Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another brief delay

I'm getting married this Saturday, but starting next week I should be back here more often.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A New Blog to read

Hi all,
I just want to let you know that I found a well-written, intelligent new blogger you might be interested in checking out. He's only written 2 blogs so far, but I would keep a look out for more worth-your-while posts.

Take a look at: Andy's Stand Up Blog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Comparison between Biblical and Evangelical Christianity

Bev had early suggested I create a more clear presentation of how my views on the Bible differ from the modern version of the gospel.

I spent today doing that very thing.

Any feedback is welcome.

I would welcome'request that anyone who finds the page interesting link to it on their own site.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Should Christians Enable?

Nancy brought up an exquisitely interesting point the other day. The Bible does not appear to say anything about enabling. One could make an argument, of course, that enabling is unhealthy and hence we should obviously steer clear of it. But I wonder if things are at all that simple.

Is the wisdom that says we should withhold from those who lean on us because giving to their detriment an earthly wisdom or a heavenly one? Might it be that we conjure up this notion of enabling as an excuse for ourselves so we can determine who is "really" in need and whom we can in good conscience ignore?

Labeling a particular charitable act as "enabling" essentially calls on us to become judge over whether someone "deserves" our help. But isn't that completely against most of Christian theology? Sure, you could claim that giving in certain cases is not really doing anyone any favors, but that seems to be a dangerous conclusion to draw (especially given how easy and attractive of a conclusion it is).

I once heard a talk at a Navs retreat by a large black man who talked about giving money away to people who might use it to buy alcohol, etc. He said "that is between him (the person receiving the money) and God." I think that viewpoint has much to commend it. I personally also believe that people are rather loathe to really ask for help in the first place...and someone generally has to be in a pretty bad way before finding the humility to ask for help.

Anyone have any scripture references on this?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What does "Son of Man" mean?

Given that it dominates Christ's discussions about Himself, particularly in John, it is surprising how little discussion occurs over what Jesus meant by the term "Son of Man."

There have been a few explanations given. A particularly biased answer is that Jesus is making a claim to Messiahship [or even divinity] by using the expression because it is an homage to Daniel 7:13, where the apocalypse is described with "a son of man" riding on clouds.

To claim "son of man" was a title of sorts due to this single reference is rather a reach since just a chapter later in the same book Daniel himself is referred to as a "son of man" [Daniel 8:17].
To suggest more and claim the cloud imagery means that this figure is actually God goes beyond merely "puzzling" for in the verse we are told the "son of man" is presented to God [the Ancient of Days]. (And it also is confounded by Numbers 23:19 that says "God is not a son of man."

Some research has suggested the term "Son of Man" is an aramaic idiom that means "me." This would make it similar to "Yours truly" when used to refer to oneself. The problem with that idea is that the Jews do not seem to understand what Jesus is referring to when He speaks of the "son of man" in John 12:34. Indeed, that verse makes nearly impossible that the expression is just an idiom for "me."

Another option that has been put forward is that it is just a way of saying "a human." That certainly makes sense given the many, many times the expression is used in the OT. However, it once again does not make sense with its usage in John 12:34 or elsewhere.

I think that perhaps Jesus is calling attention to Ezekiel. Throughout Ezekiel, God addresses the prophet as "son of man." The phrase is used there about 80 times, more than five times as often as all the other books of the OT combined. This is illuminating because it means we can see Ezekiel as a Type of Christ and gain an understanding of Christ's work by looking through Ezekiel's actions in the OT.

Mark 13:20 --- Salvation not about the afterlife

The central tenet behind The Gospel You've Never Heard is that the Jews who wrote the New Testament did not think of the term "salvation" in the way we have been led to believe. The Jewish understanding of salvation (as made clear in the Later Prophets, among other places) is that of God vindicating God's people. It is then, of course, about what it means to be "God's people," which leads us into the discussion of the Holy Spirit and the cleansing of the New Covenant temple.

Anyways, Mark 13:20 is a stark exposition of this primary Jewish understanding of salvation, blatantly showing that the modern understanding of "deliverance from Hell" is totally out to lunch.

Mark 13:19-20 discusses God's Judgment that is coming against the world. Jesus says "In those days there will be suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of God's creation until now, or ever will happen. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no on ewould be saved. But because of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut them short."

This is the setting for the oft-quoted "He who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." [Acts 2:21, Romans 10:11, both quoting Joel 2:32 (or 3:5 depending on which Bible you have).]

Now, if "saved" here refers to "deliverance from Hell after death," then the importance of this wrath being short-lived "for the sake of the elect" is absurd. To say that "no one would be saved" if this wrath were prolonged upon the earth makes no sense with the modern understanding of salvation, for the modern understanding of salvation only has jurisdiction after the grand resurrection. Christ's focus is not on the Judgment that comes after the resurrection but on the wrath that comes before it. This is the focus of apostolic Christianity and dominated early church thought for the initial generations of the church. This is why Paul calls Christ "our savior from the coming wrath." This is why Peter has to inform his readers not to be perturbed that the day of God's vindicating them has been postponed. The early church, must as the Jews who came before them, were focused on God's vindicating them over their oppressors. Luther wasn't around to tell them that they all begin "by default" in hell and needed deliverance from it. Such a notion would have seemed ludicrous to Paul.

