On Sword-play

The Old Zorro: “Do you know how to use that thing?” The New Zorro: “Sure, the pointy end goes into the other man.” The Old Zorro: “This is going to take a lot of work.”
In dueling twelve people at the same time, it is difficult to retain one’s composure. It wastes time to be “polite” to other people in such circumstances. If a swordsman waits to ask, “And how is your family?”, certain deleterious results will happen, such as being reamed right in the middle of the question. Our culture has a pension for politeness. This is seen most often in the scholarly world. Instead of saying, “He’s wrong,” the scholar must say, “What he says is misleading.” This grows rather tiresome at times.
It is a breath of fresh air to read Carl Trueman’s critique of James Dunn, for instance (available at thepaulpage.com). Trueman lets Dunn have it, both fists flailing, and rightly so. Dunn is compromising the Gospel. When Paul was getting irritated at the Galatian heretics, the gloves came off: (5:12) “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” Earlier, of course, he pronounced an anathema (twice!) against those who preached another Gospel than Paul’s. But Paul’s comment here in 5:12 is especially barbed, because they were talking about circumcision. He wishes the knife would slip and cut off more than what was intended!
The New Perspective deserves such barbed comment, because they are changing the Gospel for a lie. They are changing justification for something else. They deny imputation. They deny Christ’s obedience to the law being credited to the believer’s account. They deny the idea of merit altogether (that is, the idea that the law could theoretically be kept; no one has except Christ). This is a false Gospel. Woe to us if we do not oppose this might and main! On guard!

The New Perspective on Paul

Right now, I am stirring up rather a hornet’s nest on the Wrightsaid group page (a page dedicated to discussing the theology of N.T. Wright) by suggesting that N.T. Wright is wrong on justification. I have attacked it from several angles (from imputation to law to merit). It is discouraging in many ways, because so many of the people come from “conversionistic” backgrounds, and have now repudiated that so much that they have thrown the baby out with the bath-water. They reject what they think is the Reformed faith, but it is not the Reformed faith that they are rejecting. It is a caricature of the Reformed faith that they reject. For instance, they say (and N.T. Wright makes this mistake constantly) that Paul was not reacting to some kind of “works-righteousness” in Second Temple Judaism, since Judaism is a religion of grace. They lampoon the Reformation for saying that Paul was reacting against some kind of “incipient Pelagianism.” Well, Pelagianism has little to do with what Paul and Luther were arguing against. It was SEMI-Pelagianism against which Paul and Luther were arguing. The difference is enormous. Pelagianism argues that the Fall did not affect humanity at all. Pelagianism has nothing whatever to do with grace. Semi-Pelagianism, on the other hand, can talk about grace all the time. It just never says grace ALONE. Semi-Pelagianism therefore tries to hide its legalism with a veneer of grace. This is precisely what Second Temple Judaism did, and it is precisely what Roman Catholicism was doing when Luther attacked it. So Luther was right to compare Catholicism with Judaism. N.T. Wright makes a fundamental historical blunder when he uses the term Pelagianism, since Pelagianism was condemned in the time of Augustine by ALL branches of Christendom. Augustine won that fight hands down. Pelagianism was nowhere in the church during the Medieval period. Instead, it was syngergism that crept in. Synergism is the belief that God and man work together to achieve initial salvation. This was Paul and Luther’s true target. The Reformation was right, and the New Perspective on Paul is WRONG.

Two Choices

Maybe it’s because I see things in black and white more than gray. I don’t know. But I seem to have this “two” thing going on right now. Anyway, my thought is in relation to Genesis 13. Lot decides to live by sight rather than by faith, whereas Abram lives by faith rather than by sight. This leads to two ironies. Lot doesn’t see Sodom and Gomorrah’s wickedness, whereas Abram is told to “Lift up his eyes to see” the land. If our choice is to live by sight, then we will not see the hook that Satan has so well hidden by his bait. If our choice is to live by faith, then God will open our eyes to really see. Lot slips by degrees into Sodom and Gomorrah, much like the frog that is in the pot, and gradually dies because of the temperature gradually rising. Abram, on the other hand, is given the entire world forever. All four points of the compass. That belongs to us now, who are the true seed of Abraham.

So, to choose what Lot chose is to choose to ignore “one little sin,” not realizing that one little sin leads to other slightly bigger sins, which lead to other still bigger sins. Sin is a snowball going downhill. The hill is steep. It is like the boy in Pilgrim’s Progress, who chooses to have his toys now. Only a little while later, his toys are all destroyed. The other boy has patiently waited for his toys, because they are better toys. That choice faces us ultimately, even as it faces us every day of our lives. We should choose the way of Abram, the way of Jesus Christ, who did not buckle under when Satan told him, “It is only a little loaf of bread, into which you should turn this stone. It is only one little prank on the top of the temple, and it is only one little bow to me.” Satan hides the hook. Jesus has made that decision. And in being united to Christ, we have that decision made for us, even as we make it every day.
That is a short precis of my sermon for tomorrow.

