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What Does It Mean That We’re Made in God’s Image?

Here’s the opening of a piece I wrote for InTouch Magazine:

Sometimes a counterfeit helps us understand the purpose of the genuine object. People produce counterfeit money, for example, not to hoard but to exchange for things of value. And that should remind us money is not to be treasured for its own sake but used. Those coins and pieces of paper have no value in and of themselves. They are merely conveniences that allow us to exchange our labor and expertise for milk, eggs, gasoline, books, and other necessities and pleasures. The same principle holds true for copycats of the imago Dei—a Latin phrase which means “image of God.” To shed light on the original, let me tell you about the knock-offs, the cheap imitations.

The whole thing is here.

 

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The Song of Songs: A Biblical-Theological, Allegorical, Christological Interpretation

Song of Songs CoverChristians have long read the Song of Songs as music that sings of the one who so loved his bride that not even death could keep him from her. If Hosea could present his relationship with Gomer as a kind of allegory of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel, why couldn’t Solomon have done the same thing in his very positive depiction of the idealized king’s love for his bride in the Song?

Not only am I convinced that Solomon intended an allegorical layer of meaning for his poetry, I’m also convinced that he understood the importance of his role as Israel’s king, as the scion of David, and as one whose life and writings contributed to significant patterns of events. These patterns of events lay the groundwork for the assertion, “One greater than Solomon is here,” and such historical correspondences and escalations in significance are typological.

If Solomon intended the Song to be both allegorical and typological, we can describe it as Christological. My biblical-theological exposition of the Song, which has just appeared from Christian Focus, attempts to be faithful to the text and apply the truth of Scripture to the heart.

I pray the Lord will use this little book to help people feel his love, stronger than death, a flame no waters can quench, and I pray it will heal and strengthen marriages, guide and bless Bible studies, and bring glory to the Bridegroom whose voice made the Baptist rejoice.

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Can We Arrive at a Young Earth and 24-Hour Period Days in Genesis One from Scripture Alone? A Guest Post by Steve Ham

Steve Ham is the Senior Director of International Outreach at Answers in Genesis. It has been a privilege to get to know him and to enjoy his friendship. 

I do believe the Bible gives ample justification for calculating the age of the earth at around 6,000 years and for seeing six normal 24-hour days in the week of creation. I also believe that this position most appropriately meets the confines of the textual boundaries and best upholds the doctrine of Biblical perspicuity.

How Old Is the Earth?

To suggest that the Bible does not directly teach the age of the earth is to suggest that we need an explicit statement of age. The lack of an explicit statement, however, does not mean that something is an unimportant or undecipherable teaching. Notably, the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly stated in Scripture, but with careful synthesis it is clearly understood from what the Bible directly states. Using Biblical data—such as the genealogies in the Old Testament—we can, with insignificant variance, approximate the amount of time between Jesus and Adam.[1]

Then there is the discussion of the six days of creation. Those who believe the earth is billions of years old base their understanding on the varied ways the word “day” is used.

We do not need a catalogue of quotations to serve as an appeal to authority for either side in this conversation. As with many other doctrines in Scripture, we could list innumerable respected orthodox Christian scholars of the past and present and note their varying views. In many of these instances we can also identify influences that led them to those views. Significantly, since the early nineteenth century there has been an escalating proportion of Christian scholars holding old-earth positions. No matter how much we try to rise above them, we all have to battle with the outside influences of our day when we come to the text. Regarding the days of Genesis and the age of the earth, the scholarly struggle most visible has been with uniformitarianism. Uniformitarianism became prominent in geology in the nineteenth century and holds that present processes dictate the way we understand the past. The quotations that follow (Augustine excepted) are presented to show that uniformitarianism has had an impact on the way many very respected godly Christian scholars and leaders have interpreted the days of Genesis 1. Consider the following:

  • Augustine did not hold to 24-hour periods in Genesis 1 and he could not have been impacted by uniformitarianism. But he did not hold to an old earth. He noted, “Creation, therefore, did not take place slowly in order that a slow development might be implanted in those things that are slow by nature; nor were the ages established at the plodding pace at which they now pass.”[2] Augustine talks of creation as more of an instantaneous event and held to the genealogies of Scripture to arrive at no more than 6,000 years for the age of the earth.
  • Edward J. Young, writing after the popularization of uniformitarianism, wrestled with views of the scientific establishment of his day: “For one thing it is difficult to escape the impression that some of those who espouse a non-chronological view of the days of Genesis are moved by a desire to escape the difficulties which exist between Genesis and the so-called ‘findings’ of science. That such difficulties do exist cannot be denied, and their presence is a concern to every devout and thoughtful student of the Bible.”[3]
  • Gleason Archer’s words reflect a similar struggle (although unlike Young, Archer did advocate a particular old-earth day-age position): From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four-hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author (a questionable deduction, as will be presently shown), this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago.”[4]
  • R. C. Sproul, Sr. summarizes the difficulty that arises from the apparent discrepancy between the scientific consensus that the earth is old and his impression from the Bible that it is young:“When people ask me how old the earth is I tell them ‘I don’t know,’ because I don’t. And I’ll tell you why I don’t. In the first place, the Bible does not give us a date of creation. Now it gives us hints and inclinations that would indicate in many cases a young earth. And at the same time you get all this expanding universe and all this astronomical dating, and triangulation and all that stuff coming from outside the church that makes me wonder.”[5]

