19 October 2014

Killing and healing

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Teachings of Nature in the Kingdom of Grace, pages 223-224, Pilgrim Publications.

Jesus Christ had spoken certain truths which were highly objectionable to the Pharisees. Some of His loving disciples were in great fright, and they came to Him and said, “Knowest Thou not that the Pharisees are offended?”

Now our Saviour, instead of making any apology for having offended the Pharisees, took it as a matter of course, and replied in a sentence which is well worthy to be called a proverb,—“Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”

Now we have oftentimes, as Matthew Henry very tritely remarks, a number of good and affectionate but very weak hearers. They are always afraid that we shall offend other hearers. Hence, if the truth be spoken in a plain and pointed manner, and seems to come close home to the conscience, they think that surely it ought not to have been spoken, because So-and-so, and So-and-so, and So-and-so took offence at it.

If we never offended, it would be proof positive that we did not preach the Gospel. They who can please man will find it quite another thing to have pleased God.

Do you suppose that men will love those who faithfully rebuke them? If you make the sinner's heart to groan, and waken his conscience, do you think he will pay you court and thank you for it? Nay, not so; in fact, this ought to be one aim of our ministry, not to offend, but to test men and make them offended with themselves, so that their hearts may be exposed to their own inspection. Their being offended will discover of what sort they are.

A ministry that never uproots will never water; a ministry that does not pull down will never build up. He who knoweth not how to pluck up the plants which God hath not planted, scarcely understandeth how to be a worker of God in His vineyard.

Our ministry ought always to be a killing as well as a healing one,—a ministry which kills all false hopes, blights all wrong confidences, and weeds out all foolish trusts, while at the same time it trains up the feeblest shoot of real hope, and tenders comfort and encouragement even to the weakest of the sincere followers of Christ.

17 October 2014

Some here, some there — October 17, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Howdy amigos and amigas.
  • We'll start out on a happy personal note. Wednesday (September 45, Phillips calendar), just a bit more than an hour after our church had prayed for her, my beautiful daughter Rachael and dashing husband Kermit welcomed my beautiful granddaughter, Zoé Isabelle Allen, into the world. Zoé weighed in at 6 lb 15.8 oz, and was born at home. Here's pictures I have at post-time; will add more if I get more!

