Rules of Affinity

Trying to Get the Rapture Right (4)

Part Three

So far I have tried to establish a base in biblical texts for my further inquiry into the rapture.  Remember, I write as a non-too-dogmatic pre-tribber whose interest in these posts is to think through the various approaches.

Few Major Rapture Passages

All proponents of the rapture must acknowledge that there are very few direct references to the catching up of the saints.  Without 1 Cor. 15 and Jn. 14, perhaps Matt. 24, but especially 1 Thess. 4, we would not be talking about it.  Of these, only the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage can be deemed a direct statement about the ‘catching up’ or ‘seizing out’ of the saints in the end time.  By a direct statement I mean a text which plainly and unequivocally puts across a doctrine.  Examples of this in other areas include, Gen. 1:1 stating that God created all things, or Rom. 5:1 which says Christians are justified by faith.  These are C1 statements in the Rules of Affinity.  Well nigh all the major doctrines of Scripture can be ascertained and proposed via C1 passages.

What this means is that in addition to these texts supporters of the viewpoints must marshal arguments from other statements of Scripture (hopefully direct statements) about related teachings.  It is the proper inclusion and assimilation of these teachings which creates the differing schools of thought on our subject.

Because this is so, we must show some humility in our assertions.  I have concluded that the rapture and its timing is (and can only be) a C3 doctrine.  That is to say, it has no direct C1 scriptures (other than 1 Thess. 4), or “inevitable” collusion of direct statements (C2) to substantiate it, yet it does enjoy many supportive statements from which one may derive solid inferences (C3).

Some of theses related teachings include the interpretation of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks; the event(s) concerning the “Day of the LORD”; and the correct placement of certain biblical events mentioned in the Olivet Discourse, the Thessalonian correspondence, the Book of Revelation, etc.

But also there are theological considerations which have to be weighed and balanced.  Such things as the differentiation of Israel from the Church, the meaning of the ‘Tribulation’ and ‘Great Tribulation’, and the role of Antichrist, and also the matter of imminence need to be thought through.  All in all I am of the opinion that there are better conceptions of the rapture and worse ones.  The best on will be able to deal adequately with the most biblical data while suffering from the fewest (and least damaging) problem areas.  In other words, the best rapture scenario will be an inference to the best explanation.

Daniel’s Heptads (70 “Weeks”)

The ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel includes the famous prophecy of the seventy sevens.  Here is the passage:

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.  Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.  And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. – Daniel 9:24-27

The run up to these verses is integral to its understanding.  In 9:2 the “seventy” crops up in relation to the Babylonian Captivity.  It is worth noting that Daniel understood this number of years from a straight-forward reading of Jeremiah (e.g. Jer. 25:11).  The next “seventy” relates to the “sevens” or heptads decreed upon Daniel’s people Israel (see his prayer: 9:7, 11, 16-17, 20) and the temple (9:17, cf. 20).  Also worth a mention is the reference to God’s covenant faithfulness in 9:4 (a hendiadys probably speaking of God’s faithful love (hesed) within the unconditional covenants to Israel), on the basis of which Daniel has confidence in prayer.  It is crucial to allow Gabriel’s words to dictate the objective of the heptads.  This is about Israel (the “Your people” of vv.15, 16 & 19) and Daniel’s “holy city” Jerusalem (cf. v.19).  Ergo the proposition “the seventy weeks refer to literal Israel” would bear a direct affinity to these verses and be a C1.   Only by interposing a) a competing and alien symbolical hermeneutic, b) a theologically determined reticence to accept Gabriel at his word because, c) one believes the Church is the “new Israel”.  Such a foreign proposition (as per K. Riddlebarger) would look like this:

“the seventy weeks concerns ethnic Israel for the first sixty-nine (and a half), but the last week (or three and a half days) concerns the Church as “New Israel.”  

That would be an inference based on another inference, neither of which can be grounded in the text, and would constitute a C5 rating.

I think it is fair to say that most post-tribulationalists conflate Israel and the Church.  This is almost inevitable since they have the Church passing through the whole time period.  Those who equate the Tribulation with Daniel’s seventieth week hard hard put not to do this.  Many of them would say that the Church is right now in the Tribulation, which is also in the seventieth week.

Setting the rapture at the end of the Tribulation for such reasons seems intolerant of Gabriel’s message and Daniel’s prayer, and when assumed in support of that position, actually demeans it.  To me, any posttribulational rapture view (or any view for that matter) which cannot keep national Israel as the people upon whom the entire seventy weeks must be fulfilled has disqualified itself.  Whatismore, it would seem that mid-trib and pre-wrath positions both come against a similar problem, even if they maintain the Israel/Church distinction; the problem of which people group (Israel or the Church) is that period of time for?

