Do The Psalms Speak of Christ?

Read an excellent post by the Rev. Iain D Campbell of Point on the Isle of Lewis Free Church of Scotland this morning on the Trinitarian nature of the Psalms that answers the oft charged point made by those arguing for hymnody that the Psalms are somehow deficient for New Testament worship since they do not have the literal name of “Jesus” in them.

Find it here and enjoy!

Tale of Two Calvins

This is my obligatory Calvin 500th birthday post

The occasion of Calvin’s 500th Birthday has led to competing “celebrations” of Calvin’s life and work in Geneva over the last week. One led by WARC, WCC, and other “mainline” organizations that featured such speakers as  Clifton Kirkpatrick, former Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) (read some his thoughts on Calvin here ) and Setri Nyomi, Pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana (He is quoted as saying Calvin would have been for furthering Marxist ideals in society). The other is being backed by NAPARC and other more “conservative” Reformed and Presbyterian Groups (see their website here). So much so that they were required to “share” venues in Calvin’s adopted town. One celebrates the Calvin read through the eyes of Modern Liberalism and Neo-Orthodoxy (read here: Liberation Theology and Karl Barth) and the other allows the John Calvin of 16th-Century Geneva speak for himself (no bias here).  It makes one wonder if both sides are celebrating the same man or each have developed, to paraphrase Albert Schweitzer’s quip about the 19th-Century “Quest for the Historical Jesus”, a Calvin that looks, breathes, and thinks like a reincarnated version of themselves.

Blessings,

As an example here is a Calvin article on a doctrine John Calvin vigorously defended that the Neo-Orthodox and Liberationists would have to and do deal gymnastically with:

On Limited Atonement:

Dr. Roger Nicole Deftly and Carefully Turns Away the Thoughts of R.T. Kendall on Calvin’s Thoughts on the Extent of the Atonement.

For those unaware R.T. Kendall wrote one of the oft quoted books concerning the “Calvin vs. the Calvinists” discussion. In other words it is Kendall’s these that specifically the Westminster Divines (and their Confession of Faith) “bastardized” John Calvin and made him out to believe things he never believed. Dr. Nicole here takes apart Kendell’s thesis. (Also be sure to check out Paul Helm’s two books (Find them here and here) and Richard Muller’s book on the same subject here) that also show Kendall to be quite incorrect in his thoughts concerning Calvin and Westminster)

Thursday Reading, Day 1

“In answer to [those doubting the historicity of the Patriarchs] various constructions we must first of all emphasize that the historicity of the patriarchs can never be, to us, a matter of small importance.” — Biblical Theology, pg. 67 Geerhardus Vos

Class Schedule For My Last Term In Seminary!!!

I am filled both with unending joy and a bit of fear in knowing that I have signed up for the last slate of classes I will ever take in my M. Div program. While I plan on doing work on a Th.M in the near future (which because of some other issues has been put on hold for the time being) this will be the last term and I will graduate with an M. Div at the end of February. I am also currently beginning to send out “applications” to open pulpits throughout the country. So without further ado here are the classes with the book lists…

Classes at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

NT 12 Interpretation of the Bible

Biblical Hermeneutics, Milton Terry

An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, Walter Kaiser & Moises Silva

The Literary Structure of the Old Testament
, David Dorsey

PT 42 Marriage and Family Counseling


Christian Living in the Home
, Jay Adams

Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible
, Jay Adams

Solving Marriage Problems, Biblical Solutions For Christian Counselors,
Jay Adams

Strengthening Your Marriage
, Wayne Mack

Sword and the Shovel, George Scipione

A Homework Manual For Biblical Living Vol. II, ed. Wayne Mack

Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Trip


Classes at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

MI 02 Missiology

Ministry of the Missional Church, Craig Van Gelder

Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, David Bosch

Operation World, Patrick Johnstone

Suffering and Glory in the Mission of God, Scott Sunquist

OT 02 Prophets and Psalms

A History of Prophecy in Israel, Joseph Blenkinsopp

The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms, Jerome Creach

Hermeneutics in Logic

Hermeneutics and Christ

Graeme Goldsworthy

HERMENEUTICS has been one of the big topics of the last 25 years. A seemingly endless series of books has been produced and academic papers written.

However, ‘hermeneutics’ is not only the preserve of academia. The Christian who says “I’m just a simple Bible-believer” can be just as adept at imposing an interpretation on the text as the most sophisticated theologian. Nor is ‘hermeneutics’ an entirely modern question. Christians have always struggled with how to read and apply the Bible, and have adopted various ways of doing so.