Music and Theology

Again, contra Johannus Weslianus, here I am talking about music again. When I played the Liszt b minor Sonata on my senior recital, it was only after my teacher and I had struggled to understand the piece as a whole. There were serious difficulties in the way: the piece was half an hour long without a break, the piece could easily be sectioned off into movements if one desired to do so, and the piece was very demanding of both performer and audience. So, how to make the piece understandable was a question that burned in both my teacher’s mind, and in my own.

This is very analogous to theology. It is extremely easy to cordon off various parts of theology to suit our fancy. Most of the time these days, it is exegetes who sniff at systematic theologians, thinking that systematic theology has no bearing on how to interpret a text. Au contraire. Pardon my French. But when you come to a text that says, “God repented,” do we allow other Scripture to weigh in on this? Do we say that Scripture has no errors or contradictions? God does not lie. When He says at one point that He does not change like shifting shadows, and then elsewhere that God cannot lie, then we need to allow knowledge of those texts to influence how we read the statement, “God repented.” If we do not do this, then open theism might be the result. Open theism is the belief that God is open to the future, and that if plan A does not work, then God goes to plan B.

Of course, this interaction of systematic theology and exegesis must not be allowed to flatten out biblical history. God did not drop Scripture out of heaven all at one time. There is a progression. Systematic theology and exegesis are inseparable yet distinct. Those two words seem to be watchwords in Reformed theology. They apply to the Trinity, Jesus’ divine and human nature, the benefits we have in union with Christ, and probably many other vitals of the Christian faith. Systematic theology must take into account the biblical progression of revelation. Apologetics must not be forgotten, nor must church history, or practical theology. They are all like spokes of a wheel, interrelated yet distinct.

Myth

There are many people out there who will say that only true-to-life stories are helpful to people. These people ignore Jesus’ parables (read “fables”), but that is another story. I beg to differ with these narrow-minded people. Myth is a category that helps us to see our world through other eyes. Rather than making us blind to our own world, myth helps us to see our world better. I am thinking here primarily of the work of Tolkien and Lewis. Their world is Christian. I wish more writers would attempt their kind of project. Tad Williams has come close, but he is not Christian as far as I can tell. He is good reading, nevertheless. I do NOT think that Harry Potter is in the same league with Tolkien and Lewis. I am going to try my own hand (a very unoriginal hand, I’m afraid) at contributing to this wonderful world of Christian myth by writing an opera on Tolkien’s story “Beren and Luthien.” So far, the libretto is well under way, and I have some musical ideas, as well. Who knows whether it will ever get done. But it is worth a try.

Two interesting ideas

Hey, folks, time for a little Biblical Theology. Two passages: John 20:12 and Genesis 3:22 (these are not related). In John 20:12, Mary sees two angels, one at the foot, and the other at the head. This is the antitype for which the two cherubim overshadowing the ark in the Most Holy Place is the type. What was between those two cherubim was the tablets of the covenant (the Ten Commandments). Therefore, Jesus is the New Word of God.
The other passage is a translation issue: it should be translated: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man had been like one of us in knowing good and evil.’ ” Interesting thoughts flow from this understanding of Genesis: Satan is a liar when he says, “You will be like God” (they were already like God). The other way this makes so much sense is that this verse as normally interpreted portrays God as some kind of selfish paranoid God who can’t stand to have mankind come up too close to Him. Rather, God wants mankind to be as close to Him as they are capable of being. All of a sudden, my proposed translation makes the whole paragraph a statement of grace: “It would be terrible for mankind to live in this awful state forever.” I cannot take credit for either idea, but they deserve a wider circulation.

Two interesting ideas

Hey, folks, time for a little Biblical Theology. Two passages: John 20:12 and Genesis 3:22 (these are not related). In John 20:12, Mary sees two angels, one at the foot, and the other at the head. This is the antitype for which the two cherubim overshadowing the ark in the Most Holy Place is the type. What was between those two cherubim was the tablets of the covenant (the Ten Commandments). Therefore, Jesus is the New Word of God.
The other passage is a translation issue: it should be translated: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man had been like one of us in knowing good and evil.’ ” Interesting thoughts flow from this understanding of Genesis: Satan is a liar when he says, “You will be like God” (they were already like God). The other way this makes so much sense is that this verse as normally interpreted portrays God as some kind of selfish paranoid God who can’t stand to have mankind come up too close to Him. Rather, God wants mankind to be as close to Him as they are capable of being. All of a sudden, my proposed translation makes the whole paragraph a statement of grace: “It would be terrible for mankind to live in this awful state forever.” I cannot take credit for either idea, but they deserve a wider circulation.

The Title

Hello, all. You might all wonder why I chose this title for my blog. Those who know me well (such as Big Red) already know. Green has to do with Green Glove, which is what Franz Liszt always threw to the admiring ladies after his performances. I threw a green glove (planted on the piano (during my senior recital at which I played Liszt) by some mischievous friends) to my girlfriend-now-wife Sarah. Pardon the parentheses. The second part of the title has to do with Big Red’s nickname given to me in his ever-increasing field of codenames for his friends. The reference is to Bilbo, not to Frodo (though sometimes I feel like one, sometimes like the other; but Bilbo probably fits me best). I will post more later. I intend to say more about life than just theology (though that might be heavily weighted on my blog). Music is very important to me as well. That’s all for now.

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