We are all situated within a historical-cultural context, and we all come to the Bible with assumptions and ways of thinking that seem obvious because they are taken for granted in our culture. To some degree we all have an “outside influence log” in our own eye. We must be aware of outside influences and test everything by the Scriptures allowing the Bible magisterial authority from start to finish.

The Genesis Week

The week of creation unfolds sequentially, day by day, as God prepares the earth, creates plants, speaks the heavenly bodies into existence, creates animal life, and makes mankind in His image. There is stylistic beauty to Genesis 1, but such does not require that Genesis 1 fall outside the genre of historical narrative where some who also question a normal week of sequential days have placed it. One can see the difference between poetry and narrative simply by reading Judges 4 and 5, which contain a narrative account followed by a poetic song—both speaking of the same event.[6] Genesis is a masterful literary work, structured in such a way to communicate rich theological truth. It is a text that is both historically accurate and theologically profound. Furthermore, Genesis 1 and 2 was a suitable historical reference point for Jesus’ argument about marriage (Matthew 19:4–6, Mark 10:6–9).

Exodus 20:11 and 31:17, which state God’s commandment for the Sabbath, are best understood in light of a literal creation week correlating to the normal week of an Israelite’s experience. McCabe notes, “He created the universe in six, sequentially arranged, normal days. Both passages use an adverbial accusative of time (‘in six days’). This grammatical construction indicates the duration of God’s creative activity by stating how long it occurred, ‘during six days.’ This construction, as Benjamin Shaw has correctly noted, ‘implies both that the days were normal days, and that the days were contiguous. Thus, the “dayness” of the six days, as well as the seventh, is essential to the meaning of the Sabbath commandment.’”[7]

I also believe the seventh day to be a normal 24-hour period. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy. If we are to see God’s rest on the seventh day as an enduring or unending day of rest, we would have to ask the question, How then on this blessed unending day is the earth cursed with the fall of Genesis 3?

When Does a Day Mean a Day?

Yôm (day) in the Old Testament generally refers to a normal day.

– When yôm is used with a cardinal or ordinal number, it refers to a normal day.

– When yôm is used with the words morning, evening, or night, it refers to a normal day.

– A possible exception noted recently by Justin Taylor is Hosea 6:2. Yāmîm, the plural of yôm, is used in Hosea 6:2. Some have used these passages as examples for when the plural of yôm does not mean a literal day. Others believe that Hosea 6:1–3 shows that if Israel would repent, God would quickly heal and forgive them—making sense of a normal day. It may be possible that it is used both ways. Others believe it is pointing the restoration of Israel in the eschaton and used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:4. Either way, this one example is disputed and so it is a very weak justification for not taking the days of Genesis 1 as literal.

Andrew Steinmann notes that Genesis 1:5 employs yôm with an ordinal number as well as with the contextual indicators “evening” and “morning” and says, “Evening is the transition from light/day to darkness/night. Morning is the transition from darkness/night to light/day. Having an evening and a morning amounts to having one full day. Hence the following equation is what Genesis 1:5 expresses: Evening + morning = one day.”[8]

Why Be Concerned?

The question I prefer to ask is, What is wrong with believing the world has been here for millions of years?

  1. We should be able to apply our conclusions about the text to the world we live in and find consistency. This is what it means for the text to inform our view of the world and not the other way around. Genesis 3:18 states that thorns and thistles are a consequence of sin. On the assumption of the Bible’s historical accuracy, I must therefore assume that wherever I see thorns and thistles, they are a product of the fall. We do see fossilized thorns and thistles in the geological record in layers assumed by uniformitarians to be millions of years old. If uniformitarian dating methods are right, this would necessarily place these fossilized thorns and thistles before humans and, given what Scripture plainly states, before the sin of Adam and Eve. Therefore, I reject the uniformitarian assumptions that establish ages for the geological layers.
  2. We also see these thorns and thistles in the same geological layers as animal fossils, and fossils with evidence of disease. Paul tells us that, because of sin, the whole of creation is groaning (Romans 8:22). Old earth views would necessitate placing a groaning creation prior to its cause, sin.
  3. In Genesis 1:29–30 we find that animals and humans were created on the sixth day as vegetarians. If the fossil record is millions of years old and precedes the fall, we should not find evidence of carnivorous activity – yet we do.