In fact, the history of how Chris­tians have read and applied the Bible is most instructive, especially if we take note of what was really happen­ing in the various historical develop­ments. What we find repeatedly is that when people were asking ‘What do we think about the Scriptures?’ they were really asking ‘What do we think about Christ?’. This is because what we think about the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, will run parallel with what we think about the inscripturated Word of God, the Bible.

1. Apostolic hermeneutics

The apostolic answer to the herme­neutical question is the correct one: Jesus Christ is the God-man, saviour and Lord, to whom the apostles and all the Scriptures testify. This means that the objective historical Jesus is in fact the content of the gospel message and the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). The apos­tle’s answer comes from taking seri­ously the fact that Jesus claims to be the truth. There is a sense in which the apostles understood the Old Tes­tament as providing the substructure of the gospel – and so the Old Testa­ment helps us understand the New Testament. But the main thrust of the New Testament is on the person of Jesus as the one who makes clear what the Old Testament is all about. So the apostle’s hermeneutical posi­tion is that the gospel is the power of God for interpreting the Bible.

2. Early Christian hermeneutics

The early church was characterised by two streams, one from Alexan­dria and one from Antioch.

Christians at Alexandria followed Hellenistic Jews in adopting Greek ideas. Gnostic influences, which dis­counted the material world as inher­ently evil, led to a spirituality which moved God away from his historical acts. The historical events were seen as just allegorical stories and that inevitably led to the gospel being eclipsed as an historical event.

Antioch, on the other hand, emphasised the historical meaning of the Bible and so preserved the gospel as an historical event in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Out of this grew the historical method of typology which saw the Old Testament events as foreshadowing the gospel without dissolving the Old Testament’s nat­ural, historical meaning. The Anti­och strand’s weakness was its ten­dency towards the subtle heresy of Nestorius, which split Jesus’ divine nature from his human nature and declared him to be not only of two natures, but also to be two persons.

A third development in the early church was interpreting the Bible in the light of ecclesiastical authority and dogma. This is a subtle problem because we all do it and, to some degree it’s right that we do. We all interpret the Bible from inside our own adopted tradition and climb on the shoulders of the believers who have gone before us. The problem is when an ecclesiastical creed or con­fession of faith becomes the external authority by which Scripture is tested and understood. This became a bigger problem in medieval hermeneutics.

3. The struggle for an orthodox hermeneutic

The two big theological questions over which Christians struggled in the first four centuries were about the nature of God and about the person of Christ. How could God become man? And how could a man be both God and man?

By moving away from the apos­tolic hermeneutic of an historical Jesus, the biblical perspective on the relationship between the divine and the human, and between the eternal and the historical, was lost – both in relation to the Bible and Jesus. With­out this perspective, people came up with all sorts of heresies about the nature of God and Christ, fusing or separating Jesus’ divine and human natures. Ebionism (Jesus is only human), Docetism (Jesus is only divine), Apollinarianism (Jesus is divine but not fully human), and Nestorianism (Jesus is two persons, two natures), were all trying to solve the mystery by dissolving one reality to make room for another. The same happened in heresies about God. The unity of God was preserved by reducing the Son and the Spirit to beings who were less than fully God.

Eventually, in 451 AD, the Coun­cil of Chalcedon set things straight by formulating a way of speaking about Christ which didn’t try to solve the mystery of how God could become man, but instead preserved it by setting the bounds of true state­ments. The Council decided that to keep an orthodox view you should believe that: a. Jesus is true God; b. Jesus is true man; c. the two natures are united in one person, but not fused; d. the two natures remain dis­tinct, but are not separated. This struc­ture of unity and distinction charac­terised the relationships in the Trinity. It also kept the true relationship between the divine and the human, and between the eternal and the historical, both in relation to the Bible (the hermeneutical question) and Jesus (the Christological question).

4. Medieval hermeneutics

Hermeneutics was very complex in the medieval period (500 AD-1500 AD). The influences of Antioch and Alexandria were both struggling for ascendancy and, although the search for the natural and historical signifi­cance of the Bible was never aban­doned, Alexandria won over Antioch.

This lead to a complex method of interpretation being developed which didn’t ignore the natural meaning, but said that the text could be read in a four-fold way – the literal sense, the moral sense, the allegori­cal sense and the anagogical sense (which derived heavenly meanings from the earthly text). Allegorical meaning was at the heart of this approach. Allegory comes out of fus­ing the historical and the eternal, and the divine and the human. They are not kept distinct, and so the basic historical meaning of the text is lost.

