Friday, December 24, 2004

Why Christmas?

For most Americans, the basic outline of the Christmas account familiar enough. Whether the details are pieced together from the Christmas carols which are incessantly playing on the radio this time of year or gained from the Charlie Brown Christmas special, most Americans have a vague idea of the basic Christmas story. One does not expect, however, for the general American to have anything other than a superficial understanding of the meaning of the Christmas account; however, it is amazing how little understanding the Christian has of the import of Christmas. All to often, the church has accommodated its understanding to that of the surrounding culture. Hence, Christmas for too many professing Christians has become a romantic holiday, a season of shallow, commercial joy.

The average understanding of the incarnation is nothing more than formal; the Second Person of the Godhead took on flesh and dwelt among us- that is a fact. But what does it mean? Theologians have recognized the radical truth of the incarnation, and have rightly labeled the entire earthly ministry of Jesus as his humiliation. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines Christ’s humiliation in the following manner, “Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.” The latter part of this statement is readily understood, but the former seems odd, the Nativity of Jesus being part of his humiliation? The very act of one who is “Very God of Very God” to take on human nature is an act of incalculable condescension. Consider Philippians 2:6-7, “Being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The great Christmas hymn “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor” captures this well:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor all for love’s sake becamest poor
Thrones for a manger dids’t surrender, sapphire paved courts for stable floor
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor all for love’s sake becamest poor

Thou who art God beyond all praising, all for loves sake becamest man
Stooping so low, but sinners raising, heavenward by thine eternal plan
Thou who art God beyond all praising, all for loves sake becamest man

However, it was not only fact of the incarnation, but also the manner of the incarnation which vividly demonstrates Jesus’ humiliation. Jesus was not born in Rome, or Athens, or Alexandria; Jesus was born in Judea- not the most illustrative Roman province. Further, Jesus wasn’t even born in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem- not a prominent city at that time. Consider also the parents to whom Jesus was born. Jesus was not born in one of the wealthy members of the Jewish religious rulers, or born into the royal household of Herod; rather, he was born into an average Jewish family. Further, one must not forget the circumstances of his birth by Mary. The virgin birth of Jesus was as difficult for Jesus’ contemporaries to accept as it was for twentieth century modernists. The rumors of illegitimacy would shadow the not only his birth, but also the rest of his life. (Evidence of this can be discerned in later gospel accounts, especially in John 8:12 ff.). The place of Jesus birth in the inn’s stable is widely understood as humble; but his reception by the shepherds is overlooked. Shepherds were not the most respected members of society, so reception by them would be comparable to reception by janitors or garbage men today. Finally, the reason which Jesus assumed human nature is overlooked. Christmas is a holiday too often in isolation from Good Friday and Easter. The incarnation was not primarily about demonstrating the dignity of man, or better identifying with the struggles of men, it was about death. The Second Person of the Trinity assumed a body so that body might die. “Calvary is both the explanation and the fulfillment of Bethlehem” (Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (1977), pg. 88). The cross was not the tragic end of Jesus life, but the intended end, and beginning of life for all his brothers. The great Christmas hymn “What Child is This” says,

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian fear for sinners here the silent Word is pleading
Nails spears shall pierce him through; the cross be born for me for you
Hail hail the Word made flesh, the babe the son of Mary

Recognizing the road of suffering Jesus walked on all his life until his exaltation grants the believer confidence to face suffering until his exaltation in Christ is fully realized. A proper understanding of the humiliation Jesus willingly underwent for his chosen people does not diminish the joy of Christmas, but deepens it. So let us with deeper understanding focus on the true import of Christmas, and be amazed this season at the incomparable gift God has given.

Friday, November 05, 2004


The international attention of the United States has been focused on areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq in recent days. No one doubts that the events of September 11th are largely responsible for this (although it should not be assumed that there is a connection between Iraq and the attack on September 11th). In both of the previous nations in particular it is interesting to note what the discussion focuses on. The great humanitarian benefits which have resulted because of the United States' military action is widely advertised. In Iraq, these discussion seem to be cited now as the primary reason for the war, possibly to shift attention to the bad intelligence initially used to justify the war. While the motives of those who now seem to focus exclusively on the humanitarian concerns with Saddam's regime might be suspect; it is neither right nor proper to minimalize or ignore the gross abuses which occurred in Iraq.