Placing the consequences of sin before the intrusion of sin itself creates problems that the young earth position does not have. This raises questions about God’s purpose and character and makes this issue exceptionally important to me.

Because of Jesus’ victory, we can be assured that all things will again be reconciled—and not just the elect but the entire creation. To what state will the creation be reconciled if not to its original state of perfection? We hope not for a future full of disease, suffering, animal death, or thorns and thistles (Isa 27:4; Romans 8:21; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20).

Psalm 104 has sometimes been used as an objection to this noting that the Psalmist is talking of an original creation that includes lions going after their prey. It also, however, talks of ships on the sea and man going out in his labors. The Psalmist is acknowledging that the wonder of creation—even the corrupted creation he is seeing in his time—was originally by the hand of God.

Conservative evangelicals are also fighting against the naturalistic explanations of evolution and the allowances made by some for an allegorical Adam and Eve. We should take heed that the idea of an allegorical Adam and Eve is only ever raised in a context where the world is thought to be millions of years old.

God called His finished creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31). I cannot read this statement in any other way than as the creation being a reflection of God’s pure and holy character. The idea of millions of years of death and suffering prior to sin allows too many things that conflict with God’s holiness and perfection.

It is always profitable to discuss the Bible with Christian brothers. I read and admire the writings of great Bible scholars of the past and the present, some of whom held or hold views on the days of creation that I cannot agree with. The issue of the earth’s age is a significant one, and serious discussion of these important issues is a sign of spiritual health. This subject, I contend, matters more than most will admit or perhaps have carefully considered.

While Martin Luther could never claim infallibility, I believe he has given us an example of the type of humility we all need. The trick is applying it consistently. Luther asserted with humble boldness: “When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”[9]

[1] Tim Chaffey, “Are There Gaps in the Genesis Genealogies? Appendix C,” Answers in Genesis, March 22, 2012, https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/genealogy/are-there-gaps-in-the-genesis-genealogies/. Note from JMH: Fred Zaspel raises good questions about the possibility of establishing dates from the genealogies (http://www.credomag.com/2013/03/08/telling-time-in-scripture-part-22/) but I am not convinced that the problems he raises are insurmountable.

[2] Cited in John Hammond Taylor, St. Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Newman Press, 1983), 1:141.

[3] Edward J. Young and Robert Young, Studies in Genesis One (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1999), 51–52.

[4] Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 156.

[5] “The Age of the Universe and Genesis 1 — A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture,” Ligonier.org, June 22, 2012, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/age-universe-and-genesis-1-reformed-approach-science-and-scripture/.

[6] A helpful work by Steven W. Boyd presents a strong case for reading Genesis 1 as narrative, studying and cataloging 522 historical narrative and poetic texts, and classifying Genesis 1 as historical narrative with a probability of virtually one. See a presentation of Boyd’s material in “A Proper Reading of Genesis 1:1 to 2:3” Donald DeYoung, Thousands Not Billions: Challenging the Icon of Evolution, Questioning the Age of the Earth (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005), 158–170.

[7] Robert V. McCabe, “A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 2 of 2),” DBSJ 11 (2006): 112–13.

[8] Andrew E. Steinmann, “One as an Ordinal Number and the Meaning of Genesis 1:5,” JETS 45, no. 4 (2002): 583.

[9] Cited in Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says: An Anthology (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), 1523.

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Chesterton on the Convincing Accumulation of Evidence

From Orthodoxy:

If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, “For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.” I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts. The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind.

I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape and one old friend. The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion.

Now, the non-Christianity of the average educated man to-day is almost always, to do him justice, made up of these loose but living experiences. I can only say that my evidences for Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as his evidences against it.

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Anachronistic Assumptions and the Documentary Hypothesis

David M. Carr opens his book, Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature, as follows:

In her book Oral World and Written Word, Susan Niditch vividly illustrates the problems with contemporary assumptions about ancient textuality, as she outlines the picture many biblical scholars often assume in their discussions of biblical formation. Critiquing the traditional documentary hypothesis (J, E, D, P), she says:

At the heart of the documentary hypothesis [sic] . . . is the cut-and-paste image of an individual pictured like Emperor Claudius of the PBS series, having his various written sources laid out before him as he chooses this verse or that, includes this take not that, edits, elaborates, all in a library setting. . . . If the texts are leather, they may be heavy and need to be unrolled. . . . If texts are papyrus, they are read held in the arm, one hand clasping or “supporting” the “bulk” of the scroll, while the other unrolls. Did the redactor need three colleagues to hold J, E, and P for him? Did each read the text out loud, and did he ask them to pause until he jotted down his selections, working like a secretary with three tapes dictated by the boss?

