Author: Paul Henebury

My Review of Chapter 5 of Matthew Vines’ book ‘God and the Gay Christian’

{This is part of a chapter by chapter critique of this book at SharperIron]

Before foraying into the New Testament, where he seems to think he will find justification for his views, Matthew Vines attempts to deal with “The Abominations of Leviticus.” He does not deal with the relevant texts by doing contextual exegesis or theological formulation; instead he takes a more indirect route around Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.

Basically his approach is to relativize the Old Testament law by comparing prohibitions and punishments which God mandated for the theocracy of (OT) Israel, and then contrast them with what he believes is Christian practice. At the latter half of the chapter he runs to Philo and the works of radical liberal scholars in an attempt to prove that ancient cultures saw the passive agent in homosexual relations as being lowered to the level of the woman: of being, in other words, “feminized.” This is so he can lift the word “abomination” away from its obvious meaning of “moral repugnance.”

The Law and its purposes

Every attentive reader of the Bible understands that the regulatory system which God gave to ancient Israel does not carry over in all its parts into the New Testament era. Although Christians have understood the relationship between “Law and Gospel” differently, they have, nonetheless, been clear about the fact that the sacrificial system was not intended for Christians. So too, the theocratic governmental codes for the nation of Israel, which served specific purposes, political and religious, do not apply to Christians in blanket fashion. It is in this sense at least that the Christian is said not to be under the Law (Rom. 6:14-15; Gal. 5:18).

That being said the question still has to be addressed regarding the use of the Law in Christian practice. Vines appears to want to nullify it completely. He opines,

Paul said in Romans 7 that the law existed to expose our sin, revealing our need for a Savior. But once our Savior has come, we no longer need the law. We could compare it to the way drivers no longer need road signs once they arrive at their destination. (p. 80)

But it is not that straightforward. In point of fact the very chapter he cites, Romans 7, describes Paul’s acquiescence with and commendation of the moral aspects of the law (See Rom. 7:16-22). In agreeing with the law’s moral teachings (Rom. 7:16), Paul can commend much in the ethical code of the law to Christians, and this certainly includes the shunning of the “dishonorable passions” (ESV) of homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27).

Another simple but profoundly relevant reason for not totally bidding adieu to the Law is that some of the laws retain a universal character because they directly reflect the character of God Himself. Thus, nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament because they speak of God’s attributes as Lord, as Creator of the family, and as holy and truthful (see e.g. Rom. 13:8-10). The New Testament also repeats other Old Testament prohibitions. One of these concerns homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9). These are universal and everlasting verities and are non-negotiables for any Bible-believer. Two of the passages which Vines uses stating that the Christian is not under the law pertain to justification, not ethical mores (including Gal. 3:23-25 & 5:2 which Vines cites in footnote 1).

While he is anxious to support the contention that “Old Testament laws related to sex don’t always align with Christian views on sexual ethics” (p. 79), Vines has to admit that “It’s true that there are a number of Old Testament laws that correspond with Christian beliefs about sin” (p. 82). He is also forced to acknowledge the national and socio-political reasons for certain laws. He notes that, “Given the threats posed to the Israelites by starvation, disease, internal discord, and attacks from other tribes, maintaining order was of paramount importance” (p. 86).

But still he needs to maintain that same-sex relationships were forbidden, not because they are inimical to God’s righteous nature, but only because of more cultural concerns. Since God does not change, any moral behavior which contradicts His character has a universal stamp on it. We shall see that homosexuality is immoral on this score. But for argument’s sake, let’s pretend it isn’t. Adultery, bestiality and prostitution are always treated as sinful. There are several reasons for this, but the foundational issue is God’s nature and its relation to the marriage covenant and the sanctity of the family, together with our status as image-bearers. Vines would have us believe the Bible endorses same-sex marriages. In that way he, along with conservative Christians generally, can inveigh against adultery, bestiality and prostitution, and even condemn same-sex relationships outside of marriage, while finding a loophole for gay marriage.

But always and everywhere in Scripture, marriage, which is a creation ordinance, is between a man and a woman, and a family is a triad of a man and wife and children. Arguing from silence that Scripture affirms gay “marriage” is as vacuous as arguing that Scripture affirms man-boy marriage or man-animal marriage. Both of these arrangements Vines would (we trust) consider repugnant. But he wants adult same-sex relationships to be the exception. If he can’t affirm these other sexual proclivities as leading to valid “marriages,” he cannot use the same reasoning to exempt same-sex “marriage” from the same charge of moral corruption. So this line of argument gets him nowhere.

OT Polygamy

To further mix things up, Vines brings up the issue of polygamy in the Old Testament. He thinks the polygamous marriages of David were alright in God’s eyes because although he was punished for his adultery with Bathsheba, he wasn’t even rebuked for having more than one wife. He cites the beginning of Deuteronomy 21:15-17 supposing that in saying “If a man has two wives,” it endorses the practice. But David’s sin involved murder as well as adultery. His polygamy, though conventional within the wider culture, clearly went against the precedent of Genesis 2:24 and, as with Jacob, is never shown in a good light. Besides, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is not about marriage per se, but about the right of inheritance. Moreover, it too casts polygamy in a bad light. The Genesis 2 passage records Adam looking for a partner and God bringing him a woman. Jesus’ words concerning marriage and divorce are based solidly in the Genesis 2 description of marriage (Matt. 19:4-8).

The real question

So where does this leave Vines’ argument? Vines says the real question is, “Are the laws we find in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 grounded in a view of gender complementarity that applies to Christians?” (p. 82). He is prepared to side with leftist liberal scholars who will tell him what he wants to hear. But though I would answer “Yes,” that is not the real question at all. The real question is and always will be, “Is homosexuality portrayed in the Bible as a sin?”

Before turning to the Levitical passages and Vines’ treatment of them, I want first to bring in another passage. Deuteronomy 22:5 is pertinent to the discussion because of the connotations of the language used. The text forbids cross-dressing, calling those who do so “an abomination to the LORD.” This must be viewed as a moral prohibition. If God detests the subversion of male and female by cross-dressing, how much more would He detest the subversion of the male-female marriage ordinance? In God’s economy males are husbands and females are their wives. These roles are vital to the promulgation of the human race, which is to be extended strictly within the ordinance of marriage (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). Thus, any blurring of the concept of the mutual roles of men and women, especially in terms of marriage, is not to be countenanced.

