Bible interpretation

F.F. Bruce: A conservative liberal or a liberal conservative?

A Review of Tim Grass, F.F. Bruce: A Life (2011). 

Evangelical historians have chronicled “the Evangelical resurgence in Biblical Studies” during the twentieth century, and in that history F.F. Bruce played a central role. Several of the really good things from that “resurgence,” as well as some of the not-so-good things, go back to him. This biography speaks to these issues, but gently; probably too gently because, after all, who wants to violate the rules of collegiality and criticize a fellow scholar who is so congenial?

Bruce wrote a “sort of” autobiography in 1980 entitled, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past. Unfortunately, it’s not a very personal book and this new biography tells me that others had the same complaint. Yet in that work, Bruce tells us he has always found it difficult to write or speak publicly about the things ...


Covenant Theological Seminary's C. John Collins dismisses the numbers of Scripture...

It's the first rule of journalism to "follow the numbers." C. John "Jack" Collins is a prof at the Presbyterian Church in America's Covenant Theological Seminary, and recently Jack published a book and article purporting to defend the historicity of Adam. Both are dangerous pieces of work because both are carefully wrong in a very soft and seductive way. But the numbers don't lie.

Collins writes:

The story of Adam and Eve, and their first disobedience, explains how sin, the alien intruder, first came into human experience, though it hardly pretends to explain how rebellion against God (as expressed in the serpent’s speech) originated to begin with.

Note that Collins speaks of the Fall as the responsibility of both "Adam and Eve." He uses the plural: "their first disobedience." This is directly contrary to the Word of God which explicitly declares the Fall and Original Sin to be solely the responsibility of...


For new Christians, a simple explanation of how to buy a Bible...

Do you have a Bible you hold and open and read and write notes in? Not a Bible app, but a real printed Bible? You ought to and here's a post giving some recommendations for choosing and using your Bible, as well as some recommendations for a few books you should have on hand as helps in your Bible reading.

As you read, always keep in mind that the Bible is the only book without error: 

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. - 2Peter 1:20,21

No other book is so worthy of our delight and constant meditation:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. - 2Timothy 3:16,17

In Scripture we come to know the character, the perfections, of the Only True God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here we have revealed to us the origin and nature of man, unique among all creation. Man alone (both men and women) bears the Image of God, although by virtue of the federal headship of Adam he is wracked by sin. Here joyfully we meet Jesus our beloved Savior. Here we read of His love for lost and sinful man. Here we are brought to His Cross and promised eternal life if we believe on Him. Here we find everything we need to lead a godly life in Christ Jesus.

Read this book as close to once a year as you can. And never ever excluding the Old Testament. And as you read, don't hesitate to mark up your Bible...


Reformed Therapeutic Gospel (RTG)

In Adam's fall, victims of circumstance and conditionality all...just rolls off the tongue.


Tim Keller's wife, Kathy Keller, critiques Rachel Held Evans: but keep your eye on the ball...

(NOTE FROM TB: When I first published this post, I was remiss in not thanking Kamilla for pointing me to Kathy Keller's piece. Quite a few of our sources come from Kamilla and I am delighted to publicly acknowledge her for her faithful work that's been so helpful to us for years, now. Thank you, Kamilla! Here is some of Kamilla's good work opposing Rachel Held Evan's very public hissy fits, but everything Kamilla writes is worth reading.)

* * *

Mrs. Tim (Kathy) Keller just did a post on the heretic Ms. Rachel Held Evans that her husband's friends put up on their web site. It's never good to provide a wider forum to a heretic, but if someone was going to give Held Evans more media coverage than she's already arranged for herself by her public fainting spells, I suppose Mrs. Keller is as good a person to look to as anyone else. 

And her review is good. Read it. Now that you've read it, though, here are a couple things worth pointing out about Mrs. Keller's own words and arguments.

Mrs. Tim Keller writes:

...recording the relentlessly sinful behavior of his people (in the Old Testament) was God’s way of demonstrating how desperately in need of a savior they really were.

