Michael Boling – Interpretations of the Genesis Creation Narrative

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With the influence of evolutionary and humanistic constructs which gained prominence during the latter stages of the nineteenth century cultural and academic milieu, alternative interpretations of creation became vogue. The increasing pressure from the scientific community to inculcate evolutionary dogma into all aspects of life has led many theologians to look for ways in which to amalgamate the teachings of scripture and the tenets of evolutionary theory.

The aforementioned efforts have led to the development of multifarious origins views such as the Gap Theory, Theistic Evolution, and Old Earth or Progressive Creationism. Conversely, those who espouse the Young Earth Creationism view wholly reject the tenets of evolution in favor of scripture as the authoritative source of evidentiary truth regarding the origin of the universe. Continue reading “Michael Boling – Interpretations of the Genesis Creation Narrative”

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Michael Boling – Reflections on Deuteronomy 3-4

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Deuteronomy 3-4

Moses continues the recap of the Israelite’s journey from Egypt to the land of promise, noting how God delivered King Og of Bashan into their hands. Not a single person of Bashan survived. In fact, Israel conquered all sixty of the towns in Bashan, towns that were well fortified and that had barred gates. Some scholars have noted that Og of Bashan was part of the Nephilim remnant, meaning he was likely of great size and stature also provided some speculation that his people were of a similar size and stature.

After conquering these lands, Moses notes how the tribes of Reuben and Gad were given the territory beyond Aroer along the Arnon Gorge along with half the hill country of Gilead. The rest of Gilead and all of the land of Bashan was given to Manasseh. This land was given with the stipulation that these tribes would provide fighting men to the remainder of the tribes as they began their conquest of Canaan. Once the land was conquered, those tribes would be given the freedom to return to the land allotted to them.

Moses also noted once again that due to his disobedience, he would not be allowed to enter the land of promise. Instead, Joshua son of Nun would lead them.

The commands given to Israel by God are then reiterated by Moses with the note of the need for them to “listen carefully to these decrees and regulations” with the further reminder of the need to “Obey them so that they may live.” Moses reminded the people what God did at Baal-Peor in response to their disobedience. If they obeyed God’s commands completely and remained faithful, they would be wise and would be blessed. The surrounding nations would take note of the wisdom of Israel obeying the commands of God, resulting in Israel being a light to the nations by remaining faithful to God’s decrees.

Moses encouraged the people to never forget what they had seen God do, both in response to their obedience and disobedience. They were to pass this knowledge and memories on to future generations.

The reminder to abstain from idolatry was first on the list with the command to not make an idol of anything. It is God they were to worship and Him alone for it was He who delivered them from bondage in Egypt. If they broke their covenant with God, they would disappear from the land of promise.

Moses also told the people to consider all of history. Has there ever been a God as great as the one they served? The obvious answer was no given all the spectacular things God had done for His people and also given the fact He is the creator of the universe. If they obeyed God, things would be well with them and their children. God’s instructions were not a burden. Conversely, they were provided they the people would enjoy a long life in the land of promise.

Three cities of refuge were established east of the Jordan River in accordance with God’s commands. The names of the cities were Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan.

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Rod Rosenbladt – Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification

Any evangelical–indeed, any Christian–would probably say that the key issue of human life is that of a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Those who are familiar with the scriptures and know what is described with regard to the nature of the fall of the human race in Genesis three and have come to grips with the texts that plumb the true depths of that fall and the ramifications for every human being born after Adam and Eve, would probably not hesitate to say that man became at that point totally depraved.

Total depravity, of course, does not mean that man has become as bad as he can possibly be, but that every part of us is infected with a deep infection and that we cannot solve our own problem with regard to that infection. This realism moves the evangelical to affirm, therefore, that the eternal Logos assumed to himself a particular human nature and had as his work to be our prophet, priest, and king and to solve our basic problem in our stead or in our place. The word that most evangelicals would use for that is a biblical word…salvation.

