Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The "Spirit of God" Or "Wind" In Genesis 1:2?

Genesis 1:1–2 speaks of more than just the act of creation. The text identifies the Creator as “God” and immediately thereafter indicates the possibility of another person of the Godhead at work: “the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters.” The phrase “Spirit of God” (יםִ להֱ אַ רוּח) occurs only fifteen times in the Hebrew Bible and appears always to be a reference to a person, not a wind. In addition, יםִ להֱ א never occurs as an adjective in the Creation account—it always refers to God.8 The evidence is so overwhelming that Hildebrandt reaches a conclusion commensurate with that of Moltmann regarding the personhood of the Spirit of God: “The personhood of God the Holy Spirit is the loving, self-communicating, out-fanning and out-pouring presence of the eternal divine life of the triune God.”9 However, Hildebrandt then warns that taking this too far might lead to “speculative intrusion into the OT references,” since the full development of the personhood of the Spirit of God awaits the NT revelation.10 This hesitation to make the commitment to seeing a divine person as “the Spirit of God” in the second verse of Genesis arises even among some of the strongest evangelical theologians. Merrill, for example, concludes that “The Spirit is to be understood here as an effect of God and not yet, as in New Testament and Christian theology, the third Person of the triune Godhead.”11 

Why the disagreements and even the hesitation to identify “the Spirit of God” in Genesis 1:2 as a person of the Godhead? Part of the resistance comes from the thinking that the interpreter must give due recognition to the ANE setting for the writing of Genesis and its Creation account.12 Is that how we must read Genesis? Must we limit ourselves to the way that pagan, unbelieving, idolatrous ANE cultures viewed God (or, gods)? To yield to this hermeneutic requires one to degrade and even destroy the significant difference between genuine believers in the true God and those who ridicule them for their faith. Their worldviews are (and were) very different. Their value systems are opposed. A rough equivalent in our own day would be to insist that future readers of evangelical books should read them as though evangelicals have adopted the prevailing worldview or Zeitgeist—that our theology and morality actually coincide with non-Christian philosophy and (im)morality in the twenty-first century. If we would scream, “Foul!,” so would the OT writers. Many who write as Hildenbrandt does only intend that we recognize that the OT writers are reacting to and interacting with the unbelieving culture of their day, not adopting the beliefs expressed by pagan myths. However, it doesn’t always come out sounding or smelling that way, especially when someone insists that there is no way that “the Spirit of God” in Genesis 1:2 could be a person of the Godhead, because such a concept was totally foreign to the ANE cultures among whom the Hebrew writers dwelt. 

One must also look at Genesis 6:3 where God refers to “My Spirit.” Hildebrandt’s treatment of this text detours into later revelation before reaching a conclusion. He seeks to place the reference in a context of divine judgment as expressed throughout the OT. He still comes to a result identifying the Spirit as a personal being, but not as independently as the decision he made in 1:2.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Homemaker Wife Is Priceless

"I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour’. (1st to be happy, to prepare for being happy in our own real Home hereafter: 2nd, in the meantime, to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.”

C.S. Lewis, Letter to Mrs. Johnson on March 16, 1955

Friday, September 17, 2021

An Exposition Of Isaiah 9:6

For - the ground of these great expectations.

Unto us - for the benefit of the Jews first (Israel is here the speaker), and then the Gentiles (cf. "unto you," Luke 2:11).

A child is born (the Immanuel, child of the Virgin, Isaiah 7:14-16), unto us a son is given (Psalms 2:7) - God's gratuitous gift, on which man had no claim (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

And the government shall be upon his shoulder. The ensign of office used to be worn on the shoulder, in token of sustaining the government (Isaiah 22:22). Here the government on Messiah's shoulder is in marked antithesis to the 'yoke and staff' of the oppressor on Israel's "shoulder" (Isaiah 9:4). He shall receive the kingdom of the earth from the Father, to vindicate it from the misrule of those to whom it was entrusted to hold it for and under the Most High, but who sought to hold it in defiance of His right. The Father asserts his right by the Son, the "Heir of all things," who will hold it for Him (Daniel 7:13-14).

And his name shall be called - His essential characteristics shall be.