One commenter points out that in this review Mrs. Keller is employing faddish redemptive-historical techniques. So then, look at the above quote and ask yourself where this leaves us with redemptive-historical preaching? If the good things done in Old Testament narratives are not to be taken as lessons of spiritual virtues of men like David when he slays Goliath, what gives us permission to take the bad things done by David when he commits adultery and murders the adulteress's husband as a lesson of moral turpitude?

In other words, moralism is moralism whether pointing to the bad or the good. If the bad is to be read as pointing the reader toward how hopelessly lustful and bloodthirsty David is because of his faithlessness, and how he needs a Savior; why are we not allowed to read the good as pointing the reader toward how wonderfully courageous David is because of His faithfulness, because he has a Savior?


The tragedy of complementarianism....

Carl Trueman is a complementarian. Really.

He recently assured us of this, despite previously suggesting on his blog that disagreement over the Biblically-ordained roles of men and women is no basis for separation in ministry and despite holding the opinion that many complementarians embrace complementarianism "less because of the Bible and more because they apparently watched Conan the Barbarian a few too many times in their early teenage years."

Unfortunately, he's accurate in claiming to be complementarian. Professor Trueman is straight down the middle of that broad and squishy theological avenue.


Turns out children adopted by lesbian couples aren't OK after all...

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1)

Everyone who knows anything will tell you global warming is true; or at least likely enough to be true to justify a plate-tectonic shift in all the world's economies. Everyone agrees. Science doesn't lie.

Everyone who knows anything will tell you literalists are embarrassing to the young, restless, and Reformed entrepreneurial enterprise. It's time to climb on Jack Collins' and Tim Keller's bandwagon. It's time to join all the brilliant genomists and brilliant exegetes and embrace evolution. Everyone agrees. The high priests of the Human Genome Project and scientific exegetes don't lie.

Everyone who knows anything will tell you Scripture is stupid--an ancient collection of myths. Take, for instance, that very old myth that man was created first, then woman; and that the meaning of this fact is that woman is not to teach or exercise authority over man. Also, that same-sex intimacy is an abomination before God and that God abandons men and women to receive in their own bodies the fair or just penalty of their perversion. Everyone agrees this is not true. God's Word is a lie.

Everyone who knows anything will tell you gay parenthood is good for the children; or at least good enough to justify a plate-tectonic shift in artificial insemination, adoption, and family law. Everyone agrees. Science doesn't lie.

Then a social scientist does a study of the emotional and mental health of adult children of same-sex parents...


PCA debate over woman deacons: It’s about rebellion--not exegesis...

(Note from DB: This post is by David Wegener, a teaching elder in Central Indiana Presbytery of the PCA.)

I’ve lived and worked in Zambia for the last decade. One of the delightful things about Zambian life is the importance of the non-verbal. Body language is carefully observed. My students watch me for cues as to what I’m really saying, regardless of my words.

We’ve all seen a rebellious teen-ager or wife. Wise pastors and elders have learned to pick up the non-verbal cues that show this rebellion. Usually you can see it in the eyes or the expression on the lips. God made us this way and it is only through a cultivated ignorance that officers of the church are unaware of the obvious signs. I wish I could pick up the cues as easily as my African students do.

Many blog posts and emails document the culture of rebellion that exists today in the PCA. Only a carefully cultivated ignorance will miss the signs. And they’re not simply non-verbal. They’re written down and clear for all to see. Sam Wheatley’s paper is only the most recent example.

Vast sections of our denomination are in rebellion against what our Book of Church Order says about the ordination of women as deacons.


Preachers who dare to be helpful...