And so, in one way, our subject is a very very simple one: How am I to be saved? And in a way, the answer to the question is as simple: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved! Or, to use a couple of texts which Luther and Calvin cited in their debates with great frequency, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law…” (Rom. 3:28) and, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

Now the basic motifs are as follows: (1) The reformers really believed that the popular (and, by the mid-sixteenth century, official) Roman Catholic position was a self-salvation. By “Roman Catholic” I don’t mean what’s going on necessarily at St. John’s by the gas station today. Rather, it is to the medieval position which I refer, the Roman Catholic theology that was represented in the Council of Trent.

(2) When God gives orders and tells us what will happen if we fail to obey those orders perfectly, it is in the category of what the reformers, following the biblical text, called “law.” When God promises freely, providing for us because of Christ’s righteousness the status he demands of us, this is in the category of “gospel.” It is good news from start to finish. The Bible includes both, and the reformers were agreed that the scriptures clearly taught (contrary to many forms of dispensationalism) that the Law (whether Old or New Testament commands) was not set aside for the believer. Nevertheless, they insisted that nothing in this category of “Law” could be a means of justification or acceptance before a holy God.

The Law comes, not to reform the sinner, nor to show him or her the “narrow way” to life, but to crush the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through self-effort or even cooperation. All of our righteousness must come from someone else–someone who fulfilled the Law’s demands. Once we have been stripped of our “filthy rags” of righteousness (Is.64:6), our “fig leaves” through which we try in vain to hide our guilt and shame, only then can we be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. First comes the Law to proclaim judgment and death, then the Gospel to proclaim justification and life. One of the clearest presentations of this motif is found in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

For many in the German “Higher Life” movement, and those in the stream of Wesley generally, the motif is Law-Gospel-Law. B. B. Warfield, the great dean of “Old Princeton” Reformed theologians, was one of the clearest early critics of this trend, which has now culminated in the vast literature of “victorious living” versions of the Christian life. Warfield argued that, at the bottom of it all, the Higher Life movement was nothing more than a revival of prominent Wesleyan-Arminian features. Warfield also stated that he was fairly convinced that the Arminians had another God. That’s a deep shot. Is it justified? To answer that, let us go back for a moment to the Reformation debate.

In the sixteenth century the issue of law and grace was more clearly dealt with than at almost any other time since the apostles. The lines were cut cleanly, and as the great Yale historian, Roland Bainton, has written, “This was the only issue of the century.” Anybody who is studying the sixteenth century primarily through the issue of economics is going to miss the whole point of the century. It is impossible to understand the sixteenth century if you start with the categories of Marxism and revolution, or anything else.

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Michael Boling – Reflections on Numbers 35-36

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Numbers 35-36

God spoke to Moses as the children of Israel were camped by the Jordan River, giving him instructions about the inheritance for the Levites. The people of Israel were to give the Levites common-land around their cities for their cattle to dwell in and the Levites were to be allowed to dwell in the cities. The common land provided to the Levites was to be a thousand cubits all around. Additionally, six cities of refuge were to be provided to the Levites, cities to which a manslayer may flee. In total, the Levites were to be given 48 cities in which they could live, 42 cities from amongst the tribes of Israel and 6 cities of refuge.

The cities of refuge were again for the manslayer. One who accidentally killed someone would be able to flee to the nearest city of refuge. Three cities of refuge were to be appointed on both sides of the Jordan River. If a man struck another person with an iron implement, a stone, or a wooden hand weapon and the person died, that person is a murderer and shall be put to death. The avenger of blood was permitted to avenge that death. If someone kills another out of hatred, as a result of lying in wait, or hurls something at another so that they die, that person is a murderer and was to be put to death.

If someone pushes someone without any hatred, throws something at someone while not lying in wait, or hits someone with a stone accidentally resulting in the death of someone, the congregation would deliver the manslayer from the hands of the avenger, allowing the manslayer to reside in a city of refuge. However, if the manslayer journeyed outside the city and the avenger catches him, the avenger would be allowed to put the manslayer to death.

The chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Joseph came to Moses to speak with him regarding the land promised as an inheritance to his brother Zelophehad’s daughters. Their concern was related to the possibility of those daughters marrying someone from another tribe, thus resulting in the potential for their brother’s inheritance to be scattered amongst the tribes. When the time of Jubilee came, they feared that inheritance would be added to the tribes of those to whom the daughters were married, rather than remaining with their brother’s family.

Moses told them the daughters could marry whomever they wanted, provided they married within their tribe. This would ensure the inheritance would stay with that tribe and family. No inheritance was to change from tribe to tribe.

This concludes our journey through the book of Numbers. Next up is Deuteronomy!

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Tim Challies – Too Low, Too Human, Too Safe

More than once I have been accused of being a bibliolater, a person who idolizes the Bible, who has excessive reverence for the letter of the Bible. I’m sure many other Christians have been accused of this as well. In my experience, this charge tends to be leveled against those who affirm the infallibility or inerrancy of Scripture; it may also be leveled against those who affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. People who level such a charge are objecting to what they see as a woodenness of faith and practice that stems from an understanding of Scripture they deem too literal.

I am quite sure that I do not idolize the Bible and I am quite sure it is far more difficult to do than the accusers may think. Let me tell you how I think about this charge.

We, as sinful human beings, have lost the right and the ability to have unmediated access to God. Before they fell into sin, Adam and Eve had the privilege of walking and talking with God. They had direct, face-to-face access to the Creator. This is a privilege we eagerly anticipate reclaiming when the Lord returns, but in the meantime, polluted as we are by sin, we have severed that direct communication. We now rely on communication from God that is mediated by Scripture. John Stott once said, “God has clothed His thoughts in words, and there is no way to know Him except by knowing the Scriptures. … We can’t even read each other’s minds, much less what is in the mind of God.” God’s Word tells us that we can only know God as he actually, truly is, through that same Word.

The Bible is the Word of God. John Frame, in Salvation Belongs To The Lord, defines the word of God as “God’s powerful, authoritative self-expression.” God’s word is powerful in that it does more than merely communicate, but also creates and controls. Frame says, “the word is the very presence of God among us, the place where God dwells. So you cannot separate the word of God from God himself.”

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Tim Keller – How Christians Should Mortify Sin

tim-keller HOSTILE TO GOD

Romans 8: 7 is simple and stark: “The sinful mind is hostile to God .” The mind is not neutral ground, and cannot love one preoccupation without rejecting the other. A mind “that is set on the flesh” (ESV translation) must also be treating God and the desires of his Spirit as an enemy. This is why our minds are, naturally, unable to deal with sin. We may realize that a particular impulse is unhelpful, or that a certain course of action is destructive. We may even decide to cut it out, and may do so successfully. But the root of sin is still implanted in the mind— hostility to God. So sin will still grow unchecked in our lives.

And that hostility makes us incapable of pleasing God. Verse 8 is an equally striking statement : “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Left to ourselves, we are totally unable to live in a way that causes our Creator to approve of us. Why? Because the mind that drives the actions is acting out of hostility to him. The person controlled by their own flesh is able to have a thought that is good, or perform an action that is right. But it cannot please God, since it is thought or done in enmity toward him.

Here is a helpful illustration: a man in a rebel army may look after his comrades, may keep his uniform smart, and so on. Those are “good” — but they are done in hostility to the rightful ruler. You would never expect that ruler to hear of this rebel’s conscientiousness or generosity and be pleased by his conduct in rebellion!

But none of this needs to be, or ought to be, the way “you” — Christians — live (v 9). Every Christian is “controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit,” since the Spirit lives in anyone who belongs to Christ. When we received Christ and became righteous in God’s sight, the Holy Spirit came in and made us spiritually alive. The Christian has a body that is decaying (v 10), yet also enjoys a spirit, a mind, that is alive.

And, Paul says, not only must our spirits/ minds not follow our flesh now, but one day our flesh will follow our spirit. In Greek thought, the physical was bad, to be rejected and hopefully one day to be left behind; the spiritual was good, to be embraced. Verse 11 overturns all this: ”He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Someday, even our bodies will be totally renewed and made eternally alive by the Spirit. There is no dualism (body bad, spirit good) here — one day, both will be perfected.

