Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jephthah’s Tragic Vow (Based on Judges 11:29-40)

Oh LORD, little did I know when I made my vow, the tragedy that would befall my heart. Little did I know when I exclaimed in my piety that death would be the reward, death from my family. My heart burns, my mind has turned, anguish grips me like a mother her new born babe; like a sparrow the meat it craves. As a babe is plucked from the breast, and a sparrow taken from its rest, so now, my child, my life, torn from me. Little did I know when I made my vow.

It has been six weeks since my little girl arrived home. Six weeks since she tumbled through my door; hop, skip, jump, buoyant smile upon her face. My child, my only child. Radiant joy upon her face, lights within her eyes unlike anything this world has seen. She opened my world and rested my mind in the contentness of this galaxy, the momentum of time and space, of truth and peace. Mine. My own little girl. My only child.

Six weeks since my little girl appeared at my door; light in her eyes as always, two blinking cherishing reflective lights only for me. Its daddy! ‘Daddy, I’m home, I’m come. Daddy take me in your arms and hold me, Daddy. Daddy? Why do you stand there still? Why, you look so frail, Daddy, what’s wrong Daddy; aren’t you glad to see me daddy? Don’t taunt me Daddy, don’t forsake me Daddy, I’m home. I’m your little girl.’

So brave my little girl, so true, so open; so penetrable her gaze. Her eyes like daggers tore right through me. Her dance ceased, the tambourine died. ‘Speak to me daddy.’ I broke. ‘Oh my daughter, my little girl, see what famine you have bought upon my heart! See what fulfilment you have bought to my vow, oh death and pain and tearing loss! But I cannot shun my LORD, I cannot pronounce judgement upon Him. What can I do? My only child.’

So brave my little girl. ‘Daddy. Father. You must do as you vowed to do. You must pour this wrath upon my soul, I am a big girl. I am your only begotten child. I am. But give me leave Daddy, let me walk and wail, for I am untouched, unknown. I am as one barren, cursed by God and afflicted. Let me mourn, two months. I will return. I must return. I am your little girl. I am your only child. And little did you know when you made your vow.’ Six weeks now since my little girl arrived home.

Six weeks since she left, and she is to return in two. Little did I know when I made my vow that the LORD would take my little girl? Little did I know when the last Ammonite fell that I would be left alone. Oh LORD, my only child. My brave, willing, little girl. That she should prepare herself for sacrifice, so willingly, so brave my little girl. That I, that Daddy must give the last blow, see the last sparkle fade from her eyes, I wonder if it’s there now?

Daddy should not have to outlive his own child. Daddy must keep His vow, from it deliverance has come, from it we are saved, from it have we inherited. I must appease. But my only little girl, so much harder is her willingness. Her piety. Her trust for Daddy. My brave little girl. She opened my world and rested my mind in the contentness of this galaxy, the momentum of time and space, of truth and peace. Mine. My own little girl. My only child.

Oh LORD, little did I know when I made my vow, the tragedy that would befall my heart. Little did I know when I exclaimed in my piety that death would be the reward, death from my family. My heart burns, my mind has turned, anguish grips me like a mother her new born babe; like a sparrow the meat it craves. As a babe is plucked from the breast, and a sparrow taken from its rest, so now, my child, my life, torn from me. Little did I know when I made my vow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some Final Remarks about God Fearers

God-fearers covers a spectrum of Jewish-sympathizers who were attracted to Judaism, mainly for it’s morality and monotheism but were not willing to become a proselyte, who would be circumcised, would attend Jewish feasts, would have made a public statement of faith and for all intents and purposes were considered in the covenant. God-fearer faith is more of a pick-and-choose faith in that it is merged paganism with Judaism. For instance, Cornelius, being a centurion was probably a member of the imperial-cult. Some God-Fearers may have been more institutionalised, for instance the Aphrodisias inscription includes them as an official group of people, and traces of ‘rules’ can be found. However, these wouldn’t cover the whole spectrum of who God-Fearers were.

God-Fearers were invaluable to Judaism for two reasons: First, among God-Fearers were some very prominent members of the community who were encouraged to give financially and ‘have for a long time.’ Second, Judaism is an anti-Roman oppression religion. Jews stand against idolatry, polytheism, therefore against the imperial-cult, and worship one God who would free them. Some Jews believed that God would use men directly and stood in open hostility to Rome. Therefore, its my belief that God-fearers would act as a lens for Rome to view Judaism; members of the community who expressed a healthy interest in Judaism, but were not fanatical or anti-Rome. When the Gospel spread to the God-Fearers, not only was financial aid redirected from the synagogues to the Churches, but the lens was being removed from Judaism, leaving it more exposed.


In many ways the God-fearers were ideally ‘suited’ for the Gospel, being attracted by Jewish monotheism but not liking all the law. The Gospel Paul preached was justification by faith alone, and not by the law, so; ‘the Jews have been telling you that you’re not saved unless you’re circumcised and I’m telling you’re that your saved through believing in Jesus and not by the bondage of the law.’ ‘It was as natural for God-fearing Gentiles to embrace the blessings of the Gospel…as it was for the Jews to decline them.’

Geographically, in Pisidian Antioch, God-fearers greatly responded yet this was seemingly where God-fearers were most attached to the Jews, starting the persecution. In Philippi and Corinth, prominent God-fearers were converted allowing churches to be established. In Berea and Thessalonica, many God-fearers responded but possibly with the greatest hostility.

The significance of ‘God-fearers’ in the book of Acts is that they served as a dominant people for Paul to bring the Gospel to, being naturally affiliated with the Jews allowing sometimes a backdoor. They had a natural ideology that fit the gospel message, they sometimes provided rich resources and they redirected attention from Judaism. This makes them imperative in the spread of the Gospel and shows the sovereignty of God at work through the apostolic era. The God fearers were a legitimate people and we all too often minimalise their importance in the early church.