Concerning the preaching of the Church Fathers, in one of his lectures Princeton biographer and Covenant Seminary church history prof David Calhoun says this:

The Church Fathers are difficult to read, not only because they are long-winded, but also because they tend to go into all kinds of digressions. They really do not stick to the point. Gregory the Great, toward the end of the period of the Church Fathers, said:

“This is how a preacher should preach. A preacher of the sacred Word should imitate the manner of a river. For if a river as it flows through its channels comes upon valleys upon its banks it immediately flows with full force into them, and when it has filled them up it at once returns to its course. This is exactly the way the preacher of the divine Word should be so that when he is discussing something, if perhaps he finds an occasion near at hand to be edifying, he should, as it were, force the streams of his tongue to the neighboring valley, and when he has filled up the plain with his instruction he may return to the course of his main topic.”

Now, you will not be taught that manner of preaching at Covenant Seminary--or any place else, as far as I know. Homileticians tell us to have a point and stick to it. But the Church Fathers did not like to do that. One topic will raise another topic and they will follow all those ideas. 

If a man's preaching is bad in the sense of being timid and suggestive, only rarely moving out to the bold frontier of the indicative (and never to the imperative), then two or three points and you're done is a kindness and should be cultivated. And if that's the sort of preaching you want, Professor Calhoun says that Covenant Theological Seminary is the sort of academic institution that will work for you.

But brothers...


Motives and responses...

You guys all noticed there hasn't been any response to appeals for the Grace to You men to admit their unfaithfulness to Scripture and repent of it, right? The discussion of money and its corruption of decisions caused Grace to You to express their utter rejection of such considerations. But when it came to the infinitely more serious matter of amending and deleting and gagging Scripture, no response at all. (They may still be considering an admission of their failure; time will tell.)

Listen brothers, responses are significant and should be studied closely. And a non-response is a response...


He catches the wise in their craftiness...

For it is written, “He is the One Who catches the wise in their craftiness"; and again, “the Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” (1 Corinthians 3:19b-20)

Could it be that "myth" is the right category for the kind of stories we find in the ancient world, whether from the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, or even the Hebrews?

- Jack Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

One liberal reviews another liberal's book and tells us the second liberal is going to get in trouble with his constituency when they figure out what he's selling. Several members of the second liberal's constituency read Baylyblog and write in to dismiss the first liberal's comments as sour grapes, and they tell the Baylys that they only need read Jack to see what a gift he is to the Church.

So why does the first liberal say the second liberal is too liberal for his constituents?

Well, you see, the first liberal's constituency group already wised up to him and fired him so he's blowing the whistle on the second liberal because misery loves company.

Then comes the cloying argument...


Nullifying the Word of God for the sake of academic reputation...

This is a post showing how (it seems to me) shame over the Bible's history of Creation has led to the (maybe) decline of Covenant Theological Seminary. But first, a short back-story...

Some time back I had a man in my congregation who had grown up Baptist and was pursuing graduate studies in science. One weekend he was home visiting his childhood church and he came under the influence of John Armstrong who--whether through preaching or conversation, I don't know--convinced him to stop graduate studies in science and begin graduate studies in theology. Being PCA at the time, I encouraged him to go to the PCA's Covenant Seminary over in St. Louis and he matriculated there a year or so later.

Watching him across the years is part of the reason I've warned people to avoid Covenant. There's more to say than this, but two things are worth highlighting... 


Coming out of the bathhouse...

Here is a helpful and wise autobiographical account of one man's life of sexual perversion prior to repentance, along with a warning against the tactics of the sodomy lobby that are taking Emergents like Tony Campolo and Rob Bell by storm today. The article isn't for the faint of heart, but this piece does such a good job of smashing all the pro-sodomy propaganda to smithereens that every pastor and elder and deacon or deaconess should read it carefully.

Note particularly how gays and egalitarians share identical hermeneutical strategies. Following the sodomites' hermeneutical technique outlined below, for decades now egalitarians have checkmated the Pollyannas of the Evangelical Theological Society. Mr. Lee records how all the debates over the meaning of this or that Biblical verse or word have born the fruit of "the gay rights apologists (earning) a place at the table from which they will never be dislodged." This is precisely the way the egalitarians have won their battle, also. When kaphale and authentein have been parsed into oblivion, the egalitarians walk home chortling over their victory--and rightly so...


