Negative Application of the Rules of Affinity (2)

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1. In this piece I shall match up more theological beliefs with these “Rules of Affinity” in order to show the negative use of those rules.  I have tried to find respected sources to interact with so as not to be accused of soft-targeting.  This is from G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 32:

Adam was to be God’s obedient servant in maintaining both the physical and spiritual welfare of the garden abode, which included dutifully keeping evil influences from invading the arboreal sanctuary…(my emphasis)

Beale gives Adam a responsibility to guard the original creation from “evil influences.”  But there is nothing in Genesis 2 or 3 which encourages this (the verb shamar in 2:15 can mean “guard” or “protect” and could have the serpent in mind, but nothing is said about “influences” plural).  Certainly, God allowed the serpent into the Garden, but the only warning given to the man is the prohibition in Gen. 2:16-17.  The serpent tempts Eve and Eve tempts Adam.  It is Adam’s capitulation to his wife which is given as the reason he disobeyed God’s command (see Gen. 3:17.  cf.  1 Tim. 2:14).  Could Adam have ejected Satan out of Eden?  Where is that indicated?  And what of this talk of a plurality of “evil influences”?  One will look in vain for such things in the texts Beale employs.  We thus give the statement above a C4 rating.

Accordingly, essential to Adam and Eve’s raising of their children was spiritual instruction in God’s word that the parents themselves were to remember and pass on. (33)

Beale is writing about Adam and Eve before the Fall.  Where does he get this “essential” teaching from?  From inferring it on the basis of the inferred proposition above.  (Notice that if this were true it would strongly imply that if they didn’t pass on their remembrances each generation would be threatened with spiritual death and the curse!).  This adds a condition that God did not command.  This is a C5 inferential statement.

Just as God had achieved  heavenly rest after overcoming the creational chaos…

Neither the text of Genesis 1 and 2, nor any other Bible text, speaks even indirectly of  God having to achieve “heavenly rest” by “overcoming…creational chaos.”  The “rest” of Genesis 2:4 simply indicates the cessation (shabbat – “to make an end,” etc), “of all the work which He had done.”  That is, the work of the previous six days.   This “overcoming chaos” language comes from pagan creation myths being read back onto the Genesis narrative. C5

…and constructing the beginning of his creational temple…

There is no text of Scripture which even comes close to describing the pristine creation as a “creational temple.”  It may be argued that the aggregate testimony of several other passages leads to such an inference, which would make it a C3.  But it is better to speak in terms of the Tabernacle, and especially the Temple, as “remembrances” of Eden (see Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory, chs. 4 & 5.  Ross is far less speculative than Beale), in which case this statement could well qualify as a C3.  In the “Rules” we are putting forth, a C3 is not strong enough to build upon, even if it may well be true.

…so Adam presumably would achieve unending rest after overcoming the opposition of the serpent and the opposing temptation to sin and extending the boundaries of the glorious Eden temple around the entire earth. (40)

Beale is trying to parallel Adam’s function with one he thinks he sees in God at creation.  But God is nowhere said to be “overcoming creational chaos.”  Indeed, this way of wording it makes it appear that the amorphous world of Gen. 1:2 was somehow not good.  Beale’s presumption, which is common in covenant theology, is just that – a presumption.  Another instance of tying one inference to another without solid biblical evidence.  C5!  Later on in the book he has two whole chapters on the church being Israel which are based almost entirely on inferences drawn from other inferences, and with no engagement with contrary views.  As we have shown, this is not the way fundamental doctrines are formulated and supported (see the second post).

2. Moving in a different direction, let us examine a typical assertion by someone who professes to speak in tongues.  It usually goes something like this: “God has given me a prayer-language through which I draw closer to Him.  This is not a human language, but like an angelic tongue.”

Then the scriptures are produced for each assertion:  For one who speaks in a tongue [meaning “language,” as in the phrase “he speaks in his native tongue”] does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.  (1Co 14:1-4 NAS)

The reason the tongue-speaker speaks not to men, but to God is not here a good reason.  It is because “no man understands him.”  This becomes more acute once 14:21 is read:  So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe. (1Co 14:22) 

Unless one is going to cause a major contradiction with this plain declarative C1 text (the only one which explicitly tells us what tongues were for) it is not possible to hold that God has bestowed a private “unknown” prayer-language.  The negative connotation of verses 2 and 4 plus this statement in verse 22 make the “prayer-language” assertion look heavy on special-pleading.