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The Days of Creation and Exodus 20:11

Justin Taylor has caused quite a stir with his post on “Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods.”

The decisive factor for me is how earlier biblical statements are interpreted by later ones, so Exodus 20:11 is BeastMode (a.k.a. Marshawn Lynch) on the goal line in this argument.

Re-reading the Van Pelt quote JT gives on Exodus 20:11, I think it misses the point and fails to do the job old-earthers need it to do.

The point Moses is making in Exodus 20:10–11 is a different point from the one being made in Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3–4.

The author of Hebrews cites David as saying something like this in Psalm 95:

  1. God did the creation for six days, then rested on the seventh day.
  2. God did the redemption at the exodus, then offered Israel rest in the land.
  3. Israel rebelled in the wilderness, so God swore they would not enter into his rest–the rest he offered them in the land.

The author of Hebrew sees David in Psalm 95 drawing an analogy between creation and redemption, and between God’s seventh day rest and the rest Israel was to enjoy in the land of promise.

The rest that remains in Hebrews 4:1 would seem to be a rest analogous to the one offered to Israel, along these lines:

  1. 6 days of creation, followed by sabbath day rest;
  2. Exodus from Egypt, followed by an offer of rest in the land;
  3. New Exodus at the Cross, followed by the promise of rest in the fulfillment of the land (new heaven/new earth).

It seems that just as John 17:3 says that eternal life is knowing God and Christ, so also Hebrews 4:2 says that those who believe have an already/not yet experience of the future rest now, even as we pilgrimage through the wilderness toward the city that has foundations (not least because we have rested from our works–which points to salvation by faith not works).

It is not the intention of either David or the author of Hebrews to assert that God’s seventh day rest was something other than a single day that stood at the end of the six days of creation. That David and the author of Hebrews are drawing analogies does not indicate that they are thinking of something other than a normal week.

Then when we go to Exodus 20:10–11, we find Moses drawing an entirely different analogy than the one drawn by David and the author of Hebrews. The analogy Moses draws looks like this:

  1. God created in six days. God rested on the seventh day.
  2. You work for six days. You rest on the seventh day.

The most natural reading of Exodus 20:10–11 seems to be that the six days of creation followed by the sabbath day of rest was a cycle of the same kind of seven day week that was to become the pattern of Israel’s experience.

It’s hard for me to imagine someone coming to some other kind of conclusion unless he seeks to accommodate extra-biblical considerations from philosophy (a la Augustine) or science (a la contemporary old-earthers).

Here are the theses I would offer for discussion:

  1. The most natural reading of the text is that in Genesis 1–2 Moses intends his audience to think of a normal week of seven days, and that reading is confirmed in Exodus 20:11 (cf. also 31:17).
  2. We can hold such a position with epistemological humility and not, as AiG does, suggest that old-earth creationists (such as Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware) are opening the door to abortion on demand and gay marriage.
  3. The real lesson of the Galileo episode is that Christians should not tie their understanding of the Bible to scientific theories.

If God created Adam as an adult male, he has no problem making something that has the appearance of age.

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The Days of Creation and Death Before the Fall

What follows is my response to Gavin Ortlund‘s response to Douglas Wilson. Check them out for context on this conversation that plunges right in mid-stream.

Gavin tries to deal with death before the fall, but I don’t think we can retroject onto the pre-fall situation what “must” have been the case given the way things are now.

If I grant that humans would not have died had they not sinned, can I not imagine a situation where low-level organic life might not have died either? Gavin says the world would have become uninhabitable apart from those kinds of death. How does he know? Couldn’t there have been some pre-fall, uncursed, very good way that God had in the offing to deal with those realities? I suspect he could have handled the logistics.

As for the overhaul of creation that is proposed if predatory behavior only begins after the fall, again, we don’t know what those eagles and eels and saber toothed tigers might have used their peculiarities for in a very good world. It sure looks to me like the animals weren’t afraid of people until after the flood (Gen 9:2), which would seem to imply that maybe they weren’t a threat to humans until that point, either.

Could God have designed eagles and eels and tigers with some other purpose than predatory behavior? I suspect the pre-fall world was different in ways we don’t conceptualize, so I’m not prepared to close down that possibility.