Let me say it another way.  Assuming we equate the seventieth seven and the Tribulation (which would make the Tribulation seven years long), it would appear that the mid-tribulation and pre-wrath rapture views must explain whether God’s attention is mainly on Israel, who is the central player in Daniel 9, or on the Church, which was not even in existence in Daniel’s time (cf. Jn. 7:39; Rom. 6:1-4; 1 Pet. 1:3).  If it is Israel then the Church would be playing a secondary role in the Tribulation while God deals with Israel, which seems like a problem.  Surely God is not focused on Israel so much in our day because He is dealing with the (mainly Gentile) Church (Rom. 11:25)?  But if the Church must pass through some of Daniel’s seventieth week in a subordinate or an auxiliary role surely we have a theological confusion?  To state “The seventieth week or Tribulation mainly has Israel in view” is a C1 proposition based on the Book of Daniel.  The same chapter knows nothing of the Church.  And if the Church is also to pass through half or three quarters of the seventieth week, based on other passages, then it is almost disorienting to think about both Israel and the Church being the main objects of this awful period. Finally, while supporting texts from Daniel 12:1 and Jeremiah 30:5-7 provide a rationale for Israel’s passage through these turbulent times, I fail to see any comparative rationale for the Church’s involvement.

More next time…

Trying to Get the Rapture Right (2)

Part One

The Main Verses

In this installment all I want to do is to set down the main verses which are used in discussions about the rapture.  Let me make it clear that this is not to say that many other passages must be considered so as to understand the doctrine.  As I will be at pains to show, the rapture is not a teaching that can be established by simply comparing proof-texts.  The doctrine excites many passions and this can lead to wishful thinking in exegesis.  Some of the verses listed below are brought very hardly and reluctantly to bear on the doctrine we are considering.

We have already taken a quick look at 1 Thessalonians 4:17, but there are other salient passages.  1 Corinthians 15:50-58 is often brought in to help.  Then Jesus’s words in John 14:1-3 must be considered. Also joining the fray are 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 13, Matthew 24:36-44, 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9, and Revelation 3:10.  Let’s try to situate each one of these.

1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

The main purpose of this passage is to give comfort to anxious saints who were concerned about loved ones dying off before the return of Christ.  To do that Paul tells the Thessalonians about something they seem not to have known (4:13).  This appears to be in contrast with what they knew very well, that is, the doctrine of the Day of the Lord (5:1-2).

There is no doubt that the snatching away of the saints described in this passage is for the purpose of finalizing the work of salvation begun at regeneration.  The Lord is described as coming from heaven amid the calls of a trumpet and of the archangel.  The meeting of all Christians with their Lord, including those who had been deceased for a long time, takes place “in the air”.  Nothing is said about which way Christ and His saints go from there, whether returning to heaven or continuing on to earth.  However, from the viewpoint of a taking out of people this passage is a direct statement (a C1 for the proposition that Christians will at some future time be ‘caught up’ to meet Christ in the air).

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

This passage is included in Paul’s resurrection chapter and comes only after Paul has spoken about the logic of resurrection; “as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” (15:49).  This “must” language is then given a terminal point in the next section where the Apostle writes,

Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. – 15:51-52.

This passage is revealing something new (a mystery), which speaks about a transformation of all Christians in an instant.  This “change” refers to the receiving of our resurrection bodies – those which will “bear the image of the heavenly.”

The language is clearly culminative, and one naturally connects it with Paul’s rapture teaching in 1 Thessalonians 4.  But there is no actual removal mentioned, only transformation.  This is not problematical since it fits nicely with Paul’s earlier argument.  But it is at best supportive of 1 Thess. 4:17, adding some new information about what occurs at the rapture.  Hence, it is a C3 statement for the rapture: if the the text coincides with 1 Thess. 4, as it seems to do, it declares that a change happens in an instant as the saint is caught away.

John 14:1-3

This passage is proleptic in that the “you” to whom our Lord refers is not primarily the disciples; for He says,

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also – Jn. 14:3

Jesus cannot just be referring to those to whom He spoke but would intend His words to be taken in the context of His Second Advent (rather like the Preterist ‘proof-text’ in Matthew 10:23).  But what has this passage to do with the rapture?  Well notice that Christ is coming for “you”, which I take to be His people.  He comes to take them back to heaven (where He has been preparing places), although nothing is stated in regards to a transformation.

As for the timing of this gathering, it may appear cut and dried that it speaks to the Second Coming.  But if so, there is a problem created by our being with Christ in heavenly mansions (or rooms if you prefer) and Christ’s earthly reign.  If Christ is ruling on earth and we are in heaven the latter part of Jn. 14:3 cannot be true.

This leads to an inquiry over whether there will be an earthly reign of Christ.  If not, then there’s no problem.  But I’m going to step right over that question and just assume (for present purposes) that there will be one (in line with many OT passages and with Matt. 19:28).  Some may say that’s unfair and stop reading, but I am content to call the likes of H. Bonar, Ryle, Chafer, Bultema, Scroggie, R. Thomas, T. Garland, and even A. Hoekema to witness for me and move on regardless.

The timing of this event is obviously important to settle.

Those are the major rapture passages, but there are several which demand inclusion.

1 Thessalonians 1:10

This verse says we “wait for His Son from heaven” who “delivers us from the wrath to come.”  The mention of Jesus coming from heaven matches 1 Thessalonians 4 and John 14, but the “wrath” must be identified.  If it refers to the seven year Tribulation (derived, as we shall see, from Daniel 9), then the verse favors a pre-trib rapture.  However, if “wrath” bears a more restricted and technical sense, it could refer either to the last three and a half years of the said Tribulation (in which case it would argue for a mid-trib rapture), or the last part of the Tribulation when the bowls of God’s wrath are emptied out upon the planet (Rev. 16).