  • And here's my beautiful wife and my beautiful granddaughter.
  • Ahh.
  • Now, from the sublime to... well, Mark Driscoll. You'll know by now that he has resigned as pastor. Here is Mark's letter, which I would characterize as defiant, unhumbled, and resentful. He makes sure everyone knows he's still qualified to be pastor and has a clean bill of health; any unspecified "imperfect" aspects have been all taken care of. His accusers are the real problem; nobody but Mark comes off very well, in his telling.
  • Here's the letter from the Mars Hill overseers. They agree with Mark that, though he's got his problems, he's really a great guy.
  • Of many articles I've seen, I think the crispest insight is from Michael Newnhamwho says "In the corporate world, you cut your losses, protect your resume, and move on to the next opportunity." Does that not pretty well capture the Driscoll situation?
  • Now surely the most surreal note comes in a post in, of all places, The Gospel Coalition, written by Trevin Wax. If you hadn't read it, and I summarized his third point for you, you'd say I had to be making it up. So here it is, verbatim. The point is "Character Matters as Much
    as Doctrine," and part of what Trevin says is (bold added):
Every tribe has its blind spots. It’s human nature to assume the best of your friends and worst of your enemies. I have seen this club mentality when well-known evangelicals with good reputations and solid character are dismissed simply because their biblical exegesis differs from ours. And I think some Christian leaders were slow to see the problems with Driscoll because he ”believes the right things.”
If anything, evangelicals gifted with discernment and biblical doctrine of sin and grace should have been the first to expose these problems. I know some of this critique happened behind the scenes, inside and outside Mars Hill. But more could have been done sooner to warn and protect the flock.
  • So...
  • Prompting:
  • And perhaps:
  • And of course:
  • Some commenters asked Trevin to be more specific, but as of this posting, it hasn't happened.
  • I don't know of anyone blocked or blacklisted by the TGC who's been contact by them, or "followed" by them in Twitter (to signal that they're opening up their echo chamber). But those were really nice words Trevin wrote.
  • Not all comments passed moderation. Like Tom Chantry's.
  • Carl Trueman has now weighed in. Some "money-quotes" [bolding added]:
It is interesting that the crisis finally came only when the aesthetics flipped the other way, when Driscoll and his antics became more distasteful than the words of his critics. It is important to notice that it was not the embrace of a Unitarian prosperity teacher and that decision's obvious doctrinal significance [on which see here, among many others by all three of us] which brought things to a head. Rather, it was the numerous allegations of bullying and loutish behaviour which finished him off -- things that are aesthetically displeasing in the current climate. The whistleblowers, however, are still not regarded as vindicated, despite having spoken the truth. I suspect they can -- pardon the pun -- whistle for an apology from the Top Men or for rehabilitation by the mainstream of YRR evangelicalism. For they can even now still be dismissed as smug (an aesthetic word if ever there was one) or simply forgotten because, whatever the truth they spoke, they were nonetheless engaged in the activity at a point in time when the aesthetics of the marketplace made their criticisms easy to characterize as unloving and thus distasteful.
When it comes to an instinct for staying ahead, the Top Men and their camp followers are masters of the taste-driven dynamics of the evangelical stock exchange: winsome and loving when the market's aesthetics demand such, then wise and discerning when tastes change. Like the secret of great comedy, the secret of being a respected leader in the world of Big Eva is really very, very simple: it's all a question of timing.
  • Christmas is coming.
  • I think that if something like this had been attempted when I was a student at Talbot, there would have been a very vigorous response. It reminds me of the classmate who said, back in the 80s, "I'm afraid that one day I'm going to have to explain my degree, like guys who went to Fuller have to do now."
  • More news from the dominant, ever-broadening "fringe." One reads these revelations and accusations about 93yo Charismatic "prophet" Ernest Angley — who admits requesting to view mens' privates — with horror, but not particularly with surprise. See, here's the thing: in a healthy church, one would have watched Angley for about 5 minutes, to be generous, and dismissed him. He would never have been able to earn a living, let alone such a lavish lifestyle, from Christians.
  • Except that Charismaticism gives him cover. And Christians who ought to know better (the "open but clueless" set) give Charismaticism cover. It is just as simple as that.
  • Which BTW is a drum that John MacArthur has banged yet again and again. God bless him for his stand. I have no doubt as to what sort of ministry — enabling, or discerning — will stand better in that Day, in terms of how it dealt with the Charismatic movement.
  • Too cool to miss: a Lego telling of The Hobbit in 72 seconds.
  • Fred Butler hates Christmas, but loves "impact" as a verb.
  • Wait, that's not quite right. The first part isn't, anyway. Fred Butler hates it when people read into Christmas trappings things that were never intended by their originators, even with the highest motives. There.
  • Hm. How do I get my cats to do this?
  • (...or, for that matter, my sons?)
  • Ahhh, contextualizing...
  • Contextual street evangelism. Watch this evangelist reaching out to a Michael Jackson impersonator, contextualized-style:
  • (Actually, that's not it at all. The note says it's a Mormon missionary. Emergo-Morms?)
  • City officials subpoenaing sermons by pastors not even involved in a lawsuit, to see if they criticized city policy allowing sexually perverted individuals into bathrooms of the opposite sex. Sure, you say: in Sweden. But no. San Francisco? Not this story. England, France, Seattle? Nope. Try Texas. Try Houston, TexasNo lie.
  • People think of Texas as conservative, and largely we are. But Austin and Houston teem with liberal, totalitarian, anti-Christian officials fighting their own war with God.
  • Doug Wilson comments on the Houston situation. So does Carl Trueman. (Both men actually know a Houston pastor personally.)
  • David Allen brings a good word about real men, touching on Driscoll and related matters.
  • "How do I know if I'm elect?" Here's a pretty wonderful answer from Joseph Alleine.