Extra-Biblical Evidence for God Fearers

‘Its important to remember that archaeology by its very nature is not able to produce a complete picture of cultural and religious life…Only the combination of the information received from the different sources, and the careful cross-checking of them, can produce reliable results’(Levinskaya, p.58). Inscriptions have been found around the Diaspora, which include the word θεοσεβης, many of these are identities. The most important, the ‘Aphrodisias’ inscription, contains lists of synagogue people. What’s interesting is the God-fearers are separate; making them different from the Jews, yet still members of the synagogue. Some of the inscriptions appear to give the title God-fearer’ to a Jew however the evidence to support this is minimal. Kraabel ‘suggests that the inscription from Aphrodisias refers simply to pious Gentiles who contributed to synagogues.’ This again doesn’t fit the evidence.

‘The Cult of the Most High God’ (ϋψιστος). Many believe that ϋψιστος is simply a name given to many pagan-deities. Trebilco argues that in Acts16:16-18, the girl was talking about a pagan-god, not the true God. However, ϋψιστος implies monotheism and its Jewish use is overwhelming, Jews addressed God as Theos Hypsistos (LXX). Acts 16, θεου του ύψιστου, when cross-referenced with the sayings of the demons in Marks Gospel, is the Jewish God, not Pagan. Its likely ϋψιστος is a mergence of Jewish and Pagan beliefs where some Gentiles would be a part of, a group of people within the pagan/proselyte spectrum: God-fearers.

Jewish Historian, Josephus also mentions persons attached to synagogues:
‘[Jews] were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves.’
‘But no one need wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, for all the Jews throughout the habitable world, and fearers of God…had been contributing...’

I therefore believe that we can legitimately speak of ‘God-fearers’ as a category of people in the first century AD.

L.H. Feldman Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (Yamamoto, Tokyo, 1987)
L.H. Feldman Josephus, the Bible and History (Yamamoto, Tokyo, 1988)
L.H. Feldman The Omnipresence of the God-Fearers (Biblical Archeological Review 12, no.5, 1986)
E. M. Smallwood The Jews Under Roman Rule (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1981)
Robert S. MacLennan and A. Thomas Kraabel, The God-Fearers – A Literary and Theological Invention,(BAR 12, no.5, September – October 1986)
I. Levinskaya, The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol 5, Diaspora Setting (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1996)

God Fearers in Acts.

Within Acts we see the most explicit reference to God-fearers (Acts 10; 13:16; 13:26; 13:43; 13:50; 16:14; 17:4; 17:17; 18:6-7). Some say this is Luke writing as a theologian who needed God-fearers for his narrative. I believe the reason we have the most references to God-fearers within Acts is because it gives us historical details not necessary in the rest of the New-Testament narratives.

God Fearers in Acts depends much on the geography and situation in question (The references to God-fearers cover a large area, including Caesarea, Pisidian Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth). God-fearers are mentioned several times in Acts, sometimes they heartily welcome the gospel, whereas at otehr times they begin the persecution.

Acts 10

Cornelius is a ‘model God-fearer,’ with almsgiving, prayer (v.2) and a good reputation among Jews (v.22). Therefore, ‘he had some preparation for the Gospel he was soon to hear.’ He was not a Jew/proselyte (shown by the Jewish Christians who came with Peter who were amazed by the fact he had received the Holy Spirit). Furthermore, he was a Roman Centurion who would be expected to participate in the imperial-cult. ‘Because of his official duties and despite his beliefs in one God, has to demonstrate publicly his polytheism.’ Cornelius was not the first Gentile convert (See Acts 8), however from him the mission to the Gentiles began (Acts. 11:1), his household also becomes a Christian base as all his household were filled with the Spirit and baptised.

Acts 13:16-50

Here Paul is in Pisidian Antioch, and as was his custom he goes first to the synagogue where Jews and God-fearers responded. This ‘is the first time the mission to the Gentiles is proclaimed as a recognized aim.’ This is also the first step of persecution. Prominent women drove Paul and Barnabas out from their borders. These women are unlikely to be Jewish as it is unlikely that they possessed a higher status than the males or that they initiated the persecution before the males. They are very likely God-fearers, which makes sense when cross-referenced later in Luke’s narrative (Acts 17:4, 17).
From these passages we see the beginnings of the Gentile mission, which posed a serious problem for the Jews as their status quo was suddenly challenged. The Jews generally had better success because of the long relationship they had enjoyed with God-fearers, owing to the hostility to the Gospel in Ch13. This is an important development in the spread of the Gospel and the accompanying persecution, which as we see here and throughout Acts, God-fearers play an important role in this.

Acts 16:14
This passage is crucial in understanding the success of the Gospel. Paul goes to a ‘place of prayer,’ presumably the area didn’t have a synagogue and meets Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. This makes Lydia an extremely wealthy member of the community, and she is at the meeting; a God-fearer (v.14). This makes a base for Christians to meet in Philippi, the household of a God-fearer provides a huge resource for the spread of the Gospel.

Acts 17:4,17

Again Paul’s begins in the synagogue and God-fearers who are there respond. Here they are called ‘worshipping (σεβομενων) Greeks’ with prominent women. And again this leads to an uproar from the Jews and Paul and Silas are accused of ‘turning the world upside-down,’ which, for the Jews, by evangelising God-fearers, that is exactly what they are doing. This happens again after God-fearers respond in v12 and again in v17 the same way.

Acts 18:6-7

Much the same way as Lydia, prominent God-fearer; Titus Justus is converted with his whole household next door to the synagogue providing a base for the Gospel and a back door into the synagogue, as we see Crispus, the leader of the synagogue is converted.

These passages teach us not only of the persecution that follows the mission to the God-fearers but also of the God-fearers necessity to the Gospel’s spread, particularly the resources of Lydia and Titus. This gives us much insight into the nature of Paul’s missionary techniques in reaching the Gentiles, via Judaism and the sovereign plan of God.
• The Gentile mission was began and was made public through God-fearers
• The mission to the God-fearers was drenched with Jewish Persecution
• This persecution was sometimes started by the Jewish-faithful God-fearers
• The spread of the Gentile mission was made possible by the resources of God-fearers

L.H. Feldman The Omnipresence of the God-Fearers (Biblical Archeological Review 12, no.5, 1986)
E. M. Smallwood The Jews Under Roman Rule (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1981)
Robert S. MacLennan and A. Thomas Kraabel, The God-Fearers – A Literary and Theological Invention,(BAR 12, no.5, September – October 1986)
**I. Levinskaya, The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol 5, Diaspora Setting (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1996)
I. H. Marshall Acts (Tyndale Grand Rapids, 1992) p.183-184
J. B. Polhill The New American Commentary: Acts (Broadman Press, Nashville, 1992)
C. K. Barrett Acts, A Shorter Commentary (T & T Clark, New York, 2002)
C. Evans at al Dictionary of New Testament Background (IVP, Leicester, 2000)
G. Hawthorne et al Dictionary of Paul and his Letters (IVP, Leicester, 1993)

New Testament Evidence for God Fearers outside of Acts

My hypothesis begins with this conviction; that not only can we speak legitimately of the first century AD people known sometimes as ‘God-fearers’ but also that their role was invaluable, to the success or failure in the spread of the gospel as recorded in the book of Acts.