In any case this verse must be retro-fitted to an already established teaching to be of any corroborative help.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

God has not appointed us to “wrath”, but the same question of identification as above needs to be addressed to utilize this verse well.  It is not unfair though to mark the fact that these two verses are written to the Church.

Matthew 24:36-44

This passage must be understood in context, especially the “coming” of verses 27, 30, 37, and 39 must inform the meaning of “coming” in verse 44.  There can be no serious doubt that Christ is talking of His Second Coming in terms strongly reminiscent of OT prophecy (e.g. Dan 7; Isa. 63), and the parables of Matthew 13, especially verses 40-43.  This is after the Tribulation.

The question is, what does the Lord mean by “one will be taken and the other left” in 24:40-41?  Because of the close association with “the days of Noah” in 24:37-39 many expositors believe that the ones “taken” are whisked off to judgment.  Is this so?  Is there enough in the passage to come down on one side?  Furthermore, if those “taken” (paralambano) in verses 40-41 are actually raptured, doesn’t that pretty much seal a post-trib rapture?

More next time..

Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective – Pt. 3

Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective – Pt. 1

Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective – Pt. 2

In this third and final article on the roles of faith and reason I want to turn to examine some biblical passages, which, I think, really help us to understand why reason must be driven by faith.  The first of these comes from the Garden of Eden.

Autonomy: Our Default Position in the Use of Reason

Although we do not have a protracted narrative of all that went on between the serpent and Eve, we do have everything necessary for us to learn what God wants us to learn.  The culmination of the devil’s temptation of the woman was in the words, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5).  Of course this was a lie.  No one could know good and evil like God without being God.  But the promise of “being like God” was what did it.

Ironically enough, Eve and her husband were already like God.  They had been created in the image and likeness of God.  Also, they were with God.  The Lord fellowshiped with them in the Garden, and it is certain that these regular interactions would have expanded both the knowledge and the image of God in our first parents.  What Adam and Eve most needed was not to be “like God” in the way Satan promised, but rather they needed to be with God.  As it happened their disobedience left them less like God and deprived them of His close fellowship.

But what led up to it?  We can begin to see the answer if we compare the two descriptions of the trees in Eden in chapter 2 and chapter 3.  In chapter 2:9 we get an appraisal of the trees, via Moses, from God’s point of view:

And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.  The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Notice the twin description of the trees of the garden as being (1) “pleasant to the sight”, and (2) “good for food”.

Now take a look at the woman’s appraisal of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 3:6:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

I have again underlined the pertinent parts of the verse for comparison.  Notice how Eve’s independent analysis of the tree agreed with the Lord’s appraisal in 2:9.  After listening to the serpent Eve in effect stood back and sized up the tree, and she concurred with God that the tree was (1) “pleasant to the sight”, and (2) “good for food”, but she reasoned independently from God that the tree was (3) “desirable to make one wise.”

The main point here is that there was a movement from dependence on God’s Word and authority to independent evaluation, and hence reasoning.  In the autonomy of her reasoning about the tree Eve put reason before revelation.  It didn’t matter that she agreed with God (at least some of the time).  What really mattered was that she arrived at her conclusions apart from Divine prescription.

Since the Fall we have all functioned from a default position of independence from God and His Word.  False religions sprang from false notions of God.  From false notions of God come equally false notions about ourselves and our world.  Hence, the triad God, Man and the World is crucial to a correct Christian Worldview.  Get any one of these wrong and the other two will be affected.  Even in militant atheism the triad remains; only now “God” is substituted for “no God” (though God pervades their writings).  An autonomous view will warp all of these because of the idol of independence in the determination of final truth.

To give one example, in a recent work on Hegel’s mature thought, John McCumber (according to this reviewer), provides some added insight into Hegel’s (and Kant’s) theory of ethical drives:

What makes McCumber’s reading of the Philosophy of Right so striking is his emphasis on the role Hegel assigns to our natural drives, and on the idea that for Hegel, ethical theory must explain how these drives can be purified and ordered, or rationalized, so as to achieve genuine human autonomy. (Emphasis added).

And again,

The goal of Hegelian practical philosophy is thus very similar, on McCumber’s view, to the goal of theoretical idealism: ethical theory seeks to take our desires, motivations, and needs as they are, reducing them to moments in a larger whole, and reappropriating them for the project of freedom through their systematization.

Within biblical Christianity too, this default of human independence shows itself in our reasonings about the interpretation of texts, particularly those texts which might make us feel uncomfortable about any number of subjects.  Among these subjects I might mention the age of the earth, evolution, the global flood, the covenants made with Israel, the beginning of the Church, the headship of the husband, women in the ministry, Christian counseling, and a whole lot more.

I am not saying that everyone who uses the Bible to guide their reason will automatically come out at the same place.  There are variables in things like competence and experience which may effect interpretation.  But placing faith before reason will tend to hold off interrogative approaches to the text like, “Are you saying that….?” or “But what about….?” etc., when clear passages are quoted.

