Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Defense of the Abstract: on catechisms

Abstraction is often disparagingly dismissed as being "impractical" or "removed from reality". It is, by definition, both of these and more. It is detached, cold and emotionless, and very often imbibed with a Spok-like inhumanity.

And it is one of the most neglected aspects of the modern evangelical Christian life.

Abstraction is how we are to prepare for life. Abstraction is the multiplication table, the knowledge that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Each of these are abstract principles, and in and of themselves have no bearing on life: they are the frame of the house, and as they stand they do nothing to keep the rain off--not until we add story, life and symbol to these "dry principles" are they of any use.

But they are the frame, and houses generally (depending on the contractor) have frames. They are good. Frame=good. Abstract=frame. Therefore, Abstract=good.

What is my purpose in writing this? Not surprising, should you be even slightly acquainted with me. PARENTS, TEACH YOUR KIDS THE CATECHISM. Yes, brainwash the little brats--if you don't, someone or thing other than you will. We all have principles by which we live, and many, many of these are left over from our childhood. What are we leaving our children with? Will they start where we started? Or will they start where we are now, and far supercede us?

We condemn the world, and rightly so, for the judicial abomination of abortion; may God cast those who uphold it into everlasting hell where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. But we all too often condemn them without recognizing that all of the sins that we see in the world around us are merely a consistent outworking of the church's beliefs and practices. Abortion reflects our practice of spiritually aborting our own children, and homosexuality reflects the fact that many of our Christian unions are about as spiritually fruitful as Adam and Steve when they're wearing condoms.

To put none too fine a point on it, I'm not running for any damned office here; I am hoping, working and praying that I give offence. This should sting a little; if it doesn't, the needle has not yet penetrated your thick head. You are not "letting your children find their own path to God", you are letting your children find a path to their own god. It is the abstract principles of the Christian faith that will guide them in the path of righteousness.

So, get off of your overdeveloped posterior regions, quit whining and read a catechism. Is it Scriptural? Then TEACH IT TO YOUR KIDS (he said, speaking in capital letters so he wouldn't be misunderstood).

The Lord's Day prayer: 7/22/07

Great God, we ask you to be merciful to us now that we might approach You, not because we deserve it, but because You delight in being merciful, and because without your mercy to veil us, we would surely die in Your Presence.

We confess to you that we have rebelled against you, and that we have delighted in our sins. We confess to you that we love our rebellion more than we love You. We know that we will rebel again, and that as a dog returns to its vomit, we also will return to the sins that we so love.

We confess our individual sins to you now. Selah.

We ask You that You would be merciful to us: do not to treat us as we deserve, but remember that we are dust. Cleanse us of our sins for the glory of Your Great Name, that we may again delight in You, and lift our faces in joy and freedom.

We ask these things in confidence, knowing that You delight in forgiving our sins; indeed, You sent Your Son to die that You might be Just and the One Who Justifies; the innocent One Who makes us innocent. It is in the Name of Your Son that we pray, the Great and Gracious Name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

“I remember my affliction and my wandering; the bitterness and the gall I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfullness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait on Him.’ ”

It is my privelege to tell you that your strivings are useless, and your good works are to no avail. We have broken covenant, and the penalty is death. But hear the gospel: the penalty is paid. And it is on behalf of the One Who both required and paid it that I declare to you that your sins are forgiven through Christ.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Revelation 21 & 22

These two chapters of Scripture, in my limited experience, have been futuristically applied. I cannot count the number of well-intentioned people (for whom I am infinitely grateful) who used verses from this section of the Bible to comfort me after the death of Holly.

I think that to apply these verses to heaven is a severe mutilation of the context.

The context of Revelation quite simply is the first-century church: it is stated in no unclear terms throughout the book. Should you be interested in pursuing a study on its context further, simply start reading it. Read it through several times, then read Ezekiel. Then go back to Revelation with a sober commentary: I would advise Kenneth Gentry, Gary North, James Jordan, and--somewhat hesitantly--David Chilton (he reaches a bit more than is perhaps advisable).

But that is something that can be argued for many repetitions of a time, two times and half a time without any fruit. So, let me turn to a much narrower topic: the text in two of the most hopeful chapters of Scripture.

This is my question: What does the raw text of these two chapters say? Is it speaking of a new heaven and earth after the second coming of Christ; is it speaking of heaven after we die, or is it speaking of the here and now?

Let us now go to the text and note things that will eliminate some of these options.