Related to this was the idea of the rule of faith – the accumulation of biblical doctrine – which developed into the idea that only the clergy could interpret the Bible correctly. This was really fusing the Christ of history with the body of Christ, the church, so that there was no distinc­tion between Jesus’ authority and the on-going authority of the church through its clergy. It eventually led to the doctrine of papal infallibility.

The other great hermeneutical problem is best seen in the work of Thomas Aquinas. A theological trend that had begun in the second century with Irenaeus, led to the sep­aration of the natural and supernat­ural on the one hand and the fusion of the historical and the divine on the other. Catholicism, as it developed from this through to the late medieval period, came to fuse the ‘Christ who is without’ (the Jesus of history) with the ‘Christ who is within’ (that is, by the presence of his Spirit). The gospel event was redefined more and more in terms of what God does in us rather than as what God has done for us in the historic Jesus. Justification and sanctification were reversed so that a changed life became the basis of acceptance with God. Grace was redefined. It ceased to be God’s atti­tude which makes for the justification of the ungodly, and became the spiri­tual influence which flows (mainly through sacraments) into the soul making it good and, eventually, acceptable to God.

5. The hermeneutics of the Reformation

Luther, and then Calvin along with the other Reformers, abandoned allegorical interpretation and went back to looking for the natural his­torical meaning of the Old Testa­ment. As they did so they also recov­ered the historical gospel, restored justification as the basis of sanctifica­tion, and moved grace from the heart of the believer back into the heart of God.

The Reformation’s hermeneuti­cal principles came out of what the Bible said, and so the gospel returned to being the key to proper interpretation. The unity and distinc­tion of the Old and New Testaments were clearly recognised. Exegesis became a matter of understanding the divine word as it comes to us in human dress. The Christological question “What do you think of Christ?” once more dominated in the interpretation of the Bible. If Jesus was the divine-human word incarnate, the Bible was seen as the divine-human word inscripturate. So, once again, there is unity and distinction. Even though the Bible and Jesus are distinct, they are also the same – they’re both manifesta­tions of the one Word of God.

6. Enlightenment hermeneutics

The Enlightenment of the late sev­enteenth and eighteenth centuries began more as a tendency to the Ebionite heresy in down-playing God’s influence on humanity. Even­tually it rejected God altogether. Instead of the divine and human being both united and distinct in both writing the Bible and reading the text, they were separated. So, even if the Holy Spirit existed, he had no part in writing the texts and the inspiration of Scripture became a meaningless concept. Nor could the Bible-reading believer count on the Spirit to help them understand what they were reading.

The Enlightenment led to vari­ous developments in the business of interpreting the Bible. Once the the­ory of interpretation was divorced from divine revelation in the Bible, working out what the Bible said came to be thought of as a matter of human scientific advances. Different philosophical perspectives, which had always dogged the question of hermeneutics, took over from bibli­cal views of reality and knowledge (metaphysics and epistemology). Theological hermeneutics gave way to philosophical hermeneutics. Rev­elation by God was replaced by nat­ural processes and independent human thought declared God to be irrelevant.

Even though the structure of unity and distinction was held in the­ory, in practice it was constantly attacked by a tendency to turn dis­tinction into separation. In biblical criticism, the Enlightenment led firstly to a concentration on the his­tory of religious thought and the his­tory of the biblical texts. These are both legitimate dimensions of the Bible to study, but concentrating on them separated them from the Bible’s theological and literary dimensions. When the new hermeneutic turned to consider the nature of the Bible texts, their theology was down-played and the author’s inten­tion ignored.

7. An evangelical approach

As evangelicals we believe in the Bible as God’s word to us, but what does this mean?
a. Unlike the Alexandrian strand, we recognise the Bible as both divine and human. The great diversity of texts in the Bible find unity in their common role of testifying to Christ. We reject all tendencies to a docetic or Gnostic Bible which ignores the human context of the divine word.
b.Like the apostles, we recognise that the Old Testament finds its fullest significance in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. The rela­tionship of the two Testaments is unity and distinction.
c. Unlike the medievalists, we avoid fusing the historic Christ with the Church as the body of Christ. So we recognise that the Church, far from being the Lord of Scripture, is created by the word and must submit to its authority.
d. While welcoming many of the insights of the Enlightenment, we reject its separation of the divine and human. We see Jesus’ incarnation to be the theological reason for all proper critical study of the text and its background. Much modern liter­ary and historical criticism assumes God has nothing to do with the text, but evangelicals refuse to separate the historical and literary dimen­sions of the Bible from its theological dimension. All critical procedures must be tested by the authority of Christ in his gospel.

