fall 2006), 283-93

Weeks notes that there are two problematic assumptions made by those who attempt to correlate the cosmology of Genesis with ANE cosmologies. The first is that the data exists for such a correlation to be made. The second is that ANE cultures shared common cosmological beliefs. The second assumption is flawed since the data indicates a diversity of cosmological views in the ANE, even within a culture. This makes the first assumption shaky since there is little to no written material from Palestine that reveals what the cosmology of the peoples there was.

Weeks notes a third major obstacle: the ANE cosmologies are theological and any attempt to divide the theological from the cosmological is a modern distinction at odds with how the people of the time actually thought.

In the latter half of the article Weeks interacts with claims often made by those who attempt to correlate the biblical cosmology with those of the ANE. The first is the claim that the earth floated on a sea that also surrounded it. Weeks notes, however, that maps from Babylon show islands beyond the circular sea that was said to surround the earth. Furthermore the texts vary about whether the earth floats on an ocean, whether the ocean rests upon the land, or whether the earth rests directly on the underworld.

Weeks examines the Enuma Elish in particular, since it is often claimed as background to the Genesis story. He notes that this claim is at odds with a conservative dating of Genesis, is faulty because the Enuma Elish is at odds with older Mesopotamian cosmologies, and is unhelpful because it is impossible for the description of the cosmos in the Enuma Elish to be physical.

Finally, Weeks looks at claims that the raqia or firmament was seen by the Biblical authors as a solid dome. But this will not work since it contradicts the way the Bible speaks of the heavens in other passages. In any case, The Mesopotamian texts indicate a variety of views existed about the nature of the firmament. There is no need to impose a solid dome theory on the text of Scripture.

Gonzales, Jr, Robert. "The Covenantal Context of the Fall: Did God Make a Primeval Covenant with Adam?" Reformed Baptist Theological Review 4, no. 2 (July 2007): 5-32

Gonzalez argues that God did indeed make a creation covenant or a covenant with Adam. He rejects the idea that a covenant is only made in a fallen world in which oaths and ceremonies are needed to stabilize relationships. Gonzalez notes to the contrary that marriage is a covenant relationship that existed before the Fall (he is willing to concede that oaths may be a post-fall addition to covenants, but this does not seem to be his position). Gozalez argues that God does not cut a new covenant with Noah. Genesis 6:18 refers to God upholding a covenant. This implies an earlier creation covenant. In the remainder of the article Gonzalez traces the similarities between God’s promises in creation and his promises in other covenants. He seems to take the blessings of Genesis 1:26-28 as the promises of the Creation covenant and the warnings associated with the trees in the garden as the sanctions.

Rogland, Max. "Ad Litteram: Some Dutch Reformed Theologians on the Creation Days," Westminster Theological Journal 63, no. 2 (Fall 2001): 212-233.

Rogland’s article is a response to claims by Morton Smith and Joesph Pipa that late nineteenth and early twentieth century Dutch Reformed theologians agreed that the days of Genesis 1 were "literal" and "ordinary." Rogland is able to demonstrate that while all agreed that the days were "literal" (though in later years some preferred "historical"), not all agreed that they were "ordinary" twenty-four hour days. American Dutch Reformed theologians Geerhardus Vos and Louis Berkhof both clearly believed the creation days to be "ordinary" twenty-four hour days. Theologians from the Netherlands, Kuyper, Bavinck, Aalders, and Schilder, held that at least the first three days (Kuyper), or even all six days, were not or might not be ordinary twenty-four hour days. However, they also clearly rejected the day-age theory (Bavinck earlier accepted the day-age theory and later rejected it). So while the days may have been longer that twenty-four hours, they were not millennia in length. In addition these men, especially Schilder (in the statements quoted by the article) strongly opposed evolution and attempts to harmonize Genesis 1 with evolutionary theory. The reasoning for broadening the days beyond strict twenty-four hour periods for Kuyper, et al. was twofold. First, the lack of sun in days 1-3 could mean that the earth orbited the light source in a different number of hours than it presently orbits the sun. Second, the Fall affected the world in many ways, and it could have affected the number of hours the earth orbits the sun. Rogland wrote this article in the context of whether the PCA was going to hold a definitive statement on the days of creation. He argues against such a statement on the basis of the positions of these earlier theologians. It must be said, however, given the evidence he presented in his article that these men clearly rejected the day-age view. The analogical day view, while likely wishing to claim these theologians, seems to hold a substantially different view of the days. It seems that there is small difference between holding strictly to twenty-four hour days in the creation week and holding that the days might be somewhat shorter or longer (but not ages longer) and a great difference between those positions and day-age, analogical day, and framework positions. Rogland seems to be correct in nuancing Smith and Pipa, but their overall conclusion is more than his given the evidence of his article.