1. There is no temple: "for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple". Yes, this can go either way; this could be earth now or it could be heaven after death. What it cannot be is before 70 AD, and this book (despite liberal "commentators") was written slightly before Anno Domini 70. So the time frame is some time after 70 AD, and the location is heaven or earth. Let us narrow down the time frame.

2. A few verses from chapter 22: "...the things which must shortly take place", "the time is at hand", "I am coming quickly", and "Surely I am coming quickly. If these verses are to be taken at their face value, then the only question left is where these things take place: heaven or earth? "Some time" after AD 70 just became "soon" after AD 70. Let us now address the location, which is more difficult.

3a. The city (which is the church) is itself a temple. Where do we find promises of God's people being His temple? Heaven? Or was it rather true of the first century church on earth? " are a temple of the Holy Spirit..."?

3b. "The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations". This is something that will be unnecessary after the great Judgment. This cannot be heaven.

3c. Evangelism is still taking place. Look at 22:17: "And the Spirit and the bride (that's us) say 'Come!'...And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely". This cannot be speaking of heaven.

To sum up: these verses are speaking of earth shortly after AD 70. We live on earth, and yes, it is after AD 70. This should be obvious to any person or even a reasonably intellignet trout. Do we need a calendar? A map? The text interprets itself without any difficulty--the only difficulty comes when we apply a wooden and literalistic hermeneutic to the Scriptures across the board, regardless of the nature of the text, as though we had no brains. Yes, that has been known to cause problems.

To briefly address objections: it is obvious that not all of this has been fulfilled. Keep in mind, however, that this is, as has been brilliantly stated, an "already not-yet" type of thing. Are you saved? Yes. Are you justified? Yes. Are you sanctified? Yes and no. This last is a process, not an event. So it is with the church, and so it is with the church's filling and purifying the world.

Let us then live in such a way that the process is sped. Let us love one another, and let us remember: "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked".

Eh, beau?

Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright until they start to talk.

Always remember: on the other hand, you have different fingers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Now we see through a glass of dark beer

Jesus as Temple: James Jordan

In His book "Through New Eyes", Jordan addresses a massive amount of symbolism in Scripture, including a blindsiding piece on the gospel of John presenting Christ as the New Temple. Most of what follows is taken from his book, pages 267-269, compressed brutally.

He starts with the laver, so the first five chapters speak of water: baptism of John the Forerunner, water into wine, the "cleansing" of the Temple, the new birth (water and spirit), John's baptism, the Samaritan woman at the well, the resurrection of the dead boy (at Cana, where water into wine took place, as well as the washings that were necessary when being cleansed from death: third and seventh day), and the pool of Bethesda in John 5 ends this section.

He then turns to the Table of Showbread: John 6 has Jesus feeding the five thousand, calling Himself the Bread of Life, declaring that if we will not eat of His Flesh and drink of His Blood we can have no part in Him; in John 7 He presents Himself as the drink of life (remember the libations that went with the showbread and meal offerings).

Then we are at the Lampstand. In John 8 we find that Christ is the Light of the world, in chapter 9 He heals a blind man, and in chapter 10 He is the Good Shepherd (connected to David, who is repeatedly referred to as a light, as well as the connection between the shepherd's voice calling to his sheep and the light in a dark place). 11 moves on to Lazarus, and we are told that Christ had to call him out of darkness and sleep into light and day. In John 12 Christ says that those who would not believe in Him were blind, but those who did believe would become sons of light.

Then we repeat, but go further. He washes the disciple's feet, breaks bread with them, and speaks of the Holy Spirit (the archetype for the seven lamps in the Tabernacle) in chapters 13-16.

Then comes the High Priest's prayer at the altar of incense in chapter 17.

Now we travel yet "further up and further in": His death is the sacrifice as well as the ultimate Yom Kippur, and He Is the High Priest who takes the blood into the Most Holy. His resurrection is the High Priest returning from the Most Holy place alive, which means that God had accepted the sacrifice. Also, on Yom Kippur, the High Priest wore a simple linen garment. This is the garment Peter encounters in the tomb in chapter 20, as Christ has returned to His glorified state. The two angels in verse 12 speak, as Pink brilliantly comments, of the mercy-seat in Exodus 25: two cherubim, one at either end of God's throne; two angels, one at the head and one at the feet.