This is only the beginning of the story, but at least we can recognize that we can’t think about hermeneutics with­out thinking about Christ.

Partial-Preterist Post-Millenialist

One of the courses I am engaged in this term has been a look at the Doctrine of the Last Things or better labeled “Eschatology”. In this class we have barely yet to scratch the surface as far as ripping apart the pertinent texts like Matthew 25, Revelation 20, 1 Thess 4 & 5, and 2 Thess 2. Before taking this course I had not thought through this stuff very much as where I was before put little to no emphasis on these type of subjects and never had a reason to “stake out a territory” so to speak. So after reading other books prior to this class and in reading an excellent book by Cornelis Venema (an optimistic A-Mill) and beginning a work by Marcellus Kik (a Post-Mill) I have come to the following conclusions (for now)…

1) I believe in Partial Preterism.

What does that mean? Basically it means that I hold that the majority of the events prophesied in Scripture dealing with the “end times” refer to and were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple cult by the Romans in A.D. 70.

2) I believe the Millennium is symbolic.

The literal 1,000 years that Dispensational Pre-Millennialists push is not Scriptural or in keeping with the Biblical text. In other words the reference to 1,000 years in Revelation 20 is not meant to be taken as a literal 1,000 years.

3) I believe that Christ will come back at the end of the Millennium

Which makes me a post-millennialist (also one thing that A-Mills and Post-Mills share).

4) I believe that Revelation was written before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

I would highly recommend Ken Gentry’s work here. Basically that the Book of Revelation was written during the reign of Nero. Also that Nero Caesar is the sixth king who is the one who is in Revelation 17:10.

Suggested Reading List

An Eschatology of Victory by Marcellus Kik

The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul, Sr.

Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

He Shall Have Dominion by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Post-Millenialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison

Days of Vengeance by David Chilton

The Promise of the Future by Cornelis Venema

This will be the first of several posts on Eschatological issues that will help flesh out my beliefs and illustrate how and why the Scriptures teach what I have professed above.

George Gillespie On the Magistrate and the Penal Law

George Gillespie

WHOLESOME  SEVERITY  RECONCILED
WITH  CHRISTIAN  LIBERTY

The  true  resolution  of  a  present  controversy  concerning  liberty  of  conscience.

I have endeavored in this following discourse to vindicate the lawful, yea necessary use of the coercive power of the Christian Magistrate in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries, according as the degree of their offense and of the Church’s danger shall require: Which when I had done, there came to my hands a book called The Storming of Antichrist.1 Indeed, “The Recruiting of Antichrist, and the Storming of Zion” (if so be that I may anabaptize an Anabaptist’s book). Take one passage for instance (p. 25): “And for Papists,” he says, “though they are least to be borne of all others, because of the uncertainty of their keeping faith with heretics, as they call us, and because they may be absolved of securements that can arise from the just solemn oaths, and because of their cruelty against the Protestants in diverse countries where they get the upper hand, and because they are professed idolaters, yet may they be born with (as I suppose with submission to better judgments) in Protestant government, in point of religion, because we have not command to root out any for conscience,” etc. Why then, is this to storm Antichrist? Or is it not rather a storming “of this party,” in the prevailing whereof “God will have far more glory than in the Popish and Prelatical party,” as [he] himself speaks (p. 34). And if he will storm, surely some of his ladders are too short. “If any one rail against Christ,” he says (p. 23), “or deny the Scriptures to be his word, or affirm the Epistles to be only letters written to particular churches, and no rule for us, and so unsettle our faith, this I take may be punished by the Magistrate, because all or most nations in the world do it.” That all the nations in the world do punish for these things, I am yet to learn: and those that do, do they not also punish men for other ways of unsettling the grounds of faith besides these? The declining of some of the Epistles as being letters written upon particular occasions, and no rule for us, is an error which has been pretensed to be no less conscientious than those errors which now he will have indulged. Lastly, if he would needs storm, why would he not make some new breach? I find no material arguments in him for liberty of conscience, but what I found before in The Bloody Tenet,2 The Compassionate Samaritan,3 and M.S. to A.S.,4 so that my ensuing answers to them shall serve his turn. And now reader, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” Search for knowledge “as for hid treasures.” If you read with an unprejudiced mind, I dare promise you through God’s blessing a satisfied mind….

…I. Concerning this question there are three opinions: two extremes, and one in the middle. So it is resolved not only by Dr. Voetius, in his late disputations, De Libertate Conscientia, but long before by Calvin, in his refutation of the errors of Servetus, where he disputes this very question, whether Christian judges may lawfully punish heretics.