With all the media's attention focused on Iraq, Americans seem little concerned with other areas of the world which are in danger. The recent events in Haiti barely made B-roll on American media, and we sent peace-keeping forces as a last resort. Of greater concern are the events which are occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan. Since early 2003, 1.5 million people have been displaced, and 70,000 people have been killed. The only mention of this crisis was brief when Secretary of State Powell used the ominous word "genocide."

It is estimated that 250,000-300,000 people died under Saddam's rule, which began in 1979. No one doubts he sought to wipe out the Kurds in the north, and the United States with the United Nation responded with a strong military presences to protect this oppressed people. The other abuses by the Baath regime are well documented, and denied by none. The abuses in Afghanistan were also well publicized after the war. The oppression of women and any who did not hold to their stringent form of Islam and the public executions were frequently mentioned in the media. It is not like would be a surprise, since once again the Taliban's abuses were well-documented before 9-11, but consistently ignored in the United States (except of course when they destroyed the giant Buddha statues).

What then does this have to do with Sudan? It is a sad observation that our society is culpably ignorant of and unconcerned for other nations and cultures different from our own. If it were not for September 11th, I am sure the Taliban would still be in power. While the connection between September 11th and Iraq is tenuous at best, I am sure the same could be said. Humanitarianism did not inspire our actions in those nations. However, if humanitarian motives are now becoming (and I would heartily rejoice if they were) a justification for using military force, why not Sudan. Didn't the West pledge after 800,000 died in Rwanda in 1994 that we would never let it happen again? In 1995 the United States with other NATO countries sent troops to Bosnia as a response to a genocide there where 20,000 had been killed. Since there is precedent, why did both President Bush and Senator Kerry dismiss the notion of sending troops? The President has already broke his contention that the military should not be used for nation-building. Why are the American people not outraged at the apathetic response from the media and the government? Could it be that our pledge to never let another Rwanda happen was empty? Or maybe we are eager to stop a genocide when we can, but just not in Africa.

For a Christian, this must not be an issue to which we are neutral or indifferent, even if the rest of our society and our government is.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Reformation Day 2004

In light of the 487th anniversary of beginning of the Protestant Reformation, I thought I would post the lyrics from the song "Return of the Revolution" by the OC Supertones. The words were written by Matt Morginsky and Tony Terusa, and the song appeared on their 2000 release "Loud and Clear." I think the lyrics are a challenge that the evangelical church as a whole, and professing Christians need seriously to hear.

There ain't no stopping us now
I'd like to say that from the outset
Not up in this business just to get what we can get
But bet that
We gonna bring it to you loud and clear
But I know a solution
Bring back the revolution
The revolution comes and we all stand as one
Rises from the darkness and shines like the sun
As the sun gets higher , our church catches fire
Down from our our pride and up from the mine
It's a dream that I've had and I hope it comes true
I forgot to say the revolution starts with you
See wisdom and knowledge is one thing that we lack
You've been a Christian how long and you're still on Similac
So I call on Martin Luther and all the reformation back
Then the common people couldn't read God's revelation
You had to be a monk or a priest or read Latin
That was all before the revelation happened
But the fire cooled down ever since that generation
We put down the Bible and pick up play station
And we can't defend our faith 'cause we don't know
We say we love His word but pick a funny wy to show it
The world walks by and we don't have a thing to say
I call 'em as I see 'em
And thats what I see today

The revolution returns
The reformation lives on
The great awaking is now
Sleepers open your eyes
A war is on, our rally cry is no compromise
No compromise, yeah, no compromise
A war is on, our battle is no compromise
So throw your fist up and pray the revolution rise
A war is on, our rally is no compromise

Our hearts have grown so cold
And we've such numb souls
But shirts and bumper stickers
Man we got 'em by the truckload
Is true religion what you have around your wrist
What does the scripture say of this

They honor me with words
But their hearts are far away
A call 'em like I see 'em
And that's what I see today
So i call on John Edwards
Who preached us all awake
We try to be emotional but here is our mistake
As a church we lack receptance and we lack true affection
Not only in our minds but in our hearts need correction
And man that's true religiong, resignation and contrition
To love each other so much that'd we die before division


