Friday, February 25, 2011

A Rebuttal to Ryan Cavanaugh’s Theology Blog Post about me; Part 2

This is a continuation of the previous post which is an answer to Ryan Cavanaugh. During the back and forth of our discussion Ryan asked me a question. I am posting the question in quotes and it can be found below.
“How would you deal with the fact that Jesus said he did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it?”
I had recently posted on this question on the paradigm shift blog so I gave him a link to read. You can find the post here. I point out in this article that if one takes a literal stance on all scripture being the word of God then, heaven and earth must have passed and, all must have been fulfilled. I happen to believe this position. I am a advocate of New Covenant Theology.  I believe that all indeed has been fulfilled and, that heaven and earth has passed. I think that the scripture makes a case for arguing that the Old Covenant was synonymous with the old heaven and earth and that consequently, the New Covenant is synonymous with the new heaven and earth.
Ryan writes:
“I did read your blog, and you did neglect much of the teaching of scripture on this. One has always been whether Jew or Gentile admitted into covenant with God by Faith (Romans 4) Faith has always been the way even before circumcision, and it still was faith that united us to God (Through Christ) even in the Mosaic Covenant. What Circumcision was, was a sign of entrance into that covenant. That is all, a sign of entrance. And we do have circumcision today (I will now unveil my reformed roots) We have it in the New birth, where God circumcises our hearts (The New Birth) which is a fulfillment to the promise given in the law in Deut 30:6, "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." and also in Jer 31:31-34,”
If I understand your meaning here you are saying that we still as New Covenant believers are circumcised and participate in the Passover via Christ and the Lord’s Supper/communion. Unfortunately, that does not change the fact that jots and tittles… the commandments of the ceremonial law… have in fact disappeared. There is a lot more than the removal of jots and tittles; all aspects of the ceremonial law have been removed. I realize that there are Messianic Jews who still believe in the ceremonial law and, believe that it will once again be instated for them with the rebuilding of a third temple. I think they are wrong. I do not believe that God will ever allow the temple to be rebuilt as he will not allow the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer to compete with the blood of his Son. In any instance, the fact remains that jots and tittles have been removed.
He continues:

“What the sign of entrance into the covenant with God in the church today is Baptism. Baptism is not man’s statement to God, but God's statement to man. It is a sign of the covenant given in the new covenant, as we have in Col 2:8-15,”
I think that I can agree with you here but it does not mean that jots and tittles have not been removed from the Torah. And, not all of the jots and tittles that are removed are ceremonial law. I do not find anyone in Christian practice following Exodus 21:7-9. I do not think that selling one’s daughter as a concubine is God sanctioned and it certainly does not point to Christ. Back then it was cultural. 
He goes on:

“The Scriptures are unified in their teachings. All the laws point to Christ and all the law is fulfilled in Christ. How do you deal with the sacrificial law? What was God teaching them through the sacrifices if it was not that blood had to be shed for the forgiveness of sin as it says in Hebrews 9:22, "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." And in the Law in Lev 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." Jesus fulfilled all of this through his life and death, and the whole purpose of the Law was to show the holiness of God, how far short men fall, and that they must be forgiven, and only by the shedding of blood can they be forgiven, and that there was a perfect sacrifice coming that would once and for all forgive their sins. (Gal 3-4, Heb 8-10)”

Jesus gave this answer to the following question: Mat 22:36-40  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  (37)  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  (38)  This is the first and great commandment.  (39)  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  (40)  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. When you think about it the Shema and, loving ones neighbor encompasses the entire law. Until one understands God’s grace in Christ Jesus, one cannot really love God in the way the commandment demands. Love for neighbor flows naturally from the one who believes that they have been redeemed. This is how Jesus fulfilled the law. He provided the catalyst for us to obey from the heart. The atonement does not have to be the penal subsitutionary  theory or the christus victor theory to make the gospel work. Christ’s death does not satisfy God per se. It rather, satisfies our need for redemption. As I have stated from the first, there is more than one paradigm that deals with the biblical data and the above answers from Ryan does not really address the point I made in the post on jots and tittles and the fulfillment of the Law. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Rebuttal to Ryan Cavanaugh’s Theology Junkie Blog post about me; Part 1