  • Doug Wilson seems to argue, not for the first time, that believing in justification by faith should prevent us from being too critical of Roman Catholics and others who claim to be Christian despite many and grave doctrinal and practical errors. After all, are they justified by faith, or by correctness and precision?
  • Doug expresses admiration for a somewhat similar "magnificent" post by Mark Jones at, of all places, Reformation21. Jones, who has recently been defending the practice of "baptizing" people who have no faith at all, makes a more nuanced case than Wilson.
  • What of it, then? For one thing, it seems to rest on a definition of faith that tears it from the realm of truth and doctrine. It seems to me to reverse what believers have argued since Schleiermacher, that saving faith must have content, and not just any content. For another, it makes Paul's attitude towards the Galatian errorists incomprehensible (I don't find Wilson's dismissal persuasive). For yet another, it leaves me wondering how we can criticize Zane Hodges and the rest of what chapter 10 of TWTG calls "gutless gracers." And isn't that an odd turn of events, when the nuanced and deep thinking of some Reformed brother leads them to stand pretty darned close to dispensational antinomians who are rejected by dispensationalists who affirm the Biblical Gospel of God's sovereign grace?
  • I asked that question over at Doug's place, btw; no answer. He wrote more about it yesterday in an attempt to explain, but didn't allude to or answer my question.
As usual, check in later. This post usually grows through the day.

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16 October 2014

How to read the Bible

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in May 2007. The Bible isn't just 66 books that happen to be bound together.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Yes: this is another post on how to read your Bible. And as a brief exposition on why I'm not letting this topic go, it's because I am frankly tired of people tossing off the glib objection, "But how do you know? All those denominations out there – which one of them has the right reading?"

We have about 5000 readers a day at TeamPyro, and when any of us post here, that means 5000 different people read the post. And let's face it: we have a problem with people failing to engage what we write here all the time. It's frustrating. People see their pet peeves in one sentence, and suddenly the post is not about what it's about, but about what this person has made his life's work to confute.

As another example, we were sitting in church in the last couple of weeks, and my son was sitting next to me as my pastor was preaching on the doctrine of salvation. Well, my pastor was on about why salvation implies a need for being saved, and he was completely on about Romans 3:21-26.

And my son whispered to me as my pastor read that passage, "Daddy, I know that verse."

Listen: it is important to memorize Scripture, and it is important for children to memorize Scripture because they must have a foothold in God's word which is the foundation of the way they perceive the whole world. But when my son said that, I was certain that he wasn't the only one in the service who was thinking that – because that's how many adults perceive Scripture: as maxims of wisdom which are not connected except that they are all bound together with cotton stitches in their Bible.

I mention that because unless we understand the real, literary connections of the 66 books of the Bible, we don't really understand the Bible – and almost every single error one can make in interpreting or paraphrasing the Bible is founded in misconstruing how one passage fits into the book it appears in, and then in the whole canon of Scripture together.

So how do you find these connections? Is there a way to do that?

Well, of course there is. Let's look at Romans 3 to flesh that out. Paul has made the clear affirmation that we're all sinners, and that Christ redeems sinners – but so what? How do we know what Paul meant by that?

Let me suggest something: Paul makes a vivid point in Romans 3 by referencing Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20, Psalm 5:9, Psalm 140:3, Psalm 10:7, Isaiah 59:7,8 and Psalm 36:1.

He cites Psa 14 – but why? Is it because there's a kernel of wisdom there and, like some motivational speaker, he can find some snippet of God's nice turns of phrase to underscore his point? Or is it because Paul's point here is that there is nothing new about the plight of man, and in that there is nothing new about God's plan of salvation. See: the point in Psa 14 is that certainly all the people God sees are sinful, but that psalm closes by affirming that God saves in spite of men's sinful foolishness.