The great Methodist Bible commentator Adam Clarke (d. 1832) wrote:

“Prayer is the language of dependence; he who prays not is endeavoring to live independently of God; this was the first curse, and continues to be the great curse of mankind.”

Christians are not immune from thinking independently of God.  We do it when we think we can circumvent clear passages which we would rather say something other than what they say.

Jesus on Faith and Reason

We can see this in two episodes in the life of our Lord.

In the first, Jesus warns the disciples to “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).

The narrative then says the disciples “reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have taken no bread.”

This brought forth a rebuke from Jesus:

“O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves….do you not understand…How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? – but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:8-11).

Then the narrative tells us that “they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Clearly the reasoning of the disciples was faulty and brought forth a righteously indignant response from Jesus.  They were reasoning this way because faith was not guiding their reason.  Notice that Jesus does not explain His meaning to them in verse 11, but simply repeats the warning of verse 6.  That was because there was sufficient information in what He said to them for them to gain the right understanding – provided they let faith guide their reason! (more…)

The Rules of Affinity Simplified


Premise:If all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, it is imperative that our doctrines line up with Scripture.  Theology may be defined as correct alignment with the pronouncements of the Bible.

The ‘Rules’ demonstrate that some doctrines line up much more closely to Scripture than others.  Those with a very strong, direct “affinity” are ranked in the first category (C1).  Those with the weakest claim to any affinity with the text of the Bible are ranked category five (C5).

C1 = a direct statement

 Examples include:

  • ·         Creation out of nothing – “The Triune God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing.” – Gen. 1:1f; Isa. 40:28; 45:12; Jer. 10:12; Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:15-16; Heb. 1:2; Heb. 11:3; Rom. 11:36
  • ·         Christ died for all sinners (whosoever believes) – “Christ died for all men (sinners).” – Isa. 53:6; Jn. 1:29; 3:16-17; Rom. 5:6; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; 4:10; 1 Jn. 2:2; Heb. 2:9, 10:29


Most fundamental doctrines are a C1.  A C1 doctrine is taught via a direct quotation of Scripture.


C2 = a strong inference


Examples include:

  • ·         Inerrancy – “The inspired Scriptures are the Word of God before they are the words of men.”

2 Tim. 3:16; Psa. 12:6; Jn. 17:17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21

  • ·         The Trinity – “God exists as one substance yet in three divine, co-equal, distinct, yet eternally inseparable ‘Persons’.  God is one yet three, though in different modes of being.” – Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; Jn. 1:1-3, 18; 14:15-17; 20:28; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 9:14, 10:28-29

A C2 is established on the witness of several clear C1 passages.

 Premise: Every major doctrine is a C1 or C2.

C3 = an inference to the best explanation


Examples include:

  • ·         The Pre-Trib Rapture – “Christ will come for His Church prior to the 7 year Tribulation.” – 1 Thess. 4:13f; 1 Cor. 15:50f,; Rom. 11:24f; Dan. 9:24-27


A C3 is established on the witness of C1 and C2 texts, which overlap to point to a plausible inference.

C4 = a weak inference


Examples include:

  • ·         The Covenant of Grace – based on ideas like “the one people of God” and “the church as the new Israel”


A C4 is founded on no clear or plain statement of Scripture.

C5 = an inference based on another inference


Examples include:

  • The Christian Sabbath – Sunday replacing the Jewish Sabbath


A C5 is an even weaker inference based on other theological inferences, without reference to plain statements of Scripture.

Conclusion: We should only formulate our beliefs from C1’s and C2’s with some reference to C3’s.  On the other hand, doctrines supported only by C4’s and C5’s should be suspected of relying too much on human reasoning without Scripture.

A Theological Case for Inerrancy (3)

The Inspiration of Scripture – Proposition: “The Scriptures come from the God who breathed them out and caused them to be inscripturated through men who were ‘borne along’ by the Spirit.  That is what makes them Scripture.” – 2 Tim. 3:16 C1; 2 Pet. 1:20-21 C1; Matt. 4:4 C2; Jn. 17:17 C2; Psa. 119:89-91 C2

Inerrancy – Proposition: “The inspired Scriptures are the Word of God before they are the words of men.  They must be up to the job of transmitting truth from Him who is True.  This truth will be as reliable in one area of knowledge as in any other, even if exact precision is not necessary.” – 2 Tim. 3:16 C2; Psa. 12:6 C3; Jn. 17:17 C2; 2 Pet. 1:19-21 C2.

In closing out this foray into the notion of inerrancy from a theological perspective (see Part Two here), I call your attention to the support-texts I have given for the two doctrines above.  Three of the passages used in support of inspiration have been used again to support inerrancy.  I have also run these verses through the “Rules of Affinity” so as to show how sure these proposals are (even though more texts could be mustered to support the propositions).  Let us examine the outcomes.

2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 tell us the Scripture comes from God and those who wrote it were superintended, nay, “carried along” by Him in their production of it.  They do not deal with the collection of the Canon, since that is a separate (though related) issue.  The C1 tag corresponds with the places in the first proposition where phrases from the texts make up the proposition.  Matthew 4:4 connects with 2 Tim. 3:16 because of the reference to “the mouth of God” and the connection between “every word which proceeds from the mouth of God,” and the Scripture as “God-breathed out.”  Palpably, Jesus was referring to and quoting from the Scriptures in His Temptation.

