Retractare: Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics

It’s fashionable in Reformed circles to chant “already-not yet” and say that Jesus fulfills scripture.  It’s highly dangerous to deny it.   And on a certain level, I agree.  Jesus is the telos of the law.  Well and good.   But when you read these RH-BT (Biblical Theology) guys deal with the Old testament, it’s like they take a crayon and write “Jesus” or “Church” all over the page (HT to Chris Poe for the wonderful illustration).  Maybe that’s true sometimes, but that’s…cheating?

I settle, rather, with old-fashioned Grammatical-Historical (the same kind of hermeneutics with which you read this page, church fathers, papal bulls, etc).  I realize the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but still.

Theological Psychology of Bible Translation

I have been thinking one could identify another’s theology, within reason, simply based on which Bible Translation he uses.  Maybe not identify the whole theology, but at least his pyschological outlook.  (This is all done in good fun).

King James Version:  You put the fun in fundamentalist.  You hold to biblical separatism and see any attack on you mss tradition as a deviation.  You listen to David Cloud

New King James Version:  You understand, hold to, and appreciate the arguments for your mss tradition, but you aren’t militantly separatist about it.  You probably go to a conservative, old-timey Baptist church made up of younger believers.  You like John Macarthur

New American Standard Version:  You are conservative in outlook but open to scholarship.  You are likely to be premillennial.

English Standard Version:  You are the hip new face of conservative Calvinism.  You are amillennial in outlook and like the Gospel Coalition.

New International Version:   You go to a megachurch.  You think Rick Warren is a deep thinker.   Your pastor plays clips of Taylor Swift videos for sermon illustrations (All of this I have seen with my own eyes).

Revised Standard Version:  You have rejected the reasons behind the faith of the earlier generation (but not the faith itself).  You are uncomfortable with where your presuppositions are leading, so you opt out for some Barthian compromise.  Nevertheless, you still like order and decency, as evidenced by how your committee translated the psalms.

New Revised Standard Version:  You are not afraid of your forebears’ presuppositions and have carried them out to the fullest.  You are likely a Marxist and a feminist.

Semi-Retractare on Cromwell

In seminary I was a defender of Cromwell and the idea of a specifically Christian republic.  In the past five years I backed off that idea.  Cromwell is best seen as a good idea gone horribly wrong.  He is to be credited with recognizing Roman Catholicism as a political power and doing his best in England to negate it.  Still, as a Presbyterian and a descendant of Scottish Presbyterianism, it’s hard for me to like him.   It is easy to demonize Cromwell.   I won’t do that.  I will just lay out the facts as best I can.  Pros and Cons.

Pros

  1. In a strange sense, despite his invasion of Presbyterian Scotland, Cromwell shared the same view as the “Protesters” vis-a-vis Charles Stuart II.  Cromwell, like Rutherford, saw Charles Stuart II as a degenerate who would butcher Protestants if given the chance.  We can say that his invasion of Scotland was wrong, but we cannot deny Cromwell was prescient on this matter.
  2. It has since come to light that Charles I hired an Army of Irish pagans to butcher Protestants in England.  On this point anyway, Cromwell was entirely in the right to resist him.
  3. Romanists and Royalists on Facebook like to bitch about how evil Cromwell is and how good it would have been to be a Royalist cavalier.  Okay.  Explain why Cromwell’s New Model Army kicked your ass every time.  Cromwell was a military genius.
  4. Despite his heavy-handed measures, even some Covenanters admit that Scotland had more peace (if also more austerity) under Cromwell.
  5. Cromwell has been demonized for his Irish invasion.  It’s kind of hard to feel sorry for the Irish when they had previously slaughtered between 50,000 to 200,000 Protestants, thus calling for a response by Cromwell.   A recent book by an Irish Catholic, Cromwell, Honorable Enemy, vindicates Cromwell on this point.

Cons

  1. It’s hard to justify king-killing.  Resistance to the king?  Absolutely.   Killing him?  That’s an awful burden of proof.
  2. His religious toleration suffered the same problems as all pluralistic governments.
  3. His policy towards the Jew opened England back to Usury.

Review of Felon Fitness

If you are buying this book because you watched a video of Tooky Williams and you want to look like him, you are going to be disappointed. As a few reviwers pointed out, this book was not written by ghetto souljaz, big burly bruthaz, or some gangsta because he was incarcerated for taking on twenty men and is muscled up. It was written by white-collar guys. Unlike those reviewers, however, this book does have some helpful tips, but no more.

