Country Boy Can Survive

A great article by D.G. Hart (someone I do not agree with often) highlights the divide between denominational loyalty to the city and the needs of rural congregations. Dr. Hart makes excellent points that I highly recommend you listen to and meditate upon while sipping your latte.

Here is a snippet.

Lost in this understanding of ministry among cosmopolitans is the sense that one might be trying to elevate one’s own status by hobnobbing with the influential, that the church’s egalitarian streak has a preferential option for the meek and lowly, or that touting pastoral success in New York City leads to a generation of prospective pastors who will not remain in rural communities once they have seen the lure of church life in the cosmopolis – not to mention that the scale, anonymity, and standard of living in places like Manhattan skew church life in ways that may not be compatible with the agrarian imagery that comes straight from the pages of holy writ.

Of course, the reasons why evangelicals fawn over the city may stem from sources other than the obvious appeal of bright lights and big buildings. One of them may a born-again infatuation with celebrity and the disillusionment that follows when public figures like Mark Sanford or Miss California, Carrie Prajean, fall from grace. Evangelicals are disposed to understand grace and faith in extraordinary categories and so overlook stories of ordinary believers, routine piety, and even rural congregations as insignificant…

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.

Why Do We Learn Greek and Hebrew?

And why do we not learn Latin? (Or Dutch, French, <u>or</u> German) But that is the subject of a different post.

As the time for Ordination Exams begins at the end of this week for many of my PC(USA) colleagues here at Pittsburgh Seminary I am beginning to wonder at the purpose of teaching the primary languages. For the vast majority it is nothing but a hurdle that will be jettisoned after Tuesday afternoon of next week when exegesis papers are due. If I was a professor who spent hours laboring over the instruction of Hebrew and Greek the shear knowledge that what I was teaching was a nuisance for most and an outright waste of time for the majority would cause me epileptic fits. No wonder most department heads have a hard time encouraging the faculty to teach these courses. (Of course a notable exception is at PTS where Dale Allison and Robert Gagnon teach Greek, though I am sure both are somewhat disheartened in the understanding that most of their students are not that interested in having a working knowledge but in knowing enough to pass exams).

This is of course a rhetorical question. The knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is non-negotiable. A direct corollary can be drawn between the abandonment of the linguistic studies and the ignorance/shallowness of the Pastorate. The purposeful ignorance of the original languages (and any other language) is of course  not a problem that is localized to the PC(USA) or other liberal denominations. It has been my experience that this is a disease that infects most theological students (this one included, for which I am currently paying) despite their individual denominational affiliation and the otherwise orthodox nature of their theology. Is it the lack of focus given to Greek and Hebrew in other courses? The lack of focus in existing clergy? Whatever the reason for the decline of the seen importance of knowing Hebrew and Greek one thing remains true. <u>We</u> as graduate students need to make it a priority to not only take our languages seriously and to make a concerted effort to help the new students understand the vital nature of knowing how not only to translate but develop a love for the words used by the Holy Spirit through the hands of Moses, the scribes, Apostles and the other writers of Holy Writ as well as the knowledge of properly applying the tools to preaching, teaching, and, believe it or not, Pastoral Care.

The Abandonement of Hermenuetics, Part 1.

The study of Hermeneutics or better said the way in which we read and study biblical text is a dying art in the evangelical, let alone the liberal, world. There used to be a very serious set of principles that a person would employ when they came to the Biblical text that was nearly as sacrosanct as the text itself. For those of us in the Reformed circles this was done in the guise of reading the Scriptures in the framework of the Covenants between God and man. In other words when a Reformed pastor or theologian would come to a biblical text he would read it first with the idea that the Bible was constructed with a certain organizing principle, constructed by the Holy Spirit so that we could both understand the larger picture and how the little things work for the overall Glory of God in history. We all come to the text with presuppositions about the nature of the text, the way we understand God to work in his creation, etc. Through all this we take things like God’s covenant with Noah and Abraham through different eyes than Talmudic or Dispensational scholars. The Talmudic scholar will read the promises to Noah in relation to the modern Jewish milieu. The Dispensationalist will see the Noahic Covenant as the beginning of a new dispensation that is different than the one given to Adam or Moses. Once we come to this understanding the question that comes before us is why do we think we can read Scripture in such a way that it does not inform on itself? For example in the arguments between those who support Women in Ordained ministry and those who do not the defenders of the egalitarian position often posit the observation that Jesus employed women to bring the news of his resurrection to his Male disciples as one fact supporting ordained female clergy. In other words Jesus uses women to bring the Good News to the disciples, therefore women can be messengers of the Gospel, ergo Women can be preachers of the Gospel and enter ordained ministry. Understand the argument? Ok. This argument sounds pretty good on the surface and looks secure in its logic, which if taken by itself it is logical.

Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-41 is a good place for us to start in working with a Biblical hermeneutic. What are the details in this text? Pharisees and Scribes are asking Jesus for a sign after the crowds call him the “Son of David” for healing the blind and mute man possessed with a demonic force. The Pharisees want him to prove that he is this person whom the crowd claims him to be. So after Jesus and the Pharisees exchange pleasantries Jesus reminds them of Jonah (whom Jesus recognizes as both real and verifiable, which is another issue for another day) and what it was that happened to Jonah. He also reminds them of Nineveh and Nineveh’s repentance and applies this text not only to himself but to the recompense that is coming. All in order to show them that the signs have already been given to them in the Law and the Prophets (cf: The Rich Man and Lazarus) and that they have no need of new signs because why? Because there is nothing new in what Christ is teaching and what he is coming to do in their time. Jesus understands (and so does Zacharias) that the Law and the Prophets not only speak of him but are about him. This is all to say that a proper Biblical hermeneutic takes into account more than just what is in front of us on the page, more than the bare logic of a pericope.

Which brings us back to Matthew 28:1-10 (also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10) and the reporting of the Resurrection. Now as we saw before the argument brought forward by egalitarians makes perfect sense, in isolation. Now how does the story look in context? We’ll answer that in the next post. But for now I want you to think about it and come up with your own explanation using a Covenant hermeneutic.

Continuing My Walk

For the third installment of my walk of discernment I would like to take a look at the official statements made by the PC(USA) on the matter of Abortion

The Denominations current stance on the practice of Abortion is muddy and I believe purposefully vague. At various General Assemblies[1] the GA voted and passed resolutions that include the following statements about the denominations position on Abortion:

The considered decision of a woman to terminate a pregnancy can be a morally acceptable, though certainly not the only or required, decision.[2]

Humans are empowered by the spirit prayerfully to make significant moral choices, including the choice to continue or end a pregnancy. Human choices should not be made in a moral vacuum, but must be based on Scripture, faith, and Christian ethics.[3]

Some of us would focus on the biblical material that emphasizes human decision-making. Real decision-making[4] is one of the gifts of God to us as human beings. It is part of being created in the image of God. God’s own dominion over all of creation does not deny this intention of the Creator: that human beings must make real decisions that have real consequences for their lives and for the world…[5]

Now these statements in and of themselves are in opposition to lots of presuppositions in Reformed theology. The fourth citation being the greatest departure from any semblance of the Doctrines that used to constitute the Reformed faith within the PC(USA). However ultimately what truly brings me to question these statements (and as one questioning his remaining a member with the PC(USA)) is that they are ultimately human-centered, that is they are always speaking as if God is 1) outside the decision-making process of the individual, and 2) that God cannot possibly understand the difficult decisions that abortion entails. The second quotation I have chosen to highlight disturbs me the most. I have spoken previously of my concern that Scripture is now last in the Presbyterian’s “Wesleyan Quadlateral” (with the first place going to experience, then reason, tradition, and lastly “s”cripture). While it may seem silly to some to quibble with the separation of faith and Christian ethics from Scripture in the wording it signals a much deeper problem and that is the continued denial of an active God within the human life that has dictated through his Word the “ethic” we as followers of Jesus Christ should follow. That somehow we have gone from the Amazing Grace of the reformation where Christ is the dominant mover to a simple common Grace where humanity has been given the ultimate word, not Christ, on the moral decisions of ending human life prematurely and without cause.

[1] As an aside it is of the utmost arrogance that the PC (USA) tries to claim that its 2006 General Assembly was its “217th”. It is ludicrous for the denomination to claim heritage back to the 18th century when it was actually founded by the joining of two separate denominations in 1983.

[2] Minutes of the 204th General Assembly (1992), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), pg. 367-368, 372-374

[3] Minutes of the 217th General Assembly (2006), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), pg. 905

[4] The major fault behind the hermeneutic used in the last quote will be critiqued in a separate post

[5] Sections “I. D. 6. Positions A & B” of the Report of the Special Committee on Problem Pregnancies and Abortion to the 1992 General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), pg. 9-10

Continuing my Walk

For the second installment of my walk of discernment I would like to highlight two past posts I have made on “Adam”. They are not that old so some of you have already read them, but they serve our purpose well.