Wonderful - (note, Isaiah 8:18; Judges 13:18, margin; 1 Timothy 3:16.) His whole manifestation is a wonder or miracle: and great as have been the past wonders which He performed for His people in Egypt at the Red Sea and the Jordan, He shall work still greater wonders for their deliverance hereafter (Isaiah 43:18-19; Exodus 15:11; Psalms 77:11; Psalms 77:14; Psalms 78:12; Daniel 12:6). Counsellor - (Isaiah 11:2; Micah 4:9; Psalms 16:7; Romans 11:33-34; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:3.)

The mighty God - (Isaiah 10:21; Psalms 24:8; Titus 2:13.) Horsley translates, 'God the mighty Hero,' or 'Warrior,' 'Eel (H410) gibowr (H1368): the character in which He will manifest Himself against the anti-Christian enemy (Revelation 19:11-15). "Unto us ... God" is equivalent to "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

The everlasting Father. This marks Him as "Wonderful," that He is "a child," yet the "everlasting Father" (John 10:30; John 14:9) - literally, 'The Father of eternity' [ `ad (H5704)]. The Septuagint (pateer (G3962) tou (G5120) mellontos (G3195) aioonos (G165)), 'Father of the age to come' (Hebrews 2:5) - the Messianic age-the kingdom which shall have "no end" (Isaiah 9:7): the Author of eternal life to all that believe. Earthly kings leave their people after a short reign; He will reign over and bless them forever.

The Prince of Peace - (note, Isaiah 9:5; Genesis 49:10: Shiloh, 'The Tranquillizer.') Finally, Hosea 2:18. Even already He is "our peace" (Luke 2:14; Ephesians 2:14). The antitype to King Solomon (the Peaceful, as the name means). The earlier Rabbins, the Chaldaic Targum, Beresheth Rabba, and Ben Sira, etc., all took the Messianic view of this prophecy.

Excerpts taken from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Monday, September 13, 2021

An Exposition Of Ephesians 2:8-9

        "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

        The Apostle Paul begins this chapter by describing how the world is in terms of its standing before God. Man is utterly lost, under divine judgement for sin. Man in his natural state is enslaved to Satan, living in lawlessness and perusing fleshly desires. But God in His love and graciousness has offered to us a path of redemption. We are set free from sin and death through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He is life to us. It is not because we loved God, but Him having first loved us, that He reached out to man who is helpless to change his own condition. In this passage, Paul evidently made use of themes found in the Old Testament which relate to the giving of the Promised Land:

        "Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:11-18, emphasis added)

        "Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee. Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people." (Deuteronomy 9:3-6, emphasis added)

        God promised that He was going to grant His chosen nation Israel blessings. He ensured that the Jewish people would remain prosperous and secure. God wanted to continually watch over His people. God wanted to continually provide for the needs of His people. He was not, however, carrying through with His oath to their ancestors because of righteous conduct. Rather, He was working things to His glory. God was not blessing Israel because of anything praiseworthy about these people, for they had went after foreign gods and put Him to the test. The Jews were indeed a rebellious people against Him, just like the rest of us. God accomplished great things on their behalf in spite of them being unrighteous. For that reason, there was no grounds for the Jews to boast or become prideful. He wanted them to place their trust in Him. This testifies to the graciousness and mercy of the Lord.

        Likewise, God offered up His Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to make atonement for our sins. He did so, not because of any righteousness that we have, but in spite of our unrighteousness. We have all sinned against Him. We have all broken His Law. Thus, we neither deserve His grace nor His salvation. None of us are worthy of entering the kingdom of God. His offer of eternal life is available without cost to all who come by faith. Justification in His sight is not accomplished by our merits and power, but by God Himself. He wants us to lean on Him. He gives to believers His righteousness. He saves us because He is loving and merciful. There is no room for Christians in this framework to boast, since it is God who pours new life on to our souls through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is He who removes the stains of sin from us. We are not justified by works of righteousness, but by His grace.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Early Church Evidence Against Transubstantiation

“We have a symbol of gratitude to God in the bread which we call the Eucharist.”

Origen, Against Celsus, 8.57

Thursday, August 26, 2021

When Did Marriage Become A Sacrament?