This notion of salvation as "deliverance from the coming global, physical wrath" is linked to the other primary notion of salvation as "deliverance from domination by our flesh" because they both are connected to the idea of being in covenant with God, for the Holy Spirit is the seal of the New Covenant and is sent to help this covenant succeed where the earlier one failed. This second definition of salvation, the one Christ describes when saying "Those who sin are a slave to sin, but if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed" is connected to a rather secondary definition of "saved" as the physical transformation achieved after the resurrection. The receipt of the Holy Spirit is a type of salvation in that we are no longer enslaved to sin. The receipt of a new body is the completion of this.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Old Testament Passover cannot be Vicarious Atonement: A Logician's Proof

I'm back, and I'm devoting a big chunk of today to catching up on blog stuff.

The authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions enthusiastically attempt to make a case for the Old Testament passover to be an instance of vicarious atonement. Their entire efforts lean on a snippet cut from a single verse, Exodus 12:12.

For those who have not read Pierced for Our Transgressions, the authors' handling of this is sadly representative of how they handle the entire topic (Penal Substitution) throughout their book. I hope to publish some sort of summary review of that soon.

Exodus 12:12 reads "For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments--I am the LORD."

Put the authors do not provide this entire verse (which is understandable given how long it is). What is much less acceptable is what they do say. They tell their reader: "...the plague on the firstborn is described specifically as 'judgment on all the gods of Egypt.'"


That's not what Exodus 12:12 says at all. It might be a reasonable conclusion to draw if we already believe in Penal Substitution AND we ignore that the Exodus story described an event from 3500 years ago within the context of world-wide idolatry.

When God says "I will strike down the firstborn... AND on the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment," it means exactly what it says. God will do two things. The firstborn will be struck down and the idols of the Egyptians will be toppled/destroyed, etc. Had the authors quoted the entire verse, it would be more obvious (I hope) that this is what was meant... it's hard to understand how the destruction of donkeys, goats, etc. could be construed as "judgment upon Egypt's gods."

Moses did not crater to idolatry, yet his household would have been vulnerable to the plague on the the death of the firstborn could not be merely the way God was executing judgment on the "gods of Egypt." No. When God says judgment on the "gods of Egypt" would ensue, it means precisely that: the gods of Egypt (the idols) would be destroyed. To someone in 1500 BC, that would make perfect sense. Indeed, the Old Testament has a long history of discussing this judgment on other gods in terms of destruction of the idols to which people bowed
(e.g., Jeremiah 50:2, 51:47, Ezekiel 6:6, 30:13, and of course the story of Dagon in 1st Samuel 5:4)

However, it would still be possible for the Old Testament passover to be a vicarious atonement, even if there is absolutely no evidence of it in the actual account. It would be, as Dan Martin put it, extrascriptural conjecture. I made that exactly conjecture in The Gospel You've Never Heard.

But recently I realized there is a simple proof that the Old Testament passover could not be a case of vicarious atonement. It is based primarily on the idea that you cannot pay for something with money you don't have. Or, to put the matter in the language of Calvinist, wrath can only be redirected to an object that would not have otherwise felt it.

This is one of the reasons given for Jesus having to be super-human and sinless. Jesus was taking upon Himself a punishment that He would otherwise not have had to bear. You cannot sacrifice something that is already marked for death. If the idea is that Person(s) A are being delivered from wrath because Person(s) B receive that wrath in their place, then none of the members of B can be members of A or else the situation is not vicarious and would not make much sense as an atonement either.

To use a courtroom analogy, we often think of all of humanity as guilty and subject to punishmen for it (of course, this courtroom drama is never portrayed in the Bible anywhere, but that's another story). Then an innocent person takes the blame instead. In the case of Jesus the idea is that Jesus was so awesome that He could adequately receive the punishment of millions or billions, etc.

Now, imagine a different courtroom drama where instead some of the guilty stand up and offer to take the punishment for the rest. Well, that makes no sense because they are already slated for punishment. If 20 people are slated for death, one of them cannot stand up and say "Hey, just take me and leave the others alone" because we only see the innocent as being able to take the debt from another. [And, of course, it is not really vicarious to receive the punishment that was due to you.]

So, what does any of this have to do with the Passover? Well, the simple truth is that some of the lambs that were sacrificed were the ones that were slated for death. As I've mentioned already (though the authors of PFoT do not give it much ink), not just humans but animals as well were slated for death. It was not merely the firstborn of each Israel household, but also the firstborn donkey, lamb, goat, etc. That means that many of the lambs slaughtered in the passover were themselves going to die anyway. If the firstborn plague were actual wrath that had to be averted, then many of the lambs slaughtered in that massive first passover were themselves already the bearers of judgment.

But we've already established that someone who is already bearing judgment cannot atone for others. So, if the passover lambs were meant as vicarious atonement for judgment on Israel, we would reach a contradiction because we would find that someone already bearing judgment (statutorily guilty) was somehow able to atone for others.

Of course, if we allow Exodus 12:12 to mean what is says (in the context of 1500 BC culture), we would not see the passover as a case of vicarious atonement at all, and all the above problems are vanquished.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Okay, so not really such a short break

I apologize to anyone who thought I might have been killed or taken hostage by Somali pirates. I have just not been able to put together enough time to respond to the various comments and post a couple other things I want to do.
However, my chess book is almost done (for real), and I do hope to get back and answer various comments by the end of the week.