But turning to Leviticus 18:22 we read, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Because the Canaanites did practice these things the LORD cast them out (18:24) and the land itself is described as vomiting them out (18:25). Vines’ retort that the abomination of lying with a menstruating woman (18:19) is now acceptable to Christians ignores the plain fact that a woman in this condition was ritually unclean (Lev. 12:2b), as was the man who touched her (Lev. 15:19-27). In the case of the prohibition of Leviticus 18:19 Vines should have seen that the issue was ritual not ethical. But the matter of homosexuality is an ethical matter, as indicated by the use of the verb toevah (abomination) in the verse and as a high-handed sin in 20:13.

To navigate around this fact, Vines appeals to the work of feminist OT scholar Phyllis Bird, who has concluded that the Hebrew term toevah “is not an ethical term, but a term of boundary marking” (p. 85). Contrariwise, the standard Koehler-Baumgartner Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Vol.2, 1703), defines the use of toevah specifically referring to Leviticus 18 and 20 as, “the abhorrent customs of the Canaanites…by which is meant in particular sexual perversity…and in special cases sodomy.” OT scholar John D. Currid notes that the term “derives from a root meaning ‘to hate/abhor’ ” (Leviticus, 244).

Bird, like Vines, appears to have an agenda. And since she views the Bible as a non-inspired culturally contextualized text, she may feel at liberty to interpret it with a free hand. But how anyone could read Leviticus 18 and 20 and come away with a non-ethical meaning of “abomination” is hard to fathom. Vines (following his radicals), is badly wrong here. He should not have resorted to agenda-driven liberal scholarship to bolster a poor thesis. In Leviticus, as in Genesis 19, homosexuality is a distortion of a creational intent and is morally repugnant to God.

Appeals beyond the Bible

By appealing to the Jewish Platonist Philo, and other sources such as Plutarch and (certain) Middle Assyrian legal codes, Vines is, of course, going outside the confines of Scripture into the realms of profane history. This maneuver is only helpful if it corroborates what one already finds in Scripture. Otherwise it tends to distort the biblical picture. (This should give readers pause when they see evangelical scholars take this tack on other topics.)

This is Vines’ method toward the close of the chapter, and to do it, he relies upon radical unbelieving scholars like Bird and Daniel Boyarin, both of whom are, unsurprisingly, pro-gay. But why would a supposedly “conservative Christian” rely upon such authorities as Bird, Boyarin, and Saul Olyan? Are these people Bible-believers? Why not turn to more representative and conventional authorities like Gordon Wenham? Wenham has made a study of homosexuality in the ancient Near East and has shown that although such practices were commonplace in the surrounding cultures in the ancient world, the Israelites were different.

He writes,

Seen in their Near Eastern context the originality of the Old Testament laws on homosexuality is very striking. Whereas the rest of the ancient orient saw homosexual acts as quite acceptable provided they were not incestuous or forcible, the Old Testament bans them all even where both parties freely consented. (362)

The reason for this is identified in the Genesis creation account, with its definition of marriage and distinctions between the sexes. His conclusion is,

It therefore seems most likely that Israel’s repudiation of homosexual intercourse arises out of its doctrine of creation. God created humanity in two sexes, so that they could be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Woman was man’s perfect companion, like man created in the divine image. To allow the legitimacy of homosexual acts would frustrate the divine purpose and deny the perfection of God’s provision of two sexes to support and complement one another. St Paul’s comment that homosexual acts are ‘contrary to nature’ (Rom 1:26) is thus probably very close to the thinking of the Old Testament writers. (363)

Matthew Vines is not reading his Bible to discover what it says about marriage and homosexuality. He is trying to make it affirm what he, as a gay man, affirms. It will not oblige him. Although homosexual attraction is often not sought after, anymore than are urges to steal or to lust after a woman, it must never be baptized to make it acceptable as Christian or lodge comfortably within its meaning of “follower of Christ

(more…)

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity and Faith (4)

Part Three

If it were up to us…

If the Lord had relied upon men to fulfill their duties before fulfilling His oaths there would be no reason at all to make covenants in the first place.  He was on the safest ground possible, and could have promised the universe without having to concern Himself about fulfilling anything.  We all fail.  Christians know that unless God is faithful to stand behind His promise in the Gospel, we are all done for.  Salvation under the New Covenant blood of Christ cannot depend upon us.  Inner spiritual perfection is even more impossible for us to achieve than the outward obedience of the Law (1 Jn. 1:8, 10).  If God’s promise of salvation and eternal life depended for an instant on our works, heaven would have one human inhabitant – Jesus!

It is for this reason that God only made one bi-lateral covenant with men: the Mosaic covenant.  Exodus 24 records the solemn oath which the children of Israel took:

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people.  and they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”  And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” – Exod. 24:6-8

The writer of Hebrews refers to this episode in Hebrews 9:18-20.  The Book was the covenant terms which Moses read aloud.  It contained the Ten Commandments of chapter 20, and the judgments of chapters 21-23 (cf. 24:3).  There is nothing in these chapters which is unclear or vague.  By reading the terms in the ears of the people Moses was calling upon the people to affirm by oath those words (See John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative, 296).

The reason for this being bi-lateral was because it was impermanent.  This “old covenant” was to be replaced by another permanent one.  What guaranteed the failure of the Mosaic covenant was the sinfulness of one of the parties: the people of Israel.  By the same token what guarantees the permanence of the New covenant is the fact that it is unilaterally promised by the sinless Christ.  Divine covenants, with the lone exception of the “old covenant”, are inviolable.  Paul states this in connection with the New covenant in Romans 11:29.

Problems with “Unilateral” and “Unconditional”

It has often been true that the terms “unilateral” and “unconditional” have been held by some to be unsatisfactory adjectives when applied to the biblical covenants.  Noah did have to build an ark.  Abraham did have to leave Ur and he did have to circumcise his sons.  Christians do have to believe on Jesus to be saved.  So then, it is argued, because we find these conditions attached to covenantal promises it is inaccurate to describe any covenant with the words “unilateral” and “unconditional.”