John 17:17, as already stated, refers to God’s Word as “Truth.”  That “Word” is inscripturated.  The link with Matt. 4:4 is in the way a man ought to live.  He must live in Truth, not in falsehood.  Psalm 119:89f. connects the settled Word “in heaven” with the discipling Word which the psalmist observes.  We have that Word.

When we turn to see how the doctrine of inerrancy utilizes these texts we get the following:

2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:19-21 are now rated C2 since they provide the support in the first two statements in the proposal upon which inerrancy is based (they do not testify to inerrancy with the same clarity that they do for inspiration).  In Psalm 12 I am only interested in the first assertion about the words in verse 6 (“the words of the LORD are pure words, etc.”), not the preservation in verse 7, which I hold to be referring to the people in the context.  The purity of the words of God relates there to their ability to “keep” the people safe, and their trustworthiness, not just their moral clarity.  I believe a good (C3) inference can be made that the dependability of the words (“refined seven times”), logically applies comprehensively to all they claim.  John 17:17 calls the Word of God “Truth.”  This truth separates believers from unbelievers in the world.  It could hardly do that effectively if it enunciated scientific or historical error, since error in those cases would lessen the force of any ethical assertion made in the Bible, and throw immediate suspicion upon its authorship.  But then we are back to the matter of the sustained voice of Scripture that it comes from God, and that it is His Word not mans.

There seems to be no way out of concluding that the theological case for inerrancy is sound if the witness of Scripture is to be our guide.  The only theological case against inerrancy which is weighty is the Barthian view which effectively makes it irrelevant.  But inerrancy is irrelevant to Barth because he constructs his doctrine of Scripture upon the hiddenness of the revealing God (see Sections 4 through 6 in the Church Dogmatics I.1).  Barth distinguishes revelation from Scripture, thereby leaving Scripture open to be a word of man as well as a word of God.  The Spirit reveals by the Bible, but the Bible itself is not the revelation.  This denudes the Bible of its innate power and authority, and it renders its self-witness mute.

But does not the Bible itself witness to what God spoke?  Yes it does, but (and this is crucial), what God spoke in the past is only the Word of God to us if it is a scriptural Word.  In point of fact, the scriptural Word is the only Word of God we have!  It is the written Word which has authority.  What God said to men in times past, even if it is reported in the Bible, is only the Word of God to Everyman because it is in the Bible.  If God spoke to Moses then Moses heard the Word of God.  But until Moses wrote it under inspiration that revelation to him was not revelation to us.

Even the words of Jesus can only be the Word of God to us if we find them in the Bible.  Until He returns, even our notions of Jesus’ stature as the Logos depend upon what Scripture says about Him.  That kind of preeminent declarative power demands both inspiration and inerrancy.

A “Rules of Affinity” Objector

I’m not ready with my new post so I thought this response to someone who assailed the Rules of Affinity might be of use in clarifying why they are helpful.  His argument is bereft of any biblical interaction or falsification of the “Rules” by the “Rules.”  This has become quite typical.  I see no need to name the objector in this venue, although his full argument is at SI, who have kindly hosted the RoA here:

I shall refer to the Objector as CO.

CO “I wanted to wait for the series to finish before I posted any thoughts. I think it has at least gone long enough for me to put out some ideas.

I am not taken with this idea, because I do not think that measuring affinity between the wording of a particular text and any theological propositions that refer to that text is useful or even relevant. At most, it tells us only something that it patently obvious: that a particular theologian does or does not replicate the wording of a text.

So if a theologian says that he believes that justification is by faith he is not telling us anything relevant, but, presumably, if one says justification is by standing on one’s head he is?  The departure from the Bible’s own wording is what opens the door to that which is useful and relevant?

CO: Consider, for instance, your comparison of the two commentators on Rev. 7. [link section 3] You call them two “interpretive views.” An interpretation is by definition the explanation of the meaning of something.

The word “interpretation” is used by biblical scholars in several different ways, one of which is “an understanding of the intent of the author.”  So, in Jn. 21:20-23 we read:

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”

According to your ideas of interpretation, only the false story of verse 23a is an interpretation.  What then was the correct interpretation?  Perhaps verse 23b fits the bill?  You would say “No, all v.23b is doing is “replicating the wording of the text” which is neither useful nor relevant.”  But to most people verse 23b is pointing to the meaning of something.

As far as Rev. 7 goes, may I issue you with a challenge?  What would a “literal” interpretation of those verses would look like?  What if the meaning of the words is present in the words as plainly understood (as above)?  What if the text means what it says?

If someone tells me “shut the door” I should think, having interpreted the meaning correctly, to do just that.  When Jesus, in Lk. 10:26, asked the lawyer, “What is written in the law?  What is your reading (anaginoskeis) of it?,” and was given a replication (possibly) of Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, He seemed to be satisfied with that as an understanding and thus an interpretation.  He said, “You have answered rightly, do this and you will live.” (Lk. 10:28).  The meaning was on the very surface of the words.  If it wasn’t, how could the lawyer “do” them?

