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.

Retractare: NPP and “Works of the Law”

Even when I was in seminary I held to the New Perspective thesis that the phrase “works of the law” means simply “Jewish identity markers.”  A superficial reading of Galatians and how the Jews react to non-Jews getting saved in the New Testament lends support to that thesis.  Further, it functions well as a sociological commentary for today:  it illustrates modern Judaism’s violent hostility to the rest of mankind.    Further, for non-Evangelical traditions it offers a neat harmony between Paul and James:  these traditions get to affirm the Pauline warning against works (simply by defining them as Jewish rituals) yet base the rest of it on works, pace James.

Unfortunately, this thesis suffers from a number of problems:

  1. The New Testament never defines works of the law as such.
  2. Galatians 3:10 does deal with “works of the law” by referencing Deuteronomy 27:26.  At the end of chapter 27 it says “cursed is everyone who fails to do all these things.”  Yet not one of “these things” is a Jewish identity marker; they are all moral and political laws.   This is the inverse of the above point:  The New Testament does define works of the law and it is the opposite definition of the NPP thesis.
  3. If works of the law is Jewish identity markers, and Paul preached we were free from works of the law, then no one would have accused him or antinomianism and moral license  (Romans 6).
  4. If works of the law is Jewish identity markers, and the gospel is simply the freedom from such, then the gospel has no meaning to anyone who isn’t a Jew.

Initial Thoughts on Farrell’s Two Faced God

Foseph Jarrell (name deliberately changed) has recently written a book critiquing the Christian notion of Yahweh (to put it in Marcionite terms, that meany Old Testament God). For those who have no intention of purchasing the book (and admittedly, it is hard to want to spend money on a book attacking one’s faith), a series of radio interviews are currently conducted here.

Jarrell, contrary to what one might expect, is not advocating atheism by any stretch. He still says he retains belief in some form of deity. Anyway, the critique follows along the following lines (which will be in italics; my response will be in normal type).

Yahwism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) has its founding moment in an act of revolutionary violence in opposition to an established social order and/or religion.

I actually agree. The Hebrew religion started with a decisive attack (primarily rhetorical) on the pyramidal religion (think magic, worship of dead matter; proto-Freemasonry) of ancient Egypt. Farrell thinks this act of violence-in-opposition is bad. I really can’t find the problem in it.

Contingent upon that, he argues, Yahwism became a specific religion of the book, meaning you have to agree with the priestly class and their interpretation of the book.

I was listening to this in the car and when I heard this I almost inadvertently shouted, “Bullsh!t.” I am thinking he is letting his anger at Roman Catholicism, which may be justified, along with the Fundamentalist underculture of America, form his discussion of “Yahwism.” Let’s think about this for a moment: books really weren’t widespread until five hundred years ago. And even conservative scholars doubt the ancient Israelite (or Christian) had their copy of the sacred text only to have their understanding squashed by the Priestly class.

And let’s not forget Hitler et al.

Technically, he catches himself before he commits this fallacy. He notes that Hitler and Stalin were secular parallels of this religion.

Really, what do you say to this? It appears to be the case that he is arguing for some kind of paleo-Egyptian worldview, so can I accuse him of Freemasonry? Of course not, so if the argument doesn’t work then it doesn’t work now.

And all the mean things the Israelites did.

One thing I’ve noticed in these talks is the lack of specifics. Let’s specifically talk about the Israelite invasion of the Anakim. Go google all of the things the Amorites did in their religion (be sure to put your internet browser on “safe” before you do that). Okay, back. Now consider who/what the Anakim were: demonic offspring. So the Israelite invasion was a genocide, not of people, but of demons.

And Rome had the Inquisition…

In logic this is called the genetic fallacy.  However, he could have  strengthened this argument by first establishing a moral law, which he asserts but never proves.  Proving that, he could have done some historical analysis showing how the Inquisition was an outgrowth of certain Romanist ideas about religious liberty.  That actually would have been interesting.

Topological metaphor.

He has an interesting section on how all ancient religions have some form of a Trinitarian metaphor. Not really sure what that has to do with a critique of Yahwhism, but it is interesting.

I still listen to Jarell and buy some of his book. The radio shows are hard to listen to, though. I’m sorry to be crude, but it sounds like his host is orgasming every few second when he makes his point. Again, I know it’s crude, but listen to it and tell me differently. I’ll probably listen to the next installments to see if he moves away from what appears to be a partially auto-biographically inspired critique of “Yahwhism” to modern geo-politics, which Jarrell is outstanding on.