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Book Review – The Scriptures Testify About Me

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)

Far too often, believers center their study of Scripture solely on the New Testament, viewing the Old Testament as something of a by-gone era. This approach is unfortunate as all of Scripture is inspired by God and perhaps more importantly, a full understanding of Jesus and the scarlet thread of redemption that runs throughout Scripture can only be truly obtained by reading the front of the book. The gospel message is one established before the foundation of the world thus a proper study of salvation contained in the gospel message has to begin where the story of God’s interaction with humanity begins, namely in the Old Testament corpus.

Dr. D. A. Carson has edited a book containing the transcript of eight addresses from the plenary session of the 2011 The Gospel Coalition Conference. In these addresses, a number of theological leaders address the importance of understanding Jesus from the pages of the Old Testament in order to more fully grasp the events and message contained in the New Testament. Men such as Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Tim Keller, Dr. Alistair Begg, Dr. James McDonald, Conrad Mbewe, Matt Chandler, Mike Bullmore, and Dr. D. A. Carson, engage this topic with great elucidation and theological insight helping the reader more fully understand the Messianic patterns and statements found throughout the Old Testament. While every chapter in this book is excellent and well worth reading, I will focus on the addresses of Dr. Mohler, Dr. Keller, and Dr. Carson for purposes of this review.

In his address, Dr. Mohler aptly sums up a reason why many young people are leaving the church noting “The absence of biblical, gospel preaching explains how we have created in our churches a generation of moralizing, therapeutic, practical deists.” The rejection of the meta-narrative of Scripture by the liberal establishment should cause concern. Far too often, the Old Testament is referred to as the Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures as if its content was only intended for the Jews. Furthermore, some have taken the opposite extreme claiming the Old Testament can be read without any need to engage the New Testament. Additionally, the dispensationalist approach to Scripture often wrongly bifurcate Scripture seemingly denying the flow of the biblical message. But wait, there’s more!

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Nathan Busenitz – In What Way Was Jesus ‘Made Sin’ on the Cross?

crown_of_thorns Yesterday, as I was reading through portions of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians, I came across the following:

“Christ took upon Himself our sins, not by constraint, but of His own good will, in order to bear the punishment and wrath of God: not for the sake of His own person (which was just and invincible, and was not in any way guilty), but for our person. So by means of a joyous substitution, He took upon Himself our sinful person, and gave to us His innocent and victorious person: with which we, being now clothed, are free from the curse of the law. . . . By faith alone therefore we are made righteous, for faith alone lays hold of this victory of Christ.” (Commentary on Gal. 3:13)

John Calvin’s comments on 2 Corinthians 5:21 are similar:

“How can we become righteous before God? In the same way as Christ became a sinner. For He took, as it were, our person, that He might be the offender in our name and thus might be reckoned a sinner, not because of His own offences but because of those of others, since He Himself was pure and free from every fault and bore the penalty that was our due and not His own. Now in the same way we are righteous in Him, not because we have satisfied God’s judgment by our own works, but because we are judged in relation to Christ’s righteousness which we have put on by faith, that it may become our own.” (Commentary on 2 Cor. 5:21)

Those quotations, which underscore the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and Christ’s imputed righteousness, reminded me of an earlier study I had done regarding 2 Corinthians 5:21 specifically with regard to this question: In what way was Jesus “made sin” on the cross?

I thought it’d be worth rehearsing some of that material in today’s post.

To state the question another way: Did Jesus become the literal embodiment of sin, or take on a sin nature, or become a sinner when He died at Calvary?

The heart of the question centers on Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

In what sense did Jesus become “sin on our behalf”? Does that phrase mean that Jesus literally became a sinner on the cross?