Acknowledging what I don’t know and can’t imagine seems a lot safer than elaborate speculations about demons and a fallen creation prior to human sin. (Gavin acknowledges the speculative nature of his proposal that “nature fell when angels fell.”)

I would rather believe what the Bible says and need more information than it gives me than adopt a hypothesis that entails extra-biblical information requiring exegetical gymnastics to pretzel the Bible’s statements around my theories.

I trust the Bible more than I trust that extra-biblical information.

The Bible’s material provides us with a grammar of sorts, and out of that grammatical material we construct our lexicons and syllabaries and mental books on syntax that we use to conceptualize and talk about the world.

It seems to me that the grammatical data on this one is pretty straightforward. Note the avoidance of the word literal, here. What I’m saying is that the grammatical data that the Bible gives us builds up an interpretive world where “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed'” (Exo 31:17 ESV) means that we are to think of God making the world in what we think of as a normal week. Then a bunch of other statements in the Bible get built out of that same stuff.

There is another set of grammatical pieces of information that drives people to look at a verse like that and say something like: well, actually it wasn’t a normal seven day week at all but was in reality a longer period of time than we can begin to conceptualize. The grammatical data that leads to that kind of interpretation of those words and phrases comes from outside the Bible, not inside it.

As for the three-tiered universe, I want to think further on that. I want to keep reading the Bible and see if what has happened to me in the past doesn’t happen to me on this one – I come to an understanding of the texts that makes total sense and gives the lie to the conclusions that, in my view, folks like Peter Enns have jumped to on these matters. Would love to tell you what I’ve come to conclude about Enns’s vaunted movable well.

On the specifics of the scientific evidence, I remain untroubled by the distance light has traveled from the sun or very distant stars. If God can create Adam as a full grown man, he can create a lot of other things that look like they’ve been growing for a while, too.

The idea that God did such things is easier for me to stomach than the alternatives. In fact, it’s not hard to stomach at all, and it begins to taste like honey from the comb.

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Read the Bible: Kindle Reading Plan

Chris Dendy came up with the idea for the God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment Bible Reading Plan, and Lindsey Jacobs designed it. The plan pairs daily Bible readings with relevant sections from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, and you can read more about it here.

A number of folks requested that the plan be made available for the Kindle version of the book, and Chris and Lindsey have come through with one.

In addition to the two plans available for the print copy of the book, here’s a plan that will take you through the Kindle version: Kindle Reading Plan.

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My Favorite Books of 2014

Surveying the list of books I read this year, these jumped out at me as the most significant. These are books I intend to revisit, the kind of books that need to be known not merely read.

In no particular order:

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths

The best one stop resource for everything you want to know about Greek mythology. Aha moments aplenty areading this magnificent summary replete with artistic renderings. Knowing this material will fertilize the imagination and help you understand the myriads upon myriads of references to the classical heritage in all learned writing.

Clement Wood, Poets’ Handbook

I had no idea there was so much to know about poetry! How vast and deep was (and is) my ignorance. Clement Wood may have been a socialist, but he loved his poetry and knew it thoroughly. This is a comprehensive look at how poems are made, illustrated with many poems worth committing to memory. This book will help you understand the sublimity of the genre and give you language to describe it.

Manchester and Reid, The Last Lion

These monumental volumes must be listed separately:
Volume one: Visions of Glory
Volume two: Churchill Alone
Volume three: Defender of the Realm

This three volume set is easily the best biography I have ever read (actually I listened to it on Audible–highly recommended! Would that Frederick Davidson could have read all three volumes). Who is more colorful than Churchill? When did a figure more clearly understand himself to be in a vast struggle between good and evil with civilization at stake? Who could have made more memorable statements in such situations? Thoroughly heroic. You will not be disappointed by these books.

Scott Crider, The Office of Assertion

The logic of this book was so tight I felt dizzy at times. The sentences held exactly what they needed and nothing more. The prose as limpid as its content lucid. This is a beautiful book on rhetoric from which all preachers and teachers will learn.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals

Lincoln. What else needs to be said? I don’t know whether he was converted to Christianity near the end of his days, but the most noble things about the man were the points at which he was most like Jesus. Noble. Forgiving. Serious. Moral. Loving his fellow man. Seeking the right. A great depiction of a great man.

Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind

An absolutely fascinating history of ideas. The sentences Tarnas reels off are astonishing–full of precision and insight. Such summaries of Plato and Aristotle! Really puts the turning of the gears of the ages of philosophy into perspective. Then after a masterful survey, he goes into full wingnut mode in the final pages: the archetypal evolution of the collective psyche? The perinatal dialectic of the re-experienced birth canal produced by an LSD trip as studied by Stanislav Grof!? The sad thing is that he seems to be serious. He really believes that stuff. May God give him the new birth he needs, that the passion of his western mind might truly reunite with his ground of being in knowing God through Christ by the power of the Spirit.