And again, Paul cites Psa 140 to underscore the wickedness of men's mouths – but he also cites Psa 140 because it says that God delivers men from that kind of wickedness. His point in connecting his theological statement in a letter to the Romans to the book of Psalms is that the Bible is telling one particular story about God's work through all of time.

This view of Scripture shuts the mouth of any man-centeredness. It is in this way we can see the systematic and unified aspect of Scripture which drives us away from our errors if we are willing to receive what is there.

It is in this way that Scripture explains itself – but this view of what is happening in Scripture requires that one connect all the dots. It requires one to have a larger picture of each book, and all the books, of Scripture than one can get buy reading a verse a day.

15 October 2014

very Catholic (in the pejorative sense)

by The Late Frank Turk

I'll bet you didn't know this, but there is more than one kind of infant baptism.  And I lay that wager out in the first sentence for one reason: I don't want you to waste your time on this post if the topic is not of interest to you.  The intramural debate inside Protestantism over what is and is not a baptism is really not of interest to a lot of people -- except those who, frankly, make it uninteresting for everyone else.

There are two kinds of credobaptism: the phony kind where people get dunked every time they develop a new pang of conscience (this version mistakes growth in maturity/sanctification for "true" experiences of the second birth, for which every credo-baptists is always tortured by paedos when this discussion is approached), and the historical kind in which baptism is given to the new believer upon his confession and initial repentance in order to take him or her out of the world and put them into Christ, and into the church.

Given that there are two kinds of credobaptism (one laughable; one serious, sober, and based on the historical practice of the church), it should be no surprise that there are two kinds of baby-splashing going on.  What is surprising, however, is that the difference is not the dividing line between the clownish and the serious: it is between how these christian people justify their practice.

For the run-of-the-mill Presbyterian and standard-issue Reformed type, the argument goes like this:

  1. The church of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament are, in essence, the same church;
  2. God includes the children of believers as members of this church;
  3. In the Old Testament era, children of believers, because they were church members, were given the sign of circumcision;
  4. In the New Testament era, God has taken the sign of circumcision and changed it to baptism;
  5. Therefore, in the New Testament era, children of believers, because they are church members, are to be given the sign of baptism.

A more prosaic version of that can be found here, and it's less helpful but it is more serious about the family/household issue at stake {the core difference, of course, is that the first is OPC and the second in PC(USA)}.  I like the first version of the thing for one reason only: it puts all the cards on the table and avoids questions which neither side really is asking or ought to have to answer.  However, it makes my skin crawl because it seems to overlook a lot of the New Testament and a lot of the distinctions between Israel and the Church.  It is almost enough to make me reconsider Dispensationalism (as DJP and Phil would have me do), but not quite.

But there is a second version of the sprinkling of babies running around, and it's sort of the paleo-reformation view of the Lutherans.  Here's how the Missouri Synod of Lutherans put it (note: that links to a PDF):
Lutherans believe that the Bible teaches that a person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The Bible tells us that such “faith comes by hearing” (Rom 10:17). Jesus Himself commands Baptism and tells us that Baptism is water used together with the Word of God (Matt 28:19-20). Because of this, we believe that Baptism is one of the miraculous means of grace (another is God’s Word as it is written or spoken), through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart (see Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Gal 3:26-27; Rom 6:1-4; Col 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:13). Terms the Bible uses to talk about the beginning of faith include “conversion” and “regeneration.” Although we do not claim to understand fully how this happens, we believe that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. We believe this because the Bible says that infants can believe (Matt 18:6) and that new birth (regeneration) happens in Baptism (John 3:5-7; Titus 3:5-6). The infant’s faith cannot yet, of course, be verbally expressed or articulated by the child, yet it is real and present all the same (see e.g., Acts 2:38-39; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim 3:15). The faith of the infant, like the faith of adults, also needs to be fed and nurtured by God’s Word (Matt 28:18-20), or it will die.
For those interested, that summary looks a lot like Luther's own summary in the Smaller Catechism and the Larger Catechism.  I bring it up because a young fellow who doesn't want to baptize cats has dashed off a couple of pages on this subject from the Lutheran perspective, and this weekend he was very put out that I wouldn't engage his post via twitter.  I'm sure he's going to be much happier (?) seeing this post in response to him.