Communication involves a text and an interpretation.  If you say, “My name is CO,” the correct interpretation of your words is to call you CO, not Horace or Sam.  Interpretation is present anywhere comprehension is present.

This is done precisely by drawing inferences or parallels between one thing and other things.

In some cases it is, and in others it isn’t.  If J.B. Smith thinks a correct interpretation of Rev. 7:4-8 is that the 144,000 “from every tribe of the sons of Israel” really are 144,000 “from every tribe of the sons of Israel,” what would be a good way to communicate it?  Surely you can see that to deny his view the status of an interpretation (while permitting Johnson’s view that the 144,000 is not 144,000 and that the tribes of the sons of Israel” is the Church) is to rule out a priori any prima facie interpretations?  What then happens when we come to the Gospel?  Setting aside the American War of Independence and Shakespeare [which he directed me to] and instead focusing on the Bible, I want you to explain this from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q33:What is Justification?

A:Justification is an act of Gods free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins1, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight2, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us3, and received by faith alone4.
1.In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7, KJV).
2.For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2Corinthians 5:21, KJV).
3.As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19, KJV).
4.Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ. (Galatians 2:16, KJV).

What would qualify as an interpretation of it?  There is very close affinity between the wording of the Question and the texts used to support it.  I would say that was a good thing and both useful and relevant.  Presumably you would not?  Only if something quite different was stated as justification would we have an interpretation?  Granting such a thesis, can’t you see that the only things that would qualify as “interpretations” would be false statements of justification.  But the statement “we are justified by faith,” even if it restates Rom. 5:1, is surely a candidate as an interpretation of Scripture’s teaching (if it is comprehended) as “we are justified by standing on our heads.”?  Just because the second statement does not resemble any text of Scripture and the first statement almost reproduces it does not mean only the second can be considered an interpretation while the first is a “replication.”   (more…)

Selective Thoughts on Articles 1 & 2 of the “Statement” on Soteriology by SBC Non-Calvinists

As I attend an SBC Church I want to record a few observations on the first two Articles of Eric Hankins’ “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”

I shall run the proof-texts through the “Rules of Affinity

Article One: The Gospel

We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.

As a statement in favor of the view that Christ died for all sinners (which I believe is what Scripture says), this is clumsy.  It could easily be interpreted as a statement for universalism.  What needs to be added is a line about salvation being effective only to those who believe.

We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.

Awful wording!  The plain fact is, nobody is “capable of responding to the Gospel” unless God draws them to Himself.  What appears to be meant here is that they deny double predestination.

N.B. The category designations assigned to the texts below reflect how they relate to specific propositions within the Article.  As can be seen, the affinity between statement and text is generally quite weak.

Genesis 3:15 C5; Psalm 2:1-12 C5; Ezekiel 18:23, 32 C2; Luke 19.10 C3; Luke 24:45-49 C3; John 1:1-18 C3, 3:16 C1; Romans 1:1-6 C3, 5:8 C3; 8:34 C4; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 C3; Galatians 4:4-7 C3; Colossians 1:21-23 C3; 1 Timothy 2:3-4 C1; Hebrews 1:1-3 C4; 4:14-16 C4; 2 Peter 3:9 C1

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

This again is poorly worded.  Taken at face value, the first sentence is a rather tame assertion of our fallen nature.  True, our nature is “inclined toward sin,” but it is decidedly so!  The whole nature is drastically affected by sin and its fallout.  Further, the environment is not “inclined toward sin.”  It is affected by it, and it is cursed for man’s sake, but the environment itself (by which I assume is meant the creation) is not in rebellion to God.  The way this is written makes it look as though our fall and the earth’s “fall” are the same thing.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

Yuk!  The first sentence is Semi-Pelagianism loud and clear.  Neither a Classical Calvinist nor a Classical Arminian would acquiesce to it.  I count myself as neither, and I don’t agree with it.  There is precedence for this view in the theology of E. Y. Mullins, but it does not reflect what I would think most non-Calvinist Baptists believe.  Our will’s are enslaved to sin and in need of God’s rectifying grace, however that is understood.  The matter of imputed guilt is more difficult theologically (e.g. W.H. Griffith Thomas, an influential Anglican, rejected it), often dependent upon careful definitions of “guilt” terms.

The second sentence could be countenanced by many with Calvinistic leanings, although with some qualification of the term “free response.”

Genesis 3:15-24 C4; 6:5 C2; Deuteronomy 1:39 C3; Isaiah 6:5 C2, 7:15-16 C4;53:6 C2; Jeremiah 17:5,9 C4 & C2, 31:29-30 C3; Ezekiel 18:19-20 C2; Romans 1:18-32 C2; 3:9-18 C1, 5:12 C3, 6:23 C2; 7:9 C3; Matthew 7:21-23 C4; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 C3; 6:9-10 C3;15:22 C3 (as a C1 this would militate against the second sentence of the affirmation); 2 Corinthians 5:10 C5; Hebrews 9:27-28 C3; Revelation 20:11-15 C3

N.B. It is vital to see that although the texts above do corroborate some assertions made in the Article, there are many assertions (e.g. about the inclination of our environment towards sin, and the denial of the bondage of the will), which are not supported by these texts.