This blog post is the result of an ongoing discussion over on Jonathan Brink’s Blog. It has been carried to Ryan Cavanaugh’s Theology Junkie Blog. This answer is for the first part of his blog post. I will do another blog article to deal with his second point which actually takes up more words on his blog. Let me emphasize this; Ryan will not seem to deal with my premise which is that Jesus and his followers (New Testament Authors) redefined the term word of God from the Jewish held definition Torah to their own definition which was gospel and Jesus, the living gospel. I maintain that this among other things shows that Jesus and his followers gave a solely redemptive purpose to scripture. You can read my original blog post in its entirety here.
Ryan begins:
 “I did read your blog, and it was interesting, however, you perhaps didn’t deal with the issues that would go against your thesis. Allow me to list several, and you can decide if they are convincing.  First, when we look at 1 Tim 5:18 “18For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." We notice something interesting. First, we have a quote used by Paul from Deut 25:4, but Paul also adds Jesus’ words in Luke 10:7 and declares them both as “scripture.” From this we learn that the words in the gospels were and are to be considered in the totality of the Word of God. As we take the authority of the Mosaic Law and the Prophets, so we should take the words of Jesus.” 

Here Ryan jumps to the conclusion that I use the word of God and scripture interchangeably and I do not. I differentiate between the two largely because I see Jesus and his followers doing the same thing which was the point of my original posts. So, while I see the scripture as inspired, I see the word of God as something specific that is more than scripture. In the unbelieving Jews eyes it was the Law/Torah. This is why Jesus felt the necessity to change the definition. One of the main points I make is that Jesus and the first century writers differentiated between the word of God, word of truth and, word and, scripture. Jesus referred to scripture twenty-four times and called it the Law or, the Law and Prohets several other times and when he spoke of the word of God it was always about the gospel. The reason for this was to show that in Jesus view, the scriptures were solely redemptive. This does not diminish the standing of the scripture but, it does elevate the word of God and, therefore all of the scripture is not the word of God. Calling it the sacred scripture is enough.
Ryan Continues:
“Second, we take 1 Cor 14:37 which Paul says, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” Paul, in his letter of correction to a church with many issues flat out says that his words are the word of the Lord and should be seen as such. And in fact, if anyone says that they are spiritual, they should acknowledge this fact. This is yet even more truth that all of scripture must be seen as the Word of God.”

It means that Paul’s writing is elevated to scripture but it in no way is elevated to the level of word of God except where Paul is relating the gospel. The bulk of Paul’s writing is gospel but, the passages that could be used as the Pharisees used the Old Testament scripture are not the word of God. The context of this writing is 1Corinthians chapter 13, the love chapter and, we all know that love is a command of the Lord and when Paul writes about it….. it is likewise a command.  Obedience is different in the New Covenant era than it was under the Old Covenant. Obedience is from the heart it is the obedience of faith.  There is absolutely no way that one can conclude that all scripture is the word of God from this passage when one defines the word of God as the gospel and that is precisely what Jesus did.
Ryan goes on:
“Third, we take Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:16-21, We learn that scripture is greater than any personal experience; even greater than seeing Moses and Elijah, and seeing the transfigured Christ with our naked eyes. Scripture is more reliable than that, and that no prophet just wrote his own words, but the Holy Spirit carried him along. The Spirit moved the authors to write exactly what they wrote, because it is all the word of God, and is more reliable than any personal experience, even such an amazing experience than the mount of transfiguration.”

Peter is not saying that scripture is above experience. You cannot find that in the text and, he is actually stating the reverse. He is saying that they should believe them because of the experience, because of the transfiguration…. He is guarding them against those who would say that Peter’s was doing a private interpretation of the scripture by claiming the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. When one familiarizes oneself with the Talmud it is clear that the rabbi’s had a Christ centered view of scripture. They claimed that Jesus interpretation was private and erroneous (John 7:48-49.) Peter was speaking of the Pharisees who claimed that Christianity was a private interpretation of scripture.
Finally Ryan states:
“I understand that this could be seen as only relating to the Old Testament, but Peter goes on to say in Chapter 3, and I think this is remarkably telling as he is about to die, what is the last thing you would want to say? 2 Peter 3:14-18, “14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Peter connects Paul’s writings to the Word of God by calling it scripture. They twist Paul’s words “as they do the other scriptures” This one is remarkable. Peter connects Paul’s words to the entirety of the Old Testament by calling it the other scriptures. And failure to do this will cause a lost of stability and doing it will lead to your own destruction.”“From this we clearly see that the whole bible is the word of God, not just parts, but the whole. The gospel is not just found in the gospels, but is found everywhere in the Old Testament, and in every chapter of the bible (Even in the conquests of Joshua).” 