Trumper, Tim J. R. "Covenant Theology And Constructive Calvinism," Westminster Theological Journal 64, no. 2 (Fall 2002): 387-403.

This article is a review of Jeong Koo Jeon, Covenant Theology: John Murray’s and Meredith Kline’s Response to the Historical Development of Federal Theology in Reformed Thought. It seems that Jeon is more sympathetic toward Kline and Trumper is more sympathetic toward Murray (though he wants to downplay the debate overall). In any event the article is a helpful for gaining some sense in the differing covenantal views of Murray and Kline.

Niehuas, Jeffrey J. "Covenant: An Idea in the Mind of God," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June 2009): 225-46.

In this article Niehaus interacts with Williamson, Hafemann, and others on some covenant themes recently under discussion: the existence of a creation covenant (N. affirms), whether a covenant ratifies and existing relationship (N. says a previous relationship exists but a covenant alters it), whether all the covenants are unified in a single covenant (N, denies), whether the New Covenant is new or a renewal of the Mosaic Covenant (N. affirms the newness of the New Covenant).

Overall an insightful article. I was most interested in his discussion of a Creation Covenant. I found this line of reasoning persuasive: "But it should be clear that Gen 1:1-2:3 (and 2:17) and other data (e.g. Ps 47:2, Mal 1:14) display the following facts about God: he is the Creator and Great King over all in heaven and earth; he has provided good things in abundance for those he created; he made the man and woman royalty (“subdue,” “rule over”) and gave them commands; he blessed them; and he pronounced a curse on them should they disobey his commands. These facts are the essence of covenant: a Great King in authority over lesser rulers, with a historical background of doing good to them, with commands and with blessings, but also a curse in case of disobedience" (233)

Bolt, John. "Herman Bavinck on Natural Law and Two Kingdoms: Some Further Reflections," The Bavinck Review 4 (2013): 64–93.

In the two kingdoms debate Bolt largely, though not entirely, sides with David VanDrunen’s analysis. Bolt concludes his article with the following propositions:

"1. Bavinck fully affirms the natural law/two kingdoms tradition that was an integral part of Reformed theology from John Calvin onward.

"2. Christian discipleship requires a robust sense that Christ is Lord and King and a robust sense of responsibility to bring every thought and action captive to Christ.

"3. The content of our obedience as disciples of Jesus Christ within the structures and relationships that are an integral part of our created human condition as God’s image bearers must be normed by the laws, ordinances, and wisdom of general revelation and natural law, as the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament shed light on them and equip us to follow them. In other words, we are to be guided here by natural law rather than gospel.

"4. Acknowledging the need for Scriptural guidance to understand general revelation should not be used in such a way that it provides privileged knowledge for the followers of Christ that can trump public, natural knowledge. Our arguments in the public square include witness to the gospel and reasoned argument from common principles.

"5. Assessing the degree to which a people, a culture, a nation, a civilization has been "Christianized" should not be measured in distinctly Christian (or gospel) terms but by how natural and human markers such as the following are realized: protection of life, freedom and human dignity, equality of opportunity for betterment, equitable laws and justice applicable to all people, and possibility of peaceful voluntary association and cooperation among groups within a society" (92-93).

Personally, I find the insistence that life outside the church be governed by natural law and not by Scripture the least appealing and convincing aspect of VanDrunen’s two-kingdoms formulation. I can see how natural law and general revelation can result in pagans making civic laws consistent with God’s law. And I fully agree that the Mosaic law is not the covenant of the New Covenant era and is not to be applied to the nations of this era directly. But in my mind a Christianized society is one in which a vast majority of citizens have become citizens and in which they try to bring all of God’s Word to bear on all of life. Such societies are rare in history, won’t be realized until the millennium, and are not necessary for Christians to faithfully live in this world. A society that protects human dignity and provides equitable laws may be benefiting from God’s goodness, but it is not Christian unless its people are submissive to Christ and all His word.

Craig G. Bartholomew, "A Time for War, and a Time for Peace," in A Royal Priesthood? The Use of the Bible Ethically and Politically: A Dialogue with Oliver O’Donovan, eds. Craig Bartholomew, et al. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 96-97.

Two insights I thought worth saving to think on:

On Proverbs 8:30: "If the translation of ‘āmôn as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan’ is correct [Murphy, WBC; Van Leeuwen, NIB], then wisdom is here ‘personified as the king’s architect-advisor, through whom the king puts all things in their  proper order and whose decrees of cosmic justice are the standard for human kings and rulers (v. 15)’ [Van Leeuwen, NIB, 94]" (92).