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Asia Reformed Ministries

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to draw your attention to the relatively new website for Asia Reformed Ministries. I have twice been with them to teach pastors, and the work they are doing is cause for great rejoicing. The darkness stands no chance against the one they proclaim.

I would encourage you to check out the website, read about the work, and consider making a year end contribution to this tip of the greatest cause’s spear.

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Deuteronomy Section of GGSTJ Online

The section on Deuteronomy from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology has been excerpted and published in the latest issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT).

If you’re considering doing the GGSTJ Bible Reading Plan and want to sample the book, click on over and check it out.

This is an excellent issue of SBJTHere’s the Table of Contents:

Stephen J. Wellum, Editorial: Reading Deuteronomy for God’s People Today, 3–5

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Has Any People Heard the Voice of God Speaking … And Survived?, 7–17

James M. Hamilton Jr., The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment in Deuteronomy, 19–33

Peter J. Gentry, The Relationship of Deuteronomy to the Covenant at Sinai, 35–57

John D. Meade, Circumcision of the Heart in Leviticus and Deuteronomy: Divine Means for Resolving Curse and Bringing Blessing, 59–85

From Condemnation to Righteousness: A Christian Reading of Deuteronomy: Jason S. DeRouchie, 87–118

A.B. Caneday, “Anyone Hung Upon A Pole Is Under God’s Curse:” Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in Old and New Covenant Contexts, 121–36

Book Reviews, 139–57 — includes reviews by Stephen Wellum, Jarvis Williams, Matthew Hall, and James Parker

The entirety is available as a free PDF.

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Review of Timothy Stone’s Book on the Five Small Scrolls

A version of this review was published in the most recent issue of Themelios.

Timothy J. Stone, The Compilational History of the Megilloth. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 59. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013. 258pp. Paper. $94.

What is the Megilloth and what difference does the history of its compilation make? The Megilloth are the “five small scrolls” (Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations) in the third section of the tripartite Hebrew Bible referred to as the Writings (Law, Prophets, and Writings). The issue of how these scrolls came to be grouped together is related to the wider question of when and how the Writings began to be considered in relationship to one another. Some think that the Old Testament canon was not closed until after the time of Jesus, and this view is often accompanied by the idea that the Writings are a random collection into which later rabbis sought to introduce meaningful organization.

Tim Stone[1] makes a historical and exegetical case for the view that these five small scrolls were intentionally grouped together into a meaningful arrangement as the canon was being formed and that “the tripartite canon was likely closed within mainstream Judaism sometime considerably prior to the end of the first century C.E.” (3). Stone builds on the work of Brevard Childs, Roger Beckwith, Julius Steinberg, Christopher Seitz, and others. He first discusses the question of Canon and Compilation, contending that “Canonization is not a dogmatic judgment passed down from above, but rather one at work in the canonical process” (13). Using the assembling of the Twelve Minor Prophets into a meaningful whole and the strategic arrangement of the Psalter as points of comparison for what he argues about the five small scrolls, Stone develops “compilational criteria” that he employs to analyze the relationships between the five small scrolls: 1) catchwords at the end or beginning of juxtaposed books; 2) framing devices such as inclusios; 3) superscriptions; and 4) thematic considerations (33). Discussions of the collection and arrangement of the Writings follow, and these set up the exegetical probes Stone uses to test and confirm his theories. Ruth and Esther receive chapter length treatment, and then the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations are sounded before Stone summarizes his findings.

Stone helpfully sets out three theses that outline his project (9). I will shorten these theses further, allotting only one statement for each: 1) the tripartite canon of the OT was closed well before the end of the first century [AD]; 2) there are only two main arrangements of the writings before the eleventh century C.E. (after which orders proliferate): those found in BB 14b and the MT; and 3) the five small scrolls are purposefully arranged (with slight variations) and sit in the middle of the Writings, preceded by a wisdom collection, followed by a national-historical collection.

I am enthusiastic about the confirmation Stone provides for an early closure of the OT Canon and the purposeful arrangement of those books. His project is a stimulating contribution to the pursuit of canonical biblical theology. As intriguing as his suggestions are, however, and as much as I agree with him that the canonical context of a biblical book should influence its interpretation, I hold vastly different conclusions on the meaning that results from consideration of the canonical context of books such as Esther, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. Stone’s view is that the canonical context of the book of Esther results in the conclusion that Hadassah (the character named Esther) is “an assimilated Jew who has forgotten Israel’s God” (173). Privileging other canonical material, I would see Hadassah as a model of biblical femininity, a faithful Jew who trusts God and makes the best of a bad situation. This example illustrates the inevitably subjective, perspectival nature of the necessary task of looking beyond the boundaries of a particular biblical book for wider canonical context.