The first thing to note here, however, is that it's a mistake to confuse Presbyterian baptism for Lutheran baptism.  In Presbyterian baptism, the sign and seal of the sacrament brings the person out of the world and into the church -- and assumes (in a qualified way) that this person then has a right to the things the church participates in.  Faith may or may not come later.  The Lutheran, on the other hand, takes a much more mysterious path (which is why they have Chris Rosebrough on their side): they say that the right and proper interpretation of Scripture is that somehow Baptism plants the seeds of faith in a person, and then the church's job is to water and weed that baby faith so that it blossoms into the faith of an adult.  It's an odd way to apply Luke 8 (maybe they forgot that part), but to each his own.

And using that explanation, of course that's why they don't want to baptize cats: cats can never have saving faith.  We can't use the Word for something the Word cannot be used for.

Anyway, here's why I bring up the Official Lutheran teaching: our friends the Lutherans often don't really want to refer to it.  They are very Catholic (in the pejorative sense) in this, because they like to invent stuff like this:
One of the most fundamental points of Christian doctrine is that Christ is “Born of the Virgin Mary”. Let’s not pass over the significance of this. This means that, in Christ, birth and infancy have been made holy. Christ did not only live as the perfect man, but as the perfect infant. Infants cannot be morally neutral creatures because Christ cannot be morally neutral! Infants cannot be incapable of faith because that would mean Christ was faithless! 
And then say that they're just reciting the Catechism.  Well: the catechism doesn't attempt to delve into the mystery of Christ's faith: it says that the water under the authority of the Word of God does what God says it does.  That's why it's a "sacrament" in the Lutheran view of it: God has made it Holy (and: efficacious).  The far more interesting thing Luther said about Baptism is this:
Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. This now is perhaps somewhat acute, but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is, when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word.
It's the implication here which Luther is very clear about and the classic Lutheran is often not so hot for: that it doesn't really matter who we baptize or who is doing the baptism as long as we use the water and the Word of God.  The most federally-headed Presbyterian would be having a bout with the sweats at this point, the the right-minded Lutheran should not be batting an eye.

What he should not be saying, though, is something as far-fetched as this:
To start off, I’d like to make the point that Lutherans do not practice Infant Baptism. We also do not practice African or Irish Baptism. Nor do we practice Elderly Baptism, Female Baptism, or Male Baptism or Euro-Goth-Punk-Geman-Gay-Yoddler Baptism. We have Christian Baptism. That’s it. The question “do you believe in Infant Baptism?” is as silly as asking “do you believe in Middle-Aged Baptism?” As St. Paul emphatically proclaims, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism”. When in doubt, side with St. Paul. It’s a good strategy.
In the first place, neither the modern Lutheran authorities nor Luther are afraid to say plainly they practice "infant baptism" -- because that is what they actually do.  But what is rather blustery here is the way this fellow wants to say that only Lutherans are practicing baptism into Christ -- as if every paedo and credo is not actually doing that.  But worse for this view of it is that Philip Melanchthon was not quite as Lutheran as Luther in talking about what Baptism is for and how it works.  According to Robert Kolb:


The idea that the sacrament is a "sign and seal" sound suspiciously Presbyterian, and really comes back to the question of whether Lutherans are the only ones committing to "Christian baptism."