So what about you
Will you join us
Will you admit that the waters around us have grown
You better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone
Do you stand with us or do we stand alone
It's time that we stand up, enlist for war
I've tasted battle and now I want more
I've known the truth and been cut to the core
But I'm back in the game to even the score
And I mean to go out with both my guns blazing
Amazed at a God who's truly amaing
To triumph in battle as the spirit enables
Can't turn back the clock but we can turn the tables

Friday, October 22, 2004


It has been hard to ignore the tone of the current presidential campaign. In many ways, this is not surprising, since the mudslinging seems to escalate with the office. However, as the debates have made clear, both candidates claim to be Christians. Does the profession to be a Christian affect the manner in which a candidate should run a campaign? Of course the question much be answered in the affirmative.

For any conservative, evangelical Christian, the inconsistencies in Senator Kerry's profession are glaring. The most recent edition of John Armstrong's Weekly Messenger has outlined many serious concerns for any Christian based on the Senator's record or practices. What is surprising, is compared to the President, Senator Kerry himself has run a halfway decent campaign.

For evangelicals, President Bush is a breath of fresh air after the former President whose moral laspses were so obvious and public. The President's profession of faith is reasonable, which seems rare in a politician; and his positions and record are consistent with such a profession. It is no wonder that evangelicals seem to have given an such enthusiastic and almost univocal support to the President. However, while I do not intend to deny the President's profession, or to belittle the important issues where he upholds the Biblical precepts; I question how his Christian profession effects his campaigning. Several issues have stood out to me in observing the campaign and in watching the debates. The first, and more concerning to me is the issue of honesty. For a Christian, a lie is not only defined by saying something that is untrue, but any speech that is not forthright and deceptive. While it is the hallmark of politicians to speak half-truths, a Christian politician ought to hold himself to a higher, to the Biblical standard. It is wrong for the President to misrepresent the Senator's voting record; it is dishonest to take the Senator's statements out of context in order to use against him. Discuss the central issues, and leave aside the deceptive rhetoric. It is not lying to be incorrect, but it is dishonest to continue to hold and to state those errors once they have been pointed out. Both candidates have been guilty of this, from Kerry's statement that the cost of the war is 80 billion more than it actually is; to the President's consistent claim that Senator Kerry has voted to raise taxes 97 times, when the actual number of votes is far less. Shouldn't the Christian candidate hold himself to a higher standard when it comes to accuracy and the truth? Second, the President's tone during the debates, particularly the first two, and on the campaigning trail are infamous. It was hard to miss the conclusion reached by many that the President is arrogant and impatient. Shouldn't a Christian candidate method of speech be characteristically distinct, shouldn't the Biblical admonition "Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone?" Finally, it is concerning to see how blind the President and other Christian to some vital moral concerns. For too many Christians, the moral issue which matter for this election revolve solely around abortion and homosexual marriage. This is concerning because other issues which should also be of concern are ignored. One does not have to spend much time reading the Old Testament prophets to see God's concern for the widows, the poor, the oppressed, society's "disenfranchised." However, where is the Christian concern over these issues? Isn't James clear, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress." Are these concerns to "Democratic" to merit attention; or are we at times distressingly indifferent in our generally affluent suburban environments, blind to the dire needs of others in the inner city or poor rural areas? A Christian cannot ignore moral issues which are directly under attack such as the sanctity of life or the purity of marriage; but a Christian must never lose sight of other vital moral issues he is called to defend just as vigorously. If a Christian is concerned to vote on Biblical principles, issues of social justice must also be considered.

I do not believe that the Christian has a clear cut choice in November, both candidates have areas which comport with a Christian profession, and both have serious shortcoming. As is so often the case, if one is going to make a choice between the two, some aspect of his faith will suffer in his vote.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Taxes and Ethics

Politics obviously consumes many people’s attention right now. While I have tended to focus on matters relating to theology or interpretation; I will spend the next few posts examining some issues where Christianity intersects politics. The focus in particular is on areas where I feel current discussion among Christians is less than Biblical. The first issue relates to tax policy; and I thank those I discussed this with and who helped me sharpen my focus, and hopefully better my argument.