As an example of this sort of complaint we read,

the Old Testament covenants consist of unconditional (unilateral) and conditional (bilateral) elements blended together.  In fact, it is precisely due to this blend that there is a deliberate tension within the covenants – a tension which is heightened as the story line of Scripture and the biblical covenants progress toward their fulfilment [sic] in Christ. – Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 609

But a grave mistake is being made here (there are other mistakes too, but I shall ignore them for now).  In deciding whether a covenant is or is not unilateral (or both/and) the attention must be upon the oath taken: that is, upon the words of the covenant.  And there is nothing in the oaths affixed to the Noahic or Abrahamic or Priestly or Davidic or New covenants which place conditions upon the human parties.  What conditions are present in the context are connected either prior to or after the taking of the oath, but if there are no conditions in God’s oath, there are no conditions in the covenant.  The time of eventual fulfillment may be impacted by conditional elements, but these in no way get God ‘off the hook’ as it were.  If God is the only Subject making the oath, and if the words of the covenant do not iterate a condition, then the covenant really is unilateral and unconditional.  As we have noted before, this fact seems to be recognized by D. N. Freedman.

The conditional Mosaic covenant, by contrast, had both conditions as part of the oath and, as we saw, bound the human parties to those conditions.  One older writer puts it well:

The legal covenant that God made with Israel when He brought them up out of Egypt consisted of the law, the judgments and the ordinances… Differing from the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham, the covenant that He made and repeatedly renewed with Israel under the law was coupled with express conditions, on the breach of which fearful judgments were denounced, and both blessings and curses attached to the covenant, according as they obeyed or disobeyed… – Ford C. Ottman, God’s Oath: A Study of an Unfulfilled Promise of God, 191 

There were no blessings and curses appended to the other covenants God made for the very good reason that they were superfluous!  They were unconditionally guaranteed by God Himself.  Thus, when entering into covenant with Abraham we read,

…because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself – Heb. 6:13

For what purpose did God do this?  The writer of Hebrews tells us:

Thus God, determining to show the more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath – Heb. 6:17

God had previously “determined” what He was going to do through the Abrahamic covenant.  It was to be something which could not change.  Therefore, by swearing by Himself He showed the immutability of the covenant.  Yet on page 608 of Kingdom through Covenant Wellum says,

the physical genealogical link from the Abrahamic covenant is transformed…in the dawning of a regenerate people from every nation who become the “one new man” in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 2:11-21).  

He goes on to call this people “the true Israel” (Ibid).  But in view of what we have just seen, this is not an option.  God cannot “transform” the meaning of words in a covenant.  But He doesn’t need to because the Abrahamic covenant houses promises both to the nations of Israel and to all the peoples of the earth (see Gen. 12:1-3, 7).

Next installment soon...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (2)

Part One

The Fusion of Confusion

Evolutionists, except the rather small coterie of Theistic ones, believe every complex and meticulously ordered thing got here through mechanisms which we neither see now nor can see in the evidence left in the past.  Even our cognitive faculties and the immaterial laws of logic and number “evolved.”  The Big Bang is the most popular notion of the origin of the universe at the present time, although there is a significant lobby of dissidents.  The Big Bang is an explosion.  All explosions are chaotic, disorderly things.  (The Big Bang exploded flat – not in all directions).  In other ways it would have been like every other explosion: confused and irrational.

But from this chaos the vast complexity of the first life sprang: not, it is true, overnight, but over billions of years.  From this incoherence the coherent came.  Do we ever see coherence, in the form of sequenced “specified” complexity, arise out of chaos and disorder?  No we do not.  Nothing self-orders in complex and specific ways without a code.  And a code needs someone to write it.   But evolutionary naturalism requires just the opposite.

Furthermore, as we, the observers, recognize and analyze the coherence in the world, our standing (or existence) as observers must be accounted for.  This was one of the questions asked by Richards and Gonzalez in their book The Privileged Planet.   It is a good question.  Why is the world comprehensible?  Why can we do science?

This question must be addressed by creationists and evolutionists.  It cannot be ducked on the pretext that evolution does not concern itself with such matters.  Biological evolution does not.  But there is such a thing as “chemical evolution”.  There is even a Center for it!

One prominent evolutionist puts the matter clearly:

One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task, to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible.  Yet, here we are as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”  George Wald, ‘The Molecular Basis of Life’, 339

We must not link this use of “spontaneous generation” with the old idea that new life arises from rotting meat.  Once this is kept in mind there is nothing wrong with Wald’s use of the term.  But talk about the power of presuppositions!  He believes in the impossible.  And as we shall see, it is not one isolated “impossibility” that evolutionists have to swallow.  In fact, it is not even the first.

Has this kind of evolution (a form of abiogenesis) ever been demonstrated?  It has not (link).  One creationist writer comments:

After decades of investigation, no environment has been discovered that facilitates abiogenesis. The richest inventory of chemical compounds have been zapped, irradiated, dried, rehydrated, and subjected to a host of parameters. All of these processes, however, have resulted in disorganized matter. In order to provide an appropriate framework for life, a machinist would still be necessary, one who could construct several thousand specific proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and lipids in their exact configurations, all the while maintaining the integrity of each molecule in the collection. – Brian Thomas, “Origin of Life Research Still Dead.”

Also, as Meyer explains,

Every choice the investigator makes to actualize one condition and exclude another – to remove one by-product and not another – imparts information into the system.  Therefore, whatever “success” these experiments have achieved in producing biologically relevant compounds occurs as a direct result of the activity of the experimentalist – a conscious, intelligent, deliberative mind – performing the experiments. – Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 335.

To an evolutionist this means that “when” somebody produces organic cells from its constituents the cry will go up, “We have discovered the conditions in which life arose.”  But would it?  While some confidence in the deliverances of science, even defined in reductionistic tones, is warranted, and the great successes of scientists lend encouragement to the belief that more is to come, it is extremely doubtful that any of these successes have any logical connection to belief in evolution.  Scientists holding to evolution have done marvelous things, and so have scientists not holding to evolution.  But the principle of testing competing hypotheses is not bettered by a belief which itself has failed to substantiate any of its major tenets.

To any other person any announcement that scientists have found the original environment for life would only prove that trained scientists, knowing the constituents of cellular organisms, have replicated what was (perhaps) previously done.  It would certainly not prove it was achieved by undirected mindless processes.  If evolutionists could do such a thing (and they can’t), they would, in their announcements, be sure to divert attention away from the designed and controlled laboratory conditions and the training and funding of the scientists.