In this passage Ryan simply restates his belief that all scripture is the word of God. The above passage does not prove anything as I am willing to admit that what Paul wrote was scripture however, it is not all the gospel, word of God and.... Jesus and all of his followers have made that point exhaustively with a preponderance of evidence as is shown in my original article. I will do part two of Ryan’s objections in a day or so.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is the scripture the word of God and word of truth? A repost of three previous blog articles from 2009

Jesus and his followers redefined the term’s word of God, word of Truth and, Word with a capital letter, to mean either the gospel or, Jesus, the living gospel. This is a subtle nuance that has been overlooked for centuries by theologians but, I think it makes a very big difference in the doctrine of scripture that one holds. This is a combination of three posts that were posted in December of 2009. I will apologize for the length here but I think it is necessary to combine these post to see the case clearly. I ask that you take the time to read this and decide for yourself.
When you look at the various creeds written over the years, they most often, if not always begin with a section on the scripture. This is true of systematic theology books also. They generally begin with the scripture or the concept of divine revelation. The reason is simple. The section on divine revelation and scripture establishes the foundation for all of the doctrinal points that follow. Most statements of faith include a position on the scripture. It is only natural that this discussion of my paradigm shift should begin with the scripture. Is it accurate to call it the Word of God? And, if it isn’t, what difference does it make? In my view, it makes a very big difference and I think that the subtle, nuanced truth will point to a major shift.
First of all, Jesus himself referred to the scripture twenty-four times in the four gospels. In other instances, he called it either, the law or, the law and the prophets. He did not call the scripture the word of God with one possible exception in John 10:34-35 and, we will deal with that in a later post individually. However, he did call it the scripture 24 times and he referred to it as either the law or, the law and the prophets 25 times for a total of 49 times. Here is what I find most interesting. He defined the word of God as the gospel of the kingdom in Luke 8:11. If you look at the parallel verse in Matthew 13:19 he defines the seed as the word or message of the kingdom… in other words… the gospel.
In fact, as these posts progress, you will find that overwhelmingly and, even exclusively, Jesus and his apostles define the word of God, the word of truth or, the Word, as either, the living Word Jesus himself or, the gospel, the word or message of the kingdom of God. It is my plan to do an exhaustive analysis of this throughout the entire New Testament scripture. I will use many illustrations in subsequent posts but for now let me end this post with an example for you. 
I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  (Rev 1:9)
Now here is the question that you should ask yourself. Was John banished to the Isle of Patmos for the scripture? Of course not. It was very legal for Jews to have the Torah or the scriptures. Rome had decided to let that go long before Jesus came on the scene. The fact is that John was on Patmos for the gospel and Jesus. It was the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus that caused Rome to persecute the Christians. So, we see that the gospel and the incarnation are very important to the story of the New Covenant. It will become more and more clear that in reality, at least according to Jesus and his contemporaries, that it was the only focus.
We have looked at what Jesus said in the four gospels about scripture, the law and prophets and, the word of God; Specifically, his definition of the term word of God in Luke 8:11. Let’s move on to how the Book of Acts uses the phrase word of God. 
First, the phrase is used in twelve verses. And, when you read the verses in context, in each of them, the phrase only makes sense when the meaning of the phrase is gospel. In other words, if you try to replace the phrase with scripture it does not make sense but, if you replace the phrase with the gospel, it is obvious that gospel was the intended meaning. And yet, to the average evangelical, the first connotative meaning attached to the phrase is scripture. Here are a few examples of the apostolic meaning:
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.  (Act 4:31)
In the above verse, the clause, they spoke the gospel with boldness makes perfect sense but it does not make sense to say that they were speaking the scripture with boldness because all of the Jews spoke the scripture and it did not take boldness to speak the scripture. They memorized scripture from the time that they were small children on.
Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.  (Act 6:7)
In Acts six they were only speaking to Jews because the Gentiles were not included in the evangelizing until Acts chapter 10 so, when you read Acts 6:7, it only makes sense when you see the word of God as the gospel….the gospel spread and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem …and conversely it would not make sense to say that the scripture spread
Here are all of the scripture passages that have the phrase the word of God in them in the book of Acts: (Act_4:31; Act_6:2; Act_6:7; Act_8:14; Act_11:1; Act_12:24; Act_13:5; Act_13:7; Act_13:44; Act_13:46; Act_17:13; Act_18:11;) In each of them, the only term that makes sense when substituted, is the gospel. Using the word scripture will not work in any of them. Check it out for yourself.
By the same token, the word scripture is used seven times in the book of acts to describe what was written their sacred scripture and, the Law… or, the Law and the Prophets… are mentioned in 20 verses. It is clear that the apostles and, contemporaries of Jesus saw the difference between the scripture and the word of God. As we move forward with this blog, it will become obvious that the first century saints never referred to the scripture as the word of God. 
Again you may ask, “so what?”
Well, for one thing, you should ask yourself “why did they make the distinction and how did we end up changing this meaning?”
We have covered the use and meaning of the phrase the word of God in the book of Acts. Now we will shift to the phrase the word of truth. This phrase is most familiar from the often quoted and preached on verse, 2Tim 2:15. So the question once again is what is meant by Paul and others when they use the phrase word of truth? And again, the most widely accepted evangelical meaning is scripture. When anyone discusses rightly dividing or correctly handling the word of truth, they invariably mean the scripture. But is that what was meant by the phrase in the first century writings?
First off, the phrase is used four times in the New Testament writings three times by Paul and once by James; (2Co_6:7; Eph_1:13; 2Ti_2:15; Jas_1:18;) Interestingly, Paul actually defines the term in Ephesians:
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,  (Eph 1:13)
Notice that Paul outright states that the word of truth is the gospel of your salvation. There can be little room for debate about what he meant in his writing and he would not have been confusing with his terms; therefore, we can believe that the meaning that he attached to the phrase in Ephesians 1:13, is the same meaning that he gave it in 2Tim 2:15 and, thereby we can reasonably assume that he meant that the man/woman of God should rightly divide and, correctly handle the gospel of salvation.
Does James back this up? The answer is a resounding yes. Look at the passage from James:
Jas 1:17-18  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  (18)  Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
In the above passage James is speaking of being brought forth as a kind of firstfruit. This is description of being born again by the word of truth, Jesus and/or, the gospel. In any instance, you can be sure that he is not saying that he or, the other believing saints were being brought forth by the scripture.
So, what is the reason for this gospel focus? The answer is simply that Jesus taught his disciples a totally redemptive view of scripture that pointed to him and, the redemption he brought. The earlier focus of the word of truth, Psalm 119:43 was supplanted by this use of the phrase. The first century Jews, especially the Pharisees, saw the Torah as the word of God based upon the 119th Psalm and Jesus and his disciples are replacing the meaning in an overwhelmingly forceful way and, they are careful not to refer to the Torah as the word of God. Now before you jump to conclusions about how I view the scripture I will begin to get at that next. We will come back to the word of God a few posts down the road however.
As usual, if you have comments or questions feel free to share them. And I would strongly suggest that you go back and read the posts that come before this so you can see how the logic is built on the evidence.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Contending for the faith II