From Dark Ages, Galileo speaks of literal interpretation of Scripture...

(Tim) It's central to our chronological conceit to reassure ourselves the Middle Ages were the Dark Ages crammed full of religious bloodshed, religious oppression of scientific progress, and the Plague. So we've all learned the lesson to keep church and state separate to the end that we won't have as many wars or as many people die in those wars.

Doing well are we? Paganism is the state religion almost everywhere and more people were sacrificed on the altars of paganism's idols (Communism, Zionism, Feminism, etc.) this past century than ever died from all the religious wars of the Medieval world combined.

But what of science? Our modern morality play smugly assures us the Enlightenment busted truth loose from the religious ignoramuses who had oppressed the great minds across many centuries. Finally we know it's not wrong to take the Pill, unborn babies aren't persons and can't feel the knives, the iPhone is cool, washing hands saves lives, you can make babies in the lab, you can end the war by blowing up the women and children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Earth isn't the center of the Universe.

"Poor Galileo! If only he'd lived today when every man finally knows religion has nothing to say to the state or the high priests of Science. The Bible's true when it talks about spiritual things--not political or sexual or scientific things. It's no history book or textbook on cosmology. It tells you how to feel--not what to think. Poor Galileo! He had it right and the church tried to shut him up. Stupid ignorant church. Stupid Dark Ages...


"Scholar-priests trained to decipher the arcane tongues..."

(Tim) From a January 3, 2011 New Yorker article titled, "God's Librarians: the Vatican Library enters the twenty-first century," here's an explanation of Rome's many-century opposition to laymen reading the Bible that strikes me as pertinent to the scientific exegetes who write books and teach in reformed and evangelical seminaries and colleges, today:

(The Vatican Library) may possess some of the most ancient manuscripts of Scripture in existence, but for centuries the (Roman) Catholic church held that ordinary people shouldn't be able to read the Bible--that the Old and New Testaments themselves should be a kind of "secret history" for everyone but the scholar-priests trained to decipher the arcane tongues in which they were written.

The modern scientific exegete has done the medieval equivalent of denying Scripture to the layman by...


Bibleland: the cost of inerrancy's victory...

(David) Tim's and my father, Joe Bayly, used to say (in private and only to family members) that the price of inerrancy's doctrinal defeat of liberalism in the battle for the Bible of the 60s and 70s was the loss of the authority of God's Word.

Today I'm as firmly convinced that Dad was right as I am that the Word is without error. It is inerrant, but the battle to prove inerrancy transformed the Word from the roaring lion of Amos into a patient needing the care of experts, from public glory and present power into the private realm of reflection. 

Evangelical scholars were happy to come to the Word's defense. They put the Word under their microscopes in the search for vaccines against liberalism. Scholarly reputations were forged. And preachers all too willingly deferred--they were the students of these scholars, how could they tread confidently where their masters trod mincingly?

The result is a post-Reformation Protestant Church in which scholars and preachers illuminate the Word and usher people into the glories of the Word rather than preach the Word as a lamp for the illumination of glorious earthly paths. (If you doubt this, just take any of the most-recommended modern commentaries from an Evangelical or Reformed background and compare it to Calvin's commentary on the same book. Calvin respects and applies the Word while modern commentators explain, justify and generally try to support the Word.)

Thus, the modern Evangelical/Reformed world which is Bible rich but Spirit poor. The Word has become a walled garden, a magical mystery tour Christians enter into--BibleLand--rather than a map, a guide, a light for real life.


I'll call you a a Christian if you'll call me a scholar...

(Tim) Our American-African correspondent, David Wegener, just sent in this review of John D’Elia's A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America (Oxford University Press, 2008).

This biography is a parable of the dangers of seeking the approval of the world. Didn’t our Lord say, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Mk 8:36). Yet this is what Ladd sought, and along the way he lost his soul. He was one of the most respected evangelical Bible teachers of the mid-twentieth century. Nobody from my generation can teach on the kingdom of God and not quote George Ladd. Yet he craved the acceptance of the world and, when he did not attain it, his life fell apart. Didn’t the Apostle write, “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Rom 8:7). The world will never accept us. It can’t.