The Blind and Ignorant Watchmaker

Richard Dawkins wrote,

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” – Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1

We all know this quote, but behind it lies a steely determination not to recognize what we all do recognize in every other walk of life – design.  The title of his book is interesting but misleading.  Interesting because it evokes a scene where someone blind from birth, and having no prior knowledge of watches, proceeds over time to put together one of these marvelous mechanisms in full working order.  Misleading because the watchmaker himself, also envisioned as a product of evolution, but being far more complex than the watch, must also be explained.  Although Dawkins is being rhetorical, calling evolutionary processes by this name commits the fallacy of reification – a very common fault with these people.

What these sorts of quotes are telling us is that because of their naturalistic bias, these eminent evolutionists will not even consider special creation as an alternative.  And as there are just two models of origins, evolution (in their view), wins by default: it must be true no matter how much evidence accrues to falsify it.  Operating from such an outlook the evolutionist is doomed to miss the wood for the trees.

Evolution is treated as unfalsifiable, and is treated as such because it is viewed as having so much power to uphold the philosophy of naturalism.  It is the only avenue of explanation open to the materialist, and cannot be allowed to buckle under unwelcome scrutiny.  It is treated and taught as an unassailable fact.  Evolution supports naturalism.  Naturalism is the only methodology permitted by evolutionists.  Ergo, naturalism must support evolution.  It is viciously circular. (more…)

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity and Faith (3)

Part Two

In the Bible there is always a correspondence between God’s words and His actions.  You see it in the Creation narratives – “God said”…”and it was so”.  You see it in the Gospel, – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”  You see it in such well known places as the curing of Naaman, or Jesus’ healing of Jairus’s daughter.  When God says He is going to do something, you can bank on it.  While there are places where God relents on judgment (especially after intercession), our faith depends upon the fixity of His meaning.  God will do what He says He will do.

This is important on two fronts: first because God must be as good as His word or His character is in question.  God’s attributes of veracity and immutability stand behind His promises.  The second reason God must mean what He says is because God requires faith from us.  Faith must “know” what it is that is to be believed.  Faith cannot thrive where ambiguity is let in.  Faith has to be able to separate truth from error, and know which is the right path to take, or we are wasting our time warning people against error.  If the meaning is uncertain, doubt has a foothold.

This is where we left off last time.  Covenants necessarily take up within themselves this notion of dis-ambiguity.

But in that case what is one to make of this?

Israel is called God’s son…Only later will the full import of this be apparent as the perfect Son of God comes to fulfill in his own life all God’s purposes for Israel. – Graeme Goldsworthy, According To Plan, 141.

This is the same writer who said “God cannot go back on his word.”  But sadly he doesn’t mean what one would think he means (that God will do what He has said He will do).  Note here the equivocation on the word “son”.  In the case of Israel it is a figure of speech.  In the case of Jesus it is actually true.  No wonder “the full import” was not known in OT times! Notice also that Goldsworthy thinks that “God’s purposes for Israel” (a Nation to whom land is covenanted – Gen. 15)), are “fulfilled” in the life of Christ (a Person).

According to the OT revelation, the Messiah was to “raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel” (Isa. 49:6), so that He “will make her wilderness like Eden” (Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 36:35), where – using covenant language – He has promised the Nation, “you will dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek. 36:28; Amos 9:14-15).  They have been led to expect God’s blessing on their restored land (Hos. 2:18; Isa. 11:6-10; Ezek. 34:25-27), when God Himself will “betroth you to me forever” (Hos. 2:19).  Since these are all covenanted promises, backed by the oath of God; and since covenants are reinforcements of clear speech which guarantee something, Goldsworthy’s explanation of how God is not going back on His word by fulfilling all this in Christ is a little hard to swallow.  Actually, his explanation is itself filled with just the kind of ambiguities which covenants are supposed to eradicate.

No wonder then, we can be told that,

The semi-nomadic wanderings of Abraham and his descendants in Canaan did not serve God’s purposes of revelation fully enough.  Throughout the Old Testament, possession of the land is presented as a shadow of the future reality of God’s people in his kingdom. – Ibid, 130-131.

And in which covenant of the Old Testament is one told this?  Where are “the words of the covenant” which create this expectation?   What is the expectation these covenants do create?

We must add here that the theological covenants of Reformed theology do not pass muster in this regard because they have nebulous specificity.  Covenant theologians disagree on what each of these supposed covenants does.  Since none of them are described in the Bible (they are inferred from viewing the two Testaments from a particular angle), they are in no sense on a par with the clearly defined covenants of Scripture.

According to Goldsworthy, the gospel event must be presupposed for the OT to be rightly understood (76).  But if the covenants which God made could not be rightly understood until after Jesus had died and gone back to heaven, and if by the words used they raised false expectations in God’s people throughout the OT era, we are forced to admit that God’s word, even under oath, apparently (in some theologies) is ambiguous, and that deliberately!  Just what was an OT saint supposed to believe when reading the covenants?

One might not wish to go there, but I do not see a way out – apart, that is, from our adopting ambiguous language.

More to come…

 

 

 

Genesis-1-vs-1

The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (1)

This is taken from an introductory lecture in the TELOS Course “The Doctrine of  Man and Sin”

 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet. – Psalm 8:3-6

According to the Bible, man, here meaning male and female (Gen. 1:27), is a very special part of God’s creation.  According to the scientific establishment we are nothing more than advanced animals, newly arrived upon the scene of earth history, without any more significance than a trilobite or a sea-horse.

Most of us are familiar with naturalistic evolution. This is what I was taught from a young child growing up in England all the way through high school.  And when I attended college I was taught it there too, even though it wasn’t really part of the business degree that I was doing.

I wasn’t a Christian until I was 25, and was not from a particularly religious household, so I believed more or less in evolution, although always in the back of my mind I could not quite understand how life came from non-life.  Neither could I grasp how the marvelous beauty and order that we see in life could be accounted for by random unguided particles banging together. Neither could I quite understand how the theory of evolution could account for the significance that we find in our own lives. We write poetry, we write love songs, we listen to music of one sort or another that expresses our inner emotions, and what we feel about ourselves, and how important we think certain things are to the world and to life itself. We do this all the time; it’s natural for the human being to do it, and I just could not understand how this sense of significance could be part of an evolutionary process.