This is only compounded by 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Each of these “ifs” are not actualities but exaggerated hypotheticals.  Paul is not saying he speaks a supposed “angelic language.”  All angels in scripture appear to speak human languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek).  Hence “the tongues of men and of angels.”  Paul did not give his body to be burned (v.3b).  He did not understand “all mysteries and knowledge.” (v.2).  Therefore, the proposition above does not hold water.  It is a case of an experience searching for a biblical excuse.  Given the number of inferences needed to produce it, it must be assigned a C5 in this system.

3. Consider this statement:

From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath. – Westminster Shorter Catechism, Answer to Q.59. “Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?

The scriptural backing for this answer is Gen. 2:2-3; 1 Cor. 16:1-2, and Acts 20:7.  The first clause appeals to Genesis 2, which does say that “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”  It does not say anything about a “weekly sabbath” or the length of its observation.  As it stands, therefore, there is a large “propositional distance” between the verse and the teaching it is being used to bolster.  Thus, the clause is loaded with unsupported human inference and cannot get more than a C4.    Exodus 20:11 might have been drafted in to help; in which case the clause, though requiring more corroboration, could scrape a C3 ranking (Of course, old-earthers who believe the “day” in Gen. 2:2-3 was millions of years long, and/or is still in continuance, would have more explaining to do and would thus weaken the link between the two passages!).

As proof for the proposition that the first day of the week is the “Christian sabbath” which will “continue till the end of the world” we get 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 which says nothing about the sabbath and is about “the collection for the saints,” which was to be done “on the first day of the week” – presumably because that is when the saints met.  Acts 20:7 refers to Paul and others coming together to break bread on the first day of the week at Troas.  Again, there is nothing in the verse to support any teaching about a Christian sabbath to be observed till world’s end.  As the 1 Corinthians passage is speaking about something totally different than what the Westminster Divines use it for their use of it ranks a C5.  It is an inference based on another inference which goes in search of a biblical pretext.  The Acts 20 usage gets a C4 since it does at least refer to coming together to break bread and hear the teaching of the Word.

It could be that there are better texts with closer affinity to the “Answer” to Q.59 which could be called upon.  The negative application of the Rules of Affinity help one to reexamine this question.  Utilizing the Grid this way can stop over-confident announcements that “this is what the Bible says.”

4. But what about a verse like 1 Corinthians 15:29?

Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?

This is a proof-text used by Mormons for their practice of baptism by proxy for dead relatives and such.  Such baptisms were also practiced by Gnostic leaning groups, at least in the second century (See Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, NIVAC, 299).  The fact is we simply have no idea what this baptism was about.  The Apostle does not approve of it, but he does argue from its current use, whether inside or outside of the Church we cannot tell.  Because of this vagueness the best initial rating for the statement “some people, whether Christians or not, we cannot tell, were baptized for those who had died, and Paul argues that the practice would be pointless if the resurrection was not physical” would be a C2.  Any assertion that people today ought to follow this practice would push the confines of Paul’s statement and could not rise above a C3.  Once any doctrinal explanation is introduced for baptism by proxy such an “explanation” would rank a C4.  Therefore, any practical use this verse could be put to would rate at C4 and would thus be very doubtful.

5. I have been asked about how the seven dispensations common in Dispensationalism fair under these rules.  I tend to agree with Charles Ryrie’s view in his book Dispensationalism (1995) that those stewardships called (whether properly or not) “Law,” “Church,” “Millennium” can be arrived at easily enough (see especially chapter 3 of Ryrie’s book).  I would give them a C2 or C3.  The same can be said for some “dispensation,” rather minimally defined, before the Fall in Eden and before the Flood.  Each of the proposed seven dispensations would merit at least a C3Of course, what use they are for composing a system of theology is another point altogether!

Clarifications & Limitations of the Rules

12 thoughts on “Negative Application of the Rules of Affinity (2)”

    1. I haven’t read that book yet although I have skimmed it. I am familiar with the line of argument Beale employs. Too, I am aware of reviews of the book like this one:

      From my reading of other works by Beale, and the review above I am not encouraged that I shall find him interacting well with opposing views. Beale is always annoyingly sure of himself, even to the point of not wishing to entertain that there are real and substantial arguments against his position. He treats the Bible as an esoteric code book filled with subtle allusions which alter the surface meaning of the text. I don’t buy it. Besides, this does not affect my observations above.

      Thanks for your comment Matthew.