For the purpose of analysing the evidence, we can, for now be satisfied with the definition of God-fearers being members of the gentile-community who affiliate themselves to some degree with Jewish worship, who are interested in Jewish-morality and monotheism yet are not in obedience to some aspects of the Jewish Law (often circumcision) as a proselyte would be. I believe also that a God-fearer may still be involved with activities from paganism. The spectrum of ‘God-fearers’ would travel between polytheistic-paganism and proselyte-Judaism.


The difficulty in finding passages which mention ‘God-fearers’ is one of terminology. Luke in his two-volume narrative gives us at least five terms (φοβουμενοι τον θεον (Acts 10:1-2; 10:22; 13:16; 13:26), σεβομενοι τον θεον (Acts 13:50; 16:14; 18:6-7), σεβομενοι προσηλυτοι (13:43), σεβομενοι Έλληνες (17:17)). It’s my belief however, that they are one and the same people and that we can find peoples, not necessarily under the name ‘God-fearers,’ who can be categorised as God-fearers. Because of terminological issues, some believe that ‘God-fearers’ are ‘pious’ or ‘devout’ Jews. Its my aim through examining the texts, to show why this is an incorrect understanding. Some from this will give them too vague a description; others would go to the other extreme and over-institutionalise them.

Throughout the Old-Testament we see ‘God-fearer’ types; strangers who dwell with you. These dwelt with the Israelites and were given some basic laws to follow. Such as in Leviticus 17:12-13, Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.

The Gospels give no explicit mentions of ‘God-fearers’ however there are places we might infer this, the most obvious is John 12:20ff
The Greeks were not Jews as they were among Jews. They’re still known by their Hellenistic name and they were worshipping at a Jewish feast, so could be God-fearers. But what makes this more likely is by cross-referencing this with Acts 17:4,12

The Greeks in Thessalonica and Berea are God-fearers, making it likely that the Greeks at Jerusalem were also God-fearers.

J.D.Crossam believes that Paul in his epistles was writing to God-fearers. Paul writes to Churches he founded, comprising many God-fearers. We also know that the Jews placed a lot of emphasis on the God-fearers , which might explain the constant difficulty with Judaizers trying to bring converts under the Law, and possibly the synagogues. God-fearers would be taught in the synagogues that circumcision was the way into the covenant, yet Paul taught it by faith alone. (Which was, by its very nature, more attractive to God-fearers who were suspicious of commitment to the Law.) This seems to be the specific debate in Galatians 2:16ff

It could be that Paul, when dealing with the Jewish law was addressing God-fearers who were susceptible to the Jewish mission to keep God-fearers in their circles.

>>>God Fearers<<<

If you haven't already heard me rant at length about modern scholarships underestimating/botching the first centaury AD people known as God-fearers then these next posts are for you! Namely, if you see me begin to talk about it you can simply say 'I've read your blog' and I'll shut up. All this began with some research for a New Testament essay in my second year at Theological College, and has since grown into somewhat of an obsession.

My basic beliefs are:

> God Fearers were a much more clearly defined people in the first centaury than we often give them credit for.

> God Fearers still however cover a spectrum of people who were sensitive to Jewish morality and monotheism but had not/were not able to for social confliction, been circumcised. (Social - such as being in the Roman army, or socially upper class, etc).

> God Fearers presented a diluted version/bridge/lens/stepping stone between the Jewish and the Roman communities. This gave Judaism a nuanced approach and allowed their continuance as an official religion within the Roman world.

> The Christian mission to the God Fearers (after the Jews) meant this lens was taken away exposing Judaism for what it really was; doctrinally anti-Rome. (N.b. this accounts for the evidence we see for the Jewish mission to the 'fringe believers' in the 1st centaury.

> As God Fearers became fewer (through becoming Christian) and the lens was further taken away, the Roman authorities got more suspicious about the Jewish continuance.

> This (+ a host of other factors) led to the open conflict between the Jews and the Romans, and the inevitable destruction of the temple in AD70.
> God Fearers exist today, we may call them sensitive agnostics, and they may be in our churches as 'fringe believers.' This again may be one of the reasons that the Church appears nuanced. God Fearers form a lens and dilute the true essence of the Church. We must seek to have their hearts convicted from being on the edge to into the fold.

I.e. I believe God Fearers were much more important to the success of the Christian mission, the judgement on the Jews, and the social-economic make-up of 1st century palatine. Further, we can learn from Acts etc, the effective ways to minister to such a spectrum of people who still exist today.

Some random exegetical thoughts from Gal. 2:15-21

V15, Paul using ‘we’ refers to birthright Jews, including Peter. He places a distinction between Jews and Gentiles who are ‘sinners’ because they didn’t have the Jewish law to ‘earn’ their righteousness as the Jews had. However the Law’s no–longer a legal claim for Jews, as all can be made righteous in Christ alone. It’s seen here that God takes Jewish sinfulness just as seriously as gentile sinfulness, both must be justified with Christ.

V16a, the general statement. Paul claims this as common-knowledge among Jewish Christians, even though it was taken for granted by Peter that no human being, whether Jew or Gentile will be saved apart from faith in Christ This is ‘the denial of the orthodox Jewish doctrine of Salvation.’ . Jesus Christ has been incorrectly translated, by some, as subjective-genitive instead of objective, this makes a huge difference as it could then read the ‘faith of Christ’, which would be irreconcilable with the next clause ‘believed in Jesus.’