The first opinion is that of the Papists, who hold it to be not only no sin, but good service to God, to extirpate by fire and sword, all that are adversaries to, or opposers of the Church and the Catholic religion. Upon this ground, Gregory de Valentia tells us there were 180 of the Albigenses burnt under Pope Innocentius the third, and in the Council of Constance were burnt John Hus and Hieronse of Prague (2am 2ae disp. 1. quest. 11 punct. 3).

…The second opinion falls short, as far as the former exceeds: that is, that the Magistrate ought not to inflict any punishment, nor put forth any coercive power upon heretics or sectaries, but on the contrary grant them liberty and toleration. This was the opinion of the Donatists, against which Augustine has written both much and well, in diverse places: though himself was once in the same error, till he did take the matter into his second better thoughts, as is evident by his Retractions (lib. 2, cap. 2, and epist. 48). In the same error are the Socinians and Arminians (See Peltii Harmonia, Artic. 21; Nic. Bodecher, Sociniano. Remon-strantismus, cap. 25. See also Grotii Apologeticus, cap. 6, p. 130; Theoph. Nicolaid, Tractat. de Ecclesia, cap. 4, p. 33). The very same is maintained in some books printed amongst ourselves in this year of confusion: viz. The Bloody Tenet; Liberty of Conscience;5 The Compassionate Samaritan; John the Baptist;6 and by Mr. Goodwin in his Theomaxia,7 and his Innocencies Triumph.8 In which places he denies that the Magistrate, and particularly that the two Houses of Parliament, may impose anything pertaining to the service and worship of God under mulcts [fines] or penalties. So M.S. to A.S. (pp. 53-55, etc.), disputes against the coercive power of the Magistrate to suppress heresies and sects. This power the Presbyterians do ascribe to the Magistrate, as I shall show by and by. Therefore I still aver, that Mr. Goodwin in denying and opposing this power, herein (as in diverse other particulars) ascribes much less to the Magistrate than the Presbyterians do: which overthrows that insinuation of the five Apologists.9

The third opinion is that the Magistrate may and ought to exercise his coercive power, in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries, less or more, according as the nature and degree of the error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others, requires. This as it was the judgment of the orthodox ancients (vide Optati opera, edit. Al. Baspin, p. 204, 215), so it is followed by our soundest Protestant writers; most largely by Beza against Bellius and Monfortius, in a peculiar treatise, De Hareticis á Magistratu Puniendis. And though Gerhard, Brochmand,10 and other Lutheran writers, make a controversy where they need not, alleging that the Calvinists (so nicknamed) hold as the Papists do, that all heretics without distinction are to be put to death: the truth is, they themselves say as much as either Calvin or Beza, or any other whom they take for adversaries in this question, that is, that heretics are to be punished by mulcts [fines], imprisonments, banishments, and if they be gross idolaters or blasphemers, and seducers of others, then to be put to death. What is it else that Calvin teaches, when he distinguishes three kinds of errors: some to be tolerated with a spirit of meekness, and such as ought not to separate brethren; others not to be tolerated, but to be suppressed with a certain degree of severity; a third sort so abominable and pestiferous, that they are to be cut off by the highest punishment?

And lest it be thought that this is but the opinion of some few, that the magistrate ought thus by a strong hand, and by civil punishments suppress heretics and sectaries: let it be observed what is held forth and professed concerning this business, by the Reformed Churches in their public confessions of faith. In the latter Confession of Helvetia (cap. 30), it is said that the magistrate ought to “root out lies and all superstition, with all impiety and idolatry.” And after, “Let him suppress stubborn heretics.” In the French Confession (art. 39), “Therefore he hath also delivered the sword into the hands of Magistrates, to wit, that offenses may be repressed, not only those which are committed against the second table, but also against the first.” In the Belgic Confession (art. 36), “Therefore hath he armed the Magistrate with the sword for punishing them that do evil, and for defending such as do well. Moreover it is their duty not only to be careful and watchful for the preservation of the civil government, but also to defend the holy ministry, and to abolish and overthrow all idolatry, and counterfeit worship of God.” Beza (De Hareticis), tells us in the beginning, that the ministers of Helvetia had declared themselves to be of the same judgment, in a book published of that argument. And toward the end he cites the Saxon Confession, Luther, Melancthon, Brentius, Bucerus, Wolfgangus Capito, and Bullinger. The Synod of Dordt (ses. 138), in their sentence against the Remonstrants does not only interdict them of all their ecclesiastical and academical functions, but [does] also beseech the States General by their secular power to suppress and restrain them.

Read the rest here…