I thought a nice meaty topic would be in order so I want to discuss an issue that is bearing its head among colleagues and friends here at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. That issue, as one can tell from the title, is whether or not Adam and Eve were actual beings, the Garden ever actually existed, and does “Original Sin” necessitate an “Original Sinner”? These are of course not new topics and though at first glance may seem to be third order worries I however take the position that without an actual Adam there would be no need for an actual Christ. So one could say that I hold this argument to be much more than a simple third order concern.

Why may you ask are people even doubting Adam’s reality? Does not Paul in Romans 5:12 say that all sin came into the world through one man? Jesus himself refers to Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:4,5 not to mention Luke 3 records Adam as being in his geneology. Calvin in his commentary on the Pentateuch recalls that:

So God created man The reiterated mention of the image of God is not a vain repetition. For it is a remarkable instance of the Divine goodness which can never be sufficiently proclaimed. And, at the same time, he admonishes us from what excellence we have fallen, that he may excite in us the desire of its recovery.*

Or Abraham Kuyper:

Like Job, we ought to feel and to acknowledge that in Adam you and I are created; when God created Adam He created us; in Adam’s nature He called forth the nature wherein we now live. Gen. i. and ii. is not the record of aliens, but of ourselves—concerning the flesh and blood which we carry with us, the human nature in which we sit down to read the Word of God.

Or A.W. Pink:

Now, strictly speaking, there are only two men who have ever walked this earth which were endowed with full and unimpaired responsibility, and they were the first and last Adam’s. The responsibility of each of the rational descendants of Adam, while real, and sufficient to establish them accountable to their Creator is, nevertheless, limited in degree, limited because impaired through the effects of the Fall.

Or Charles Hodge:

We are inherently depraved, and therefore we are involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin.

So here we have Scripture, greats of the Reformation, and contemporary scholars all pointing to a real Adam. So why do Orthodox people seem inclined to accept that Adam was a real being but we of 2007 seem not to think it either necessary or true? Is it because these old white men did not have access to “knowledge” that we have today and if they just knew about textual criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism, grammatical criticism, and J, E, P, and D then they would also see the “mythical” properties of the creation text? Well would Calvin change his mind on the necessity of Adam’s fall for the reality of Christ’s death if he knew of the Yahwist? The easy answer is to say that proponents of the allegory hypothesis are so taken by accommodation with the sciences that their theistic evolutionary stance forces them to concede that no “Adam” ever existed, regardless of what this position does to their theology, because science has proved Homo Sapiens developed independently. But is this answer sufficient? Is it just simple to say that those who hold there is no Adam because of the supposed inconsistencies in the Hebrew and the alleged “two creations” are “wrong” without delving deeper into the questions behind this stance?

What do you think? Does a Christ automatically support an Adam? Or do we think that the story of Creation, without an actual Adam, is a proper myth that helps us and the early Israelites, Jesus, and the Apostles understand our current predicament and that an actual Adam is not required for the Cross?

*-All quotes taken from


To continue the conversation about a literal Adam a little further let us examine how not having a “real” Adam destroys the need for an actual Christ. Those of you who do not believe in a physical Adam as expressed in the beginning chapters of Genesis need to reconcile how Christ, who Paul explicitly says in 1st Corinthians 15:42-49 is the second Adam, can be the so-called second of something that did not previously exist? Or put in other words how Adam being a metaphor calls for a Christ to die for a fake rebellion.

I think those of you who deny Adam’s reality do not truly comprehend how much the idea of there being no Adam affects the rest of Scripture. It would be like taking away the opening chapter of a novel and expecting to be able to understand the rest of the story. Someone who describes the creation text as myth or folklore must analyze what this does not only to the history of God’s relationship to Israel but to their Christology. Because not only does the non-existence of Adam necessitate that God created the world sinful and evil but it requires that Jesus’ death on the cross is an action that resolves God’s mistake in making an already fallen creation to himself. Not that Jesus was reconciling us, who share in Adam’s rebellion, to God but that God was reconciling his own blunder with himself. Michal Horton in his work Putting Amazing Back Into Grace quotes John Calvin who says,”The depravity and malice both of men and of the devil, or the sins that arise therefrom, do not spring from nature, but rather from the corruption of nature.” In other words it is not that nature itself was created evil but that nature had to of its own accord fall from the perfection in which it was formed to begin with. This has to mean that at some point in the past an “Adam” was given the free will to sin or as the Second Chapter of the Scots Confession defines it:

“We confess and acknowledge that our God has created man, i.e., our first father, Adam, after his own image and likeness, to whom he gave wisdom, lordship, justice, free will, and self-consciousness, so that in the whole nature of man no imperfection could be found. From this dignity and perfection man and woman both fell; the woman being deceived by the serpent and man obeying the voice of the woman, both conspiring against the sovereign majesty of God, who in clear words had previously threatened death if they presumed to eat of the forbidden tree.”