V16b, the personal statement. Faith in Christ is the only way to be justified – as ‘we’ have believed, addressing the same group directly as v15.

V16c, the universal statement. In order to add religious weight to this claim, Paul cites Ps.143:2 to show that ‘no-one living is righteous,’ this is to Jews and Gentiles, no-one will be justified apart from Christ. Fung believes that ‘the knowledge…is grounded in [Paul’s] encounter with Christ’, which would fit with the narrative flow establishing his apostleship. Note that this verse grounds much of Paul’s argument. Note that ‘in view of the controversy in Galatia [this does not imply] that the “works of the Torah” do not need to be done…only that they produce justification before God.’

V17, does this make Christ the author of Sin? Paul does not encourage sin in denying the law but as a ‘counterformula’ to be justified ‘in Christ’. Making Christ the ‘minister’ of sin is either a logical conclusion under false premises or an illogical conclusion under correct premises. Although its true that to be justified in Christ makes it necessary to abandon the Law as a means of justification, Christ as the fulfilment of that law makes it logical and necessary.

V18, returning to speak metaphorically in first-person, Paul uses a well-known Jewish example of building. What is the thing torn down? The obvious answer is the Law, which ‘I have destroyed…by the preaching of the Gospel.’ See Pauls earlier elusion to this in ch1:13-14.

V19-20, here ‘Paul presents the basic elements for his theological position.’ I died to the Law, marks the end of the Law. Cause and effect this sheds light on the purpose of Justification, ‘to give glory to God’ to live not to ourselves but to him. Died to the law is specified in the next clause, ‘crucified with Christ,’ ‘Which refers not…to a subjective experiences…but to the believer’s objective position in Christ.’ Paul dying with Christ means that the Law can’t be used as a claim over God and it can’t be used as a claim over Paul either. The result of dying to the law is freedom from it, to enable them to live for God, which again links to later in the Epistle.

V21 . ‘The Christian gospel is the gospel of the grace of God. The Christian faith is the faith of Christ crucified. So if anybody insists that justification is by works…is undermining the foundations of the Christian religion.’

M. Luther A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (James Clarke & Co. Ltd, London, 1535)
R. Y. K. Fung. The Epistle to the Galatians (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1988)
J. Brown The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1853)
B. Witherington III. Grace in Galatia (T & T Clark, London, 1998)
H. D. Betz. A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1979.)
J. Stott The Message of Galatians, (IVP, Leicester, 1968

Some Possible Psalm Christology

How are the Psalms fulfilled in Christ?

Directive predictive prophecy – or indirect typological prefiguring
- Psalms cannot be fully applied/fulfilled/interpreted without Christ
- Could be for an Israelic King, yet a foreshadowing of Christ

Forward looking prophecy – or – backward looking analogy/application
- Could have fulfilment and application for Israelic King, yet unfulfilled potential for Christ
- Not unfulfilled potential, but used in NT as analogy, particularly in reference to His human experience

Meaning plain and intended by human author – or – deeper meaning not intended by human author
- There is nothing in NT interpretation that the OT author would not have affirmed
- Sensus Plenior

(Sensus Plenior – deeper meaning meant by God, but not known to the human author.)

A Simple Narrative Structure of 1 and 2 Chronicles

• 1Chron.1-9:34 – Collection of genealogies from Adam to returned exiles.
• 1Chron.9:35-29 – The reign of King David.
• 2Chron..1-9 – The reign of King Solomon.
• 2Chron.10-36 – Destruction of Northern Kingdom and restoration under Cyrus.

The Purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles

The dominant purpose and message of Chronicles, I believe, is to typologically present a template for the people of Yahweh, particularly in terms of their lives, worship, and monarchy. Note, I don’t believe it’s primarily eschatological or messianic, but is shows an idealistic template for God’s people against non-working models, this however gives messianic expectations. This is shown chiefly through the Davidic kingdom as the benchmark, then historiographically through factual events told with a contextual angle.

Throughout Chronicles, this purpose is shown through several recurring independent themes. Some make the error of isolating a theme as dominant and pivoting message upon said theme. To avoid the same error, this essay will take several of what I believe are key themes as case studies, each theme containing key texts from Chronicles, to show how each theme adds to our understanding of the overarching message of this work.

I don’t believe that the Chronicler is primarily trying to present us with a neutral historical account, or even an accurate overview of its events. However Chronicles does contain facts, which have been inclined for the Chronicler’s theological agenda. Or, ‘whereas the main facts may remain the same, what the readers learn from them changes substantially.’ The recontexualised facts of Israel’s history has led some to question the historicity of Chronicles and its place in the cannon as a ‘history book’ following Samuel-Kings. However, the facts within Chronicles rhetoric, although biased, generally parry with other socio-historical sources, the main difference being, ‘the narrative context gives meaning to the facts, rather than vice versa.’ ,
On the other hand, much of Chronicles leads us to assume its desired historicity; the original title is translated ‘The Events of the Times’ and our word ‘Chronicles’ comes from ‘The Chronicle of the Entire Sacred History.’ Further, the Chronicler carefully handles several secondary sources, such as Samuel-Kings, the Pentateuch, royal annals, and unknown prophetic writings (such as those of Nathan and Samuel ). These lead some commentators to say that Chronicles is primarily a historical book which theological agenda is brought out within its historical framework. Some see Chronicles as a supplement to other sources, the ‘omitted things,’ omitted particularly from Samuel-Kings, note Jewish Historian, Josephus holds this view. My opinion is that Chronicles is primarily theological; the history has been thereby recontexualised for this agenda.

Quotes from: Ehud Ben Zvi, cit. M. P. Graham, The Chronicler as Theologian, (T & T Clark International, London, 2003) p. 63

For Josephus reference see; Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae VIII 246,

Some thoughts arround eschatology and ministy

Jesus Christ is coming back! This is a promise of God foreordained, he will come on the clouds of heaven and every eye will see him, he will make all things new. He will be the instigator of the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is a fantastic promise, and because of the assurance of the hope to which we are called we should be faithfully anticipating this day with great joy and certainty. This event should cast a shadow of optimism over every aspect of Christian Ministry. If there was no second coming perhaps Hegelatarian ideology of the world realising itself dialectically may make an appearance. This, however, would not only make a dramatic difference to our Biblical doctrine of God, and distort Ministry. Ministers would not be able to provide adequate reason for persevering under suffering for instance.