Why did we evolve to see our own significance and reflect upon it?  Why try to better it, critique it, and eulogize it? So there were these things that the ‘science’ did not fully explain to me.

I have listened to and read many evolutionists.  I believe that at a fundamental level, Evolution is the creation myth of the secularist, of the unbeliever.

They don’t want to believe in the Creator.  They don’t want to believe that there is a God whom they have to face.  Therefore, as theologian Millard Erickson tells us in his Christian Theology, (2nd ed. 501f.), they have a group of processes into which they pour their faith, which, superficially at least, produce and explain everything that is, including all the diversity of life.  All that is needed is ‘a combination of atoms, motion, time, and chance.’ As Erickson says, no attempt is made to account for these givens; they are simply there, the basis of everything else.

Now this is certainly true.  Anybody who believes in evolution will not even try to think behind the ramifications of what they’re saying, and will not try to give an explanation for the processes that they say delivered up to us “reality” (which they can scarcely define), as we presently experience it.  It is just there they say.  It all could have been any other way, but it just happened to be this way.  One famous scientist said that the reason that the world is the way it is, is because it was the way that it is.  In other words, just things are the way that they are and there’s no real reason behind it; no personality, no Creator to guide it or to give it any further significance than just accidental occurrences.  All of the matter and energy in the universe, and all of the different combinations of it came from a Big Bang, and the far future scenarios for the universe are either freeze or fry. We’re either going to just freeze, as entropy completely disintegrates, or we’re going to fry as the whole thing burns up.

In between the Big Bang and the big freeze there is no significance or meaning other than what we can find in and of ourselves.  We make it all up.  There is no great explanation, there is no providential plan. Life came from non-life by lightning hitting a “pre-biotic” (‘prior to life’) pond.  Scientific laws weren’t laws until after these things conveniently came together.  We should not see ourselves as anything more significant than temporary cosmic accidents.

Seven Basic (Silly) Assumptions

Someone has said that, “The basic assumptions of evolution are:

  1. Inorganic chemicals gave rise to life (belief in spontaneous generation – in modern garb).
  2. Spontaneous generation only happened once. (They believe it only happened once because it is such an astronomically absurdly impossible thing to even postulate.  Though some think it happened many times).
  3. All living organisms are therefore related (IF the first two statements are true)
  4. Single celled organisms [protozoa] gave rise to multi-celled organisms [metazoa]
  5. Invertebrates are all related
  6. Invertebrates gave rise to vertebrates
  7. From fish we get amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.”

These are taken from a book by G.A. Kerkut called Implications of Evolution.  One wonders if he really thought through the “implications”!

Those are of the seven basic assumptions that evolutionists make about evolution.  Other assumptions are made about reality.  For example, that morals, or the laws of thought are culturally-conditioned; that there is a correlation between what is in man’s mind and what is outside of man’s mind, and that correlation can be studied, analyzed, and mathematically predicted in terms of art, architecture, technology, and of course, the “science of evolution.”

But why and how did the amazing fine-tuning in the universe evolve?  A fine-tuning whereby the universe itself seems to be particularly the way it is so that life can exist upon this planet. Well, if it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here asking about it!”  And that’s an answer?  These and other presuppositions evolutionists have.  They don’t really try to see the convenience of it all; let alone the significance.  They just try to ignore the coincidences and ignore the signals of design and purpose all around them while believing an incredible and oft-disproved theory.   

It boils down to this:

Incoherence evolved into coherence, yet the explanations of coherence devolve into incoherence.

 

 

Thx to Servants Place for the photo

COVENANTS: CLARITY, AMBIGUITY AND FAITH (2)

PART ONE

The subject of this article has to do with how covenants clarify and underline specific terms about certain important (indeed central) theological topics.  If we all spoke the truth and we all could hear it unimpeded by sin’s effects there would be no need of covenants.  Covenants presuppose subjects (at least one) who have a propensity to diverge from an important truth.  (It is for this reason that any pre-fall covenants, which are exegetically weak and empty in the first place, seem superfluous).

Covenants also assume the parties to the covenant (at the bare minimum) understand and acknowledge the terms of the covenant.

Premeditation

Paul Williamson’s recent work on covenants, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose,  emphasizes the central role of oaths in the covenants of Scripture.  In his analysis the use of berit in the Hebrew Bible he expresses his conviction that the making of a solemn oath, “could well be described as the sine qua non of a covenant.” (39).

Oaths require forethought and careful composition.  Failure to think-through the words used may lead to tragic consequences, as the story of Jephthah drives home to us.  Along with solemnity, premeditation persuasively argues for clarity.  For a covenant that isn’t clear is hardly competent to do its job, particularly after time slips by.

True, not every oath indicates the presence of covenant, as Williamson is careful to point out (36), but when it comes to the Bible, and especially God’s covenants with men, he writes,

a Divine-human berit may be defined as the solemn ratification of an existing elective relationship involving promises or obligations that are sealed with an oath. – Ibid, 43. 

Since covenants include solemn oath-taking, they are not slapped together indiscriminately.   So perhaps the single most important thing to work on is the problem of ambiguity.  Sometimes one finds deliberate ambiguity in documents.  One example is the wording on atonement in the Canons of Dordt, which had to be worded to accommodate both particular and universal redemptionists.  But covenants cannot admit ambiguities without self-destructing.  Thought aforehand is mandatory.

Expectation

Covenants prescribe obligations and raise certain expectations.  If either party is being led to expect specifically identified things included in the covenant and that expectation is wrong, then one of two things has occurred.  Either the words of the covenant were not clear enough, or the other covenanting party was using premeditated terminology to mislead.  This is to say, the words of the covenant unavoidably create an expectation.

The prophets understood the solemn duty they were under to communicate God’s intentions.  One thinks of Micaiah who responded back to those who tempted him to speak words in agreement with the false soothsayers,

As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that will I speak – 1 Kings 22:14

The words of God excite the expectations of creatures.  And when God earnestly pledges something an covenants to perform it He places His own character on the line to do what He has led people to expect He will do by the words of His oath.  God does not much like covenant-breakers.  Zedekiah found that out according to Jeremiah 34:8-22.  By the prophet Ezekiel God asked,

Can [a man] break a covenant and still be delivered? – Ezekiel 17:15c

The one who breaks the covenant midway after confirming it for one heptad (Dan. 9:27) has traditionally been thought to be a bad person, since bad people fail to carry out their covenant obligations.