Ladd became a Christian as a young man, sensed a call to the Christian ministry, trained at Gordon College and then entered the pastorate. Somewhere along the way, he changed direction and began to pursue further education so that he could do scholarly work on the Bible...


NIV 2010: it's not a question of interpretation...

(Tim) Under this post opposing the deletion of words inspired by the Holy Spirit from modern Bible products like the NIV 2010, one reader commented:

This post is slanderously titled. You and Doug (Moo) are both seeking to sit under the authority of God's Word; that is not the question; the question is one of interpretation....

To which I respond: maybe you didn't read what I wrote? Doug Moo and the scholars he leads who are paid by Zondervan through Biblica are changing the text of God's Word so it won't offend the sensitivies of postmoderns. They take out words the Holy Spirit inspired such as 'brother,' 'man,' and 'Jews,' replacing them with words they claim better communicate the Spirit's message by avoiding the Holy Spirit's words. But of course, it's impossible to keep the Holy Spirit's message intact when His words are repudiated...


The academy, the seminary, the church, and terminal degrees...

(Tim) Under the post about Wheaton's quarter-billion capital campaign, a reader asked, "(If a man) wants to prepare to be an Old or New Testament Professor... (w)here would you recommend him to study for a Ph.D. and why is this a better place to go than Wheaton?" Taking this as a jumping-off point for some related thoughts, I commented:

The academy has taken over the Reformed church and needs to be pushed back to being a servant, rather than a master. And its service needs to be circumscribed to the end that, once its overreaching has been disciplined, it doesn't have an easy time taking back lost ground.

The first necessary act of discipline is to reclaim for the church the training of shepherds. The academic model has utterly failed. It turns out men whose basic orientation is to avoid conflict. Not to be too hard on seminaries, though; this is only what academic institutions are ordered to produce. We shouldn't be harsh on them for doing what they're made to do.

The academy in its current manifestation is set up to manufacture men committed to being good disciples (of their profs) who will be hired by good colleges and universities...


Donald Bloesch, RIP.

(Tim) If erudition's your thing, the late Donald Bloesch was your man. Seminary professor, denominational prophet to his own and President Barack Obama's United Church of Christ (which he referred to as "Unitarians Considering Christ"); and theologian; Don was bonkers prolific. He never seemed to stop writing. Speaking personally, though, Don was a dear friend who taught me much about how to work for reform within the church and how to apply the truths of God's Word to this present evil day.

Which is ironic when you stop to consider Bloesch held to classic Neo-Orthodoxy--particularly its denial of the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture. Once I tried to talk Don into delaying writing the volume of his systematic theology dealing with revelation until he'd gotten older and thought better of his commitments. Of course, I failed, but the disagreement didn't end our friendship. Don understood my concern and didn't resent my attempt to keep him from the publication of his errors. (And of course, it was IVP that printed those errors. IVP has long been in thrall to the Academy, leaving far behind its earlier foundation on the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture.)

Speaking of his view of Scripture, one night Mary Lee and I were having dinner with about five other guests at Don and Brenda's home in Dubuque. Brenda had served a wonderful meal and we were gathered in their living room for conversation, afterward. There were books here, there, and everywhere. Don sat in the middle of the couch and on the coffee table at his knees was Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which at the time was a runner-up to Clark's Man and Woman in Christ for the best book in print on the Biblical doctrine of sexuality.

Pointing to the book I asked Don if he'd read it? He said it was on his list but he hadn't gotten to it, yet. Brenda inserted that she'd been trying to get him to read it for some time, but failed. (She held the Ph.D. in French Lit and, given their childlessness, served as Don's full-time assistant in all his writing and speaking endeavors.)

With the subject broached, I asked Don what he thought of woman officers in the church?

He responded that...