For Jesus’ death on the cross to be as Scripture says it to be necessitates a literal Adam who fell from God’s grace. A fake Adam creates a Christ who has failed and is a liar. For what need do we have of a Savior that saves us from a death that was his fault to begin with? What do we say when we know that Christ did not die because of our own rebellion but because of his own mistake? How can we say that the literally hundreds of times Adam’s sin is called upon by the writers of the Old Testament to show forth the sin of Israel is mere allegory? How can we say Christ died for an allegory or a metaphor and be taken seriously? Adam’s reality is VITAL for the gospel to be real. Without an actual Adam our faith is in vain because Christ’s atonement is nothing more than a big “sorry about that”. This is not the message of the gospel.

Working through Discernment

Working through Discernment

By Benjamin P. Glaser

As anyone who reads this blog semi-regularly knows I am in a period of discernment and prayer as to what my future in the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be for me and my family. As part of this discernment process I have decided to work out some central passages in which I differ from the majority of my colleagues in seminary and the general view of the PC (USA). It is important to remember when reading this that these writings are not intended to be full treatises for publication and may seem not to be fully exegeted, that is not my goal. My goal is to test my beliefs against a subjective audience and see if what I believe is so outside the denominational witness that a move is necessary both for the health of my own conscience and my ability to give an honest witness to what Scripture is teaching.

My plan is to do this bi-weekly and in a systematic and chronological way. Therefore the first question I will begin with is Adam and Eve and the majority belief in the Old Testament scholarship of the PC (USA) that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are separate accounts and are disconnected explanations of the creation of man. (cf: documentary hypothesis).*

*- It should be noted here that not all positions will be covered but just the main position of the PC (USA)

1) Man and Woman created in Genesis 1:26-27

2) “Adam” and “Eve” (Man and Woman) created in Genesis 2:7,18,21-22

Now modern PC (USA) (and all mainline) Old Testament scholarship gives the following explanation for this supposed “double creation” event.

1) Gen. 1:26-27 was written by the Priestly Source and Gen. 2:7,18, 21-22 by the Yahwist

2) Both accounts arise out of other near east creation texts. Therefore the text is not meant to be “complimentary” but necessarily conflicting. In other words Genesis 1 is the view from God’s perspective and Ch. 2 is Man’s perspective.

Here is where I disagree with this hypothesis. The mention of the creation of humans in 1:27 in no way makes the second mention in chapter two “contradictory” or even competing. While it has been the recent tradition of OT scholarship since Wellhausen (and to a lesser degree Spinoza) to make these two statements I believe the second statement to be easily refuted. Not only throughout Jewish tradition have these two chapters been treated as one narrative but Christ in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9 quotes both from Gen 1:27 and 2:24 in one thought (as well as attributing Mosaic authorship to the whole of the Torah in Matt 8:4, 19:7, 22:24, Mark 1:44, 7:10, 12:19, 12:26, Luke 2:22, 5:14, 16:19, 20:28, 20:37, 24:27, 24:44, John 1:17, 1:45, 5:45, 5:46, and 7:23). Now one may say here that Jesus is just following his ritual, not necessarily giving credence to the view of chapters 1 and 2 being of the same tradition. In other words the critique says that Christ’s use of both chapters; giving equal voice to both 1 & 2 as if they are telling the same story, does not necessarily mean that both speak with the same voice or having the same author. Christ, since he had voluntarily emptied himself of divine knowledge (as seen in his not knowing the Day of Judgment), and had “forgotten” or even more implausibly Jesus chose not to share with the apostles the truth he knew about the writing of Genesis 1 and 2 thereby quoting from both honestly outside of the truth we now hold.

I cannot begin to describe how this view does damage to Chalcedonian Christology. However in the interest of giving a more thorough understanding of how dangerous this last statement is to historical orthodoxy let us look at one example of how this critique breaks down orthodox foundations of how we see Christ.

Chalcedon says:

The distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved

Now if according to the last critique that by emptying himself Christ necessarily gave away his knowledge of past events-which is what is being said by those who deny the Mosaic (or singular if you will) authorship of Genesis 1 and 2-it is then illogical to say then that the divine nature is not affected by the bodily nature, which in and of itself denies historical Christology.