John Kerry’s plan to pay for his social programs involves rescinding the tax cut to the top 2% of Americans who make more than $200,000 a year. Questions about whether this amount of money will actually be able to cover the expenses he proposes aside, is it right to tax the rich more than the rest of the population? I would answer that this reflects sound principles. As a basic principle, I hold that those who are strong are morally obligated to help those who are weaker than themselves, that those who are blessed with plenty should help those in poverty. A graduated tax system, not only make sense if we desire to fully fund without deficits all of our societies goals, but also reflects this general principle.

This principle is clearly in evidence in Scripture. Two examples will suffice from the Old Testament law to demonstrate this principle. First, Leviticus 23:22 commands harvesters to not harvest the edge of their field, or to pick up what the reapers dropped, in order to provide for the poor. The law had a built in requirement to provide for those less fortunate in society. Second, their was a “progressive” sacrificial system based on what the individual was able to provide. If, for example, an Israelite sinned, and was not able to afford a lamb, he could bring two pigeons or doves; and if he could not afford the birds, he was allowed to bring a tenth of an ephah of fine flower (Leviticus 5:7-13). This sacrificial system was not simply a religious institution, but a means of providing for the priests and Levites who ministered before the great King of Israel. One could say the sacrificial system functioned like an early graduated tax system. The principal can be observed in the New Testament also. Once again, two passages will suffice in demonstrating the presence of this principle. First, one of the reasons which Paul gives for work in Ephesians 4:28 is that one would have something to share with those in need. The purpose of money is not to selfishly accumulate capital, but to minister Christ’s love “as we have opportunity” (Galatians 6:10). James statement in his second chapter evidences the same concern. The reality and vitality if faith is evidenced by a believers works, particularly in relation to a brother or sister in need (verse 14-17). Many other text could be brought forward to demonstrate the basic principal that the strong have a moral obligation to help the week.

This principal is not limited to Scripture alone. The greatest thinkers of the past supported a similar principal. Most directly to this question, Aristotle write in Politics, “The true friend of the people should see that they be not too poor, for extreme poverty lowers the character of the democracy; measures therefore should be take which will give them lasting prosperity…[I]n the meantime the rich should pay the fee for the attendance of the poor at the necessary assemblies; and should in return be excused from useless public services.” Cicero similarly writes, “Without doubt, the highest privilege of wealth is the opportunity it affords for doing good, without giving up one’s wealth.” Baruch Spinoza wrote in his Ethics, “The care, therefore, of the poor is incumbent on the whole of society and concerns only the general profit.” Even the great father of modern capitalism, Adam Smith wrote in his Wealth of Nations, “No society can be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

Several objections arise. First, some could question the propriety of arguing from the Old Testament for twenty-first century nations. However, while it would be improper to directly apply Old Covenant laws, the moral principles, or general equity is still binding. The Westminster Confession states, “To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.” Second, there is a world of difference between one voluntarily giving to the poor verses its imposition by the state. While one could admittedly view this as forced charity, however, this does not appear to be the greatest perspective. No one complains about the tax relief offered to the 26% of Camden residents whose rent accounts for 46% of their monthly income. Somewhere this gap must be made up. Asking those who are rich and can afford it to grant relief to those who are truly needy in society is not only common sense, but expressive of social nobility. The goal of course of course is in the end, that those individuals who were beneficiaries of society’s charity would later become the benefactors. Third, it is objected that this policy unfairly penalizes the rich. This objection, however, reeks more of Western greed than sound, noble thinking. Having opportunity to help another, whether formal or informal, in not a penalty but a privilege. For the Christian, the offering aid in this manner to another is more than a noble deed, but a fulfillment of the second great commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness.” It is God who has freely and graciously blessed the rich with the talents and opportunities which account for his plenty. It is God who has preserved and prospered society; and it is God who will judge both the individual and the society for how His blessings are used.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Random Reflections on Gnosticism

OK, I am going to cheat a little bit, and post something I wrote in response to reading The Sophia of Jesus Christ for a Sunday School class my friend taught in John. The text of the Sophia is avalable at:

One of the greatest qualities of the gospel is its simple profundity. While simple enough to be grasped by a small child, it leaves a rich wealth of material for one to diligently study for all of one’s lifetime. However well Gnosticism of necessity supports the latter, it fails miserable on the former. The amount of effort needed to be expended just to have a rough understanding of any piece of Gnostic literature is immense. No wonder Gnosticism had such a relatively small and homogenous following; only a small minority of the population would have been able to receive this set of teachings, unlike the “all” to whom the gospel was intended to reach.