There is a discussion going on over at Jonathan Brinks Blog. He has been singled out by self-appointed heresy hunter Ken Silva for stating that he (Jonathan Brink) hoped that God was bigger than his theology or anyone’s and, asked what others thought.  Ken wants to confine God to scripture saying that what God has revealed is all he wants anyone to know. Ken’s blog is a classic example of those who would contend for the faith.
The question remains… is he right about scripture and his idea of what it means to contend for the faith? I don’t think so for the following reasons. I think that the evangelical fundamentalists have a hermeneutic lens that is similar to that of the first century scribes and Pharisees.  They see the entire scripture as the word of God. I, on the other hand have pointed out in several posts that Jesus and his followers corrected that idea and redefined the term. Here are a few of the posts.
It seems to me that contending for the faith ought to be about contending for what Jesus and his followers taught. This would mean that one would contend for a redemptive view of scripture and would contend for the gospel being the word of God. Instead, the loudest contenders contend for the bible to be the word of God; They contend for a hermeneutic lens that is similar to that of the scribes and Pharisees. When I use the word scribes I am referring to the first century rabbis… teachers of the law.
I just wish that some main stream theologians would acknowledge that Jesus and his followers redefined the word of God to be the gospel and, Jesus the living gospel. I think that they cannot do that because they fear that if they admitted this truth their theological house of cards would tumble down. They would have to change their view of scripture. I don’t think this is the case at all. I think that it could create a Christianity that would appeal to more individuals and truly reach more people for Christ.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Contending for the faith

There seems to be a lot of contention and strife in theological circles these days. The blogosphere is replete with blogs that contend with various doctrinal positions and persons. Some of them are quite heated and unkind in language. I suppose that this blog falls into that category however I try not to be really nasty…. Well, maybe sometimes I am too blunt but, offending is not my intent… well, maybe I have intended to offend some as I think back but, I can honestly state that being nasty and offensive to people has never been my goal. The phrase, contending for the faith, comes from Jude 1:3. The author writes that he had hoped to encourage them about their common salvation but, found it necessary to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. It is assumed that he meant the gospel and story as it was told by Jesus and his apostles. Actually, this is a safe assumption.