The Christian Gospel contains specific promises which have created clear and well defined expectations sealed by Jesus’ New Covenant blood (1 Cor. 11:25).  Covenants create expectations and when the God of Truth; the One “in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Jam. 1:17), binds Himself by a covenant oath, there is no surer or clearer word upon which to trust.

What Happens if the Words Are Ambiguous?

In his influential little book According To Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, Graeme Goldsworthy assures us,

God’s promises to Israel, first expressed as the covenant with Abraham, are irrevocable.  God cannot go back on his word. – 146.

This all sounds very comforting (What would it mean for God (or any one else) to go back on His word?)  God’s covenant with Abraham involved two main aspects: first the provision of a specified land to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (e.g. Gen. 12:7; 15; Amos 9:13-15; Ezek. 36:22-35).  The second main part of this covenant is the promise that “through you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8).

The land grant within the covenant is repeated over and over again in the Old Testament, often in covenantal contexts.  the fact that the New Testament does not really mention (at least directly) the land does not abrogate all these expectations.  It simply means the New Testament writers do not broach the subject.  That’s okay, because the Old Testament writers do!  The New Testament does not, as far as I am aware, mention the fact that God will never again bring a great flood to destroy the earth.  It doesn’t have to, as the stipulations in the Noahic Covenant are clear enough and we can, on that basis, expect no future global deluge like that in Noah’s day.

But what would happen to all these expectations if the covenant oaths God took were not clear but were ambiguous?  In fact, not just ambiguous but downright misleading, so that, based on the repeated words of God in the Old Testament the expectation of God’s people was wide of the mark?

According to any dictionary, an ambiguity betokens uncertainty or even doubtfulness of meaning and intention.  As such, ambiguous covenants are unreliable and slippery things.  Ambiguity is the enemy of certainty, and if something is uncertain it is unreasonable to ask someone to have faith in it.  They would not be sure just what they were supposed to believe.

As we all know, Hebrews 11:6 says,

But without faith, it is impossible to please [God]; for those who come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Faith needs to rest in clear and unambiguous words.  It cannot rest in shadows and forms.  Covenants reinforce plain and certain facts.  They are aids to faith only to the extent that they are left alone to say what they say.

More to come…

Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (1)

Why Make a Covenant?

In Genesis 21 is an episode where a Philistine leader, Abimelech, comes to Abraham and wants him to “swear… that you will not deal falsely with me, with my offspring, or with my posterity…” (21:23).  Abraham consented, but there was strife over a well which had been seized by Abimelech’s servants (21:25-26).  To make sure there was understanding on both sides Abraham and Abimelech entered into a covenant (21:27, 32).  In particular the point at issue was the well.  Abimelech was to take seven ewes from Abraham as a witness that Abraham had dug the well (21:30).  The place where the two made the oath was named “Beersheba”, which means something like “the well of the oath of seven.”  The covenant clarified whose well it was and emphasized in the oath and exchange of the lambs that both parties understood exactly what the oath meant.  The oath obligated the parties (particularly Abimelech, the recipient of the “witness”) to stand by the terms of the covenant.

Covenants were made to underscore a grave and solemn clarity about a specific matter or matters between people.  They spelled out for one or both sides, the obligations which each were committing to carry out.  In the Genesis 21 incident Abraham pledges not to mistreat Abimelech; that was the specific oath which the Philistine chief wanted settled.  Then Abraham complains about mistreatment from Abimelech’s servants over the well and receives a guarantee pertaining to that.  The covenant reinforces both understandings.  This covenant was not for the establishing of close relations between the parties, but rather a clear understanding.

It is inconceivable to imagine Abraham causing deliberate harm to Abimelech’s family or of Abimelech commanding his forces to take the well after the covenant was “cut”.  Had either one done that we would rightly conclude that they reneged on the terms of the covenant with which they bound themselves by solemn oath, or that they took the oath in bad faith, knowing they would not adhere to its words.

God Makes Covenants

Think again of a more expansive example.  In Ezekiel 16 God is rehearsing the defection of Jerusalem, with the Lord rescuing and then marrying her (16:8) through covenant.  But Jerusalem played the harlot excessively (16:20-34), and would be punished (16:35-43).  But at the end of it all God would restore her to himself by cleansing her sins and making a [New] everlasting covenant with her (16:60-63).  Elsewhere marriage is called a “covenant” (Mal. 2:14).  A marriage covenant does, of course, establish a close relationship, but it stipulates the terms of the relationship within its solemn pledges.

When two people covenant together in marriage before God they are obligated to fulfill their part of the covenant.  The only possible exceptions are if the covenant is broken through adultery (Matt.19:9), or if one party is an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15), but even then it is preferable for there to be reconciliation.  But again, the main thing is that covenants provide solemn clarity about specific matters between the covenanting parties.  If either party was tempted to drift they could be called back to the words of the covenant which they had entered into and reminded of their obligations.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 makes plain,

When you make a vow before to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools.  Pay what you have vowed – better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

The vow being referenced in the passage has to do a pledge to God to do something (Deut. 23:21-23; Psa. 76:11).  God takes vows seriously, and even more so when a covenant is struck (see the crucial text, Jer. 34:18. Cf. Ezek.17:15b).

Clarity is Paramount

This having been said, it ought to require no proof that in choosing the words of the covenant clarity is paramount.  It is essential that both those making the covenant and those to whom it is addressed have a clear understanding of what is involved.  This is what the Apostle alludes to in Galatians when he says,

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. – Gal. 3:15.

Thus, when the Lord  swears He will bring woe upon Jerusalem in Ezekiel 24, He declares,

I, the LORD, have spoken it; it shall come to pass, and I will do it. – Ezek. 24:14a.

And when He promises to redeem Israel and make it like the garden of Eden (Ezek. 36:26-35), He says,

…I, the LORD, have spoken it; and I will do it. – Ezek. 36:36.

And He does it for His holy Name’s sake (Ezek. 36:21-23), because He is obligated to carry out the terms of the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (cf. Exod. 32:13).