Further, the dependence of this system on a very minute set of philosophical presuppositions also speaks against its validity. While one cannot doubt that the Bible itself reflects the culture of its day, including its philosophical background, however, this does little to hinder the careful reader’s basic understanding of a text or the teachings of Scripture as a whole. One criticism of systematic theology is that the questions it is seeking answers for are at times irrelevant or simply generated by the system which one has erected. Yet, however extraneous the points of a systematic theology might be, they do not begin to compare with the esoteric doctrine of the Gnostics. The Bible, and the orthodox faith which it birthed, are truly timeless, and perspicuous.

However, more than these external issues arise concern for the Christian reader. It is not simply the minute, complicated system which gave those committed to Gospel concern. Many of the concerns of the early church fathers are demonstrated in this short selection. The distance between God and creation falls far beneath the care and concern of the Heavenly Father for His creation, even for the small bird and the ephemeral flowers. Of course, the overall anti-material bias of course explains this distance they erect between God and the world. They not only remove God from His care and providential concern over the world, but also from its creation. The idea that the created “entities” of the First Man or Sophia were active is whatever manner in creation is far below the Biblical doctrine of creation directly by God Himself. The concern for later doctrine of course comes in the conclusion that Jesus Himself was a created being, which was unequivocally rejected by the church. The seeming plurality of persons in the “Godhead” is interesting, however, it is far inferior to the later conclusions of the church. Also interesting were the numerous allusions throughout the document to the Gospel of John in particular. Gnosticism lacks credibility as a true Christian system because it does not have a doctrine of sin compatible with that of Scripture. The idea of an epic conflict between the disciples and their followers, and the sons of the Arch-Begetter gives little or no reason for the true nature of the incarnation or the plight of man and the course of his redemption. Ideas of recollection, of release from materiality have no compatibility with the serious one true doctrine of salvation taught in the Old and New Testament. Rather, they confuse and conceal the central issue of the Gospel, God the Son taking human flesh not to release man from his materiality or his ignorance, but from his sin and the wrath it justly deserved.

It is no wonder that the early church fathers saw in Gnosticism something radically antithetical to the gospel and fought so vigorously against it. It is not that Gnosticism was an aberrant minority view which was still a “variety” of Christian expression, it was something totally different. It was not that the early fathers were narrow-minded and intolerant, they were fighting against a cancer afflicting the church, and they rightly excised the gangrenous member. For Christians today committed to the heritage of orthodoxy, to study Gnosticism with any more than historical curiosity is absurd. What the church fought so strenuously to win, let us not give up because of the indifference of time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Church vs. Churches

It is interesting to note the names of denominations and how their names reflect their ecclesiology. Reformed and Presbyterian denominations tend to be singular; Orthodox Presbyterian Church, The Presbyterian Church in America, The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. Even the liberal denominations follow the same pattern, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Episcopal Church. A similar pattern can be observed with Lutheranism, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

However, on the other side are the churches whose denomination's names are plural; The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, Reformed Baptist churches in North America. Other names they apply denote a similar phenomenon; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baptist General Conference. This is not even to mention the myriads of independent Baptistic churches which do not even make an effort to associate with any other congregations.

The question is this, without examining the explicit theology of tradition and in spite of the obvious failings on both sides, which side better displays the basic Christian confession of "one holy, catholic church" by its name?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Articles by Daniel Wallace

Until I actually get around to really writing my next blurb, hopefully this will keep my illustrious readers off my case for a little while.

In my wanderings on the internet in search of quality articles, I happened upon a large cache of articles by Daniel Wallace, author of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. This is an excellent and unique resource as an exegetical grammar, focusing on the significance various grammatical constructions have for interpretation. Even though Wallace is a dispensationalist teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary; he displays an overall fair and balanced approach to the Bible. While I disagree with many of the positions he may express in these articles; I respect his careful and balanced approach to studying Scripture. I hope they may be of help.

Monday, August 16, 2004


Proof-texting is ingrained into the evangelical psyche almost from day one. When one is a child one learns an series of isolated verse intending to convey a particular truth. Later, youth are taught key verses supporting a particular doctrine. Proof texts also consistently find their way into mature theological reflection. It is hard to miss the massive litany which Louis Berkhof offers throughout his Systematic Theology. Further, the Westminster Confession's use of particular passages of Scripture to bolster its teaching was a matter of attention at the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's General Assembly. However common the practice is, one must question whether such a practice is wise?