For those who have not died from boredom reading this post this far, the actual point here is simple: in the debate between paedobaptists and credobaptists, the issue is not whether one or the other intends to bring people into the church of Christ through baptism: it is whether or not one can receive a sacrament without faith and the activity still be called the sacrament. The Lutherans say yes, unequivocally; the Presbyterians and Reformed say Yes, in a qualified manner; the Credobaptists (who are frequently and uncharitably called "anabaptists") simply say no, no, not ever and not even.  The whole point of the New Covenant is that it is by grace through faith, which is what sets it apart from the Old Covenant and its works -- and in that way, anyone by grace through faith can receive the New Covenant, which is what makes it better.

Comments are open.  Mind the gap.

14 October 2014

Piercing the fogbank with discerning questions

by Dan Phillips

Having introduced my dear ones to the work of God in Ephesus, last Sunday I took them into the letter itself.

I was very conscious of Kevin DeYoung's very funny anecdote about being fresh out of seminary, and giving (I think) 20 minutes on the question of authorship — when the good folks in his congregation were all just looking at the words "Paul, an apostle..." and kind of blinking.

So I faced the choice — what do I do about the debate over authorship? And the question of destination: is it really to the Ephesians, is it a circular letter, or what?

You can see for yourself how I handled it if you like. I did deal with the issue of authorship, and the history of controversy. I did it briefly and very forcefully, and then I explained why I was spending time on what seemed like an obvious issue: I am concerned that they may transfer jobs to a new city, or their kids in college may start attending International New Springs of Joyful Higher Plane Apostolic Barking Impact Abundance Worship Center. I am concerned that their pastor may have gone to Fuller, or Princeton, or somewhere. I'd like them to be able to get a fix on where he's coming from.

Why? Couldn't they just ask him if he believed the Bible was inspired? Ah, I see you're smiling. You know that lots of wolves would say "Yes" to that question. They'd say it was inspired, it was God's Word, it was authoritative for faith and practice... and they wouldn't mean anything like what you and I mean.

So I told the story of the kid I worked with in the 70s. He was a young man, Christian-raised, wanted to be a pastor one day. His Church of God had actually named him to the pastoral-search committee, and they were considering a candidate. This particular candidate was from Princeton.

Well, I'd been a Christian just a few years, but I'd already been studying and preparing with enthusiasm, and my ears pricked up. I said, "Ask him who wrote the Pastoral Epistles and when, who wrote the book of Daniel and when, and who wrote 2 Peter and when." (I don't think I included Ephesians.)

He looked at me like I'd sprouted a third eye. What stupid questions! Whyever would he ask those?

He didn't. They called the gent. I went to his welcoming party. After he'd told an off-color joke, I chatted with him. I asked him my questions.

His answers? No idea when Daniel was written, but it wasn't by Daniel or 6th-century; no idea who wrote the Pastorals, but it wasn't Paul; no idea who wrote 2 Peter, but it wasn't Peter.

He wasn't, as I recall, particularly evasive. I just had to ask the questions. (Of course, at this point the church gig was a done-deal, and I was not [and would not be] an attender.)

So: this committee had called a man to pastor their conservative, Bible-believing church, who did not believe in the inerrancy and full authority of the Bible. Because no one knew or cared to ask questions that would pin the gent down.

But he had great programs, the young man told me. The candidate really wowed them with his programs.

Surely the would-be pastor would have said he believed the Bible was inspired, though. Meaning, inspired by his definition.

This is what discernment involves. It's too bad; I wish we lived in a world where religious leaders could be relied on to say, "Well, I'd say I believed in the Bible, but I should tell you that I wouldn't mean anything like what you mean by it. And you won't hear too much of it from the pulpit."

But we don't live in that world. We live in the one where there are wolves and serpents and where we have to be constantly on guard.

And where, sadly, sometimes the sheep have to do their own guarding, since the shepherds are defaulting.