"In Hebrew, Schmid connects this [creation] order with ṣedeq (=righteousness). He notes that the ancient Near Eastern law codes enact ‘the establishment of the order of creation in its juristic aspect." (96-97).

Harmless, William, ed. Augustine in His Own Words. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010. [pp. 122-55; Augustine the Preacher]

Harmless selects from Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine and from his various sermons to present the reader with both Augustine’s theory about preaching as well as examples of his preaching.

Various articles from Allan D. Fitzgerald, ed. Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.

A top-notch encyclopedia about all things Augustine.

Land: Genesis 6

Land words are significant to this chapter. Verse 1 opens with a recollection of Genesis 1:28.[1] In chapter 1 God declares the blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth [אֶרֶץ].” In 6:1 we see that God’s blessing is being fulfilled. The setting of the chapter is “when man began to multiply on the face of the land [אֲדָמָה].”[2] And yet the blessing is now seen to be tainted by the fall. The seed blessing is seen to be corrupted in 6:1-4. Verses 5-7 highlight the corruption of the land blessing. It seems that the inspired text could read: “The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great. . . . And the Lord regretted that he had made man. . . . So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created.” But instead we read that the “wickedness of man was great in the earth [אֶרֶץ]” and that “he had made man on the earth [אֶרֶץ]” and that man will be blotted out “from the face of the land [אֲדָמָה].” This emphasis recurs in 6:11-13. Verse 11 resumes the discussion of the sin problem that leads to the Flood after verses 8-10 introduce righteous Noah and his family. The earth leads off the description of the problem: “Now the earth [אֶרֶץ] was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth [אֶרֶץ] was filled with violence.”[3] There is probably an allusion here to the fact that God intended mankind to fill the earth (1:28); but rather than being filled with humans, the earth is filled with violence,[4] which almost certainly includes murders. It is this violence that corrupts the earth, just as Cain polluted the ground with the blood of Abel.[5] Verse 12 says that “God saw the earth [אֶרֶץ],” which harkens back to God’s sight of his creation in chapter 1 (vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). But now what he sees is not good.[6] He sees corruption, and the rest of the verse explains why: “for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth [אֶרֶץ].” Verse 13 then gives the death sentence, and the reason given for the sentence is an echo of verse 11—“the earth [אֶרֶץ] is filled with violence.” Thus it is not simply that the death sentence will be executed. It will be executed in conjunction with the earth: “I will destroy them with the earth [אֶרֶץ].” Verse 17 and 18 explain that this will happen with “a flood of waters upon the earth [אֶרֶץ]” with the result that everything that is on the earth [אֶרֶץ] shall die.” The earth is at the center of the problem in this chapter (it is corrupted by sin), and it is therefore going to play a large role in the judgment.


[1] John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 2, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 76; Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, ed. R. K. Harrison, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 1:262; Mathews, 1:322.

[2] It may be that אֲדָמָה is used here instead of אֶרֶץ to indicate the close connection that man has to the ground. That connection will be significant as the passage unfolds. See Wenham, 1:137, 139.

[3] Some think that earth here is “synecdoche” (Leupold, 1:266) or “metonymy” (John Currid, Genesis, EP Study Commentary, 1:184) for “inhabitants of the earth.” However, given the emphasis on the physical earth throughout this chapter, and given the teaching in chapter 4 and later in the Pentateuch that murder pollutes the land, it is better to see the physical earth here as corrupted by the violence of its inhabitants. Mathews, Genesis, New American Commentary1:359-60.

[4] Gordon Wenham, Genesis, Word Biblical Commentary, 1:171.

[5] Mathews, 1:159-60.

[6] Wenham, 1:171.

Land: Genesis 5

In Genesis 5:29 Lamech prophesies that Noah will bring relief from agonizing labor that results from cursed ground. This prophecy probably refers to the Noahic covenant. That covenant placed limits on the curse’s effects on the world.

Genesis 8:21 may indicate that God will no longer intensify the curse on the ground as he did with Cain in Genesis 4 and in the Flood itself. This verse may indicate that such intensifications were not limited to these two instances. If so 8:21 may indicate that the Noahic covenant will roll back the intensification of the curse. On this interpretation 8:21 would signal the fulfillment of 5:29.

The Noahic covenant may fulfill the prophecy of 5:29 in a different way. The nature of the Noahic covenant is to set bounds on the curse so that God’s plan of redemption can be worked out in the world. The culmination of the redemption made possible by the Noahic covenant is the removal of the curse. In this way Noah plays a significant role in God’s plan to bring the earth relief from the curse.

These proposals are complementary rather than mutually exclusive.