Williams age 29.

One of its helpful tips is how to create a dumbell using cord and magazines. Essentially, you roll up one magazine (which will be the “handle”), tie it off with duct tape, and run a cord through the hollow part. Next, you get a large stack of magazines (or a small stack, depending on what you want the weight to be), find some way to solidify them (either tape or glue or something), and then connect them to the “cord.” Voila! Dumbbell. And unlike “real” dumbbells, and the authors don’t mention this—I do, the center of gravity is kind of like a kettlebell, meaning it weighs like real-life objects and not pretty-boy weights. That makes it useful. The only down side, though, is that you probably can’t make another one with matching weight, which makes it hard to do exercises using both hands.

They also show you how to improvise on bench press (ways which all kettlebell users already know) and chin ups. However, given the ubiquity of chin up bars, it’s probably easier to buy one of those than to tip your bed over and use that, which is what they suggest.

The book is interesting because it teaches you how to improvise with materials around the house. Honestly, though, I would save the $16 and get Convict Conditioning instead.

How to evaluate “dreams and vision”

Theologically, if someone comes to you with a “vision” from God, it’s not always easy to make sense of the situation. A lot of conservative evangelicals will write off any claim to dreams, prophecy, and visions as “well, we have a complete canon so that’s wrong because it, being a revelation, will contradict the revelation in God’s canon.” Before I get to the point of the post, I need to respond to this type of reasoning:

  1. This isn’t even a Reformed position. Many of the Puritans and covenanters believed in continationism.
  2. Not all of God’s revelation is written. The OT writers appeal to books that are no longer extant in writing; Paul appeals to oral tradition, and Jude thinks Enoch is inspired, which we probably don’t have.
  3. I don’t exactly see how it necessarily “contradicts” other Revelation. A contradiction is “A is ~”A, not “A is ~~A”. For example, if I say it is “both raining and not raining outside” that is a contradiction. If I say “it is raining and the table is green” that is not a contradiction.
  4. Apropos (3) the critic needs to show that the new revelation is a contradiction, and this is almost never done.
  5. Finally, as Wayne Grudem has shown, NT and post-NT prophecies never intended to function as on par with the canon.

So if someone comes to us with a vision, what do we make of it? Well, it depends on both what they are saying and what they urge, if anything the body of Christ to do as a result. I have two examples, and this illustrates one of the differences between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy (and some parts of Evangelicalism).

In the first few decades of the 20th century, the Virgin supposedly appeared to some women in Portugal. This is the origins of “Fatima.” While the exact contents of it are unknown in their entirety (see Malachi Martin, The Jesuits), one of the major points was that Russia must be dedicated to the Lady (or the Sacred Heart; I can’t remember which, but my point is the same). Never mind the ignoring of a thousand years of doctrinal controversy, this is a negative example of my point: someone’s (or people’s) private vision is being made binding on all of the church. Most importantly, doctrine and church practice are being normatized, not on the basis of Scripture or Church Councils, but on someone’s private interpretation.

This raises the obvious question: if church doctrine and visions are to proceed like this, how come we didn’t have any warning at Nicea (or any other council), or during the Eastern Schism or during the Time of the Three Popes?

A Roman Catholic could then respond, “Well, you guys hold to stuff like Diveyvo and the Elders’ Prophecies about the Revolution, what makes your visions different?” It’s an excellent question. Here goes:

  1. St Seraphim of Sarov and the Elders are merely saying what will happen. They are not actually making doctrine and practice binding on the Church apart from an Ecumenical Council.
  2. To the degree that the visions/prophecies urge practical living, it’s fairly basic stuff (repent; don’t put trust in human power structures, etc).
  3. Even the parts that seem to give concrete interpretations to the Apocalypse really aren’t arguing anything about doctrine and life that a Christian would reject, except perhaps the chronology.
  4. The visions actually happened, but they happened in a way that 1) proved and vindicated the holiness of the elders, but 2) didn’t violate the liturgical life of the church by binding everyone by a few visions.

The essay is no longer extant online, but many of my thoughts are extant from Fr Johnson’s essay on “Miracles and Easter.’ I am borrowing the criticisms of Fatima specifically from him. The thoughts on the Elders are taken from Seraphim Rose and others.