The dangers of proof-texting are obvious. The Bible was not written as a loosely connected series of pithy statements (with the exception of Proverbs of course). Scripture is not composed primarily to assert and to systematically defend a series of doctrinal propositions. However, this fact is obscured by many individual's use of the text. One can understand the "system of doctrine" taught in Scripture very well, and apparently be able to defend such an understanding with an impressive salvo of Biblical statements; but in the end be absolutely unable to handle the Biblical text itself. Further, proof texting very often nets very opposite results. The Calvinist blusters his arguments with certain passages of Scripture, while the Arminian counters with his own cherished verses. Often doctrines are formed in isolation from the Bible; and in the end support is sought from Scripture. Rather than Scripture forming doctrine, the predetermined doctrine is imposed upon the Scripture.

Other dangers are less subtle. Often the doctrine derived from a text is dependent on a particular interpretation of that text. Hence, one's use of a passage may seem puzzling to all who do not share the same interpretive presuppositions. Other times only a verse or two is chosen, when those verses must be read in a much larger context. Also at times a verse chosen a proof for a doctrine is the end of a long chain of Scriptural or logical progression; yet if this chain of thinking is not explicitly spelled out, the proof offered by a passage is minimal. I think the these dangers in particular are very common in the Westminster Standards use of proof texts.

The question remains, should proof-texting be done away with? I would say no; however it needs to be practiced much more circumspectly. Learning key passages is a valuable pedagogical tool for youth or those new in the faith. To be handed a copy of the Bible and be expected to glean from that its key teaching on the first or even second pass is a daunting task. Having a neat summary appended with key passages which support each point is both helpful and desirable. Further, many passages do clearly teach certain doctrines, and quickly knowing where to turn in the time of need is an invaluable aid.

However, proper attention and respect must be given to the Bible itself. Greater attention needs to be given by the church as a whole on how to properly read and understand the Bible on its own terms. It is not enough to teach church members how to use the Bible to defend their doctrine, but to use the Bible to form their doctrine. The biggest problem I see in proof texting as it is commonly done, is that it ignores context. Chapter and verses are reference markers for ease in finding a passage; they must never be used as an occasion to abstract a phrase or sentence from its context. We must commit ourselves to be diligent to read a verse in its original context, not only by reading what precedes and proceeds a particular verse, but also by understanding as far as possible the author's intent and original audience's situation. Proof texting must become subject to exegesis, and not the other way around.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

OPC Creation Study

OK, since I am being harassed, and maybe rightly so for not having posted in a while, here I go. Since, however, I am at a loss of something good to write, I will post a news update for anyone who might be interested. The OPC's study paper on the days of creation has just been published and is avaliable at:

I am sure that I will want to discuss this more in future posts, but since I have just downloaded it and have not read it, now would not be the time.

Since I am on the news flash mode, Chevelle's new single "Vitamin R(Leading Us Along)" has just been released from their upcoming album This Type of Thinking Could Do Us In set to hit stores 9/21.

'Tis all for now.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Camden is a small city of about 80,000 in New Jersey across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. The city has the sixth highest crime rate in the entire nation, and has the highest crime rate for small-sized cities. Drugs and violence abound; it is estimated that there are 200-300 active drug corners in the city. It is also the poorest city in the state of New Jersey, and the second poorest area in the country. Camden suffers from an unemployment rate of 16.2%; four times the national average. However great the physical needs of the city are, the spiritual needs are far greater. Sound, evangelical churches have fled from the ghettos of Camden, and the enemies of the Gospel have readily filled the vacuum. Yet, God has not abandoned the city of Camden. In the middle of the city, Pastor Ben Alvira faithfully proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ week after week at Tabernaculo de Gracia; and Looking Forward Ministries diligently extends ChristÂ’s love to those in need.