Christ’s return is the origin and propagator of the hope and optimism that Ministers live by and teach to their flock. His return brings the New Creation, where we will be like Christ, perfected, clothed completely in righteousness, and sinless. His return ‘will be the decisive inauguration of the next stage in God’s history.’[*1]

Everyone will be resurrected, as all were born in Adam, all will be raised with Christ, believers to eternal life and non-believers to eternal punishment. This resurrection will be the transforming of our existing bodies, completing them in Christ through his victory over death. ‘In the very arena where death has done its worst, in the body, God proposes to achieve his victory for us and in us.’[*2]

In light of this, a Ministerial understanding of eschatology, which doesn’t allow for bodily resurrection, is denying Christ’s victory over death and the continuity of the old creation. Ministry with an incorrect understanding of resurrection may have a more mythological view of heaven, which would be out of step with the Biblical picture of paradise where we experience to some degree like we do now. These paths may also lead Ministry to Gnostic routes of ‘anti-flesh’ doctrines.

Everyone will be judged. No sin goes unpunished, it will be justly paid for either by the cross or eternal judgment in Hell. Christ himself is the judge of the living and the dead, and the benchmark by which humanity is judged. Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats easily and permanently. Note the fundamentally Christological focus of this, which should be reflected in ministry.

This makes Ministry crucial, to encourage believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and to warn those who do not believe. Without final judgement there will be no need for Ministers to teach fleeing from sin and the wrath to come and no need to warn/witness to unbelievers.
There is a Heaven and a Hell; again, if there was not, then Ministry need not focus on witnessing or warning non-believers or encourage believers to be assured of their salvation and flee sin. Further, if there is no Judgement then a mockery is made of the cross, for God’s righteous and just wrath had to be satisfied, if there will be no judgement then there need not have been a cross, if there will be no judge, there need not have been a resurrection.

The future that the God promises in his Word lends much to our understanding of Ministry: Ministers should be teaching believers faithfully from the Word that Jesus is returning and with him the New Creation, that God will wipe every tear from our eyes, there will be no more effects of the fall, we will be perfectly united to Christ, and it will be paradise. Ministers need to know this joy in their own hearts so to lead by example and teach. Ministers, who will be judged more strictly, need to be guarding their hearts from sin so to be above reproach in order to faithfully teach, administer the sacraments, and discipline in light of the resurrection and judgement to come.

[*1] P. Jensen, At The Heart of the Universe (IVP, Leicester, 1991), p. 30
[*2] Jensen, At The Heart of the Universe, p.31

A couple of paragraphs from my longer book review of John Frame's 'The Doctrine of the Knowlegde of God.' (DKG)

Frame’s key theological and philosophical endeavour is to accentuate the Lordship of God, and in doing so, underline his universal knowability and emphasize the appropriate response to Him. He does this in three parts; the ‘Objects of Knowledge,’ focusing particularly on who God has revealed Himself to be in relation to us and the basis of our response. The ‘Justification of Knowledge,’ which delves deeper into the pool of God’s revelation and relation to us and the possible shapes of our responses thereof. Finally; the ‘Methods of Knowledge,’ which further helps the Christian to respond and relate appropriately to the revealed Lord God shown in the first two parts in terms of life and moral evaluation before Him.

DKG shows us God as He has revealed himself to be, how he relates to us through creation, Scripture, and His Son, and further how we should appropriately respond. Frame shows this in such a way that makes us evaluate holistally our lives in relation to our Lord, and encourages us to joyfully and humbly respond to Him in repentance, faith, and obedient submission.

[J. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, (P&R Publishing, Philipsburg, 1987)]

Tim's Argument Summary of K. Popper 'The Open Society and its Enemies.'

Every wanted to read this two volume beast of a book? No? Well you should! You haven't got time? Well here is my 1 paragraph per chapter summary of the book. Enjoy.