On the matter of the organization of the five small scrolls, Stone proposes a chiastic structure:

Ruth

Song of Songs

Ecclesiastes

Lamentations

Esther

Ruth is positive, Esther negative; the best Song is matched by the worst; and at the center of the chiasm stands Ecclesiastes, the only book in the collection that “lacks a main female character” (206–207).

Some of the interpretive conclusions Stone draws, such as the idea that Mordecai and Esther are made to appear in a negative light by virtue of the way their actions differ from those of Daniel and his friends in Daniel 1–6, seem speculative and unwarranted. I am remain unconvinced that the author of Esther intended his audience to derive a negative conclusion about Esther and Mordecai because their circumstances were different than those of Daniel and his friends.

This point about authorial intent leads to a wider difficulty with the project of deriving meaning from the arrangement of the biblical books—and I say what follows as one who seeks to do canonical biblical theology and believes that English translations should adopt the tripartite order of the books of the Old Testament. In my view, the biblical authors were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21), with the result that the final form of what they wrote is what should be regarded as inspired by the Holy Spirit. With this, the controlling concern in interpretation is what the Spirit-inspired biblical author intended to communicate. So unless it can be shown that the author of Esther, for instance, consciously composed Esther to be read against the backdrop of Daniel 1–6 and as a foil to Ruth, intended meaning is being attributed to someone other than the biblical author. It seems impossible to establish that an inspired prophet such as Ezra was responsible for the arrangement of the canonical order of the books, though there is strong evidence that Ezra may have done just that. If we cannot be certain that the Spirit inspired a prophet to organize the books into meaningful arrangement, then it seems we are considering the history of the reception and interpretation of the books and their arrangement rather than interpreting the intended message of the biblical author(s).

[1] Timothy Stone taught for two years at Zomba Theological College in Malawi as a PCUSA mission co-worker and now serves as a visiting professor at Eastern University. The Compilational History of the Megilloth is a revision of his doctoral thesis done at St. Andrews.

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SBTS Publications in 2014

Here are some ideas for Christmas and/or birthday gifts for the pastor, theologian, missionary, evangelist, seminarian, or teacher/student of the Bible in your life. Last year I posted a list of books from the SBTS Faculty in 2013, and I’m following it up with this list of books from the SBTS Faculty in 2014.

I may have missed something. If so, please bring it to my attention and I’ll update the list.

It’s an honor to serve the greatest cause with these great men. List alphabetical by author’s last name.

Gregg R. Allison, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment

Dan Dewitt, Jesus or Nothing

Dan Dewitt, The Owlings: A Worldview Novella

Duane Garrett, Exodus

James M. Hamilton Jr., Ezra and Nehemiah: Rebuilding People and Wall

James M. Hamilton Jr., With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology

James M. Hamilton and Thomas R. Schreiner, (contributors), Adam, The Fall, and Original Sin

Michael A. G. Haykin, George Whitefield

Michael A. G. Haykin, Patrick of Ireland

Michael A. G. Haykin and C. Jeffrey Robinson Sr., To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy

Oren R. Martin, Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan

Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones, Proof

Jonathan Pennington and Stephen Wellum (contributors), Heaven

Thomas R. Schreiner, editor, with James M. Hamilton Jr., Michael A. G. Haykin, Gregg R. Allison, Shawn D. Wright, and Bruce A. Ware (contributors), Shepherding God’s Flock

Zane Pratt, M. David Sills, and Jeff K. Walters, Introduction to Global Missions

Mark A. Seifrid, 2 Corinthians

M. David Sills, El Llamado Misionero: Encuentre su Lugar el el Plan de Dios para el Mundo

Donald S. Whitney, Finding God in Solitude: The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards. . .

Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

May the Lord bless your study, and may the Lord bless the administration, faculty, students, graduates, and supporters of SBTS and similar schools seeking to advance the gospel. If you’d like to know more, head on over to sbts.edu.

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Read the Bible

Are you planning to read through the Bible in a year?

Have you felt lost in the vast architecture and artistry of the Bible’s massive spaces and intricate designs?

One of my motivations in writing God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology was to provide a resource people could use alongside their daily Bible reading. I mention that in the “Strategy for Reading This Book” that precedes the first chapter, and Chris Dendy has taken that cue and created a Through the Bible in a Year reading program that pairs daily Bible Readings with relevant sections from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment.