When studying a covenant in the Bible it is important to pay attention to the specifics of the oath that seals it.  Hence, in the first covenant recorded in the Bible it is plain to see that God pledges not to bring a great flood upon the earth the way He did in Noah’s day.  When God rebukes king Zedekiah and the nobles for not performing the oath which they took in regard to the release of Hebrew slaves (which they took back after giving them a brief freedom), He points to the explicit wording of both the Mosaic covenant as well as the covenant which Zedekiah and the princes had made (Jer. 34:8-22).  In verse 14 the LORD explicitly refers to the provisions regarding Hebrew slaves in Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 15.  God expects the clear covenant terms to be taken at face value.

But what happens if, like so many interpreters, we do not pay close attention to “the words of the covenant”?  Or what happens if we simply introduce a system of interpretation, like interpreting the Old Testament through the lens of the Gospel, which makes it expedient to in some way alter the terms of a covenant oath?

More to come…

 

 

On the Biblical Covenants

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2010.  I shall follow it up with a new post on the subject of ambiguity  faith.

As some of you know, I am Founder of TELOS INSTITUTE & TELOS MINISTRIES, an online seminary dedicated to educating God’s people in solid dispensational and presuppositional theology at a low cost.  This ministry also provides me with an outlet for my ongoing development of what I call “Biblical Covenantalism” (see here, and here): a more far-reaching and theologically balanced type of Dispensationalism.

One of the things we do at TELOS is to place a lot of emphasis on understanding the meaning of God’s covenants.  These covenants are easily located in the Bible.  They are the Noahic (Gen. 9:8-17); Abrahamic (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:7-21); Mosaic (Exod. 24:3-8); Priestly (Num. 25:10-13); Land (Deut. 30:3-10); Davidic (2 Sam. 7:4-17); and New (Jer.31:31-36).  The Noahic Covenant provides the time and space framework for history and providence needed for the accomplishment of God’s purposes on this earth.  The Abrahamic contains the seed, land and kingly promises for Israel (thus supporting the Priestly, Land, and Davidic Covenants).  The Mosaic Covenant serves to set apart Israel from the nations while also demonstrating the necessity of a better, New Covenant, by which all God’s plans and promises will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  It is because of the tremendous cosmic implications of the outworking of these biblical covenants that we think they should be given more prominence than many others have given them in the past.  Quite simply, we do not think these implications have been examined and set out in a systematic way.  With this in mind it is surely not inappropriate to remind ourselves of some of the considerations involved in “thinking through the covenants.”

1.      When God made a “covenant” – be it unilateral or one-sided (e.g. Noahic) or bilateral, that is, two-sided (Mosaic), there was of necessity a human response to the revelation.  Although it almost seems remedial to say it, we ought to take notice of this necessity of a human response.  For the covenants were made to elicit that response from people!  The one who said “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’” didn’t need to make covenants for Himself!  He always thinks and speaks perfect truth and never has to recant it.

2.      Granted this is self-evident, the real issue is whether the human response is of any import. If the covenant is unilateral the answer is “not really,” unless in acknowledgement of God’s gracious revelation.  For example, God will never bring another global flood upon the world regardless of anyone’s response to His word.  But in the case of a bilateral covenant however, the response of those to whom the covenant is addressed obligates that party to the terms of the covenant.  They must carry out their part.

3.      In both cases the terms are drawn up by the Superior Party (the ‘Suzerain’ or Ruler). In the unilateral treaties in the OT it is the Suzerain (e.g. God) who obligates Himself, while no obligation to bring about the fulfillment of the terms of the covenant come upon the second party (e.g. Abraham in Gen. 15 or Israel in Jer.31). And even though the unconditional covenants may have subsidiary conditions appended to them (like circumcision for example), these conditions in no way absolve God from His obligation to bring the wording of His covenant to pass.

4.      The various contexts in which the OT covenants were “cut” do not allow for much ambiguity. Always the divine initiative is to the fore, and always a trajectory, in line with God’s overall purpose, is announced and usually set in motion. As most of God’s covenants are one-sided in character (Noahic, Abrahamic, Land, Priestly, Davidic, New), Divine obligation becomes a sort of “test” of God’s own Self-revealed nature (e.g. His veracity, omnipotence, immutability, righteousness). These things must be kept in mind when interpreting the New Testament.  It is because these matters are lost sight of that many Christians ignore God’s responsibility to do exactly what He has obligated Himself to do.

5.      As an example of this we should note that the word employed by NT writers to denote a covenant (“diatheke”), abandons its standardized Greco-Roman meaning of “disposition” (in the sense of legal settlement), or “last will and testament” (a meaning the writer of Hebrews may momentarily exploit in Hebrews 9:16-17), and instead we must allow the Bible to define its own use of terms so as not to misread it.  In the Book of Hebrews the central quotation from Jeremiah 31 in Hebrews 8:8f. (taken together with Christ’s allusion to it at the Last Supper) is decisive.

As D. Hillers rightly says,

The point worth noting is that the death of Jesus has suggested the meaning he [the writer of Hebrews] attaches to diatheke, “covenant,” and not the reverse. – Delbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea, (1994), 182

Moreover, once it is understood that the LXX or Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures often used by the Apostles, uniformly uses the one-sided term “diatheke” instead of the more usual two-sided term “syntheke,” to translate the Hebrew word for covenant (“berith”), then clearly the choice of diatheke deliberately lays stress upon God’s liability to accomplish His promises. (more…)

The Forgotten Covenant (Pt.4)

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

In this last part of our study of the “Priestly Covenant” I will try to answer some of the main objections which might be thrown at  what I have already stated.

1. If Christ is the Final Sacrifice for sins, how can there be a temple and sacrifices in the future?

This objection is based on a misunderstanding of the Book of Hebrews.  Mixed in with this is a subtle prejudice (usually of the non-pejorative sort) against the very idea of a temple and sacrifices.  I shall address the former issue more than the latter.

In Hebrews 7:12 the priesthood is said to be changed.  That being so, how can Levites officiate in any future temple?  The answer, of course, is that it is the High Priesthood which is under consideration in Hebrews (Cf. Heb. 4:14-5:5; 7:1-3, 11-13,23-27; 9:6-10, etc).  Interestingly, there is no High Priest mentioned in Ezekiel 4o-48; nor is there any Day of Atonement (of which the writer of Hebrews makes so much).  This is because Jesus combines both roles in himself (see Zech. 6:12-13).  As Jesus now officiates in the heavenly tabernacle (according to Heb. 8:2 & 9:24), when He returns it ought not surprise anyone that, having left a (surely) stupendous temple in glory He should enter a magnificent one on earth!