1. Historicism + the Myth of Destiny. Historicism – Racialism + Marxism
2. Hesiod + HERACLITUS – comes us with the problem of change
3. Theory of Forms/Ideas. 1. Central to his theory of Knowledge which depends on gaining access to the “essence of things” in the world of ‘Ideas’ or unchanging forms; 2. Provides regularities that maintain continuity behind chaos; 3. Provides the rationalization of the quest to achieve the unchanging social order which approximates to the Ideal of the State. Essentialism (know the essence, the definition, and the name). ‘The Ideas or Forms are earlier and better than their changing and decaying copies and are themselves not in flux.’
4. * Change and Rest. Plato’s political program to create a stable, totalitarian state. ‘He thought of existing states as decaying copies of Form or Idea of a state.’ He tried to reconstruct the ‘idea’ from Sparta and Greece – and so tried to replicate it by eliminating the ‘germs’ of disunion and decay as radically as possible. So the master class is esteemed which guaranteed its economics, its breeding, and its training. State must take control, people are human sheep; right breeding is essential; writing includes strict censorship as does some music.
5. Nature and Convention. The moral demands of our new and changing world is for equality, freedom, and helping the weak. Three purposes: 1. Views on critical dualism, does not lead to the conclusion: one system better than another; 2. Critical dualism = one important difference between closed and open societies; 3. He shows how Plato fudged the distinction to support his political program.
6. * Totalitarian Justice. Plato created an influential theory of totalitarian justice as an alternative to equalitarian/individualist justice. Plato said individualism is not compatible with altruism. He exploited weaknesses used to defend equalitarian justice. These weaknesses are theories of natural rights etc.
7. The Principle of Leadership. Who shall rule the state = accepted as the fundamental question...Popper says this is unhelpful and misleading + results in confusion about realistic + rational objectives of democratic reform. Sec.1-3 outlines his alternative approach to democracy; Sec.4-5 criticises Plato’s theory of ‘leadership of the wise’ and attacks Plato’s theory of education which prepares ‘philosophical kings for their role.’
8. The Philosopher King. Expansion of Ch.7, more detail on breeding and training.
9. Aesthetism, Perfectionism, Utopianism. SOCIAL ENGINEERING – shouldn’t be aiming for the greatest good, but instead eliminating urgent evils. Plato’s method leads to huge human suffering (n.b. this is pre Soviet Disaster, Pre-Cambodia, Pre Mao’s China). Control of past = essential, and so the future has to be re-written. Moral principles in CHAPTER 5 minimize suffering rather than maximize happiness, promote tolerance and avoid tyranny. Fit with piecemeal reform and democratic government because most people can agree on concrete steps to address suffering and the problems of people in need whereas there are likely to be many conflicting views on the way that happiness should be sought. Killing people is not a reversible process.
10. The open society and its enemies. Tribal/collectivist society = closed. Society in which individuals are confronted with personal decisions = open. Plato genuinely hated tyranny + desired to make people happy by relieving the strain of social and political change. Popper believes society is progressing from closed to open, Plato’s idea makes people sit where they are which leads to fundamentalism and cults. ‘We must go on into the unknown, the uncertain and insecure, using what reason we may have to plan as well as we can for both security and freedom.’ [Last Page, Vol. 1]
11. NEW VOLUME YAY! – ‘The Aristotelian Roots of Hegelianism.’ Popper critiques methodology and epistemology that seeks true definitions and detailed conceptual analysis and labels this essentialism. Aristotle did not like democracy. – Meaning of terms is v-unhelpful (says Popper), essentialism is an unhelpful obsession with terms
12. ‘Hegel and the New Tribalism.’
13. *(NOTE. Christian authoritarianism of the middle ages) Marxism = the most dangerous form of historianism. Marx places great stress on scientific prediction – which led him astray.
14. Marx rejected the idea that motives or psychological factors provide adequate explanation of socioeconomic structures and historical events.
15. Marx was not a vulgar Marxist, or a vulgar materialist. Marx says that the social sciences coincide with historical or evolutionary method, and especially with historical prophecy. Marx also says that the economic organisation of society is fundamental for the society’s historical development. (Popper disagrees with these two claims).
16. The Classes. The Marxist theory of classes is a dangerous over-simplification.
17. The Legal and the Social System. – Marx’s theory of the state. Marx asserts (and Popper denies) the need to use political power to control economic power. Abuse of power is not supposed to be a problem under socialism. Rules need to be impartial and not discretionary orders.
18. *’The Coming of Socialism.’ Popper tests the coherence of the chain of predictions that Marx made for the coming of socialism following the revolution. Can we assume that a classless society will emerge from the battle?
19. ‘The Social Revolution.’ – Marx, social prophecy that struggle would end in violent war between the classes (last class standing). Marxist rhetoric undermines democracy and opens the way for fascism.
20. ‘Capitalism and its Fate.’ Marx gives way to basically a theory of exploitation. Marx was completely wrong in his prophecies, yet justified in reacting against oppressive capitalism.
21. ‘An Evaluation of the Prophecy.’ Free market will minimize (or tend to correct) overproduction and underproduction, and will ensure a fairly rapid recovery form busts
22. *’The Moral Theory of Historicism.’ Marxism cannot provide either reliable prophecies (nothing can) or advice on the piecemeal reforms that might achieve desired outcomes (Marx regarded that as Utopian) what accounts for the power and impact of Marxism? OPEN SOCIETY GIVES SPACE TO CREATE NEW OPTIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES. Marx determinism was in conflict with his activism and his moralism, those who take on the whole package confuse themselves.
23. *’The Sociology of Knowledge.’ Whatever objectivity and rationality we can achieve cannot be attributed to special qualities of mind but to the give and take of criticism in a community. Popper talks against two emerging ideas, one was controlling social change by means of largescale central planning, the other was the theory of social determination of scientific knowledge.
24. ‘Oracular Philosophy and the Revolt against Reason.’ Rationalism / Reason?
25. *‘Has History any Meaning?’ ‘In this chapter Popper is revealed as something like an existentialist (without hysteria) with the message that history has no meaning but we can give it meaning.’
a. Outlines the importance of theories to organise historical data
b. Theories in Scientific research
c. Role of problems/issues/points of view in compiling historical narratives
d. Meaning and purpose in history
History has no meaning. A universal history of mankind would have to be the story of all men and women, “the history of all human hopes, struggles, and sufferings” because nobody is more important than anyone else (a highly egalitarian view!). But that history cannot be written, it is far too rich, all narratives have to be selective and focused.
He discusses the extent that the Christian view of history helps/hinders good historical research and writing. He criticises Kierkegaard.
“History has no meaning, we can give it a meaning.”

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Summary of John 17

Chapter 17 summarizes the farewell discourse’s relational progressions and themes. However, instead of directly communicating these themes to the disciples, he is praying to His Father, to whom He is returning. This is emotionally very tangible.

vv.1-5 expresses the mutual glorification of the Father and the Son in a context of gladness for the finished work, and heartfelt-anticipation for the climax of that work. Climatically, Jesus will be enthroned over a ‘new world’ through intense suffering and glorification.

vv.6-19 shows the sovereign handing back of the sanctified disciples to His Fathers keeping. The disciples are now not of this world; however they are sent into the world and so needing the Father’s protection, and High Priest’s cup-drinking Mediatorship.

vv.20-26 focuses believers, that they might be lead through the disciples into unity and universality: Unity in mutual service and love; mirroring the relationship of Jesus and His Father, universality as this unity is seen throughout all peoples.

Prayerfully summarizing the farewell-discourse , the relational focus shifts chiasticaly (paralleled throughout Chs.13-17):

-Father/Son (vv.1-5)
... -Father/disciples (vv.6-19)
...... -Father/all believers (vv.20-24)
... -disciples/Father (vv.22-25)
-Son/Father (v.26)

Therefore the progression brings the message to all believers, however begins and ends with God’s glorification through Jesus.