I have had the privilege to minister in Camden for three years. I look forward to challenges for myself and the rest of the team, and hope that this year affords many opportunities to minister in this unique environment. If previous years are any indicators, the trip offers many opportunities to grow not only spiritually, but also socially with the other members of the team. May we truly function well as a team for the glory of God and the furtherance of His kingdom in Camden.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Secret Faults

David prays in Psalm 19:12, "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults." (NIV) Sometimes you don't realize how blind one can be to his own fault and lack of clear, logical thinking until it is reflected back by someone else. The Bible speaks of the sinner as blind for very good reasons. The need for a true friend, one who is willing to offer a rebuke and demonstrate is absolutely vital to help overcome one's natural blindness to our own faults. Even a good, courageous friend can be similarly blinded, since friend routinely have much in common; hence serving little usefulness in their common areas of blindness. One thus needs a large, diverse network of concerned, courageous people willing to lovingly confront whenever necessary. What a wonderful gift God has given to his people in the church.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Eschatology and the Parable of the Tares

Of all the parables Jesus told, none has such direct reference to one's millennial theology than the parable of the tares. The view of the kingdom which this parable sets forth is a powerful support for amillennialism, and directly challenges the claims of both post-millennialism and dispensationalism.

The most obvious challenge confronts postmillennialism. Until the second coming the weeds, the reprobate, will remain on the earth. The parable is not concerned with relative proportions of the elect and reprobate on the earth, but that the tares remain until the harvest. One can argue, that because the proportions are not mentioned, that the number of tares was insignificant. However, the amount of tares was significant enough to concern the workers. At the very least, this parable does not allow for a Christian utopia; and does not seem consistent with an overwhelming Christian majority. While the parable of the leaven could be used to support the post-millennialist ideas, this parable holds their optimism in check.

The entire concept of the kingdom portrayed in these parables, and in the book of Matthew as a whole speak against the dispensational ideas. However artificial and forced their exegesis is on many occasions, this parable offers a direct contradiction to the system. If the kingdom is limited only to the millennium, when the devil is bound, how is he able to sow the tares? Even if these are the unregenerate entering into the millennium, how can the kingdom be the golden age anticipated with so many noxious plants? Further, can the devil be said to plant tares which entered the kingdom only by accident? The parable offers more problems to the system than solid support. Even the progressive dispensational concession that the kingdom is in some way connected with the present age does not seem supported by this parable.

In the end, amillennialism is the eschatological system most consistent with the Bible's portrayal of the kingdom, and with this parables teaching in particular.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Parable of the Tares

In studying the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30) this past week, I was amazed at how often interpreters missed a major teaching of the parable. What is surprising is that this truth is so self-evidently clear from Jesus' own interpretation of the parable(36-43). The question is what is the field in the parable? The answer seems obvious from Jesus, "the field is the world" (vs. 38). However, aside from a small handful of commentators, most identified the field as the church. Even John Calvin, a thoroughly careful interpreter of Scripture identified the field thus. Ridderbos and Kistlemaker were the only major commentators who accepted Jesus' own interpretation of his parable, and identified the field with the world. Why then do so many commentators seem to miss Jesus clear statement? I can think of two possible reasons. First, the other parables in this chapter and in the rest of Matthew are directed much more clearly to the church. While the simple equation of the kingdom and the church does not seem wise, they are clearly closely connected in Scripture. (The relation of he church and the kingdom would make a good future post!) So, since this connection is apparent in other places, one would naturally see this connection in this parable. Second, theologically, this interpreting is attractive. The visible church is clearly a mixed society of regenerate and unreasonable members; if the field were not so clearly identified as the world such a reading is natural.

However, Jesus is clear, the field is not the church, it is the world. While the first point is compelling, one should never explain away a passage's distinctiveness because it does not seem to mesh completely with everything else. To do so is to flatten the rich message which Scripture communicates. The parable of the tares teaches us much about the church, especially the churches relationship to the world in which it sojourns. Second, the truth that the visible church is a mixed church this side of the Lord's second coming is abundantly clear from both experience and Scripture. One needs spend only a little time in Paul's epistles to see this. For all that can trip up students of the Bible, even the most eminent ones, it is perplexing that sometimes how the simplest details prove to be so difficult.

Friday, June 25, 2004

First One

Everyone seems to be into this whole blog thing, so I may as well put out some of my silly thoughts and reflections to be lost in the vast wasteland of the internet. Right now I have no clue how this thing works, but I guess I will only learn through experience. For the brave reader, if one should exist, my posts will in all likelihood be infrequent, and on various topics which catch my fancy. Let the reader beware.