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12 October 2014


Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Teachings of Nature in the Kingdom of Grace, pages 23-24, Pilgrim Publications.
 "I pray you, never regard that story of the serpent as a fable."

It is said, nowadays, that it is a mere allegory. Yet there is nothing in the Book to mark where history ends and parable begins: it all runs on as actual history; and as Bishop Horsley forcibly remarks, “If any part of this narrative be allegorical, no part is naked matter of fact.”

It seems to me that if there was only an allegorical serpent, there was an allegorical Paradise, with allegorical rivers, and allegorical trees; and the men and women were both allegorical, and the chapter which speaks of their creation is an allegory; and the only thing that exists is an allegorical heaven and an allegorical earth.

If the Book of Genesis be an allegory, it is an allegory all through; and you have an allegorical Abraham, with allegorical circumcision, an allegorical Jacob and an allegorical Judah; and it is not unfair to push the theory onward, and impute to Judah allegorical descendants called Jews. But if you borrow any money of this race, you will not find them allegorical when you have to pay.

It is idle to call the narrative of the Fall a mere allegory; one had better say at once that he does not believe the Book. There is something sane about that declaration, although it be folly; but to say, “Oh, yes, it is a venerable volume, and worthy to be studied; but it is padded out with many an allegory,” is to say something which confutes itself, if you come to look into it.

The Book is intended to be real history, and it contains some portions which, by the consent of everybody, are real history; but Moses could not be an historian, and yet set mere fables before us as a part of his story. To write a jumble of allegory and of fact causes a man to lose the character of a reliable historian, and we had better repudiate him at once.

There was a real serpent, as there was a real Paradise; there was a real Adam and Eve, who stood at the head of our race, and they really sinned, and our race is really fallen. Believe this.

10 October 2014

Some here, some there — October 10, 2014

by Dan Phillips

We're still on granddaughter watch. Yesterday was the due date, so this post could be updated.