Summary of John 16

Throughout the farewell discourse, the Trinity, and the follower’s participation within this, has been relationally expounded. Jesus is central in Ch.13, the Father in Ch.14 , the disciples in Ch.15, and the counsellor in Ch.16. All four pieces importantly function throughout this moving preparation and goodbye.

vv.1-11 comfort and assure the disciples through the advocating Spirit, one who proves ‘the world’ sinful, unjust in verdict, and condemned for judgement. Indeed, the comforter vindicates the disciples and condemns the world and its ruler.

vv.12-22 accents the immediate affections of the disciples regarding this. Through intense anguish and confusion of loosing Jesus, there will be inevitable joy through the new-life of the resurrection.

Notice the emotional disposition of the disciples, stumbling through this conversation, sensitively led by Jesus, and assured by the coming Spirit who leads them further into truth. Jesus uses this assurance to warn against irretrievable scattering.

vv.23-33 again exclaims direct, world-overcoming, spirit-vindicating, access to the Father’s Kingdom, through Jesus, in Spirit-led prayer. Although emphasizing immediate tribulation and inevitable persecution, Jesus ends on a note of ultimate triumph.

Glory Trinitarianly interweaves this discourse. Jesus brings glory to his Father, as the Spirit brings the Disciples to glory in Jesus.

Summary of John 15

Followers know Father through believing in Jesus. This requires a two-fold explanation; how do Jesus and His Father relate, and how do/should Jesus’ followers participate in this relationship? The latter is the focus of Ch.15, the second stage in this affection-full farewell discourse.

vv.1-8 function metaphorically; Jesus is the vine, and his followers must be attached to him while submitting to pruning. Pruning results in fruit-bearing.

vv.9-16 expounds vv.1-8, by exampling Jesus’ relationship with the Father for the disciples; by emphasising obedience and sacrifice; and by applying fruit-bearing. Structural links such as, remaining, fruitfulness, and prayerful-fruitfulness, further accents this connection.

Notice here the covenantal-discontinuity through vv.1-16. Jesus is the vine, Jesus’ servants are friends and have direct mediated access to the Father.

15:18-16:4 shows the expectancy of a fruit-bearing, vine-remaining follower who mirrors the rejected Jesus, is persecuted by ‘the world,’ and is being prepared for the kingdom. However, as throughout the farewell discourse, the counsellor will assure and secure such a follower on this path. This section is exceptionally Trinitarian.

Notice finally, the relational paradigm flow from Jesus and His Father, to Jesus and His followers, to His followers and each other. These pieces climax in the following chapters.

Summary of John 14

Chapter 14, the beginning of the farewell discourse. It’s likely that the Chapter divisions are misplaced so Ch. 14 should begin at 13:31, which not only takes a change of pace with the sending out of Judas but begins the emotional intensity dominating the farewell discourse. This emotion is important in Ch. 14, Jesus, with the occasional affection-full interruption is giving explanation, assurance, and inevitable goodbyes.

Jesus assures his disciples that they will follow him into his Father’s house, and his going away is inevitably for that benefit. Thomas does know the way; which is Jesus. The weight of v. 6 is enormous, Jesus is the way and one must follow him even to the cross. The way is paved in anguish and suffering.

However there is deep joy and assurance, for by the coming ‘helper’ they will be kept in Jesus and as Jesus is fully in the Father, they too will know the way to the Father. The helper allows prayer Jesus’ name, which mediates with the Father.

This discourse shows the unique way to God, this is not arrogant as it is immersed in footwashing and crucifixion attitudes, and it’s kept through the Holy Spirit.

Translation of Rom. 9:22-23

>>> This was my final translation after much sweat and tears. I'm still not entirely convinced of the participle being causal, but its alternative so dramatically alters the immediate context its hard to see how it couldn't be. <<<

2.3.1 Translation
"But if God, wishing to demonstrate (his) wrath[A] and to make known his power[B] endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath having been fitted for destruction, and (what if he did this wishing) that he might make known the riches of his glory[C] on vessels of mercy which he prepared beforehand for glory?"

A Quick Note on Dissertation Posts

>>> If any of the posts from my dissertation are of interest to anyone let me know and I'll send a section with the correct editing and footnotes missing from these 'copy-and-paste' posts. <<<


Summary of God's Creative-Purpose

>>> From section 3 of my undergrad dissertation. <<<

3.1.1 God’s Purpose
The purpose of creation is to magnify the riches of God’s glory. If God does not seek His own glory then it follows that He must seek something created. Creation does not enjoy the perfections of God, and so God would be committing Himself to something other than the greatest good. This would be bizarre because God tells us not to seek anything but the highest good, to do so is idolatry. So to presume that God himself doesn’t seek the greatest good, namely Himself, is inconsistent and incorrect. Open Theism doesn’t subscribe to this, but gives us no very definite alternative either, However as noted above if God is not seeking Himself then he is seeking something created; which is inevitably idolatrous.

God's Sovereignty and Open Theism

>>> This is yet another paste from section 4 of my undergrad dissertation. However this section is one of my key arguments against Open Theism. Namely, if God creates primarily for His glory he must be exhaustively sovereign, if he did not create for this purpose then he is guilty of idolatry. <<<

4.2 God’s Purpose and Sovereignty
If you deny the creative-purpose that God creates to magnify His glory then you must assert God is guilty of Idolatry. If you affirm the creative-purpose that God creates to magnify His glory then you must assert God is exhaustively sovereign.

Open Theism inadvertently denies this creative-purpose by allowing God’s glory to be subject to the deterministic choice of man. ‘God created for the sake of loving relationships.’ Therefore God is not seeking the greatest good, namely Himself, and must therefore be seeking something in creation; the freedom of man for instance. When man does this, God holds him guilty of idolatry, why then would God allow Himself to be guilty of this same sin? Of course we know that God does seek the greatest good, so does create to show His glory which renders an Open Theist position biblically bankrupt on this point.

However, an Open Theist cannot affirm this creative purpose, for to do so would mean affirming God’s exhaustive sovereignty. For if God allows anything to hinder His ultimate purpose then he values the thing hindering more than the purpose hindered, rendering it not His ultimate purpose. God must therefore have exhaustive sovereign control over creation. Again this challenges the fundamentals of the Open Theist position which claims a self-limited God. ‘The openness view, with its denial that God can know the free decisions and actions of moral beings, simply cannot hold the Gospel in [the] same way.’

Rom. 9:22-23 and Open Theism (again).