I am frankly amazed by some of the signatories to this document.  I can only conclude that some of the theologians among them did not read the affirmations and denials closely.  Although I agreed once or twice with some of the remaining statements, it is clear to me that some of the other articles are framed in such a way as to give a false impression of Calvinism.   

What the Bible Really Really Says

Just a few days ago I shared on Facebook a fine article on the biblical view of homosexuality.  It is written by Kevin DeYoung, and, if you have not yet read it, is well worth your time:

As you can see, the article carries the title “What the Bible Really Still Says About Homosexuality.”

Without detracting one iota from DeYoung’s piece, I want to use it to drive home an important truth which we need to meditate on carefully.  The force of DeYoung’s scriptural argument depends on whether or not he can demonstrably prove that, contrary to the person he is responding to (someone called Daniel Heminiak), “the Bible really really calls homosexuality a sin.”   And he’s right, it does.

BUT – the Bible only “really really calls homosexuality a sin” if we believe what it says!  That is, if we employ the kind of hermeneutics which let’s the words say what they say without re-interpreting them by use of a non-literal hermeneutics.

At the end of the article Luke Timothy Johnson, a liberal Catholic NT scholar, is quoted.  The first part of the Johnson quote states:

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says…I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture. (underlining mine)

DeYoung applauds Johnson’s candor in admitting to this, and so do I.  But do not miss what is being taken for granted by both parties.  The Bible means what it says!

And in an excellent closing paragraph DeYoung writes:

Of course, I disagree with Johnson’s approach to the authority of Scripture and his liberal deference to experience. But I commend him for acknowledging what should be plain: the Bible really really calls homosexuality a sin. A sin that can be forgiven in Christ like a million other sins, and a sin that can be fought against by the power of the Holy Spirit, but still a sin. That’s what the Bible says. And as the CNN article demonstrates, it takes a lot of contorted creativity to make it say something else.

Again I have added some underlining to highlight what is being taken for granted: and please notice it is not only the sinfulness of homosexuality which is spoken of as “plain.”  The forgiveness of sins in Christ and the strength to fight against temptation and sin through the Holy Spirit is also “plain.”  Here then are three important biblical truths where we do not want to employ our creativity to “make it say something else.”  To do such a thing, the article at least implies, would be because we do not like what the Bible says and so we become creative “to make it say something else.”  This maneuver can be done in reference to homosexuality, but it can also be done in reference to anything else which “the Bible says.”

Moreover, DeYoung argues from an appeal to the context of Jesus’ remarks about impurity in Mark 7:19 to show that He was dealing with food laws.

Now some of you might recall that in my debate with Steve Hays I constantly referred him to “the plain-sense,” making repeated pleas for what the text says in its context, and providing many clear examples where later OT writers took earlier writers literally.  Hays’s persistently refused any interaction with these examples, or with my rebuttals of his interpretations of some passages in the Prophets, and ducked and weaved while questioning what “the plain-sense” and “face-value” mean.

For example, in The “Real” Bible Code I observed:

I believe “land” in Genesis 13 and 15 is interpreted as the very same “land” in Psalm 105:6-11:

Attention please!

  6 O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!
 7 He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
 8 He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He
commanded, for a thousand generations,
 9 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to
 10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an
everlasting covenant,
 11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment
of your inheritance,”

And when we reach Jeremiah 16 the “land” hasn’t changed:

13 ‘Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do
not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve
other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor.’
 14 ” Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that
it shall no more be said, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the
children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’
 15 “but, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from
the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven
them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their

This last example, part of which was used by Steve Hays to demonstrate a “New Exodus” motif which pointed to fulfillment beyond the “land,” is helpful because once we see how “land” is used in verse 13 (which Steve did not quote), we can understand what he means by “land” being returned to in verse 15.

Did Hays yield to what the Bible says here?  No.  Like most others today he continued either questioning it or else avoiding it!  This is standard operating procedure among many evangelicals.  If and to what extent brother DeYoung questions “what the Bible says” when he’s not arguing against homosexuality I don’t honestly know, and my comments here are not at all aimed at him but are only taking advantage of his excellent piece.  But it is simply a fact that many evangelicals do not operate on the assumption that “that’s what the Bible says” but often indulge their creativity in making it “say something else.”    If DeYoung had tried to argue his case that way against Helminiak his argument would have been shot.  (more…)

Clarifications and Limitations of the Rules of Affinity

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A Little More Clarification on the Function of the Rules

In my so-called “Rules of Affinity” I am seeking to accomplish one main task.  That task is to uncover the degree of affinity between any statement of a doctrine or part doctrine, and the biblical references which are brought in to support it or defend it.  All of us know that Christians with different theological outlooks claim that their views are biblical.  But in reality just saying “I believe such-and-such because it’s biblical” does not mean that it actually is biblical.  It may be.  But, for example, if someone says, “Calvinism is biblical” and someone else says “Arminianism is biblical” it stands to reason that behind both statements is the opinion (either informed or uninformed) of the one making the claim.  No one ought to assume that any statement is proven by assertion.