We now turn to Eden, the original Temple where the first sacrifice took place: outside the tomb was a garden, reminiscent of the garden symbolism so prevalent in the Temple, and Christ is the New Gardener, the New Adam Who kept His garden safe and died on a tree, was placed in the dust, traveled to the domain where "the worm (serpent) does not die", and returned, reversing the curse by taking the entirety of it upon Himself. We remain in Eden and find Gen. 2:7 in John 20:22, and the naked Adam hiding in the garden is found in the naked Peter hiding in the sea; Adam named the animals, the apostles are to feed Christ's sheep. Christ wore the Old Covenant in His death, and His resurrection has created a new heavens and a new earth, "in which righteousness dwells" (see Second Peter and Isaiah 65).

The randomness emerges: On Judging

Dave Barrry once described his role in a musical group in the following manner: "I am also--and I am not bragging here--the only person who actually knows when the song has started and ended". In a like manner, I shall begin to wax shamelessly abstract, as I am not only the only person who will have the faintest clue as to what I am talking about, but probably one of maybe three who will know that I am talking at all.

God is, by definition, Absolute. Therefore, He is the only standard by which anything can consistently be judged, and all that judgments can do with any integrity is to merely judge how far removed from God something is.

But this is very dangerous. To judge how far removed from the standard something is, you must know where the standard is, which is something that we are by definition incapable of knowing: God is infinite, we are finite. There is therefore an infinite gap between us and the standard, and perhaps a two or three inch gap between us and Hitler (or, if you use the metrical system, none at all. I'm going to college!).

The implications of this are crushing. You see that drug addict? You have no authority with which to despise him. That prostitute? Judge yourself first, hypocrite. You want to point and condemn? The only one that you can end up condemning is yourself, and that right speedily.

The only difference between you and the ones you pity was Grace; the only difference between you and the ones you despise was a Choice, and but for the Grace of God you would have had no choice, and but for the Choice of God, you would have had no Grace.

To quote Lewis: "What will all that chatter and hearsay count? Will you even be able to remember it, when this anaesthetic fog which we call 'nature' or 'the real world' fades away, and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?"

Let us live coram Deo, not coram homo.

Darkness and light: from Genesis to John

To go to a baby of mine, let's look at the first chapter of Genesis. "Now the earth was without form and void ('tohu', used only one other time in the pentateuch); and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters....And God said 'Let there be light.' "

First off, this is the primal theophany. I will simply leave it at that, as I don't want to get sidetracked.

Secondly, and this is where I'm headed, this section is alluded to by (you could even say "interpreted by") John several times, most notably in John 1: "In the beginning was the Word (logos)...He is the true light which lightens every man which cometh into the world..." and in First John 1: "That which was from the beginning...This is the message that we have heard from Him and declare to you: that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all..."

An interesting theory is put forward by Peter Leithart: "John uses the word "darkness" seven times in his first epistle. Assuming that he uses the imagery in the same way he does in the gospel, I surmise that the light/dark language of 1 John is about the conflicts of Judaism/Judaizers and the church."--

Assuming Leithart to be correct (generally a safe assumption) gives more weight to the interpretation in John "And the light shines into the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not...".

Also, without going into the Hebrew, I'm going to descend from the abstract and touch on the practical implications (which are very interesting) of the creation in light of this typological reading of John.

First, God did not destroy the darkness, but rather divided it from the light. In the same way, He does not destroy His enemies as we might expect, but calls us to be separate from them. But this is not universalism by any means: "And there shall be no night there..." --John in Rev. 22:5.

Second, as there is no cosmic battle between light and darkness, there is no great battle between God and the enemies of the church. Light is, dark is merely its absence. There is God, Who Is, and there is lack of God; God and God-less. The sun rises and the darkness is no more. God speaks, and His Words come to pass. Why do we view God as though He were an impotent version of His creation?

Finally, what does darkness do for us aesthetically? I would hold that it makes us appreciate the light. And what does Scripture say? "...the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining..."

There was evening (then the Morning Star) and morning, then the first day.

Random Quotes: on grief

"There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting..."
--C. S. Lewis: "A Grief Observed"

"With a rod of iron..."

"Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.
Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron,
Tthou shalt shatter them like earthenware." --Psalm 2:8-9

Where this is quoted in Revelation (Rev. 19:15) the word "rule" is "poimaino", from Strong's #4165: to tend as a shepherd, feed (cattle), rule.

It is derived from 4166: poimen: a shepherd (lit or fig): shepherd, pastor. Both of these are derived from "poema", which simply means plan.

David Chilton's book "Days of Vengeance" asserts that the Hebrew verb can be read either as "break" or "rule", depending on the vowel points used, and that the LXX rendered it as "rule", so that this was the use adopted by the NT writers (Days of Vengeance, Dominion Press, #486 #21).

