On the 400th

As many folks are well aware, this year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. I have chosen to celebrate it in two ways. Firstly, I read this wonderful book on the subject. Secondly, I plan to both use the KJV in a worship service or two (explaining archaic terms so that people can follow along). I plan on giving the people a handout explaining some of the archaisms so that if people wish to read through the KJV this year (as I plan on doing), they can do so without fear.

The book to which I linked had a wonderful way of making me fall in love with the King James Version all over again. I have always liked the KJV. It has a majesty and grandeur that is unmatched. Furthermore, it is literary in a way that few other translations even approach. In this book, you will learn about the origin, process, translation philosophy, literary excellence, and literary influence of the KJV. One does not have to agree with every conclusion of his (I disagree with his assessment of the “and’s” in the KJV, which I regard as horrible English style) in order to appreciate the fact that this is a great tool to use in reclaiming the past, and avoiding some of the pitfalls that a fragmented Bible-reading public face.

2K, 2nd Table ONLY, Biblical Based Inference

(Reed DePace)

The third “New Machen’s Warrior Children” thread is about to pass 500 comments so far. Simple observation (no criticism in view): this thread has focused itself more on theonomically informed opposition to 2K than it has understanding of the 2K position. All who want to continue to pursue those lines are encouraged to do so on that thread. (If/when it gets up to the 700-800 comment range, if folks want to keep that focus going, we’ll start a fourth thread for that.)

Here I want to shift to a different thread in the tapestry of the 2K argument. In my reading this morning I happened to be in Romans 13, a key passage for one’s understanding of the role of the civil magistrate, the civil authorities of the secular nations (one of the two kingdoms in the 2K position, the sacred, the Church being the other). Before engaging further with the argument I’m about to make, let me ask you to read Romans 13 so it will be fresh in your memory.

Note the basic pattern of the chapter:

  • Verses 1-4: the civil magistrate” role as God’s ordained minister to administer civil justice.
  • Verses 5-7: the Christian’s public-square response to the civil magistrate in his exercise of his authority.
  • Verses 8-10: the Christian’s interaction with others in the public square in light of the of the civil magistrate's exercise of his authority.
  • Verses 11-14: the Christian’s "private house" obedience to God in light of eschatological considerations.

Note specifically verse 9b-10. There the second great commandment provides the summary justification for why the Christian is submissive in the public square to the civil magistrate's authority. It is not because this authority inheres in the civil magistrate, but because it is from God. Submission to the second great commandment is part of the Christian life (no duh), and this finds explicit expression in how we submit to the civil magistrate.

I don't expect there is any disagreement between pro and anti-2K up to this point. But let me make one debatable observation. When Paul goes to apply, the exemplify his reference to the role of the civil magistrate note where he specifically goes – to the 2nd Table of the Mosaic law (commandment 5 through 10). Note what he does not mention, any law from the 1st Table of the Mosaic Law (commandments 1 through 4). He does not even make an application from the 1st Table. Nor are there any 1st Table inferences present in what Paul says.

Even when he gets into verses 11-14, where it could be argued his focus shifts from public square issues, to "private house" issues (i.e., how we live behind closed doors), Paul still does not make any reference or inference to 1st Table considerations. Again his examples are expressly 2nd Table considerations!

Now, it is admitted that this is an argument from silence, or better yet, an argument from absence. Absent from what Paul says is any reference to 1st Table considerations. This does not mean that the absence here means the absence elsewhere in Scripture.

Yet at least it is a strong argument leaning in the direction of the 2K position that the civil magistrate in the New Covenant era only has authority over 2nd Table issues. It is almost as if Paul is providing a commentary on Jesus' bifurcated render to caesar/God command (Mt 22:21; Mk 12:17; Lk 12:25). In the one place in his letters where Paul offers the fullest explanation of the gospel (comprehensively Romans is an explanation of the gospel), when it comes to a key application of the Christian life, when Paul expressly brings into view the Christian's public square relationship – it did not cross his mind to say anything about 1st Table issues.

This is a very, very strong biblically based inferential argument in support of the 2K position. The civil magistrate in the New Covenant era has no authority over 1st Table issues. These are not in Caesar's purview, but they are reserved exclusively to his Church, and her alone.

(Reed DePace)

Sailhamer’s Meaning of the Pentateuch, Take Three

(Posted by Paige Britton)

My first treatments of John Sailhamer’s book (IVP, 2009) can be found here and here.