I just did a Google search and there is 172,000 sites that are listed by the keywords *contending for the faith.* Interestingly, on the first results page there are sites that claim the phrase but do not agree. Surprise!!! Right! So, you might ask what is your take on this phrase? Well, I am thinking about a couple of different issues. Which faith is contended for and, should we contend for the faith at all?  There is a lot of contention between what I will call the evangelical/fundamental/orthodox wing of Christianity and, what has become known as the emergent conversation or emergent Christianity.
There is a large segment of the later that questions that one should contend at all. Their view is that Jesus calls us to love and turn the other cheek. They see contending as unloving and distracting. I am not sure how I feel about this idea since I am still processing it. This much is certain; Jesus was very contentious on various occasions when dealing with the Pharisees and their theology.

There is a phrase used often in presidential politics… bully pulpit. Interesting choice of words bully pulpit and yet, there are literally hundreds of thousands of pulpits around the world that are routinely used for bullying. I personally do not think that this is a proper use of the pulpit but sadly it is a fact.
Back to the meaning of contending for the faith; what should be the meaning and what is worth contending for? It seems to me that anyone naming the name of Jesus Christ or connecting faith in him to their faith and practice should be very interested in the teachings of Jesus. So then, the emergent believers are right… it should be about love and loving. But, I think that at the very least it ought to include some of the theological teachings of Jesus as well; Especially his view of scripture. Jesus was most certainly not a sola scriptura person and he did not see the scripture as the word of God. He revered the scripture… he spoke of its faithfulness and inspiration but, he defined the word of God as the gospel and himself. I am not sure that contending is necessary but I would say that vigorous debate and discussion is called for.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Could theologians get it wrong for 1800+ years?

I have raised several issues over the last year on this blog that would point to the fact that theologians actually got a lot wrong since the second century. This would raise the question found in the title line. Is that a reasonable question or, should the question really be…. Why would we think that theologians got it right? This is the point of this article.

Let’s look at it throughout the history of the biblical narrative. The history of the story is about six thousand years. For the first two thousand years people got it wrong. They chose idolatry. In fact, according to Jewish Tradition, Abraham was the son of a wicked priest and idol maker. Abraham’s call was evidence of the fact that for two thousand years of the biblical narrative men got it wrong.

The narrative continues with the family of Abraham culminating in the calling of Jacob/Israel.  The two hundred seventy year period of the active writing of the Prophets demonstrates that over time, Israel did not get it right. This is followed by John the Baptist and the Lord himself. Jesus taught his followers many corrective ideas from, who the Messiah was, what he would do, what his purpose was etc. He then inspired Paul et. al., to continue to correct ideas. He redefined the phrase word of God from Torah to himself and the gospel. The history is replete with theologians getting it wrong.  The scribes and Pharisees were some of the most learned, studious theologians that ever lived. Theology was their life from early childhood on.

Finally, we have prophecies that speak of the last days and the error that will ensue. Clearly, when the New Testament writers spoke of the last days and, the end of the age they were speaking and, writing of the times in which they lived. After all, they had been taught by the Pharisees that the end of the age and the age to come (Olam Ha Bah) was imminent.

Now when we fast forward to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it seems rather arrogant to believe that we somehow have it all right. Yet, this is the attitude of most evangelical leaning denominations and, while there is room for disagreement on what is called the non-essentials there is absolutely no room for disagreement on what has become known as orthodoxy. There are many things that could be debated and need to be explored with open honesty. Here are a few:
  • The definition of the word of God
  • Atonement theory
  • Purpose of scripture
  • Meaning of the end of the age
  • Nature of the fall
  • Humanities root problem
  • The purpose of the cross
  • God’s reason for creation
Opening up dialogue in these areas could be very beneficial to the future of Christianity.

Are many evangelicals spiritual jihadists?

Notice right off the bat that I say many and not all evangelicals are spiritual jihadists. A Jihad is a holy war waged on behalf of Muslims,...