Divorce, Annulment & Communion
An Orthodox Theologian Weighs In
By David Bentley Hart

Neither, for several centuries after the Apostolic Age, did any Christian theological authority think of marriage as a sacrament in our sense. Augustine (354–430) thought it might be described as a sacramentum in the proper acceptation of the Latin word: a solemn and binding oath before God. But even then, although he took the term chiefly from Jerome’s rendering of Ephesians 5:32, he certainly did not number matrimony among the saving “mysteries” of the church, alongside baptism and the Eucharist. Neither did anyone else, for many, many years. Even the great Church Fathers tended to treat marriage as little more than a civil institution, no different in kind for Christians than for non-Christians. One need only look, for example, at John Chrysostom’s fifty-sixth homily (on the second chapter of Genesis) to see how unacquainted even a late-fourth-century theologian of the highest eminence was with any concept of “holy” matrimony. And, inasmuch as they thought of marriage chiefly as a natural fact rather than as a sacred vocation, the Christians of late antiquity did not treat it as a theological topic.

In his Commentary on Matthew, for example, Origen (ca. 184–253) notes that many of the bishops of his time permitted both divorce and remarriage among the faithful. Canon 11 of the Council of Arles (314) recommends that a divorced man not remarry so long as his former wife still lives, but also grants that, for healthy young men incapable of the continence this would require of them, remarriage may prove necessary. Basil the Great (ca. 330–379) instructed Amphilochius of Iconium to allow men abandoned by their wives to remarry without penalty...Even Augustine, while firmly convinced that marriage should as a rule be indissoluble, nonetheless confessed in his Retractiones that he had no final answer on the issue.

To be honest, many modern believers would be shocked to learn how late in Christian history a clear concept of marriage as a religious institution evolved, and how long it took for it to be absolutely distinguished from what would come to be thought of as common-law unions, or for the church to insist on its solemnization in all cases. They would be even more disturbed, I imagine (as much on democratic principles as religious), to discover that throughout much of the Middle Ages the whole issue of wedlock certified by the church concerned mostly the aristocracy, inasmuch as marriage was chiefly a matter of property, inheritance, and politics. As far as we can tell, among the peasantry of many lands, and for many centuries, marital union was a remarkably mercurial sort of arrangement, one that coalesced and dissolved with considerable informality, as circumstances dictated. And the clergy did not, for the most part, give a damn.

Really, when one looks at it closely, in light of both the empirical facts and the abstract principles of the matter, the distinction between divorce and annulment is specious all the way down. For one thing, as regards actual cases on the ground, anyone who has seen a sufficient number of annulments at close quarters (and I have witnessed quite a few) knows that they are not only fairly easy to obtain for those willing to make the effort, but that the terms governing them are applied with such plasticity that it is difficult to see how any marriage could fail to meet the standards. True, abusus non tollit usum (abuse does not do away with proper use); but, in fact, there really is no abuse involved. The very concept of annulment, as something ontologically distinct from divorce, is logically incoherent, and really can be taken seriously only by a mind so absolutely indoctrinated to believe that the Roman Catholic Church does not tolerate divorce and remarriage that no evidence to the contrary can alter that conviction.

The very premise that a marriage can be pronounced null and void, in effect retroactively (since that same marriage would be regarded as real and legitimate if suit for annulment had never been brought forward), on the grounds of some original defect of intention that means it was never a real marriage to begin with (though again, it would be considered a real marriage if that defect were never exposed), basically provides a license to regard every marriage as provisional only. After all, in what union of a man and a woman could one not detect some crucial defect of original intention if one were to seek it? Moreover, if one looks at the criteria customarily used to prove that a marriage was never really a marriage, they scarcely differ at all from the criteria that the Orthodox Church—in principle, at least—is supposed to accept as legitimate grounds for divorce. And what is a divorce, after all, other than a recognition that the original marriage was contracted in ignorance and without full mutual commitment to everything a true marriage is?

It might make Catholics feel better about their Eastern brethren if the Orthodox Church called these separations “annulments,” and issued formal absolutions from wedding vows under such terms. I have to say, however, that I am glad it does neither. To my mind, the concept of annulment is not only specious and logically contradictory, but also somewhat insidious—in fact, often rather cynical and cruel. It is terrible enough when a marriage—something on which a man and a woman, at what is usually a fairly innocent moment in their lives, have staked their futures and their hopes for happiness—falls apart. It is somehow all the more terrible when, solely for the sake of avoiding institutional embarrassment, we are asked to indulge in the fiction that it was never a real marriage to begin with.