      God bless,


  1. Thanks Paul, this series on rules of affinity has proved to be very helpful indeed.

    Just a simple question. You write that some dispensations can easily be arrived at and you’d given then a C2 or C3. You then say “The same can be said for some ‘dispensation’…before the Fall in Eden and before the Flood. Each of the proposed seven dispensations would merit at least a C3.”

    But in your earlier post
    you comment that “Fruchtenbaum, of course, holds to Adamic and Edenic covenants, which are C4’s in my scheme.”

    Do you mean that Fruchentaum’s understanding of an Edenic covenant is a C4 but that you have no objection to the idea that some kind of Edenic dispensation existed which you’d assign a C3? Is there something I’m missing?

    God bless,

    1. Justin,

      You ask, “Do you mean that Fruchentaum’s understanding of an Edenic covenant is a C4 but that you have no objection to the idea that some kind of Edenic dispensation existed which you’d assign a C3? Is there something I’m missing?”

      In short; no, you are spot on. An Edenic pre-lapsarian economy is there, but there is no covenant.


      1. Ah good. Thanks very much for that. And many thanks once again for this affinity series. Your posts always seem to be very timely and helpful!

  2. Hi Paul,

    I just discovered your blog last night and have been reading many of the articles. I am a little late in commenting on this one.

    Your blogs are a tremendous blessing. Thanks!

    I am not sure that your use of 1Co 14:21-22 above. If one is to use those verses in that way I think an explanation of how that relates to 1Co 14:23-24 is needed. On the surface, Paul even seems to contradict himself.


    1. I see what you mean Peter, but I think the explanation which works best is that if all are jabbering on in different languages (v. 23) then it will sound like a henhouse, and outsiders (esp. unbelievers) will equate it with a henhouse. But if all prophesy (i.e. those who can) in the same language and presumably the same thing, but each in order (v.27), then that is an evident sign of God’s working.

      Thanks for visiting,

      Paul H.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I am in full agreement about the “henhouse” comment :). I have seen that myself.

        I would however love to see you objectively apply the “rules of affinity” to the doctrine of cessation :). Where does this doctine rank on the scale?

      2. Yes I would second Peter’s suggestion. I believe your blog’s readership has broadended beyond the 4.5-/5-point Calvinist dispensationalists when I initially started reading here and include many wider dispensationalists as well these days.

        My observation: half of the dispensationalists/pro-Israel Christians are from the charismatic movement, if we define dispensationalism solely from eschatology. So many of the newer readers are more sympathetic to the chaarismatic movement than longtime readers, and been taught that cessationism doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the Bible. I do forward to see how the rules of affinity result when we judge the charismatic movement here.

        It is time we are to let iron sharpen iron. 🙂

  3. Dr. Henebury,

    When “subdue” is used in Gen. 1:28, does this word presuppose an enemy? I’ve heard Mark Saucy (and other disps) hold to this position. I imagine he reads the usage of “subdue” in Deuteronomy in reference to the conquest of Canaan and exports idea into Gen. 1:28, with the enemies in the earth being Satan and demons. I don’t think that practice is always bad, as I’ve seen later uses of “knowledge of good and evil” brought in to shed light on the forbidden tree. We just should be careful about the flexibility of meaning in context and not letting the lexicons or related verses (paying attention to dissimilarities as well) control the passage

    I would like a bit more clarity on how “fill”, “subdue”, and dominion over the animals have to do with each other. Which is the primary activity? What is the eschatos / telos in mind? My best guess is that subdue is a mandate for strong/focused work that orders and fills the earth like God in Gen. 1… a part 2/next phase of the creation project?

    Thank you for your labors and Happy New Year

    1. Happy New Year Timothy,

      My opinion is that unless one is going to listen to Gen. 1 on its own terms they are in no position to interpret words like “subdue” in the chapter. Genesis 1, as all critical scholars recognize (although they explain it away) plainly sets forth a 6 normal day creation week. That is the context and it sets the parameters. Hence, “subdue” cannot mean what it means in a Conquest setting. Yes, the verb has a strong meaning of action upon a thing, but Adam was not placed in Eden to lounge around. Work, creativity, planning, shaping, configuring, etc would need to be done. God did not place Adam and Eve in a plastic box with everything glued to the floor. No, it was a paradise of potentiality.

      This feeds into the meaning of “fill” because populating the earth would entail reordering and utilizing more land. Dominion has to do with man’s authority and responsibility over the created order before him. It was not merely that he was the top creature, it was that he was given a great responsibility to rule well over it for God.

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