This plan will enable you to take a guided tour through the Bible using the God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment reading plan. With it you can accompany your daily Bible reading with related sections of God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment to see key connections with other Scripture, literary structure of the passage you’re reading, and broader thematic developments.

My prayer is that many will grow in their understanding of the Bible by experiencing its power and glory first-hand.

Read the Bible. And if you need help understanding it, get a book like this one that will take you through the Bible and draw your eye to the way its authors deployed their artistry to display God’s glory.

The God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment Bible Reading Plan is available free in three formats.

Printable: This format can be printed (front and back), and then you can fold the pages in half to make a small booklet. This document has been updated to make it easier to print.

Digital: This format presents things in the order they should appear if you don’t plan to print the pages front and back and fold them in half.

Kindle: If you have the Kindle version of GGSTJ, this one provides your readings.

Is there any book more important than the Bible? When you come to the end, is there anything you will wish you had given more time and energy and mental effort to reading and understanding?

Don’t waste your life.
Read the Bible.
Behold the glory.
Know God.
Build your life on the book.

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Thanks for Supporting SBTS

When I pray at the beginning of class, I often thank God for all the people who make it possible for us to sit in that classroom and devote ourselves to the study of God’s Word. Praise God for the parents, spouses, friends, and family members, and praise God for everyone who gives so that we can teach and study. We are grateful for you. We pray for you. As the students prepare for ministry, they are serving you.

Thank you for making our work possible.

If you’d like to join us in this great cause, go to this page and click the “Donate Now” button.

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Andrew Peterson: My Love Has Gone Across the Sea

Andrew Peterson’s The Monster in the Hollows has this lovely lyric embedded within the wider story:

My love has gone across the sea
To find a country far and fair
He sailed into the gilded west
And lo, my heart will never rest
Until my love returns to me
Or I set out to find him there.

Come home, come home! I sing to thee
My love, come home and rest thy head
I’ll watch for you the winter long
And sing for you a summer song
And if you can’t return to me
Then I will sail to you instead

Through tow’ring wave and shriek of gale
I’ll aim my vessel ever west
And steer it by the cord that bound
My heart to yours, until you’re found
And should you find my body pale
And wrecked upon the loamy shale
Rejoice, my love, and call me blessed!
In death, my love, I loved you best

You can read his explanation on the Kickstarter page for The Warden and the Wolf King, and you can see his daughter sing it with him here:

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Idiot’s Guides: The Bible

Before we had kids, my sweet wife and I got a dog. I knew I didn’t know anything about how to train a dog, so I bought Dogs for Dummies, and set to work. The book was entertaining, brief, and insightful. It advocated concentrated, reinforced, rewarding (as in, give the dog treats when he does what you want him to do) training time with the pup. We were in a season of our lives where I could carve out 30 minutes a day to spend with Spurgeon, and though his behavior wasn’t perfect, he was a very good boy.

My experience with that book makes me very excited that my friend Ben Phillips of SWBTS Houston is the author of the new version of the idiot’s guide to the Bible. Ben has a lot of personality, a lot of energy, and best of all he’s an evangelical. What a blessing that the publisher got someone who believes the Bible to write a guide to the Bible!

I suspect you’ll see this book in all the major bookstores, and I trust you’ll join me in asking the Lord to prosper his word. May this book help that great cause.

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Is This What You Mean by “Church Growth”?

“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children . . . Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

–Ephesians 4:12–16, ESV

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God Created Man . . . Male and Female

Louis Markos makes an important point against the use of gender-neutral language in Bible translations:

Over the last several decades, this postmodern deconstruction of masculinity and femininity has, I believe, been fostered by the widespread acceptance of gender-neutral language. Many recent Bible translations (NRSV, NLT, CEV, NIV 2011) have adopted such language, despite the fact that God himself (Gen. 5:1–2) refers to the human race by the name of the first man, Adam. McDowell and Stonestreet do not use one of these translations (they use the ESV); still, I think their own use of gender-neutral language has the unintended consequence of downplaying the sexual complementarity on which strong and fruitful biblical marriages rest.

I suspect that the usage of “man” to refer to humanity in the English language resulted from the influence of the Bible.

If I’m reading a document from another time and place that has been translated into my language, I want to read the words they used so that I can see how they conceived of the world. I don’t want their way of conceptualizing the world re-shaped into the way the world is conceptualized by the pc police in this time and place. If that happens, I won’t have any suspicion that the world was seen differently in that time and place.

Once again, the best remedy for this is to learn and use the biblical languages. If you can’t do that, stick with a literal translation.

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