I know of a woman whose well-connected husband managed to obtain an annulment without her consent, and on grounds that would have scarcely qualified him as a plaintiff before a secular divorce court. And I happen to know that, of the two, he was the far more culpable in the matter. What she found bitterest of all in the final settlement was that, according to her church, no one was obliged to admit that her life as a wife and mother of twenty-six years—in a union freely contracted, sacramentally solemnized, physically and fruitfully consummated—had broken apart.

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/divorce-annulment-communion

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Word Of Faith Movement Shares A Parallel With Gnosticism In Its Emphasis On Knowledge

The Faith theology exalts knowledge the same way that gnosticism does. Faith is preeminent for the Faith teachers, but they measure faith by the type and amount of knowledge one has. In the Bible, knowledge is not the measure of faith. Paul writes,

"Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God." (1 Cor. 8:1, 2, 3; NIV)

Anyone who claims to have the knowledge of God must prove his knowledge by his love. As it is with knowledge, so also is it with faith. "The only thing that counts," proclaims Paul, "is faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:6, NIV). In his famous "love chapter," Paul teaches that without love, both faith and knowledge amount to nothing: "And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains. but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). Had the love ethic of Jesus prevailed in the Faith movement, many of the barbaric and tragic things done in his name-such as the fatal withholding of medication from young children-would never have happened.

D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, p. 110

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Examining A Parallel Between Gnosticism And Word Of Faith Theology

The most obvious gnostic idea taught by the Faith theology is its dualistic definition of Revelation Knowledge as entirely spiritual in origin. Because it is spiritual, the physical senses are of no value in understanding it or using it. The Faith theology teaches the gnostic view that "man is a spirit being" who just happens to have a body. Only the "spirit man" has the capacity to receive revelation directly from the Holy Spirit. Because man's five bodily senses are physical, they are of no value in knowing God or his revelation. This view of revelation reflects the gnostic spirit-matter dualism that Kenyon learned from the metaphysical cults.

The Bible in no way justifies a dualistic view of revelation. Biblical revelation and salvation are physical as well as spiritual. The best proof of this is Jesus Christ himself, who is "the Word made flesh" (Jn. 1:14). In Jesus "all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). We are saved "through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20) and are reconciled to God "in His fleshly blood through death" (Col. 1:22). In our treatment of the Faith theology's doctrine of redemption, known as "Identification," its gnostic spiritualization of the gospel will become further evident. Suffice it to say at this point, the Bible allows for no such spiritualization. The incarnation and death of Christ are the highest forms of revelation, and both are decidedly physical in nature.

Moreover, biblical revelation was not only physical in nature, it was perceived and understood through physical means. The apostles used their physical senses to understand the incarnation of the Word: "And we beheld His glory" (Jn. 1:14), wrote John. "We were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16), wrote Peter. "And we ourselves heard [God's] utterance...when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet. 1:18). The apostles bore witness to what they had "seen and heard" and their "hands handled, concerning the Word of Life" (1 Jn. 1:1). The ultimate form of the Word of God-the incarnation and death of Jesus-was physical in nature and was perceived by physical means. This fact alone powerfully repudiates the gnostic spirit-matter dualism of Kenyon's Revelation Knowledge.

D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, p. 108

Thursday, July 29, 2021

On The Meaning Of The Word Psalms

The English word “psalms” is a transliteration of the Greek title of the book. That is, this is the Greek word simply spelled in English or Roman letters. The Greek word psalmoi was first translated into Latin as Psalmi, and then into English as “Psalms.” The Greek word originally meant a striking or twitching of the fingers on a string. The related verb was used by classical writers for the “pulling of a bowstring.” From that came the idea of “pulling or playing a stringed musical instrument.” When the word took ons the extended meaning of a song, there was always the latent background of the stringed instrumental accompaniment tied to the singing. So the meaning of the Greek title of the book is “sacred songs sung to musical accompaniment.
 
Ronald B. Allen, And I Will Praise Him: A Guide to Worship in the Psalms, p. 21

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Trent Horn's Failed Defense Of The Apocrypha Against Charges Of Historical And Theological Errors

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to rebut a handful of claims made by Roman Catholic apologist Trent Horn in defense of the apocrypha against charges of it being historically and theologically unsound. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Protestant apologist James McCarthy says the claim that these books are inspired must be rejected because “the author of 2 Maccabees says that his work is the abridgement of another man’s work (2 Macc. 2:23). He concludes the book by saying, ‘If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do’ (2 Macc. 15:38, NAB).”- But by McCarthy’s standard the Gospel of Luke would not be inspired, because it admits to being an adaptation of earlier sources (Lk 1:1-3). First Corinthians would likewise be uninspired, because Paul says he can’t remember whom he baptized (1:15). These passages only demonstrate the humility of the Bible’s human authors—not any lack of divine inspiration in their writings."