Part One: Approaching the Text as Revelation

Chapter One: Understanding the Nature and Goal of OT Theology

This first chapter is so brief that I will scarcely need to do more than offer you several excerpts that communicate Sailhamer’s opinion of the Bible and his theological task. I believe his claims here are borne out in the rest of the book: namely, that he holds the Scriptures in high regard as the very words of God, and that the theologian’s calling is to carefully articulate God’s thoughts (without committing the hubris of believing the theological expression to be on equal authoritative footing with the Scriptures).

On theology’s task:
“Theology has its ground in a work of God – a spoken word or a divine act. God has spoken to his human creatures and has acted among them in various ways and times (Heb. 1:1-2). He has revealed himself in observable and communicable ways. Theology’s task is to pick up the conversation and pursue the line of discourse initiated by God.” (60)

On theological humility:
“However much theology may claim to speak for God or on God’s behalf, as an act of revelation it is a human word. Theology stands on the human side of the divine act of revelation. It is always subject to self-examination and criticism. It is a ‘mirror viewed darkly’ (1 Cor. 13:12) through which we must look for a word from God.” (61)

In this chapter Sailhamer also locates his view amongst historical conceptions of OT revelation, identifying as a fallacy the notion that the OT is merely “the written record of revelation played out in historical acts” (61, emphasis added). Were the Bible not divine revelation, but only “one of many possible responses to divine revelation,” then “theology must only say, ‘This is what they believed about God.’ It does not ask, ‘What does the OT demand of me?’” (62, emphasis added). In firm contrast, Sailhamer insists on the normative nature of OT theology, precisely because it is derived from the inspired Word of God:

“The task of biblical theology is to state God’s Word (the Bible) to the church clearly and precisely. What could be expected of biblical theology other than an understandable statement of the meaning of God’s words that come to us as the Word, ‘Holy Scripture’? Such a theology does not claim to be normative in the same way the Bible itself makes that claim. An OT theology can only attempt to present the claims of biblical narrative in human terms. Biblical theology of the OT is only a clay vessel for holding the message of the Bible’s own written texts.” (63)

Finally, narrowing the focus onto his own pet themes and understanding of the Pentateuch, Sailhamer offers the intriguing claim that

“[b]ecause it focuses on the text of Scripture, the aim of this kind of OT theology is not Israel’s ancient religion as grounded in the Sinai covenant. Its aim is Israel’s ‘new covenant’ with God as grounded in the message of the OT prophetic writings.” (66)

In fact, he goes on to say, the Pentateuch’s hero and emphasis are not Moses and the law, but rather Abraham and faith. What Sailhamer calls “Pauline” themes of new covenant and justification by faith can, he believes, be found along the “compositional seams” of these books. It remains for him to successfully communicate his defense of this reading in the rest of this hefty volume.

Joseph Caryl on Teachableness

One thing that really disturbs me about the blogosphere (and not just there, but also in the church in general) is a complete lack of teachableness. It arises out of pride, of course, pride in one’s own knowledge. We have to be right. It doesn’t actually matter who has the better argument. It only matters who can be seen to have gotten in the “knock-out” punch. Joseph Caryl has some wonderful things to say about this. I would encourage anyone to ponder these words deeply:

A gracious spirit is a teachable spirit. A gracious heart calls for teaching. Teach me, and I will hold my tongue…A teachable spirit is an excellent spirit. A man that is willing to be taught, is in a better condition than many, who are able to teach. It argues a holier temper of the heart, to be willing to be taught, than to be able to teach. And it is far worse to be unwilling to learn, than not to be knowing: Unteachableness is more dangerous than ignorance. It is sad to consider how unteachable many are; they will not be taught, or they think they have learned all, they have devoured all knowledge; they are full and need no more; Some deceived souls (and they most) carry it, as if they had a spirit of infallibility: what? teach them? they are above teaching. It is a sweet frame of spirit, when a man sees he may be out of frame. He is in a fair way to truth, who acknowledges he may be in an error. And he who will not acknowledge that he may be in an error, is certainly out of the way of truth…Nor doth he (Paul in 1 Cor. 8, LK) commend to us that proud modesty, which will not let us acknowledge, we know what we know; but his mind is, to meet with those, who think they know anything so well, that they need not, or cannot know it better, and abound so in their own sense, that they have no room to admit the sense of others…It is best to be fixed in judgment, but it is very ill to be fixed in opinion. It is to be feared that man is much divorced from right reason, who is so married to his own, that he resolves, nothing but death shall part him and his opinion…To say, “I am fixed, I am fixed, I am resolved, resolved,” when yet things are doubtful, and under difficult dispute, is actually to be in error, though possibly the thing we fix on be a truth. The apostle cautions his Ephesians, and us in them, Chap 4:14: “That they, and we, be not henceforth children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” and yet they are under a rebuke, who will not be moved by any wind of doctrine; that is, let never so powerful and forcible a wind of truth, breathe and blow upon them, they will not be carried or moved in judgment by it…He that will have all the talk, shall have but little profit. Joseph Caryl on Job, volume 2, pp. 528-529.