>>>This is another copy and paste from section four("Against Open Theism") from my undergrad dissertation.<<<

4.1 Rom.9:22-23
No key Open Theist work expounds their theology in light of Rom.9:22-23 which is a serious defect. God’s purposes to reveal His glory in vv.22-23 require showing wrath and mercy as the result of ‘God’s determinate choice.’ An Open Theist systematic would have to give this choice to man, so that God’s glory being magnified is determined ultimately by the man’s choices. This increases human control and diminishes God’s control. This does not fit with God’s creative-purpose as he wouldn’t actively be seeking the greatest good but seeking human-freedom above His glory. It further doesn’t exegetically fit with the sovereign God of Rom.9 or the divine-preparer of vv.22-23.

God’s purpose in the passage is to show climatically His Glory; and for this purpose to be achieved he must sovereignly elect vessels for destruction and for mercy. This challenges Open Theism on two levels, first God is shown to be the divine-preparer and so must be behind human choice. Second, if God dynamically relates to the vessels to the degree Open Theists claim, then he is seeking this relational dynamic over the greatest good, the riches of His glory. This drastically distorts the text.

'Wrath' throughout the Bible

>>>Again, this is simply copy and paste from my undergrad dissertation. This section served as an overview for biblical uses of the words most often translated 'wrath' (Hebrew words; ‘af, ‘ebrah, haron, quesef, hemah, and Greek words; orge, themos). Conclusions were drawn from this data, systematic evidence, and a detailed exegesis of Rom. 9. ... You may notice by reading it that this section was a particular victim of merciless word-cutting. I shall therefore provide a fuller account of my findings at a later date, that will include all the necessery references as blogger doesn't seem to allow for footnotes.<<<<

3.2.1 Biblical Data

Wrath throughout the Pentateuch is against God’s rebellious people. It is totally-consuming and must be appeased by mediation and sacrifice. God’s wrath is avoided through mediation to make atonement. Wrath is shown in order to show God’s mercy, not because of mans righteousness but His promise.

History Books
Wrath is against Israel and other nations. It’s provoked through disobedience to/blasphemy against Yahweh. Wrath is the just response to sin and is avoided through repenting of people and mediating of leaders. Sometimes there is no hope for turning away wrath; God however in His mercy secures a Remnant to receive His promise.

Job sees God’s wrath against Himself as just, even if inexplicable. The Psalms present God’s wrath as just and against the wicked, and appeaseable through repentance. It is never a praised characteristic, His wrath-bringing justice however is.

Isaiah expounds wrath against nations which is mercifully appeased resulting in the fulfilment of His promises. Jeremiah speaks of disobedience and subsequent unavoidable wrath with the other nations. However God subsequently shows mercy to Israel and wrath upon Israel’s oppressive nations, (reflected further in Lamentations.) God’s wrath is primarily against other nations in Ezekiel. God’s character is wrathful throughout the minor-prophets, however is equated with His just day of wrath and His mercy.

Wrath is equated with God’s final judgement against ungodliness and is on those who do not believe in the Son.

Pauline Epistles
God’s wrath is equated with final judgement which some are saved from through God’s mercy.

General Epistles
Hebrews: wrath is the characteristic which prompts God to swear judgement in comparison to those shown mercy. Revelation: God’s wrath is final judgement through the Son on the fallen world whose names are not in the book of life.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility

This is simply a copy and paste of the Appendix to my undergrad dissertation which has recently been marked. I hope it clarifies some remarks made in posts over the last year around this topic.

God’s sovereignty and Man’s responsibility.

Dynamic divine dualism appears throughout scripture; namely (and seemingly paradoxically) God is totally sovereign, and man is totally responsible. This appendix will not attempt an in-depth look at this doctrine but make some observations.

First, both God and man enact their wills on the same circumstance yet have opposite values in doing so throughout scripture. For instance Gen.50:20 ‘You meant it for evil, God meant it for Good.’ Second, much of God’s counsel is hidden; so although this dualism seems inexplicable, it is not impossible. Third, this dualism is accountable to the fullness of God, as such much be just, holy, and righteous. Forth, God is just in holding man accountable throughout this dualism. Fifth, this dualism secures mans ‘freedom’ relational dynamic in the Spirit through means of grace. This is seen for example, in Jude. v.21 states keep yourselves in the love of God (specifically talking about prayer), while v.24 states to him who is able to keep you. The means of grace God the keeper uses, is the prayer of the saints to be kept. Sixth, and finally, this dualism is personified in the incarnation; Jesus dynamically reacts to His circumstances/surroundings, yet He does nothing the Father doesn’t do.

This dualism secures mans biblical freedom without selling out God’s sovereignty and grace; and it secures God’s righteous punishment for sin.

The 'Filling of the Spirit' in the Old Testament (S1.2)

The Filling of the Spirit in the Old Testament

This post is to present some OT evidence for the theory presented in S1.1 below, namely, being filled with the spirit gives special empowering of an individual or a Church for a particular ministry. To clarify the disctinctions between being 'filled' at conversion and subsequent 'fillings' (what I'm talking about here from the OT), see S1.1.

Exodus 31-35.
Bazalel; an Israelite from the tribe of Judah was filled with the Spirit which manifested itself in the ability of crafts and knowledge in order to build the tabernacle. (See 31:3-11; 35:30-35). Note he was already a member of God’s covenant people and his being filled with the Spirit manifested itself in particular ways not generalisable to the whole people.

Judges 6-7
Covenant member Gideon, after he is called and confesses his allegiance to the LORD is subsequently ‘filled with the Spirit’ which empowers him to call followers to himself to defeat the enemies of Israel. (See 6:34)

Judges 14-15
Samson, chosen by God before he was born (See Ch.13), before he was called to judge was ‘filled with the Spirit’ which manifested itself by defeating the Lion (14:6). Further, he is filled with the Spirit which gave him a righteous anger to carry out retribution against the men of Ashkelon (14:19-12). Finally, Samson is filled with the Spirit in order to defeat the Philistines in 15:14-16.

1 Samuel 10
Saul is anointed king and Samuel tells him that he will be filled with the Spirit and that would manifest itself in prophecy. (12:6-8).