But already a very full plate today! Let's launch. Tell me which ones are particularly chuckalicious, informative, thought-provoking, helpful, nuanced...oh wait, forget that. Sorry, got carried away.
  • To start on a somber note: You may know that discernment blogger and pastor Ken Silva passed away. Chris Rosebrough held a sort of online memorial for him, which you can listen to here. Reader Christine Pack of Sola Sisters, and Phil Johnson, were among those who spoke of Ken's impact.
  • Now, to the lighter side.
  • If you're in Twitter, here's a fun little game. Then plug in your favorite RPB and chuckle. BTW, the Spurgeon account gets 100% on "upbeat"! 
  • Have you heard "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship" enough yet? I've had a few pointed words with its echoers (including Jefferson Bethke). Here's a good, full-orbed response from William Boekestein.
  • In the insightful essay Had Sex, Dumped JesusJoel J. Miller develops the correct causality chain in much apostasy (h-t Aquila Report). People have immoral sex; that creates painful cognitive dissonance; God or the immorality has to go for peace to reign; God goes.
  • I wish I'd gotten down verbatim what I heard Josh McDowell say many years ago. He said he'd gotten to the point that, when some teen would come to him saying "I'm beginning to have serious doubts about my faith," his first response would be along the lines of, "Oh? who are you sleeping with?"
  • This is a step aside from the usual, but it's genius. It's one of those things that, if Frank Turk actually read the posts here, he'd really like.
  • Another step aside: ah yes, World War I. That's where the good guys fought the Germans... and the tripods?!
  • Tone-change in 3... 2... 1...
  • M'man David Murray offers a video he calls the most powerful illustration of the Gospel he's ever seen. It's worth watching. I teared up. I think I get what David's saying. Yet if it weren't for David, it just isn't what I would have thought. Instead, I can't help that a bunch of questions team in my mind, at the same time that I admire this man and am moved by what he did. That probably makes me a (or IDs me as a) bad person. You?
  • Over at the indispensable DBTS blog, professor Bill Combs asks whether a person really has to be either Calvinist or Arminian, with no middle-ground. He answers, correctly, Yes.
  • Here's one way I'd put it: either God's choice of me is the result of my choice of Him, or my choice of Him is the result of His choice of me. There's no middle-ground that isn't exclusively populated by weasels.
  • We've noted a number of times how many issues The Gospel Coalition can't seem to be bothered with pro-actively. But there is one issue they're right on top of: Kevin Bauder shared some excellent thoughts on the subject, and yesterday TGC moved to prove him right yet again.
  • Because I love you, I caution you not to hold your breath waiting for the appropriately nuanced, helpful, thoughtful presentation of the other view on this question.
  • I had a comment up. Then it disappeared. Then it returned, and has been joined by some (far better) comments of dissent. At present, this is the reverse of the usual TGC situation: the comments are far better than the article.
  • I'm tempted to write (on my blog) a response-piece titled "Is the Bible A Deceptive Book of Secret Code?" I mean, what can the TGC do to me? Hate me? Ignore everything I write about topics they claim to love? Blacklist me?
  • For my part, I've thought a certain amount of the animus against such things is fueled by jealousy. I mean, think of it: what would an amill end times movie look like? Nothing happens, nothing happens, nothing happens, and then the movie ends because the filmmakers wouldn't want to show the face of Jesus.
  • So, in a way... every movie is an amill end-times movie, isn't it?
  • Before you ask: no, this isn't how they fight Ebola in Texas, so stop asking.
  • My brother from another mother Phil Johnson and I had an offstage disagreement about whether a certain literary-type thingie was witty and worthwhile, or whether it was obnoxious and offensive. Often, when I think I know what Phil will and won't find funny... I'm dead-wrong. Still. For instance, here's something to ponder: Phil sees something like this as high comedy. So, there y'go.
  • Now: how's your heart? In need of a good stopping? Perfect. I think I have just the thing:
  • If that didn't finish you: David Murray — who, I think, does not sleep — found this absolutely gorgeous and heart-stopping video of this gent biking on the Isle of Skye. If you watch as I did, you'll alternately gasp, hold your breath, yelp What?!, and murmur "oh my gosh." I had no idea a bike could do all that. Still not sure a bike should do all that. But now I know it can, if propelled by the right cast-iron legs.
  • You probably know that Jonathan Merritt did a piece on Tony Campolo's son's apostasy, if that's the right word for it. The real news story that the article broke is that someone still thinks that Tony Campolo is "an influential evangelical leader." The rest of the post is a target-rich environment for sad and unsurprised reflection.
  • That said, I say this: Francis Schaeffer was a fine and sound Christian leader, and Franky's defection is famous. Apostasy happens, and it's always the fault of the apostate, no matter how fine or how wretched a father he had.
  • Lovecraft, Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon, and Calvinism? What? Oh, must be Patheos.
  • Lyndon Unger doesn't think much of the movie Left Behind, only in his case it isn't because he's on the Dispie-Dissing bandwagon.
  • So Joan, who's been attending for some months, comes to you wanting to trust and follow Christ. In conversation, you learn that Joan is really John, minus this and plus than thanks to surgical disfigurement. After you've swallowed your gum, what do you say? Russell Moore gives some refreshingly nuance-free and straightforward counsel.
  • Amazing sculptures out of pencil lead make us think of God's more amazing living scultures out of microscopic material.
  • This helped and challenged me: Leon Brown on the fact that sharing the gospel can be incovenient (so deal with it, re-set your priorities Kingdomward, and get on with it).
  • Aquila Report found a very provocative perspective on dying from cancer, and on dying in general. Lacking Gospel, yet worth pondering.
  • Here is a different perspective, this time with the Gospel (and a little LCMS sauce).
  • M'man Denny Burk asks whether we have confidence in Christ that could handle Ebola.
What essential service will you contribute to your church this Sunday? Well, if you're late, here's an app that can help:

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