Of course, one last caveat is in order. When one reads such a quotation as this, one is apt to rejoice in the good fortune of one’s neighbor in that they need to read this. It might not even occur to us that we should be the ones humbled by this. And, if it does not occur to us to apply this to ourselves, then we are falling under the very strictures which Caryl proposes!

New “New, ‘Warrior Children’ Thread”

A second thread now open for the overflow from “The Resurrection of Machen’s Warrior Children.” The combox bog-down problem becomes noticeable right around 700 comments; it is definite by 800 comments. The original thread and the first additional one reached a combined total averaging just below 800 each.
Again, the topic is Two Kingdoms issues, with fire arms (and any major artillery pieces) left at home please. Thank you. (reed depace)

(Added by Paige:) Here’s a link back to a comment near the end of the OLD New WC Thread, for those of you who are still jumping back there to consider something.

From Authority to Clarity

Earlier I posted this argument from John Owen (mediated by Richard Muller) on the authority of Scripture. I just realized today that the same argument works for the clarity of Scripture. And this time, we have Scripture itself to attest to the clarity of natural revelation. Romans 1:19-21 are incredibly important here:

19. What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (emphasis added).

Notice two things about this passage. Firstly, creation reveals God clearly. No magisterium of scientists is necessary to understand God’s invisible qualities, namely, His eternal power and His divine nature, from what has been made. Secondly, the reason why so many people do not see it (and who therefore arrogantly claim that the problem is in the revelation, and NOT in them) is their sin. When they worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, their foolish hearts become darkened, and they can no longer see the truth.

I will simply point out that if this is true of natural revelation, how much more is it true of special revelation! Natural revelation has a clarity that reveals the things which God intended it to reveal. Special revelation has a clarity that reveals the things which God intended for it to reveal. Why would natural revelation be clearer than special revelation, when special revelation was given for a much more specific reason? God would be stupid to make His special revelation less clear than His natural revelation. Therefore, Scripture is clear in itself, with the Holy Spirit making sure that God’s people understand it. We need no churchly magisterium to understand the Scriptures.

Furthermore, not all the differences among Protestants (which are usually exaggerated while Roman Catholic differences are minimized) can shake this foundation, since, if sin distorts our understanding of natural revelation, how much more would it distort special revelation! The fault of misinterpretation lies not in the fact that Scripture is inherently unclear, but in the fact that sinful people distort its teachings.

Job’s Friends

One of the perennial problems of Old Testament preaching is how to preach Job’s friends. God’s evaluation of them at the end of the book is not exactly complimentary. He says (speaking to Eliphaz), “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). So does this mean that we have to throw out all the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? This, of course, is quite a distinct question from what to do about Elihu’s speeches. I believe that Joseph Caryl has got this one pegged. By the way, it would be sheer arrogance (and I am only slightly exaggerating here for rhetorical effect) for anyone to preach on Job without reading Joseph Caryl’s commentary. Every pastor ought to own it and read it. Here is what he says on the subject:

The counsels of Eliphaz, are to be considered, either in the doctrine, or in the use. His counsels, in the doctrine of them, were good and savoury, he spake wholesome food; but as to Job’s case, he was quite mistaken in their use, and so instead of easing, troubled him. A physician may give his sick patient that which is good in itself, very cordial and sovereign, and yet it may kill him instead of curing him, if it be not proper for his body, and his disease…That which is good counsel to a man at one time, may be, or might have been, ill, to the same man at another…his (Eliphaz’s, LK) was good searching physic for the soule stomach, and gross spirit of a hypocrite: but it is enough to kill the heart of an upright heart…That not only words untrue, but words misapplied, are unsavoury, and may be dangerous. They are no food, and they may be poison. Prudence in applying, is the salt and seasoning of what is spoken…Speech must be seasoned, not only with the salt of truth, but with the salt of wisdom and discretion…This shows the holy skill of managing the word of God, when we make a difference of our patients, by our different medicines, and not serve all out of the same box (volume 2, pp. 448-449).

So a preacher can and should preach all the wisdom of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, but must be careful to create exceptions for the Jobs of this world. I found Caryl to be enormously helpful here in understanding how to preach Job.

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