Hebrews 9:9 and 10:2 make it clear that all the gifts and offerings of the temple could not (and so cannot in any future scenario) cleanse the conscience.  It is Christ’s own sacrifice which does cleanse the conscience (Heb. 9:12-14), and clears the way for the blessings of the New Covenant (9:15).  It is also plain from 10:2 that in order for the sacrifices of the OT to continue, there had to be a “consciousness of sins”.  It is this consciousness which “the blood of bulls and goats” could not deal with.  Neither could they finally expiate sins (10:4).  Hence, Christ once-for-all offering is the only satisfaction for that task – it is the only propitiation (10:10-14).

Please notice that according to the writer of Hebrews the sacrifices and offerings of the Old Testament did not avail to “take away sins” (10:11).  So then, what was the point of them?  Well, they were “sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1, 3; 7:27).  But they were not potent enough to cleanse the conscience and to provide “redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant” (9:15).

My question in regards to future sacrifices becomes, “how can future sacrifices and temple ministrations be disallowed if they won’t do the work which Christ alone could and did do?”  My answer is they cannot; not on that particular basis.

Added to this is the fact that, as I have said, Hebrews really concerns the High Priest, and there is no High Priest (of the Levitical sort) in Ezekiel’s [Millennial] Temple.

The question of the actual role of Millennial sacrifices is not my concern here; only whether temple sacrifices are obviated by anything said in the Book of Hebrews.  But certain passages which I take as referring to the future kingdom age speak of children and sinners and foreigners journeying to Jerusalem (see e.g. Isa. 65:18-23; Zech. 8:3-8; 14:16-20).  Will these people need to sacrifice as a mark of their inner acceptance of Christ’s work on the Cross?  I think it not improbable.  But again, my task here is not to explain future sacrifices, only to show that they are nowhere negated.  (For more see here).

2. If there is a temple and sacrifices in the Millennium, how can there be any such things in the New Heavens and Earth?

To put the question another way, if the Priestly Covenant is eternal, as it appears to be, how can there be a temple with sacrifices in the New Creation?

If we allow that a case for millennial sacrifices is not defeated by anything in the New Testament, particularly the Book of Hebrews, what about in the New Heavens and New Earth?  Here two issues present themselves:

First and foremost is Revelation 21:22, which in the midst of describing New Jerusalem reads:

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

One of the main uses of a temple was to create a “sacred-space” within which God and man could meet.  In this context there is “no more curse” (Rev. 22:3), so everywhere is a sacred space.  The Divine Presence pervades it, so there is no need of a temple as such.  However, it needs to be noted that the glorious city itself is shaped like one enormous Holy of Holies (Rev. 21:15-16).  It is a Great Cube.

Still, there is no mention of sacrifices in it.  True, and it would be wrong to force an implication upon the text to help me along.  Still, the New Jerusalem is not the entirety of the New Heavens and Earth.  Revelation 21:24-26 state,

And the nations of those that are saved shall walk in its [New Jerusalem's] light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honor into it.  Its gates shall not be shut at all (there shall be no night there).  And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.

There will be nations dwelling on earth who, though they will have access to the New Jerusalem, are not occupants of its streets of gold.  Twice we are told that they make “pilgrimages” there to bring their glory and honor into the city.  But nothing is really said about what is happening on earth.  This leaves upon the possibility (which in view of the Priestly Covenant is more than a possibility), that a temple and sacrifices will be still on earth in eternity.  I see nothing to contradict this, although I confess that it may not sit easily with many people.

This, of course, is the substance of the second issue.  And all I can do is to point out that God made an everlasting covenant with Phinehas.  I am not attempting to explain all difficulties in this post.  I am simply trying to show that nothing prevents the Priestly Covenant being sustained eternally.

3. Isn’t the covenant with the Levites connected to the Mosaic covenant which is temporary?

My final question can be answered easily enough.  First by pointing out that if the covenant with Phinehas is bounded by the temporary Mosaic Covenant then it is a rather pointless covenant;  for it would come about anyhow, without any requirement for God to enter into a covenant oath.  God could simply prophesy it like He did in other specific cases.

More than this, we have already noted that there are some important differences between the Solomonic Temple and ministrations and Ezekiel’s Temple and ministrations.  They are not exactly the same, and this caused the Jews to try to harmonize the conflicting details.  But if Ezekiel’s Temple is a New Covenant Temple with Christ as its Melchizedekian High Priest, Who reconciles the throne and the priesthood in Himself (Zech. 6:12-13), then the differences present no problem and the Priestly Covenant transcends the Mosaic Covenant, exactly as the Davidic Covenant, which was made under the Mosaic constitution, is not circumscribed by it.

This then is the Forgotten Covenant.  I hope these posts have helped shed some light upon it.

Some Mud That Sticks: An Insider’s Criticism of Dispensationalism

This is a repost of an article first posted in 2009.

 

It is well to note that the following charges against dispensationalism are not theological and exegetical in nature, but are more psychological and sociological.  Here is my opinion:

a. Pragmatism

 

It is our opinion that dispensationalism can be (and ought to be) wedded to a full-orbed systematic world and life view, but only if it begins to take itself more seriously and starts the painful process of self-examination.[1] In order to do this it must divest itself of the pragmatic outlook that it often clings to, and which spoils its thinking and stunts its theological development.  For present purposes we have in mind the following helpful definition of Pragmatism: “Pragmatism as a theory of knowledge says that a person is warranted in believing any proposition or theory that produces good results.”[2]

The lure of pragmatism is its emphasis upon short-term goal setting and tangible “success.”  This vision is what drives American society[3], and Christian institutions and publishing houses have, by and large, fallen for it “hook, line and sinker.”  It is our conviction that most if not all of the observations that follow stem from the influence of a pragmatic mindset.  Comments like “will it sell?” betray this wrong-headed attitude.  The real question is “is this important?,” “is it right?”  It ought to be borne in mind that many of the books cited in important theological works are not big sellers.  But it is superficial thinking to equate large sales numbers with influence. (more…)