This seems logical, but I am not nearly familiar enough with the Hebrew to swear to it. Maybe next week...

In any case, "poimaino" reads much more consistently in the Revelation text (two-edged sword being the gospel, etc), but I really do want to look at the Hebrew before subscribing to it fully. If however, it is correct, the rod of iron takes on an entirely new meaning, as it is meant for those that would harm the nations, not for the nations themselves.

Take off your shoes...

"In fact, the primary feature of clean animals is their feet, in one sense or another. To understand this, we must bear in mind that the ground was cursed under the Old Covenant (Genesis 3:17). Men normally wore shoes, and it was ceremonially important to wash the cursed soil off one's feet before entering a house...Holy ground, where the curse was removed, required men to go barefoot..."
--James Jordan, "Through New Eyes", Wipf and Stock, #101-102

Jordan then goes on to comment that chewing the cud (meditating on God's Word? Kind of reaching...) and wearing "shoes" (cloven hooves) are the distinctions of a clean land animal, that fish, to be clean, must also be shod: "in their case it means having scales. Scales are like armor that keeps th fish from contact with his environment..."--ibid, and that clean birds are picky about where they put their feet.

Monday, July 16, 2007


A theophany is an appearance of God, from the Greek Theos (God) and phaneo (I appear).

In his book Images of the Spirit, Meredith G. Kline propounds the theory that all theophanies contain three elements: light (can be day, fire, etc), dark (or any type of a "veil"), and "qol" (Hebrew "voice") or sound.

Obvious theophanies include the Lord on Sinai, when He appeared to Ezekiel in the chariot, when He led Israel through the desert (the "two" pillars), and when the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ in the form of a dove, to name a few points on the spectrum.

But, there is a thesis of Kline's that I would like to put forward here.

In Hebrew, the word "rwh" (ruach) can be translated as spirit, wind or breath; same with "pneumos" in Greek. In Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve have just sinned, they hear the "qol" of the LORD traversing the garden in "lrwh hyywm", the spirit, wind, or breath of the day.

The word rwh has been translated wind. Kline proposes that it should have been translated spirit, giving us, instead of the wind or cool of the day, the spirit of the day, as in the day of the Lord, the day of judgment.

The reasons for this are several, and not all that I put forward here are his.

First, rendering the word spirit gives a great deal more meaning to the fact that God was in the garden. The protevangelium was not merely the result of an idyllic stroll. Along the same line, "spirit" places the initiative with God, removing the apparent coincidence of the event.

Secondly, it seems rather odd that rwh would have been mentioned were it not relevant to the narrative.

Finally, when Adam and Eve heard the "qol" of the Lord traversing the garden in "lrwh hyywm", their first instinct was to run and hide. This is consistent with either rendering of rwh, but it seems much more natural if they were running from God as He came in power and judgment (in the line of Isaiah's response: "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips...") than that they merely felt guilty enough to flee at the slightest provocation.

If this is the case, this would be the second recorded theophany, the first being in the first chapter of Genesis.

A final note to consider: both of these two theophanies contain the theme of judgment.


Creation occurred in two phases of three days each, which were sealed by a third phase of the great rest.

The two initial phases are easily seen in a simple reading of Genesis one: God first creates the environment, and then the object to fill it: day one is the separation of light from darkness, day four corresponds with sun, moon and stars. Day two is the separation of waters above from waters below, day five corresponds with birds and sea creatures. Day three is the separation of the waters from the dry land, day six corresponds with land animals. On day seven, God rests.

Some interesting things to note:

First, God is three, and His creation mirrors Him; He creates out of Himself, as nothing else Is: you are in Him, or you quite simply are not at all. There is only one real option, as there is only One Real God, and He claims existence itself as His attribute, as His very Name.

Secondly, the foundational creation consists of division: light from darkness, waters from waters, waters from land. When there is division, there is usually a creation, the most obvious being the Red Sea and the creation of God's cevenental nation. When there is a merging, there is destruction, and to stick with the water analogies, the flood seems an obvious choice.

And, the final thing that I will note on this topic will actually introduce my next one: the primal theophany.

The recently late Meredith Kline has an excellent book called Images of the Spirit, in which he notes the (three) accompaniments of the great appearances of God, the great theophanies. They are as follows: Light or day; darkness, and the qol or sound (often a voice). All three of these are to be found in the first three verses of Scripture.

Wodehousian Fun