As I was reading my own Theology and thinking through the question of why I differed from this or that theologian, I concluded, naturally enough, that the main reason for my disagreements was because I believed my position was more in line with the Bible.  That didn’t mean it was, but that was why I demurred.  The words “God has spoken” seem to me to be the most momentous three words in the English language.  I therefore wanted to know if what I believed and taught actually closely reflected what “God has spoken,” and how compatible were my theological propositions with the texts I appealed to.  I did this by assuming a suspicious attitude towards my Theology.  Hence, the negative application of the method was uppermost in my mind when it was first roughly devised.  The negative use also became apparent when I began asking myself why I couldn’t accept certain formulations of doctrine by some of the great men I read.  Almost immediately it dawned on me that the chiefest doctrines of the Christian Faith: the doctrines all Christians would say must be believed at a minimum to be a Christian, involved very straightforward appeals to biblical passages (hence, the Positive Application of the rules).

I believe I first introduced this way of comparing statements of belief with Scripture early last year in a post on “Diagnosing the Dispensational Malaise (Pt.4).”  There I said:

We can say things without having sufficient warrant from the texts we teach from (we can all do this!).  I would not want to draw a line, to step over which would bring one into the fields of speculation, but there ought to be some self-awareness here.  It ought not to be as common as it is to find believers insisting on theological tenets which, upon comparison with the texts they cite, attach themselves obliquely to those texts.  This is where we can all help each other; where iron sharpens iron.  Disagreements will remain, but mutual understanding will be promoted.

Let me say some words about the part of the quotation I have highlighted.  Perhaps I should have said something like, “I would not wish to circumscribe other peoples’ formulations with my own, but we need to be able to find a means of locating and identifying speculation in its various degrees and manifestations.”  So I went on to say,

we ought to have some sort of grid whereby we can categorize Direct from Indirect usage of the statements of Scripture, and get an idea of the degree of indirectness of our statements.   

This is what I think the Rules of Affinity help us to do.  But there are some things they cannot do.

What the Rules Don’t Do

1. First, the rules do not replace nor attempt to usurp grammatical-historical exegesis:

I say this with an awareness of the fact that the various systems of theology mean different things by this term nowadays.  It used to be that everyone agreed what the term “grammatico-historical hermeneutics” (hereafter G-H) meant.  It meant seeking as much as possible to put oneself into the situation of the writer while paying special attention to his words in their lexical meanings and the larger context in which they are used.  Thus, Milton Terry wrote:

In the systematic presentation, therefore, of any scriptural doctrine, we are always to make a discriminating use of sound hermeneutical principles.  We must not study them in the light of modern systems of divinity, but should aim rather to place ourselves in the position of the sacred writers, and study to obtain the impression their words would naturally have made upon the minds of the first hearers…Still less should we allow ourselves to be influenced by any presumptions of what the Scriptures ought to teach… – Quoted in Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old, 55.

To add a later comment, Robert Thomas himself, when writing about the gospels, observes:

Grammatical-historical hermeneutics do not assume an esoteric message requiring special keys to unlock meaning.  Rather, they follow the usual laws of language that advocate that the Gospels mean what they say, without any special coding – such as midrashic or haggadic style or any other type of literary signals – necessary to unlock meaning. – Ibid. 291

As Thomas demonstrates in his book, today G-H hermeneutics is often taken to include application or the analogy of faith, or theology, or even ones understanding of the whole canon.  But listen to another voice:

In the last analysis, our theology finds its solid foundation only in the grammatical sense of Scripture.  Theological knowledge will be faulty in proportion to its deviation from the plain meaning of the Bible. – Louis Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, 74.

It has been objected that ones hermeneutical assumptions stand apart from the Rules of Affinity, therefore allowing them to be skewed by those presuppositions.  In reply I may say that the “Rules” will only display the amount of rationalizing that went into the hermeneutics, and the outcome of their application would not be affected as it related to text and proposition, which is what the “Rules” measure.  I appreciate that Berkhof, for example,  held many interpretations which would succumb to the lower categories of the Rules of Affinity, but that is not because of what he stated above.  Rather, it is because of his firm belief in the theological interpretation of Scripture (as in chapter 7 of his manual).  The Rules of Affinity do not judge the propriety of a theological interpretation.  They do, however, uncover it!    

2. The rules do not judge the “rightness” of any proposition:

Any viewpoint which is self-limiting in its openness to methods of hermeneutics other than the G-H approach defined above cannot venture beyond the C3 formulation on the Grid.  “Classic” Dispensationalism is the obvious example of this.  But what about those views which avail themselves more readily of theological assumptions or ANE parallels and such?  Quite often these viewpoints require more detailed explanation and deduction than can be derived simply from the text of Scripture under consideration.  One thinks of the “Framework” and “Analogical” interpretations of Genesis 1, or the “Universe as Temple” teaching now in vogue.  Older doctrines like particular redemption or infant baptism or “the Christian Sabbath” come to mind.

Under the Rules of Affinity these sorts of ideas do not find support from C1, C2 or C3 categories on the Grid.  Their “affinity” with the texts used to support them is considerably weaker than, say, the affinity between the proposition, “Christ is our penal substitute” and the wording of 1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (more…)

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. (more…)