          Nowhere do the authors of the biblical books write concerning the quality of their writing, "I have done my best in writing this and hope you do not find it to be lacking." That language is not the product of somebody being moved by the Holy Spirit and cannot simply be explained away as "human characteristics" of Scripture. Furthermore, the words in the Book of Maccabees can readily be contrasted with passages of Scripture that pertain to divine inspiration of revelation (Matthew 10:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 12-13; 14:37).

          "Moreover, the alleged errors in the deuterocanonical books, such as Judith identifying Nebuchadnezzar as the king of Assyria instead of as the king of Babylon (Jud 1:1), Tobit being described as having lived for more than 150 years (Tob 14:11), can be explained. Specifically, these statements are only errors if the author was asserting a literal description of history, but even Protestant scholars agree that the authors of Judith and Tobit were not writing in the genre of literal history."

          The problem with this argument is that the church fathers considered these kind of writings to not be mythical but historical.

          "Claims that the deuterocanonical books contradict theological truths in the protocanonical books also fall flat. One example is the claim that the teaching that honoring one’s father and almsgiving can atone for sin (Sir 3:3; Tob 4:11) contradicts the New Testament’s teaching that only Christ can atone for our sins. But the book of Proverbs teaches that “by loyalty and faithfulness [or what many Protestants would call ‘works’] iniquity is atoned for” (16:6). First Peter says that “love covers a multitude of sin” (4:8), and Acts records an angel saying to the Gentile Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (10:4)."

          The text from Proverbs speaks of us being merciful to others and faithfully serving God. The text from Acts speaks of God not passing over Cornelius because of his charity and prayer. He was searching for God with an earnest heart. The text from 1 Peter speaks of love covering sins in the sense of not holding wrongdoings against other people. We ought to forgive because we have been forgiven by God. These passages of Scripture have nothing to do with people performing good deeds in order that atonement be made for their own sins.

          "Other claims of theological contradiction are circular, such as the claim that Second Maccabees is not inspired because it records the “unbiblical practice” of praying for the dead. But Protestants only say the practice is “unbiblical” because they do not regard Second Maccabees as part of the Bible. If Second Maccabees is inspired, however, then praying for the dead is a biblical practice even if it is only described in one book of the Bible. To make a comparison, the Gospel of Matthew is the only book in the Bible that records a Trinitarian baptismal command (28:19), but that doesn’t make such a command unbiblical."

          The accusation is not circular reasoning if it can be shown that the practice of praying to the dead is inconsistent with biblical witness on the matter. One cannot help but wonder whether the primary reason that the Roman Catholic Church clings to 2 Maccabees is to justify its tradition. 2 Esdras 7:105 is an apocryphal text that expressly contradicts the idea of prayers for the dead. Why did that reference not end up being included in the Roman Catholic Bible?

          "Finally, some Protestant apologists say the deuterocanonical books are not inspired because they are inferior in style to the protocanonical books of Scripture. Raymond Surburg writes, “When a comparison is instituted of the style of the Apocrypha with the style of the Biblical Hebrew Old Testament writings, there is a considerable inferiority, shown by the stiffness, lack of originality and artificiality of expression characterizing the apocryphal books.”— But this is a wholly subjective criterion that, if taken seriously, would put Shakespeare in the Bible and take books like Numbers or Philemon out of it."

          Do we need some infallible earthly organization in order to recognize that the Quran, publications of the Watchtower Society, and Book of Mormon are not inspired by God? Trent Horn's position collapses on itself because the responsibility of interpretation is always going to land ultimately on the individual. In other words, a man cannot come to conclusions about anything without subjectively using his powers of reason to weigh evidence in ruling out various possibilities.

          If one takes time to examine different spheres of life, then it will readily be noticed that no infallible arbiters exist to dictate what must be done. We can look at fields of academia and ancient civilizations only to find no infallible human authority. But the world keeps on turning. We do not naturally seek after some infallible interpreter if we fail to grasp something that we are told in conversation. Thus, the thinking of Roman Catholic apologists that there must be a final arbitrator to infallibly settle disputes is not true to the real world.