There are some today who teach that Jesus became a sinner (or took on a sin nature) at the cross. Benny Hinn is one such advocate. In a TBN broadcast, Hinn exclaimed:

“He [Jesus] who is righteous by choice said, ‘The only way I can stop sin is by me becoming it. I can’t just stop it by letting it touch me; I and it must become one.’ Hear this! He who is the nature of God became the nature of Satan when he became sin!” (Benny Hinn, Trinity Broadcasting Network, December 1, 1990)

Prosperity-preacher Kenneth Copeland echoes those same teachings. In Copeland’s words:

“The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own spirit. And at the moment that He did so, He cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ You don’t know what happened at the cross. Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me. I said, ‘Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there; the sign of Satan? Why didn’t you put a lamb on that pole?’ And the Lord said, ‘Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross.’ He said, ‘I accepted, in my own spirit, spiritual death; and the light was turned off.’” (Kenneth Copeland, “What Happened from the Cross to the Throne,” 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2)

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Carl Trueman – Adam and Eve and Pinch Me

It is encouraging to see that Dr. Albert Mohler is one of the two leaders of the TGC seminar on Adam (the other being Dr. Bryan Chapell). Kudos to TGC for a very good choice. Dr. Mohler has made it clear that evolution is not simply wrong but has gone so far as to describe it as a myth which is ‘not only incompatible with any historical affirmation of Genesis, but … also with the claim that all humanity is descended from Adam and the claim that in Adam all humanity fell into sin and guilt.’ He has also stated that ‘[t]he Bible’s account of the Fall and its consequences is utterly incompatible with evolutionary theory. The third chapter of Genesis is as problematic for evolutionary theory as the first two.’ In other words, he thinks that evolution excludes the biblical view of an historical Adam and therefore of original sin. In short, consistent affirmation of evolution ultimately requires denial of the gospel. You can read the whole statement here. As always, I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s forthright candor on this issue, as on so many others. And I find his argument on the significance of evolution for orthodox conceptions of the gospel to be persuasive, compelling and timely.

Dr. Tim Keller, one of the two most senior TGC leaders, also sees the church’s attitude to evolution as a watershed issue for the gospel. Unlike Dr. Mohler, however, he has made it clear over the last few years that he is not only committed to some form of theistic evolution (though maintaining an historical Adam, reconstructed in light of evolutionary theory) but also regards the church’s failure to take evolution on board as potentially catastrophic. His comments to this effect at a Biologos-sponsored colloquy were reported by Christianity Today here; and Mike Kruger offers an excellent response to that particular gathering here.

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Michael Boling – Reflections on Numbers 26-27

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Numbers 26-27

Numbers 26 contains another census of the people ordered by God. Since there had been several judgments levied upon Israel including plagues and people being swallowed up by the earth, God spoke to Moses and Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest and told them to take a census of the people, specifically those twenty years old and up, by their father’s house counting only those in that category who are able to go to war. The finally tally was 601,730.

It was to these God commanded the land of promise to be divided as their inheritance with the larger tribes receiving a larger inheritance and the smaller tribes receiving a smaller inheritance. The Levites were not numbered in the census and were given no inheritance of land.

The daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, the son of Joseph stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest in the presence of all the leaders of the congregation at the doorway to the tent of meeting. They noted that their father had died in the wilderness, but he was not part of the rebellion against God. He died in his own sin, leaving no sons. These daughters were understandably worried as to where their inheritance would be, if anything and why would they have no inheritance simply because they had no sons. Their request was to be given a possession from among their father’s brothers.

Moses brought their case before God and the Lord told Moses that what the daughters of Zelophehad spoke of was correct. They should receive an inheritance among their father’s brothers. God told Moses to tell the people that if a man dies and has no son, the inheritance would pass to his daughter. If has no daughter, the inheritance would go to his brothers. If he has no brothers, the inheritance would go to his father’s brothers. If his family has no brothers, the inheritance would go to his nearest relative.

God told Moses to go up to Mount Abarim so he could view the land of promise so that after he observed the land, he could be gathered to his people (or die). God commanded Moses to take Joshua the son of Nun with him and to lay his hands upon Joshua. He was to be set before Eleazar the priest and before the congregation to be inaugurated as the next leader of the people of Israel upon Moses’ death. Moses did as God commanded.

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